I agree with Vipan Chandra's opinion in his Sept. 5 letter, "Message of a war-crimes judge," that Japanese nationalists distort the message of the late Indian Justice Radhabinod Pal, who believed that wartime leaders accused at the Tokyo Tribunal were not guilty. That a monument to the judge stands right in front of a war museum at Yasukuni Shrine, which displays memorabilia from the so-called Great East Asia War, is perplexing and disturbing. Given the incompatibility between Pal's aversion to war and what the war-glorifying museum represents, the monument to honor him looks out of place.

In recent years, Japanese nationalists have chanted ever more loudly their mantra that the last war was to free Asia from Western colonization. Some are apparently emboldened by Pal's argument for the innocence of the wartime leaders. While I acknowledge that the Tokyo trials were by no means flawless, I believe that Japan needs to squarely face the fact that it was unmistakably an aggressor in the last war, causing incalculable suffering to peoples in Asian countries.

Therefore, we shouldn't accept Pal's description that Japan merely imitated Western powers in its colonization policy. Nor should we regard Pal's denunciation of the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as mitigation of the atrocities committed by Japan. We should take to heart that the judge equally condemned barbaric acts committed by both sides.

Pal is said to have described Japan as a beautiful country with peace-loving people. This should serve as a reminder that even a country whose people are largely peace-loving could wage a war without a deterrent mechanism in place, including leadership with a long-term vision and the ability to steer the country in the right direction. As Japan debates whether and how to amend war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, taking the message from Pal as he intended is particularly important.

yasuko inamoto