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.

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail