Disturbing Parallels: Banzai and Allah Akbar

by Anita on February 19, 2015

Posted by Anita Folsom

Here are the headlines:

“Civilians Massacred!”

“Contest to Kill 100 Civilians with a Sword!”

“Hospital Bombed!”

Do these lines describe the Middle East today?  No, they describe atrocities in China 75 years ago.  The Japanese had invaded China in 1937, and until the end of World War II in 1945, the Japanese Army cut a path of murder, rape, and destruction across the conquered territory.  In Nanking in January, 1938, historians estimate that at least 40,000 Chinese civilians were killed.

Each conquest of new territory in China meant that the Japanese military believed it could do anything, even though its victories came against disorganized Chinese fighters with antiquated weapons and few leaders.  The myth of Japan’s power and strength against the world continued to grow, at least in the minds of the Japanese themselves.  They knew that the U.S. had only a token military presence in the Pacific. Japanese leaders believed that Americans were a decadent, soft people.

Japan’s early successes also emboldened the military faction controlling the country at home.  The Japanese media praised its soldiers in China and blamed all problems on the evil Chinese or the diabolical westerners from Europe and America who were trying to encircle Japan and humiliate it.  Such articles further inflamed the Japanese citizenry, who believed that their armies were invincible.

What was the reaction of the rest of the world?  For several years, mostly verbal protests, international meetings to proclaim that the Japanese were murderous outlaws, embargoes, and discussions about what action could be taken. The U.S. military was weak, poorly armed, and small in numbers, because President Franklin Roosevelt had skimped on military spending in order to fund social welfare programs that bought him millions of votes.  The United States wasn’t strong enough to do much.  (See FDR Goes to War, chapter 4.)

Then in December, 1941, the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and also the Philippine Islands, Singapore, Guam, and the Dutch East Indies.  As the Japanese Army advanced, its soldiers treated captured prisoners from Great Britain, Australia, and the United States little better than the Chinese.  Cries of “Banzai” from the Japanese regiments often filled the air as they celebrated their victories.

Today, each of us is all too familiar with the headlines of Isis’ atrocities.  Isis also fights disorganized, poorly trained groups for the most part, although the Kurds of northern Iraq have shown the ability to defend themselves when attacked.  Isis brutalizes anyone in its path, screaming “Allah Akbar!” as its war cry.

If we look at the lessons of history, both the Japanese in the 1930s and Isis today are international bullies, without law and without a conscience.  Force is the only way  to deal with such outlaws.  But again, our current U. S. president has undermined respect for the American military.  His “apology tours” and foreign diplomacy have made our enemies think that Americans are decadent weaklings.

Fighting the outlaws of Isis or any other international organization is a serious matter.  No one wants to see more American casualties overseas.  But the history of the Japanese in China shows that, if unchallenged, such murderers only keep going.  Isis must be defeated, and we must use such defeats to show the weakness of Isis’ leaders and ideology.

Why hasn’t the United States provided arms for the Kurds to use to defend themselves?  Where is the international coalition to fight Isis?  America needs strong leadership to overcome this murderous plague.  Otherwise, Isis will continue to recruit, to attack, and to murder the innocents.





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