Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Iris Chang

American author Iris Chang, who wrote the book "The Rape of Nanking" about atrocities by the Japanese military on Chinese civilians, died of a gunshot wound in her car along a rural road in California. She was working on a book on Americans who fought in the U.S. tank battalions during World War II who were taken prisoner by the Japanese, and planned a documentary on the Japanese atrocities in Nanking. She had apparently been treated for depression, and the gunshot wound was determined by the police to be self-inflicted. One story tries to imply she left a suicide note, without actually calling it a suicide note. Does any of this make sense? The wound was caused by a handgun. Would a Chinese-American liberal woman from San Francisco with a two-year old son kill herself by shooting herself in the head with a (peculiar) handgun? Why did she even have a handgun? Presumably because she had been the subject of death threats from those people unhappy with her writings on the Rape of Nanking. These atrocities have been hidden from the Japanese people by the Japanese extreme right-wing, who remain unprepared to admit what the Japanese people were capable of doing (much as the American people have had the American atrocities in Iraq hidden from them by an extreme right-wing media and complicit experts and academics who aren't prepared to admit what America has become). Chang's writings resurrected an issue that had been dormant for years, and created the impetus for protests against Japan. She completely infuriated the extreme right in Japan, the uyoku dantai, who are connected to Japanese organized crime. They have a history of using violence against those who impugn what they consider to be the honor of Japan (also consider the 'suicide' of director Juzo Itami who directed the wonderful movie "Tampopo"). If someone under death threats and working on a book and a documentary which will further embarrass Japan dies in an isolated area in a way that is unlikely for her demographic group to kill themselves, wouldn't it make more sense to consider this a possible murder by a group known for its insanity and its violence, a group that has already threatened to kill her and would be motivated by stopping her future work?