LETTER : War crimes and 'acts of war'

Click to follow
From Dr. T. R. W. Waters

Sir: The Japanese Prime Minister's "apology" that - sorry to say - (maybe) never was, is not, of course, the first time that translation from a more or less exotic language has gone puzzlingly, bizarrely or, indeed, disastrously awry.

The Japanese word mokusatsu can be glossed in English as "consider, withhold comment pending deliberation," or as "ignore, take no notice of, reject". It appears that, in 1945, English-language translators in Japan incorrectly selected the latter gloss for inclusion in the official diplomatic response to the Potsdam surrender ultimatum with the result that atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

All too often, students of the nature of conflict discover that translational adequacy (or rather the lack of it) plays a significant part both in the generation of conflicts and in their resolution.

Yours sincerely,

Trevor Waters

Conflict Studies Research Centre

Royal Military Academy


Camberley, Surrey

15 August