Your atrocity is worse than my atrocity – A reply to Richard CribbFeb 26, 2023
The ‘your atrocity is worse than my atrocity’ argument at the core of Richard Cribb’s response to Richard Culllen over Japan needs to be handled with care.
Japan’s apologists can and do point to the very civilised treatment of Russian and German prisoners in the China wars at the beginning of the last century. They can try to blame Pacific War barbarities on the Army recruitment of peasant soldiers.
They could, and should, point to the civilised Japan Navy occupation of the Wewak area in the war years.
They also say how we now cooperate with a Germany, as guilty if not worse than Japan in the war crimes department.
But the real problem lies elsewhere. In the way the Japanese can turn irrational over issues close to the heart.
Territorial disputes are concocted out of thin air; for example, to avoid having to admit Japan’s 1951 San Francisco Peace treaty denial of sovereignty over the part of the Kurile Islands that Japan wants today Tokyo simply invents a new name for the islands, the North Territories, which it then says it never renounced.
Tokyo also makes the unlikely claim North Korea is still holding a handful of former abductees and therefore it does not have to carry out its 2002 promises to normalise relations with Pyongyang.
Critics relying on common sense and reliable Foreign Ministry leaks to counter these claims are quickly given the North Korean treatment: demands for immediate and abject apology, dismissal from all positions of authority, court fines and blacklisting until well into the future.
I know. Some of us have been there.
And this is an issue which everyone in the know agrees is pure fantasy. Even at their worst the Germans usually stick to the facts.
Where Japan also differs from Germany is in its refusal or reluctance to admit or apologise for past wartime atrocities. These include notably the Unit 731 vivisection and bubonic plague experiments, the military bare earth policy and massacres, wiping out an estimated 20 million people.
Some of the Unit 731 monsters ended up, not on the gallows, but using their experience to aid US gas and germ experiments and heading up medical companies in Japan.
The Japanese, in my experience, can easily swing from one direction to another, from extreme kindness to extreme cruelty.
What their militarists really want is to piggy back on a US attack into China, hopefully through Taiwan. But those who know Taiwan see this as unlikely: Taiwan already has two million entrepreneurs and others working in China; the aggressive lady who runs Taiwan today is likely to be replaced next year by the realists of the KMT party.
The real danger is if the gung ho Japanese military planners decide now is the time for an attack on former Japanese territories to the north of Japan held by a Russian army that must suffer some weakening as the Ukraine War drags on.
As in the past, if they succeed in that direction, they could then turn their attentions to the south, into Mongolia and the heart of China.