Temas Especiales

04 de Dec de 2020


If WWII had ended differently

If World War II had ended differently, would Tokyo Rose have been a viable candidate for mayor of San Francisco? Iva Toguri was an Ameri...

If World War II had ended differently, would Tokyo Rose have been a viable candidate for mayor of San Francisco? Iva Toguri was an American citizen of Japanese descent. A Republican born in Los Angeles, she was in Japan visiting relatives and applying for medical school when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Her family back home, like most of the rest of the Japanese community on the West Coast --- and like Panama's former Japanese community --- was interned in US camps.

In Japan she was persecuted for refusing to renounce her US citizenship, then pressed into service for Radio Tokyo as a DJ and comedian for English-language broadcasts aimed at American troops. Although she wasn't the only female voice of Radio Tokyo's English service, Toguri became the name most associated with the generic "Tokyo Rose" of GI memory.

After the war she was held, investigated and released by MacArthur's occupation forces. Upon her return to the United States she was prosecuted for and convicted of treason, in a trial marred by prosecutorial misconduct. She served her time in prison, took a job with her family's business after her release, and died in Chicago in 2006.

In 1977 President Gerald R. Ford issued a pardon that voided Toguri's conviction and restored her American citizenship. Although the Japanese-American community and the California legislature pressed for her pardon, she was never voluntarily a public figure.

Now set the Way-Back Machine to the late 1980s. Panama and the United States were headed toward a violent confrontation. A clandestine radio station backed by the CIA was making anti-Noriega propaganda broadcasts. It got raided and one of those involved, Kurt Muse, was thrown in jail. Another of those involved, one Bosco Vallarino --- a Voice of America correspondent at the time --- was quickly spirited out of the country.

Vallarino made his way back to Panama as part of the December 1989 US invasion force. He went around a Panama City under an attack that killed hundreds of innocent civilians, talking on a loudspeaker and urging people to support the invaders.

One of the differences between being a propagandist for a losing side as compared to playing the same role for the victorious ones is that in the latter case one doesn't get prosecuted for treason. In fact, Vallarino got a low-level job as a press flack in the Endara administration. Now he's running for mayor of Panama City.

Who did what during the dictatorship --- who opposed it, who supported it, who profited as a result of it, who paid a heavy price for opposing it --- these are the seldom-stated facts underlying many of Panama's political divisions and personal relationships. The 1989 invasion that ended the dictatorship and the massive criminal behavior that accompanied it is an even more painful and less discussed subject.

Now that may have to change. We have a mayoral race among the son of one of Noriega's administrators who was a loyal PRD youth at the time of the invasion, a law professor who was persecuted and exiled for his persistent and outspoken opposition to the dictatorship, and Bosco Vallarino, the hired propagandist for an army that invaded Panama.

Might this be the occasion for a country that notoriously ignores its history to do a bit of soul searching?