‘Hibakusha’ Apologize for Pearl Harbor? Why?

The farcical NPT conference drags on: the US and Israel, both nuclear powers, the former actually noncompliant, the latter not even a signatory, point their trigger fingers at Iran; Iran, with not even a nuclear power plant, complains the world doesn’t care that the US basically threatens to nuke it every couple of weeks and wants to “crush” it with sanctions with no evidence of its evil intentions. But in the midst of this pointless exercise in Western self-validation, the survivors of the only nuclear attacks ever carried out, by the United States on Japan at the end of WWII, remind us of the proven horrors of nuclear weapons.

The “Hibakusha Stories” group of Hiroshima nuclear-bomb survivors is touring high schools around New York City, and this week they visited my local high school in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to speak with 10th-grade students about their emotionally and physically painful experiences. The survivors are surprisingly unvengeful, more than anything desiring an end to nuclear weapon arsenals. But in their attitudes lies the root of all wars.

“[Survivor] Mimaki also felt the need to apologize for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, bowing his head to a silent audience…”

Mimaki was a toddler when his family was nuked. His parents died of cancer relatively soon after. He suffered sicknesses for years and had to be medicated. That he should feel the need to apologize for a (not altogether illegitimate) military strike that happened before he was born is a symptom of the sickness of nationalism and collectivism. The man has absolutely no responsibility and even if the attack on Pearl Harbor were an unarguable act of pure aggression, his apology should be meaningless — he didn’t do it, he didn’t support it, he wasn’t even alive.

People are not their governments, they are their government’s victims. They should not be doubly victimized by being held to account for the crimes of their own oppressors.

43 thoughts on “‘Hibakusha’ Apologize for Pearl Harbor? Why?”

  1. It is right to apologize for any act of violence; it re-establishes the connection between victims and perpetrators and recognizes, as Solzhenitsyn observed, that "the divide between good and evil is not between peoples, but runs through every human heart."

  2. Killing civilians is in the British tradition, adopted early by the American military almost without thinking.

    It is absolutely pertinent to note, as Sapienza does by implication, that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was strictly an attack on military targets.

    In China, on the other hand, the Imperial Japanese Army, who openly used the American military in the Philippines as a model, eagerly used the same British and American terror tactics against civilian targets, and on a massive scale.

    In some ways this approach to war is peculiarly Christian and Capitalist, in other ways cryptotypically Norman and "Anglo-Saxon". It also has a very modern and strictly technological side.

    By contrast, It took three wars against Carthage, for example, before it actually occurred to the Romans to destroy the city as a nuisance, rather than merely defeating its armies and navies.

    1. Im confused. Are military commanders, such as the Khan's outliers or did they develop their strategy from Russia? (im not being cynical)

    2. Doesn't Sun Tzu mention certain aspects of total war in his book (if it is actually one man's book)?
      But that is a valid point, I like to say. The Crusades is an avid example of that.

    3. Is it possible to say that the war criminal trials in the East didn't go far enough? Should the Japanese owe an apology to post-Cold War Asia? I know it could not have been possible in pre-Cold War Japan, but should we have prosecuted the Emperor? Or was he a puppet?

      Im only saying this because I recently have been struggling with these questions

    4. hahaha, EA Costa, you must be a college student. what a sophomoric argument. i guess we can just ignore the centuries of war and civilian casualties before Christianity and Capitalism to make your point valid. laughable.

      not to mention your point about this approach to war being 'Norman and "Anglo-Saxon".' you must have never taken an african, asian, native american, south american, pacific island or middle eastern history course.

      just villify the things your professors tell you to without thinking or researching anything for yourself. it makes life so much easier. it's capitalism! it's whitey! it's america! you're a funny one.

    1. Well that's a whole other annoying thing. The US incinerated 100 Japanese cities before they dropped the big bombs, Tokyo just being the biggest and most horrific.

      1. hahaha, and they never attacked the US again. now that's how you fight a war! not the mamsy pamsy way we do it these days. our enemies have more rights than our soldiers and laugh at our politically correct rules of engagement.

  3. You're straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, Costa. The Imperial Japanese Army did what it did for it's own reasons, not because of Christianity or Capitalism.

    Save your money, come visit battle sites in China. Unit 731's headquarters, near Harbin, are a museum now, funded by the Japanese government.

    1. You might want to read a bit of historical background on that subject, lesterness, since you say you have a degree in history.

      The Japanese Imperial Army was indeed partly modeling itself on the US in the Philippines.

      I allow you to locate the references.

      Harbin! Wo you liang sange Harbinde pengyou! Ni zhidao bu zhidao tamen?

      1. And if you don't know them, lesterness, the mainland Chinese government surely does. And they also know me, if only at a distance.

        No doubt they are surprised that being "objective" includes aspects of history that do not fit the Party line, but in some cases are even more positive than what the local ideologues would dream up.

        It was quite wise of the Communists to let the Nationalists bear the brunt of the fighting with the Japanese, since the Nationalists were perched to eliminate the Communists as quickly as they could after a Japanese defeat.

        The key was indeed what Mao did–educate and organize the peasants, harass the Japanese, forward intelligence, collect arms and material, govern, and bide time.

        It would have been dull-witted to do anything else.

    2. And as far as the mainlanders are concerned, making a serious offer rather than inviting me to tour or teach English for next to nothing would be entertained.

      Surely they have my e-mail. And surely I could find something useful to do for all concerned.

      Have you read any of my scholarly articles, lesterness? There is one now available online, put up by a German publisher, and available to members at JSTOR.

      I have not been in academia in quite some time, but I assure you what I did while I was is still first-rate and valid.

      You would be surprised how much it has to do with "Persia" perhaps, but what was writ was but a minute sample of the work behind it.

      It is one of those seemingly little things that gets most widely cited over time, because, among other things, it happens to be definitive.

      Do a google and get back to me.

  4. Lest we forget, economic sanctions are an act of war, so you can say the Japanese attack on a military target at Pearl Harbor was an act of retaliation. Roosevelt wanted to get into WWII. Here's the story your school textbooks usually don't tell you: http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?i

    There are lessons to be learned here before the US slaps arbitrarily slaps sanctions on other countries.

  5. I'm not so sure his apology is "a symptom of the sickness of nationalism and collectivism" as much as it is exemplary of a culture you know little about and cannot understand. If we're to be against war – let's be in the present. We rake over history we didn't live through and make arch judgments from in the comfort of hindsight.

    1. Now I think you're being a bit uncharitable to me. I'm aware, if not directly, of the peculiar natures of Japanese culture — in fact I have made fun of them in private often among my friends. My criticism stands, however — it is wrong and indeed meaningless, no matter the culture, to apologize for something one did not themselves perpetrate. It doesn't matter what ancestral or collective consciousness any particular nation indulges. If it results in this ridiculous behavior, it is nationalism and collectivism.

    2. Now I think you're being a bit uncharitable to me. I'm aware, if not directly, of the peculiar natures of Japanese culture — in fact I have made fun of them in private often among my friends. My criticism stands, however — it is wrong and indeed meaningless, no matter the culture, to apologize for something one did not themselves perpetrate. It doesn't matter what ancestral or collective consciousness any particular nation indulges. If it results in this ridiculous behavior, it is nationalism and collectivism.

  6. In 1973 I was stationed with the USMC about 30 miles from Hiroshima and visited that city 3 or 4 times. Why someone didn't knife me is a mystery.

    1. You're confusing Hiroshima with Nagasaki. It were the surviving residents of the latter who harbored extreme bitterness. Not so much in Hiroshima. And by the way, I don't really blame them. Those nuclear attacks, along with LeMay's maniacal firebombings were the ultimate atrocities of WW II. Japan had been trying to surrender for the prior two months, or so. And it's no mystery as to why you weren't knifed…the Japanese are a polite society.

  7. Killing civilians is in the British tradition, adopted early by the American military almost without thinking.

  8. You're straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, Costa. The Imperial Japanese Army did what it did for it's own reasons, not because of Christianity or Capitalism.

    Save your money, come visit battle sites in China. Unit 731's headquarters, near Harbin, are a museum now, funded by the Japanese government.

  9. You're straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, Costa. The Imperial Japanese Army did what it did for it's own reasons, not because of Christianity or Capitalism.

    Save your money, come visit battle sites in China. Unit 731's headquarters, near Harbin, are a museum now, funded by the Japanese government.

  10. In 1973 I was stationed with the USMC about 30 miles from Hiroshima and visited that city 3 or 4 times. Why someone didn't knife me is a mystery.

  11. The libertarian penchant for considering all humans to be purely atomistic, unless bound by a formal contract, has always struck me as a weak point. Let's set aside whether Mimaki was or wasn't justified in apologizing for Pearl Harbor. Truth is, we all feel something for what others of our family/nation/race have done, be it pride or guilt.

    Though I may be pure as the driven snow in a given matter, an evil a relative has done shames me. Despicable acts by Americans before I was even born still affect my sense of guilt to some degree. The wider the circle, the more tenuous the connection of course. Although no one should be held personally responsible for something he didn't do, to say that we should blithely feel unaffected by what our family members or countrymen have done is to say that we are not members of any group, that we have no inborn connection with anyone on earth.

    Not only do we humans not react as libertarians suggest we should, I don't think it would even be a good idea to. Our shame or guilt at what our forebears have done should, and sometimes does, act as a goad for us to set things right.. Jeffrey Dahmer's dad isn't culpable for what his son did, but it's a bizarre notion to think he shouldn't feel any shame that a family member did what he did.

    This isn't about whether an atomic bomb survivor such as Mimaki should apologize for Pearl Harbor. It's whether he, as a Japanese, should feel sorrow and perhaps a twinge of guilt for his countrymen's action despite all the suffering afterward.

    1. Well, I disagree. No person should ever be held accountable or need to apologize for something in which they played no part. No white man alive today was ever a slave owner and no black man alive today was ever a slave. And another thing that never seems to get mentioned is the fact that American blacks who are the descendents of slaves have, and for the most part have had, a hell of a lot better life than if they'd been born and lived out a pathetic tribalist existence in Africa. For today's white Americans to apologize for 18th and 19th century slavery is to invite rabid calls for unmerited reparations…mostly from the black welfare class. A load of unmitigated bull!

  12. HOW ABOUT AN APOLOGY FOR THE MASS MURDER AT HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI WHICH WERE WAR CRIMES???? says:

    How about an apology from the mass murdering U.S.S.A. that used nuclear weapons on two civilian population centers named Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when it was clear that Japan was about to capitulate and surrender?? How about that?

  13. Another interesting sidelight for those interested–apparently beef teriyaki was invented specifically to build strong, aggressive Japanese on the model of westerners, who were observed to eat much beef.

    1. Well actually, teriyaki isn't beef. It's a soy-based marinade which goes very well with beef, as well as with chicken and fish. Had a steak with teriyaki for supper last night. Perhaps you were thinking of magnificently tender and tasty Kobe beef.

    2. Well actually, teriyaki isn't beef. It's a soy-based marinade which goes very well with beef, as well as with chicken and fish. Had a steak with teriyaki for supper last night. Perhaps you were thinking of magnificently tender and tasty Kobe beef.

      1. "Beef teriyaki" is indeed beef, mon ami.

        Naturally nothing prevents putting A-I Steak Sauce on your eggs, if you have them.

        1. Yeah, it's beef marinated and prepared with teriyaki sauce…just as I said, mon ami. Sometimes served as kabobs. One of our favorite snacks while in Atsugi and Iwakuni.

          And was your second comment an attempt at wise humor?

          1. My original point stands.

            What you said is true, but irrelevant to the point.

            Kobe Beef, fed on beer or not, may well be part of the same cultural "pro-beef" movement in the 1890's, but I don't recall a reference to that specifically.

            You are not reading closely or with acuteness.

  14. I stand ready, as an American, to publically apologize to the World, for our unwarranted and merciless attacks and invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. I, also, apologize for our support of Israel, a criminal country.

  15. The libertarian penchant for considering all humans to be purely atomistic, unless bound by a formal contract, has always struck me as a weak point. Let's set aside whether Mimaki was or wasn't justified in apologizing for Pearl Harbor. Truth is, we all feel something for what others of our family/nation/race have done, be it pride or guilt.

    Though I may be pure as the driven snow in a given matter, an evil a relative has done shames me. Despicable acts by Americans before I was even born still affect my sense of guilt to some degree. The wider the circle, the more tenuous the connection of course. Although no one should be held personally responsible for something he didn't do, to say that we should blithely feel unaffected by what our family members or countrymen have done is to say that we are not members of any group, that we have no inborn connection with anyone on earth.

    Not only do we humans not react as libertarians suggest we should, I don't think it would even be a good idea to. Our shame or guilt at what our forebears have done should, and sometimes does, act as a goad for us to set things right.. Jeffrey Dahmer's dad isn't culpable for what his son did, but it's a bizarre notion to think he shouldn't feel any shame that a family member did what he did.

    This isn't about whether an atomic bomb survivor such as Mimaki should apologize for Pearl Harbor. It's whether he, as a Japanese, should feel sorrow and perhaps a twinge of guilt for his countrymen's action despite all the suffering afterward.

  16. Apparently the Japanese were not considering the Koreans, who have always eaten a lot of beef.

    Was that how they managed a draw against the US and the UN after the Japanese surrendered?

    Anyway, it is quite clear that an attempted occupation of Japan against an unsubmissive populace would have made the Korean Police action look like child's play.

    That is why the US acceded sub rosa to the main stipulation of surrender–that the Emperor not be removed.

    Documents establish, by the way, that the US had decided to drop BOTH atomic bombs even before the first was dropped.

    Another sign it was Stalin and the USSR that was the target, not the Japanese, who were already trying to surrender.

  17. It is well worth a retrospective look at American newspapers of the time on the Atomic Bomb.

    It does not take too much reading between the lines to see the two theses that were being established: (1) that the atomic bomb ended the war against Japan, and (2) that the new "Super Weapon" would assure US world domination henceforward.

    Both theses were false, but, as has not been seen by conventional historians, this marked the real beginning of the "Cold War."

    Soon enough all this was phrased in terms of "The Free World" and "The Iron Curtain", etc.

    Stalin was not intimidated. The Soviets already had a nuclear program that he had not funded heavily because he could not see how such a weapon would win the war with Germany.

    Stalin was right–the resources that it would have required might well have lost the war by shortages in other areas.

    At any rate, Stalin immediately ordered Beria to obtain nuclear weapons, which the Soviets did in record time. They did this partly by espionage, but they already had the physicists who were, if anything, more advanced than those of the West.

    I recall vaguely a reference that Stalin had been informed that the US was working on a nuclear program as early as 1942 or thereabouts.

    An informant had observed the sudden cessation of American publication in nuclear physics.

  18. "Apology" is a quite different matter in the Far East.

    Chiang Kai Shek, for example, officially apologized to the native Taiwanese (who included some Han) for the massacres the Nationalists inflicted on the islanders when when Taiwan was reoccupied, and for many of his tyrannical acts afterward.

    It is too much to suppose that the US could even begin to know how to apologize effectively for the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It would have to acknowledge that they were not directed at the Japanese, for example, and also that it was a monstrous and barbaric act.

  19. Apparently the Japanese were not considering the Koreans, who have always eaten a lot of beef.

    Was that how they managed a draw against the US and the UN after the Japanese surrendered?

    Anyway, it is quite clear that an attempted occupation of Japan against an unsubmissive populace would have made the Korean Police action look like child's play.

    That is why the US acceded sub rosa to the main stipulation of surrender–that the Emperor not be removed.

    Documents establish, by the way, that the US had decided to drop BOTH atomic bombs even before the first was dropped.

    Another sign it was Stalin and the USSR that was the target, not the Japanese, who were already trying to surrender.

  20. "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against "uncivilised tribes"?. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected."

    Winston Churchill

  21. Several instances I've been requested by students about what books to read, as many are not aware of their likes or preferences, have not been launched to that individual subject or subject, or haven't any clue about the number of books accessible in the faculty library. Price Governor

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