FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Abe’s Assault on Japan’s Constitution

by

Yasukuni apologists will say that this a place where the war dead can be remembered and that Shinzo Abe’s offering of a Masakaki “sacred tree” branch to the shrine on Monday was perfectly within the remit of a Japanese prime minister.

You can imagine the outrage if German politicians visited or gave offerings to a shrine that denied the Holocaust.

It is not just the fact that not a single body is buried  at Yasukuni shrine, though more than 2,466,000 souls are enshrined there. By going to that shrine, by giving offerings to the shrine, Japanese politicians are turning their backs on another option. Just up the road is the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery with the remains of 352,297 unknown Japanese soldiers and civilians. It is tranquil, serene, respectful.  Its evergreen trees provide ample places of shade. It is close to Yasukuni and is served by the same subway stop, Kudanshita. Like Yasukuni, it is near the Imperial palace. The emperor, who shuns Yasukuni, even though his ministers go there, is a frequent visitor.

Chidorigafuchi’s significance has not been lost on Washington.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel paid their respects during a visit to Japan in October, the most senior foreign dignitaries to do so since the Argentinian president visited in 1979, the year Yasukuni announced that the souls of convicted war criminals had been enshrined.

When Kerry and Hagel visited, US defense officials went on record saying that the cemetery was Japan’s “closest equivalent” to Arlington National Cemetery. A US official said that Kerry and Hagel were paying tribute at Chidorigafuchi, maintained by the environment ministry, in the same way that “Japanese defense ministers regularly lay wreaths at Arlington”. Yasukuni is funded by a private organization, the Association of Wartime Bereaved Families.

Yasukuini’s role is to minimize, or better still whitewash, Japanese war crimes and portray the expansionist Japanese empire as the victim. It is a place where history and memory can be altered to fit a present-day agenda.

No mention of the 1937 Rape of Nanking is made at Yasukuini’s modern museum, with a Zero fighter at the entrance.

Yasukuni does not operate in a vacuum, it is symbolic of a wider aspiration to portray Japan’s wartime role in a favorable light and set the scene for a more aggressive foreign policy. School textbooks attempt to portray Japanese aggression in the 1930s as the “liberation of backward nations”. The Japanese education minister is proposing to reject textbooks that do not adopt a “patriotic tone”.

There is a reason why Japanese children know so little about their country’s past, there is a reason why the Rape of Nanking  is barely mentioned let alone acknowledged in  Japan. There is a reason why the emperor will not visit. Yasukuni is an expression of the forces at work that deny Japan’s military aggression  and want to shape a different, more belligerent future, for the country.

Abe is using Yasukuni to help forge a  greater role for the Japanese military.

If a Japanese politician wanted to remember the horrors of war, the lives lost,  then Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery would seem the obvious choice.

Those who deny history are not always condemned to repeat it but denial is a dangerous place to start on any journey and it is fully withinn the bounds of legitimacy to raise questions about the destination. The signposts are becoming clearer.

Abe hopes to scrap the constitutional interpretation that Japan cannot exercise the right to “collective self-defense” and wants to do it this summer. But he is meting opposition.

It is “a dangerous move that could lead to military actions by Japan’s  Self-Defense Forces abroad’’ and will  “change the basic shape and defense posture of postwar Japan, which are based on its resolve not to repeat the mistake of treading the path to war’’.

These thunderous words were not issued by a marginalized dodgy think tank seeking publicity.  They were part of a Japan Times editorial published on March 16.

Collective self-defense is a vague, fuzzy phrase engendered to give a feeling of helping others in times of strife. It is almost comforting. But it is inappropriate for what Abe is seeking. Far better to call it selective self-denial.

Collective self-defense is a loosely defined phrase, and this is deliberate. The Japanese government wants to keep any definition abstract and open for interpretation. Ahh, that word again, interpretation. Article 9, the war-renouncing clause of the Japanese constitution has been interpreted and re-interpreted and re-re-re interpreted as to be effectively gutted of its original intent.

The official English translation of the article is refreshingly clear.

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and 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. (2) 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.’’

Abe wants to drive a tank over it and be done with its constraints, not by changing Article 9 but by changing Article 96, which governs the procedures for amending the constitution. Currently, a two-thirds majority in both houses is needed to change an article, followed by a referendum. Abe wants a simple majority in both houses, without calling for a referendum, to enable wholesale changes to be made. His Liberal Democratic Party of Japan have been in power for all but a handful of the last 60 years. Getting a simple majority in both houses will not be an issue.

But so what? Why does it matter? The answer is simple. The very foundations for Japan’s democracy are at stake, according to that same Japan Times editorial.

“Abe’s attempt to skirt this requirement poses a real threat to Japan’s constitutional democracy,’’ it said.

The wording is precise and clear. So is the warning.

Tom Clifford can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

 

Tom Clifford is a freelance journalist and can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail