The Rape of Nanking

The storm that knocked out our power also blew apart many of the decorations for year 2000 in little Lathus. Even in their prime, they looked rather feeble. Now they are pathetic.

As we drove up to the church at Bourg Archambault, we found that the wind had also knocked over the cross in front of the church. There was the Nazarine, still nailed to the cross. But the cross was lying on the ground. Father Marchand took it as a good sign. But everything is a good sign to him. Every storm portends fair weather.

He is a stopped clock. A perpetual optimist. A perma-bull on the perfectibility of man and the triumph of good over evil.

But, beginning in December 1937… only 65 years ago… the world was reminded of what evil was all about. Previous records in political depravity were broken when the devil worked overtime for a six-week period. When it was over, an estimated 377,000 people had been slaughtered.

These people, by the way, were not soldiers of the Reich nor draftees of the Kremlin. They were men, women and children of all ages and party affiliations. Democrats. Catholics. Confucians. Bricklayers. They shared one common mistake – they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

These people were not obliterated in an impersonal air- raid… such as the 60,000 thought to have been killed at Dresden or the 200,000 killed at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Nor were they killed methodically and systematically as the Nazis and Bolsheviks usually did with their victims.

The rape of Nanking: Nothing Personal

Instead, they were put to death one by one…or in small groups. They were often tortured…degraded…and made to suffer as much as the killers’ imagination made possible. Nothing personal…of course.

Butchery. Barbarity. Bestiality. It is hard to describe what happened in words that do it justice.

When the Roman legions destroyed Carthage, they took the lives of about 150,000. Timur Lenk killed 100,000 prisoners at Delhi in 1398. He built towers of skulls in Syria in 1400.

But no cameras recorded the spectacles. The photos in Iris Chang’s book provide evidence against those who believe in the perfectibility of man. The event in question occurred more than 100 years after the Rights of Man had been declared. And nearly two millennia after the birth of the Prince of Peace. The prohibition against murder was well- established in all major religions. Of course, the victims would have welcomed murder – it would have been a comfort, like a stop loss in a bear market.

Some of the photos in Iris Chang’s book are so revolting that I wish I had not seen them. Once seen… they could not be ignored. I could barely go on with my work. One of the photos in The Big Black Book of Communism had the same effect… I could not look at it again… but it was hard not to recall it.

You might be tempted to say of the perpetrators of these crimes that they were “animals.” Such a comment libels the animal kingdom. No beast of burden or leisure would do such a thing…

I am talking about the “Rape of Nanking,” revealed to us in gruesome detail by Iris Chang’s book of the same name. The term “Rape” fails to convey the extent of the misery visited on the hapless citizens of Nanking, China in 1937.

“Rape” is not a nice thing… but it hardly describes what the Japanese Imperial Army under Gen. Iwane Matsui did to the Chinese who fell into their hands after they took the city of Nanking in 1937.

The Rape of Nanking: A Dominant Military Caste

Though reported in the international press at the time, it was practically ignored by everyone and quickly forgotten. It was the Nobody of mass slaughters.

A shame. It might have alerted the world to what was to come.

If Mr. Bewitt were right about being no more than the sum of his experiences… it is no mystery why the Japanese behaved as they did. Japan’s dominant caste was military… had been for centuries. It sought to create a race of superior soldiers… with complete confidence in themselves… and total contempt for the rest of the world. The whole society had been politicized.

Iris Chang recounts the story of one schoolboy who quivered at dissecting a frog. Struck by his teacher, he is asked, “Why are you crying about one lousy frog? When you grow up you’ll have to kill one hundred, two hundred chinks!”

The Chinese were deconstructed into “chinks”…pigs…animals… subhumans. And enemies of the Imperial Army.

Here’s what happened. Just as things couldn’t be better for Wall Street today [‘today’ being back in December 1999], they couldn’t have been worse for Nanking in 1937. Or so it seemed. And just as everyone is long on the future of NYC, and America, on the eve of this Christmas season… everyone was short Nanking back then. Nanking was near a bottom – its quality of life, its morale, its capital values, even its population…were all sinking fast.

The Chinese army was overtaken by despair. Nothing partakes in group-think so much as an army. That’s why morale is so important to a fighting force. At Nanking, the Chinese army so oversold itself that it became, literally, worthless. Soldiers laid down their weapons without a fight. This confirmed the Japanese contempt for the Chinese. The prisoners were taken away… and killed.

This left the whole city at the mercy of the Japanese. “On December 13, 1937, Japanese soldiers began an orgy of cruelty seldom if ever matched in world history,” says Chang. “… Young men were mowed down by machine guns, used for bayonet practice, or soaked with gasoline and burned alive.”

…but the soldiers were just getting started.

“Not only did live burials, castration, the carving of organs and the roasting of people become routine, but more diabolical tortures were practiced, such as hanging people by the tongues on iron hooks or burying people to their waists and watching them get torn apart by German shepherds… even the Nazis in the city were horrified… “

To his credit, General Matsui was horrified, too. He had been sick and away from the city. Upon returning, he was shocked to see how his troops had been turned into a mob from hell.

The Rape of Nanking: John Rabe

Curiously, one of the heroes of Nanking was, in fact, a Nazi. John Rabe was a member of the Nazi party. But he was also a representative of the Siemens company and felt a personal responsibility to protect his Chinese workers.

Once started on this course, his courage and energy were exemplary. He led an entire community of missionaries – many of them American – and other foreigners, as well as thousands of Chinese in the foreigners’ compound, through the experience.

Rabe took it personally. He risked his life daily, confronting the Japanese military authorities and butting in to save individual Chinese from Japanese soldiers whenever he could.

Only his Nazi armband protected him… but he could never be sure how far that would take him.

(After the war, Rabe, returned to Germany, was disgraced as a Nazi… and impoverished. The citizens of Nanking took up a collection on his behalf.)

Japan is the world’s most law-abiding and polite society. But storms of evil blow up from time to time. No race or nation is beyond their reach. (I got a message from a Daily Reckoning reader describing how American soldiers shot Cheyenne children for sport.)

Give the devil his due – the events described above occurred during the lifetimes of many people reading this message. In our century. Our time. Our world.

Many of the killers are still alive, too… enjoying their comfortable retirements… and looking forward, no doubt, to the new millennium.


Bill Bonner
Baltimore, Maryland
December 17, 2004


Today’s news brings no comfort.

Those of us who expect “the end of the world as we know it” will have to wait at least another day.

Instead, what the news brings is more of the same:

The dollar rose…along with the Dow.

Housing stats suddenly fell in November, while jobless rates improved.

Fannie Mae is being advised to restate her earnings.

And “Foreigners Added $48.1 Billion in U.S. Assets in October, Low for the Year,” says Bloomberg. The U.S. current account deficit hit a new record in the 3rd quarter – at $164.7 billion. But U.S. Treasury Secretary Snow is “not concerned,” says the story.

Well, we’re so glad to hear it. We were afraid the poor man might be losing sleep over the holidays – like his counterparts in Japan. But last night, the dollar rose…so Mr. Asakawa must have slept soundly; his infernal currency monitoring alarm system should have remained silent.

“More of the same” is what people wanted. And “more of the same” is what people got – except for the nasty slide of the dollar, which only seems to have troubled Mr. Asakawa.

And so we sit, dear reader, like an elderly writer in the Florida sun, waiting for the end. It must come. For all things must end – even the biggest credit expansion the world has ever seen.

Not that we are looking forward to it. But what must happen sometime might as well happen now…so we’ll get it over with.

More news, from Tom Dyson in Baltimore:


“Here at the Rude Awakening, we like the sight of frightened lemmings, unless of course they’re trashing our homes. And if they’re heading for a nearby cliff-top; even better. Lemmings mean money…but only if you have the conviction to run against the herd.”


Bill Bonner, with more views from Baltimore…

*** “They built a couple of penthouses down at the harbor,” began a friend yesterday. “They’re probably the most spectacular apartments in Baltimore, with beautiful views out over the harbor. Of course, they’re not cheap. About $1.7 million. Who would have thought that you could sell an apartment in Baltimore for $1.7 million? But there’s so much money around – it’s unbelievable. I didn’t really want it, but I figured that something as unique as this was bound to go up…so I bought one of these things before it was completed. I just put down $20,000. Now, I believe I can sell it for $200,000 more than my contract price. Not bad, huh?”

We wonder how much of this speculation is going on all over the country. Our friend never intended to move in. Now that he must pay up – he is instead flipping the apartment…at a profit. Is the next buyer going to move in? Will anyone ever move in? How many houses, apartments and condos have become ‘trading units’ rather than real homes?

We don’t know…but our friend, Chris Mayer has some insights on what awaits the housing market in 2005:

“The consequences of the Fannie Mae scandal will make it far more difficult for other lenders to issue mortgages. As a consequence, rates will rise. Mortgage companies will tumble, dragging down both the already shaky stock market… and the housing market at the same time!”

*** “Today is my last day of school before the vacation,” said Henry on the phone this morning. “Yesterday, the headmaster came into our class to hand out awards. I got ‘Compliments’ – which is pretty good.”

“Very good, Henry,” said his father. “It saves us the trouble of having to nag you about your homework.”

The Daily Reckoning