Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Jeanne Guillemin's "Hidden Atrocities"

Jeanne Guillemin is senior advisor at the Security Studies Program in the MIT Center for International Studies. Her books include Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak (1999); Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism (2004); and American Anthrax: Fear, Crime, and the Investigation of the Nation’s Deadliest Bioterrorist Attack (2011).

Guillemin applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Hidden Atrocities: Japanese Germ Warfare and American Obstruction of Justice at the Tokyo Trial, and reported the following:
Hidden Atrocities is a book about how, with covert US intelligence intervention, Japanese World War II war crimes involving germ warfare were suppressed at the post-war Tokyo tribunal, the very trial where victims ought to have been vindicated. The Chinese delegation was convinced that the Japanese attacked four of their cities with plague in 1940-1941 and had told the world so. On page 99, it is March 1946 and a team of American prosecutors from the tribunal’s International Prosecution Section is about to set off on a month-long investigation in China for trial-worthy evidence. There is still time to select Japanese defendants and develop charges against them. But can David Nelson Sutton, the Virginia lawyer assigned to structure China’s case, penetrate the wartime secrecy that surrounded the Japanese-caused epidemics, which were passed off as natural outbreaks? As the reader is already aware (but Sutton and his team are not), in the name of national security and using its own channels of inquiry, US Military Intelligence is avidly pursuing former Japanese military scientists who organized the plague attacks, along with campaigns using anthrax, cholera, typhus, glanders and other infectious diseases against Chinese civilians. On page 99 the tension is established between the ideal of criminal justice—that solid evidence should lead to the just punishment of wrongdoers—and the political forces that can corrupt the judicial process.

The Tokyo trial, unlike the Nuremberg trial which took barely a year to complete, lasted for more than two years, with many stops and starts. Eleven nations had judges and prosecutors there: the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China, France, the Soviet Union, India, and the Philippines. By April 1948, when the trial proceedings ended, many opportunities for introducing evidence about Japanese germ warfare crimes, including years of systematic human experimentation on Chinese captives, had passed with no initiative from the United States, the United Kingdom, or the Soviet Union, each of which might have acted on information they chose instead to repress.

In the 1970s, revelations about Japanese germ warfare crimes finally began to emerge, after the United States abandoned its once enormous biological warfare program and began to declassify its records. In the 1990s, the Japanese and Western media were revealing the full range of atrocities, backed by belated confessions from Japanese military men who in their youth had been complicit in them. In China, increasingly open to the outside world, activists for the victims brought law suits against the Japanese government, but without significant results. Japanese judges decided that terrible germ warfare crimes had taken place, causing great suffering and death, but refused compensation or apology.

The failure to prosecute these crimes in Tokyo left what seems a permanent injustice. In 1946, Japan and China were both wrecked by war, with broken economies. Today the two are major powers, with a legacy of unresolved war crimes still troubling their relations. Is any resolution possible? Perhaps, as some have argued, there is a role for an official Japanese apology, one in which the United States could participate—and finally honor the thousands of nameless victims ignored at the Tokyo trial.
Learn more about Hidden Atrocities at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: American Anthrax.

--Marshal Zeringue