May 25, 2001
(special bonus column)

Michelle Malkin gets maudlin and ugly

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has captured the essence of the maudlin "patriotism," the sheer ugliness of the mindless jingoism unleashed by the "Pearl Harbor" movie in her column on the subject, "Patriotism and Pearl Harbor," which starts out maudlin and winds up ugly: "The hallowed waters that surround the sunken USS Arizona murmur gently like eternal witnesses to history," she writes of her visit to the Pearl Harbor memorial off the shores of Oahu. Then it turns ugly, as Malkin – the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines – launches into an anti-Japanese tirade:

"An eerie tranquility in the sun-drenched Shrine Room of the memorial hearkens back to the Sunday morning peace shattered 60 years ago by blood-thirsty Japanese dive bombers. Black, white, brown, or yellow, first generation or tenth, all Americans remain indebted to the veterans in Hawaii who defended our land against foreign attack.."


Oh, how touchingly multicultural: here is Malkin, who is usually contemptuous of such politically correct drivel, clothing her Japanophobia in the dulcet tones of racial togetherness. But what about the bloodthirsty Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, as we now know, had plenty of advance warning of the Japanese "sneak" attack? We had broken the Japanese code, and, as Robert Stinnett has shown in Day of Deceit, Washington had been reading their military traffic for weeks: Roosevelt had to have known. Isn't he "bloodthirsty" for leaving our fleet bottled up at Pearl Harbor, and using it as bait that the Japanese bit?


But none of this even comes into Malkins' purview: ever since Newt Gingrich and his neocon buddies started praising the alleged greatness of Franklin Roosevelt, everyone seems to have forgotten how conservatives used to hate "that man in the White House," the architect of Big Government in America. But Malkin never mentions Roosevelt, or his treachery. She's too busy taking aim at Japanese-American groups who rightly fear that the Pearl Harbor movie is bound to stir up an anti-Asian backlash:

"Those who died at Pearl Harbor would be appalled to discover that patriotism is a dirty word these days among some ethnic political activists whose livelihoods depend on drumming up fear. A new Disney movie set during the Pearl Harbor attack has leading Asian-American groups once again crying foul about the evils of American racism – never mind the evils of Japanese wartime aggression. "


No mention is made, naturally, of Anglo-American aggression against Japan: a near total economic embargo, and a series of naval provocations in Japanese waters, culminating in an ultimatum delivered to the Japanese that amounted to a demand for Japan's complete prostration before the US and the European colonial powers. As for those whose livelihoods depend on fear: they will never starve, because fear of government repression is well-founded. Perhaps Malkin has forgotten that Japanese-Americans were "interned" (i.e. thrown into concentration camps and stripped of their property) Or does she remember – and approve? I suspect the latter. For her antipathy for the Japanese seems visceral, a tribal hate of Balkan intensity.


She quotes the leader of a Japanese-American group as saying ""No matter how much we look to the future, we keep getting dragged back to Dec. 7. This movie does that – pulls us back to that attack." Malkin can hardly contain her bile, as she vomits up her hatred of all things Japanese: "And what's wrong with that?" she snaps. She then demands to know whether John Tateishi, the Japanese-Americans Citizens League official who spoke out against the "Pearl Harbor" movie, is opposed to the Pearl Harbor memorial. Of course, Mr. Tateishi, being Japanese, is far too polite and cultured to give Ms. Malkin the answer she deserves, and so I will do so in his place. The memorial can stay, as far as I'm concerned, only on one condition: that instead of being a memorial to a lie, it becomes one to the cause of historical enlightenment. As such, it would require at least one addition: a statue of FDR beckoning the Japanese planes, one might even say welcoming them, like friends whose arrival has been long expected.


The real object of Malkin's hatred, however, isn't Japanese-Americans: her contempt for them is merely a pale reflection of her real fury, which is directed at the Japanese who live in Japan. As Malkin puts it,

"Why does this small group of Americans expend a disproportionate amount of resources attacking perceived insults by their fellow citizens while larger affronts from abroad go unprotested? Japanese ultra-nationalists continue to whitewash World War II history – downplaying their soldiers' atrocities at Pearl Harbor and Bataan, and casting Japan as a faultless victim of Western imperialism. This should outrage patriotic Americans of all backgrounds. To appease Japan's right-wing, Disney is reportedly cutting 'Pearl Harbor' to omit references to the war's final outcome. (Newsflash: We won. Japan lost. Sorry to hurt any feelings.)"


As if the Japanese (or the Germans) need to be reminded of the outcome of that war. Don't worry, Michelle: every time one of our Marines stationed on Okinawa rapes another young girl, the Japanese are reminded of their defeat. (Earth to Michelle Malkin: Remember Hiroshima? Does the word Nagasaki ring a bell?) It's pathetic, really, when you see how much of a big deal Malkin and her band of American ultra-nationalists have made of this cut. The conservative Washington Times ran a piece, "In This Movie, No Japanese Villains Were at Pearl Harbor," echoing the Disney-Pentagon line that the movie took a 'neutral" stance, and didn't really "demonize" the Japanese. Malkin and other conservatives bemoaned this as an example of "political correctness," without realizing that the reiteration of the "sneak attack" mythology and the iconization of Franklin Roosevelt make Disney's "Pearl Harbor" anything but "neutral." But, then, on these two fundamental issues they agree with the left-liberal makers of "Pearl Harbor."


The Japanese are finally standing up and refusing to take responsibility for a war provoked and devoutly wished for by a liberal Democratic President, the Bill Clinton of his era, and this is denounced by the ostensibly "conservative" Malkin – who even darkly conjures up the danger of Japan's "right-wing." I note, with some embarrassment, that Malkin gets it all wrong about the nature of Japanese "ultra-nationalism": no one disputes that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor or that the battle of Bataan was hard-fought. That, after all, is what war is about. What is highly disputable, however, is the assumption that British, Dutch, and French colonialism in China, Malaysia, and Indochina was a better deal for the peoples of the Orient than Japan's vision of a "Co-Prosperity Sphere" – an Eastasian version of George W. Bush FTAA, albeit one backed up by the Japanese Imperial Army. In allying with the dying European empires against the insurgent peoples of the East, we inherited their legacy – and, ultimately, shared their defeat – in Vietnam. But, of course, according to Malkin and her conservative compadres, that was a "good" war, too.


Who are these "Japanese ultranationalists" who reject the myth of Japanese war guilt? Does Malkin mean newly-elected Prime Minister Junichero Koizumi, who, in his maiden speech, referred to the unfairness of Japan's prewar "enforced isolation." But of course even mentioning this is to become, in Malkin's book, complicit in Japanese "wartime aggression."


The story of how Roosevelt not only knew but deliberately provoked the Japanese attack is not an "affront from abroad," but the testimony of American historians such as Charles Callan Tansill (see his monumental Back Door to War), Charles Austin Beard, Harry Elmer Barnes, and George Morgenstern – whose Pearl Harbor: The Story of a Secret War (1947) outlined and prefigured the thesis proved by Stinnett: that the President of the United States bears at least as much responsibility for the atrocity of Pearl Harbor as Tojo and his Cabinet. Malkin has the nerve to proclaim that "We need not fear history – only its revisionism by traitors to truth." But Malkin could care less about truth, since in continually revising what we think we know about history the whole idea is to get closer to the truth. But this she rejects as the subversion of "traitors" – by which she means, by implication, Japanese-Americans who have dared to voice their doubts about this movie.


Isn't it odd how Malkin and her fellow celebrants of World War II revivalism are usually the ones who are continually warning us about the alleged "threat" from "Red" China? Yet now we are expected to believe that the real danger comes from Japanese "ultra-nationalism." But just whom does she think is our biggest ally in Asia, the only country capable of providing a counterbalance to the rising power of Beijing – the Philippines?

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