80 comments in 48 hours

A new record for this site.

Update: Now 130. Also, a good thread going on over here.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

It is a very emotional topic, and unfortunately one that a lot of people don’t know as much about as they like to think. Particularly when it come Japan after the war.

If more people stopped to think why rather than putting it down to denial or hatred, then maybe the world wouldn’t have so much hatred.

I really hate it when people don’t stop to think why and instead of speaking authoritively or rationally speak only with emotions, and then choose to berate anybody who disagrees with them.

Unfortunately this is a the price we pay for living in a world where a lot of people who either have an alternative agenda, or don’t know what they are talking about can be believes simply because they speak with th emajority, or have a loud voice.

There are reasons for everything many are not what you might think.

January 1, 2005 @ 10:02 pm | Comment

Believe me, some people only believe what they want to believe, and nothing can change that. Internet can’t change that. But Internet makes us know of their existence. Be alert.

The fact that great majority of the textbooks in Japan actually mentions the Rape of Nanking is even on Chinese language websites. It doesn’t suit someone’s agenda, so they just ignore it and keep on talking about the ‘rightwing textbook’. They need the hatred to feel self-righteous. That’s it.

January 2, 2005 @ 4:20 am | Comment

A related article from salon.com

How “Iris Chang” became a verb
The author of “The Rape of Nanking” inspired her friends by fearlessly confronting some of history’s darkest moments. A eulogy.

Editor’s note: On Nov. 9, author Iris Chang shot herself to death while parked along a rural road south of Los Gatos, Calif. She was 36 years old.

– – – – – – – – – – – –
By Paula Kamen

Nov. 30, 2004 | In college, I would have liked Iris Chang more if she hadn’t always been one step ahead of me, frustrating all my major life ambitions.

During our junior year, I applied for the one available hopefully-path-paving summer-magazine internship in New York City. The program took only one student from each journalism school. She got the job.

The next summer, I applied to a major Chicago daily newspaper for an internship. Despite my terror, the interview seemed to go well. I called in a week later, as instructed, and they told me, “You were close, but someone else got it. Also from the University of Illinois, by coincidence. You probably know her.”

I was not alone in eating Iris’ dust. Other editors on our college paper eyed her with the same mixture of amazement and frustration. One day, Iris had the idea to become the college stringer for the New York Times from Urbana-Champaign. Not wasting a minute, she called the New York Times’ main desk, said she wanted to be a stringer, and soon after published a story in the front section. (And then five more over the year, until they told her to stop, so the paper would not raise eyebrows by disproportionately covering Champaign.) A few days later, I heard another editor on our staff grumble about it; she had wanted that position, but Iris beat her to it. I later met an editor of the college literary magazine. He was still bristling about a past encounter with her, for supposedly “taking over” the publication on the first day she went to a meeting.

Then, some time in the early 1990s, a little after graduation, Iris called me to get together in Chicago. She apparently had no idea how she had trampled my hopes and dreams. She considered us to be friends. I almost declined, but then decided to think this out rationally.

At that point, I made a conscious decision not to hate Iris Chang. With some distance from school, things were clearer. Any moron could see that she wasn’t just getting by on her good looks. She was obviously very talented and could teach me something. As the features editor of our college paper, I had edited her articles — or actually never edited them — because they always came in perfect. The facts, grammar, punctuation, gerunds, everything. In retrospect, I was still marveling at a lucid story she had written about recent breakthroughs in a very complicated area of artificial intelligence.

During that meeting, or perhaps another one, I was immediately sorry to see that the grueling hours at her new job at the Associated Press were wearing her down. In college, she was a steamroller of energy. But now she was frail and told me her hair was coming out. I saw then for the first time just how hard she worked, how she put a piece of herself into every story she covered.

We soon moved to lighter topics. She was happy about planning her upcoming wedding. Her explanation for the marriage was simple. One day in college, she decided she wanted a boyfriend. Someone suggested that frat parties were a good place to meet guys. So she went to one, and there she met her red-haired husband-to-be, a star engineering candidate from a small farming town. He was delighted with — instead of taken aback by — her drive and candor.

She asked me how I was getting along. At that time, in the middle of a Bush-era recession, I was fruitlessly applying for work at local suburban newspapers. So I was starting to freelance. I told her of an Op-Ed I had written, that I would try to get published. She immediately suggested that I send it to the New York Times. I thought she was joking. I didn’t have such pretensions. I thought maybe some local alternative paper might want it.

But lo and behold, the piece was accepted — and a year later, on perhaps the slowest news day in history, the Times published it. My luck was changing — not long before, I had signed a book contract to write on the same topic.

At that point, I had a revelation. So, that was the Iris Code. I had finally cracked it. And it was so simple: Think big. Almost to the point of being naive.
Meanwhile, Iris Chang’s life accelerated. She regained her old vitality and accepted an offer to write a book of her own, published in 1995, on a persecuted Chinese-American scientist and what he revealed about the paranoia of the McCarthy years in America. In 1997, she published her blockbuster “The Rape of Nanking.” Then, I was really impressed.

She had made a major historical discovery: a hidden Nazi diary chronicling the massacres by the Japanese in China in new detail. In China, the WWII atrocities have long been a national nightmare, and they have received attention from historians and academics over the years. But it took Chang’s energy, will and engaging writing style to make the massacre come alive to a popular audience in the West. From reading her letters, I knew how hard she had worked on that book. She traveled through China on her own and challenged the U.S. government for long-classified documents. She was genuinely shocked at the atrocities she had exposed, and reacted with a pure, honest rage — like someone seeing evil for the very first time. She couldn’t understand the possibility of knowing about such things and not writing about them. Part of the power of her interviewing was that she had no filters to block out anything that was being said to her; I suspect she didn’t even know that people came with filters.

While fame and fortune were not her priorities, she also seemed to enjoy her success, which came completely naturally to her. She called me to watch her on “Nightline,” read her interview in the New York Times, and see her on the cover of Reader’s Digest. But she only casually mentioned her private meeting with Hillary Clinton on global human rights issues, as if everyone had such experiences.

Talking with her usually energized me, but I would sometimes wait for days to call her back because I knew a conversation with her would require a minimum of about two hours. Her energy often overwhelmed me. She wanted to know about every detail of my social life, my writing and my health. Then she barraged me with a torrent of advice about concrete steps to take to fix any problem I might have.

In the end, despite the typical work-related conflicts we both dished about, she would exclaim how lucky we were to be authors, to be able to spend our days writing about what most interests us. “Always remember how privileged you are,” she told me, when I related my regular doubts as to whether my life course was one of pure folly.

During her visits to Chicago, usually on some kind of book tour, my friends occasionally noted her quirks, sometimes humorously, and sometimes not. She was still pissing people off, always without realizing it. When she was in town for a book tour, I had her contact a reporter friend at a local paper. She appalled him by calling him up and, without any foreplay involved, told him the details of what he was to cover.

Some wondered why she never wore a wedding ring. I could understand her reasoning — that she didn’t want anything encumbering her movement — but I was surprised at her surprise at some of the results. She seemed honestly aghast and unprepared whenever a supposedly earnest intellectual type at some conference on “torture and atrocity” made a pass at her. “But he was married,” she told me. “So what’s your point?” I asked. I couldn’t figure out how someone so world-savvy about geopolitics could be so naive in other areas.

After these visits, I also knew what to expect from her. A week later, never fail, she sent me a snapshot she’d taken of us, which I filed away with the letters that enclosed them. They were often written on old-fashioned homey stationery or cards, the type your immigrant grandmother would buy at Walgreens, with simple and unsleek scenes of sparkly Christmas trees or flowers.

By that time, I was definitely a firm convert to the Iris Code — to the point of spreading the gospel. When I occasionally went to universities to speak on my books, and then was a guest at writing classes, I would lecture students to “Iris Chang” it. She had become a verb to me. An action verb.

“Just think big!” I told them. “That’s half the battle! What do you have to lose? If someone turns you down, they turn you down, so what? And then you move on. Just get a sense of entitlement, will you? It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Midwest. Or if you’re at a public school. Just decide what you want and go get it. To the point of being naive. Your voice is not your voice. It’s the voice of your generation! Just Iris Chang it!” I explained, almost taking on her passionate tone as I spoke.

The last time I saw Iris was in the spring of 2003, when I went to see her read in Chicago for her third book, a history of the Chinese in America. She was in good spirits, and we had a good time afterward going out for stuffed pizza in a small group and hearing about her latest adventures. I was curious about her next project, and the stories she was gathering for it. I knew they were intense, like those she had covered for “The Rape of Nanking.” As a sign of the darkness of the interviews’ content, a typist hired to transcribe them cried all the way through the work. The interviews covered the brutal ordeals suffered by U.S. soldiers during the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in World War II. For about four years, their Japanese captors starved and tortured them with unimaginable cruelty. A soldier, for example, would be ordered to bury his friend alive. If that person refused, they would make someone else bury him alive.

In these interviews, the surviving elderly soldiers also complained that the U.S government had turned a blind eye to them. Besides feeling abandoned while they were prisoners, the men were upset that the United States did not adequately prosecute the captured Japanese offenders. Some of the men talked about expecting finally to come home to the U.S. to great fanfare, to see “the rockets’ red glare.” But no one at home seemed interested in what they had gone through. “‘But then, there was no rockets’ red glare,'” one subject said, over and over again.

As was the case with many of her other subjects, that interview was probably the first time that soldier had talked about his experiences in the war. A war in which his comrades had sacrificed so dearly, some with their lives, and others, with their sanity. While this material was difficult, I hoped that the book would do the same for the Bataan Death March that “The Rape of Nanking” had done for the atrocities at Nanking, that it would raise a new level of awareness about this largely forgotten chapter of history. Iris represented these men’s last hope to get their stories told.

The months passed, and I got involved in my own projects. A few weeks ago, a mutual friend e-mailed me that Iris was trying to reach me, and that she had been sick for the past few months. Then, on Saturday, Nov. 6, my cellphone rang. When I heard the tone of Iris’ voice, I excused myself from the friends I was visiting and stood outside in their yard for privacy. The bounce in her voice was totally gone. Instead, it was sad and totally drained, as if she were making a huge effort just to talk to me. I remembered that she recently had been sick.

She said, “I just wanted to let you know that in case something should happen to me, you should always know that you’ve been a good friend.”

Over the next hour, I stumbled to ask her about what had happened. She talked about her overwhelming fears and anxieties, including being unable to face the magnitude — and the controversial nature — of the stories that she had uncovered. Her current vaguely described problems were “external,” she kept repeating, a result of her controversial research. They weren’t a result of the “internal,” that is, they weren’t all in her head. I asked her about what others in her life thought about the cause of this apparent depression. She paused and said, “They think it’s internal.”

We talked in more detail about her family, still of great support through this time of crisis. I fired questions at her, repeating the same ones over and over again although I kept hearing all the same answers. She was fixated on not seeing herself as having anything wrong with her. I was reeling from the apparent suddenness of this crisis. I thought I had her figured out, years ago.

“This is all temporary! It’s a storm that will pass. You have to wait it out. This is not how I see you,” I assured her.

“That’s not how you see me? Then, how do you see me?” she said, with sudden intense interest.

“Energetic,” I said. “You’re someone truly engaged with life. A hero! You’ve been a total inspiration to me! You’ve helped so many people.”

“Yes, engaged with life,” she said, brightening a bit. “Remember that. If anything would ever happen to me, people are going to talk, and you have to remind people of that.”

I repeatedly asked to speak to her husband, but she said he was busy. Then, we talked more and I felt a bit relieved to hear from her that her husband, and her parents, were near. Some of her old warmth returned to her voice when she asked me about my experiences living with chronic pain, how I have coped through years of it. I talked about it for a while and said I’d send her some book titles that have helped me. In return, she suggested herself that she research how other investigative journalists deal with their stresses.

Yes, and then when I got back to Chicago, I said, we’d talk. She didn’t respond.

Before we finally hung up, she said one last time: If anything happened to her, I had to let people know what she was like before this happened.

And I said I would.

January 2, 2005 @ 7:43 am | Comment

The second Salon article also related to Iris chang and the topic in the blog.

According to Bellevue, some people choose to believe what they want to believe. In order to do that, these people also try to misinform, misinterpret or even change the facts to suit their own beliefs. Does that sound familiar, Bellevue?

Japanese denial and “The Rape of Nanking”

– – – – – – – – – – – –
By Laura Miller

Last week, the Japanese company Kashiwashobo announced that it had canceled plans to publish Chinese-American journalist Iris Chang’s “The Rape of Nanking” in Japan. Chang’s critically acclaimed 1997 history of the atrocities the Japanese Army committed during its occupation of Nanking in 1937 had already stirred debate in Japan. Basic Books, Chang’s American publisher, issued a statement saying that it could not come to an agreement regarding changes that Kashiwashobo had requested in the text and photographs. Chang, who maintains that these requests are the result of pressure on Kashiwashobo from “ultranationalist” organizations in Japan, refused to make the alterations.

Salon Books interviewed Chang via e-mail about the fate of “The Rape of Nanking” — and of her message — in a country where the past remains the subject of ferocious dispute.

Why do you think Japan has proved so resistant to confronting and acknowledging the Rape of Nanking and similar aspects of its past? Germany, by contrast, has made coming to terms with the Holocaust a national project. Daniel Goldhagen, the author of “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” was actually celebrated by many Germans.

Because both countries found themselves in entirely different political circumstances after the war. In postwar Germany, most of the Nazi war criminals were thrown in prison, executed or — at the very least — prevented from occupying positions of power. The Germans also officially acknowledged their wartime misdeeds by paying billions in restitution to their victims and passing laws to mandate the teaching of the Holocaust in public schools. By dismantling the Nazi infrastructure from top to bottom and by teaching subsequent generations the full story of the horrors of that regime, Germany was able to make a clean break from the past and earn back some of the trust and respect it had lost from the international community.

But what happened in Japan was precisely the opposite. To this day, Japan has never paid a penny in reparations to the victims of the Nanking massacre, or, to my knowledge, adequate restitution to its other victims, like Korean women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese military or the American and Chinese POWs who were used as human guinea pigs for Japanese medical experimentation.

Moreover, the entire royal family of Japan was exonerated under the terms of the surrender, and avoided prosecution, and even having to testify, during the International Military Tribunal of the Far East. Emperor Hirohito stayed on the throne until his death in 1989.

Why did this happen? I think it happened because the United States, the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China in Taiwan were all more concerned about achieving their immediate political objectives than about seeking justice for the victims of Japan. After 1949, neither the PRC nor the ROC demanded apologies or reparations from Japan because both governments were competing for Japan’s diplomatic recognition and trade relationships. And during the Cold War, the U.S. government sought to build up Japan as a strong and stable ally to counter the forces of communism in the Soviet Union and Asia. No doubt a deep-seated American guilt over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also made U.S. criticism of Japanese wartime behavior difficult.

Therefore, the Japanese escaped the moral scrutiny and legal responsibility that their counterparts in Germany were forced to accept, and the consequences can be felt in Asia today. Thanks to American and Chinese leniency, the entire Japanese wartime bureaucracy remained intact, leaving it in a position to control what was taught in schools — or broadcast in the media — during the postwar years. As a result, the people of Japan never went through the intense process of national soul-searching and atonement for their World War II crimes.

Have you been to Japan since the publication of your book in the U.S., and, if so, what have your interactions with individual Japanese been like when this topic is raised?

First of all, a distinction has to be made between Japanese nationals and Americans of Japanese heritage.

During my book tour, I met many, many Japanese-Americans across the nation who were greatly moved by and supportive of my book. In fact, recently the JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) even passed a resolution to support the Chinese victims of Japan’s wartime atrocities and criticized the present government of Japan for not taking the appropriate steps to apologize and pay reparations.

However, the reaction from Japanese nationals (as opposed to Japanese-Americans) is mixed. I haven’t been to Japan, but I have spoken to Japanese nationals who attended my lectures at universities and bookstores. A few have reacted defensively, voicing fears that this book might somehow give rise to Japan-bashing. (By the way, I think these fears have as much validity as worrying that books like Nien Cheng’s “Life and Death in Shanghai” and Jung Chang’s “Wild Swans” might arouse a wave of China-bashing in this country.) Others have reacted with shock and shame. I remember that several Japanese nationals were genuinely horrified — and outraged that as children they had not been exposed to this in the Japanese school system.

On a few rare occasions, elderly Japanese men would courageously step forward to share with the audience their own wartime experiences — either in Japan or in China — and tearfully assure the audience that the stories in my book were true.

If your book is eventually published in Japan, would you consider doing a book tour there?

It would depend entirely on the political climate in Japan. The last few months have seen a dramatic rise of ultranationalism in that country, and unless the situation improves I don’t foresee a tour of Japan in the near future.

Japanese extremists have used lawsuits, death threats and even physical intimidation to silence their opponents. Just this year, a fanatic with a baseball bat trashed the offices of a Japanese publisher who printed the diary of a Japanese veteran of the Nanking massacre. Also, when a Chinese feature film on the Rape of Nanking was shown in Japanese theaters a few months ago, right-wingers harassed theater owners, slashed up movie screens with knives and even smashed a loudspeaker truck through theater gates.

Of course, there are extremists in every country. But the problem in Japan is that revisionists who deny all wartime wrongdoing have powerful champions in high places. In Germany, Holocaust deniers have no significant voice, and they remain on the fringes of society. But in Japan, those who deny the existence of the Nanking massacre often occupy leading positions in government, business and academia.

For instance, I find it extremely disturbing that the newly elected governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, is an outspoken revisionist of World War II history. He told Playboy magazine back in 1990 that the Rape of Nanking was a “lie” and “a story made up by the Chinese.” He’s enormously popular in Japan, and he won the election by a landslide.

Also, I’m terribly disappointed at how leading members of the Japanese government have reacted to my own book since its publication. I had a series of unpleasant encounters with them through the media. Last summer, Kunihiko Saito, the Japanese ambassador to the U.S., made headlines when he attacked my book as “inaccurate” and “one-sided” — though he couldn’t come up with one good example to support his allegations, even when grilled by reporters. People were pretty shocked by his comments, because they were made not by some notorious ultranationalist fanatic but by a major Japanese government official — indeed, the top official representative of the Japanese government in the U.S. And many people spoke up and criticized him for it. The People’s Republic of China, my American publisher (Basic Books) and human rights groups like the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of World War II in Asia all wrote letters protesting the ambassador’s statements.

Then, on another occasion, the Japanese consulate general in Hawaii stormed into the offices of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin to protest their coverage of my lecture on the main island. It was an unprecedented visit — one that certainly stunned the Star-Bulletin, and one that prompted the paper to run another article on the subject. These activities suggest to me that I’m simply not welcome in Japan right now.

You have said that you suspect right-wing extremists in Japan of being behind the cancellation of your book there. Do you think that average Japanese citizens are interested in or ready to deal with the subject you’ve written about?

I imagine that the stories in this book may be hard for some Japanese people to swallow, especially if they have been sheltered from the facts all their lives.

Unfortunately, the education system has prevented most Japanese people from knowing the details of Japan’s war in the Pacific. For decades, the Japanese Ministry of Education censored or whitewashed descriptions of the Rape of Nanking and other wartime atrocities from school textbooks through the notorious screening process that all textbooks must undergo. In fact, the Japanese school system has done such a poor job of teaching World War II history that it was reported a few years ago that some Japanese children weren’t even sure which side won — the United States or Japan.

Sad to say, profound ignorance of World War II history extends even to the best and brightest in Japanese society. One scholar who was using “The Rape of Nanking” as a textbook at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government told me that when he introduced the topic to his Japanese students — mostly diplomats — they had no idea what he was talking about. And some were psychologically unprepared to deal with the subject in classroom discussions. Apparently one Japanese student became so distressed that she bolted from the room, weeping hysterically.

It’s going to be painful, but the people of Japan need to learn the full dark legacy of their nation’s wartime past if they are to understand how their country is being perceived internationally, and why.

January 2, 2005 @ 8:10 am | Comment

“The fact that great majority of the textbooks in Japan actually mentions the Rape of Nanking is even on Chinese language websites. It doesn’t suit someone’s agenda, so they just ignore it and keep on talking about the ‘rightwing textbook’. They need the hatred to feel self-righteous. That’s it.”

i wonder how long this kinds of mentions will exist in japanese textbooks if we don’t put pressure on japan.

japanese are just cunning, their government tested us by publishing a few textbooks saying that “japanese army entered china during wwii”, and see what will happen, if we keep silence, they will publish more textbooks with liars like this, if we protest, they hold back.

January 2, 2005 @ 8:30 am | Comment

An interesting Australian website about Japanese atrocities in WW2 and the denying of truth.


January 2, 2005 @ 8:39 am | Comment

The pressure on Japan to face up its own horrible history is legitimate and should be consistent. In fact the pressure works best if it’s free from political expediency.

At the same time, you sould give due credit to liberal wing of Japan such as Teacher’s Union in getting right education for next generation, and limit the damage of a small right wing faction. They don’t need outside pressure to keep on their noble work, while outside pressure does help. After all, it’s the internal politics rather than putside pressure keeps Japan from retreating to its dark past. To see Japan as one block is very uninformed view at best. That’s why the rage is blind.

I can’t help just wondering if Chinese can be as half honest as those Japanese liberals are about history, how Chinese textbook would be like.

January 4, 2005 @ 2:02 am | Comment

I’m working on my thesis about literature. I take Nien cheng’s “Life and Death in shanghai” but now am confused with her personal background. Would anybody please help me give the latest news of hers (if possible her email address) so that I can continue my thesis? Thank you so much.

October 5, 2005 @ 9:31 pm | Comment

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