Sometimes we in the U.S. who have spent much of our political lives fighting against the ultra-right, racists, militarists, cold and hot warriors, American imperialism in all of its manifestations forget that there are reactionary forces through the world, some in very powerful countries as dangerous as our ultrarightists, with there own complementary imperialist visions.
In Japan today, there was a frightening reminder of that for all of us. General Toshio Tamogami, Japanese Air Force chief of Staff, was removed from his position for an essay he wrote which was published on a Japanese website. (I was unable to access the link to the English translation of the essay, and my comments are on the press reports, which if anything may understate the case, since this is the U.S. establishment press.)
What did Tamogami write? First that "it is a false accusation that our country was the aggressor in the Greater East Asia War" (the Japanese war against China which eventually became the Japanese involvement in WWII as Hitler's major Axis ally). Furthermore, Tamogami contended that Japanese militarist actions in China in the 1930s were "based on treaty obligations" and Korea during the period that it was a Japanese colony, 1914-1945, was "prosperous and safe." But Tamogami didn't stop there. In a contention which would warm the heart of old German American Bundists, pro fascist isolationists, and quite possibly Patrick Buchanan, Anne Coulter and the people cheering at McCain Palin rallies, he argued that Japan was brought into the war by the conspiratorial manipulations of President Franklin Roosevelt who was himself under the influence of Communist International (Comintern) working to advance Soviet and Communist goals.
Tamogami was removed because his embarrassed Japaneses superiors did not want to create conflicts with Asian nations. But along with Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Indonesians, and other Asian peoples who faced death and destruction at the hands of Japanese imperialism, his comment should outrage Americans. In some respect it is reminiscent of the real air force General, Edwin Walker, who was removed from command of a U.S. air base in Europe when it was discovered that he was passing John Birch Society material among the troops accusing Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt of being Communists and the fluoridation of water as part of a Communist plot, among other "assertions." Walker was later put in a mental institution after he tried to provoke a racist to block integration at the University of Mississippi in 1962 and after his release became a stalwart of an ultra-right that was considered a "lunatic fringe." Many believe that he was the major inspiration for the General Jack D. Ripper, the air base commander who launches a nuclear WWIII in Dr. Strangelove.
Tamogami's essay is much more than an embarrassment to the present Japanese government. It is an example of why the Japanese constitution repudiating Japanese militarism and aggressive war must be maintained and why the policies of the Bush administration, which McCain fully supports and would no doubt enhance, of encouraging a major Japanese military expansion as both a threat (or "containment") of China and a way to share the costs of imperialism must be totally repudiated by the next U.S. administration before such policies lead to the development of a real U.S.-Japanese "Axis" military alliance in Asia as against the fictitious "Axis of Evil" that the Bush administration publicized (Iran, Iraq, North Korea) to advance its foreign policy.
Although it is painful to even dignify Tamogami's comments with a serious response based on historical analysis, I will do that.First, Japanese colonial occupation of Korea (which the U.S. had accepted as part of a deal in which Japan accepted U.S. colonial control of the Philippines) was controlled by the Japanese army and infamous for its brutality against the Korean people. While there were some areas of the Japanese empire where civilian forces played a more significant role and imperial rule was less brutal, Korea was neither "prosperous or safe" under Japanese rule as Koreans across the political spectrum well know. Also, hundreds of thousands of Korean women forcibly recruited as sex slaves for the Japanese military during WWII, an issue which has been the source of organized protest for many years.
The crimes of Japanese imperialism against the people of China had nothing to do with "treaty obligations." Japanese militarists used a bombing at a railroad in Manchuria in 1931 as a pretext to invade Manchuria, separate it from China, and establish a puppet state with the last Manchu emperor of China as its nominal head. Japanese imperialists launched a series of attacks against China in the period 1932-1937, sought to use Northern Chinese warlords and other collaborators to gain control of Chinese provinces, and often "defended" their activities as attempts to "protect" China and Asia from Communist and Soviet influence. The Civil War that the Chinese nationalist leader Chiang K'ai-shek was prosecuting against the Chinese Communist party gave Japanese imperialists their opportunity. When Chiang's government agreed to form a United Front with the Chinese Communist party, Japanese militarists responded in 1937 by using another incident, this time in Beijing, to launch a full scale invasion of China without a formal declaration of war. U.S. and European corporations continued to supply Japan with oil and other war materials while this was going on, even though the Roosevelt administration clearly opposed the invasion.
The crimes of Japanese imperialism against the people of China in the period 1937-1945 are among the greatest in history. The mass murder and mass rape of Nanking in 1938 shocked people through the world years before Hitler's wartime atrocities did. Although the numbers are not as specific, no one denies that well over ten million Chinese perished during WWII, a number second only to the 27 millionSoviet citizens who perished in the war. That the Japanese imperialists, who staked their future on the colonial domination of China, covered over these crimes with a corporatist propaganda that they were creating a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" which would produce general prosperity only makes their real crimes more grotesque, like the crimes of the imperialist powers in Africa, which were covered with propaganda that they were bringing "civilization and progress" to the peoples of Africa.
Finally, the U.S. did not manipulate the Japanese into bombing Pearl Harbor, a view that Tamogami shares with old right-wing isolationists. The U.S. refused to accept Japan's domination of China. When Japan occupied French colonial Indochina in the Summer if 1941, following its joining fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in a Tripartite Pact in the Fall of 1940 against both the Soviet Union and the U.S. both of which were not involved in the world war that the Axis was winning at the time, the Roosevelt administration froze Japanese assets in the U.S. ending all trade and Japanese oil imports, particularly.
The Japanese militarist leaders did this following Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941, which meant that they decided to advance their position in China and prepare to conquer British, French and Dutch colonial possessions in Asia and the Pacific( rather than join Hitler in attacking the Soveit Union. This meant, they understood, going to war with the U.S. and implementing the Pearl Harbor attack, which they already had developed as a contingency plan.
U.S. intelligence knew through its code breaking that the Japanese were preparing an attack (they did not know where) Only a U.S. capitulation to Japanese imperialists on China, which Roosevelt would not do, (and was right under the circumstances not to do) could have avoided the war. Ironically, the pro fascist elements in the U.S. whom Tamogami mimics, while they blamed Roosevelt for the Pearl Harbor attack, using the same red-baiting arguments of Tamogami (they also threw in support for the British Empire and of course the "all powerful Jewish interests") were much more comfortable for racist reasons fighting against the Japanese Empire than they were Nazi Germany and generally supported an "Asia first" policy in the war (their racism and in general U.S. racism as prominent CPUSA writer John Pittman noted, helped the Japanese imperialists in their specious argument that they were fighting for "Asia for the Asians" and to drive out the "white"imperialists out of Asia).
The peoples of Asia have every reason to be outraged that a defender of Japanese imperialism held the position that he did. Fortunately, I doubt that the great majority of the Japanese people share or have any sympathy for such views or are ready to either support or passively accept a new militarist course for their nation as a way to "resolve" the economic crisis they face. Although the Japanese militarists were substantially stronger in the 1920s than they are today, one should remember that it was the Great Depression and its effects on Japan which enabled them to gain power over conservative civilian authorities in the 1930s, just as the Great Depression precipitated Hitler's gaining power in Germany.
Tamogami is gone today. We in the U.S. must elect a government this Tuesday which will fight both the economic crisis and the militarist course that has characterized the Bush administration so as to make sure that American Tamogamis will not shaking hands and building alliances with Japanese and other Tamogamis as part of a policy to solve the global economic crisis through imperialist war. as leaders of the German and Italian fascist governments and the militarist dominated Japanese Empire did seventy years ago. The Japanese people also will hopefully remove from power those politicians who would give power to people like Tamogami.