It seems that way. Tom Hanks is one of Hollywood’s more respectable denizens, but that doesn’t save him from this remarkably dim-witted exchange, featured in the current issue of Time, as dissected by John Nolte at Big Hollywood. The subject is Hanks’s new HBO series on World War II in the Pacific. This is how the Time story ends:
[Hanks] doesn’t see the series as simply eye-opening history. He hopes it offers Americans a chance to ponder the sacrifices of our current soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. “From the outset, we wanted to make people wonder how our troops can re-enter society in the first place,” Hanks says. “How could they just pick up their lives and get on with the rest of us? Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?”
There’s no such thing as a definitive history. But what was once a passing interest for Hanks has become an obsession. He’s a man on a mission to make our back pages come alive, to keep overhauling the history we know and, in the process, get us to understand not just the past but the choices we make today.
This is painfully stupid. We expect that from the current incarnation of Time as a journal of liberal opinion, but I would have hoped for better from Hanks. Nolte makes the basic point well:
Really, we wanted to annihilate the Japanese because they were different, because we saw them as “yellow, slant-eyed dogs that believed in different gods?” I thought it was due to the fact that “we viewed them” as barbaric imperialists who had attacked us first and wanted to enslave the world.
But there’s no reason to speculate about America’s motivations during WWII because history has proven Hanks wrong. We had every opportunity to annihilate these “different” people. Instead we chose, at great expense, to rebuild Japan and return the sovereignty of that nation over to the “yellow, slant-eyed dogs who believed in different gods.” Or, as most people prefer to call them: our newly liberated allies.
And to answer Hanks’s question: No — annihilating people who are different sounds NOTHING like what’s going on today.
This country spends billions and billions of dollars on weapons designed to target the enemy and save the lives of people who are “different” — those who are not our enemy but still manage to look different, speak languages we don’t and worship in ways unfamiliar to us. The irony is that as Hanks spoke those slanderous words, the American Military remains in the middle of two conflicts that have cost us thousands of precious lives and hundreds of billions of dollars all towards the noble goal of liberating 50 million “different” people in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What is happening today actually bears a considerable resemblance to the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Contrary to Hanks’s thoughtless slander, before 1941 probably not a single American was interested in “annihilating [the Japanese] because they were different.” As evidenced by our laxity when it came to national defense. After Pearl Harbor, however, we had no choice but to swing into action–not to annihilate those who are different, but to defeat Japan and restore the peace. The Filipinos were “different” too, of course, so did we take time out to annihilate them? Um, no.
Likewise with the current conflicts. Prior to September 11, far from setting out to annihilate those who are “different,” we protected Muslims in Bosnia, tried to save Somalians from the warlords, and rescued Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. Notwithstanding endless provocations, Americans were happy to leave it at that until Islamic terrorists murdered 3,000 Americans. Once again, we had to swing into action. So, did we “annihilate” those “different” Afghans and Iraqis? No, we established democracies and tried to bring both of those countries into the modern world by, among other things, liberating their women. How can a person of normal intelligence, as Hanks no doubt is, be so blind to reality? Presumably it has to do with swimming in the perverse, liberal water of Hollywood.
Far worse is Matt Damon’s upcoming Green Zone, which will open on Friday. Green Zone is history as imagined at the Daily Kos and Democratic Underground. The film is a fevered portrayal of a fictional world in which the CIA warned President Bush that Saddam had no WMDs and in which Sunni insurgents are heroic patriots who are brutally targeted by evil American death squads. Kyle Smith concludes, in the New York Post:
“Green Zone” isn’t cinema. It’s slander. It will go down in history as one of the most egregiously anti-American movies ever released by a major studio.
The only consolation, I suppose, is that Green Zone will lose a fortune. But that hardly matters: someday soon, it will be taken as history.