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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail