Barack Obama was in Hiroshima the other day and was doling out the moral equivalence with a giant ladle. His remarks seem especially problematic given he was addressing a nation that was, during the time of the war, a monstrosity. The invaluable John Hayward reminds of us of a few things that Obama didn't mention:
Here’s another one every American school kid should know about: the Bataan Death March. There was no swift death for the thousands of Americans and Filipinos under siege by Japanese forces in the Philippines. They were already sick and starving when they surrendered to the Japanese.Hayward also reminds us of a few other things -- Pearl Harbor, the Rape of Nanking, the penchant of the Japanese military to murder doctors and nurses, and the occasional episode of cannibalism.
In an act of pure, deliberate sadism, because they were enraged by stiff American resistance during the siege, the Japanese forced their prisoners to march a hundred miles to a prison camp on foot. Many of the prisoners were killed out of hand, including anyone who dared to ask for water… and anyone who collapsed from dehydration. POWs reported Japanese soldiers taking away their meager supply of water and feeding it to horses while they watched. Starving men were tortured with false offers of food. Prisoners who accepted gifts of food from civilians along the route were murdered.
Some were murdered merely for possessing Japanese items, including currency. They were killed by beheading and run through with bayonets, as well as gunshots. Bayonet victims died from orgies of frenzied stabbing, not clean and swift impalement. Some of the captives were reportedly driven insane by exposure to the sun. They were also crammed into barbed-wire pens were malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, and other diseases ran wild.
It has been estimated that between 5,000 and 11,000 of Japan’s prisoners were killed during the Bataan Death March. That wasn’t the only death march the Empire perpetrated, either. The prisoners of Sandakan were subjected to multiple forced marches, once the Japanese lost interest in using them as slave labor. By the time they were finished, only six of the original 2,390 prisoners were still alive.
These incidents are well documented. We spend a lot of time, and rightly so, remembering the horrors that the Nazis perpetrated, but there were atrocities galore throughout the Pacific Theater. Hayward makes the salient point (emphasis in original):
This is also not an assault on Japanese citizens of today. Japan is a good friend of the United States now, and that is the happiest ending one could ask from a story this horrible. The Empire of Japan is gone. It had to go. People who think like Barack Obama have no idea how to fight a war like that. God help us all if they are in power when the next such war is forced upon us.But it was the end of just one evil. There are more, and there will always be more, because evil resides in the human heart. And if we want to honor those who died horrible deaths at the hands of the Empire of Japan, and Nazi Germany, and others who still operate today, we ought to be mindful of the presence of evil in the human heart. It is a struggle we will always face. Read the whole thing.
This is, rather, an effort to help understand what was destroyed by the right, proper, and absolutely necessary bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is the horror that would have claimed countless more victims if Japan had not been forced to surrender. It is very easy for callow politicians in 2016 to say that more Americans, and more Japanese, should have died in battle during a conventional invasion of Japan, to spare it the fury of the atomic bomb. Not many people felt that way at the time, especially if they were aware of the atrocities chronicled here.
Barack Obama treats the bombing of Hiroshima as a unique “evil.” No, sir. It was the end of an evil.