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Papers that pushed for Pacific War revisited

Fabricated logistics data supplied by Cabinet member helped military railroad government

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The key was lost and the safe remained locked for 22 years after the 1989 death of its owner, former Lt. Gen. Teiichi Suzuki of the Imperial Japanese Army, who had been the last surviving Class-A war criminal of World War II.

Suzuki, who died at the age of 100 in Shibayama, Chiba Prefecture, was among key Cabinet members when Japan started the Pacific War with the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Two years ago, Suzuki’s relatives had NHK open the safe. Inside were diaries, notebooks and other documents, including a 16-page typed manuscript that the general had read out in front of Emperor Hirohito and national leaders at an Imperial Conference on Nov. 5, 1941, to detail Japan’s logistical strengths.

Suzuki, who headed the Planning Board, a government body in charge of allocating resources for the army, navy and civilians, concluded that Japan, which was already at war in China, would be able to still wage war against the United States, Britain and the Netherlands.

This conclusion may have helped seal the fate of Japan as well as that of millions of victims of the Pacific War.

Some key numbers described in the manuscript were apparently padded. Using those cooked-up figures, Suzuki was able to convince undecided leaders that Japan could secure the logistical supplies needed to wage war against the U.S., said Atsushi Moriyama, associate professor at the University of Shizuoka, noting this argument helped persuade Japan to embark on a hopeless fight.

“This is the first time (Suzuki) revealed his official view (on Japan’s wartime logistical capacity). So this was very critical,” said Moriyama, a noted expert on modern Japanese political history.

Experts have known the contents of the document Suzuki read out, but it wasn’t until NHK broke open the safe that the actual paper he used during the Imperial Conference was discovered.

The safe also contained nine essays Suzuki wrote in the closing days of World War II that to date have been examined only by a few experts. The Japan Times is the first media outlet to report on those essays.

In one of them, Suzuki explained how awestruck he was by his first one-on-one conversation with Emperor Hirohito to detail a national resource mobilization plan for fiscal 1941 on July 5, 1941.

The Emperor asked Suzuki if the 1941 resource plan would still work if a war between Japan and the United States broke out, according to the essay.

“If such a war actually takes place, it would mean big trouble, though,” the Emperor was quoted as saying in the essay.

In the essay, Suzuki wrote that he responded by saying the plan is based on an expanded wartime scenario. The Emperor said, “Then that would be fine.”

Moriyama noted, however, that no contemporary materials, including diaries of the Emperor’s aides, make mention of Suzuki’s meeting with the monarch on that date.

If the meeting actually took place on that date, it is a new discovery.But Suzuki’s memory could have been off, as he wrote the essay more than three years after the meeting supposedly occurred, Moriyama said.

Suzuki kept his essays and the 16-page document together in his safe, apparently aware of the historic meaning of the incidents he was involved in as a Cabinet member during the war.

In the postwar military tribunal, Suzuki was sentenced to life in prison, but was freed in 1956.

The cover of the 16-page document bore “Top-Secret” in red, and many red lines were drawn along key words and phrases, which Suzuki probably emphasized during his presentation in front of the Emperor and other attendants, including Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo.

The manipulated figures in Suzuki’s document were those of projected wartime losses of transport ships to carry oil and other strategic materials from areas in Southeast Asia that Japan planned to occupy if it went to war with the U.S.

Before July 1941, Japan depended on the U.S. for 70 percent of its oil imports. But on Aug. 1 of that year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt cut Japan off after Imperial forces advanced into southern French Indochina ostensibly at the request of France’s puppet Vichy government that the Nazis established. By then, Japan had joined Hitler’s tripartite Axis alliance.

Japan had more than 7 million tons of oil stockpiled as of July 1941, but with daily consumption of 10,000 tons, the nation would be left with no oil by the end of December 1942.

With no alternative sources, Japan was facing the tough choice of whether to launch a desperate war against the Allied Powers in a bid to occupy oil-rich Southeast Asia or pull its troops out of China as demanded by the U.S.

A critical question for leaders at the Imperial Conference was whether Japan would be able to ship vast amounts of oil from occupied Southeast Asia, particularly the Dutch East Indies, to sustain a war against the U.S.

Suzuki’s paper concluded that Japan would be able to maintain enough transport ships in a conflict against the U.S. But according to the paper, the loss of ships was estimated at 800,000 tons to 1 million tons a year, and annual ship production capacity was estimated to be 600,000 tons a year.

Given those figures, Japan would eventually lose all its transport ships, but Suzuki concluded otherwise, without providing an explanation.

“(Suzuki) didn’t make sense,” Moriyama said.

None of the national leaders at the Imperial Conference, however, pointed out the apparent contradiction and simply accepted Suzuki’s conclusion, taking a significant step toward war against the U.S. during the gathering.

According to Moriyama, Suzuki apparently adopted an earlier optimistic simulation provided by the navy that assumed that as the war continued, fewer transport ships would be sunk. The simulation was based on outdated World War I ship-loss data and didn’t assume any damage from enemy aircraft.

“Whether Japan would be able to continue the war depended on how much (shipping) we would lose,” Gen. Kenryo Sato, the army’s military affairs chief in the 1940s, wrote in a memoir published in 1976.

“In reality, the estimated amount turned out to be far off the mark. This was the biggest cause of our defeat” in the Pacific War, Sato wrote.

Suzuki was well aware of the huge gap between the industrial strength of the U.S. and that of Japan, and was among a few members who initially openly argued against a war with the United States.

In 1941, the gross national product of the U.S. was 12 times greater than that of Japan and the U.S. produced 12 times more crude steel and five times more aircraft and ships than Japan.

But after being pressured by a senior army officer, Suzuki made an about-face on Oct. 30, 1941, and started siding with those national leaders who advocated war, Moriyama said.

“Suzuki’s about-face was a big factor” in pushing participants in the Imperial Conference to opt for war, he said.

If Suzuki had maintained his earlier stance against the war, the Tojo Cabinet may not have started the war against the U.S., Moriyama said.

Under the 1889 Meiji Constitution, no national leader — even the prime minister — had the power to sack other members of the Cabinet. If one minister kept resisting the prime minister, the Cabinet would have no choice but to resign en masse.

Also under the Meiji Constitution, the Emperor appointed Cabinet ministers, based on recommendations from the prime minister. But the Emperor was not supposed to officially intervene in Cabinet decisions, although Emperor Hirohito’s attitude sometimes affected key political figures during the war.

This meant all key decisions would have to appear to be unanimous agreements by the Cabinet.

According to studies by experts, many top leaders — including those from the army and navy, were, like Suzuki, reluctant to wage war with the U.S., as they were well aware of how strong it was compared with Japan.

But key government officials, including top brass in the army and navy, both feared losing face and had sectional interests to protect, thus they never expressed their “honne” (true feelings) during top decision-making meetings, Moriyama said.

Top naval leaders could not openly argue against war because the navy had earlier kept winning huge budgets by emphasizing it had to prepare to take on America. Army leaders meanwhile refused to withdraw their troops from occupied China as demanded by Washington as a precondition for the U.S. lifting its oil embargo and improving relations with Japan.

Pressure from the army and navy, which put their interests above those of the nation, eventually pushed indecisive national leaders to gamble on war with the Allies. And Suzuki’s paper helped provide a reason for those leaders to launch the Pacific War.

Moriyama is well-known for his studies on this “indecisive” political process and the sectionalism that eventually led Japan to doom in the Pacific War. Many Japanese who read his book on this theme say the organizations they belong to have very similar problems with indecisive, irresponsible leaders, Moriyama said.

“Many of my readers interpreted (the book) as that of contemporary history. A book like this should be read as a story of the past, but it’s not,” he said. “That means (Japanese) society has serious problems. That’s scary.”

Japan paid dearly for waging war with the Allies.

Most of Japan’s major cities — including Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka — were flattened by massive U.S. bombing raids. In the March 10, 1945, Great Tokyo Air Raid alone, more than 100,000 citizens were killed overnight.

In total, more than 3.1 million Japanese, including 800,000 civilians, were killed during the war, which ultimately cost tens of millions of lives.

  • crandal

    More than 3.1 million Japanese died. That is probably a figure that the prosecutors of the war like this Suzuki wouldn’t care about. In fact, they would probably find it a source of pride. “See how many people willingly gave their lives for our ideals! Thus Japan deserves to be strong and proud.” A sentiment echoed by the current ultra-nationalist government as well.

    Those who refuse to learn from history will be doomed to fall victim to it again. And drag a whole bunch of other people, like the people of Japan, in with them.

  • Murasaki

    Surprise attack on Pearl Harbor??? Rubbish!

    The US provoked Japan in to attacking and had set up a 8 step plan to force Japan in to attacking, the US knew Japan was going to attack Pearl and the US navy removed all new and fast vessels out of Pearl to avoid them getting destroyed and only left old vessels that were due to be decommission in Pearl to be bombed!

    • Steve van Dresser

      One could argue that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a result of tensions between Japan and the United States. But that argument falls flat when you consider the fact that, within a 24 hour period, attacks were also launched against British Malaya (now Malaysia and Singapore), French Indochina (now Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam), and Thailand, as well as the American territories of the Guam, Wake Island, and the Philippines. Were all these countries part of some conspiracy to provoke Japan into starting a losing war? Or was Japan determined to have the entire Western Pacific region as it own property?

      • Hitokiri 1989

        It also falls flat when you consider official Japanese propaganda that the war was to “liberate” the Asian colonies. That suggests predetermination.

    • Kagemusha

      That’s very interesting. So what you are saying is that the Japanese
      government and the Emperor were just puppets of the evil Americans and
      were so dumb and irresponsible they just danced to the music of the
      Americans while knowing they will bring destruction on their people. I
      am sorry to hear you feel that way about your country and have such low
      self esteem.

      • Murasaki

        Please Feel Free to do your own research in to the War, the US wanted to enter the war in Europe against Germany but the US public wanted nothing to do with it, so a 8 set plan was hander FDR and he started the ball rolling that would make Japan declare war on the US and with Japan at war with the US then Germany would also declare war and the US could then enter the war in Europe.

        Go read the 1994 declassified US Memo ‘The Smoking Gun of Pearl Habour’

        Pretty sad when you believe in the lies taught at school and take them as truth!

      • Darryl Myers

        So this memo (according to you) and other evidence disagree with each other. Why do you assume that this one memo contains the absolute truth and all the other evidence is wrong?

        From what I have read, the US government might have expected the Japanese to make a move against the Philippines, but they were totally shocked that Japanese forces attacked as far east as Hawaii. Plus, as Steve van Dresser noted above,Japanese forces made almost simultaneous attacks against many territories of many nations. Plus, from what I have read in various sources, FDR was trying to move American public opinion toward declaring war on Nazi Germany even if there were no war with Japan. This undercuts the idea that the US provoked a Japanese attack to enter the war against the Axis. The US imposed embargoes and other restrictions on Japan because it wanted and expected Japan to withdraw from China, not attack a bunch of other countries.

      • Murasaki

        Have you read the memo, or you just going to keep believing in the lies that you were brainwashed with?

      • robertwgordonesq

        That was a good reply to Murasaki-san, however…

        …if as the article states above that “…Before July 1941, Japan depended on the U.S. for 70 percent of its oil imports.”

        Then when the United States decided to cut that oil supply off while Japan was in the middle of a war….

        …how did America think Japan would react???

        “Oh well boys, the Yanks have cut our oil supply…I guess we have to go home now.” Hirohito, et. al.

        That seemed unlikely.

        Especially given the later American “justification” for the atomic bombs being that the Japanese people would never give up and would fight to the last man.

        So on the one hand, yes you could joke that the Japanese were mere puppets falling for an American trap.

        But in reality, I don’t think anyone would expect the “never give up” Japanese to react any other way…hence the reason why some people feel that politicians in American deliberately provoked the Japanese military into attacking America (or American interests) so as to create “justification” for America to enter the war and appear as a victim rather than as an aggressor.

        The alternative would have been for Japan to simply give up fighting once their oil supply was cut…but if they were that sort of people who gave up so easily, then there was no need to later drop two atomic bombs on the island.

        Thus the oil embargo looks like deliberate provocation to me.

        There is also the allegation that by bolstering the American Naval presence in Hawaii (provocation) and at the same time having already broken the Japanese secret “Purple” code (foreknowledge) the Americans could be assured of provocation success. See: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/dec/07/news/mn-12562

    • Starviking

      Really? So that explains why the US Navy’s most modern active battleships, the USS Maryland and the USS West Virginia were at Pearl Harbour, along with the cruisers New Orleans and San Francisco?

      And those soon-to-be decommissioned battleships which were not irrecoverable were fixed and returned to duty.

      Care to reassess your assertion?

      • Murasaki

        I knew there be american that refused to accept the truth that the US provoked Japan in to attacking pearl and it was all planned.

        Quote

        Pearl Harbor was not about war with Japan -
        It was about war with GERMANY

        Most important was the promise FDR had made to the American people – solemnly given and repeated–not to send their sons into foreign war unless attacked. He did not mind violating that pledge. He merely feared the political effect of the violation. Alsop and Kintner, White House columnist pets, had written a short time before that “He (Roosevelt) does not feel he can openly violate them (his pledges). But he can get around them the smart way.” They explained this meant getting the Germans to shoot first. Then he could shoot back. But it was clear to him by November that the Germans were not going to shoot first. But FDR knew that he could force the Japanese to do so.

        HITLER WOULD NOT DECLARE WAR IF U.S. UNBEATABLE

        OBJECTIVE: War with Germany. How do you bait Hitler to declare war on you? You don’t get it by looking unbeatable!

        Direct provocation in Atlantic had failed – Hitler didn’t bite.

        FDR knew from magic that if Japan attacked, Germany would declare war.

        Therefore: the problem was how to maneuver Japan into firing the first shot or make the first overt act.

        Japan must succeed or Hitler would renege.

        War with Japan was a given because they had to attack the Philippines. If Japan’s fleet were destroyed, it would defeat the purpose. It would have been obvious suicide for Hitler to declare war if Japan were crippled – it would allow the US to attack him without even the possibility of a two-front war. That was what he had just been avoiding for months. The plan could only work if Japan’s attack succeeded. The lure of a weakened US in a two-front war focused on Japan seemed to make a German war declaration cost-free. But it was all a trap – FDR was always going to ignore Japan and go after Hitler, for his ultimate goal was to save his beloved Soviet Communism.

        In November FDR ordered the Red Cross Disaster Relief director to secretly prepare for massive casualties at Pearl Harbor because he was going to let it be attacked. When he protested to the President, President Roosevelt told him that “the American people would never agree to enter the war in Europe unless they were attack [sic] within their own borders.”

        CHURCHILL–FDR KNEW. Did FDR know that Pearl Harbor was a Japanese target? Answer: FDR planned Pearl Harbor to be their target. He ordered the ships in and the carriers out. Co-conspirator Churchill wrote about Pearl Harbor that FDR and his top advisers “knew the full and immediate purpose of their enemy.” (http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/pearl/www.geocities.com/Pentagon/6315/fdrknew.html)

        Churchill’s entire discussion of Pearl Harbor was a justification of treason, e.g.: “A Japanese attack upon the U.S. was a vast simplification of (FDR’s and advisors’) problems and their duty. How can we wonder that they regarded the actual form of the attack, or even its scale, as incomparably less important than the fact that the whole American nation would be united…?”

        J. Edgar Hoover told his friends in early 1942 that FDR had known about the Pearl Harbor plan since the early fall. It was totally in character for FDR to concoct such a plan. Not only had the US Senate already censured FDR for utterly lacking moral perspective, but as Walter Lippmann wrote: “his purposes are not simple and his methods are not direct.”

        WHY SACRIFICE OLD, SLOW SHIPS?

        FDR had to do it to get into the war, as he himself later told Stalin. He needed massive public outrage and that required big sacrifice.

        Would he do it? Did he “love the Navy too much?” He was sacrificing ships in the Atlantic for the same purpose. Of course he would do it – he was doing it.

        He saved all the important elements of the fleet. In the spring he had sent many ships to the Atlantic. He kept the aircraft carrier Saratoga on the West Coast. And his sending of the two carrier groups out of harbor meant that not only they but also their fast escort ships would be saved – all the new ships stationed at Pearl Harbor were saved. Only WWI junk was left in harbor. Here is a list of all the ships saved – Ships saved at Pearl December 7 (http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/misc/non-ph.html)

        FDR’s attitude is best summed up by co-conspirator Admiral Bloch’s testimony to Congress, “The Japanese only destroyed a lot of old hardware. In a sense they did us a favor.”

        This was obviously FDR’s view as well, because on 7 December at 2:15 PM, minutes after hearing of the attack and before any damage reports were in, FDR called Lord Halifax at the British Embassy and told him “Most of the fleet was at sea…none of their newer ships were in harbour.” He had protected the new ships, the important elements of the fleet, and that fact was at the forefront of his mind in relation to the attack. First, it means FDR didn’t care about the old ships. Secondly, it means he knew before the attack that only old ships were in harbor for the attack. Therefore, Pearl Harbor was “the first shot without too much danger to ourselves” he sought. FDR was the architect of the attack plot from the oil embargo to the ultimatum to the final touches of deciding who would live and who would die.

      • Starviking

        “all the new ships stationed at Pearl Harbor were saved. Only WWI junk was left in harbor.”

        It’s interesting that your response in no way counters my comments on your claim that the US deliberatly kept old worn-out ships at Pearl Harbour. Here’s a more detailed look at the most modern large USN ships operational on that day:

        Battleships:

        BB-48 West Virginia
        BB-46 Maryland
        BB-45 Colorado
        BB-44 California
        BB-43 Tennessee

        All of these ships were at Pearl Harbour on Dec 7th 1941, except USS Colorado which was being overhauled at Puget Sound.

        Cruisers:

        CL-50 Helena – at Pearl Harbour
        CL-49 St. Louis – at Pearl Harbour
        CL-48 Honolulu – at Pearl Harbour
        CL-47 Boise – at the Phillipines
        CL-46 Phoenix – at Pearl Harbour
        CA-45 Wichita – on Neutrality Patrol
        CA-44 Vincennes – on Neutrality Patrol
        CL-43 Nashville – on Neutrality Patrol
        CL-42 Savannah – in New York Harbour
        CL-41 Philadelphia – on Neutrality Patrol

        So the 5 newest cruisers were in the Pacific, 4 of them at Pearl Harbour.

        By the way, none of the Ships listed above participated in WWI, and all were either the newest, or the newest operational ships of their type.

        “I knew there be american that refused to accept the truth that the US provoked Japan in to attacking pearl and it was all planned.”
        I’m not American, as my typing “Harbour” instead of “Harbor” shows.
        So, claims which are not proven by facts and false assumptions. Par for the course with conspiracy theories.

      • Murasaki

        I knew there be americans that refused to accept the truth that the US provoked Japan in to attacking pearl and it was all planned.

        Quote

        Pearl Harbor was not about war with Japan -
        It was about war with GERMANY

        Most important was the promise FDR had made to the American people – solemnly given and repeated–not to send their sons into foreign war unless attacked. He did not mind violating that pledge. He merely feared the political effect of the violation. Alsop and Kintner, White House columnist pets, had written a short time before that “He (Roosevelt) does not feel he can openly violate them (his pledges). But he can get around them the smart way.” They explained this meant getting the Germans to shoot first. Then he could shoot back. But it was clear to him by November that the Germans were not going to shoot first. But FDR knew that he could force the Japanese to do so.

        HITLER WOULD NOT DECLARE WAR IF U.S. UNBEATABLE

        1) OBJECTIVE: War with Germany. How do you bait Hitler to declare war on you? You don’t get it by looking unbeatable!
        2) Direct provocation in Atlantic had failed – Hitler didn’t bite.
        3) FDR knew from magic that if Japan attacked, Germany would declare war.
        4) Therefore: the problem was how to maneuver Japan into firing the first shot or make the first overt act.
        5) Japan must succeed or Hitler would renege.

        War with Japan was a given because they had to attack the Philippines. If Japan’s fleet were destroyed, it would defeat the purpose. It would have been obvious suicide for Hitler to declare war if Japan were crippled – it would allow the US to attack him without even the possibility of a two-front war. That was what he had just been avoiding for months. The plan could only work if Japan’s attack succeeded. The lure of a weakened US in a two-front war focused on Japan seemed to make a German war declaration cost-free. But it was all a trap – FDR was always going to ignore Japan and go after Hitler, for his ultimate goal was to save his beloved Soviet Communism.

        In November FDR ordered the Red Cross Disaster Relief director to secretly prepare for massive casualties at Pearl Harbor because he was going to let it be attacked. When he protested to the President, President Roosevelt told him that “the American people would never agree to enter the war in Europe unless they were attack [sic] within their own borders.”

        CHURCHILL–FDR KNEW. Did FDR know that Pearl Harbor was a Japanese target? Answer: FDR planned Pearl Harbor to be their target. He ordered the ships in and the carriers out. Co-conspirator Churchill wrote about Pearl Harbor that FDR and his top advisers “knew the full and immediate purpose of their enemy.” ( http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/pearl/www.geocities.com/Pentagon/6315/fdrknew.html

        Churchill’s entire discussion of Pearl Harbor was a justification of treason, e.g.: “A Japanese attack upon the U.S. was a vast simplification of (FDR’s and advisors’) problems and their duty. How can we wonder that they regarded the actual form of the attack, or even its scale, as incomparably less important than the fact that the whole American nation would be united…?”

        J. Edgar Hoover told his friends in early 1942 that FDR had known about the Pearl Harbor plan since the early fall. It was totally in character for FDR to concoct such a plan. Not only had the US Senate already censured FDR for utterly lacking moral perspective, but as Walter Lippmann wrote: “his purposes are not simple and his methods are not direct.”

        WHY SACRIFICE OLD, SLOW SHIPS?

        1) FDR had to do it to get into the war, as he himself later told Stalin. He needed massive public outrage and that required big sacrifice.

        2) Would he do it? Did he “love the Navy too much?” He was sacrificing ships in the Atlantic for the same purpose. Of course he would do it – he was doing it.

        3) He saved all the important elements of the fleet. In the spring he had sent many ships to the Atlantic. He kept the aircraft carrier Saratoga on the West Coast. And his sending of the two carrier groups out of harbor meant that not only they but also their fast escort ships would be saved – all the new ships stationed at Pearl Harbor were saved. Only WWI junk was left in harbor. Here is a list of all the ships saved – Ships saved at Pearl December 7 http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/misc/non-ph.html

        4) FDR’s attitude is best summed up by co-conspirator Admiral Bloch’s testimony to Congress, “The Japanese only destroyed a lot of old hardware. In a sense they did us a favor.”

        5) This was obviously FDR’s view as well, because on 7 December at 2:15 PM, minutes after hearing of the attack and before any damage reports were in, FDR called Lord Halifax at the British Embassy and told him “Most of the fleet was at sea…none of their newer ships were in harbour.” He had protected the new ships, the important elements of the fleet, and that fact was at the forefront of his mind in relation to the attack. First, it means FDR didn’t care about the old ships. Secondly, it means he knew before the attack that only old ships were in harbor for the attack. Therefore, Pearl Harbor was “the first shot without too much danger to ourselves” he sought. FDR was the architect of the attack plot from the oil embargo to the ultimatum to the final touches of deciding who would live and who would die.

        Must really pain people like you to know that your country is just another terrorist state and lies about everything!

  • martaz

    All those lives lost, all those futures never to be. Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Because vain men full of self-importance lie to get into wars. Now, it’s America doing the lying, the killing; it was about oil then, it’s about oil now. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
    —- George Santayana

  • vasu

    People who having notion that Japanese did biggest sin by starting pacific war such as attacking Pearl harbor ,better be educated themselves to know in the last 2365 yrs of recorded history only 268 yrs have seen no war. War as at present a form of competition or natural selection in the human species. Despite producing volumes of peace initiatives by whole lot of world bodies ,more lethal weapons been invented for which major share of budgetary allocation of country being spent on than mitigating social problems .In this respect Japan is doing very sensible job post war .Ironically those advising Japan on its conduct ,are seem more hurry in accumulating war machines .

  • Klaus Lee

    So it was 3.1 million Japanese dead…..Why don’t think of Chinese suffered 10 times more casulty, and Korean, Malay, Indonesian, and victims of other nations? Japanese should turn their eyes off Pearl Harbour, and re-think the whole war as a crime their nation committed.