Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kenzaburo Oe, Jakucho Setouchi, Masahide Ota found “1000-member committee to prevent Japan from entering wars" (Rally @Hibiya Park, March 20, 2014)

ARTICLE 9: Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
The Abe administration wants to reinterpret and revise the Japanese Peace Constitution to send the Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF) fight on behalf of other nations under the rubric of "collective defense."

This is not a new political struggle.  Okinawans have been on the front lines of the remilitarization of their prefecture since 1945, when the American military took over former Japanese bases and began a decade-long series of seizures (by force) of Okinawan farms and homes, for further base expansion. The ink was barely dry on Japan's pacifist Constitution, when in the early 1950's, Allen Dulles agitated for full Japanese remilitarization. The then Secretary of State wanted a Japanese military of between 300,000 and 350,000 men, to assist in US wars in Asia. Richard Nixon, as vice-president, supported Dulles, stating that Article 9 was a "mistake" while visiting Tokyo in 1953.

However, Dulles and other Cold War hawks were repeatedly thwarted by the majority of Japanese citizens who resisted the call to war (albeit during the sacrifice of Okinawa, which endured direct US military rule until 1972, serving as a major US weapons testing and combat training site during the wars in Korea and Vietnam).  Historian John Dower attributes Japan's pacifist policy to the democratically expressed will of the people, in John Junkerman's 2006 documentary film, Japan's Peace Constitution:
People who remembered what war was really like said, "We can't do this again. We have to cherish these ideals." The government, however, was saying, "Oh, we've got to go along with America." And so you have this split in Japan...
In the face of the Japanese citizenry's overwhelming support of Article 9, Japanese postwar governments fell into a gradual, barely noticeable process of chipping away at the prohibitions of Article 9 and growing JSDF capability. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Japan now ranks in the top ten countries in the world in military expenditure.

This slow pace shifted when neo-cons wielded control of US foreign policy during the Bush-Koizumi years.  Not only did they instigate the invasion of Iraq, but they also resurrected Cold War tensions in Asia, after a decade of thawing relations between China and Japan. Former PM Koizumi bowed to American neo-con demands to hasten Japan's remilitarization, at the same time he began his controversial visits to Yasukuni Shrine, reopening wartime wounds. During the Japanese neo-con's tenure, he worked to erode the remaining vestiges of Article 9, going as far as to send 1,100 members of the Japan Self Defense Force to Iraq (ostensibly for non-combat support), even though Iraq has never posed a threat to Japan.

Perhaps because of ongoing remorse for the millions of people killed during the Second World War, and perhaps because of vivid memories of fire bombings of all of Japan's major cities, the Battle of Okinawa, and the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese and Okinawan mainstream challenged Koizumi's support of the US invasion of Iraq, similarly to the ongoing challenge of the Abe administration's assaults on what's left of Article 9, the only thing that keeps Japan from falling into the abyss that is war.

Concerned about their nation, high profile Japanese figures are increasingly speaking out on behalf of Article 9, the peace clause. On the eve of his birthday in December, Emperor Akihito (tutored by an American Quaker during his youth) defended Article 9. Then, on the eve of his birthday in February, Crown Prince Naruhito attributed Japan's peace and prosperity to the pacifist Constitution.

And this month, The Asahi, the Japan Daily Press and the Ryukyu Shimpo (one of Okinawa's two major daily newspapers) reported on the establishment of a “1000-member committee to prevent Japan from entering wars." Founding members include Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe, Buddhist nun Jakucho Setouchi, and former Okinawa governor Mashide Ota.

The Asahi:
"We have to stop the move to allow the Cabinet to undermine Article 9 simply by reinterpreting the Constitution," said constitutional scholar Yasuhiro Okudaira, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and one of the 16 founding members of the group...

"While Japan should contribute to world peace, it is becoming a country that can export arms and enter war," said writer Keiko Ochiai, another founding member.

Tetsumi Takara, a professor of constitutional law at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa Prefecture, commented, “For the Okinawan people who have experienced war, it looks as if war is imminent.”
Distinguished writers, scholars and other academics in Japan have joined forces to challenge the government’s move to reinterpret the country’s Constitution. A group aiming to gather one thousand members, calling themselves the “1,000-member committee to prevent Japan from entering war..."

...Writer Makoto Sataka also reminded, “If the right to collective self-defense is granted, Japan would cross the line of ‘self-defense’ and also defend other countries, obliging Japan to engage in a war led by the United States.”

...Currently, 83 people have already signed the group’s appeal, including writer Jiro Akagawa, songwriter Reiko Yukawa and actor Bunta Sugawara.
Ryukyu Shimpo:
In an attempt to prevent the reinterpreting of Japan’s Constitution by the Abe administration to be able to defend allies who come under attack, on March 4, distinguished intellectuals set up a group called the  They proclaimed, “We will step up our criticism of and protest action against the government which has been trying to change Japan to enable it to enter wars. They treat Article 9 as a dead letter and approve the use of the right of collective self-defense.”

Founders of the committee are cultural workers and intellectuals such as writer Kenzaburo Oe, Buddhist nun Jakucho Setouchi and play writer So Kuramoto. Tetsumi Takara, a professor of graduate school of law of the University of the Ryukyus took part in the press conference. Former Okinawa Governor Masahide Ota also joined as a founding member.

In their announcement, they referred to Okinawa, which hosts U.S. military bases, as being closely related to the issue of collective self-defense. They criticized the government, saying, “Without lessoning Okinawa’s burden of hosting the bases, they are forcing through building a new base in the Henoko district of Nago."

The committee will hold a rally on March 20 at the Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall in Tokyo. In addition, they will work to collect signatures and set up committees across the country."

John W. Dower, "Asia and the Nixon Doctrine: The New Face of Empire, Open Secret: The Kissinger-Nixon Doctrine in Asia, Eds. Virginia Brodine and Mark Selden, 1972. 

Japan's Peace Constitution (Transcript), Director: John Junkerman, 2006.

More Info: 

Article 9 Association 

Global Article 9 Campaign

Colin P.A. Jones, "Japan’s Constitution: never amended but all too often undermined," The Japan Times, March 26, 2014. 

Lawrence Repeta, "Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change,The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 15, 2013.

John Junkerman, "The Global Article 9 Conference: Toward the Abolition of War," The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, May 25,  2008.

Yoshikazu Sakamoto, "The Postwar and the Japanese Constitution: Beyond Constitutional Dilemmas," The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, November 10, 2005.

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