Friday, October 10, 2008


Every government lies to its people. Generally, fresh lies are hard to detect, but as history marches on, the lies tend to reveal themselves for what they are. In most cases, egregious lies are easier to spot and invalidate. Recently, I was exposed to one of the most outrageous lies I've heard in quite some time, but it didn't really surprise me that such a lie is floating around out there.

The lie in question was offered by one of my students. She said that she has read and had been taught that 30% of Japanese Americans died in internment camps during the (up to) 4 years in which they were held in such camps during World War II. The fact that the internment camps were a terrible thing and that people were held unfairly is something that the United States has acknowledged and at least some reparations (millions of dollars) have been paid to those harmed by the unjustified imprisonment at the camp. There has no hiding that what happened was a disgrace. There's been no attempt to hide it.

Somewhere in the vicinity of 120,000 people were held in such camps. If 30% of them had died, that would mean that there were 36,000 deaths. There is no way that the United States could hide that great a number of deaths, particularly when the people held in the camps have had the chance to freely tell their tale and report any deaths for decades after the fact. It is inconceivable that the number of deaths my student read about is anything but grossly inaccurate. The best estimate is that around 200 people may have died in those camps. Those deaths were due to a lack of medical care for the most part and a few were guards shooting detainees and not due to torture, wanton murder, or executions. The only way 1/3 of them could have died would have been through more boldly malicious acts than what actually occurred. I can only guess what lie about how people died is told to explain the other lie about how many people died.

I've heard for years that the Japanese are taught a highly distorted version of what happened during World War II, particularly in regards to softening the bad things they did and enhancing the bad things that happened to them. I've never looked into the precise content of these lies. The lie I was told recently was the first time I was faced by just how outrageous and baseless those lies can be. One of my older students (he's around 62) told me that he believes that the distortions have become so grotesque that many young people now believe that America attacked Japan first. I guess that the government will do whatever it takes to promote the idea that the Japanese were heavily victimized in World War II while undermining their destructive acts. No wonder China and Korea are still angry.

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