This Is Draining The Swamp?

I have a new opinion piece in today’s Examiner, part of the Blog Board series that Mark Tapscott has pioneered at the newspaper chain. Today’s essay looks at the efforts by Democrats to meet their campaign rhetoric, drain the swamp and end the “culture of corruption”, efforts that appear almost non-existent at this point:

Democrats won control of Congress by emphasizing Republican scandals and corruption and promising clean government. The start of the 110th Congress has not demonstrated much of a commitment to making that a reality, and the start of the 2008 primary campaign leaves even less hope that the Democrats will address corruption. …
National Review highlighted a new effort by recently ascendant progressives that has more than a ring of familiarity. The well-connected Campaign for America’s Future announced that it will take back K Street from conservatives, and that the new Democratic majority has helped lead the way …
The list of founders and advisers to CAF reads like a who’s who of Democratic Party activists. Jesse Jackson, former Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, former California state Sen. Tom Hayden, Jim Hightower of Texas, and Clinton-era Secretary of Labor Robert Reich lead a host of union leaders and academics who have all stumped for Democrats.
These activists have set CAF up as the middleman to do exactly what Democrats excoriated DeLay for doing directly.

I also discuss the recent efforts by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to buy endorsements from South Carolina politicians, a development that has received little attention from any news organization outside CNN and AP. Barack Obama loses a bit of his outsider/reformist glow here, as the only reason he didn’t buy Darrell Jackson and a handful of South Carolina legislators is because he wouldn’t bid high enough to make the sale. Perhaps Obama can run as a fiscal conservative instead.
We’re less than eight weeks into the Democratic majority in Congress, and already lobbyists have been rehabilitated and Democratic politicians have put themselves on the auction block for endorsements. That swamp keeps getting higher and higher …

Venezuela Seizes Oil Projects From Foreign Firms

Venezuelan president-cum-dictator Hugo Chavez continued his confiscation of private property and foreign investment yesterday by seizing oil projects and assimilating them into the state-owned petroleum organization. Delivering on his pledge to create a socialist state along the same lines as Fidel Castro’s Cuba, Chavez told foreign-owned firms that they now had to accept a minority stake in their own properties:

President Hugo Chavez ordered by decree on Monday the takeover of oil projects run by foreign oil companies in Venezuela’s Orinoco River region.
Chavez had previously announced the government’s intention to take a majority stake by May 1 in four heavy oil-upgrading projects run by British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Statoil ASA.
He said Monday that has decreed a law to proceed with the nationalizations that will see state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, taking at least a 60 percent stake in the projects.
“The privatization of oil in Venezuela has come to an end,” he said on his weekday radio show, “Hello, President.” “This marks the true nationalization of oil in Venezuela.”

Interestingly and not surprisingly, the Venezuelan strongman didn’t mention how he planned to compensate these companies for 60% shares of their projects. Instead, he told them that he didn’t want them to leave, and take all of their expertise and technology with them. Chavez wants them to accept the fact that they would do all the work while he gets most of the profits.
These projects were the only privately-financed oil production facilities in Venezuela, and their worth is estimated at $17 billion. Will Chavez send them a check for the $10.5 billion he owes for his share of their operations? Don’t bet on it. Chavez has offered compensation for other business assets that he has nationalized, but he has tried nothing on this scale so far.
Chavez’s diktat will take legal effect in four months, although Chavez says he’ll seize the projects by May 1. The companies have that long to negotiate terms with Chavez, who has an army to occupy the oil fields, making negotiations somewhat one-sided. The oil producers will likely try to strike a bargain with Chavez, but it makes little sense to do so. They will only be delaying the inevitable; Chavez will eventually steal it all from them. They should dismantle their operations and leave forthwith, taking the losses now and leaving Chavez to explain why the workers have lost their jobs as well as the expertise necessary to produce their primary export.

The Assassination Attempt Misses

Dick Cheney made an unannounced visit to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan after a stop in Pakistan to tell Pervez Musharraf that the US needs him to fight the al-Qaeda and Taliban forces organizing in Pakistani territory. As if to underscore that message, a suicide bomber attacked Bagram while Cheney visited, killing 10 people outside the base but leaving Cheney unharmed:

A suicide bomber killed up to 10 people outside the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan in an attack aimed at visiting Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday, but Cheney was not hurt in the blast.
An American soldier and a South Korean who was part of the U.S.-led coalition were killed, as was a U.S. government contractor whose nationality was unknown, officials said. NATO put the toll at four, including the bomber, and 27 wounded. Local police said 10 people died.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the bomber knew Cheney was visiting the sprawling Bagram Airbase, about 60 km (40 miles) from Kabul. “We wanted to target … Cheney,” Taliban spokesman Mullah Hayat Khan told Reuters by phone from an undisclosed location.
Soon after the blast, Cheney went ahead with planned talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the capital, Kabul.

The Taliban could not have done more to prove the US case to Pervez Musharraf. Cheney’s presence during the attack will put even more pressure on the beleaguered Pakistani leader.
The Bush administration sent Cheney along with high-level intelligence officers in order to conduct a presentation of the evidence we have collected of terrorist activity in Waziristan. Reportedly, we identified locations and support networks for al-Qaeda and the Taliban forces that will conduct their spring offensive in the coming weeks. Identification of these sites makes it very difficult for Musharraf to shrug off our warning, as does the high level of the visit. It’s the final warning to get something done, or suffer us getting it done for him.
In fact, that point may already have been crossed. With the Taliban taking responsibility for the attack and with Cheney as its target, the US may determine that those camps present a clear and present danger to the US. That would allow President Bush to launch an attack on the camps even though they are in Pakistani territory. That move would be constitutional and necessarily limited, and since it targets al-Qaeda, would likely generate little dissent from Congress. I’d expect some members of the new Congressional leadership to ask why we hadn’t attacked them before this assassination attempt.
Cheney remained in Afghanistan after the attack to meet with Hamid Karzai, who was likely to have emphasized the continuing and growing threat in Waziristan, and the lack of Pakistani cooperation in reducing it. Karzai can scratch that issue from the agenda at this point. Cheney and the US understand it clearly now, if they didn’t before, and we have made it clear to Musharraf that the clock is ticking faster than ever.

Iraqi Cabinet Approves Oil Revenue Sharing

The plan recently approved by the Kurds to split the oil revenue of Iraq with the Sunnis won approval from the Iraqi cabinet. It now faces debate in the National Assembly, whose final approval will resolve one of the toughest issues in post-war Iraq and one that has helped fan the flames of the insurgencies:

The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft of a law on Monday that would set guidelines for nationwide distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the immense oil industry. The endorsement reflected a major agreement among the country’s ethnic and sectarian political blocs on one of Iraq’s most divisive issues.
The draft law approved by the cabinet allows the central government to distribute oil revenues to the provinces or regions based on population, which could lessen the economic concerns of the rebellious Sunni Arabs, who fear being cut out of Iraq’s vast potential oil wealth by the dominant Shiites and Kurds. Most of Iraq’s crude oil reserves lie in the Shiite south and Kurdish north.
The law also grants regional oil companies or governments the power to sign contracts with foreign companies for exploration and development of fields, opening the door for investment by foreign companies in a country whose oil reserves rank among the world’s three largest.

Passage is critical for the future of Iraq, mainly because it gives the Sunnis a reason to invest in the central government. The Kurds and Shi’ites understand this, and conceded on critical points for that reason. By giving responsibility for revenue distribution to Baghdad, it creates a situation where the Sunnis need the central government for their compensation — which means that insurgencies aimed at crippling the democratic government will take money out of their pockets.
It also establishes some momentum for representative government as a solution to seemingly intractable problems. During the post-war period, the last thing that the formerly oppressed factions wanted to do was to stick their oil money into the wallets of the Sunnis who oppressed them. The Kurds and Shi’ites had celebrated their economic liberty, thanks to the vast oil reserves on which they sit, while the Sunnis looked at starvation and subjugation as their only future.
That certainly fed the insurgencies, even if it didn’t cause all of the problems that created the terrorism. Now, however, the Kurds and Shi’ites have given the Sunnis a stake in the success of a unified Iraq, and a substantial stake at that. Having a central government to enforce this agreement becomes a critical point for the Sunnis. Even if the government has more Shi’ites than any other faction thanks to proportional representation, the Sunnis will have better representation in Baghdad than in any of the provinces with significant oil revenue.
Insurgents could get put out of business with this agreement. The al-Qaeda nutcases will continue their mission to impose ultraconservative shari’a law on the Sunnis, but those terrorist networks getting support from native Sunnis will likely starve. The Sunnis want to start living again, and if they can rely on a solid oil income, they will take it.

Ahmadinejad Gets A Scolding

Remember when people started speculating that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have lost some political ground with his reckless rhetoric and nuclear brinksmanship? Many of us wondered whether it was for real or just a sop to international sensibilities. The veracity seems more clear now, as even the state-run newspapers have begun openly criticizing the Iranian president for his antagonistic approach to the West:

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, came under fire from domestic critics yesterday for his uncompromising stance on the nuclear issue as the US and Britain launched a new diplomatic effort to agree harsher UN sanctions they hope will force Tehran to halt uranium enrichment.
Mohammad Atrianfar, a respected political commentator, accused the president of using “the language of the bazaar” and said his comments had made it harder for Ali Larijani, the country’s top nuclear negotiator, to reach a compromise with European diplomats.
The president made global headlines at the weekend by declaring that his country’s quest for nuclear energy was an unstoppable train, adding to the sense of crisis as emergency talks got under way in London yesterday.
Critics from across the Iranian political spectrum took him to task for his “no brakes or reverse gear” remarks, bolstering claims in the west that his hardline position may be starting to backfire.
“This rhetoric is not suitable for a president and has no place in diplomatic circles,” said Mr Atrianfar, a confidant of Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential regime insider and rival of Mr Ahmadinejad. “It is the language people in the
bazaar and alleyways use to address the simplest issues of life.”

Want to know how bad the criticism has gotten? The head of the so-called reformist party compared Ahmadinejad to Hugo Chavez. Instead of taking lessons from Vaclav Havel, Fayaz Zahed noted, Ahmadinejad opted to pander to populist sentiments and completely missed the mark.
Even his own allies took an opportunity to score a few points off of the man who promised Iran a world without Israel. The fundamentalist Islamic newspaper Resalat, which normally would support the mullahcracy and its policies, wagged its editorial ringer at Ahmadinejad’s lack of nuance in tone, if not in substance. “Neither weakness nor inexperience and unnecessary rhetorical aggression is acceptable in our foreign policy,” the editors instructed Ahmadinejad, who has managed to hit just about every fault they listed.
It seems that the saber-rattling — such as it is — has hit the mark in Iran. The mullahs appear to have decided to let Ahmadinejad absorb the criticism for the tenor of the conflict, while maintaining the policies that prompted it. Most of the pushback has followed along those lines, reflecting on the rhetoric while avoiding any criticism of the Iranian nuclear program itself.
This shows that little leeway for significant movement away from the nuclear agenda exists. We may get better diplomacy if the mullahs completely abandon Ahmadinejad, but the room for actual progress looks very limited. It also shows that staying tough on the Iranians has kept at least that much room open.

The Mote And The Beam Of Global Warming (Updated: Gore Responds)

After last night’s Oscar win, Al Gore has ridden a wave of good press about his efforts to end global warming. Having Leonardo DiCaprio try to push Gore into a Presidential run in front of a billion people worldwide has to be heady stuff for the former VP and erstwhile candidate. I’m sure Gore left feeling energized — although not as energized as his mansion in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (via Hot Air):

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average.
Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.
Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.
Gore’s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore’s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.

Okay, before we start really throwing the hypocrisy label at The Goracle of Global Warming, we should take care not to hit ourselves with it first. Most CQ readers are free-market thinkers. There’s nothing wrong with Gore using that kind of energy if he’s willing to pay for it. A mansion would use a lot more energy than a normal single-family dwelling; I’m sure that Bill Gates’ electrical bills dwarf what Gore’s paying for his Tennessee juice. My objection to his level of consumption would only be that he’s driving prices up with his large demand.
That being said, the fact that his energy use increased so dramatically after the release of his documentary makes him look a little ridiculous. After all, he’s on the road more now, and energy use should decrease, although his family may not travel with him much. Besides, as we saw at the Oscars last night, Gore wants the rest of us to downsize and conserve rather than just treat energy like any other market — and Gore is obviously not doing that for himself.
He may retort that he purchases carbon waivers that help fund efforts to clean the environment and reduce global warming to balance his large energy usage. I’d respond: so? The point that the global-warming alarmists make is that we have to stop releasing carbons in order to reverse the “crisis”, as they called it over and over again, not to create a rations market that acts like a parasite to the energy market. If the situation is as dire as Gore painted it in An Inconvenient Truth and at the Oscars last night, then one might expect a little more self-discipline from the chief alarmist disciple.
UPDATE: Al Gore has responded via Think Progress, one of the better liberal blogs:

1) Gore’s family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.
2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand. Gore’s office explains:
What Mr. Gore has asked is that every family calculate their carbon footprint and try to reduce it as much as possible. Once they have done so, he then advocates that they purchase offsets, as the Gore’s do, to bring their footprint down to zero.

Interesting that he doesn’t dispute the numbers; he just tries a little misdirection instead.
First, the solar panels and the compact fluorescent light bulbs will certainly make a difference — but the TCPR report looks at his electricity bill, which still indicates (a) a high level of usage, and (b) an increase since the movie’s release. Solar panels generate electricity at the location, which should then decrease the amount of power he’s buying from the utility. If it’s still going up, there seems to be a serious management problem somewhere.
Second, as I mentioned above, purchasing offsets only means that Gore doesn’t want to make the same kind of sacrifices that he’s asking other families to make. He’s using a modern form of indulgences in order to avoid doing the penance that global-warming activism demands of others. It means that the very rich can continue to suck up energy and raise the price and the demand for electricity and natural gas, while families struggle with their energy costs and face increasing government regulation and taxation. It’s a regressive plan that Gore’s supporters would decry if the same kind of scheme were applied to a national sales tax, for instance.
And basically, it doesn’t address the issue of hypocrisy. If Gore and his family continue to increase their consumption of commercial energy with all of the resources they have at hand, then they have no business lecturing the rest of us on conservation and down-scaling our own use. (via The Anchoress)

Jesus Buried In Plain Sight?

Many people have discussed the supposed discovery of the family tomb of Jesus in a section of Jerusalem. The finding, which forms the basis of a Discovery Channel special next Sunday, purports to show that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a son named Judah, also buried at the tomb with his own ossuary:

New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world’s foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.
The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.
The DNA findings, alongside statistical conclusions made about the artifacts — originally excavated in 1980 — open a potentially significant chapter in Biblical archaeological history.

Well, maybe. The DNA analysis, which has been trumpeted without much explanation, does not identify the Jesus of the ossuary as the same Jesus in the Bible. All it does is show that the bones in a tomb that the researchers speculate belonged to Mary Magdelene have no familial relation to the bones in the Jesus ossuary. That is how the archeologists assumed that the two in this crypt were married, and that the Judah ben-Jesus of the ossuary had to be their offspring.
This shows why pop science rarely delivers anything but entertainment. I enjoy Simcha Jacobovici in his incarnation as “The Naked Archeologist”, but I don’t pretend that the show is anything more than a superficial and oversimplified trek through history. The speculations made by the team working on the Talpiot tomb show how a series of assumptions can lead to a wild and likely incorrect conclusion.
Let’s take a few things in the context of the times. Jesus was a well-known agitator whose crucifixion creates a cult following, in the eyes of the Romans and the leading Jews of the time. The basis of that cult formed around the notion that Jesus rose from the dead. If the Romans knew where his body was buried, why then did they not produce it as proof of his immutable death? In order to be placed in an ossuary, he would have to lie in the tomb for a year, decomposing to skeletal remains. During that time, the Romans could easily have produced the body — or the cult followers could have stolen it and buried it elsewhere to prevent it.
The familial ties also seem rather odd. In the first generation of Jesus, no one mentions his marriage or family. Yet his familiy and followers — ossuaries of Matthew and James are supposedly among the discoveries — supposedly felt it of no moment to bury him with his wife and son, despite their refusal to acknowledge a marriage. By the time his son would have died, the Gospels would already have been written and prophesied in the region and further to Greece and Rome.
And all of this evidence would have been left in the open, in a tomb in the middle of the largest city in the region, where anyone could have discovered it.
I’m sorry, but this relies on faith at least as much as the Christian religion does, and contradicts common sense. It’s nonsense. None of this makes any sense at all, but I’ll bet it sells lots of advertising. (h/t: CQ reader Peyton R)
UPDATE: The Anchoress, my favorite Catholic blogger, has more.

Giuliani And CQ At CPAC

Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani has garnered some mild criticism for maintaining a fairly safe appearance schedule since forming his exploratory committee for his Presidential campaign. Conservatives have wondered when he would begin making appearances at events targeted at the conservative community. They can rest easy now; Giuliani has announced that he will speak at The American Conservative Union’s CPAC event this weekend. Patrick Ruffini e-mailed me last night to point out the announcement on The Politico.
If this is Giuliani’s coming-out party, he’s not alone. Mike Huckabee has been added to the CPAC agenda, a good event for the Arkansas governor. Newt Gingrich has signed up for the closing speech to the conservatives gathered there. Jim Gilmore, the former Governor of Virginia and a Presidential candidate who has not garnered much attention, will also deliver a speech. So far, no word on whether John McCain or Mitt Romney will become last-minute additions to the event, but their representatives will definitely be there.
This is a smart move for Giuliani. He needs to make his debut with conservative groups soon, before a meme of avoidance starts to gain traction. If my earlier experience with Giuliani gives any indication, he’ll shine there as he does anywhere he speaks live. Conservatives there will ask tough questions, and I’m interested to see if he decides to engage in a dialogue at CPAC rather than just a speech.
I’m hoping to talk to them all. I’ll be attending CPAC for the first time, blogging the event. Starting at 10:00 am on Thursday, I’ll be live at CPAC, attending the speeches and reporting on the developments at the conference. I’ll be especially interested in the appearances of Giuliani and Gingrich, but I’m looking forward to familiarizing myself and CQ readers with Gilmore, Huckabee, and others. Be sure to keep checking back with CQ for constant updates.
UPDATE: Mitt Romney will also appear at CPAC, on Friday. This is rapidly becoming the can’t-miss event for 2007. Glad I decided to go!

Controversial For Showing The Truth

The documentary Obsession has finally started to receive attention for its presentation of the indoctrination of Arabs into an Islamist mindset, thanks to programs shown on state-run television in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other countries in the Middle East. The New York Times reports on the controversy the documentary has created on college campuses:

When “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” a documentary that shows Muslims urging attacks on the United States and Europe, was screened recently at the University of California, Los Angeles, it drew an audience of more than 300 — and also dozens of protesters.
At Pace University in New York, administrators pressured the Jewish student organization Hillel to cancel a showing in November, arguing it could spur hate crimes against Muslim students. A Jewish group at the State University of New York at Stony Brook also canceled the film last semester.
The documentary has become the latest flashpoint in the bitter campus debate over the Middle East, not just because of its clips from Arab television rarely shown in the West, including scenes of suicide bombers being recruited and inducted, but also because of its pro-Israel distribution network. …
The documentary’s proponents say it provides an unvarnished look at Islamic militancy. “It’s an urgent issue that is widely avoided by academia,” argued Michael Abdurakhmanov, the Hillel president at Pace.
Its critics call it incendiary. Norah Sarsour, a Palestinian-American student at U.C.L.A., said it was disheartening to see “a film like this that takes the people who have hijacked the religion and focuses on them.”

Like most documentaries, Obsession has a point of view, and that has to be considered when evaluating the film. However, as I note in my review of the film last August, Obsession has an unusual defense for charges of bias and hyperbole: it uses the words and images shown on Arab television to make its point. Most television stations in these countries are run by the state, and the programs shown on the channels have the implicit imprimatur of the governments. Thus, Sarsour’s criticism falls short.
In fact, if one watches the full-length version of the film, it does attempt to separate the extremists from the moderate Muslims. Several of the people who comment on radical Islam in the film are in fact moderate Muslims. (I mistakenly included Brigitte Gabriel among them in my review; she’s Christian.) At least one of them, Walid Shoebat, is a former Islamist extremist himself who recognizes the dnagers his former comrades in arms represent.
Karen Arenson’s description of the film gives an impression that it uses random footage of attacks and indoctrination, “interspersed with those of Nazi rallies,” as some kind of narrativeless rant. That’s simply false. The film spends some time pointing out the historical connections between radical Islamists and the Nazis in Germany, and the shared aim of both: extermination of Jews. As I wrote in August:

To this purpose, the film makes excellent use of Alfons Heck, an elderly German academic who once served as a high-ranking officer in the Hitler Youth. Heck points out that a worldy and sophisticated German people fell for the crudest kind of anti-Semitic propaganda — so why should anyone expect the Arabs to resist their own government-produced propaganda? Indeed, Obsession fills itself with television clips gleaned from all over the Arab world, giving American viewers perhaps their first real taste of how pervasive the paranoia gets in Arab culture.
This connection with Naziism goes beyond the hordes of jihadis sporting salutes that look suspiciously like Sieg Heils. Obession also reviews the historical connections between Adolf Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, whom Hitler embraced to the bemusement of his race-baiting followers. Heck recalls questioning why HItler allied with a non-Aryan group, and getting the answer that Nazis and Arabs wanted the same thing: the annihilation of the Jews. The Mufti later went to Bosnia and created an SS regiment of Muslims, one of the reasons that the Serbians — who fought the Nazis — felt betrayed by the West’s alliance with the Bosnians in the 1990s.

Arenson doesn’t do justice to the work the documentarians did in showing those connections. Nor does the Times reporter delve too deeply into the supposed controversy and polarization that she claims this film has promoted. Even when I attended college in the early 1980s, Palestinian activists held campus rallies showing the exact same kind of propaganda to support the PLO terrorists and their mission to wipe out Israel. Supporters of Israel got shouted down in much the same fashion as they do today. The Left adopted the Palestinian cause decades ago; in fact, one of the most controversial moments in Oscar history came in the 1970s, when Vanessa Redgrave used an acceptance speech to politick on behalf of PLO terrorists, and Paddy Chayefsky used his speech as an impassioned rebuttal to Redgrave’s nonsense.
The college scene at the time differed only in that Chayefsky’s point of view was usually suppressed by those who did want any competing points of view. With that history in mind, I have a difficult time understanding why a documentary like Obsession — which uses the television images of the mainstream Muslim societies and the undeniable historical record — seems like such a danger.
Or perhaps I’ve answered my own question.

Is Japan Wrong To Honor Its Kamikaze Pilots?

Japan will confront its World War II history with a new film this May honoring the sacrifice of its kamikaze pilots. I Go To Die For You comes from the pen of a well-known politician, and will open up a debate over the nature of the Imperial culture that sent 5,000 young men to their deaths as the pilots of guided missiles:

Japan’s kamikaze pilots are to be honoured in a new film praising their bravery, sacrifice and “beautiful lives” in the Second World War.
The release in May of I Go To Die For You confirms a growing nostalgia in Japan about its wartime generation, even among the majority who accept the cause was wrong. …
The screenplay by the 74-year-old outspoken politician, Shintaro Ishihara, is based on conversations he had with Tome Torihama, a woman who ran a restaurant near the base and became a mother figure to many of the trainee kamikaze. …
Widely viewed as fanatics in Britain and America, kamikaze pilots have a complex place in the Japan’s collective memory. Far-Right nationalists venerate them as martyrs, while liberals see them as young victims of state brainwashing, bullied into volunteering to die.
Almost 5,000 kamikaze were sacrificed in a desperate and futile attempt to change the course of the war in its last months. Many did not reach their targets. A few would-be pilots are still alive today, saved by engine failure or by the end of the war.

Apparently, the screenplay indicates that this film will not follow the example of Letters from Iwo Jima, showing the bravery and the futility of the Japanese in the final straits of a collapse. It tends to glorify the decision to conduct so many suicide missions, even though the operation ended in disaster, and arguably in the atomic bombs dropped on two of their cities. The kamikazes had the intended effect of convincing the Americans of the lunacy of the Japanese government, a conviction that entered into the calculation of using those weapons as a means of avoiding the millions of deaths on both sides that a full-scale invasion would have caused.
Americans have a clear view of kamikaze missions; they believe them to be appalling. The pilots get consideration for their bravery, but they get portrayed as fanatics. The Japanese have conflicted views about the “special attack forces”, as Ishihara puts it. Newer generations of more liberal Japanese consider them to have been duped by a desperate war machine facing ruin and shame, while older and more conservative Japanese believe them to have sacrificed themselves with honor.
Both could be right, but this film might not deliver that kind of nuance. The kamikazes cannot speak for themselves, except for those few who missed their chance to commit suicide for the Emperor. The risk that Ishihara runs is in crossing the line between understanding the men themselves and lauding the mission, which was a truly insane operation that in the end did Japan far more damage than they could have imagined. If the film glorifies the kamikaze program, then it will almost certainly raise a firestorm of criticism, especially on this side of the Pacific.