International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Victor’s Justice in Tokyo

US Veteran Congressman defended WWII Tokyo Tribunal

World War II was a hugely devastating conflict whose effects are still felt to this day. This article illustrates the view of a former United States congressman and war veteran on one of the outcomes of that war: the trial of accused war criminals in Japan. In the recently surfaced letter, the congressman expressed concern over the then-prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine to war criminals, and defends the tribunal against the common charge of providing only victor’s justice.

This continues to be relevant, as the current Japanese prime minister has recently caused global consternation with his own visit to Yasukuni. The question surrounding the shrine and the tribunal is as follows: can the tribunal’s assertion that these Japanese military leaders and members were war criminals be taken legitimately, in light of the fact that the tribunal only examined the actions of the Japanese losers and not the Allied victors? Certainly, if victors are held to the same standards of justice as losers, the American firebombing of Tokyo and the use of nuclear weapons caused enough civilian casualties to at least warrant an investigation. In his letter, however, the congressman argued that the Axis of Evil were the aggressors in the war, and that American actions were simply self-defense. This question, though it may seem dated, will in fact become increasingly relevant  as American foreign policy interests increasingly turn towards the Pacific; America must address charges of lopsided justice if it is to decrease tensions in the area surrounding Japan’s continued veneration of its military members.

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One response to “Victor’s Justice in Tokyo

  1. tjojojojo February 9, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    The current prime minister’s visit to the Yasukuni shrine is a great example of complex political factors in play—the prime minister’s decision likely wasn’t to simply protest victor’s justice. Rather, his move seems to be a very strategic, political move targeting some in the Japanese audience—most obviously those who remember WWII and its aftermath, but perhaps also others who would be eager to display their nationalism. Even in light of the fact that the Allied victors weren’t investigated for war crimes, one cannot do away with the tribunal’s assertion that the Japanese military leaders at Yasukuni are war criminals. There’s no doubt that both sides committed their own atrocities, but arguing that the other side (the Allies) committed their own war crimes should not be sufficient to excuse one’s own war crimes.

    While you are right in pointing out that the US needs to appear fair and just as it moves into the Pacific, keep in mind that Japan isn’t the only concern there. South Korea, China, and many other developing nations also suffered in WWII. Any decision the US makes has complex ramifications—if the US were to excuse the Japanese war criminals in any way, it’s quite likely China and South Korea would be enraged. But if the US were to appease calls for further condemnation of Japanese war criminals (as the Chinese and South Koreans still seek), the Japanese people might feel unfairly treated. Especially in cases where at least several states are involved such as this one, politics immensely complicates issues of justice.

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