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Should the Paris terrorism tragedy be called a 'kamikaze' attack?

43 Comments

In the days following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, people in Japan have expressed virtually universal sympathy for France and its residents. What has them more divided, though, is the frequent use of the word “kamikaze” in describing the incident.

Out of the seven attacks that took place on Nov 13, four of them involved suicide bombers. Among the headlines used by French media and bloggers to describe the tragedy were:

“Une des explosions provoquée par un kamikazes”

“A Nation, le kamikaze s’est fait sauter en passant la commandes”

“Attaques à Paris : l’une des explosions près du Stade de France provoquée par un kamikaze”

Even if you’ve never taken a French class, it’s easy to spot that one of those words is Japanese in origin. “Kamikaze” also showed up in some English-language reports.

“…three brothers may have been part of the eight-strong ISIS kamikaze terror squad.”

“…this is the first time France suffers kamikaze attacks.”

This set a debate in motion among Japanese Internet users as to whether or not the term is appropriate in this context. To many in the West, the kamikaze of World War II, Japanese Imperial military pilots who purposely crashed their planes into enemy ships, are simply their earliest linguistic reference point for suicidal attackers. From that standpoint, the writers of the above media dispatches would argue that the term definitely applies to what happened in France.

To many in Japan, though, “kamikaze” specifically indicates the country’s World War II pilots in the Tokubetsu Kogeki, or “Special Attack” squadrons, as the kamikaze groups were euphemistically dubbed and remain more commonly referred to as within Japan. Given the widespread denouncement of the Paris attacks, no one in Japan was happy to hear them described as “kamikaze attacks,” although specific negative reactions varied from individual to individual.

As is always the case when discussing the lingering specters of World War II, even tangentially, there was a cry of outrage from a certain fringe of Japanese society.

“Wow, I’m amazed that they could say something so dumb with no misgivings.”

“You can’t differentiate between indiscriminate attacks and those aimed at a specific target? For shame, Westerners. For shame.”

“The kamikaze did what they did to protect the country. Terrorism is the meaningless targeting of civilians.”

“The Japanese government should protest this usage of the word.”

Not everyone reacted with such indignation, however. Others were more measured in their dissent, offered alternatives, or even expressed reluctant resignation.

“Tactics targeting military opponents and terrorism which targets civilians shouldn’t really be viewed as the same thing.”

“Can’t you just call them suicide bombers?”

“From their point of view, everyone who blindly throws their lives away is the same, so it can’t be helped.”

“Even if the word isn’t not being used in connection to Japanese people, it still makes me sad.”

There were even some Japanese commenters who, without debating the linguistic matters themselves, argued that parallels could be drawn between suicide bombers and the Tokubetsu Kogeki pilots.

“Well, it’s not like their real nature is different.”

“The rightwingers are all pissed off online, but really there’s not any difference between the two groups.”

One history-savvy commenter even took a moment to recall the fact that much of the Japanese military propaganda during World War II invoked the supposed divinity of the emperor.

“Brainwashed soldiers carrying out suicide attacks organized under the pretext of serving a god? Um, yeah, that’s applicable to both groups.”

It’s a sobering reminder of the reprehensible things that can happen when people lose sight of the value of human life.

Sources: J-Cast, L’Express, France TV Info, Paris Match, Yahoo! News France, Daily Mail, Xinhuanet

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Four teenagers mug man to buy special attack uniforms for meeting AKB48 -- Japan questions imagery in risque portraits by New Zealand Prime Minister’s daughter -- Meet Les Romanesques: The most famous Japanese people in France

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43 Comments
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Sure. The emperor system was a supremacist death cult as well with religion at the core. It stressed martyrdom and fighting the evil west and its poisoned ideas, like democracy and equal rights for women.

I see the parallel.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

I find it offensive.

The system that gave rise to kamikazes was much worse.

-8 ( +11 / -19 )

I think we should call the Islamic terrorists just that, Islamic terrorists. They’re committing evil acts in the name of their religion. They’re people whose religious extremism has made them insane. Take away the word ‘suicide’ and maybe call them ‘insane’, ‘evil’, whatever word sounds nastiest.

Religious extremists who commit evil acts are the scourge of the planet, as are those who defend religious extremism.

That there are people who still want to glorify men crashing airplanes, regardless of reason, to kill others is disconcerting. To me they’re saying their cultural extremism, which in the Pacific War led to the deaths of millions, is defensible.

Cultural extremists who commit evil acts are the scourge of the planet, as are those who defend cultural extremism.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

PTownsend

Sounds like you're comfortable, then, calling people like Ted Cruz a Christian terrorist?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Words can get a different meaning once imported in an another language, deal with it. Or should we mention wasei-eigo ?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Terrorism should mean an attacks on non-military targets to use fear to further a political objective. Note the elements here:

(1) non-military target;

(2) promote fear

(3) in furtherance of a political aim.

But it breaks down, because there is a fourth, unstated, element:

(4) By people we don't like.

Here is a good discussion on topic:

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2015/Pres/Maps/Nov18.html#item-7

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Black S In physics there's potential energy, in human terms I'd call Cruz, Rubio, Huckabee, Carson etal potential terrorists, in part because of the 4. element above, and in part because I think they take extremist positions on many issues and on people they don't like, e.g. the LGBT population, among I'm sure many others..

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

But the Kamikaze attackers would have attacked civilians if they could have gotten close enough or if the military targets were not simply more urgent. It was not 'morality' or anything like it that caused them to be used against military targets. So, they are the same.

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

Here is the primary definition of the loanword 'kamikaze' (attack) from Cambridge Dictionaries Online, and I am sure the French definition is similar:

"A kamikaze ​attack is a ​sudden ​violent ​attack on an ​enemy, ​especially one in which the ​person or ​people ​attacking ​know that they will be ​killed." (Secondary translation, "being ​willing to take ​risks and not ​worrying about ​safety.")

I would say use of the word is clearly justified. First, "kamikaze" has become a full-fledged English and French word like 'sushi' and 'tsunami,' and as such is never italicized when used in the mainstream media. Second, use of the word to describe the Paris suicide bombers is clearly in line with its definition, which can apply both to military and civilian casualties.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

@PT

Nice answer. Cruz, IMO, is almost there in his Christianist rhetoric. His father, over the edge.

In the general elections, he would either have to disown his father's lunacy, or lose the election.

Personally, I don't think Cruz is crazy. Just terribly, terrible cynical in his pursuit of power

And, I think important, showing himself too reckless to be the President.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Certain people probably dislike their glorious, tragic, wonderful, self-sacrificing-for-the-good-of-our-nation kamikaze pilots likened to Islamic terrorists. And I do see the difference between being a human-guided bomb against a military target versus blowing yourself up to kill and terrorize civilians, but the word "kamikaze" itself has taken on a wider meaning in the last 70s years-- it's even an alcoholic cocktail-- so it's appropriate to apply it here without the specific historical context. There are elements of desperation to suicide bombers these days that would probably be familiar to powerful people exhorting young men to toss their lives away foolishly for the benefit of the morally bankrupt and corrupt ideology prevalent way back then, as well. One that did no good for the dead and dying and a lot of good for those with too much who felt they owned them body and soul.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Hmm, a tricky one. As Commodore Shmidlap pointed out; the term "kamikaze" has taken on wider meaning over the past 70 years, so I can understand it's usage. I think really it comes down to personal perception and association. A lot of people (especially the Japanese) associate "kamikaze" with its original meaning: a tactical suicide bombing of military targets, whereas they associate "terrorism" with the following definition: an indiscriminate attack on people, typically in a crowded area, with the intention of causing widespread fear, panic and paranoia. Terrorism doesn't necessarily require explosives, let alone suicide bombing. Kamikaze on the other hand involved pilots crashing planes into their targets, with the intention of dying in the attack so as not to be captured. When you look at it this way, it may not have been the best choice of words to refer to the Paris bombings as "kamikaze", but given that the word has taken on wider meanings, it's still an acceptable choice, even if there are other, more suitable terms.

At any rate, it's certainly no reason to start arguing with one another over.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

None of these guys were flying planes, so I say no. The 9/11 attackers in the states, well yes, if it really happened of which I think missiles instead.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Certain people probably dislike their glorious, tragic, wonderful, self-sacrificing-for-the-good-of-our-nation kamikaze pilots likened to Islamic terrorists.

@Commodre

Your comment is spot on, and is reflected in the comment translated from Japanese in this article that “the kamikaze did what they did to protect the country," in other words they were self-sacrificing heroes, which is fairly common sentiment here.

The use of the word 'kamikaze' has taken hold in many of the world's languages, and always has a derogatory nuance. That certainly gives rise to substantial discord between the more positive nuance the word often has in Japan in comparison with the negative nuance it carries in the rest of the world.

I am sure it is quite bracing to some to hear the word used in a derogatory manner — a painful yet poignant reminder that the rest of the world sees their suicide tactics as deranged and fanatical.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As others have commented here,apropos, considering the usage of the loan word in English and French. In the same way a cowboy is a symbol of rugged individualism in the States and an uncultured, Victorian, migrant agricultural worker as some Europeans consider it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

A lot of people (especially the Japanese) associate "kamikaze" with its original meaning: a tactical suicide bombing of military targets,

Isn't the original meaning of kamikaze as the "Divine Wind" that miraculously wiped out the Mongol-led fleet? Associating that with the WW2 suicide pilots is more of a stretch compared to associating suicide bombers of all shapes and colors.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

In Google Translate, from French to both English and Japanese "un kamikaze" is rendered as "a suicide bomber" and "自爆テロ犯" (Japanese for 'suicide bomber').

Anyway, there were an incredibly large number of Google hits from Japanese-language websites on this controversial use of the word.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is actually a "thing"? I seriously doubt anyone but fans of "Eien no Zero" even care. Just ignore the Netouyo.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Suicide cucoos referred to as Kamakaze did it for the Emperor who was at the time god!The Emperor not the Nation. The emperor was on the war crimes list as a War Criminal! They could not execute because, the whole nation of Japan was brain washed into believing that. So they let Hiroshito live on but with No power. The Jihadists kill in the name of allah What the f is the difference? War in the name of Religion! Does Shinto come in there someplace??Because in the 60s I remember people hiding practicing it from the US Military!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Daesh are angry, too.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don't like the translation of 神風 as 'divine wind'. I think it should be more direct - 'god wind', or maybe 'wind of the gods'.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Sure. The emperor system was a supremacist death cult as well with religion at the core. It stressed martyrdom and fighting the evil west and its poisoned ideas, like democracy and equal rights for women.

@Jeff . . . . I see the parallels too.

Suicide cucoos referred to as Kamakaze did it for the Emperor who was at the time god!

And some of the brainwashed islamic cucoos believe they will get "virgins in heaven." It's complete nonsense.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The attacks in Paris did resemble a full on special forces operation so the parallels are there with the Japanese military, although suicide attacks are still the same. Although is there no word for suicide bomber in French? Calling them Kamikaze attacks, in my view, sort of trivializes the attacks in a way

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Honestly, dear japanese rightwingers, I couldn't care less.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

No matter how you translate kamikaze, it's meaning has taken on a life of its own, which generally has something to do with suicide bombers. There is no necessary linkage to religion or motivational source in how it is used by most people imo. The first part of the word kami cannot really be defined as god but more like divine and kaze of course is just wind. If you look at the origin of the kanji for kaze, you'd see the bird or dragon that is responsible for the wind. This seems more in the realm of divine than god-like. The important thing here is that it is a loan word that has taken on its own new meaning over time.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

... the Tokubetsu Kogeki, or “Special Attack” squadrons, as the kamikaze groups were euphemistically dubbed and remain more commonly referred to ...

The answer is pretty much there. After the original 'kamikaze' euphemism formed - in Japanese and in English - it evolved and alternately was hijacked into different languages, contexts and usages. Use of 'kamikaze' in French media is just one, current manifestation.

The meaning of 'kamikaze' sucks if one is on the receiving end. And it is not terribly pleasant otherwise anyway. It does remain an interesting mythological conceit, however.

I wonder how it all might have seemed, though, if there had been a misprint, such as:

“Une des explosions provoquée par un karaokes”

“A Nation, le karaoke s’est fait sauter en passant la commandes”

“Attaques à Paris : l’une des explosions près du Stade de France provoquée par un karaoke”

So, 'bad' me!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The parallels are obvious. The term was born in infamy and popularised by terror. A semantic discussion has no meaning once the creator has lost control of its use.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I don't like the translation of 神風 as 'divine wind'. I think it should be more direct - 'god wind', or maybe 'wind of the gods'.

I totally agree, oh great wise one.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

“The Japanese government should protest this usage of the word.”

Sorry, the Japanese government looks silly enough already trying to have the world's sex-slave statues torn down and textbooks changed, with Olympics and corporate scandals, whaling, and other issues; they don't need to make themselves look even worse.

And besides, there is no difference, so the word is not being misused. They can't very well complain about how a word of Japanese origin is being used in other languages given how badly they've mangled English and other words while stuffing them into Japanese.

3 ( +5 / -1 )

Regardless of any official definition, the use of kamikaze for the Paris attack is unfortunate. The WWII kamikaze NEVER attacked civilian targets.

“Attaques à Paris : l’une des explosions près du Stade de France provoquée par le vent des dieux"

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

I've even heard the word used to describe some cyclists here. It has evolved into an international word where it's original meaning becomes irrelevant. I find the act offensive, not necessarily the word.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm pretty sure that kamikaze attacks on warships were legal during the war. But why anyone would want to compare a legitimate military action with a terrorist suicide bombing is beyond me.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I have never hear islamic suicide bombing kamikaze; must be a French thing. I can see enough similarities to justify the term, however it is sloppy. There are enough difference to not use it. And why drag the Japanese into it? The emperor has renounced his divinity. Now if the islamists could do the same with Alla, and we would all be better off.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I see no difference in the motivation behind the attacks.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Isn't the original meaning of kamikaze as the "Divine Wind" that miraculously wiped out the Mongol-led fleet? Associating that with the WW2 suicide pilots is more of a stretch compared to associating suicide bombers of all shapes and colors.

Since you mention the word 'Mongol' it's probably a good time to remind ourselves how Westerners gave new meaning to this name for an ethnic group as 'a person with Downs Syndrome'. Just like how the word 'kamikaze' is synonymous with any suicide bombing, it should be acceptable as long as we only look to superficial comparisons and ignore details in depth, yes?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There are similarities and differences, overall I say the of kamikaze is fine.

Looking at the J-comments in the article it appears many Japanese still haven't come to grips with what kamikaze where.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Regardless of any official definition, the use of kamikaze for the Paris attack is unfortunate.

Shouldn't you be saying it is "regrettable" ?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Regardless of any official definition, the use of kamikaze for the Paris attack is unfortunate.

Shouldn't you be saying it is "regrettable" ?

Perhaps, but I do not regret the use of the word kamikaze. But I do regret having used the word "unfortunate", I should have used "stupid".

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Wow... PC police are even trying to protect the dignity of the term kamikaze... Using your own life to kill many others, fits the terms kamikaze and suicide bombers perfectly.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I find it offensive.

The system that gave rise to kamikazes was much worse.

As usual Sabbath, your comment was spot on! I don't remember IS having a Unit 731

0 ( +3 / -3 )

No!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@

Aly RustomNov. 20, 2015 - 03:40PM JST

I find it offensive.

The system that gave rise to kamikazes was much worse.

SPOT ON,

What the imperial japanese army did is by far more brutal and totalitarian then anything the ISIS is doing!

The around 4000 Kamikazes were forced in a short laps of time to commit suicide from october 1944 to august 1945. They were forced, brainwashed and the order was death, as death ment their plane and mounted bomb went actual off.

The ISIS has two types of kamikazes:

1) Sunni local sucide bombers who are brainwashed to death by Saudi Sunni islam preaching, illiterate tribal peasants blowing up them selves Inside Iraq and Syria. These can be compared to the japanese kamikaze forced suicide missions . . . . as these dudes won't do it if not forced in first place. There have been around 2000 suicide attacks of Sunni versus Shia background in 8 years . . . far from the Kamikaze excess.

2) The european born muslim terrorists are from a different breed, more in line of USA school shooters. They are frustrated and want revenge against european society . . . ISIS uses a sophisticate youtube, twitter, forum, propaganda machine (the best ever made actualy), to exactly touch these people . . . . lur them to Syria or Iraq and then give them the possibility for revenge. . . . . so its a 50/50 situation. ISIS never actualy wants them dead if they manage to kill 1000people without being killed them selves . . . . the sucide belt is more of a last resort thing, with the wish to die anyway . . . . again US school shooter also kill them selves afterwards usulay.

So infact calling ISIS terrorists Kamikazes gives too much credit to ISIS as a supreme brain wash machine . . . . which in fact just uses existing frustration and armes it to the teeth.

ISIS plays soccer with mostly Shia or Kurdish combatants heads, IJA troops bayonneted and mutilated around 2.000.000 women and children in the last 3 year schina offensive . . . very different scale and capacity.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Aly

Thanks.

I would say use of the word is clearly justified. First, "kamikaze" has become a full-fledged English and French word like 'sushi' and 'tsunami,'

True. Still, calling a spider roll sushi don't make it so...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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