Sunday, 1 February 2015

Japan Learns from ISIS

Asia – ISIS Moral Lessons for Japan
The lasting legacy of Yukawa and Goto
Japan society remains shaken over the last 2 weeks in unprecedented shock over the beheading of its 2 citizens, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, within a week of each another, by the Islamic ISIS Group in Syria.  Goto, a respected journalist working mostly in the war zones, reportedly went to Syria in October 2014 reportedly to try to secure Yukawa's release.

There is no justification whatsoever for ISIS actions. And no senseless deaths of civilians could ever be condoned by any decent human being in the world. Nothing in this Post is therefore intended to demean or devalue the life of Yukawa and Goto, as well as the many others who have fallen victims to ISIS-like inhuman and evil acts throughout the centuries.

It must surely be Deja Vu for many in the older generations in Japan. The thought and video of cold-blooded beheadings must surely evoke national memories kept hidden for nearly 70 years since the end of World War 2 (WW2). Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemns the latest inexplicable killing, and calls it a "heinous act", sharing deep anger and commiseration with his fellow Japanese amidst understandable grief, sympathy and sorrows.  
Such “heinous” acts are not strange to the Japanese, of all people.
Former Japanese WW2 soldiers should have no difficulty seeing the similarity between ISIS standing over Goto and Yukawa just before their respective beheading and a Japanese military officer standing with drawn Samurai sword over one of the 300,000 Chinese in Nanjing and several Chinese cities mostly beheaded (see picture) in a similar manner. Even babies and little children were not spared by the Imperial Japanese.

Older Singaporeans will also remember the beheading of nearly 70,000-90,000 Singaporean Chinese during Operation Sook Ching by the Japanese Occupation from 1942-45. Younger Singaporeans should visit the exhibition galleries in the Old Ford Motor Factory at Bukit Timah, the former factory site where the British surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 to see and hear the memories of those who survived that tragedy.

The Japanese national position has been to deny that the Nanjing Massacre, and other wartime atrocities ever took place under its benevolent Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere campaign in China and South East Asia from 1935-1945. It has refused stubbornly to apologise for what never took place!


Even Japanese history books are re-written to de-emphasise such “heinous” conduct of the Japanese during WW2.  The denial of WW2 atrocity is the key mission of the influential revisionist organization Nippon Kaigi. It is reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is among its 35,000 members, as well as 15 of his 18 key members of the government following the 2014 reshuffle.  Japanese Prime Ministers and other Key Japanese politicians also regularly visit the Yasukuni Shinto Shrine where Japanese had enshrined its top 14 leading WW2 war criminals among the 1,068 other WW2 war criminals who committed “heinous” atrocities, to show their respect and reverence.

Imagine if ISIS were to follow the Japanese Model in remembrance of ISIS members who commit “heinous” acts of evil and decide to build a shrine to include the cold-blooded murderers of Yukawa and Goto? Imagine also that ISIS leaders regularly undertake a pilgrimage to this Shrine to honour and revere especially those who did the beheading of the 2 Japanese citizens?  Imagine further that ISIS dismisses any “allegations”, even withdraws its own video, of its beheading that never took place?  Imagine after all these, ISIS tells an astonished Japan that there is really nothing to apologise for since the beheadings never took place?   

And if someone were to suggest dropping a nuclear bomb on ISIS, assuming ISIS can be so targeted, it should be remembered that not one but 2 atomic bombs merely end the Japanese War, but did little to make her feel remorseful or penitent to seek forgiveness and repentance.

This week, having been confronted by evil as great or greater than herself, Japan should begin nation-wide honest conversations over its own “heinous” past acts. Yukawa and Goto’s contribution to Japan social development may be to inspire his countrymen to confront historical truths and facts squarely and to recognize its own culpability in the prolonged pain and suffering in her victims as a result of her denial and recalcitrance.

The scars of Yukawa and Goto tragic deaths may never heal until Japanese takes active concrete steps to heal the wounds and painful memories of those whom she has inflicted much deeper wounds and pain. The lasting legacy of Yukawa and Goto lies in bringing the Truth of Japanese war atrocities into the living room, classrooms and social conversations. 

Ironically, ISIS’ only moral but greatest lessons in Yukawa and Goto may well be to finally bring a remorseful and recalcitrant Japan onto its knees in deep contrite and regrets to owe up to its own similar beheading spree of innocence and other evil deeds 70 years ago in the Asia Pacific.






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