25 September 2005

Bix on Judge Radhabinod Pal

The Indian appointee to the [Tokyo war crimes] court was sixty-year-old Radhabinod Pal of the High Court of Calcutta. Pal had been a supporter of the pro-Axis Indian nationalist, Chandra Bose, and a longtime Japanophile. Unlike most Indian elites, who condemned both British and Japanese imperialism and never embraced the ideology of the Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere, Pal was an outright apologist for Japanese imperialism. Arriving in Tokyo in May, he accepted his appointment under the charter in bad faith, not believing in the right of the Allies to try Japan, let alone judicially sanction it any way. Determined to see the tribunal fail from the outset, Pal intended to write a separate dissenting opinion no matter what the other judges ruled. Not surprisingly he refused to sign a "joint affirmation to administer justice fairly."

Thereafter, according to the estimate of defense lawyer Owen Cunningham, Pal absented himself for 109 of 466 "judge days," or more than twice the number of the next highest absentee, the president of the tribunal, Sir William Webb himself (53 "judge days"). Whenever Pal appeared in court, he unfailingly bowed to the defendants, whom he regarded as men who had initiated the liberation of Asia. Pal, the most politically independent of the judges, refused to let Allied political concerns and purposes, let alone the charter, influence his judgment in any way. He would produce the tribunal's most emotionally charged, political judgment. Many who repudiate the Tokyo trial while clinging to the wartime propaganda view of the "War of Greater East Asia," believed that the main cause of Asian suffering was Western white men--that is, Pal's "victors." They would cite Pal's arguments approvingly. So too would others who saw the war primarily in terms of the "white" exploitation of Asia.
SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 595-596

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our views are coloured by our circumstances and the history of the country we live in or belong to. And this is just as true about Dr. Pal's judgment as it was about the judgments of the other judges on the Tokyo Trials.
The Second World War was terrible with all the evils of war taken to a cosmic scale. But so also was the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There is evidence enough to suggest that these cities were chosen because they had seen less devastation. So to ensure that such devastation was total they were fire bombed and nuked. How come this fact did not ever enter the trial? The Japanese faced retribution twice over,once with the nuking of two of their cities and the second time with this trial. The narrow ambit of this trial proved beyond any doubt that this was a trial of the defeated by the victors and as such the verdicts were a forgone conclusion. Dr. Pal's stand that this would set a bad precedent was correct. There was no even handed justice for the evil perpetrated on both sides.
Maybe we can from a distance of over 60 years now, ponder on the evils of war and not think that everything Western nations do have the imprimatur of God and moral justice.