Guest post: They could have come as liberators

Originally a comment by Tim Harris on It’s almost as if there’s a pattern.

I do not think it was ‘vast swathes’ of Japanese intellectuals who suppressed or discounted the Nanking Massacre. Certainly a number of nationalists, many of whom could barely be called ‘intellectuals’, did (and do). Modern Japan had the misfortune to be re-born as a modern nation at the height of Western imperialism and racism, and was one of the only Asian nations never to be made a colony. In 1919, Japan proposed a ‘racial equality’ clause to be included in the Treaty of Versailles. This was turned down by Anglo-Saxondom – the British because of the Empire, the Australians because of the ‘White Australia’ policy, and the USA for obvious reasons (which included of course Woodrow Wilson’s appallingly racist beliefs). The Japanese certainly perpetrated terrible atrocities before and during the Second World War, particularly in China, and behaved badly wherever they went – a great mistake & misfortune, I think, for they came as new masters when they could have come as liberators: but one of the consequences of Japan’s invasions was the collapse, in Asia and subsequently elsewhere, of Western colonialism, whose own atrocities, which continued well after the Second War when they sought to recover their colonies, the ‘civilising’ Westerners chose, and choose, to forget – the Vietnam War, as well as the massacres throughout Indonesia in the sixties, aided & abetted by the USA, Australia & the UK, constituting an important part of the aftermath of colonialism. In March of this year, the Dutch finally apologised for massacres of Indonesians in 1947 when they were trying to claw back their colonies, and paid reparations to families whose ancestors has been murdered by Dutch troops.

There is a great deal of bad faith in the continued Western criticism of Japan’s behaviour, and it derives from the fact that the Japanese were the first to defeat a white Western nation decisively (the Russo-Japanese war), and then defeated, tellingly though temporarily, various Western nations in colonial Asia.

Regarding history textbooks, etc, I suspect you will find little in British textbooks about British behaviour in Kenya during the Mau-Mau uprising – in 2011 the Foreign Office agreed to release a great number of carefully and illegally hidden documents concerning torture and massacre in the attempt to put down the uprising, and in mid 2013 the government agreed to pay £19.9 million in compensation to over 5,000 claimants who had suffered abuse during the Mau Mau Rebellion. Until 2015, British tax-payers were still paying off government debts incurred as a result of ‘reparations’ made to British slave-owners after the abolition of slavery – there had been of course no reparations made to the slaves themselves.

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