If you don’t know much about Japan (and neither does Rahm Emanuel, the reported nominee for U.S. ambassador) a few relevant facts are these:
1) It’s right next to China which much of the U.S. government is eager for some sort of fight with.
2) Its Constitution (imposed by the U.S.) bans war, and the U.S. has been hard at work pressuring Japan to violate that bit since about 10 seconds after it was adopted.
3) It has colonized and abuses a separate set of islands, including Okinawa, where it sticks a lot of its U.S. bases, weapons, pollution, noise, destruction, and — of course — the lawless activities of drunken and abusive U.S. troops who operate — like Chicago police — without being subject to local laws.
For decades it hasn’t mattered much what sort of ambassador the United States has sent to Japan. Every single one of them has opposed the will of the people and of the local government of Okinawa when it has come to maintaining and expanding bases. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get a worse result than ever by sending a guy who makes Douglas MacArthur look like Gandhi.
Rahm Emanuel covered up a racist police murder as mayor of Chicago. What do you think his view will be on the rights of U.S. troops to commit crimes without being subject to local laws? This is a guy who twice volunteered for the Israeli military now dominating the news with its horrific murder sprees, and he isn’t even Israeli. This is a guy who in January 2007, after antiwar voters handed his Democratic Party the U.S. Congress to end the war on Iraq, made clear to a friendly Washington Post/CIA reporter that he hoped to keep that war going for two more years in order to “oppose” it in another election. This is a guy who’s on video telling a young Asian-American woman that he’d like to adopt her, that she’s probably quiet and does a lot of studying.
The U.S. media loves Rahm so much they approved of his nickname Rahmbo, gave him credit for a big victory when some obscure study trumpeted the benefits of screaming and cursing in the office, and are now singing his praises as just the man for a job in the field of diplomacy. Of course, the United States doesn’t generally give ambassadorships to qualified diplomats the way some other countries do. It generally spits in the face of the world and hands ambassadorships out as payback for campaign bribes (er, “contributions”) and other favors. But this nomination is playing with nuclear fire at a moment when three-quarters of the U.S. Congress is visibly shaken with horror at the prospect of China “winning the century” or some such nonsense.
Rahm Emanuel corporatized the Democratic Party, and helped destroy welfare, create NAFTA, pass the 1994 Crime Bill, and restrict immigration (bragging about deportation records). He got rich on Wall Street through the revolving door to public disservice. There’s not a war or a war-prone candidate he hasn’t supported. He’s blocked advocates for serious healthcare reform, calling them “fucking retarded.” He’s closed schools and cut services in Chicago, but stayed active on the national scene as a leading opponent of Medicare For All and a Green New Deal.
Emanuel is as bad a politician as any Republican, but he’s a Democrat, and a mean and petty one. As with Neera Tanden’s unsuccessful bid for higher office, Rahm Emanuel may face Republican opposition to confirming him as ambassador. Then the question will be whether one or two Democrats in the U.S. Senate give a damn. The people of Chicago do. They’re filling the streets for Palestine. They have no desire to inflict Rahm on the people of Okinawa, much as they might be happy to put thousands of miles between him and Illinois. But is there a U.S. Senator who puts basic decency, self-respect, and an attention span beyond five minutes ahead of the party line? Rahm Emanuel’s politics have cost the Democrats in the not-very-long run. It won’t take long for him to become a global embarrassment in Japan. But who’s got the nerve to say so now?