On May 19, President Joe Biden bowed his head, reverently, sanctimoniously, hand over heart, at a Hiroshima spectacle to remember some incident that occurred there on August 6, 1945. While the event was supposed to be a reminder to the world of the horrors of nuclear weaponry, it clearly was designed by the Japanese to memorialize the Hiroshima dead and celebrate the Hiroshima survivors. Biden helped to do that by his obsequious participation, hand over heart, in laying wreaths and planting trees at a monument honoring those Hiroshima “victims.”
Consider Karl Jaspers, German philosopher, among his other achievements (including staying alive), and Nazi opponent, victimized for his adversarial views and for having a Jewish wife. During the 1945-46 Nuremberg Trials, Jaspers observed that “a people answers for its polity,” a notion that won him few friends in the Vaterland. According to an article in Political Theory (October 2003), Jasper pointed out that the Nuremberg Trials, far from absolving the rest of the German people, point more clearly to their responsibility for the horrors and injustices of recent German history. While political leaders and state functionaries are responsible for the criminal actions they commit... the people bear another kind of responsibility for these same actions. Jaspers called it their “political liability” and argued that we all incur some such burden by virtue of our political agency.
The same must be said with respect to the “horrors and injustices” perpetrated by the Japanese on the people of Asia, especially on the Chinese — they were not invited to the prom — and on captured American and allied forces — how could Biden dare to participate in this Tojo-Two-Step?
The May 1946 Tokyo War Crimes Trials, which most people these days have never even heard of, say the same for the Japanese as the Nuremberg Trials say for the Germans: the Japanese Trials “point more clearly to their responsibility for the horrors and injustices” of Japanese history. “A people answers for its polity”!
Biden bows his head and tries to appear as reverential as possible, hand over heart. But is he reminding the world of the horrors of nuclear weaponry? Or is he commemorating the death of some 70,000 to 140,000 Japanese (depending on whose numbers you believe) and celebrating the lives of survivors, all to sycophantically seduce a supposed and latter-day ally? “A people answers for its polity”!
There is dispute to this day over whether the Japanese ever fully and conclusively and irrevocably and meaningfully apologized, or otherwise acknowledged a “political liability,” for their conduct of the Pacific War. Indeed, there are those in Japan who claim that the 1937-38 “Nanking Massacre” (the “Rape of Nanking”), where the Japanese slaughtered as many as 400,000 — who was counting! — helpless human beings, is all a fabrication. Extant photos and film taken by an American Episcopal Minister there at the time must thus be considered “fake news” or “alternative facts.” Others claim the death toll is wildly exaggerated, as though that makes a difference. “A people answers for its polity”!
Does anybody today remember the 1942 “Bataan Death March,” the forced trek of some 75.000 allied POWs to a Japanese prison camp? More than 10,000 of them died or were killed along the way, with survivors being forced into slave labor. And within Japanese prison camps, the death rate among allied POWs reached some 47 percent, compared to a death rate of 4 percent of POWs in Nazi hands.
Does anybody today remember the famous photo of a captured American pilot being beheaded by a Japanese officer? Does anybody today even remember Pearl Harbor? “A people answers for its polity”!
So Biden may appear as sanctimonious and as unctuous and as obsequious as he may care to, hand over heart, perhaps mumbling to himself “that was then and this is now” in order to fawn over this latter-day ally. But memorializing the dead and celebrating the survivors of Hiroshima is far different from trying to remind the world of the horrors of nuclear weaponry.
Perforce, the last survivor of the Bataan Death March died at 103 this past January. But there are still some of us, as young as we were during the war years, who will not forget the dark and somber stories of Japanese atrocities. That was then and August 6, 1945 also was then. “A people answers for its polity” ... one way or another.