The Raping of Nanking

As history reveals, storms of evil blow up from time to time…and no nation is beyond its reach.

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.

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.

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 [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.

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
December 18, 2002

Editor’s note: This essay was originally broadcast on 13 December, 1999.

As we write, Bill is somewhere over the Atlantic, hurrying home to Paris for the holidays. Eric is still enjoying the white sands and hot sun of Nicaragua…

And so, we bring you a market roundup from our own Addison Wiggin.



Addison Wiggin in Paris with the details…

– Mr. Claus…if it was him…didn’t stick around long. Wall Street watchers witnessed the Dow drop 92 points yesterday, giving back about half of the jolly one’s Monday gifts. The S&P and Nasdaq gave back a couple points too…7 and 8 respectively.

– At 8535, the Dow is down nearly 15% for the year…and barring any celestial intervention, is dead set on making this "calendar year number 3" on the short side of (what we expect will be) a long bear market.

– Phewww…at least there’s real estate.

– "From time to time, a wave of optimism spreads around the world like bushfire," Strategic Investment contributor Marc Faber wrote back in May of this year. "People believe that they are seeing the dawn of a new era, which will bring unimaginable riches and prosperity to all…[but] once speculators realize that stocks have hit their peaks, they shift their funds to another object of speculation."

– Faber, at the time, was talking about the shift of money out of France after the burst of the Mississippi bubble in 1720 to London, where the South Seas bubble was just getting underway. The analogy suits today’s real estate market, too.

– Although analysts argue whether we’re, in fact, experiencing a speculative wave in real estate prices or not…Dr. Steve Sjuggerud, for example, suggests that if you really want a real estate bubble, you should take a look at Florida in the 1920s. In our opinion, a few of today’s headlines tell the whole story. Here are four picked seemingly at random:

"Early retirements Put Off"

"Bear Market Shatters Retirement Dreams"

"Consumers Sell Stocks, Put Money In Real Estate"

"New Century Announces 12-Second Internet Loan Approvals"

– "A survey of 1,103 households with individual retirement accounts, 401(k), pension and stock investments," reads the first article in, "found that 77 percent had lost money in the stock market over the past two years." The piece goes on to report 34% said they had postponed vacations, and another 30% had already postponed a major purchase this year.

– "Among stock owners aged 50 to 70 years old who have lost money in the stock market," says USAToday, quoting a study done by the AARP, "about 20% have already postponed retirement as a result of their losses. Among retirees who’ve lost money in the stock market since March 2000, 3% have returned to work." Also according to the study, 15% of workers aged 40 to 59 say they’ve saved nothing at all for retirement…and another 27% have saved only $10,000 or less.

– Yet, reports another McPaper piece (as Doug Casey so fondly calls the newspaper), investors fearful of stock market losses "may be committing the cardinal investment sin": expecting real estate gains to continue the blistering 29% price increase they have over the last five years. One investor profiled maintained 75% of his assets in stocks in 2000, against 25% in real estate. This year, he’s dumped everything into a half-million dollar home in the Bay Area – the priciest market in the U.S. He no longer saves.

– What of the 100,000+ jobs lost in the Bay Area as the tech industry has fallen apart? "I felt great about [the choice]," the investor says. So far, he’s been right: Silicon Valley real estate shot up 25% in 2000; a measly 5% in 2001; and what looks like a healthy 12% this year. How long will the trend continue? we’re tempted to ask…(if only to spread our reputation as a stock market sour puss to the real estate market).

– Well, let’s consult history for some insight. "Concerning real estate," continues Dr. Faber, "it is very common for prices to continue to rise for some time after a stock market bubble has burst…it is not particularly unusual then that the U.S. real estate market has stayed buoyant over the last 18 months [or more] even though the stock market has performed poorly. But although real estate prices can stay strong for some time after a bubble bursts, as money shifts from liquid assets in to real assets, in due course, some kind of bubble also occurs in real estate. Property, in the absence of a strong stock market, becomes the only game in town."

– Thus, New Century’s big announcement…according to Yahoo! Finance, thanks to New Century’s "new proprietary Web-based loan underwriting engine", you can get a mortgage loan approved in 12 seconds (or less, the marketing voice in me wants to tack on…).

– Forthwith we have a few suggestions for programmers at CNBC. Maria Bartiromo, as you may or may not know, made a name for herself during the bubble years covering high-flying tech companies for the bubble channel. Now it seems poor Maria’s ratings are down 42% since August. Gulp. Perhaps recast Maria B. – formerly known to male investors as the Money Honey – as the Mortgage Mama, or the Reine of Reits? Perhaps those titles would prop up her sagging ratings through another bubble period…?

Cheers, Addison Wiggin