« So Many Opinions, So Little Time

Sen. Cruz insults veterans with 'Bataan Death March' reference

by Mike McFeely

There was a time in my early teen years when I could not understand why my father, a World War II veteran, still held an open grudge against the Germans and the Japanese.

This was the 1970s, when "Made in Japan" was stamped on many items seen to be of lesser quality than items made in the USA. This was before Japanese-made cars had made major inroads into the American market, so Toyota and Nissan vehicles were thought to be cheap, low-quality alternatives to those made in Detroit.

And Dad made clear he was never going to buy a Japanese car and would often use disparaging names for both the Japanese people and their products. 

So I, being the idealistic person I am, confronted Dad one time and said something along the lines of, "Why don't you let it go? The war ended 30 years ago. We're friends with Japan and Germany now. Get over it."

I'm probably lucky he didn't backhand me. Instead, he chose the proper form of reprisal ... he tried to educate me.

"You need to learn your history," he said. "Go read about the Bataan Death March and get back to me."

So I did.

I never questioned my father's beliefs about Japan or Germany again.

This is not the first time I've told this story, but I revive it today because U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz invoked the Bataan Death March after standing on the Senate floor for 21 hours and speaking in opposition of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.

Cruz was getting ready to say his thank-yous about a half-hour before the end of the speech.

“Now in 31 minutes we will be concluded. I don’t want to miss the opportunity within the limited amount of time is imperative that I do, which is to thank the men and women who have endured this, this Bataan Death March," Cruz said.

In short, a freshman senator who used the floor of one of the most hallowed chambers in the world to make an attention-seeking campaign/fundraising speech in an effort he knew was fruitless before he started had the gall to compare reciting "Green Eggs and Ham" to one of the most notorious war crimes ever committed against American troops.

Congratulations, Sen. Cruz, you are one of the biggest clowns ever to be elected to public office in this nation.

Cruz comes from the wing of the Republican Party that believes it has a corner on patriotism, that uses the flag as a marketing campaign and purports itself to be the best friend of veterans (even if its policy positions say otherwise). 

Yet Cruz chose to compare his grandstanding, which was neither courageous nor selfless, with an event that saw hundreds of American soldiers (and thousands of Filipinos) die needless, horrific deaths. Many of those who survived were beaten and tortured. Those who survived then spent years living in abhorrent conditions in a Japanese POW camp, where dozens more died EACH DAY.

The March occurred in April 1942 and was about 65 miles in length in brutal subtropical sun, heat and humidity. It started after 70,000 U.S. and Filipino forces surrendered following the Battle of Bataan. 

A simple Google search brings up a Wikipedia page that explains what happened next:

Prisoners were stripped of their weapons and valuables, and told to march to Balanga, the capital of Bataan. Many were beaten, bayoneted, and mistreated. The first major atrocity occurred when between 350 and 400 Filipino officers and NCOs were summarily executed after they had surrendered.[8]
The Japanese failed to supply the prisoners with food or water until they had reached Balanga. Many of the prisoners died along the way of heat or exhaustion.[5] Prisoners were given no food for the first three days, and were only allowed to drink water from filthy water buffalo wallows on the side of the road. Furthermore, Japanese troops would frequently beat and bayonet prisoners who began to fall behind, or were unable to walk. Once they arrived in Balanga, the overcrowded conditions and poor hygiene caused dysentery and other diseases to rapidly spread among the prisoners. The Japanese failed to provide them with medical care, leaving U.S. medical personnel to tend to the sick and wounded (with few or no supplies).[5] 
In June 2001, U.S. Congressional Representative Dana Rohrabacher described and tried to explain the horrors and brutality that the prisoners experienced on the march:
"They were beaten, and they were starved as they marched. Those who fell were bayoneted. Some of those who fell were beheaded by Japanese officers who were practicing with their samurai swords from horseback. The Japanese culture at that time reflected the view that any warrior who surrendered had no honor; thus was not to be treated like a human being. Thus they were not committing crimes against human beings.[...] The Japanese soldiers at that time [...] felt they were dealing with subhumans and animals." [9]
Trucks were known to drive over some of those who fell or succumbed to fatigue,[10][11][12] and "cleanup crews" put to death those too weak to continue. Marchers were harassed with random bayonet stabs and beatings.[13]
From San Fernando, the prisoners were transported by rail to Capas. One hundred or more prisoners were stuffed into each of the trains' boxcars, which were unventilated and sweltering in the tropical heat. The trains had no sanitation facilities, and disease continued to take a heavy toll of the prisoners. After they reached Capas, they were forced to walk the final 9 miles to Camp O'Donnell.[5] Even after arriving at Camp O'Donnell, the survivors of the march continued to die at a rate of 30–50 per day, leading to thousands more dead. Most of the dead were buried in mass graves that the Japanese dug out with bulldozers on the outside of the barbed wire surrounding the compound.[14]
The death toll of the march is difficult to assess as thousands of captives were able to escape from their guards (although many were killed during their escapes), and it is not known how many died in the fighting that was taking place concurrently.

Yeah, I'd say what Ted cruz did the past couple of days was comparable to that.

I'll steal a line from my dad:

Sen. Cruz, you need to learn your history. Go read about the Bataan Death March and get back to me.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)