Japanese and U.S. Citizens Lose When Their Governments Revise War History

Japanese symbols for peace

Japanese symbols for peace

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” – George Orwell

United States President Donald Trump is trying to start World War III. With the ultimate newspeak of “preventative war” and dangerously provoking North Korea he wants to attack it with “fire and fury.

The sanctions the United Nations imposed upon North Korea will surely provoke it into war just as sanctions provoked Japan into World War II. The U.S. wants war, as it has nowhere to go with its rigged stock market at 22,000 and the S&P 500 ready to blow can’t conjure up any more Quantitative Easing to inflate away its $20 trillion in debt. The dollar is down, the weakest since 1985,  markets seem vulnerable to some upside surprises, and It’s stuck with a bubble popping, so war, just as it got the U.S. out of the Great Depression, is the answer.

As if the U.S. needs more of its endless wars going on for the past 16 years in which 20 U.S. soldiers a day die by suicide, or the massive injuries and casualties of veterans and civilians alike, and Trump’s U.S.-led coalitions have now killed more civilians in Syria than Russia or ISIS combined!

Americans have been sipping their lattes, mindlessly motoring about and shopping at Wal-Mart as if nothing else exists outside their world, unlike wars of the past where everybody was involved. But a country that does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. So war it will get, and unbelievable suffering it will know. For the United States, as its ally Japan in this nonsense of nuclear holocaust-wannabes, have a tendency to keep the truths about war from its citizens by sanitizing and revising it in efforts to promote it.

This was evident when I went to the Osaka International Peace Center last March on my second trip to Japan. I stumbled upon it while touring Osaka Castle Park. It doesn’t pop up in a lot of tourist info or books I bought. Considering my family’s war history with Japan, that my father was a child survivor of a Japanese concentration camp on Java, my grandfather died a POW in Japan, and my great uncle survived the Death March of Bataan, it is quite ironic that I would come to live in Japan. I wrote about it before when I was there for Pearl Harbor Day last December. My father even died the day I moved to Japan on June 24, 2017. And here I am, living in Japan on the 72nd anniversary of the Atomic Bomb dropping on Hiroshima.

Osaka International Peace Center with timeline of Japan and events.

Osaka International Peace Center with timeline of Japan and events.

My father could be conflicted about it all, saying the morning I went to the Peace Center when I spoke to him by phone, “Tell the people of Japan I love them.” And then when I last time I visited him in Boulder, Colorado his traumatized soul still sadly lamented, “They killed my father.” My daughter, who spent a year in the DeLand High School JFROTC and who attended the veteran’s funeral with honors of my father-in-law two years ago asked for my father’s veteran’s hat that hung by the door of his home. She understands war because of them.

I didn’t realize it was Hiroshima Day this August, 6 when I took a nap that afternoon after touring in the sweltering heat a few Shinto shrines near our apartment in the Shinmachi, Osaka district. Now I understood some of the elder people’s gazes there at us. While watching the fireworks from the 35th floor the night before, an old woman joined me. Perhaps I picked up her quiet observation of me as an American. I brought a fan out to her in the searing evening humid heat, and she thanked me. I noticed that my Japanese chiropractor’s shop, always open, was also closed. How could I forget! How can ANYONE forget anything about the horrors of war! But they DO! Because their politicians want them to.

Osaka International Peace Center showing bombs dropped by U.S. forces during World War II on civilians.

Osaka International Peace Center showing bombs dropped by U.S. forces during World War II on civilians.

I popped up in bed that afternoon. The bombing was something enshrined in our minds and hearts as a child, my mother fiercely telling everybody, even to our embarrassment as children, “Do you know what day it is?” she’d say to the cashier or clerk in 1975 Boulder. “It’s Hiroshima Nagasaki Day. The day we bombed the Japanese to win the war!” And we kids would cringe as people looked at us unsure of anything, as candle light vigils for the victims went on in town.

Of course I understand now that my mother was traumatized too by the war, as all wars do to people – destroy children, families and society. Her brother, my Uncle Charlie, was fighting in the Pacific and may not have come home had the bombs not been dropped. My mother would go on to say that I would have not been been born had the bombs not been dropped. For my father would had died in the camp.

Osaka International Peace Center men and women dressed for war.

Osaka International Peace Center men and women dressed for war.

I understand the bravery of U.S. soldiers who gave their lives for their country. I have been to the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu; my mother was sure to take me there. My husband’s father fought in the war and was with the Occupational forces of Japan, as was my late-father in law from my late husband. I salute their service, bravery and sacrifice. I knew how bad war is.

But I remember last March when I toured the Peace Center that I wanted to understand all sides of the story. Because history can teach so much – otherwise we are doomed to repeat it. And I want to understand the Japanese and learn all I can learn. I’m a trained journalist to think critically. Taught to get both sides of the story and spot fake news or sense something is missing. I am trained as a yogi too to seek the truth – no matter how painful it may be –  for truth, satya, sets us free.

At the Peace Center I asked for special permission to take pictures, something I was surprised you had to ask to do.  The paperwork at the special office where a guard took me back to receive a special badge to wear asked the reason I wanted to take pictures. “I want to learn about the people of Japan and spread peace. I want to work for peace,” I wrote.

This is what I saw: I saw displays about the incendiary bombs that the United States dropped on the wooden houses of the people of Osaka in February 26, 1945, to the early morning of the next day. There were also bomb raids on March 13, 14, June 6, 7, 15, 26, July 10, 24, and August 14, the last day of the war.  The Shinmachi neighborhood I now live in was burned to ash. I had no idea.

I heard their stories of survivors. How it became a U.S. war tactic to intentionally target civilians.  It wasn’t a war crime to target civilians yet back then like it is now, although the U.S. with Saudi Arabia has been bombing civilians in Yemen and there will be consequences when history catches up with it.

During the bombing of Osaka on August 14, 1945, a one-ton bomb directly struck the Katamachi Line platform at Kyobashi Station and killed 700 to 800 evacuees. Kyobashi was one of the last sites to be bombed in Japan during World War II, followed only by the bombing of Akita, later the same day. Kyobashi is also two stops before Morinomiya station where I got off to visit the center and Osaka Castle Park.

One of the displays at the center asked, “Can you imagine the fear of this woman and her child hiding under a mattress for the air raids?” I was overwhelmed with sadness and compassion for them as I thought, “YES! I CAN!”  I heard as a child all the stories from my father of the Japanese bombings of Java, Dutch East Indies when his family took shelter under mattresses or in car dug outs or dodged the bullets in the streets from Japanese Zeros.

Along with my father’s pain, I also I felt such compassion for the people of Japan, people caught up in wars that politicians, not people, begin. At the Peace Center I learned about the Japanese rise of militarism and industrialism, how pictures of Osaka castle was surrounded by munitions buildings, not the beautiful, peaceful plum-tree-filled park it is today.

Sydney Solis war letter Peace, for the children

My letter at Osaka International Peace Center, Peace, for the children

I wrote a long letter that I put into the comments box at the end to say, “I’m sorry we dropped the atomic bomb. I’m sorry Japan committed terrible war crimes. We just all must work for peace now.” But as I was leaving, I did notice one thing, as my critical mind knows how to see both sides of the story and ask questions, and of course because I am educated about history via direct knowledge from my mother and father (and reading and researching a ton.)

That Japan had omitted its own war crime history, its own atrocities. For all of its excellent displays and understanding the role of industrialism in the rise of militarism, those crimes I knew well from primary sources. So where were they? Why were they not shown?

Now I think my country committed terrible war crimes on the people of Japan, dropping the bomb on them and targeting civilians, and here we condemn Syria for its crimes! And what we have been doing with torture, Guantanamo Bay, invading Iraq preemptively based on lies and more lately does not make me very proud to be an American. It makes me ashamed.

But I still love my country. I love it so much that peace is so important. So important that we understand our own roles in war, so that war can never be repeated again. That no American, no Japanese, no Syrian, no Iraqi, no North Korean, not one more person or child be afflicted by war. And understanding history, education, is at the heart of peace.

After researching what I saw, I now understand why they didn’t want just anybody to take pictures. The museum, opened in 1991….. Has been sanitized by a recent surge in nationalism under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, removing exhibits on Japanese wartime aggression. One blogger did post pictures of the prior exhibit and still has some online.

Ensuring a Peaceful Future

Ensuring a Peaceful Future

Laura Hein writes in The Asian-Pacific Journal: In order to explain why the city was attacked so many times, the planners agreed on an exhibit that portrayed Japan as not only the victim but also the aggressor: it showed that while the air-raids and the atomic bombs caused tremendous suffering, the war was the result of Japan’s assaults in Asia. The exhibit also explained that Osaka Castle Park, in the heart of the city, was used as a munitions factory during the war. While this information was absolutely accurate, mention of it acknowledged that Osaka had been a military as well as a civilian target, potentially justifying the American bombardment. In other words, the museum was established by local residents, many of whom had contributed to smaller exhibits since the 1970s, in order to institutionalize “collective remembrance,” built around testimony of local suffering due to the policies of both the U.S. and Japanese governments. These Osaka residents also wanted to incorporate remembrance of Asian suffering inflicted by the wartime Japanese into the museum’s narrative. The fundamental message was that war should always be avoided. 

In 1996, Japanese conservative nationalist groups, went on a counter-offensive, Hein continues. These groups, such as the Liberal View of History Study Group (Jiyushugi shikan kenkyukai), led by Fujioka Nobukatsu, had earlier attacked middle-school textbooks as “self-flagellating” and sought not only to end Japanese criticism of Japan’s wars in the 1930s and 1940s but also to change public opinion in favor of future rearmament.

Peace, for the children Sydney Solis Osaka International Peace Center

Peace education area for children who wrote on a peace tree. Peace, for the children Osaka International Peace Center

In an article in The Japan Times, Jeff Kensington writesOn a visit there several years ago, I was pleasantly surprised by a museum that unflinchingly presented both what Japan endured and what it inflicted during the 1930s and ’40s. It seemed an encouraging reproach to the Smithsonian museum, which in 1995 tried to mount an exhibition that complicated the atomic bomb narrative in an effort to give voice to scholars who questioned the wisdom and necessity of former President Harry Truman’s decision to drop them. The curator’s inspiring vision could not survive the political gauntlet, showing an America that was overly eager, half a century on, to stifle criticism.

In Osaka there has been a similar retreat from discomforting truths as the harsh aspects of Japanese imperialism have been tossed onto the garbage heap of history. Visitors no longer confront colonial rule in Korea, the Nanking Massacre, invasion of the Asian continent, aggression in Southeast Asia or the mistreatment of Allied prisoners of war. This sanitized peace museum now features more about the U.S. bombing raids on Osaka and a short video that exonerates Japan from allegations of aggression. At least pulling the aggression exhibits will save teachers the heartburn of explaining things that are no longer covered in Japan’s new textbooks.

The old exhibits were progressive. They depicted Japanese wartime aggression and forced visitors to reconcile this history with the museum’s other main narrative: the air raids that destroyed Osaka in 1945. The new exhibits, by contrast, largely elide Japan’s war with China and Asia and center on the devastation of the Osaka air raids. They are conservative in the sense of avoiding any categorization of Japan’s wars as “aggressive” though recognizing the existence of some “aggressive acts” (namely atrocities). Japanese nationalists – defined as those who present an affirmative narrative of Japan’s wars and deny by omission Japanese war crimes (most notably the Nanjing atrocity of 1937) – led the attack on Peace Osaka’s old exhibits and their influence and rhetoric are also evident in the new exhibits on occasions. The ideological change goes beyond removing graphic exhibits of Japanese atrocities. The entire lexicon of the museum has been aligned with archetypal conservative rhetoric. This ideological “conversion” is far more significant than any cosmetic “renewal” in the appearance of the museum.

I realized that the U.S., too, underwent some sanitization of war history of the same magnitude and for the same reasons. As a Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum exhibit of the original Enola Gay “The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II,” which was to feature photographs and oral histories of the destruction, was cancelled in 1995 “as possibly the greatest tragedy to befall the public presentation of history in many years….the lost opportunity to educate a vast audience about a defining moment in history… abandoned… for political reasons,” writes Richard H. Kohn of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

The exhibition’s primary goal was to encourage the public to re-examine the bombings in view of the political and military factors which led to the decision to use the bombs, actions which brought suffering to Japanese civilians and have long-term implications.

There was concern how veterans would react to such a possibly contentious presentation, stated that it would probably be impossible to make veterans feel good at the same time as the public was being encouraged to think about the consequences of the bombing but that the museum could do both scholarship and commemoration

Robert K. Musil, director of policy and programs for the organization, said that “merely showing a plane does nothing” to advance the historical significance of Hiroshima.

“When you go to the museum of record of the United States, you expect the full story,” Musil said. “But having history interpreted by political passion and by congressional investigation is the worst way to do history.”

War history and its effects on civilians are important. Without information about how it affects civilians, suffering on huge scale such as World War II will happen again. We must do everything to prevent it. Truth and education do this. Recently Japan and the U.S. are banging the drums of war, nuclear arsenal for Japan included. On this anniversary of Hiroshima, its Mayor Kazumi Matsui higlighted the fact that the U.S. and Japan refused to sign a U.N. treaty on nuclear arms that 122 other nations signed.

Abe has been trying to change Japan’s Constitution from pacifist, something that has been in place since enacted by American Occupiers in 1947 and is enormously popular with the Japanese people who want peace. Japan has even redacted information about the role of its Self Defence Forces, who were duped into fighting in South Sudan instead of being there for “engineering,” as they were told.  A 50-year-old Japanese mother, going by the name of “Peace Child” remembers war, so she is protesting. Saying that the Japanese government has infringed on her Constitutional “right to peace.”

“The worst thing for me would be to see my son die,” the woman said. “I will continue saying ‘no’ as a mother.” If only U.S. citizens could all say “NO WAR!” and ask for a right to Peace and have it enshrined in the U.S. Constitution as it is in the Japanese.

During the campaign this summer, Mr. Abe and other Liberal Democrats kept mostly quiet about their revisionist ambitions, which led opposition party leaders and some news media critics to accuse them of a hidden agenda.

Yeah! Like starting a war alongside Trump! It was planned all along.  Because soldiers don’t fight for freedom. They fight for oil and corporations! In an era when U.S. President Trump and his former Exxon Oil CEO turned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson won’t rule out nuclear weapons, they approve of human rights abusers like Bahrain while attacking Syria.

Exxon Mobile has close connections with Qatar’s national oil company, and has joined with Doha to build a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Persian Gulf coast that is designed for importing gas and possibly for exporting it as well. As a result, the company had a strong interest in keeping the shipping lanes in the region open — for which cooperation with Bahrain is key.

Japan’s Abe has been even inculcating kindergarteners with prewar material.  Members of Abe’s Cabinet voiced their approval for using the prewar Imperial Rescript on Education as a teaching material, drawing criticism that the government is trying to bring back antiquated values.  The Imperial Rescript of Education has recently drawn public attention after Osaka kindergarten operator Moritomo Gakuen, which is at the heart of a political scandal, was found to have been making its pupils memorize it.

TV footage surfaced online over the past few days showing kindergartners participating in a sports festival at Tsukamoto, lined up, standing at attention, and shouting a nationalist chant that said: “Japanese adults should make sure South Korea and China repent over treating Japan as a villain,” and “refrain from teaching lies in history textbooks.”

“Go, go Prime Minister Abe! We’re happy you passed security legislation at the Diet!” the children chanted.

Since the end of World War II, Japanese academics have renounced military research based on the bitter lessons of the war, in which Japanese scientists contributed, both directly and indirectly, to the ravages of war at home and abroad. But remember, they have been planning for a while this war the U.S. and Japan want.

Recently, however, these peaceful principles have been severely violated under the “proactive peace” policy of the hawkish Abe administration. For example, although the export of arms and related technologies had long been strictly restricted, Abe removed this ban in 2014. The Japanese government and various industries have been promoting military-academia joint research for the production of dual-use technologies. As of 2014, over 20 joint research projects had been initiated since the early 2000s between the Ministry of Defense and academia.

President Woodrow Wilson’s nominal idealism proved to be deadly during World War I. Americans should ponder the lessons of his fateful course. It’s time for U.S. presidents to work hard for peace rather than take what has become the far easier path to war. Because ultimately it is the veterans, civilians and children, like my father and his family and all veterans discarded and left  homeless in the U.S., will suffer.

Those who remember war do not stop voicing the need for peace. Scores of Okinawans continue to gather daily at the entrance to the Yanbaru forest to block the construction work of a new U.S. base on Okinawa that is destroying coral beds, chanting, “We want to protect the nature of our hometown,” and “Stop cutting down the trees.”

Nearly all in their 60s or 70s, they travel to Takae on foot or by other means on a journey that often takes two to three hours, even within Okinawa. Fujimoto believes the protests represent locals’ silent cries against war.

“Their protests show the height of their resentment,” he said. Especially since three U.S. marines died recently in the controversial Osprey that is plagued with safety problems. And sailors were likely “not paying attention” when the USS Fitzgerald rammed a Filipino cargo ship earlier this year, embroiled in pedophilia stings as well as trying to board civilian flights with live ammunition. 

Ultimately, a new book called “Japanese Reflections on World War II” is a clear picture of how the tragedy and suffering of war affects ordinary people and their perceptions. Anyone who has a loved one who has died or suffered in the U.S.’s recent wars know that war is hell. It has bankrupted this country and destroyed its liberties and values it once stood for.

Trump is clearly insane, a Mad King, even wanting to fight the suffering of opioid use with more police, rather than medical solutions that the commission report recommended! He is clearly not working for the American people, but the pharmaceutical military industrial complex and the Goldman Swamp of Government Sachs.  He is sick and insane and must be stopped! And only Russia and Israel are supporting Trump these days because of his dangerous policies, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

And as the dollar erodes under Trump’s erratic behavior and people turn to the Yen or physical gold for safe haven, the U.S. continues to become isolated and a risk. “There is some erosion in the relative stability of the United States in light of this administration’s inconsistency on global affairs,” said Mr. Posen of the Peterson Institute. “The U.S. is at relatively more risk than we thought in the past.”

But it’s not too late. Make your voice for peace heard today, because with the U.S.’s huge fleet and presence in South-East Asia, things are not looking good. Your son or daughter is next in line to die, and not for country, but for ego, banks, corporations and oil. Let’s make peace today. All you have to do is say, “Hell NO! We won’t go!” 

Japanese symbols for peace

Japanese symbols for peace

“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.” – George Orwell

“All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those of whom it seeks to reach.” – Adolf Hitler

“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” –  Ernest Hemingway

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” – John Lennon

NOTE: This blog post was originally published in the Orlando Sentinel’s Hype-Orlando on August 9, 2017. It is ceasing publication and I am republishing it here. Today I had hanami at Osaka Castle Park with several wonderful Japanese women, and we had a lively and passionate discussion about peace. So we work for peace! Join us!


3 thoughts on “Japanese and U.S. Citizens Lose When Their Governments Revise War History

  1. Pingback: Kyobashi – A Visual Poem to Keep Article 9 in Japan’s Constitution | Sydney In Osaka

  2. Pingback: World Peace Kamishibai Day December 7 | Sydney In Osaka

  3. Pingback: Two Atomic Bombs and I – The 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima | Sydney In Osaka

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