A refreshingly insightful look at suicide bombers — from a Japanese former kamikaze pilot. From the LA Times, with thanks to Anthony:
The survivors bitterly resent the world’s appropriation of the term “kamikaze” — meaning “divine wind” and originally coined to describe the unexpected typhoons that saved 13th century Japan from invading Mongol ships — as shorthand for suicide bombers of every stripe.
There are the “Al Qaeda kamikazes” who flew passenger planes into office towers, “Palestinian kamikazes” who blow up pizza parlors filled with teenagers in Jerusalem, and “female Chechen kamikazes” willing to detonate explosive girdles in the middle of school gymnasiums crammed with children.
Japan’s originals are insulted to be mentioned in the same breath.
“When I hear the comparison, I feel so sorry for my friends who died, because our mission was totally different from suicide bombers,” Hamazono says as he strolls through the Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots in Chiran, a former air base on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.
The kamikazes attacked military targets. In contrast, “the main purpose of a suicide bomber is to kill as many innocent civilians as they can,” Hamazono says. That, he says, “is just murder.”
The same distinction is made by other survivors of the Tokkotai, or Special Attack Force, conventionally known as the kamikaze. Its survivors tick off the reasons their goal-line stand against an American invasion was different from the blind lashing-out of suicide bombers today:
“¢ They were ready to die out of love for their country, they say; suicide bombers are driven by hatred and revenge.
“¢ The Shinto religion offers no reward of life after death. Islamic suicide bombers are promised a place in an afterlife.
“¢ They were volunteers, motivated solely by patriotism. Suicide bombers often are recruited by militia leaders who offer money to their families.
Yet the arguments can’t prevent those who use suicide tactics today from claiming Japanese kamikazes as an inspiration.
Naoto Amaki, Japan’s former ambassador to Lebanon, recalled delivering a polite lecture to Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shiite Islamist militia Hezbollah, in 2001. Amaki said he told Nasrallah that Japan’s experience was a lesson in the ultimate futility of violence.
Not so, replied the sheik.
“He told me: ‘We learned how to do suicide missions from the kamikazes,’ ” Amaki recalled. “Nasrallah said the Shiites all commend the Japanese samurai spirit.”
Amaki says the analogy is faulty. “We Japanese are not a religious people; we just obey instructions. But the Arab world is looking for support wherever they can get it, so they seek out every excuse to legitimize their actions.”
And kamikaze survivors resent it.
“We did what we did for military purposes,” says Takeo Tagata, 88, a kamikaze instructor who was ordered to fly a mission the day before Japan surrendered. “No matter what supreme ideas they talk about, suicide bombers are just killing innocent civilians, people who don’t have anything to do with their war.”