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 imminent war following the annual mutual provocation between the Koreas. (This year, the S. Korean government refused to respond to the N. Korean government's calls to stop blasting propaganda from loudspeakers over the border; so the N. Korean 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..."

"Japanese Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe on the 70th Anniversary of US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," via Democracy Now!:
...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)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Will Japanese just be American mercenaries? Tim Shorrock & Christopher W. Hughes on the Abe revision of the postwar Yoshida Doctrine

Japanese Imperial Army soldiers in Tokyo, 1936

Robert Whiting's Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan paints a disturbing account of the corrupt, checkered reality of the American Occupation, which was instituted ostensibly to "democratize" Japan. Whiting explains that at the end of 1947, the real rulers of Japan were not elected political representatives, but “bosses, hoodlums, and racketeers  in league with the political fixers, the ex-militarists, and the industrialists as well as legal authorities from judges and police chiefs on down." While some Occupation officials honestly tried to reform Japan's political culture, the intelligence section of the American Occupation, instead, collaborated with the "real rulers" to reverse the course of the Occupation from democratization to restoration of the prewar system, including the remilitarization of Japan, to achieve U.S. postwar expansionist aims in the Asia-Pacific.

Long before the end of Pacific War, American Cold Warriors had decided Japan and Okinawa would serve as the launchpads for new wars in Asia that would begin in Korea and Vietnam. However, they were up against the Japanese and Okinawan people who wanted to rebuild their lives in peace. The vast majority of citizens, including liberal political leaders who had opposed Japan's wars in the Asia-Pacific, supported the postwar Peace Constitution, which outlawed war as a means of conflict resolution between nations.

General Douglas MacArthur attributed Article 9, the Peace Clause, to Kijuro Shidehara, who was Japan's prime minister during the drafting of the new constitution. During the 1920s, Shidehara was known for his attempts to counter the rise of militarists, promote disarmament and enact the 1928 General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy (Kellogg Briand Pact) that required member nations to renounce war as an instrument of national policy. The statesman was finally able to achieve his aim in the postwar Japanese constitution.

However, under the terms of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and Security Treaty, PM Shigeru Yoshida acquiesced to some U.S. military bases on the mainland and the division of Japan and Okinawa in exchange for the end of the U.S. Occupation. Thereafter the U.S. instituted a brutal military regime in Okinawa: soldiers seized tens of thousands of acres of private property and bulldozed entire villages, to build the military complexes throughout Okinawa; residents were afforded no property or human rights protections. The Japanese government sacrifice of Okinawa to US military aims allowed Yoshida and subsequent prime ministers, from Ichiro Hatoyama to Ishibashi Tanzan, for over a decade, for the most part, to resist US pressure to violate Article 9 and remilitarize Japan.

This changed in February 1957, when Nobusuke Kishi, wartime minister of commerce and industry under General Tojo, became prime minister, with support from the U.S. Government. Classified as a Class-A war crime (participation in a joint conspiracy to wage aggressive war) suspect, Kishi had been detained at Sugamo prison only 9 years prior to becoming the head of the Japanese state. However, on the same day in 1948 that the U.S. executed Tojo and six other convicted war criminals, the U.S. released Kishi and the other remaining Class-A suspects.  All, with the CIA backing, resumed positions of power, after promising to support US military aims in Japan, Okinawa, and East Asia.

In 1960, as millions of Japanese citizens protested, Kishi repaid the U.S. government for his release: he sacrificed his political career by ramming through a new US-Japan Security Treaty (AMPO) through the Diet. The treaty allowed for continued US military bases in Japan and military occupation of Okinawa. However, Kishi was unable to achieve his wish to amend Article 9, to allow Japanese remilitarization in service of US wars abroad. His grandson, PM Shinzo Abe, modeling  Kishi's method, is now trying to achieve this goal by ramming through a unilateral radical"reinterpretation" of the constitution, instead of following legal methods of constitutional revision. Almost all Japanese constitutional law scholars say this violates constitutional rule of law.

Before his November 25, 1970 ritual suicide in protest of the Japanese Peace Constitution, Yukio Mishima barricaded himself at the Ichigaya Japanese Self Defense Force camp in Ichigaya, Tokyo. Speaking to the soldiers from a balcony, Mishima cried out, "Where is the national spirit today? You will just be American mercenaries! American troops!" What would the Japanese ultranationalist author think today, as the constitution he despised is under threat of "reinterpretation," precisely for that aim?

Parliamentarians protest forced passage of the US-Japan Security Treaty in 1960

Tim Shorrock's "Could Japan Become America’s New Proxy Army? Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to alter a key provision of Japan’s constitution to lift the country’s 70-year ban on foreign deployments," published at The Nation on July 27, analyzes  the Abe administration's  radical move to "reinterpret" the Japanese Peace Constitution within the context of postwar US-Japanese history:
Over the last month, Japan has been shaken by the largest anti-war demonstrations since the late 1960s, when millions of students, workers, and ordinary citizens turned out to try to block their govt’s collaboration with the US war in Vietnam. The issue this time is the plan by PM Shinzo Abe to alter a key provision of Japan’s peace constitution to allow Japan’s “Self Defense Forces” to take part in overseas military operations for the first time since WW II...

Abe’s victory will transform Japan—with its surprisingly large, tech-driven military-industrial complex—into America’s new proxy army...

So who is this prime minister who has won the trust of the Obama administration while earning the enmity of the growing majority of its own citizens? Here’s everything you need to know about “our guy” in Tokyo:


...This was an easy shift for the corporate and financial conglomerates who backed Japan’s cruel war, according to Muto Ichiyo, a Japanese writer and activist who worked closely with the US anti-war movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

“The part of Japanese imperialism which was made powerless after the defeat in the war wanted, of course, to revive itself,” Muto once explained to me in Tokyo. “But they knew perfectly well that the situation had changed. They knew also that fighting against America again would be both impossible and purposeless. So they adopted a very clear-cut strategy: Japan will concentrate on the buildup of the economic base structure of imperialism, while America will practically rule Asia through its military forces.”


Parliamentarians protest forced passage of Abe's War Bill.
Photo: KYODO via The Japan Times

Christopher W. Hughes' "An ‘Abe Doctrine’ as Japan’s Grand Strategy: New Dynamism or Dead-End?", published at The Asia-Pacific Journal on July 21, 2015, describes the loss of Japanese sovereignty under the radical Abe doctrine.  The current administration signals the end of relative peace and prosperity that Japan enjoyed [albeit at the expense of Okinawan suffering] in the conservative postwar period:
Abe’s diplomatic agenda...might be labeled as a doctrine capable...displacing, the doctrine of PM Yoshida Shigeru that has famously charted Japan’s entire post-war international trajectory. In contrast to Abe’s more muscular international agenda, the Yoshida Doctrine’...has long emphasized for Japan the need for a pragmatic and low-profile foreign policy, a highly constrained defense posture, reliance but not over-dependence on the US-Japan security treaty, and the expedient rebuilding of economic and diplomatic ties with East Asian neighbors...

Abe has only served two and half years as PM in this stint and may enjoy several more continue to pursue his radical agenda. But the probability is that the Abe Doctrine, whilst making substantive differences to Japan’s foreign and security policy, will continue to fall short of its ambitions, and perhaps ultimately run into the sand. This is because of three fundamental inherent and irreconcilable contradictions. Essentially, these result from the fixation of the Abe Doctrine on attempting to escape the post-war order and the humiliations to national pride and sovereignty imposed during that period, and the fact that this in many ways only leads to Japan becoming further entrapped in the past with resultant tensions for the implementation of current policies and relations....

Abe’s hopes for more equal ties with the US cannot by definition materalize as long as Japan continues to lock itself into dependency on the US in a range of political, economic and security affairs. Abe’s attempts to strengthen Japan’s great power profile through deepening integration into the military alliance can only really spell dependency...the reality is that the Abe Doctrine is in many ways reducing Japan’s autonomy in international affairs, and this will only be compounded as its revisionism leaves it more isolated in East Asia with a limited range of other feasible regional partners.
One of many July rallies against the Abe war bill & forced military base construction in Okinawa. 
(Photo: Anti-war Committee of 1,000)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

"Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" performed by Alicia Bay Laurel • Upcoming concerts in Tokyo on Aug. 4 & Hiroshima on Aug. 8

Via our friend—artist, writer, and musician Alicia Bay Laurel—who has 2 more concerts upcoming (in Tokyo and Hiroshima) in this year's tour of Okinawa and Japan:

What it looks and sounds like when we all sing the great peace visionary song, "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," together in English and Nihongo. Thank you Hikaru Hamada for making this video last July 11th at Art Cafe Nafsha in Awajishima! Akiko Itagaki is translating for me.

Alicia on video:
This song was written at the end of World War II by an American peace activist. His name was Ed McCurty. He wrote this song as he was reacting in horror to the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even though I was very active against the war in Vietnam, I only became aware this year that there was  a huge antiwar movement in the US during World War II. The people who were for peace had a hard time getting heard because the government and corporations were all wanting the war.

So they started a whole group of radio stations across the United States: Peace Radio. All of those radio stations are still broadcasting now...They're called Pacifica Radio...When I was growing up in the 1950s, that was the radio being played by my parents. That's where I heard this song the first time...

When I came to Japan, I realized I needed to sing this song, not just play it. I needed to sing it in Nihon-go and I needed to sing it in Nihon-go at Hiroshima because Hiroshima's tragedy is what inspired this song...Please join us in HIroshima if you can."

"Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream" by Ed McCurty

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again
And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands end bowed their heeds
And grateful prayers were prayed
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
And guns and swords and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground
Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
This coming Sunday, August 8,  Alicia will perform at a Peace Concert that begins at 2:30 p.m. at Hiroshima Nagaregawa Church. (Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, an alumni of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and a central figure in John Hersey's book, Hiroshima, led the rebuilding of this historic church after it was completely destroyed by the August 6, 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.)

(Directions and details at Alicia's website:

"Peace Girl" by Alicia Bay Laurel