Sunday, September 27, 2009

Masaharu Homma's War Crimes

Subtitle: The United States of America and Japan in the Philippines

"Homma was tried, convicted and executed as a war criminal by the man he defeated, [General Douglas] MacArthur." You will find that bit in a footnote on page 400 of John Toland's The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire. Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma was the commander of the Japanese conquest of the Philippines at the beginning of the war between the U.S. and Japan.

The Philippines had been conquered by Spain by 1565. In 1898 the U.S. embarked on a war of aggression against Spain, and in the process, working with the Philippine independence movement, defeated the Spanish in Manila. The U.S. then fought the independence movement, killing probably one to two million Filipinos in the process. The Philippines became a U.S. possession and the center of U.S. military activity in Asia. [See also The U.S. Conquest of the Philippines]

By 1940 General Douglas MacArthur was in charge of keeping the Philippines under U.S. control, and of conquering as much of the rest of Asia as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt might direct. The Japanese felt that America, Great Britain and the Netherlands were pushing them into a war, and decided to liberate east Asia from these colonial powers. Japan struck first with its highly successful military operations against the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, the British stronghold of Singapore, and the Philippines.

MacArthur bungled the defense of the Philippines in too many ways to recount in this essay. Because he was afraid of a rebellion in favor of independence and alignment with the Japanese, in particular he failed to train and arm his Filipino troops.

Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma, with the Japanese 14th Army, was assigned to "liberate" the Philippines by General Count Hisaichi Terauchi, commander of the Southern Army. Homma was "an amateur playwright and leader of the pro-British American minority in the Army" [Toland p. 214]. He had "long opposed the road to war. He had spent eight years with the British, including service in France in 1918 with The British Expeditionary Force and had deep respect for and some understanding of the West." [p. 313]

Homma's army evaded MacArthur's coastal defenses on December 22, 1941 and headed down the road to Manila. More Japanese landed southeast of Manila, and MacArthur ordered his army to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula. Manila was abandoned to the Japanese without a fight. Bataan was supposed to be fortified against a long siege, but because MacArthur thought his Americans could defeat the Japanese easily, it was neither well-fortified nor stocked with food.

General Homma wanted an orderly entrance into Manila, with no looting or raping, so he halted his columns on so his men could clean up and move in tight formation [p. 324].

For any fighting against the Americans and their puppet Filipino troops [I use the word "puppet" only because that is the word always used by American newspapers to describe Asiatic troops that fought on the Japanese side], Homma planned to use his crack 48th Division. But the 48th was ordered to Java, so Homma had to conquer the Americans and Filipinos in Bataan with a bunch of old men not equipped or trained for fighting, the 65th Brigade. It was led by General Akira Nara, an Amherst College graduate trained by the U.S. Army at the Fort Benning Infantry School [p. 325].

Bataan was defended by 15,000 American and over 65,000 Filipino troops. Deaths in combat would be high on both sides, as would sickness and deaths from tropical diseases. On the American side, in addition, lack of food led to starvation. But MacArthur, comfortable, safe and well-fed on the island of Corregidor would not allow his officers to surrender. The Filipinos troops were becoming hostile because they received far less in rations than the Americans [p. 332]. Eventually MacArthur and most of his staff high-tailed it to Australia, leaving General Wainwright in charge.

By the time of the final battle on April 3, 1941, of the starving troops defending Bataan, only 7000 were truly effective fighters. Three-quarters or more of the Americans and Filipinos had malaria; many had been wounded; all were starving. MacArthur, Wainwright, and, back in the states, George Marshall and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, did not care; they wanted their troops to fight to the death.

General Homma did his best to plan humane treatment for any troops that surrendered or were captured alive. He expected them to number 25,000. The plan was that they would walk to Balanga, a maximum distance of 19 miles, normally no problem for soldiers. From Balanga two hundred trucks would take them to San Fernando, where freight trains would take them to Capas. They could then walk the 8 miles to their interment in Camp O'Donnell. [p. 366]

Some Japanese soldiers and officers were not as humane as General Homma. In particular a clique of officers around Colonel Masanobu Tsuji believed all prisoners should be executed. As in any army, Japan's soldiers had been treated brutally by their own officers, and many were in no mood to be nice the the enemy soldiers who had caused them so much grief.

The number of Bataan POWs was probably around 76,000. Most were half dead to begin with, wounded, malarial, and starved. The Japanese were not prepared to feed or provide medical care for that many men. It was hot and water was in short supply. Deaths during the transfer were heavy. Japanese guards killed numerous POWs for disobeying orders when the men unable to walk further. At the same time there are stories of many Japanese officers and men doing what they could for their prisoners, including protecting them from the more brutal soldiers.

Who was to blame for the famous Bataan Death March? It seems to me that given that a war was on, we can certainly blame General Homma for poor planning and his officers for poor execution. But MacArthur had not simply planned poorly. He had decided, repeatedly, to let the men under his command starve.

General Homma was not liked by the Japanese Army General Staff. He had taken too long to conquer the Philippines. His immediate superior "was displeased with Homma's lenient treatment of Filipino civilians. Homma had forbidden pillage and rape and ordered his troops not to regard the Filipinos as enemies but to respect their customs, traditions and religion." [p. 396]

Homma was relieved of duty, retired, and spent the remainder of the war in Japan.

Why then, was he tried and convicted as a war criminal? Someone had to hang for Douglas MacArthur's mistakes. It sure was not going to be MacArthur, who had been installed as U.S. war lord over Japan. Many lawyers and jurists, including a U.S. Supreme Court justice, protested Homma's conviction in "a highly irregular trial, conducted in an atmosphere that left no doubt as to what the ultimate outcome would be." [p. 400]

As chance (or conspiracy) would have it, Colonel Tsuji, who actually committed numerous war crimes, was not tried.

I am against war crimes, and crimes against humanity. I believe that, generally, there have not been enough war crimes convictions. In particular, the U.S. has committed a large number of war crimes during its history, including during World War II. I believe every war criminal should be punished, but trials should be fair so that only the guilty are punished.

I could argue that Japan was an aggressor in World War II, and therefore even if Homma was a relatively humane aggressor, it was his duty to refuse to fight. Having followed orders instead, he was in fact a war criminal.

But standards of justice should be uniform. American generals who have not refused to fight in the many U.S. wars of aggression should be treated as war criminals.

As to wars of aggression, there are gray areas, but the U.S. has been in quite a few. That is how we got the United States from the natives to begin with. We were the aggressor in the War of 1812 and clearly the aggressor in the Mexican-American and Spanish-American wars. The government of the United States was the aggressor in Korea, and then in Vietnam. We are certainly the aggressor in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there are the little aggressions (to us, not to them), the invasions of central American nations, and the aid to our puppets when they have been aggressors.

Both the Democratic Party and Republican Party have participated repeatedly in war crimes and crimes against humanity. If you use the Nuremberg trials (and hangings) as a standard, being a party leader in a government that commits war crimes is a punishable offense.

We ordinary Americans must examine our pasts, examine our consciences, and change our evil ways. We cannot depend on politicians to do the right thing in our name. As Barack Obama has so clearly demonstrated since he has taken office.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Atheist Holocaust

Tired of Jewish Holocaust stories? I think it important to a take on people and institutions that deny the grim facts of history. But denial also sometimes comes from selectivity. Concentrating on the slaughter of the Jews by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party overlooks the many other victims of the fascists, including the regimes run by Franco in Spain, Petain in France, and Mussolini in Italy.

The Nazis started executing their enemies shortly after they came to power in 1933, but that hardly distinguished them from the typical world government. The numbers were not large, at first. The first big numbers were racked up by the Spanish fascists led by General Francisco Franco in the civil war that began in 1936. Again, at the time it was not clear this was the beginning of the Holocaust; soldiers kill each other, and often civilians, in civil wars. But Franco's troops, when they took a town, got lists of local atheist and Protestant men from Catholic priests, and shot them without trial. The roundups and executions continued even after the the Republican side surrendered. Franco's side was Catholic. Thus the shootings were an extension of the Spanish Inquisition and the Catholic wars against Islam in Spain (and against pagans in the Americas). Amazingly, except for some arms supplied by the Soviet Union, none of the democracies offered help to the elected government of Spain. In fact, the United States and Great Britain refused to sell arms to the Spanish Republic. They said that was neutral (they did not sell arms to Franco either), even as Germany and Italy supplied the fascist rebels with arms and trained soldiers.

Usually this lack of support for the elected government of Spain is attributed to the fact that democratic socialists (as opposed to anarchist socialists (anarcho-syndicalists) and communists) were the largest party elected. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, however, had other reasons for neutrality. He, and the Democratic Party, depended on two large voting blocks: Catholics, mainly living in northern urban centers; and racists in the southern states. The Catholic Church in the United States supported Franco, and Roosevelt decided he could not risk alienating Catholic voters for a cause so far from most American's concerns during the Great Depression.

It is generally agreed that the failure of the democracies (the United States of America, Great Britain, and France) to respond to the fascist takeover of Spain that convinced Hitler and Mussolini that they could start grabbing bits of the world. Regarding the Holocaust, it also convinced Hitler that he could execute large numbers of his enemies without interference from the outside world. Kristallnacht, which did not involve mass executions, did not take place in Germany until 1938. However, even before the fascist win in the Spanish Civil War, Hitler already had a model, the Turkish genocide against Armenians [See Franz von Papen, Hitler, and Two Popes].

While he and the two fascist popes, Pius XI and Pius XII, disagreed on some things, they agreed that it was important to exterminate non-Catholics, particularly Communist non-Catholics. Hitler, of course, put a higher value on exterminating Jews than the Popes, and both were willing to give Protestant Christians, who did not otherwise cause too much trouble, time to convert to Catholicism. [In case you have not been reading this blog, Hitler was Catholic. So were Mussolini, Franco, and Petain].

You know about the six million Jews. Who else did Hitler kill, with the Pope's blessing? I use generally accepted numbers here (there is much debate, largely due to attempts by various groups to whitewash their own deeds and demonize those of their enemies).

The Romani ("Gypsies") lost in the vicinity of 1 million. Non-Jewish Poles lost 2 million. Disabled Germans killed numbered a quarter million. Some 5000 Jehovah's Witnesses were killed.

But the really, really big number of victims can be classified as Atheists; most were Communists, though only fraction of them were members of the elite Communist Party. Hitler murdered Germany's Communists early on [though many of them converted to being Nazis], and even murdered some leaders of the more atheist, socialist wing of his own party. But the really big numbers came from deaths of citizens of the U.S.S.R. Some of these people may have been Orthodox Christians, but the vast majority were atheists. An estimated 7 million died fighting the German army. Perhaps two million soviet POWs were executed. And probably about 12 million civilians died in collateral damage or from starvation in German-held areas. [See World War II casualties of the Soviet Union for details]

That is a lot of dead atheists. This atheist holocaust was planned for decades by the leaders of the Catholic Church [See my series of articles on Pope Pius XI].

But Hollywood is based in the United States, and heroic Russian war movies, or pitiful atheist-civilians-killed-by-Catholics movies would not go over big here.

I think the atheist holocaust deserves some serious study. We still have a large Catholic Church, now led by an "ex" Nazi who seems to be trying to push the Church and world back to the Dark Ages. We still have religious leaders of all sorts who encourage their followers to hate people of other faiths. I might mention the record of atheists is not clean either, especially when atheism has been combined with authoritarian political trends like Leninism.

In my Natural Liberation philosophy war is always a war crime. Killing civilians (and pushing them off their lands into refugee camps) is always a crime against humanity. Religion may be wrong-headed, but it is up to the upright to persuade the religious to align themselves with Nature. I do believe people have a right to use violence for self-defense, but that is a very limited right because all too often people claim they are defending themselves when they are really attacking others or perpetuating a pointless feud.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Gruel of Law (on the Rule of Law)

The "rule of law" is usually portrayed in the United States of America (and in Great Britain and many other nations) as a lofty ideal, to be treated with the reverence due the Constitution, Democracy, the Founding Fathers, and the automobile. Some of us, however, may want to look at what ideas we are being fed before let them poison our lives.

The rule of law in the United States does not feed all people equally. The rule of law for wealthy Americans is a smorgasbord of delights. For the upper middle class it has some variety and is wholesome enough as long there is no attempt to sneak over to the table of the rich. For working and middle class families, it is poor fare indeed. At the lower end of the economy, where the "middle class" starts looking suspiciously like slightly modernized serfs, what you get fed as the rule of law is a thin gruel, with nasty tidbits floating in it.

I'll call it the gruel of law. Gruel is an old-fashioned word. My dictionary gives its primary as: "thin easily digested porridge," essentially oat, barley, or corn meal cooked in water. As a secondary British meaning we have "punishment." Grueling means "exhausting." Meals of gruel are associated with prisons, orphanages, work camps, and the kind of pay that leads to the slow starvation of working families.

Ah, but the rule of law is supposed a fine thing, because it is opposed the the "rule of persons," (and lawlessness, which I won't discuss here). The rule of persons refers to systems of government where officials have the authority to make decisions without reference to written laws. So that a policeman might choose to arrest one person for almost any action, while other people are allowed to act with impunity. Taxes might be waved for members of a senior official's extended family; government land might be sold to some speculators for pennies, while not being for sale to others (like indigenous people who once lived there) at any price.

The rule of persons is not, however, always a bad thing. The Chinese, over a long period of time, worked out an elaborate system that tried to ensure that the rule of persons was carried out only by persons who were just in their judgments. However, for the purposes of this essay, I will allow that the rule of persons has usually proved to be an undesirable system of government.

Still, we should take a look at the gruel we are being served. In American law the gruel comes it two big varieties. One is called criminal law, the other civil. Don't be fooled by the names of the gruel. What is really meant by this division is that the government pays for lawyers to prosecute, and police (with jails and electric chairs) to enforce the criminal law, or criminal gruel. Civil law, or gruel, is brought before government courts, but each party must pay for its own lawyers.

Take a currently talked about example where the gruel is about to be improved. Consider an insurance company that accepts health insurance payments from a well person for a period of years, promising to pay for medical services when the insured becomes sick. Instead, when the insured needs an expensive or chronic therapy, the insurer "drops the policy." What has happened here is fraud, a form of theft. But it does no good to call the police, or prosecutors. They will say this is a bad thing, but what you have is a contract problem. Civil gruel. You must hire an attorney to make the insurer pay you what is due. And the courts may rule that the insurer did nothing wrong in taking tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from you, and in returning insuring you as long as you did not get sick.

But if the same amount of money were stolen in only a slightly different fashion, by different persons, it would be theft. Suppose, for instance, that you had put the equivalent of the medical insurance payments in a safe. When you finally need the cash, and are counting it out to take to the hospital to pay your bills, a crooked relative steals the money. Now, strangely, you can call the police, and your cousin will probably be sent to jail if you press charges. At no expense to you; you won't need to hire the lawyer.

In this example (and I could give a thousand more) the gruel of law looks astonishingly similar to the gruel of people. Why is the insurance company treated as a privileged person?

I am not just talking about the kinds of defects in the system that at times send an innocent man to jail and set a guilty man free. People lie, and the crime detection process is fallible. Even in the most just, least corrupt systems errors will be made.

The gruel of law is not errors in a basically just system. It is a system constructed to be unjust. It is a set of sieves that sifts the good things in life away from some people and piles those things up for the rich people to hoard.

The gruel of law has both evolved and been designed, in its large and small scales, over the centuries to suit the needs of the law-giving class. The law-giving class corresponds closely, most of the time, to those who are able to fund political campaigns, lobbyists, and lawyers. In America anyone can play, but it is rare that a political candidate can convince a hundred thousand people to donate $10 each to his campaign so that he can defeat a candidate who really represents a hundred people who gladly give $10,000 each to their candidate. For the rich political contributions are an investment. They like the rule of law. They are happy to pay for laws that work to their advantage. And if the rule of law happens to go against them, they can use their wealth for a tempory bit of rule of persons. The rich are only in danger from the law when they are fighting with other rich people.

Occasionally ordinary people get tired of the gruel they are being served and revolt. Women were once served different gruel than men. Now they are served the same gruel, which has worked out nicely for rich and upper-middle-class women. For middle class and poor women, it has simply allowed them to fight over the poor gruel served to the men of their class. The same has come true for African-Americans in the last half-century.

Some people and organizations (Ralph Nader, etc.) work tirelessly to improve the gruel of law served to the lower classes in the United States. In my lifetime I have seen no overall improvement in the gruel. For every reformer there are a hundred paid lobbyists seeking better gruel for their employers, which means worse gruel for the rest of us.

Before suggesting how to change the gruel of law to something more resembling justice for all, we need to understand both the law and the system that produces it better. While not the main focus of this Natural Liberation blog, it is an important issue which I will return to in future essays.


The standard rap on the rule of law at Wikipedia

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Go West Young Man: Japan and Manchuria

I just began reading The Rising Sun, The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1945 by John Toland, and it looks to be a fascinating book. In its first few pages he has fleshed-out some of the events I only learned about after beginning research on my U.S. War Against Asia. I was particularly struck by his evocation of Japanese sentiments towards Manchuria, on pages 7 and 8:
"The two officers felt that Manchuria was the only answer to poverty in Japan. It could be transformed from a wilderness into a civilized, prosperous area, alleviating unemployment at home and providing an outlet for the overpopulated homeland, where more than two-thirds of the farms were smaller than two and a quarter acres."
Was that not exactly the attitude of European settlers towards America, and of the citizens of the United States towards the Indian nation lands of the West?

Were not the problems, including ethical problems, the same? After all, people already lived in Manchuria and felt they owned it. The dominant tribe was the Manchu (or Qing Dynasty), who had conquered China in 1644 and ruled it until 1912. In addition to non-Manchu indigenous groups, many ethnic Chinese, Koreans, an others had migrated to Manchuria over the centuries.

For Americans, the American west (and here I mean that ever-shifting West that originally was just few miles west of the shores of the Atlantic ocean) was considered to be essentially empty. American Indian tribe oral land titles were voided by murder. The attitude of the Japanese was that Manchuria was essentially empty. Land that was not mined, tilled, or urbanized was land wasted. Had the Japanese colonized Manchuria before 1850, no one would think much about a Manchurian state dominated by ethnic Japanese today. But the Japanese were coming late to the land-grab game. The United States had already grabbed Hawaii, Alaska and the Philippines by the time the Japanese got serious about Manchuria. Russia and China both wanted Manchuria. England, France, Germany, and the United States wanted Manchuria to be kept open to their own commercial exploitation. So Japan had to fight two major wars to get a grip on Manchuria, first with China and then with Russia.

It is still an interesting question, the relative rights of natives in thinly populated areas against the rights of intruders to settle. Religion aside, it is the fundamental question in Palestine right now. It is also a fundamental question in Tibet. I've heard it is a fundamental question in the states of Washington and Oregon, who look with horror upon the masses of northward trekking Californians who (except in the current recession) keep pushing up real estate prices.

One might also ask about Hawaii. As I recently found out, when the United States seized Hawaii, the biggest ethnic group there was not native polynesians, nor American colonists, it was Japanese. They were not consulted in the deal. Neither were the natives consulted when the U.S. grabbed the Philippines. Lucky for the Filipinos, not many Americans wanted to emigrate there, although about two million Filipinos were murdered to clear the way just in case.

There does not seem to me to be anything fundamentally wrong with Han Chinese emigration to Tibet, as long as the native Tibetans have equal rights and land transfers are fair and transparent. The fear is always that the new majority (or more powerful group even if it is in a numerical minority) will discriminate against the old majority. In American history, brief though it is, we see this happened in Texas. The Mexican government made the mistake of allowing American (northern European-descended) settlers. As soon as they could they rebelled and established a nation, Texas, that discriminated against Mexicans (and the remaining native American Indian tribes), often simply murdering them without a trial or any pretext.

The peaceful process of immigration into the United States, though sometimes politically contentious, actually serves as a good model for the world. I would like to see more mobility, not less. Every person should have the full human rights recognized by mankind. That should include the right to relocated provided you follow reasonable rules. You should be able to buy land, a residence, or a business from someone who is a willing seller. But doing what the Israeli state does: bulldozing communities off their land, then sending in settlers, is wrong. No matter who does it: Chinese, Americans, Japanese, or any nation or group of people.