I’ve been reading recently about the Nuremburg trials and particularly about how Stalin built his team. How he created the prosecution as early as 1943 and determined how it would be pursued. His strategy was built by the man who had conducted the show trials of the 1930s, Vyshinsky. Thus, the entire world was made to see the horror of German crimes in an extravagant fashion.
But the American and British handling of the Japanese, where the Russians were not so much involved was quite different. Why? Unlike the Soviets, who had lost 27 million of their own and seen so much devastation of their own lands, the US had lost less than half a million during four years of war and very little in terms of infrastructure. The British had suffered greatly but, again, not at the hand of the Japanese as much as the Nazi.
We Westerners have a tendency to turn inwards and to turn to our great legacies of the past during and at the ends of war. At least when we are not seeking vengeance. It is one reason why we continue to fall into wars, because we romanticize them rather than fulfilling their promises. The League of Nations, the Kellogg Briand pact. Meaningless.
When I was a young man living in San Francisco I had a friend who wore an “8” tattooed on her ankle. I asked her why and she told me she had seen and been overwhelmed by a film.
The horrors the Japanese government and armies committed throughout Asia during their decade-plus of domination still ripple around the East. Apologies have been made. Nations move on. But individuals and families still suffer.