Sunday, September 20, 2015

Historian Jeff Kingston: "The Japanese people who are proud of their pacifist constitution see Abe trampling on their values."

Video by Richard Grehan of last week's protests in Tokyo

Brilliant analysis on the security-related legislation ("Abe war bills") by Temple University historian Jeff Kingston in this September 20 CNN interview:
People are outraged...People think it's unconstitutional, that he's trampling rule of law...Even though he has passed the legislation, it lacks legitimacy...Abe has delivered on all of the US wish list...

But the Japanese people don't buy Abe's argument that this is going to increase deterrence. Sure they think they live in a dangerous neighborhood, but they don't think this is the way to promote peace.

So the Japanese people who are proud of their pacifist constitution see Abe trampling on their values...Japanese people are concerned...they will be dragged into conflict by Washington..

Saturday, September 19, 2015

"Militarization & Human Rights Violations in Okinawa, Japan" • Sept. 21, 2015 • U.N., Geneva

Today Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga left for Geneva to address the U.N. Human Rights Council to inform the international community of Okinawa’s opposition to the plan by the US and Japanese governments to landfill, thereby destroy, Okinawa's most important natural cultural heritage site, the coral reef and dugong ecosystem at Henoko, to make way for a U.S. military port and offshore air strip.

Gov. Onaga is expected to cancel his predecessor's landfill permit when he returns to Okinawa the following Thursday.

While at the U.N. on September 21, he will also speak at a symposium organized by a civic group in Okinawa:
Upcoming events related to Governor Onaga's September 21 speech at UN on human rights violations by the US and Jp governments in Okinawa.

OBJECTIVES: The vision of the parallel event is to provide a clear picture of situation of human rights violations due to the heavy US military burden in Okinawa, Japan. It will provide information on the violations of environmental rights, freedom of expression and speech, and the right to self-determination caused by the expansion of US military base. The governor of Okinawa, Takeshi Onaga will also identify the historical discrimination against Ryukyuan/ Okinawan people by the Japanese and US governments. It will highlight the role of international community to take measures to support the right to self- determination of Ryukyuan/ Okinawan people.

STAKEHOLDERS: The parallel event will aim to reach a broad range of stakeholders, all of whom will benefit from the outputs of the parallel event. The event expects to engage with approximately 200-250 participants.

Key stakeholders include; · Indigenous leaders/ organisations ·Human rights defenders from/ engaging with Okinawa, Japan and the United States · Environmental activists ·NGOs and INGOs ·Diplomats and government officials engaging · Academics and others interested ·National and international media representatives

CONTENT AND PROGRAMME: This parallel event will address the human rights violations in Okinawa in the format of a special report by Okinawan governor, Takeshi Onaga followed by a key note speech from Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. There will also be testimonies from human rights expert, journalist and environmental activist. It will also screen the short video addressing the islands’ history and on-going human rights violations including the rights to environment, freedom of speech and self-determination.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Japanese citizens protesting as LDP/Komeito postpone Abe war bills until 8:50 a.m.; former Supreme Court justice warns the unpopular government that it is unlikely that the "unconstitutional" legislation would survive a legal challenge.

 (Photographer: Shinta Yabe)

Update: Sept. 18 - A citizens’ group is preparing a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the national security laws that were enacted on Saturday to the Japanese government to send soldiers to fight in foreign wars. The suit now has 1,000 plaintiffs, according to Jiji via JT.

Update: Sept. 17 - The opposition parties submitted a no-confidence motion to the committee chair Yoshitada Konoike. Then Masahide ("Moustache") Sato took over the chairman's seat, after which opposition members made very long speeches to defend the motion. However, following the script, the committee voted against the motion.

Then as Konoike returned to his chairman's seat, dozens of opposition members rushed towards Konoike, appearing as if they were trying to stop the voting on the bills. The "scuffle" made worldwide newspaper headlines.

Some analysts are asking why the opposition parties stopped blocking the entrance, and allowed the September 17 committee meeting to take place, knowing their no-confidence motion was going to, of course, be defeated.

In the meantime, over 200 lawyers in Japan have issued a statement calling the "voting" among the wild scuffling at the special committee illegal and invalid.

Many are asking why opposition party members allowed this final assembly to happen after they said they would do everything to stop the bills.

Update: 5:10 a.m. - After opposition party members physically blocked the entrance to the special committee room on September 16, the special committee was delayed until 8:50 a.m.  The protest is still ongoing:

The not-so-young politicians inside the building must be exhausted.

Update 2:05 a.m. - The Upper House Special Committee on the Abe war bills has not started yet as of 2 AM in Japan. LDP/Komeito is planning to get the committee to vote for the war bills tonight.

If it begins, it will be livestreamed here:

The protest outside of the Parliament is being livestreamed now at Iwakami Yasumi journal: .

Along with the majority of the Japanese mainstream citizenry, cultural figures such as Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, former prime ministers, the majority of Japanese lawyers, including former Supreme Court justices are protesting the bill as unconstitutional.

Former Japanese Supreme Court Justice Kunio Hamada on Abe War Bills called the bills "unconstitutional and "illegitimate."  Hamada warned that it is “extremely optimistic” for the Abe government to think that Supreme Court will not rule against the legislation if its constitutionality is challenged in court.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Never Again." Japanese & Okinawan war refusal will be streamed online, if not televised, or covered by all newspapers

Left, from top: Asahi, Mainichi, and Tokyo newspapers.
 Right, from top: Yomiuri, Sankei, and Nikkei.

Via Kimberly Hughes: Notice the top three right-leaning Japanese daily newspapers, lined up in the right-hand column did not cover the sea of 120,000+ Japanese citizens at the Diet building on Sunday, August 30, protesting  PM Abe's war bills that would allow him to send Japanese soldiers to fight in US regime change wars in contravention of the Japanese Peace Constitution which outlaws war as a means of international conflict resolution. In contrast, politically centrist Japanese newspapers put coverage of the historic protests on their front pages.

 View from the streets: "NO WAR! NO ABE! We hope for peace! We love peace! 
Don't kill anyone! Save Okinawa from Shinzo Abe."

Despite (or because of spotty coverage in Japanese newspapers and broadcast news), the historic Japanese and Okinawan multigenerational antiwar protests have dominated youth social media as Philip Brasor points out in "The revolution will be streamed online," published on Aug. 29 at The Japan Times.  

More analysis via public scholar Jeff Kingston, again at JT, on Sept. 5, "Students oppose Abe’s assault on the Constitution":
SEALDs was launched on May 3, Constitution Day, highlighting the group’s concern that Abe’s security legislation is tantamount to a stealth revision that fails to follow proper constitutional procedures...Professor Akihiko Kimijima at Ritsumeikan University says that SEALDs wants Japan to be a nation based on the rule of law, and the group believes Abe is flouting the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. Apparently, there is no shortage of Japanese citizens who agree with them. In mid-June, three eminent constitutional scholars dismissed Abe’s security legislation as unconstitutional in Diet hearings, putting wind in SEALDs’ sails.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Iranian filmmaker & dissident Jafar Panahar (#SupportIranDeal): "War & sanctions bring about crises & crisis is the death of democracy, peace, and human rights...Let people choose their own destiny by ratifying the Iran Deal."

In 1995, Iranian filmmaker and dissident Jafar Panahi achieved international recognition with his film debut, The White Balloon, a 1995 film about a 7-year old Iranian girl on a quest to buy a goldfish for her family's New Year's Day celebration.  Depicted from a child's unique view of place, the city of Tehran itself plays a central role, supported by a cast of Dickensian characters who range from the kindly to the villainous.

Panahi's films reflect his deeply humanistic perspective on life in Iran, often focusing on children, girls, women, and the poor. His widely disributed 2006 Offside features a group of young Iranian girls who disguise themselves as boys (women are not allowed to watch soccer in Iran) to sneak into Azadi Stadium to watch the World Cup qualifying football playoff game between Iran and Bahrain.

In March 2010, the Iranian government arrested Panahi, his wife, daughter, and 15 friends, charging them with anti-government propaganda. Despite global support from filmmakers and human rights organizations, in December, Panahi was sentenced to a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media, or from leaving the country.

While appealing the judgment, Panahi made This Is Not a Film, a documentary feature in the form of a video diary of his house arrest.  It was smuggled out of Iran and shown at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and released on DVD, introducing Panahi, as a person as well as filmmaker, to people around the world.  In February 2013 the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival showed Closed Curtain (Pardé) by Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi, for which Panahi won the Silver Bear for Best Script.

As in the The White Balloon, Panahi casts the city of Tehran as a star of his newest film Taxi, which premiered  at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2015, and was awarded the Golden Bear. Berlin Jury president Darren Aronofsky described the heart-warming film as "a love letter to cinema...filled with love for his art, his community, his country and his audience."

Jafar Panahar supports the Iran Deal:
I work with imagination, but not imagination alone. Imagination immersed in reality.

At present, I sense that what is happening in the US congress is imagination with no sense of reality. They think or they imagine that with sanctions and war, things can be accomplished. This is not so, this is not the reality of my country.

War and sanctions bring about crises and crisis is the death of democracy, the death of peace, and the death of human rights and civil rights. I ask the US congress to open their eyes to the reality on the ground and let people choose their own destiny by ratifying the Iran Deal."
More on the grassroots Iranian campaign for peace at "Prominent Iranians launch campaign calling on Congress not to kill Iran deal: Scores of high-profile Iranians, many of them sentenced to lengthy prison terms or enduring solitary confinement, express their support for the nuclear deal."via The Guardian:
Dozens of high-profile Iranians, many of whom have been jailed for their political views, launched a video campaign calling on the American people to lobby Congress not to jeopardise the landmark nuclear agreement.

The campaign includes messages from celebrated film-maker Jafar Panahi, Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and British-Iranian activist Ghoncheh Ghavami.

Many of the campaign’s participants have been persecuted in Iran for their beliefs or activism, sentenced to lengthy prison terms or even solitary confinement. But they have expressed support for the Vienna nuclear agreement struck in July between Iran and the world’s six major powers, calling it a good deal which could avert threats of war.

Mohammadreza Jalaeipour, one of the organisers of the campaign, said the video was intended to show “that those who have paid the highest prices for the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran are supporting the deal”.

The video messages were gathered, to show to the world “that not only the overwhelming majority of Iranians, but also almost all the leading human rights and pro-democracy activists, prominent political prisoners and the independent voices of Iran’s society are wholeheartedly supporting the Iran deal,” the activist, who spent five months in solitary confinement in Iran, said...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Kya Kim: "Conflict is no longer synonymous with war. It is, rather, an opportunity for growth, an opportunity for peace...Everyone of us has a role to play in determining the outcome of our shared conflicts...Which future will we choose?"

Myong Hee Kim, Founding Artist of Peace Mask Project at the
History+Art = Peace Festival, organized by Alpha Education, Toronto, Canada, 
August 15-21, 2015

In "The Art of Symbolism in Peace Building," an Autumn 2014 presentation about the Peace Mask Project at TEDxKyoto, team member Kya Kim emphasizes that we are all co-creators of our shared world, and can choose to think and work for a peaceful present and future:
A divided world creates more insecurity and fear. And fear, too often results in violence. Trust is the courageous act of being the first to break through that fear and reach out to "the other." Peace Mask Project is itself an act of trust, from the idealism that inspires the effort to the individual act of being a Peace Mask Model to the support and participation of hundreds of individuals in a collective effort to advance into a sane and healthy future.

Today tensions are rising in East Asia and many regions around the world. Fear and insecurity are also on the rise. This tension we are seeing does not guarantee violence, but, instead, could be seen as a great opportunity.

Conflict is natural and always present. It is neither negative nor positive in itself. Violence and repression are only one possible response to a conflict and one our societies turn to far too often.

There are many reasons for this: the profitability of militarization for a handful of corporations and individuals; the control and manipulation of a population through fear. But mostly I think it's due to a lack of creativity and cooperation. We are stuck in old habits and old ways of thinking.

Today young people have an unprecedented understanding of the greater world. We are becoming increasingly aware of how we are interconnected and interdependent. We find beauty in other cultures. And by reflecting on our own, we are open to growth and to change. This is the reality of our future, and one that needs to be reflected in our societies. Conflict is no longer synonymous with war. It is, rather, an opportunity for growth, an opportunity for peace...

We hope that Peace Mask Project will provide a platform for their shared vision of peace, to build trust by building lasting relationships, and to help them become leaders of a better world...

We do not need for the conflicts of our time to erupt in violence or be resolved through aggression. Everyone of us has a role to play in determining the outcome of our shared conflicts.

How will we participate?

What opportunities will we present through our actions?

Which future will we choose?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tim Shorrock: "WAR in Korea is unthinkable despite what @CNN is telling you. This too shall pass."

Turned to Asia analyst Tim Shorrock for insight into the annual US media proclamations of war breaking out following the annual mutual provocation between the Koreas. (This time the S. Korea government refused to respond to the N. Korean government's calls to stop blasting propaganda from loudspeakers over the border; so the N. Korea military lobbed a rocket into S. Korea, and the S. Korean military returned the same.):
Tim Shorrock ‏@TimothyS 2h2 hours ago
WAR in Korea is unthinkable despite what @CNN is telling you. This too shall pass.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Koshichi Taira: Thinking about True Peace during the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII • Nago Museum Gallery • Aug. 14-30, 2015

Koshichi Taira Photography Exhibition
Thinking about True Peace during the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII,
focusing on the aftermath of the Himeyuri Student Nurses Corp.

8/14 (Friday)-8/30 (Sunday)
Nago Museum Gallery
Nago City, Okinawa 
Admission: free

Okinawan photographer Koshichi Taira's photography is as unblinking, empathetic, and profound as that of Japanese photographer Shomei Tomatsu.  But where Tomatsu is known (albeit not well known), there is almost nothing about Taira's brilliant work translated into English.

The Nago Museum's exhibition of Taira's photography, which opens today, invites viewers to think about the nature of true peace during the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

222 Okinawan female high school students, aged 15 to 19, were mobilized as the Himeyuri Student Nurse Corps in March, 1945 as the US-Jp battle in Okinawa began on the ground. (US bombing of Okinawa began in October 1944). During the battle, about 200,000 lives were lost, including 120,000 Okinawan civilians, one-third of the population. Among the Himeyuri nurses, 123 students and 13 teachers were killed.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Kenzaburo Oe: "Hiroshima must be engraved in our memories: It’s a catastrophe even more dramatic than natural disasters, because it’s man-made. To repeat it, by showing the same disregard for human life in nuclear power stations, is the worst betrayal of the memory of the victims..."

Via Democracy Now"Japanese Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe on 70th Anniv. of US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki":
...KENZABURO OE: [translated] So, three years ago, the day after the disaster, the weeks after the disaster, I believe that all Japanese people were feeling a great regret. And the atmosphere in Japan here was almost the same as following the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of the war. And at that time, because of this atmosphere, the government at the time, which is the Democratic Party of Japan, with the agreement of the Japanese people, pledged to totally get rid of or decommission the more than 50 nuclear power plants here in Japan. However, the situation following the disaster, particularly in Fukushima, where so many people are suffering from this, has not changed at all.

And the current atmosphere or attitude of the government now in Japan has totally changed...the Liberal Democratic Party...led by Prime Minister Abe, is...completely having no regret and no looking back on ...what happened to Japan, and is instead actually actively pushing this forward. And I’m very fearful now that actually all throughout Japan and through the Japanese people, the atmosphere which is now growing and increasing is a spreading of this Prime Minister Abe’s ideology and worldview.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet he was elected as prime minister.

KENZABURO OE: [translated] Yes, he has won in two elections until now. But, however, now, because he has the majority in both of the houses of the Japanese Parliament, it means he is, in essence, able to do anything, go forward anything. And the first thing he is also trying to do now is to revise the constitution, which was created democratically by the Japanese people following the loss in World War II and Hiroshima and Nagasaki experience....

And now, under the current Prime Minister Abe administration, Japan is moving toward actively participating in United States wars. And what I am now most fearful about is the unfortunately likely possibility under Prime Minister Abe that this second pillar of Article 9 will be in danger, but not only this, that even the first pillar, that Japan may actually, within the next year or two or three or four years, actually directly participate in war...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

300,000 Japanese: "Protect the Constitution! Protect Okinawa from Shinzo Abe! Don't Start a War!"

Great video via Michael Penn of Shingetsu News Agency (SNA): Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) protest against the Abe War Bill, forced U.S. military base construction in Okinawa, and in favor of the Peace Constitution, rule of law, and democratic society.

Michael Hoffman's "A political turning point for Japan’s youth," published at The Japan Times on August 1, 2015, explores the mass student movement for democracy and peace for Japan and Okinawa:
Somebody needed to make the point that Abe’s primary accountability is not to U.S. lawmakers but to the people of Japan. Cynical calculations that the people of Japan wouldn’t bother were not unreasonable...

Years pass and nothing happens — then, suddenly, something does, and nothing is the same. What is the catalyst that turns passivity into activism? It’s like asking why this particular straw and not that one broke the camel’s back...

On July 1, 2014, the Abe Cabinet adopted a resolution sharply reinterpreting the Constitution as permitting what for decades had been regarded as forbidden: a global military role for the “pacifist” nation under the name “collective self-defense.”...On July 15, after a debate whose striking features were the vagueness of the government’s explanations and its hamfisted bullying of opposition lawmakers posing awkward questions, the Lower House voted, brushing aside the doubts of Constitutional scholars and of the public...

That was it. The camel sank to its knees...Sunday Mainichi magazine ventured a bold headline: “It’s begun — 300,000 people surrounding the Diet!”

That figure — 300,000 — is deeply significant. It takes us back to May 1960. The prime minister of the day, soon to be ousted, was Nobusuke Kishi, whose administration forced through the Diet a revised Japan-U.S. security pact in a manner strikingly similar to Abe’s handling of the current security legislation. Three hundred thousand is the prevailing estimate of the size of the enraged crowd that massed in front of the prime minister’s official residence, shouting for Kishi’s head. They got it. He resigned a month later.
The 1960 protests against PM Kishi's ramming through of the US-Japan Security Treaty (ANPO)
drew millions of protestors from all walks of life in multiple protests over months. 
 Demonstrators at the Japanese parliament building, Tokyo, June 18, 1960. 
(Photo © Asahi Shimbun Photoarchives)