Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Rape of Nanking

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for a little while now and it seemed to continually get bumped from my "next to read" list. I had heard some srange things about the author, everything from she fabricated most of the facts in the book to she commited suicide after writing it. I usually dispell rumors but I must admit when I started off reading this book I already had my back up (at least a little).

The book itself is an "account" of the Japanese invasion of the city of Nanking (Nanjing) on December 13th, 1937. The photos have been bandied about over the internet for year. While some have shown them to be false (or at least staged), others simply show the horrors of war.

My major problem with this book was the end noting style. For a book that makes SO MANY claims, it has the most awkward note system. The edition that I bought had end notes but no reference numbers. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Here is an excerpt:
THE CHRONICLE OF humankind's cruelty is a long and sorry tale. But if it is true that even in such horror tales there are degrees of ruthlessness, then few atrocities can compare in intensity and scale to the rape of Nanking during World War II.

The broad details of the rape are, except among the Japanese, not in dispute. In November 1937, after their successful invasion of Shanghai, the Japanese launched a massive attack on the newly established capital of the Republic of China. When the city fell on December 13, 1937, Japanese soldiers began an orgy of cruelty seldom if ever matched in world history. Tens of thousands of young men were rounded up and herded to the outer areas of the city, where they were mowed down by machine guns, used for bayonet practice, or soaked with gasoline and burned alive. By the end of the massacre an estimated 260,000 to 350,000 Chinese had been killed. Between 20,000 and 80,000 Chinese women were raped--and many soldiers went beyond rape to disembowel women, slice off their breasts, nail them alive to walls. So brutal were the Japanese in Nanking that even the Nazis in the city were shocked. John Rabe, a German businessman who led the local Nazi party, joined other foreigners in working tirelessly to save the innocent from slaughter by creating a safety zone where some 250,000 civilians found shelter.

Yet the Rape of Nanking remains an obscure incident. Although the death toll exceeds the immediate number of deaths from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (140,000 and 70,000 respectively, by the end of 1945) and even the total civilian casualties for several European countries during the entire war (Great Britain lost 61,000 civilians, France 108,000, Belgium 101,000, and the Netherlands 242,000), the horrors of the Nanking massacre remain virtually unknown to people outside Asia. The Rape of Nanking did not penetrate the world consciousness in the same manner as the Jewish Holocaust or Hiroshima because the victims themselves remained silent. The custodian of the curtain of silence was politics. The People's Republic of China, Taiwan, and even the United States all contributed to the historical neglect of this event for reasons deeply rooted in the cold war. After the 1949 Communist revolution in China, neither the People's Republic of China nor Taiwan demanded wartime reparations from Japan (as Israel had from Germany) because the two governments were competing for Japanese trade and political recognition. And even the United States, faced with the threat of communism in the Soviet Union and mainland China, sought to ensure the friendship and loyalty of its former enemy Japan. In this manner, cold-war tensions permitted Japan to escape much of the intense critical examination that its wartime ally was forced to undergo.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


I just finished reading 1984 and... wow. Simply, wow. It is really a great book. I had heard for years about this book but had never bothered to read it. Like so many other Canadian kids, I had read Animal Farm in Jr. High and figured that was about all I needed to know about Orwell and Communism. I was wrong.

As an adult this book takes on whole new meaning. His writing style is fluid and abundanly descriptive. There were more than a few times I almost missed my stop (subway) because of his book.

If you want to find out what is at the bottom of the rabbit hole, this is the book for you!

An excerpt:

IT WAS a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

The Apartment II

Well I've been meaning to post pictures of this for awhile and just have not been able to find the time to do it. I won't write much but I'll give a brief description of each shot:

The Living room (going to try to keep this room slightly Spartan)

The Kitchen (don't mind the clutter, I was making dinner)

The Master Bedroom (cannot seem to get a good shot of this)

The spare bedroom / office (this clutter is permanent)

The nice smoggy view (it looks better on some days)

The night time view (There were fireworks for the first two weeks we moved in)

And my dinner (my mother in law was nice enough to bring by some Korean side dishes)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Plan of Attack

Well I just finished reading PLAN of ATTACK by Bob Woodward. This one took me quite some time (as yu can see from my last "book" post). I was moving and had my mind on other things, but also, I was not really expecting this book.

I expected some behind the sceens dirt on why the US went into Iraq. Instead I got a blow by blow account of HOW they did it, or more accurately, how they went about planning for it (I guess I should read titles more carefully). Once I got into the flow ofthe book though it made for an interesting read.

It was quite interesting to get a glimpse into some of the personalities of the current US administration. I dare say I now know as much as I want to know about them.

On the 17th day of the Bush presidency, Monday, February 5, Rice chaired a principals committee meeting that included Cheney, Powell and Rumsfeld. Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin substituted for Tenet. The purpose was to review Iraq policy, the status of diplomatic, military and covert options. Among the first taskings were for each principal and his department or agency to examine and consider how intelligence collection could be increased on Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction.

At least on paper, the United Nations had an economic sanctions policy directed at Saddam's regime. The principals conceded that Saddam had basically won the public relations argument by convincing the international community that the sanctions were impoverishing his people, and that they were not stopping him from spending money to keep himself in power. Powell very quickly said they needed to attempt to get the U.N. to revise the sanctions to tighten them on material that might advance Saddam's military and WMD programs. Sanctions could then be eased on civilian goods.

Another issue was the weapons inspections inside Iraq that the U.N. had authorized after the Gulf War to establish that Saddam no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction. The inspectors had helped to dismantle Iraq's chemical, biological and surprisingly advanced nuclear programs, but suspicious accounting of destroyed munitions and elaborate concealment mechanisms left many unanswered questions. In 1998 Saddam had forced the inspectors out, and the question was what might be done to get them back in. No one had a good answer.

What should be the approach to Iraqi opposition groups both outside and inside Iraq? When should weapons and other lethal assistance be provided? Who should provide it -- the CIA or Defense? Again no one had a complete answer.