31 October 2004

Land of Invisible, Unmentionable Women

WOMEN ARE OPPRESSED in all Moslem societies. But among the rural Pathans, women simply don't exist. "They're not even in the background. They're just not there," said a Pathan woman who left the Northwest Frontier to live in New Jersey. Here are three Pathan proverbs:

Women have no noses. They will eat shit.
One's own mother and sister are disgusting.
Women belong in the house or in the grave.

You rarely see women on the Northwest Frontier or in Afghanistan; you do see moving tents with narrow holes for the eyes. Photographers who walked through minefields and sneaked into Soviet bases were afraid to take close-ups of Pathan women unless they were at least a hundred yards away and had a lens the size of a mortar--and provided not a single mujahid was looking. A close-up of a Pathan woman was more prized and difficult to get than a photograph of the undercarriage of an MI-24 helicopter gunship. The only Pathan females I was ever allowed to see were all five years old and younger. Some of those girls were beautiful, with long, dark hair, sharp cheekbones, and doe eyes. What Pathan women look like when they are older is a secret that only Pathan men know.

A desert Arab, after he gets to know you, may invite you to his home, where you may steal a brief glance at his wife while she serves the food. A Pathan may also invite you to his home, but either he or another man will carry in the food that has been prepared in the women's quarters. The food, in turn, is often the traveler's only clue to the presence of a woman nearby. If the dish is relatively clean and the meal appetizing, it means there is a woman in the adjoining room who cooked it; if the food is inedible, a Pathan man did the deed.

A Pathan won't even tell you the names of his wife and mother. To ask him is an insult. It would be like asking him to undress in front of a crowd. "Women are as private to a Pathan as his private parts," a Pathan lawyer remarked to me. "Women are the holy of holies in a culture where the men act as the barricades." The first time I interviewed Abdul Haq I made the mistake of asking him the names of the men and women in his family. The names of the men he told me. Concerning the women, he blushed and turned away. "I wish you wouldn't ask such personal questions," he said. I felt ridiculous for days afterward and worried whether he would agree to see me again.

The very existence of women in a Pathan's life is an intimate secret, sacred to him but also a source of shame. Women threaten the façade of splendid male isolation that is central to a Pathan's sense of self. A Pathan knows women are needed for procreation, but that is an unfortunate and embarrassing fact to him, and if he could change it, he would. In the Arab world and even in Iran, pregnant women are a common sight. Among the Pathans, one never sees them, for as soon as a woman's womb begins to expand, she is locked away in the house.

After enough time on the Northwest Frontier you forgot about Pathan women altogether. They became invisible. You forgot that the mujahidin had wives and mothers, because you never saw them and the men encouraged you to forget. Only rarely did that other, hidden world break through to the surface, as when a colleague of mine asked Abdul Haq why he always kept his hair short. "Because my mother would slap my face if I grew my hair long," he said, turning his head away, embarrassed.

In Kabul and the other cities of Afghanistan, many women were educated, held proper jobs, and didn't hide themselves in black sheets. That was more because of Westernization than Communist influence. The mujahidin were, for the most part, backwoodsmen, and they suffered no threats or complexities in any of their personal relationships. They inhabited a self-contained world of men, a world of sharp cutouts, where women were held in contempt and the only sure touchstones of masculinity were bravery, the ability to endure physical pain, prowess with a rifle, and the length and thickness of one's beard.

Men without beards were distrusted by the mujahidin. After all, women didn't have beards--and neither, thought the mujahidin, did homosexuals. Nor did the Soviets and their Afghan Communist allies. Nor, for that matter, did the more modern, secular mujahidin within the seven-party resistance--the ones who drank Coca-Cola with journalists at the Pearl Continental Hotel and who were thought to do little of the fighting. In Peshawar, a beard meant credibility. It was striking how many Western journalists and relief workers who had contact with the guerrillas had beards. You would grow one before you arrived in Pakistan and shave it off as soon as you went back home. Once, when I shaved off my beard before leaving Peshawar, a mujahid friend laughed at me and said, "You look like a woman--no, like a Christian!"
SOURCE: Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Robert D. Kaplan (Vintage, 1990, 2000, 2001), pp. 49-51

"Soldiers of God is a thoughtful, insightful, highly readable book. Battlefield smart, rock solid." --Dan Rather

30 October 2004

Missiles Protected Food in Soviet Afghanistan

After daybreak the bombs came. The earth vibrated from the thousand-pounders dropped by the fighter jets overhead. Clouds of dust from exploding earth filled the air. The nearest bomb hit several hundred yards away from us and, as it turned out, nobody was hurt. It had been a useless exercise: the jets had taken off from the military air field at Jalalabad, dropped their bombs from about ten thousand feet, and flew home. The jets were flying so high that from the ground they appeared no larger than specks. Even with television-guided missiles--which these planes were not equipped with--hitting a target as small as a pup tent from that altitude is exceedingly difficult. It was another potent illustration of how the Stingers had changed the face of the war. Weighing only thirty pounds, the heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles were mobile and cost only $75,000 apiece, and in two out of three times that they were fired in Afghanistan, a Stinger destroyed a Soviet jet or helicopter that cost about $4 million each. So the Soviet and Afghan government pilots weren't taking any chances....

The Kot Valley unrolled like a plush green carpet at the foot of Spinghar, a jungly world in sight of the snows. We alighted under a large plane tree on a raised table of earth about a hundred feet over the valley, providing a prospect from which to espy the terrain we were about to enter. A local farmer laid out a rush mat and Turkoman rug for us. His son, wearing a gold Sindhi cap, brought ceramic cups for tea. I took off my shoes and smelly socks and let the hot sun dry my feet while I drank tea under a blue sky on a rug I would have been proud to have in my living room back in Greece. It was the kind of moment that a traveler files away in his mind in order to impress people later on. But what I also remember about that moment was what the farmer told Wakhil about all the irrigation ditches that had been blown up by fighter jets, and the flooding in the valley and malaria outbreak that followed. Malaria, which on the eve of Taraki's Communist coup in April 1978 was at the point of being eradicated in Afghanistan, had returned with a vengeance, thanks to the stagnant, mosquito-breeding pools caused by the widespread destruction of irrigation systems. Nangarhar was rife with the disease. This was another relatively minor, tedious side effect of the Soviet invasion that lacked drama and would only have numbed newspaper readers if written about or even mentioned in passing--which it never was.

We crossed rice, grain, and maize fields, walking along rebuilt irrigation embankments and down dusty trails partially shaded by apple and apricot trees. It was hot and, for the first time since I left Peshawar, a bit humid too. Almost every mud brick dwelling we saw had been hit by a bomb. Yet more civilians lived here than elsewhere in the Spinghar region, and women in colorful chadors were ubiquitous in the fields, separating the strands of grain and carrying bundles of it on their heads. Only since the end of 1986 had refugees started to come back to the Kot Valley from Pakistan. The upsurge in cultivation was the result of one thing: Stingers. High-altitude Soviet bombing notwithstanding, the missiles were providing enough air cover to frighten away low-flying gunships, allowing some peasant farmers to return and start growing crops. Relief workers in other parts of Afghanistan where the mujahidin had Stingers had also noticed this phenomenon. The antiaircraft missiles were actually putting food in people's mouths.

We rested again in an apple orchard, and a farmer brought us the best meal I had eaten so far in Afghanistan: curds, lentils, greasy fried eggs, apples, and green tea. The heat, the greenery, the water slowly trickling in the stagnant canals, and the timelessness of the setting evoked a town in the Nile Delta in Egypt.
SOURCE: Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Robert D. Kaplan (Vintage, 1990, 2000, 2001), pp. 126-129

"Soldiers of God is a thoughtful, insightful, highly readable book. Battlefield smart, rock solid." --Dan Rather

28 October 2004

The Moros and Muslim Separatism in the Philippines

Although Spain never achieved lasting sovereignty over the Moros, Mindanao and Sulu were included in the territory ceded to the United States in 1898. By 1913 Moro resistance to US rule in Mindanao and Sulu had been effectively subdued and administration of the predominantly Muslim areas was transferred from the US army to civilian authorities.

Although US officials made some attempt to accommodate Philippine Muslim customs and Islamic law, US policy was nevertheless aimed essentially at assimilating the Moros into mainstream Christian Filipino society. From 1914 integration was pursued through a 'policy of attraction'. In Muslim areas, the government allocated substantial spending to roads, schools, hospitals and other services; education was made compulsory, and scholarships were provided for Muslims to study in Manila and in the United States. Muslims began to participate in the emerging political system. The United States administration also encouraged migration to Mindanao from the populous northern islands of Luzon and the Visayas through the provision of timber and mining concessions and land for plantations and cattle ranches. Between 1903 and 1939 the population of Mindanao, estimated at around 500,000 at the end of the Spanish period, had grown by 1.4 million. Increasingly, the new settlers encroached on ancestral Muslim and tribal lands.

In 1920 control of Mindanao and Sulu was passed from the United States administration to the Philippine legislature, and in 1935 to the newly established Commonwealth. In the latter year a group of 120 Moro datus [community leaders] from Lanao petitioned the US president, repeating earlier requests either to give the Moros political independence or to let them remain under US rule. Christian Filipinos, they claimed, discriminated against Muslims and treated them abusively. Under an administration dominated by Christian Filipinos, the 'policy of attraction' did indeed lapse, and there was an increasing incidence of clashes between Muslims and Christian settlers.

Following independence in 1946, there was a further heavy influx of settlers into Mindanao, doubling the population in several provinces between 1948 and 1960. By the end of the 1960s disputes over land between the Muslim population, tribal peoples and Christian settlers were becoming more frequent and more violent, and the growing number of settlers was threatening the electoral bases of several Muslim politicians.

In 1954 a special committee of the Philippine Congress was set up to report on 'the Moro problem', especially with regard to peace and order in Mindanao and Sulu. Partly as a result of its report a Commission on National Integration (CNI) was established in 1957. The CNI, however, was regarded with suspicion by most Philippine Muslims, who resented being referred to as a 'national minority' and saw the real objective of the commission to be the destruction of Philippine Muslim identity under the guise of 'national integration'. Apart from providing scholarships to Muslim students, the CNI achieved little before its abolition in 1975. Two further reports were produced in 1963 and 1971 by a Senate Committee on National Minorities, which identified in-migration and land-grabbing as the major sources of conflict in Mindanao, but the Senate comrnittee maintained the view that the solution to the Moro problem should be sought through social and political integration and economic development.

In 1968 tensions between Muslims and Christians were heightened by an incident in which a number of Muslim recruits to the armed forces, reportedly being trained for an invasion of the Malaysian state of Sabah, were shot during an alleged mutiny. That year a Muslim (later Mindanao) Independence Movement was created to push for a separate Bangsa Moro (Moro nation). From this point, armed clashes between Muslim and Christian groups escalated, and by 1971 Muslim Mindanao and Sulu were in a state of rebellion. A government task force was sent to Mindanao to mediate between the rival groups, but had little success. Official sources acknowledged that by the end of the year clashes between Muslim and Christian groups and the military had killed over 1,500 people.

In the early 1970s the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) emerged at the forefront of the Moro movement, demanding a separate homeland, the return of ancestral land to Muslims and reform within Muslim traditional society. The leader of the MNLF, and its military arm, the Bangsa Moro Army (BMA), was Nur Misuari, one of several young Philippine Muslims who had received guerrilla warfare training in West Malaysia in the late 1960s. The international Islamic community also became involved in the conflict, supplying arms and finance to the MNLF, sending two fact-finding missions to Mindanao, accusing the Marcos government of genocide and threatening to cut off oil supplies.

The Marcos government's response to the MNLF was multi-faceted. Its primary response was a military one. The decision to impose martial law in the Philippines in 1972 was partly rationalized in terms of the conflict in Minadano, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched a major offensive against the MNLF/BMA, which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides and a massive displacement of people. The AFP was assisted in this by local Civil Home Defense Force (CHDF) units, which acquired a formidable record for human rights abuses and general indiscipline, and extremist Christian right-wing vigilante groups. Marcos also announced a package of social and economic measures intended to placate separatist demands, including a commitment to the codification of Shari'a law and the creation of a Southern Philippines Development Authority to promote and coordinate economic development in the region. A third strategy , encouraged by reports of surrenders of BMA soldiers in the mid-1970s, was the commencement of a series of peace negotiations with the MNLF, through the mediation of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic Council of Foreign Ministers (ICFM), and Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi. These initiatives culminated in the signing of an agreement in Tripoli in December 1976, which provided for a ceasefire and set out tentative provisions for a broader political settlement. The latter included Muslim-dominated political autonomy in thirteen provinces of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan, which the MNLF considered to be the minimum claim for a Moro homeland. Further talks were scheduled for early 1977 to discuss the details of implementation, but negotiations collapsed and the ceasefire was abandoned.

The main sticking point in negotiations in 1976-7 concerned the geographical boundaries of Moro autonomy. By 1980, as a result of heavy in-migration, the proportion of Muslims in Mindanao's population (which had been estimated at 76 per cent in 1903) had fallen to 23 per cent. Of the (then) twenty-three provinces in Mindanao and Sulu, only five (and in Mindanao only two) still had a Muslim majority. The MNLF, which had already compromised on its original claim to the whole of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan, nevertheless insisted that the area of Muslim autonomy should include the thirteen provinces of historical Muslim dominance. In 1977 Marcos proposed to put the issue to a plebiscite in these provinces. Realizing that this would produce a negative vote, Misuari accused the government of violating the Tripoli Agreement. Marcos nevertheless proceeded to appoint a provisional government and to organize a referendum on the form of the autonomy. The MNLF rejected an invitation to participate in the provisional government and boycotted the referendum, which predictably rejected the MNLF's claim and endorsed a more limited proposal put forward by President Marcos. Marcos's proposal involved the creation of two small autonomous regions in the Muslim-dominated areas of Western Mindanao and Sulu, and Central Mindanao. Elections for the two regional assemblies in 1979 were boycotted by most Muslim groups, and, with limited powers, inadequate funding and low levels of perceived legitimacy, the two regional autonomous governments were largely ineffective and did nothing to overcome the grievances of Philippine Muslims.

At about the same time, the Moro movement began to lose momentum. A number of Moro fighters surrendered to the Philippine government under amnesty arrangements, while others, as part of 'lost commands', turned to brigandage. More significantly, the MNLF split into three factions, along personal, ethnic and ideological faultlines. The main MNLF group, under the leadership of Misuari (a Tausug) and with the support of the OIC, was geographically centred in Sulu and ideologically the most progressive of the three....

The Moro movement received a boost, however, following the overthrow of President Marcos in 1986. Marcos's opponents had earlier held talks with Misuari, promising to address Muslim demands if elected. In September 1986 Misuari returned to the Philippines and met with new President Aquino in Sulu. Subsequently, talks were held in Jeddah under the auspices of the OIC, at which Misuari and the Philippine government agreed to continue negotiations on autonomy through a joint commission....

Negotiations between the MNLF and the Aquino government broke down in mid-1987. By this time, however, a new Constitution had been enacted, which made specific provision for the creation of an Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and a Cordillara Autonomous Region in the north.... Despite President Aquino's good intentions, the new autonomy arrangements thus did little to satisfy the demands of Philippine Muslims.

In 1992 Aquino was succeeded as Philippines' president by General Fidel Ramos, who had been closely involved with the Mindanao conflict as head of the Philippine Constabulary under Marcos. In his first year of office he visited Libya and, with backing from Qaddafi and others, revived negotiations with the MNLF. In 1996 these efforts were rewarded with the signing of a Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MNLF....

In some quarters the 1996 Peace Agreement was hailed as an historic breakthrough, ending decades--if not centuries--of Muslim-Christian conflict. Among Christian communities within the SZOPAD [Special Zone of Peace and Development], however, the agreement aroused deeply entrenched fears and distrust. Some Christian leaders denounced the agreement and opposed it in Congress. The legality of President Ramos's action in securing the agreement was even challenged in the Supreme Court. As a result of this opposition, the executive order intended to give effect to the Peace Agreement was a significantly watered down version of the document signed with Misuari....

Another limitation of the 1996 Peace Agreement was that it was specifically an agreement with the MNLF. The [more religiously oriented Moro Islamic Liberation Front] MILF, which during the early 1990s appears to have grown significantly in strength and militancy and which was said to be undergoing a transition from a guerrilla force to a 'semi-conventional army', was not party to the negotiations leading to the 1996 agreement and continued the armed struggle for a separate Bangsa Moro. Intermittent attempts were made during the Ramos presidency to establish a dialogue with the MILF, and formal peace talks were resumed under Ramos's successor, Joseph Estrada. Following MILF attacks on non-Muslim communities in early 2000, however, Estrada abandoned the talks and declared 'all-out war' against the MILF.

In August 2001, despite objections from Misuari and the MNLF, the long-awaited referendum on the proposed expansion of the ARMM was held. Not surprisingly, of the (now) fifteen provinces and nine cities covered by the SZOPAD, only five provinces and one city voted in favour. Shortly after this, elections for the ARMM took place and in the election for governor, Misuari was displaced by a rival candidate supported by the newly incumbent president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Misuari subsequently made good his threat to return to the hills, launching an armed attack on government troops before fleeing to Malaysia, where he was arrested and repatriated.

Meanwhile, in the early 1990s another renegade Muslim group emerged in the western Mindanao-Sulu area. The Abu Sayyaf was founded by a former MNLF supporter, Abdurajak Janjalani, who had received religious training in Libya before returning to the Philippines where he became a charismatic preacher and advocate of a separate Islamic state in the south. He recruited a small but committed following, some of whom had fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan and appear to have had links with radical Muslim groups overseas, including al-Qaida. A confrontation with police in 1998 killed Janjalani but his group survived, primarily carrying on kidnapping and extortion. In 2000 Abu Sayyaf attracted international publicity with a series of kidnappings, which included several Europeans and Americans. Its ransom demands included recognition of an independent Islamic state, the release of international terrorists held overseas, the banning of foreign fishing vessels from the Sulu Sea and protection for Filipinos in Sabah, as well as payments of up to $US1 million per hostage. Some hostages were executed. Others were released following intervention by President Qaddafi.

Initially other Muslim groups, including the MNLF and the MILF, condemned Abu Sayyaf and dissociated themselves from it. Following the destruction of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, however, the situation became more complex. The United States was already providing specialist military advisers to assist with training in counter-terrorism after Abu Sayyaf groups had taken American hostages. As US air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan began, there was a protest rally in the Islamic City of Marawi, during which crowds burned an American flag and shouted support for Osama bin Laden; hundreds of Philippine Muslims reportedly volunteered to go to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban. Increasingly, Philippine Muslims have accused the Macapagal-Arroyo government of joining the United States in a war against Islam.

These developments, along with the arrest of Misuari and the continuing slow progress in talks with the MILF, are a reminder that many Philippine Muslims have little identification with the government in Manila, and retain a strong sense of being part of the international community of Islam.
SOURCE: "Ethnicity in the Philippines," by R. J. May, in Ethnicity in Asia, ed. by Colin Mackerras (RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), pp. 142-149

27 October 2004

Lions Win the Series!

That's the Pacific League's Seibu Lions, of course, who dispatched the Central League's Chunichi Dragons after 7 Games in the Japan Series.
NAGOYA (AP) Takashi Ishii went six strong innings and Alex Cabrera hit a two-run homer Monday as the Seibu Lions defeated the Chunichi Dragons 7-2 in Game 7 of the Japan Series to win their first championship since 1992.

Ishii gave up just three hits over six scoreless innings at Nagoya Dome as the Pacific League champion Lions won two straight on the road after being down three games to two in the best-of-seven series.

"I just tried to build on the momentum from yesterday's win," said Ishii, who finished the Japan Series with a 0.00 ERA. "It's not often that I get to pitch in these situations. I just tried to pitch as I always do."

It was the ninth Japan Series championship for the Lions.
The Pacific League will shrink to five teams after the highly controversial merger of the Orix Blue Wave and Kintetsu Buffalo, but help is on the way. Two Japanese internet companies are bidding to start a new team based in the northeastern city of Sendai, to be named either the Sendai Livedoor Phoenix or the Tohoku [Northeast] Rakuten Golden Eagles.
TOKYO — Internet service provider Livedoor Co, which has applied to own a professional baseball team, said Tuesday its ball club will be called Sendai Livedoor Phoenix. Livedoor conducted Internet voting to decide the name for its baseball team, with Phoenix proving the most popular among a list of 10 candidates.

Rival Internet shopping mall operator Rakuten Inc, which has also applied to own a professional ball club, on Friday named its team the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The name Eagles was second on the list of votes for Livedoor's team. (Kyodo News)
Oh, and congratulations to the Boston Red Sox! What can we expect next year? The Cubs vs. White Sox?

The Peripatetic Remains of a French Explorer

On 5 June 1866, a party of French explorers began heading up the Mekong under the leadership of a distinguished naval veteran of the Crimean campaign, Commander Ernest Doudart de Lagrée (no relation to the fictional Simon Legree). Unfortunately, Lagrée's health got worse and worse the farther they traveled upriver.
By the time the explorers left Kunming, on 9 January 1868, Lagrée's condition had worsened markedly, and after five days travel he was no longer able to remain seated on the horses they had with them and had to be carried on an improvised litter. When on 18 January, the party reached Dongchuan, a minor settlement close to Huize, the district capital of this sparsely settled region, it was apparent that Lagrée was gravely ill. He was suffering from severe dysentery, a fever that was probably malaria, and was again troubled by the chronic problem of his infected throat.
So he stayed behind with a naval doctor, Joubert, while his second in command, Garnier, set out to find the Mekong again.
The end came on 12 March. Believing that Lagrée's body would lie forever in China, Joubert removed his heart and fashioned a lead casket in which to carry it back to France. Conscious of his medical responsibilities, he performed a post-mortem examination and found the second abscess on Lagree's liver that had escaped his surgical intervention. Then, with Lagrée's body placed in a heavy Chinese coffin, Joubert supervised its burial in the grounds of a pagoda outside Dongchuan's walls.... There was now nothing more to do but to wait in the cold, isolated settlement whose only active commerce seemed to be in wooden coffins....

This was both the practical and symbolic end of the expedition…. Determined that Lagrée's body should be laid to rest in French soil in Saigon, [Garnier] ordered the coffin to be exhumed and carried with the party as they continued northwards. Another thirteen days of slow and exhausting travel were necessary before the party reached the Yangtze and the opportunity to continue their travel down to the coast by boat.
They sailed downriver to Shanghai, then down the coast to Saigon, arriving on 29 June 1868.
Lagrée's body was laid to rest with funerary pomp in Saigon, with his friend from the time of his posting in Cambodia, Bishop Miche, officiating at the burial service. But this was not the end of travels for his mortal remains. When, in 1983, the local authorities in Saigon, by this stage officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, declared their intention of building over the French colonial-period cemetery in which Lagrée's remains lay; the French government arranged for the coffin to be transported to France and taken, eventually; to Saint-Vincent-de-Mercuze, to be placed in the family mausoleum.
SOURCE: The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future, by Milton Osborne (Grove Press, 2000), pp. 103-108

26 October 2004

North Korea's Man-made Famine

NKZone's Andrei Lankov's latest article, Eating Away the Truth, in his "Another Korea" series for the Korea Times is about North Korea's long-running famine.
Few people would doubt that the famine of 1996-2000 was the worst disaster in the history of post-war Korea. However, nobody knows for sure how many people lost their lives.

Stalinist states have never been famous for openness, and important statistical data in North Korea has been classified from the early 1960s. Officialdom always insisted that the North is a "socialist paradise" where nothing could possibly go wrong.

In the mid-1990s, the North Korean officialdom grudgingly changed the pattern. It gradually dawned on Pyongyang that complaints are necessary to attract donors....

In 2001, Goodkind and West, two researchers from the International Center of the U.S. Census Bureau published what is, perhaps, the most reliable estimate available. They used both data released by the North Korean government and materials obtained from the refugees. Their initial estimates range from 200,000 to 3,000,000. To narrow the range, they also used the indirect evidence, including some Chinese materials from the era of Mao-made famines, and the WFP studies of the North’s nutritional situation. This indirect data allowed them to conclude that the Great Famine took between 600,000 and 1,000,000 lives.

The 600,000 or 900,000 do not sound as dramatic as the oft-cited "two million." But for a country with a population of some 23 million this is a huge number. Some 3-4 percent of the entire population perished in the disaster. For the U.S., it would be equivalent to wiping out some 10 million people--a far greater proportion than America lost in any war during the twentieth century. And the disaster was entirely man-made; the result of deliberate political decisions.

However, the outside world did not care much. The North Korean famine did not become the major news issue, and outside East Asia only a handful of people really took notice. This seemingly strange indifference reflected the silent but dramatic change in the perception of North Korea that took place in the 1990s. No major player in international politics wanted to attract too much public attention to the mistakes and crimes of the Pyongyang rulers. While people were dying, powers great and small were busy playing their political chess games.

25 October 2004

Kaplan on Musharraf in September 2000

Pakistan has never been well governed. After the military fought its catastrophic war with India in 1971, hopes were placed on the new democratic leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a wealthy landlord from Sind. But Bhutto turned out to be a divisive populist who sowed fear with his security service and surrounded himself with sycophants. His 1977 re-election was marred by fraud; riots broke out and Bhutto declared martial law. Soldiers fired on people in the streets. The military wasn't happy; the army chief of staff, Zia ul-Haq, led a coup.

It was Zia who released the fundamentalist genie: though moderate himself, he allied the military with Sunni radicals in order to win support for his new regime. After his death, in 1988 in an air crash that has yet to be explained, democracy returned with the election of Bhutto's daughter, Benazir, as Prime Minister. Though educated at Harvard, Benazir had no political or administrative experience and had made what by all accounts was a disastrous marriage to Asif Ali Zardari, who later became her Investment Minister. Zardari's large-scale theft of public funds undermined his wife's government. Elections next brought the Punjabi businessman Nawaz Sharif to power. Together with his brother, Shabaz, Sharif ran Pakistan as a family enterprise; the brothers' reputation for taking huge kickbacks and other financial malfeasance outdid even that of Benazir's cabinet. By his second term, reportedly, Sharif was amassing so much money that it was feared that he could perpetually buy off the members of the National Assembly and create a virtual dictatorship. The Sharif and Bhutto governments stand accused of stealing $2 billion in public money, part of some $30 billion smuggled out of the country during democratic rule.

When, in October 1999, General Musharraf toppled Sharif's government in a bloodless coup, the West saw it as a turn for the worse. However, Pakistanis saw the accession of General Musharraf as a rare positive development in a country where almost all trends are bad. The local media are (at least for now) freer under the military than they were under Sharif, whose aides frequently intimidated journalists. Musharraf has initiated no extensive personality cult. He has said more to promote human rights than have the officials of recent democratic governments, working to end such abhorrent tribal and religious practices as "honor killings" and "blasphemy laws" (though radical clerics have forced him to back down on these issues). Mehnaz Akbar, of the private Asia Foundation, in Islamabad, says, "This is the most liberal time ever in Pakistan." Musharraf, an admirer of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, is a like-minded modernizer. He shakes hands with women in full public view, and one of the first pictures taken of him after he assumed power shows him holding his two poodles, even though dogs are considered unclean by traditional Muslims. Most important, as one Pakistani journalist told me, "Musharraf speaks with conviction and people believe him, whereas Benazir, though an intellectual, was never believed."

President Bill Clinton's visit to Pakistan in March was not a public-relations success. Clinton, who was opposed to the military takeover, refused to shake hands with Musharraf for the television cameras. A day later Pakistanis saw Clinton, on television in Geneva, clasping the hands of the Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad--whose regime, they knew, was far more repressive than that of any Pakistani military ruler since the founding of their state.

Musharraf is characterized in the West as a dictator who supports fundamentalist terrorists in Afghanistan and Kashmir and who is not moving fast enough to restore democracy. The truth is somewhat different. Musharraf, one of the last British-style aristocratic officers in the Pakistani army, is a man in the middle. The West demands that he stop supporting Islamic militants; his fellow generals, who carried out the coup in his name, are Islamic hardliners, capable of staging another coup if Musharraf puts too much distance between himself and the Taliban and the Muslim fighters in Kashmir. Moreover, some analysts in Islamabad worry that Musharraf might be moving too fast on too many fronts in his drive to reform Pakistan. In addition to promoting human rights, a free press, and local elections that threaten tribal mafias, he has challenged the smugglers throughout Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier. As the gun battle I saw in Quetta demonstrated, Musharraf has struck hard against various ethnic nationalists and criminal groups. Unlike previous anticorruption drives in Pakistan's history, Musharraf's has indiscriminately targeted officials from all political parties and ethnic groups. And Musharraf has not relied on fundamentalist organizations like the Maududi-influenced Jama'at-I-Islami ("Islamic Society") for support, as Zia did. He has in fact alienated many vested interests, who have the will and the means to fight back--which is why, despite his liberal instincts, Musharraf may yet declare martial law.

Even if Musharraf's reformist plans succeed, one crucial element will remain: the military itself, which with its own factories, agribusinesses, road-construction firms, schools, hotels, and so on, constitutes a parallel state. No less than the civilian sector, the military is mired in corruption, and yet it is exempt from investigations by the courts. Tanvir Ahmad Khan, a former Foreign Secretary, told me that Pakistan's only hope may be "a genuine hybrid system in which the army accepts responsibility for poverty and illiteracy in return for limited political power." A successful hybrid system, he went on, would "democratize the army." Rifaat Hussain, who chairs the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies at Quaid-Azam University in Islamabad, agrees: "I will not rule out a formal constitution on the Turkish model in order to create a national-security council and give the army constitutional privileges. We must find a way to legally stabilize civil-military relations."
SOURCE: Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Robert D. Kaplan (Vintage, 1990, 2000, 2001), pp. 249-252

"Soldiers of God is a thoughtful, insightful, highly readable book. Battlefield smart, rock solid." --Dan Rather

24 October 2004

China Crocs Crave Calories, Could Use Cialis

The New York Times reports on the tribulations of China's Guangzhou Crocopark.
China's Forestry Department eliminated steep duties on imported breeder crocodiles nearly a decade ago. The hope was that low wages, highly skilled farmers and well-developed road and port networks would turn China into a highly competitive producer of crocodile meat, hides, shoes, purses and other goods.

But impotence, obesity, runny noses and finicky palates among the crocodiles have made this dream difficult to realize. Imported by the tens of thousands from tropical Thailand, the crocodiles have had trouble adapting to slightly cooler southeastern China and have been slow to breed, prone to infections and reluctant to eat anything but expensive chicken breasts.

The biggest problem has been that male crocodiles eat more in the late autumn and early winter here than they do in Thailand. They become so plump that they show little interest in sex during the spring mating season, said Li Mingjian, the deputy general manager of Crocopark Guangzhou here, now one of the world's largest crocodile farms, with 60,000 to 70,000 animals.

"They don't chase the females," he said. "They're very fat guys. They just eat, eat, eat." ...

The next problem did not become apparent for more than a year. Wily Thai crocodile merchants had offered the Chinese buyers a discount if they would accept a mixture of male and female crocodiles of all ages, and warned that it was difficult to identify the genders of young crocodiles.

As the crocodiles grew, it became apparent that the park had far more combat-prone males than it needed, especially as only one male is needed to breed three females.

To make matters worse, many of the larger females proved to be surprisingly old and no longer fertile.

The Thai merchants "would say, 'This lady laid 40 eggs last year,' and the next year she would lay none," Mr. Li recalled. "They were grandmothers."

Maggots Regain Medical Respect

MerckSource carries an AP report on reviving the use of maggots to disinfect open sores.
TOKYO - Dr. Hideya Mitsui's patients were in trouble - diabetes-triggered lesions on their feet weren't responding to antibiotics, and amputation was the next step.

So Mitsui turned to an unsightly remedy he says has never used before in Japan: maggots.

The maggots, once used by Australian Aborigines and Native Americans in the days before antibiotics, have been credited with curing three of the five cases Mitsui was treating. Two others are still being treated.

"This old therapy is great," said Mitsui, a heart surgeon at Okayama University Hospital in western Japan. He started the treatment in March.

Under the therapy, maggot larva are placed in the wound, where they dissolve dead infected tissue and secrete a substance that disinfects the lesion.

Mitsui leaves the larva in the lesion for a week, then replaces them with fresh maggots. The process is repeated about three times over two weeks.

Maggot therapy was used in the United States but was largely discontinued with the growing popularity of antibiotics in the 1940s. Mitsui said the therapy is still used in Britain.

23 October 2004

The Fall of Saigon, 1861

Spurred on by the combined enthusiasm of the merchants of Bordeaux, the Catholic missionary lobby, and a navy thirsting for colonial glory; Napoleon III had ordered the invasion of Vietnam in 1857. The initial attack directed against the port of Tourane (Danang) on the central coast of Vietnam failed to do more than leave the expeditionary force exposed to harassment by the enemy and to the depredations of tropical disease. By 1859 the French command had moved its forces to southern Vietnam and besieged Saigon, the one major city in the south of the country and a commercial centre offering much greater potential rewards than Tourane.

The Western world was well acquainted with Saigon before the French forces invested the city in 1859. French mercenary adventurers who had helped the first Nguyen emperor to gain the Vietnamese throne and control of the entire country at the end of the eighteenth century had provided accounts of the city. But among the accounts circulating in Europe none provided a better picture of the city than that written by John White of Marblehead, Massachusetts, a lieutenant in the United States Navy. Published in both Boston and London, White's A Voyage to Cochin China drew on a sojourn of three months in Saigon, in late 1819 and early 1820, and contains a mass of information about the city, its buildings and inhabitants in the one hundred and fifty pages he devotes to the subject. Some of his history is astray; and he notably failed to recognise that the Imperial Viceroy he encountered in Saigon, Le Van Duyet, was a eunuch, clearly mistaking the females he encountered in the Viceroy's palace as his 'wives and concubines'. But, overall, White gives a vivid and accurate picture of a lively city, one that still sheltered under a massive citadel which the Emperor Minh Manh later destroyed in 1835. Despite the admiration White had for Saigon's buildings, this did not transfer to the inhabitants. 'It would be tedious to the reader,' he wrote, 'and painful to myself, to recapitulate the constant villany and turpitude which we experienced from these people during our residence in the country.'

Once before Saigon, the French forces again encountered strong Vietnamese resistance and could do little more than dig in for a long siege. And, once again, the help from Vietnamese Christians promised by French missionaries failed to materialise. Not until reinforcements arrived in late 1860 was Vietnamese resistance finally overcome in a decisive battle in February 1861 and Saigon seized. The following year a treaty was concluded with the court at Hue that ratified French control of Saigon and of three surrounding provinces. The French now ruled the area of southern Vietnam that they called Cochinchina.
SOURCE: The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future, by Milton Osborne (Grove Press, 2000), pp. 73-74

The Ruins of Vientiane, 1867

In June 1866, a French expedition began exploring the Mekong, heading upriver from Saigon.
[T]he explorers were increasingly anxious to reach the once important city of Vientiane. They knew it had been sacked in the 1820s, but they thought it just possible that there might be some some trace of the rich market described by van Wuysthoff more than two hundred years earlier. Vientiane, after all, was set in unknown territory; outside the area explored by Mouhot in his travels in Laos. Their hopes were not very high, not least because they had already found how hollow were the claims made about the supposed riches of Laos by two of the most erudite geographers in France, Cortambert and de Rosny. Writing in 1862, these pillars of the Ethnographic Society had suggested that Laos might hide riches beneath its soil that could make it another California. At this stage the explorers hoped for rather less, yet even for their more modest commercial hopes the sight of an almost deserted river that greeted them as they drew nearer to Vientiane was depressing. And when they reached the site of the formerly important city; on 2 April 1867, any remaining expectations of its providing commercial opportunities vanished.

It was immediately clear how thorough had been the destruction wrought by the Thai king in 1828. Yet the vestiges that remained of the city's former greatness impressed the explorers. The royal pagoda, Wat Pha Kaew, still preserved its basic form, with delicately carved wooden panels, fading gold leaf on the pillars supporting the roof and decorative chips of glass that glistened in the sun like a gigantic setting of diamond brilliants. Wat Si Saket was virtually untouched by time or the advancing forest, having been the one temple spared by the Thai invaders, and That Luang, the most famous monument in Vientiane, had only recently been restored when the explorers saw it. They had some sense of this great stupa's importance, but they could scarcely know how deeply it was held in reverence by the population of the Lao principalities. Nor, of course, could they have predicted that That Luang was to become in the twentieth century a potent symbol for Lao identity; So much so that when Laos was caught up in the Vietnam War the communist-led Pathet Lao forces used the monument as one of the decorative motifs on their banknotes, aligning the traditional past alongside such decidedly modern scenes as delicately engraved soldiers shooting down American aircraft over the war-torn Plain of Jars.
SOURCE: The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future, by Milton Osborne (Grove Press, 2000), pp. 92-93

21 October 2004

I Think, Therefore I'm an Old Polecat

Virginia Postrel links to a University of Rochester study on ferret brain activity. (What's the difference between a ferret and a polecat? "Taxonomically speaking -- there is no difference. Both are currently classified as Mustela putorius.")
There's an old myth that we only use 10 percent of our brains, but researchers at the University of Rochester have found in reality that roughly 80 percent of our cognitive power may be cranking away on tasks completely unknown to us. Curiously, this clandestine activity does not exist in the youngest brains, leading scientists to believe that the mysterious goings-on that absorb the majority of our minds are dedicated to subconsciously reprocessing our initial thoughts and experiences. The research, which has possible profound implications for our very basis of understanding reality, appears in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

"We found neural activity that frankly surprised us," says Michael Weliky, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. "Adult ferrets had neural patterns in their visual cortex that correlated very well with images they viewed, but that correlation didn't exist at all in very young ferrets, suggesting the very basis of comprehending vision may be a very different task for young brains versus old brains."

A second surprise was in store for Weliky. Placing the ferrets in a darkened room revealed that older ferrets' brains were still humming along at 80 percent as if they were processing visual information. Since this activity was absent in the youngsters, Weliky and his colleagues were left to wonder: What is the visual cortex so busy processing when there's no image to process?

Initially, Weliky's research was aimed at studying whether visual processing bore any resemblance to the way real-world images appear. This finding may help lead to a better understanding of how neurons decode our world and how our perception of reality is shaped.

New Hopes for a Malaria Vaccine

Virginia Postrel notes a possible breakthrough in developing a malaria vaccine, thanks in part to funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She quotes the Washington Post:
An experimental vaccine can slash the risk that children will get malaria, apparently offering the first effective way to inoculate youngsters against one of the world's biggest, most intractable killers, researchers reported yesterday.

An eagerly awaited study involving 2,022 children in Mozambique, in east Africa, found the vaccine cut by one-third the likelihood of getting malaria and reduced by more than half the risk of developing serious, life-threatening cases of the disease....

The malaria parasite infects about 300 million people each year and kills between 1 million and 3 million, mostly children -- making it the most common infectious disease and among the top three killers. Although malaria has been largely eliminated from the United States and Europe, it remains a major public health scourge in the developing world. In Africa, malaria is the No. 1 killer of children younger than 5, claiming the life of one child every 30 seconds by some estimates....

"Malaria has had a sense of hopelessness and intractability about it," said Melinda Moree, director of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative, which is promoting development of malaria vaccines with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "These results bring hope to us all that a malaria vaccine might at last be within our grasp."

19 October 2004

Hamid Karzai at Age 30

My own fascination with Kandahar began with the name itself. According to Peter Levi, Kandahar is probably the only Greek place name to have survived in Afghanistan, stemming from the Arabic form of Alexander's name, Iskander. In 330 B.C., a year after his decisive victory over the Persian forces of Darius at Gaugamela, east of modern-day Mosul in Iraq, Alexander the Great led his army of thirty thousand men through what is now Kandahar. He left his elephants in the mud swamps west of the present-day city, then crossed the snowy summits of the Hindu Kush on foot.

I visited Kandahar briefly in November 1973, passing through by bus on my way from Herat to Kabul. I stopped for a night at a cheap hotel by the bus station near the city's Herat Gate. The darkness and my own discomfort--I was slightly ill and horribly cold in the unheated hotel room--gave the evening a surreal quality. All I could recall later was a wind-blown square filled with bearded men in high black turbans smoking a water pipe. I sometimes wondered whether that square in my memory survived the years of bombing.

More recently, I came to know Hamid Karzai, a thirty-year-old Kandahar native and spokesman for Mojadidi's Afghan National Liberation Front. Hamid was the son of Abdulahad Karzai, the khan (headman) of the Popalzai tribe, the branch of the Abdalis that produced Ahmad Shah Durrani. With Abdul Haq, Hamid Karzai represented for me all that was larger than life in the Afghan character. He was tall and clean-shaven, with a long nose and big black eyes. His thin bald head gave him the look of an eagle. Wearing a sparkling white shalwar kameez, he affected the dignity, courtly manners, and high breeding for which the Popalzai are known throughout Afghanistan. Hamid, unlike the crowd at NIFA [= National Islamic Front of Afghanistan], whose royalist sentiments and moderate politics he shared, was not a "Gucci muj[ahidin]." When he did wear Western dress, he preferred conservative blazers and slacks or a leather jacket. He moved between the Occidental and Oriental worlds without pretension or falsity. I remember him in his Peshawar villa, sitting on a carpet in a shalwar kameez, speaking Pukhtu [sic] with his turbaned Kandahari kinsmen, a copy of George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss nearby. Hamid was one of six sons, but the only one who had not gone into exile in Europe or North America and who aspired to succeed his father as head of the Popalzai.

Throughout his childhood, Hamid had resented the restrictions placed on him as the son of one of Afghanistan's most important men. He longed to escape Kandahar and the stifling routine of tribal ceremonies. He wanted to serve his country, but only as a diplomat living abroad in the West. His first shock and humiliation came as a student in India in 1979, when officials at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi informed him that the Taraki regime had imprisoned his father. A few months later, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. "I suddenly realized how spoiled I was," Hamid told me. "I realized that I had been consciously rejecting all the things that were really important and now were lost."

A few months later, in 1980, Hamid visited a refugee camp near Quetta. As soon as he entered the camp, hundreds of Popalzai tribesmen gathered around him, smiling. "They thought that just because I was the khan's son, I had the power to help them. I felt ashamed, because I knew I was just a naive student who was spending his college years thinking only of himself and his ambition. I was not what they thought I was. My goal from that moment on was to become the man that those refugees thought I was. To become a man like my father."

The man that Hamid Karzai became was one who never tired of talking about the rich history of his tribe and the region of Kandahar. The story of the founding of the Popalzai--first told to me by Hamid--sounds like one of the archetypal tales in the Book of Genesis.

Abdal, the patriarch of the Abdalis (later the Durranis), died at the age of 105 and was succeeded by Rajar, who in turn passed over his oldest son and picked the younger but smarter Zirak to be headman. Zirak ruled for many years and had four sons. One day, near Kandahar, the family was breaking camp. By then Zirak was over 100 and too old even to move, let alone saddle his horse. He asked his oldest son, Barak, for help. Barak laughed and made fun of his father. The second son, Alik, did the same. The third son, Musa, told his father to get on a horse and follow him. When Zirak was not able, Musa kicked him and told him he must remain behind until the beasts devoured him. Popal, the youngest son, offered to carry his father on his back. Old Zirak never forgot the incident, and when he died at the age of 120, he invested Popal as head of the clan. Thus it was that Popal founded his own branch of the Abdali tribe.

The mythic, elemental quality of the story is enhanced by the fact that, though the origin of the Popalzai is relatively recent--the late fifteenth century--nobody can accurately date when the events took place. It is such stories that, stylistically at least, lend credence to the notion that the Pathans are descendants of the ancient Hebrews. True or not, one could at least say that the desert surrounding Kandahar was to the Pathans what the wilderness of Sinai was to the Hebrews: the seed-ground where an assemblage of tribes grew into a nation. To Hamid Karzai, Kandahar was "the home of our original Afghan culture, the genuine Afghanistan."
SOURCE: Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Robert D. Kaplan (Vintage, 1990, 2000, 2001), pp. 194-197

"Soldiers of God is a thoughtful, insightful, highly readable book. Battlefield smart, rock solid." --Dan Rather

The "War Reporting" Misnomer

In a war that was in many ways the most dangerous ever for a reporter to cover, Kandahar was the most dangerous theater of the war. Its desert land was flat and cluttered with land mines. When [Soviet] MI-24 helicopter gunships swept in low after their prey, you could run but you couldn't hide. Because you didn't have to walk, the Kandahar area was physically less demanding than everywhere else in the country. But never in the mountainous north did a reporter feel as scared and vulnerable as when jammed inside a Toyota Land Cruiser, slowed down by deep pockets of sand, with Soviet helicopters in the sky. The Kandahari guerrillas, more than the other mujahidin, had a reputation for reckless bravado. When mines and helicopters were reported ahead, they slammed on the accelerator.

Kandahar really got to me; it wiped out what was left of my so-called objectivity. Being there made me think that the western media really were a bunch of pampered, navel-gazing yuppies, too busy reporting illegal detentions and individual killings in South Korea and the West Bank--before dashing back to their luxury hotels in Seoul and Jerusalem--to bother about the nuclearlike wasting of an entire urban center by the Soviet military. The throngs of reporters in places like Israel, South Korea, and South Africa, and the absence of them in Kandahar, or even in the Pakistan border area that abuts it, made me think that "war reporting" was fast becoming a misnomer.

Blazers were replacing flak jackets. The warfare most often videotaped and written about was urban violence in societies that have attained a level of development sufficient to allow large groups of journalists to operate comfortably. The worldwide profusion of satellite stations, laptop computers, computer modems, and luxury hotels with digital phone and telex systems was narrowing the media's horizons rather than widening them. If there wasn't a satellite station nearby, or if the phones didn't work, or if the electricity wasn't dependable, you just reported less or nothing at all about the place. Although the South Africans, for example, merely curtailed your movements, the Soviets tried to hunt you down and kill you. So you covered South Africa while at the same time denouncing its government for the restrictions it placed on your work. But you didn't fool around with the Soviets, because they were serious about keeping reporters out. I couldn't think about Kandahar; I could only rant and rage about it.
SOURCE: Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Robert D. Kaplan (Vintage, 1990, 2000, 2001), pp. 184-185

"Soldiers of God is a thoughtful, insightful, highly readable book. Battlefield smart, rock solid." --Dan Rather

18 October 2004

English Accent Recordings

The British Library has deposited online a selection of recordings of English Accents and Dialects collected during the 1950s. Turn up your speaker volume and try out this one, by Miss Dibnah, b. 1890, from Welwick, Yorkshire, recorded in 1955, about 'how to make white bread, brown bread and spice bread'. Here are the grammar notes for this one.

adjective as adverb (I kneaded it real well; if you don't knead it real well; I kneads it real well; then it's real brown)

zero definite article (if you don’t put it in front of _ fire; I puts it in front of _ fire again; I puts it into _ oven; I leaves it in _ oven; I pokes _ fire up; I shoves _ damper in; put it into _ oven)

past participle gotten (when it had gotten risen; we'd gotten egg in)

verbal inflection with I (I takes; I kneads; I puts; I leaves; I pokes; I shoves; (I) stands it); verbal inflection with plural noun (some folks puts whole brown flour in)

non-standard plural marker (if they are big loafs; today they were big loafs)

first person singular has (then I has a look at it)

second person be + negative particle (if you ain't)

zero for + time phrase (I leaves it _ another twenty minutes; it has to bake _ two hours)

use of thou (thou means spice bread)

word order with infinitive phrase (you have it to weigh = you have to weigh it)

past participle baken (when you get that baken)

note use and phonetic quality of utterance initial discourse marker why [wa:I]
via Foreign Dispatches

Japanese Diplomats vs. Soldiers in China, 1895-38

In its early years, the Japanese Foreign Ministry [Gaimusho] occupied a premiere position among Japan's new government institutions, in part because it was the chief agency responsible for the relations with the West that were so central to both the domestic and foreign goals of the Meiji state. The institution and its mainstream bureaucrats came to be Western-oriented, founding the tradition of orthodox Kasumigaseki ['Foggy Gate'] diplomacy, which called for Japan's cooperation with the leading Western powers: the United States and Great Britain. This foreign policy tradition remained closely identified with the Foreign Ministry both domestically and internationally, even when Axis-oriented diplomats dominated the ministry during Japan's official defiance of Anglo-American cooperation from 1931 to the end of the Pacific War. Japanese leaders imbued with a belief in an Anglo-American-centered world order reemerged during the Pacific War first to prepare for and then to lead Japan in the new American-centered cooperation that would be the framework of the postwar period. Many postwar leaders were former Foreign Ministry officials.

Such continuity in Japanese worldviews has led Akira Iriye to conclude that the war and Japan's period of defiance against the "existing order" were aberrations. The spirit of Anglo-American cooperation was thus the stable element that brought about the peaceful postwar order and Japan's compliance within the framework of the Japanese-American security system. Although this view is valuable for an understanding of the evolution of Japan's postwar stability, it gives little indication of the reasons for the instability of prewar Japanese institutions, international alliances, and even the career patterns of the Anglo-American-oriented bureaucrats and statesmen.

As an institution, the early Gaimusho ['Foreign Ministry'], with its view toward the West, was slow to focus on the importance of China policy and China expertise. This is not to say that within its ranks China specialists did not develop but that their advice and concerns had only indirect influence on senior bureaucrats, who were more concerned with Japan's friendly relations with the West. China service diplomats were also posted primarily to consular roles in China, where their perceptions of international relations were profoundly shaped by the international communities they administered and their close appreciation of the changing Chinese political scene.

As time went by, yet another divergent opinion group opposing enthusiastic pro-Western policy began to coalesce. At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, their early views and leadership surfaced and worked to create a new internal division, the Board of Information, that loosely addressed group members' nationalistic views on foreign policy during the otherwise liberal 1920s. In the 1930s, this opinion group emerged fully formed as the group of Gaimusho reform bureaucrats who were quick to attack their pro-Anglo-American seniors, particularly for their weakness (not just "softness," but lack of expertise) in China affairs. Thus, the opposition to Anglo-American-oriented or Kasumigaseki diplomacy, if not mainstream until after 1930, nevertheless had a long history and a serious level of support before then.

The fate of China service diplomats over the course of the struggles between these two groups revealed the complexity of prewar politics and diplomacy.... For example, both groups worked hard to bring about tariff reforms for China in the mid-1920s, and both were inclined to early Japanese recognition of the new Nationalist regime under Jiang Jieshi [= Chiang Kai-shek]. However, during the Manchurian Incident, China specialists in the field ... were keenly disappointed in the lack of strong opposition in their Tokyo superiors ... to the army's takeover.

Seen from their eyes, Kasumigaseki diplomacy failed on two counts. First, it failed to recognize the crucial importance of China's sovereignty to maintaining the status quo and Japan's position in the framework of world affairs. Second, it failed to take a stand against the new institutional adjustments in Japanese administration in China, which set the pace and tone for the continuing process of dismantling Gaimusho jurisdiction in China altogether. Kasumigaseki diplomacy preferred to ignore the contradictions inherent in the Japanese takeover of Manchuria, as did the Western Great Powers when they failed to take significant actions. For the Gaimusho, however, the consequences in terms of national prestige and real jurisdictional powers were far more immediate than for the Great Powers.

In the 1930s, the reform bureaucrats, in seeking to "renovate" their ministry and effect more positive policy in the non-Western world, bestowed more recognition and rank on China service diplomats. In particular, men with long experience in China came to lead the ministry's Bureau of Asiatic Affairs, which played a crucial role in day-to-day decision-making during periods of conflict in China. Particularly in the Gaimusho, Anglo-American-oriented leaders were deprived of power and influence, if not office, during the 1930s. Resistance to Japanese expansionism came, not from them, but from China service men. Kasumigaseki diplomats could do little else but watch and tacitly support the efforts of China diplomats ... who fought to prevent further military action in China and further erosion of Gaimusho authority there. Their efforts failed; both war with China and the replacement of Gaimusho jurisdiction with that of new agencies continued throughout the height of the Pacific War.

This loss of control did not happen overnight. It began with challenges to Gaimusho authority following the Russo-Japanese War, continued throughout the 1910s, and was renewed with great force in the 1930s. The loss by Kasumigaseki diplomats of their roles in decisions about the administration of China affairs stemmed in part from their own lack of concentration on or attention to this significant sphere of their institution's activities. Mid-ranking bureaucrats, such as the China service men, were vocal in their criticisms during such impasses as the Manchurian Incident and the aftermath of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, but their superiors were not quick to take heed.

The prewar period, then, witnessed a complex shifting of dominance among different policy advocates and among different institutions and branches of government. The Gaimusho's rise and fall may be compared, for example, to the fluctuating power of the military forces or the rise and fall of party politics. As is often suggested, closer examination of interministry rivalry and shifting power balances across the individual bureaucracies might also reveal much more about the processes and the generally unstable patterns of the Japanese government. To label the 1930s and the war as "aberrant" ignores the systemic instability that seems to have plagued Japan from late Meiji times until the postwar period. The Anglo-American-oriented tradition in diplomacy was only one critical force among many influencing the processes of politics and foreign affairs in the prewar period.

Anglo-American-oriented bureaucrats and statesmen did return to prominence to mastermind Japan's new cooperation in an American postwar order. Men such as postwar Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru did rely on the prewar Kasumigaseki tradition to bolster their pro-Anglo-American credentials and consolidate power in a time of American intervention in Japanese leadership processes. But circumstances had changed again, much to their advantage and not for indigenous reasons. Yoshida as postwar prime minister did exhibit some institutional loyalties to the Gaimusho. As Chalmers Johnson has described, Yoshida firmly opposed expansion of the power of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry over that of the Foreign Ministry, which still nominally controlled trade. His losing battle to maintain normal diplomatic relations with China in the face of American opposition must have been rooted, in part, in his 1920s experience as a China consul and in his belief, not directly derived from Kasumigaseki diplomacy, in the importance of the Sino-Japanese relationship.

Other orthodox Anglo-American-oriented diplomats who emerged in the postwar period as leaders included ... Shigemitsu Mamoru. Shigemitsu, in a curious twist of fate, first received a sentence of seven years' imprisonment as a Class A defendant in the Tokyo war crimes tribunal, only to be released early in 1950 to enter a life of politics, culminating in his return to the foreign ministership in the Hatoyama cabinets. Aside from Kasumigaseki credentials, these men all had their history of high rank and powerful connections to parlay into new prominence.

China service diplomats had neither of these qualifications. Their record of China service had never given them high position and connections, and during the 1931-1945 period they had remained active Foreign Ministry officials. Many, in fact, had served out the war in Asian posts and were liable to suspicion for their participation in Japanese wartime administrations.... China service men, however, played significant roles as witnesses in the Tokyo war crimes tribunal and helped fashion the prosecution's interpretation that the Japanese military had primary responsibility for Japan's expansionist policies.... They had, after all, been eyewitnesses to the abuses of the army in the field in China during the time of the Manchurian Incident and later. Their experiences reconstructing events at the war crimes trial may have motivated some ... to immediately write memoirs reflecting this experience. Others ... either recorded their experiences prior to the end of the war or later based them in good part on prewar and wartime diaries. In any event, a great many of them wrote to clarify the historical record about Japan's actions in China, and these memoirs have proved invaluable as sources over the years. Aside from writing, however, China service diplomats seem to have ended their lives quietly in private, not public, capacities.

Finally, the Gaimusho never recovered its pre-1930 status among Japanese governmental agencies. Long after the war, of course, as a former aggressor, Japan had only a limited capacity to play a part in international affairs, and the Gaimusho had rather few posts abroad to fill. When Japan's international relations opened up again, many of its international agencies and delegations were also economic in nature, promoting the well-known Japanese approach of "economic diplomacy" and giving authority to the more economic ministries. The truth, however, is that diplomatic bureaucracies worldwide have declined in proportion to the speed and ease of modern communications and travel. Today, summit meetings and hotline telephone communications put heads of government in constant touch. Consulates everywhere today are staffed by members of widely varying ministries from home who have their own direct links to host and home country.

The China consuls served in positions defined by a unique, unstable, and temporary system of prewar unequal treaties. Their ministry never quite took stock of the implications of the privileges of this office, nor did it fully recognize the invaluable experience of these diplomats. On both counts, the Japanese Foreign Ministry failed to respond, or when it did, response was too slow and too late. As other agencies of the Japanese government usurped the consular role in China, they also radically altered the nature of the treaty port consul to fit the coming time of war.
SOURCE: Japan's Imperial Diplomacy: Consuls, Treaty Ports, and War in China, 1895-1938, by Barbara J. Brooks, Studies of the East Asian Institute, Columbia U. (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2000), pp. 208-213 (Read full H-NET Review.)

16 October 2004

Take Anything But My Ox!

NEAR SUNDOWN, interpreter Nakahashi was wandering around a village looking for a horse some artillerymen had asked him to requisition. There were no more than five or six hundred houses in the village and, it became clear after twenty minutes of walking, not a single horse. The horse that had been pulling the cannon had fallen into a creek and broken its leg, creating a difficulty for tomorrow's advance. The artillerymen gave up on finding a horse and instead suggested getting an ox.

"If it's an ox you want, I see no problem. A water buffalo! You don't mind, do you? Off the horse and onto the buffalo!" said Nakahashi, laughing. Still only nineteen, he had volunteered to be an interpreter as soon as the war had started but was rejected as too young. He quickly filed a petition and was allowed to accompany the army. Although high-spirited, he did not yet seem physically strong.

A water buffalo stood tethered in a shed by a farmhouse at the edge of the village. Deciding to take it and go, the interpreter looked in at the rear of the house. A wrinkled old woman was silently bending in front of the oven, kindling the fire.

"Hello, granny," called Nakahashi from the doorway. "We're Japanese soldiers and we need your ox. Terribly sorry, but we'll just take it and go."

The old woman shrieked in violent opposition. "Don't talk rubbish!" she screamed. "We finally bought that ox just last month, and how are we to farm without it?!" Furiously waving her arms, she rushed out of the earth-floored house only to see that three soldiers had already pulled the ox out of the stable and were discussing its uncertain merits, concluding it might be of use. In a breathtaking display of hysterical rage, the crone shoved the man holding the rein and sent him staggering, then planted herself in front of the ox and screeched at the top of her voice.

Hesitant to intervene, the soldiers looked on with wry smiles at the vehement exchange between Nakahashi and the old woman.

Suddenly interpreter Nakahashi erupted with peals of laughter.

"This granny is outrageous! The ox is out of the question, she says. She's got two sons and she doesn't mind if we take them and put them to work, but not the ox!"

Standing around the placid water buffalo and the woman, whose temples throbbed with indignation, the soldiers burst into loud laughter.

"Maybe we should get her sons to crawl on all fours and haul the cannon!"

But by now the sun had begun to set. The area was still dangerous after dark. The men resolved to take the animal.

"Move!" A soldier thrust the old woman aside and took hold of the rein. "Keep still or you're dead!"

Wailing and screaming, spittle flying, the woman resisted all the more tenaciously. "The bitch!" Clicking his tongue, the interpreter grabbed her from behind by the nape and knocked her down with all his might. The woman tumbled backward and collapsed into a rice field by the side of the road. A shower of mud washed over the soldiers.

Nakahashi laughed and started to walk off. "You may keep your life but not the ox. We'll send him back to you when the war is over."

The ox began to plod along the crumbling, dusty road. The soldiers felt elated. This continent teemed with boundless riches; one merely had to take them. A vista was opening up before them in which the inhabitants' rights of ownership and private property were like wild fruits for the soldiers to pick as they chose.

The water buffalo exacted its revenge, however. At departure time the next morning when all preparations had been completed and the order to start was being awaited, the ox lumbered off straight into a rice paddy, dragging the gun carriage with it. Forced to heave the cannon out by themselves, the soldiers became coated with muck from head to foot.
SOURCE: Soldiers Alive [Ikite iru heitai, 1938], by Ishikawa Tatsuzo, translated by Zeljko Cipris (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2003), pp. 78-80

15 October 2004

The King is Retired! Long Live the King!

Following a very old Japanese custom, King Sihanouk of Cambodia has retired in favor of his son, King Sihamoni.
He faces an enormous challenge in acclimatising to the murky world of Cambodian politics. Under Sihanouk, the palace has reined in corrupt politicians only because of the near god-like respect he enjoys.

He could in particular face a tough time with the premier, whom critics say would prefer to rule a republic.

"He does not have any political experience, and even if he must be an apolitical king, one should have some minimum of experience. I hope he appoints good advisors," said Julio Jeldres, Sihanouk's official biographer.

However, he noted, Sihamoni has one major asset.

"This is that Sihanouk will be there, and as such, he'll be able to ask him his opinion on this or that question," Jeldres said.
via Santepheap - The Cambodia Weblog

Luang Prabang, a Laotian Oxford

Nth Position offers an engaging travelogue entry. Here's just one paragraph.
Luang Prabang is a sort of Indochinese Oxford, smaller and prettier and classier than the capital. It has the culture. It preserves the identity. It thinks well of itself. It has specialities. It remains a slightly twee but notable relic of Asie Française, which is nothing like the British India I'm used to, all that sweat, duty, and cell-block architecture. The French relished princely Luang Prabang, so poised within its confluence of rivers, so elegant, with its pagoda roofs sweeping down like golden wings. Typically they found Buddhism the religion smug and institutional but loved what it looked like, that ascetic Buddhist aesthetic. They built villas and cafes to admire this gorgeous East from; and today the monks, ever graceful in sunset orange, still twirl their parasols along the promenade by those cafes, where French tourists sit all afternoon in wicker chairs amidst the retro décor, eating tuna-and-watercress baguettes and drinking Beer Lao from imported tumblers. For one long lunchtime moment it's Indochine as it never was but should have been.
via Arts & Letters Daily

The Third Reason for Surprise on September 11th

The Hart-Rudman report [commissioned by U.S. President Clinton in 1997 and completed in March 2001] established the nation's vulnerability, but even it could not say when, how, or from where that vulnerability might be tested. Its conclusions, however striking, therefore fell within the realm of the hypothetical. Press coverage was minimal, and the response of the newly installed Bush administration--like that of the outgoing Clinton administration--to the commission's preliminary findings was little more than polite thanks. That the foundations of national security were about to suffer a seismic jolt was still by no means clear.

There was yet a third reason for the surprise, though, which went beyond the concerns of Hart-Rudman: it had to do with a widespread sense in the academic and policy communities during the 1990s that the international system had become so benign that the United States no longer faced serious security threats of any kind. Paradoxically, the success of American grand strategy during the Cold War encouraged this view.

The record was indeed impressive. The United States had used military occupations to transform Germany and Japan into thriving capitalist democracies, and the Marshall Plan had secured similar results elsewhere in Europe. Over the next four decades democracy and capitalism spread much more widely, even tentatively into the Soviet Union itself. Meanwhile the world's other great communist state, China, was pulling off a dialectical transformation that neither Marx nor Mao could ever have imagined, becoming a hotbed of capitalism, if not yet of democracy. By the time the Cold War ended, no other models for organizing human society seemed viable: Americans were remaking the world, or so it appeared, to resemble themselves. And the world, it also seemed, was not resisting.

Certain theorists concluded from this that the movement toward democracy and capitalism was irreversible, and that "history" therefore was coming to an end. It might have been an innocuous enough argument, given the care social scientists had taken in recent years to ensure that their theories bore little connection to reality; but this particular theory--associated most closely with the political scientist Francis Fukuyama--did wind up shaping the course of events. The Clinton administration drew from it the idea that if progress toward political self-determination and economic integration was assured, then the United States need only, as national security adviser Anthony Lake put it, "engage" with the rest of the world in order to "enlarge" those processes. The hegemony by consent the United States had won during the Cold War would simply become the post-Cold War international system. President Clinton himself saw little need for a grand strategy under these circumstances. Neither Roosevelt nor Truman had had one, he told a top adviser early in 1994: "they just made it up as they went along."

There were several problems with this position, quite apart from the chief executive's shaky knowledge of World War II and early Cold War strategy. It encouraged a tendency to view history in linear terms, and to ignore the feedback effects that can cause successes to breed failures by inducing complacency--just as failures can breed successes by shattering complacency. It sought coherence through alignment with vague processes rather than through the specification of clear objectives. It brought the Clinton team closer to the examples of Harding and Coolidge than to those of Roosevelt and Truman, for those presidents of the 1920s had also allowed an illusion of safety to produce a laissez-faire foreign and national security policy. Finally, Clinton and his advisers assumed the continued primacy of states within the international system. If you could make most of them democratic, if you could bind them together by removing restrictions on trade and investment as well as on the movement of people and ideas, then the causes of violence and the insecurity it breeds would drop away. The argument was well intentioned but shallow.

For what if the power of states themselves was diminishing? What if the very remedies the Clinton model prescribed--political self-determination and economic integration--were slowly undermining the authority of those for whom the prescription had been intended? What if the hidden history of the Cold War was one in which the great powers, under American tutelage, ultimately resolved most of their differences, only to find that their own power was no longer as great as it had once been? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how this might have happened.

Self-determination certainly enhances legitimacy: that's why democracies during the Cold War proved more durable than autocracies. But it can also expose an absence of legitimacy, which is what led to the breakup of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia after the Cold War. There are now more independent states than ever before--almost 200, as compared to about 50 at the end of World War II--but that doesn't mean that the international state system is stronger. It means just the opposite: that there are more "failed" or "derelict" states than ever before.

Integration certainly enhances prosperity: that's why so many people benefited from the liberalization of trade and investment that took place during and after the Cold War. But the resulting global market has also constrained the ability of states to determine the conditions under which their citizens live. Marx was right in pointing out that although capitalism generates great wealth, it distributes that wealth unevenly. States used to have the capacity to cushion that process, thereby minimizing the resentment it generated: progressivism and the New Deal in the United States, social democracy in Europe, and their equivalents elsewhere provided the social safety nets that saved capitalism from the self-destruction Marx had forecast for it. Now though, in an unregulated global economy, those nets are sagging and becoming frayed.

It's also the case that states--even democracies--used to have some control over movements of people and exchanges of ideas. We tend to celebrate the fact that it's more difficult to impose such restrictions in a world of cheap air travel, liberal immigration policies, fax machines, satellite television transmitters, cell phones, and the internet. But there's also a price, which is that it's harder than it used to be for states to monitor the activities of those individuals, gangs, and networks who are their enemies.

The bottom line, then, is that states are more peaceful these days--that's a major accomplishment of the Cold War--but they're also weaker than they used to be. That situation too contributed to the events of September 11th, and it's certainly shaping the era that has followed. The most important failure of strategic vision in Washington, therefore, lay in the inability of American leaders to look beyond their Cold War victory to the circumstances that might undermine its benefits. As after World War I, they allowed the absence of visible danger to convince them that nothing invisible could pose a threat. They assumed that it was enough simply to have won the game. It did not occur to them that the arena within which the game was being played--together with the rules by which the United States, its allies, and its defeated adversaries had played it--might now be at risk.

It was not just the Twin Towers that collapsed on the morning of September 11, 2001: So too did some of our most fundamental assumptions about international, national, and personal security.
SOURCE: Surprise, Security, and the American Experience, by John Lewis Gaddis (Harvard U. Press, 2004), pp. 74-80

14 October 2004

Nissan vs. Mitsubishi Management Style

The BBC reports on Remodelling Japan Inc.
Nissan and Mitsubishi, two of the world's most famous car companies, have both stared into the economic abyss in the last five years.

But while one has recovered to become Japan's most profitable automaker, the other remains in deep trouble.

Their crises expose weaknesses in Japan's traditional corporate model - weaknesses that were hidden until the economic downturn exposed them....

Just five years ago, Nissan had debts of $22bn and was close to bankruptcy.

The company had been complacent about its place in the market and its designs were felt to lack imagination, analysts say.

Toshiyuki Shiga, head of Nissan's General Overseas Markets, explained that although Nissan's problems were widely reported by the media at the time, the company's own employees would not believe there was a crisis. They were tunnel-visioned and ostrich-necked, he said....

This was one of the first issues tackled by maverick French national Carlos Ghosn. He took over as Nissan's CEO when French car-maker Renault announced it was taking a 37% share in Nissan in 1999. That stake has since been increased to 44%.

Mr Ghosn introduced something called "cross-functional team working". This encourages dialogue across departments and divisions, engendering what Nissan's Toshiyuki Shiga terms "healthy conflict". It also enables the ideas of younger employees to get heard.

Mr Ghosn also tackled bloated management - cutting 22,900 jobs, some 15% of the total workforce, and halved the company's suppliers.

As a result, it is now Japan's most profitable car company, posting a $7.29bn profit in year end of March 2004.

Like Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors forged an alliance with a foreign car maker, in 2000. Daimler-Chrysler initially took a 37% stake, although that has since been reduced to 20%.

But unlike Nissan, its foreign marriage has not ended happily. When Mitsubishi asked Daimler to bail it out financially, Daimler refused.

Mitsubishi has responded with an aggressive restructuring plan. It has declared it will cut 11,000 jobs in the next three years, and has reduced its departments from 230 to 157.
via Tanuki Ramble

China-Korea Border Issues

NKZone notes reports from Japanese and French news agencies that China has deployed either 10,000, 30,000, or 150,000 troops along the North Korean-Chinese border, either within Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture or all along the 1400-km border--or perhaps both.

It's unclear whether the Chinese troops were deployed to prevent (a) NK troops and/or refugees from escaping into China and causing embarrassing international incidents, (b) NK troops from "foraging" among ethnic Koreans in China, or (c) NK from undermining 6-party talks about NK nuclear ambitions.

Meanwhile, the Marmot reports that South Korea has quietly declared null and void the 1909 Gando [Kanto] Convention, signed between China and Japan.
This is either incredibly bold or incredibly insane – I haven't decided which yet, but I'm heavily favoring the latter....

What was interesting about this all – aside from the fact that the Republic of Korea has apparently adopted as its official position that a fairly sizable chunk of Manchurian territory belong to Korea – is the way the story was broke[n]....

OhMyNews ... says that many scholars in Korea consider much of Liaoning Province south of Shenyang as "West Gando," so one could interpret the government's official position as meaning that the whole of what is now southern Manchuria is, in fact, Korean territory....

I don't know what to say, other than this is a very dangerous game the government's playing, especially at a time when Seoul's relations with Pyongyang, Washington and Tokyo are not the best they've ever been. Now is probably not the time to poke Beijing in the eye, especially if one holds any hope at all that the Chinese might be helpful in the re-unification process should North Korea appear on the verge of collapse. And if one day, Korean tourists in Shenyang should find Pyongyang included on Liaoning Provincial maps, they'll understand why.

My Sugar or Your Life!

THE REGIMENTAL SUPPLIES had not yet landed at Shanghai and were only now approaching its harbor. This meant that the front units could not rely on being replenished by the transport corps to their rear but were forced to improvise, requisitioning on the spot whatever they needed.

Rice and vegetables were relatively abundant, but spices extremely hard to find. The shortage was at its most acute during their stay in Wu-hsi.

The soldier in charge of cooking at the regimental headquarters was jealously hoarding a bowl of leftover refined sugar.

"Listen up! This is for the regimental commander, so nobody lays a finger on it!" Lance Corporal Takei wrapped it in paper and put it on a shelf. He used it only when cooking for the colonel, and then sparingly, but even so, the amount dwindled to a mere cupful. "There must be sugar somewhere."

Whenever free from kitchen duty, he scoured the city for sugar but found none. That evening, planning finally to use the last of the sugar in preparing the colonel's supper, Takei reached for it, only to discover it gone.

Vegetables were boiling in the pot; table legs and broken boxes blazed steadily underneath. Takei stood gaping in front of the stove.

"Hey! Where's the sugar I kept here?" Soldiers on duty chorused that they did not know. Some said it was there at lunchtime, some speculated that the wind might have blown it off the shelf. In the end the suspicion arose that the Chinese kitchen workers were most likely to have stolen it. Five Chinese, brought all the way from Chih-t'ang-chen, worked in the kitchen.

The lance corporal's face flushed with rage. Unable to speak to them, he slapped the Chinese nearest him, a youth of about seventeen. This one seemed to him to have done it. He ordered a subordinate to call the headquarters interpreter.

"Ah, what a lovely fragrance!" Interpreter Nakahashi sauntered in, a cigarette dangling from his lips.

Takei quickly explained the situation and asked that he interrogate the boy.

The Chinese, industrious and obedient, had been doing kitchen work ever since Chih-t'ang-chen.
Nakahashi did not think him guilty but went through the motions of interrogating him. The boy said he did not know, perhaps a soldier had taken it.

"A soldier would never take it!" thundered Lance Corporal Takei, eyes flashing with rage. They decided to search the boy.

Deep in his pocket they found a crumpled piece of paper, clearly what the sugar had been wrapped in. Not a speck was left; the paper had been licked clean.

Lance Corporal Takei was sputtering with fury. He grabbed the boy and hauled him off to the edge of a reservoir sixty yards away. On the opposite bank First Class Private Kondo was washing rice in his mess tin, preparing to cook his evening meal.

Takei drew his knife and without a moment's hesitation stabbed the boy through the chest. With a groan the boy toppled into the reservoir, sending waves rippling thirty feet across to the bank where Kondo was rinsing rice. Kondo sprang up in alarm.

"What did he do?"

"That son of a bitch stole the sugar I'd slaved to get for the regimental commander, and licked it up!"

"I see." Limply holding the mess tin, Kondo stared at the boy's back as it floated in the water.

The lance corporal stormed off. With a sense of regret Kondo realized he would not be able to wash rice in this pond anymore. A human life could be taken for taking a lump of sugar. Once again, what was human life? Suddenly he recalled the words of Christ: "Though a sparrow be worth less than a penny, yet the Lord has made the sparrow beautiful." A sparrow's life was no different from a human's. Though their lives be worth less than a lump of sugar, yet the Lord has made the Chinese boys beautiful.... Kondo clamped down tightly on his sensibility and resumed his understanding with the battlefield. Dangling the dripping mess tin from his right hand and humming, he strolled back to the campfire.

When Lance Corporal Takei returned to the kitchen, the four remaining Chinese glanced up at him with anxious, searching eyes and began frantically to cook. Takei roughly washed his hands, marched up to the pot filled with boiling vegetables, and stirred them about. Nakahashi was still standing there.

"You killed him?" he asked.

"Yes, I killed him," Takei answered.

"What did you have to do that for? He was a good, hard-working fellow. Learn to control your temper."

"Try imagining how I feel!" Takei burst out and averted his face. Nakahashi started: The man was crying! Being robbed of sugar for the regimental commander's supper had triggered this much sadness. The interpreter silently left his side.

Presently Takei heaped the cooked food onto a plate and took it to Colonel Nishizawa's room. He had only one dish to serve him.

The colonel was seated at a soiled table, intently studying the list of men killed.

"Tonight we lost our sugar, sir, so the dishes are tasteless," said Takei, bowing his head. "Tomorrow I'll be sure to look for some."

"That's fine," replied the colonel without looking up.

"I'm sorry, sir."

He bowed once again and returned to the kitchen. Squatting before the stove, he stared into the swirling flames.

"Takei, aren't you going to eat?" called out a soldier. "Later," replied Takei, not budging.
SOURCE: Soldiers Alive [Ikite iru heitai, 1938], by Ishikawa Tatsuzo, translated by Zeljko Cipris (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2003), pp. 123-126