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Rape of Nanking Reloaded
by Reza Fiyouzat
June 23, 2004

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The deeper reasons for the participation of the Japanese imperialists in the looting games of Uncle Sam may in fact go far beyond what appears on the surface as the promise of the contracts and/or the future acquisitions to be had, although these do form the more crass requisites.  

The Rape of Nanking is a good place to start for a glimpse of the urges driving the military-financial-industrial captains in Japan. After five years of fighting on different fronts in the Chinese mainland, the Japanese finally entered Nanking, in December 1937. Over the next six weeks, three hundred thousand Chinese people were massacred. The slaughter was indiscriminate. Civilian women and men and children, as well as imprisoned soldiers and civilian fighters were equally persistently murdered. At least twenty thousand women were raped, many mutilated and killed afterward. Those not killed were forced into becoming ‘Comfort Women’, meaning their rape continued.

The sexual exploitation of ‘Comfort Women’, by 1937, had become an integral part of the conditions imposed on nations conquered by the Imperial Army. The so called Comfort Women were held as prisoners in Japanese army bases set up as a vast web of occupation posts, as well as in bases located in Japan. These women were literally sex slaves, imported and exported from country to country as need arose. According to Ms Watanabe, a Japanese activist for the rights of ‘Comfort Women’, the Japanese Imperial Army had, as early as their invasion of Siberia in 1918, taken with them women who had been forced into sexual slavery. Back then, poor farming communities in Japan provided the girls who were forcefully taken along, and who were subsequently left in Siberia when the Japanese army withdrew.

“In the 1920s, as part of Japan's imperial policies after the colonization of Korea in 1910, the Japanese Imperial Army began to mobilize Korean women as physical laborers or as enforced sex laborers. In particular, beginning with the Japanese invasion of China in 1932, the recruiting of Korean women as prostitutes was gradually institutionalized to arouse soldiers' fighting spirit, provide them with an outlet for the frustration and fear fostered by hierarchical military life, and, ostensibly, prevent random rapes … as they did during the Nanjing Massacre in 1937. The procurement of comfort women was institutionalized to avoid atrocities that would damage the reputation of the Japanese army,” (Watanabe Kazuko, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, vol. 26, no. 4, Oct.-Dec. 1994).

To this day, one way of defending against the claims of those who attempt to shame the Japanese officialdom is to compartmentalize things into male and female departments. The Comfort Women ‘issue’ falls under the female department, and is naturally relegated to something obviously not worthy of any official attention. The true face of real shame thus relegated to irrelevance, the focus is turned to the all important male compartment. Since men are supposed to like numbers, hard facts, proof, legality, technicality, not necessarily morality, the significance of the Japanese Imperial Army’s massacres are first reduced to a challenge over quantities (an inverse pissing game), and then further trivialized by bringing in handy and fabricated ‘technicalities’ (lying and cheating), all of which help to bring down  the numbers miraculously.

Professor Higashinakano of the Asia University in Japan will do for a quick example of how the militarists have proceeded to play the numbers’ game. He states the case thus (his prose being colorful, I quote verbatim):

“1. There were 20,000 to 40,000 of dead soldier's corpse.

2. There were execution of 1 or 2 thousands of guerrillas (ex-soldiers ).....
........... but this was necessary to self-defense for Japanese soldiers and legal for international law.

3. There were Chinese soldier groups who pour groundless rumors. And many evil rumors were made and poured.

4. There were enemy foreign men and journalists who knew well that execution of guerilla is legal.
... These foreign people wrote nothing about Massacre in the formal document,” (click here for full text).

Never mind that his numbers are so outrageously low that in bringing down the numbers he has rendered the margin completely irrational for numbers he gives (difference between 20,000 and 40,000 is one hundred percent). More interesting and more universally repeated by right wing ideologues, is the ‘rumor mongering’ business. What this allows them to do is to finalize the terms of the numbers’ game, and furthermore make it seem impossible to have any scientific access to objective truth in this regard. Of course, our professor here is not very sophisticated. But, in such unsophisticated rhetoric one can find the essence of an argument, stripped of the niceties that more sophisticated can use to conceal the irrationality they are presenting.

Considering the stubborn refusal to deal with the female compartment, meaning the sexual slavery of least two hundred thousand Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Filipina, Indonesian, as well as Dutch women, it is clear that deeply-seated sociopathic tendencies and drives are being denied. But, that which is denied does not disappear; it makes the soul run amok, one could say.

But, one thing these modern rationalists of warmongering forget is that quality too is indicative of intent and guilt. In this case, the quality of behavior toward others, something that was well documented.  

One amazing similarity between today’s Iraq and Nanking in 1937 is that in both cases some soldiers recorded some of the atrocities they were committing in pictorial form. There are numerous pictures around of the Nanking massacre (easily available online). In one picture, numerous soldiers are standing in attentive observance as if watching a game, around a ditch, where prisoners whose hands are tied behind their backs are being bayoneted to death by Japanese soldiers. In another picture a Japanese soldier is pointing his sword at a corpse, while holding in his other hand a severed head. He is smiling for the camera. Another picture shows a naked woman sitting on the ground, crying, in a fit, distraught, shamed by the rapes she had just been subjected to. In another picture a mutilated body of a woman after rape, the sword left stuck in the genital for effect.

These old hands at rape and pillage, in their current incarnation may have grown polite, but they must see in George Bush a soul mate and may even look onto the Yankee neophytes at Imperial games with certain awe. They most definitely should marvel at how the Yanks have massacred far, far more in Iraq almost in stealth, even though in bright day light, over a much longer period of time (starting from 1991).

The right wing militarist ideology is not a hidden phenomenon in Japan. The gradual drift to an increasing militarism is not pushed by a clique of secretive individuals conspiring behind closed doors. Much like the Reagan ‘revolution’, or the Bush ‘doctrine’ regarding preemptive warmongering, Japan’s militarists have been helped amply by the converted and the choir roaming the various institutions and spheres in civil society.

In the October 2001 issue of Le Monde Diplomatique (English language), Philippe Pons, in an article titled, ‘Mangas tell a different story’, wrote about a young Japanese manga (comics) artist, Yoshinori Kobayashi, whose rise to fame in the mid-1990s has had an enormous influence on the minds of this manga-obsessed nation. Kobayashi, much like the entire imperialistically-minded Japanese right wing, is an advocate of a revisionist history, in which the Japanese invasions of Taiwan, China, the Korean peninsula, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and beyond had all been in the name of ridding the Asian continent of the imperialistic designs of the Americans and the Europeans. In this view of history, Japan had indeed been a liberator to all the Asian nations its soldiers were dispatched to. Mr. Kobayashi also openly denounces as a fictitious fabrication the Rape of Nanking, claiming that, “During the [War Crimes] trial, they invented the Nanking massacre, as a way of trying to attribute to the Japanese a crime as bad as the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed 300,000 people.”

The social and historical causes for the resurgence of revisionist ideologues that attempt to recast the Japanese past missions are manifold, but we can observe to what use they are put. Mr. Kobayashi, can do as a good guide. It comes down to two words: restoring pride. The manga artist’s favorite slogan is (and his manga books sell in hundreds of thousands of copies), “the catchphrase ‘Let me show you how proud I am of being proud’ _ a statement which is meant as a rejection of the ‘malaise’ of pity and compassion that has affected postwar Japan,” (Le Monde Diplomatique, October 2001).

The 1991 book by now-governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, titled, Japan That Can Say No, is a good example of the right wing ideologues getting more vocal, and pressing for a more forceful articulation of a renewed sense of national pride. Mr. Kobayashi the cartoonist is part of this movement to reinvigorate the Japanese pride, part of which project is a revisionist historiography that, far from apologizing for anything, revels in glorifying the Japanese past, and assigns all reports of the crimes of the Imperial Army to the category of ‘vicious rumors’ spread by foreigners, and weak-kneed or commie Japanese.

Professor Satoshi Morita, of the Takushoku University, who, to a socialist ear, sounds like a straight-talking man as far right as you can go without openly fondling a Nazi, in a speech on July 9, 2003, at the Foreign Press Center/Japan, talked frankly about Japan’s situation vis a vis the war in Iraq: “I suspect that the United States launched its attack on the regime of Saddam Hussein as part of a coherent long-term road map for its global strategy. Consequently, any justification would do, as the results were the important thing. The upshot is that a new constellation of alliance arrangements in the Middle East and the Gulf region could emerge. If we assume that this was the real objective of the war, then the operation is easily understandable. Japan for its part must one way or the other provide necessary cooperation.”

Almost a year after that speech, our professor might indeed be very impressed with how successful the Koizumi government has been in providing ‘cooperation’.

Over the past few decades, Japan and the US have had several long-lasting differences, mostly to do with trade. However, ever since September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a new era has indeed risen over the Pacific horizon. In this new era, with the help of the invading armies of the US, objectively new conditions have been created for the Japanese militarists to mobilize themselves, to prepare the legal grounds, and to act as if the constitution is ‘ambiguous’ on its clearly stated rejection of participation in any war that is not defensive and fought on Japanese soil. It was in this environment that the government of Junichiro Koizumi, over the past two years, has boosted up the already-existing US-Japan Security Treaties with a series of packages of Emergency Legislations, thus thoroughly arming the Japanese state vis-a-vis the citizens, readying the ground for an unabashed participation in wars. All that remains now is to decide with what speed and how intensely to increase the military’s role in Japan’s foreign policy.

Those Japanese right wingers who were around for the Rape of Nanking must feel more redeemed of late. Seeing their current Prime Minister officially paying respects at the graves of convicted war criminals, they are justified to conclude that the trials of the war criminals in Japan and Germany have proven to have been nothing but show trials. Furthermore, seeing how openly the US is raping Iraq, they are thoroughly right in deducing that no principles were set in those trials, considering that no principles of non-aggression have ever been adhered to by the US. So, in retrospect it may indeed sound accurate to say that true guilt was not assigned nor accepted. If the United States and Britain can legally and under the aegis of the United Nations decimate hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children alone, and then after bleeding the country into a comatose state, invade Iraq and loot all its resources, then who is to say anybody witnessed anything uniquely evil in the Nanking ‘massacre’?  If anything, the Japanese generals and the types of Tokyo Governor, Ishihara, can in their private conversations smirk, and point to the actions of the US and the Brits as a sign of their getting a grip and coming around to the Japanese older ways of rape and plunder. Albeit in a more fantastical garb and rhetoric.

Reza Fiyouzat is an applied linguist and freelance writer working in Japan. Iranian by birth, bi-national by passports (a US citizen), his writings have appeared in CounterPunch, and (in English and Portuguese) on the Brazilian website, Revista Espaco Academico. He can be reached at:

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