Baronage Bamboo Shoots

Constitutional Matters


"Where," we were asked, "does one turn in a democracy when Government consistently misleads Parliament?"

Look at this ~

House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 20 Jul 1999 (pt 14)

26. Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to discuss the issue of former prisoners of war with the Japanese Government. [90483]

20 Jul 1999 : Column: 500

Mr. Hoon: The view of successive UK and Japanese Governments is that the issue of compensation under the San Francisco Peace Treaty has been settled. We regularly discuss with the Japanese ways to promote reconciliation.
WE WERE SO ALARMED by this facile exchange that we decided to substitute our usual View from Westminster column with a View of Westminster, and to invite the Editor of Bamboo Shoots, the online commentary on Japanese PoW affairs, to write an Open Letter to the Prime Minister giving her view of the masquerade he orchestrates whenever the former prisoners and internees ask for the compensation they so justly deserve.

A View of Westminster

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

..The contemptuous reply you have given to the victims' case ~ "that it was all settled by the San Francisco Treaty" ~ seemingly reinforced by your spokesman in Parliament last month, has shown your attitude to Japanese atrocities to be as ill-briefed, as uncaring and as racist as that of your predecessors.

..It was not "all settled" in San Francisco. .Shamefully, the British and American Governments decided to omit from the Treaty all mention of war crimes, and instead chose to consider "undue hardship" alone. .So the negotiators recognised the diversion of Red Cross food parcels from the captives to their captors, the destruction of prisoners' mail, and the theft of money sent (via Switzerland) to buy better treatment for the sick, but forbore to consider the wanton cruelty, slave labour, institutionalised sadism, medical experiments, sexual abuse, torture and murder inflicted by the Japanese on their prisoners of war and on the civilian internees.

..And unless, Prime Minister, you intend to classify as "undue hardship" the horrors of castration and gang rape and starvation and unanaesthetised vivisection and germ warfare and decapitation and evisceration and bayonet drill and crucifixion and incineration and premature burial practised by the Japanese army throughout the conquered territories ~ then you must accept that the Treaty signed at San Francisco did not settle the matter of compensation owed to those who survived the atrocities.

..So you were ill-briefed. .But do you care? .The Emperor, we have been told, has studied the atrocities and grieves for the victims. .Have you studied the atrocities, Prime Minister? .Do you know why Japanese soldiers smoked cigarettes while being "comforted" by the sex slaves? .(It was to encourage the moaning and trembling to be as realistic as possible.) .Do you know how a jeep can castrate a man? .Have you noted that in the battle they lost on one island, the Japanese dead could be counted in thousands, the American dead in hundreds, but (in accordance with the orders from Tokyo) the shot and bayoneted Filipino civilians numbered over a hundred thousand? Have you read Iris Chang's book (The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of WWII) which relates also the medical experiments ("The fellow knew it was over for him, and so he didn't struggle. .But when I picked up the scalpel, that's when he began screaming. .I cut him open from the chest to the stomach, and he screamed terribly .......")?

..When the Japanese army captured Alexandra Hospital, they bayoneted the amputees as they lay in their beds; they bayoneted the patients on the operating tables; they bayoneted the surgeons and anaesthetists; but the orderlies they took outside, doused with petrol, and ignited before bayoneting their writhing remains.

..These are not regrettable, isolated incidents untypical of the Japanese army's normal behaviour. .They are just an infinitesimally small number of examples of a bestial behaviour that between 1931 and 1945 killed 20 million Chinese, 9 million Koreans, 4 million Indonesians, 2 million Vietnamese, and a million Filipinos in a racist war aimed at conquest and loot. .In Nanking German observers filmed and reported that the atrocities included the raped women being nailed to walls, victims hanged by iron hooks thrust through their tongues, children roasted alive and eaten. The films still exist; the German diaries still exist; the Japanese newspapers that reported the atrocities still exist; but were you advised about them, Prime Minister?

..I receive a constant stream of letters with memories, horrific memories. .Recently, on the same day, came two from the Philippines. .In one ~ "My older sister was beheaded (she had green eyes and thus had to be American!) ..... whole families (childhood friends) had their heads tied to a bamboo pole and driven on a jeep so every one could view." .In the other ~ "....... my cousin who was tortured for helping the Americans. .The Japanese put a hose into his stomach and pumped water into him until he had water and blood shooting out of every opening of his body, from his anus, from his nose from his eyes. .They beat him severely, then hung him and then cut off his head. ........ another friend caught helping the Americans ....... the Japanese tied his private parts to a jeep and dragged him until his parts ripped away. .All his intestines were ripped out also. .These things were done in public so everyone would be afraid to help the Americans."

.."Undue hardship", Prime Minister? .Or, as I heard the Japanese Deputy Ambassador explain to BBC TV News ~

"the prisoners' problems and difficulties"?

Or war crimes? .Crimes against humanity? .Do you care? .British victims can tell you thousands of similar stories of what they have witnessed, but the dead themselves are, of course, silent and, it appears, forgotten by British Government.

..That your attitude is racist is best attested first by your approach to Germany and the legacy of the terrible things done there. .You are not alone, of course. ."It would've been worse," one veteran wrote to me, "if they'd been Germans. .I mean, the Germans are like us, aren't they?" .And in the few letters that tell us it is now time to forget the past, we find the same sentiment repeated ~ "They're different from us. .We shouldn't expect them to see things as we do!" .And thus you and the Foreign Secretary in your intention to lead, with the United States, the quest for more compensation from Germany, clearly demonstrate the racist attitude you have adopted towards Japan. .Germany has sought to atone for the inhumanity some of its nationals exhibited. .Its laws today punish the denial of the Holocaust. .The true history of Nazi Germany is taught in German schools. .Postwar governments have paid over 88 billion DM in compensation to the families of the victims. .But Japan ....... Japan continues to deny its atrocities. .In Japan's schools the history books are expurgated. .Japan refuses to pay compensation. .But that's okay, isn't it, Prime Minister, because, after all, they're only Japs?

..And now, more recently, you have been much occupied by the Balkan atrocities. .Terrible crimes have been committed there, not so terrible and, indeed, minute in number compared to those of the Japanese, but sufficiently terrible to justify your furious condemnation. ."This is in Europe!" you have told us. .And so it is. .And your determination to punish the guilty, your intention to compensate their victims, while insisting that your own compatriots' sufferings at the hands of non-Europeans be ignored on the fiction of a Treaty that also ignored them, is racial discrimination.

..Well, what can you now do? .The few remaining POWs and civilian internees will die, one by one, but the problem of your conscience will not disappear so easily. And in your quest for meaningless "reconciliation" you cannot attempt to extract a more candid apology from Japan. .The Japanese will not give one because it is alien to their ways; no language on earth can compose an apology commensurate with the enormity of the Japanese crimes; and their victims now recognise that the apology factor and the complex debate about it will always be exploited to divert discussion from the issue that matters most ~ payment of compensation.

..But compensation can be paid, for if the Japanese will not honour the obligation, the British Government, acknowledging the dishonourable conduct of its predecessors, can do so instead. .Of course, no sum can truly compensate for the inhuman misery and the surviving victims' long years of waiting, traumatised mentally and physically, that followed, but whatever token should be calculated, it must be very much greater than the $20,000 paid by the American and Canadian governments to those of Japanese origins relocated to live normal lives within North America during the war. .There is no equivalence to be sought in the luxurious treatment those Japanese received from western governments and the bestial treatment inflicted on their forgotten captives by the Japanese army.

..Act now, Prime Minister, and show that you care. .Formally acknowledge that the San Francisco Treaty did not include any consideration of the atrocities, the war crimes, the crimes against humanity, of which the whole world knows Japan to have been guilty.

Yours sincerely,
Maria G. Lissone
Bamboo Shoots

(The red and purple colours in the letter's text were introduced by editorial prerogative, the red being useful to emphasise the nature of the "undue hardship" unconsidered by the Treaty of San Francisco, the purple being ideal for the terminology used by Japan to explain what "undue hardship" means, terminology condoned by the BBC's unprotesting interviewers and supported by the British Government.)

When one considers just how weak is the Prime Minister's position, especially in the light of his wholly different approach to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and, more recently, by Serbian thugs, this letter appears almost tantamount to bullying. And yet, in the interest of the brevity we requested, two significantly important points were omitted.

First is the fundamental issue of human rights, which include the right to compensation for suffering caused by unlawful acts. The British Government has connived at the pretence that the San Francisco Treaty negated the rights of those who suffered "undue hardship" while guests of the Japanese army, but no national government has the power to deny its own citizens their personal claims against a foreign government that has violated their humanity (not, for Britons anyway, without an Act of Parliament or perhaps even a general election).

Second is the long-concealed factor that the San Francisco Treaty did not deny the right of British internees, who received £48 compensation for "undue hardship", to receive more (as did the Swiss, who averaged a sum over fifty times greater) if victims possessing any other nationality were to receive more. Accordingly, the British Government was empowered (by the success of the Swiss) to seek additional compensation for "undue hardship" and then made a deliberate decision, secretly, not to do so.

And those two factors explain why we have included this letter in the Westminster section, and under the heading of Constitutional Matters, rather than to use it in our forthcoming examination of the nature of chivalry.

To conclude ~

We should look again at the Minister's exact words. He said:

the issue of compensation under the San Francisco Peace Treaty has been settled.

...... and we should insist to the British Government, and to any other that might seek to evade responsibility in similar ways, that:

The San Francisco Treaty covered "undue hardship", not crimes against humanity


For the little that was covered by the San Francisco Treaty, further compensation is payable.

The letter we have published here concerns matters of the greatest importance. Readers who sympathise with the victims' cause are urged to give it the widest possible circulation.

Download its text, print it and circulate it. Forward it by e-mail to all your correspondents. Advise your friends of the URL ~

Thank you.

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