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'The Pacific's' Tom Hanks: The right wing's new boogeyman

Poor Tom Hanks. He was purring along, sounding like a younger version of Hal Holbrook in Douglas Brinkley's positively reverent Time magazine cover story--the one where Brinkley calls Hanks "American history's highest-profile professor"--until the penultimate graph of the story, timed to tout HBO's new series, "The Pacific," which debuts Sunday night at 9 p.m. That's when disaster, of a kind, struck. After spending thousands of words paying tribute to the U.S. soldiers who fought in the Pacific theater (like Hanks' dad, who was a naval mechanic there), Hanks suddenly veered off course, going from being a gauzy celebrator of the importance of studying history to an unruly political activist.


"Back in World War II," he told Brinkley, "we viewed the Japanese as 'yellow, slant-eyed dogs' that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what's going on today?" In a separate interview, Hanks referred to the war in the Pacific as one of "racism and terror."

Well, that was enough to set off alarm bells everywhere in the right-wing blogosphere. It was bad enough that the worshipful tone of the Time cover aroused dark suspicions among media critics about the whole thing being a hype job, since Time and HBO are sister companies both owned by Time Warner. But conservatives were in an uproar, no doubt made worse by the fact that "Green Zone," the Matt Damon film opening this weekend, is already a subject of right-wing attacks for its critical portrayal of Bush-era American bungling in Iraq.

But World War II is sacred ground, so the fact that Hanks--who has been treated with respect from the right in the past, largely thanks to his "Band of Brothers" series--was using the greatest war of all as a way to disparage today's war on terror was viewed with horror. In a blog post titled "Is Tom Hanks Unhinged?," Pajamas Media's Victor Davis Hanson got right to the point: "Hanks' comments were sadly infantile pop philosophizing offered by, well, an ignoramus. Hanks thinks he is trying to explain the multi-faceted Pacific theater in terms of a war brought on by and fought through racial animosity. That is ludicrous."

The New York Post's Kyle Smith was also up in arms. Responding to another Hanks quote, where the actor-producer said that the only way to complete one of the island-hopping battles against the Japanese was "to kill them all," Smith offers this retort: "Does Hanks think the War on Terror is about killing all Muslims? Or is he saying the Muslims want to kill all Christians, as indeed the Koran invites them to do? Could it be that Hanks thinks it is the U.S. that deployed 'racism and terror' in the cause of defeating an enemy that attacked us? ... He is genuinely interested in U.S. history and yet when he reads about the heroism, the moral authority and the sacrifice something shorts out in his soggy liberal mind."

Brad Schaeffer, writing on FrumForum, also got in a few digs, writing: "Perhaps the most ignorant observation Mr. Hanks makes, however, is his comparison to our modern day war against terror. To make the claim that we are waging war on Islamofascists because, presumably, we view Muslims as 'different' not only is an insult to the nation but betrays a stunning ignorance of contemporary history.... So in answer to Hanks' question: 'Does [killing those different from us] sound familiar, by any chance, to what's going on today?' I can answer that--NO!" 

I certainly have no intention of dragging all of us through a complex history lesson here, but I suspect that both sides have fair points here. It seems totally disingenuous for conservatives to argue that the war on terror hasn't inspired all sorts of bigoted and ignorant attacks on innocent, devout Muslims, especially when a host of right-wing wack jobs, in an attempt to discredit and demonize Barack Obama, have based their argument around the claim that the president was himself Muslim.

On the other hand, I think Hanks is on dangerous ground trying to compare and contrast our attitudes toward the Japanese during World War II with our attitude toward today's bloodthirsty terrorists. As some of the conservative commentators have pointed out, the Japanese military had plenty of racist tendencies of its own, having waged a brutish war against its Chinese neighbors long before it launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

All war is hell, just in a different form for each generation. And its always difficult to judge whether horrible deeds, done in the heat of battle, were right or wrong. On the wall of my office I have a photo of my Uncle B.B., who also fought in the Pacific. The picture was taken in New Britain, near the Solomon Islands, after his unit had landed there in 1944. In a letter that accompanied the photo he explained: "We had pushed all the Japs back into an enclave known as Rabaul and left them, without supplies, to starve until the end of the war."

I don't think he said it with pride or with any regrets. War wasn't so complicated back then. Men like my uncle figured they were doing what they had to do to survive. But today's wars, fought so far away and with such harder to define goals, aren't so simple, which is probably why Tom Hanks should have just stayed on safe ground and stuck to talking about history, instead of trying to wrestle with how it might apply to today's battles. When you talk about war today, everyone wants to pick a fight with you.  

Photo: Tom Hanks. Credit: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press

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Well what those Right WingNuts followers of Glen Beck do not realize is that Tom Hanks does see the need for a strong defense respects the sacrafice of all who have and are serving and like his Friend Stephen Colbert, who sarcastically plays a right wing news man (modeled on O'Riely who never apologized for saying the US Army committed atrocities against the German Army at Malmedy in the battle of the bulge in reality it was the opposite fact ), who had the intestinal fortitude to call out Bush in his face back in 2006 along with the all of the cowed media that have failed to do the job of actually investigating the crimes of the Bush Administration, Torture lying us into a unjust war etc etc. Tom Hanks respect's the Soldiers and understands the powers that use racism to allay the common folks fears nothing new here in America the War profiteers like Cheny's Halliburton and the Bush family have been doing it for years and using fear to promote wars! Point in fact the young lady that testified before congress in 1990 to justify the Desert storm saying Iraqi soldiers threw babies out of incubators was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and coached into lying about things that she was not even in the country to possibly see. I see it now just like Gen Smedly Butler did in the 1930's after he retired as I did in the 90's "War is nothing but a racket" google it. Tom is spot on!
Signed a twenty year vet of the US Army.

heared of seperation of state and about seperation of liberal hollywood and state..

i guess all of that heroic wwII movies he made was just A MONEY MAING PROJECT..a scam

thanks mr hanks for telling us how you trully feel

What drooling fans have never understood is that Tom Hanks truly IS Forest Gump. If you look closely at him, you can see that there is nothing there. To Mr. Hanks I would quote one of Gump's famous lines, "Stupid is as stupid does" (or, in this case, "says"). It's scary to think that morons like him have such control of the Hollywood "bully pulpit" and, by extension, are able to shape the ideas and opinions of the movie-going public.

Yes, despite our many faults and mistakes, America is STILL the good guy and the Islamic militants of today and the commies, Japs, Nazis before them are the bad guys. I'll never understand why so many Americans (liberals) hate their own country.

First-generation immigrant and Republican

I think that when you are fighting a war, and your day to day, or hour to hour reality is one of basic survival at any cost, you do what you must to soldier on. Think as you must, rationalize your role as you must. Your goal is simply to survive.

With that in mind, your opinion of your enemy in a personal sense becomes largely irrelevant when you are trying to end his life, and he is trying to end yours.

Politicians and civilians have the luxury of fretting and wringing their hands over whether we may have given offense to the people we have opposed in wars. The people that fight them have no such luxury.

It's a shame that Mr. Hanks, for all his talent and for all the time he has invested in two epic war series now has not perceived this simple notion: To be effective at destroying your enemy, you must learn to hate them as a survival mechanism.

Mr. Hanks, while I've enjoyed most all of his work, needs to study verified accounts of our history dealing with our war with Japan and the nature of Americans and the people of Islam.
I was born in Hawai'i and remember Pearl Harbor and our mistreatment of our Japanese brothers and Sisters. A horrible memory to be sure. But, your portrayal of our racist motives you subscribe to either that war or the middle east action, seem totally fraudulent.
We're facing an enemy who daly vows to kill all Americans in the name of racism/religion. What would you have us do?

Maybe Tom Hanks has been hanging around with too many bigoted people. This is the first I've heard of the Japanese being called "yellow, slant-eyed dogs." I was a kid during that war and the worst thing I ever heard said was the use of the shorthand terms "Jap" or "Japs." That usage faded out within ten years after the war, about when Hanks was born. Maybe he's confusing all Americans with a silly character in the play, "Arsenic and Old Lace," who refers to the Japanese as "those yellow devils."

I don't know where he gets this stupid stuff, but the hicks in the sticks all just love him, anyway.

It could be worse: He could have been rambling like Sean Penn in saying that anybody who claims Hugo Chavez is a dictator should be arrested. But since Hanks doesn't seem to believe that people should be persecuted for making their own opinions, I'll give him a pass on this one.

sfindependent at the beginning of this thread speaks a truth.
There are no Christian suicide bombers.
The Crusaders (sic, Bush) have airplanes, tanks, missiles, helicopters.
So they kill from far away, where they are safe.
That doesn't make the Christians more moral. It certainly doesn't mean they are as brave as the men who willingly die for their people and their god. It merely means they are richer.
As for fanaticism, does anyone doubt that the 70% approval G.W.Bush had in May of 2003, when he launched the attack that has murdered over a million innocent Iraqis after "the intel is being shaped around the policy (of attack)" to quote the British believe that was not caused by the bloodthirsty hatred of Christians for Muslims, given that Blix's report had been out for 5 month, proving there WAS NO WMD, and Bush knew this at least that whole 5 months before the attack.
But he had Jerry Boykin telling him, and his crowd of Christian Muslim haters "My god was a real god, and his was an Idol", so that made it alright.

My Uncle too fought in World War two, although I did'nt know him, he was shot in the back by a Japanese soldier on the Kokoda Track in New Guinea, along with a lot of other Australian soldiers, he was 26yrs old , my Father who I did'nt know very well either was in Mid-East came back and could never settle into Fatherhood so my parents divorced. What Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are doing will be an eye-opener for the young to see what those men at war did for freedom, much like my husband who is a Vietnam Vet. Yes I know what the Draft-Dodgers thought about that conflict. Those men and women who are in the war-zones now should be supported, they are fighting for freedom, and keeping those Muslim Terrorist away from our countries. This President should be on his toes about these Muslims they have all day to think about doing hateful things, much like the way the Japanese and German Hitler Armys did. If it was'nt for those brave serviceman fighting in the PACIFIC, we here in Australia would be speaking Japanese today. I can't wait to see this Series.

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