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Tokyo Air Raid was a war crime

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  • ummyakoub
    THE VIEW FROM NEW YORK Great Tokyo Air Raid was a war crime By HIROAKI SATO, The Japan Times: Sept. 30, 2002 On Dec. 7, 1964, the Japanese government conferred
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 5, 2003
      Great Tokyo Air Raid was a war crime
      By HIROAKI SATO, The Japan Times: Sept. 30, 2002

      On Dec. 7, 1964, the Japanese government conferred the First Order of
      Merit with the Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun upon Gen. Curtis LeMay -
      - yes, the same general who, less than 20 years earlier, had
      incinerated "well over half a million Japanese civilians, perhaps
      nearly a million."

      In May 1964, the general, now the chief of staff of the U.S. Air
      Force, had declaimed: "Tell the Vietnamese they've got to draw in
      their horns or we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age."

      I was reminded of the Japanese government's bizarre act when I read
      the responses of several readers of The Atlantic Monthly to the news
      that a museum had finally been created in Tokyo to memorialize the
      Great Tokyo Air Raid. In the wee hours of March 10, 1945, 300 B-29s
      dropped 2,000 tons of incendiaries on one section of Tokyo -- a space
      seven-tenths the size of Manhattan -- and in 2 1/2 hours "scorched
      and boiled and baked to death" 100,000 people. The quoted words are

      No, "news" is not the right word. For his July-August column in the
      monthly, Jonathan Rauch mentioned the opening of a "small museum" and
      spoke of what lay behind it: an "obscure" air raid. "Few Americans
      have even heard of it," he wrote, "and few Japanese like to dwell on

      Rauch met a survivor of the firebombing, a Japanese friend's mother,
      back in 1990. He admired her for her "matter-of-fact, detached
      manner." Her attitude was: "What happened happened, and war is always
      bad, and 1945 is ancient history." Still, "the Tokyo attack deserves
      the most introspection of all," Rauch decided, "even as it receives
      the least."

      In sheer magnitude, the calamity brought by the firebombing surpassed
      both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at least according to the U.S. Strategic
      Bombing Survey conducted shortly after the war. But the devastation
      of Tokyo, along with that of Hamburg and Dresden, was laid aside the
      moment an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, then on Nagasaki.
      With the advent of a weapon capable of snuffing out a large city in a
      flash, the sense suddenly took root that "the continuity of life was,
      for the first time, put into question," as Mary McCarthy put it.

      In fact, one Japanese writer reported, in 1968, that "in the 22 years
      since the war the Asahi Shimbun has written only four times about
      March 10," while taking up Hiroshima 100 times more often. At about
      that time, Saotome Katsumoto, who survived the firestorm as a 12-year-
      old boy, resolved to do something about it. It took him over three
      decades to create his modest archival center.

      Was the raid justified? Rauch asked in his column. As with the
      dropping of the second atomic bomb, the question is legitimate.

      First, before and during World War II there were people who thought
      indiscriminate slaughter of civilians had to be avoided. Tacticians
      in the U.S. Army Air Forces themselves were split between those who
      believed in "precision-bombing" and those who were "area bombers."

      Brigadier Gen. Haywood Hansell, who was assigned to execute the first
      serious bombings against Japan, was of the former group. But he was
      duly relieved of his duty as ineffectual and replaced by LeMay. And
      LeMay, switching from high explosives to incendiaries, went on to
      carry out what Gen. Douglas MacArthur's aide, Brigadier Gen. Bonner
      Fellers, called "one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of
      noncombatants in all history."

      Equally important, the victors of World War II did not just expand
      the definition of "war crimes," but introduced the new concepts
      of "crimes against peace" and "crimes against humanity." And these
      ideas have gained support in recent years. Probably with the latter
      development in mind, Rauch wrote: "I believe the firebombing of Tokyo
      should be considered a war crime."

      Some readers did not like this. And the five responses The Atlantic
      has chosen to print in its October issue are yet another reminder:
      When it comes to Japan and World War II, some Americans are incapable
      of accommodating different viewpoints.

      Blaine Browne, in Lighthouse Point, Fla., begins by taking Rauch to
      task for following "a convoluted path toward his goal of elevating
      the March 1945 U.S. firebomb raid on Tokyo to the historical
      prominence he feels it deserves," so you can guess the tenor of his
      letter. But in his determination to dismiss the importance of "an
      event that, as Rauch complains, has gone largely un-remarked since
      its occurrence," Browne makes one point he may not have intended.

      "By early 1945 the American public's willingness to support
      operations that might produce any significant casualties was
      increasingly strained," he tells us, and concludes: "The Truman
      administration's decision to use the atomic bomb must be considered
      in this context."

      I know Stanford historian Barton Bernstein has taken a somewhat
      different tack and argued President Harry Truman used atomic bombs
      because American taxpayers would have revolted if they learned their
      government had expended $2 billion on the Manhattan Project but had
      not used what it produced. The amount was sizable at the time; the
      creation and maintenance of the large fleet of B-29s cost $3 billion.

      But I don't know if Bernstein would go as far as to suggest what
      Browne does. By Browne's logic, Japan's invasion of China, for
      example, must be considered all right -- in the context of the
      public's support.

      Michael Franzblau, in San Rafael, Calif., writes: "Concern that
      Curtis LeMay's Army Air Corps committed war crimes in the firebombing
      of Tokyo has to be balanced by awareness of the despicable activities
      of the Imperial Japanese Army in China."

      In other words, you murdered relatives of someone I know, so I
      murdered some of yours. This argument may have worked in the age of
      gunfighters in the American west. But it evidently wouldn't have
      worked in the military tribunals convened after the war. In any
      event, the countries that sat to judge Germany and Japan were careful
      to exclude their own deeds from consideration.

      The shortest letter cited in The Atlantic comes from Devin Croft, in
      Littleton, Col. It reads in its entirety: "If the United States owed
      any debt to the dead of Tokyo, it was long since repaid through the
      reconstruction of Japan in the postwar years."

      That is one conclusion some Japanese may accept, however
      ambivalently. But Croft, too, evades Rauch's point. Any deliberate
      mass slaughter of civilians is a war crime. And what happened in the
      early hours of March 10, 1945, was the greatest slaughter a single
      air raid produced in world history.

      Hiroaki Sato is a translator and essayist who lives in New York.

      The Japan Times: Sept. 30, 2002


      Dr. Muhammad Al-Massari comments:

      (1) Japan never targeted US civilians in its history. The Pearl
      Harbor attacks were against a purely military target. The only
      problem with Pearl Harbor is that the Japanese war declaration on the
      US did not arrive in time before the attacks giving the US
      politicians the opportunity to scream their heads off crying: foul!

      Technically the Pearl Harbor attack was even not carried against an
      American territory. Hawaii was admitted to the US in 1951, so the
      Japanese attack was, strictly speaking, not on US soil!!

      Thus the Great Tokyo Air Raid, as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are
      not justified at all by the principle of "justified retribution and
      measured response".

      (2) The claim "that Curtis LeMay's Army Air Corps committed war
      crimes in the firebombing of Tokyo has to be balanced by awareness of
      the despicable activities of the Imperial Japanese Army in China" as
      Michael Franzblau, of San Rafael, Calif., wrote is absurd, because:

      (a) The two activities differ fundamentally different in type,
      scope and extension contradicting the "principle of measured and
      balanced response".

      (b) The despicable activities of the Imperial Japanese Army in
      China were mostly transgressions of individual soldiers and local
      commanders. Very little seems to be official Japanese Government
      policy for which Japan as a nation and legal person of International
      Law can be held responsible and hence punishable, as a nation and
      people! The punishment has to be directed towards the responsible
      individuals, and possibly military units, not against the "Japanese
      People" as a legal entity.

      (c) It is not clear that the Chinese have authorized the US to
      act in their behalf by transferring their right of grievance. History
      shows that they were more than capable to pursue their right and
      exact retribution. Most of "The despicable activities of the Imperial
      Japanese Army in China" cannot be classified strictly as crimes
      against humanities, giving the justification to the US to act on
      behalf of them as "human beings" without authorization.
      Actually "crimes against humanity" were not yet defined (at least in
      the Western tradition) nor was any punishment yet formalized.

      (3) The behavior of the Japanese Government in the whole affair, not
      only in conferring the First Order of Merit with the Grand Cordon of
      the Rising Sun upon Gen. Curtis LeMay, cannot be described in mild
      terms like: bizarre. It is treasonous and nothing less. Moreover the
      Japanese Government cannot be excused by being a government of a de
      facto occupied country and thus acting under duress. The Japanese
      people, led by thinkers and intellectuals should start a serious
      accounting process of their treasonous politicians. A Japanese Usama
      bin Ladin is past due and badly needed!!

      (4) A similar analysis applies also to the Anglo-American fire
      bombing of Dresden and other German cities. Such acts went far above
      and beyond the legally and morally permissible according
      to "justified retribution and measured response". The fire bombing of
      Dresden is especially despicable and criminal:

      (a) It has no precedence from the Nazi side. The Nazis never
      fire-bombed a British city!

      (b) Dresden was a commercial and university city with little
      heavy industry or military facilities, thus of little or no
      strategic importance

      (5) All human beings of sound judgment must reject and denounce the
      logic of those who invoke American public opinion against war
      casualties and/or American tax money as a justification for the US
      using Nukes against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We must also absolutely
      reject the claim that Hiroshima may have been justified, but not
      Nagasaki, or vice versa. Such "American" pseudo-intellectual
      acrobatic should not intimidate us.

      Actually All human beings of sound judgment must re-evaluate their
      understanding of the US collective mind: Is there any MIND at all?!
      May be we are dealing with self-righteous arrogant idiots?! How
      dangerous it is to leave the raging US bull get away with its current
      policies?! What can be done?!

      It is absolutely mandatory to evaluate the 11/9 attacks in this
      light, otherwise we are BLIND and we will remain BLIND for ever!



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