Book Review published in War in History, Vol. 22, No.2, April 2015
今月、英国の学術雑誌「War in History」に掲載された私の書評です。書評した著書は Evil Men（凶悪者） と題された戦争犯罪人、とくに日本兵の戦争犯罪人の心理を研究テーマとしたものです。
Evil Men. By James Dawes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013. 280 pp. US$25.95 cloth. ISBN 978 0 674 07265 7
Reviewed by: Yuki Tanaka
In this unusually styled book, completely devoid of individual chapters, James Dawes repeatedly uses interviews he conducted with Japanese veterans of the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) as the background for his multifaceted discussions on military violence. These veterans were members of an organization called Chukiren (an abbreviation of Chugoku Kikansha Renrakukai, the Association of Returned Soldiers from China), and all of them honestly admitted that they had committed various war crimes – rape, torture, the killing of children, medical experiments, and the like –against Chinese citizens and prisoners. Chukiren was abandoned in 2002 mainly because of a rapid decrease of member numbers due to their age.
Five years after the Asia-Pacific War, 1,109 Japanese war criminal suspects from among POWs captured in Manchuria by the Soviet forces were handed over to the Chinese communist regime. They were extradited to a POW camp run by the Chinese Liberation Army (CLA) at Fushun. Another group of 140 Japanese war criminal suspects was detained in a CLA POW camp at Taiyuan. The Chinese communist government adopted a policy of re-educating Japanese war criminals by making them honestly con- fess to the crimes they had committed during the war. This involved repeated self-criticism until each man fully accepted responsibility for his actions. Although it took many years, this unique method of making assailants thoroughly aware of their own crimes helped the Chinese authorities succeed in firmly implanting the concept of human rights in the minds of Japanese war criminals, thereby helping them regain some humanity. Ultimately, only 45 men were prosecuted, and no one received capital punishment. It was only in 1956 that the surviving Japanese soldiers were finally allowed to return to Japan. Subsequently, many of those returned soldiers have contributed to building friendships between Japan and China, as well as educating Japanese fellow citizens and children about Japan’s war responsibility.
By contrast, more than 5,700 men were tried as war criminals at the B & C Class War Crimes Tribunals conducted over several years after the war by each of the seven Allied nations, namely the United States, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Australia, the Philippines, and China (Taiwan). Following these trials, 984 men were sentenced to death. If one compares the results of the treatment of Japanese war criminals by the Allied nations with those of China, it is clear that the Chinese policy – based on the principle ‘detest the crimes but not the criminals’ – was in fact extraordinarily humane and, in the long term, a wise and carefully aimed plan to build a good relationship with Japan in the future.
In his book Dawes repeatedly refers to the interviews with Japanese veterans each time he embarks on discussion of a different aspect of atrocities, related human behaviour, and psychological problems. Yet the information he has obtained from the actual interviews is scant and superficial. Many parts of interview scripts are marked ‘unclear’, probably because of poor translation by his interpreter. At the beginning of the book Dawes even admits to the problem of ‘lost in translation’ that a foreign researcher like himself faces when interviewing old and frail Japanese veterans through an interpreter who has little knowledge of the subject. I wonder if he is aware that many of these veterans in fact published their own autobiographies, analysing crimes and atrocities that they had themselves committed in China during the war. Those published materials are extremely informative and vital for examining the human behaviour and psychology of war criminals. They reveal how these men became so brutal and also offer explanations on the psychological process that they underwent to regain their humanity at the CLA POW camp after the war. As a historian specializing in war crimes, with extensive experience in oral history, it seems essential to me to utilize both the interviews and autobiographies. This would enable both an examination of the cause of soldier brutality and also an understanding of the rehabilitation from trauma undergone by the perpetrators. In order to comprehend the behaviour of Japanese soldiers during the war, it is also important to understand and explain the cultural and social background of wartime Japan. Unfortunately Dawes seems unable to delve deeply into these issues, probably because of a lack of proficiency in the Japanese language.
However, each time he addresses a new discussion on a different issue of violence and atrocities, using an extract from the interviews as a starting point, Dawes refers to many interesting, relevant texts on the subject. Indeed, the volume and diversity of information he mentions in his discussion is impressive. It is obvious that he is well read in English sources on related topics, and that his knowledge on each issue is substantial. He dis- cusses genocide, rape, infant killings, torture, violence within the military forces, group psychology, religion, nationalism, and many other subjects, referring to concrete cases in the Second World War, the Vietnam War, the Afghan and Iraq War, as well as many other wars and conflicts.
Yet Dawes’s interesting discussion revolves mainly around the arguments of other writers, as he chooses not to project his own ideas much on any issue. In addition, the unique layout of the book – a preface of less than four pages, followed by 224 pages of main text that is not divided into individual chapters – means that his discussion flows from one topic to another without a deep analysis of each important issue. It is a pity that his vast knowledge of the relevant literature is not fully utilized and applied to conduct a more structural and intensive discussion on some vital matters. Moreover, despite the use of his interviews with Japanese veterans, his argument totally lacks a comparative analysis between Japanese cases and similar war atrocities committed by military forces or armed groups from other nations. Indeed, his argument always focuses upon the universal characteristics of violence and atrocities, thus ignoring specific cultural or historical elements of different atrocities.
Dawes’s attention to the guilt of the perpetrators of war crimes, rather than the motivations or causes of their violent behaviour, is a strong feature of this text. In the preface he states that some of the questions he wants to explore are ‘How do societies turn nor- mal men into monsters?’ and ‘What is the individual psychological process and felt experience of becoming a monster?’ Yet he offers little analysis with which to tackle these questions. As mentioned above, we have ample sources of information regarding such questions in the many autobiographies written by Japanese veterans who committed heinous crimes in China during the Asia-Pacific War. What we need is closer international co-operation and comparative research between Japanese and Western specialists on the subject of this global and continuing problem of military violence and atrocities.