Japanese prime minister ‘keeps a commitment to his US ally’ – building an Asia-Pacific community stretching from the U.S. to India?

A million protested against the Iraq war in Britain, what hope for 20,000?

japan2 vote 20,000

About 20,000 protesters took to the streets of Tokyo on Wednesday against the proposed law which would enable Japan to exercise “collective self-defence”- allowing its armed forces to fight alongside allies such as the US.

Nevertheless, amid protests in Japan’s Diet, and after 110 hours of debate, security bill legislation passed through a House of Representatives panel on Wednesday morning.

Yasukazu Hamada committee chairman (center) is surrounded by opposition politicians shouting and waving placards in protest against the special security bill.

Yasukazu Hamada committee chairman (center) is surrounded by opposition politicians shouting and waving placards in protest against the special security bill.

Conservatives such as Mr Abe are determined to revise the country’s pacifist constitution and ‘increase Japan’s role on the international stage’.

The bill is now set for a vote in the full lower house on Thursday where it is almost certain to pass, given the government majority. If the bill does not pass the upper house within 60 days, the lower house can push it through with another vote so it is likely to become law by the end of September. The bill will then head to the upper house for another protracted debate, keeping it in the public eye, and sapping Mr Abe’s popularity further.

A survey by Asahi Shimbun, conducted on Saturday and Sunday, found a 42% disapproval rate for the Cabinet, exceeding the approval rating for the first time since November. The planned reactivation of the nuclear reactor in Kagoshima Prefecture could further eat away at the Cabinet’s ratings.

The vision?

In April Gerald Curtis (WSJ) professor of political science at Columbia, wrote:

“The U.S. is and will remain for years to come the dominant power in East Asia, but it no longer enjoys the position of unchallengeable supremacy that it had in years past. This reality was made all too evident in recent days by the rush of its allies, excepting Japan, to sign up as founding members of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, despite U.S. entreaties not to do so . . .

“Mr. Abe can offer a fitting commemoration of the end of the war by spelling out his view of the past. He can give his vision of the future and how he believes Japan can contribute to building an Asia-Pacific community stretching from the U.S. to India”.

Ominous?

How can we learn from history to build a peaceful future?

PVDD 5The author of ‘Learning the Lessons of War’, published recently in the SGI Quarterly magazine, a Buddhist forum for peace, culture and education, Dr Peter van den Dungen, has been at the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, UK, since 1976. A peace historian, he is founder and general coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace. Some extracts follow but interested readers are urged to follow the link and read the article in full.

Hegel’s “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” is a well-known saying. Given the continuing prevalence of war, it can also be said that we certainly do not seem to learn from war, such a pervasive feature of history. However, Immanuel Kant, a great German philosopher and one of the most profound thinkers on war and peace, argued in the late 18th century that humankind learns from history and war, but only the hard way.

After the Napoleonic Wars (of which Kant witnessed the beginning), the main European powers instituted a “concert” system to prevent a similar violent disruption of the established international order.

A century later, the horrors of World War I resulted in the creation of the League of Nations, the first organization of its kind, which was meant to limit the recourse to war. It also established agencies and the Permanent Court of International Justice in order to address issues that otherwise might result in war.

These new institutions proved too weak to prevent another world conflagration, which occurred a mere two decades after the first one. During World War II, plans were laid for a successor world organization. The onset of the Cold War, the antagonism between the main powers since then and inherent weaknesses have made the United Nations a rather ineffective instrument for keeping the peace. At the same time, it cannot be denied that it pioneered new techniques (not even foreseen in the Charter) to limit or prevent war, such as UN peacekeeping operations.

The end of World War II also saw the beginnings of a process of economic and social cooperation that resulted in a new political entity, the European Union. The need for this, as the surest way to abolish war and poverty, was urged by the organized peace movement in the 19th century, and similar ideas had been put forward in peace plans formulated by visionaries in earlier centuries.

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Airing books containing the names of atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

World War II had other profound consequences, particularly for the two countries that were widely regarded as responsible for it–Germany and Japan. Apart from the terrible loss of civilian life and destruction of their cities, Germany was divided and Japan became the victim of the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both countries adopted peace constitutions with self-denying ordinances regarding their military capabilities and intentions. But in other respects, Germany learned lessons and pursued policies with the aim of achieving peace and reconciliation with its erstwhile adversaries, which have largely been lacking in Japan. They involve elements of apology, compensation, repair and restitution–expressed in moral, material and symbolical terms. Without such a deliberate and sincere strategy on the part of Germany, the project of European unification (of which the country has been the main pillar, together with France) would have been impossible.

cover sgi pciture

If Japan has learned lessons from the atrocities and crimes committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the same cannot be said of the world as a whole.

Arnold Toynbee writes (in his autobiography, Experiences) that he had been jolted out of the traditional accepting attitude to war by the slaughter of half of his friends in World War I. The same revulsion against war was widespread in its aftermath. He noted that such revulsion “ought [to] have been total and universal from the moment . . . the world entered the Atomic Age.” He found that the American people, victorious in two world wars, had succumbed instead to militarism. Toynbee wrote this during the Vietnam War. Since then, the trauma of that war has been overshadowed by the events of 9/11, and militarism has become even more pervasive in American society.

An appropriate, meaningful and fruitful remembrance would amount to the initiation of nothing less than a worldwide program of peace education as part of the development of a comprehensive culture of peace. That peace is possible–indeed, that it is imperative for human survival–should be taught and learned in schools and universities and through peace museums.

In the modern world, museums are preeminent institutions, widely regarded as guardians of high culture that fulfill a major role in public education. It is telling that, whereas war and military museums are widespread (with hundreds of such museums in the US and UK alone) and often well-funded, peace museums are hard to find, with the singular exception of Japan. Likewise, war monuments abound, whereas antiwar and peace monuments are far less numerous. History textbooks have traditionally been dominated by war and its pretended heroes, with opponents of war and advocates of peace at best relegated to footnotes. The “invisibility” of peace in education, institutions and public life generally is a great hindrance to learning about peace and working toward it. In particular, museums honoring peacemakers of the past and present would inspire and encourage visitors to believe in peace and recognize their role in helping bring it about.

In this way, perhaps, Hegel’s sombre maxim may yet prove to be wrong.

Will a country with a stellar post-war record of peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights ‘lose out’?

gaza-tokyo-candlesa silent protest in Tokyo against the bloodshed in Gaza

Updating our news from Japan in November last year, Robin Harding reports in the FT that Japan’s politicians are “trapped in the capital for a long, hot summer”, as the current session of the Diet has been extended by 95 days until the end of September.

Shinzo Abe is devoting a great deal of political energy in seeking to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution by trying to pass a security reform bill which – says Harding – “threatens to turn the summer into a season of torment for the Japanese prime minister”.

Mr Abe aims to reinterpret the constitution, allowing it to exercise “collective” self-defence – coming to the military aid of an ally, instead of merely defending itself. Harding alleges that Abe has made the taking of this step a personal commitment to the US.

japan demo may peace clause

Early signs suggest it is causing Mr Abe significant political damage. His popularity has slid to a record low of 39%. Only 29% of the public support the security bills; 53% oppose them.

Harding reports the risk that the proposed reinterpretation of the constitution will violate it. Mr Abe’s Liberal Democratic party invited a law professor to testify in parliament, only to have him declare that their bill is unconstitutional.

The Japan Times reports that an ‘anti-amendment rally’ of grass-roots movements opposing revision of the pacifist national charter was held in Yokohama on May 3, the Constitution Day holiday [above]. The participants, estimated at some 30,000, included politicians such as the Democratic Party of Japan Acting President Akira Nagatsuma and the Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii.

Political opponents are describing this move as opening the door to involvement in American wars and a Japan Times reader said: “It is a shame that the country with the most stellar record of peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights is losing out to a political leadership so nostalgic for the Japan of militarism and imperialism”.

The human face of war

harry patch quote

kenji gotoA Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto, captured and executed in Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Isis,  is rightly remembered, but – in general – the killing of 2000 Palestinians (July-August 2014) is referred to only by that impersonal number.

Is this a cynical media selection of the messages they know their political and corporate masters wish to convey to their voters ?

Gaza health official, Dr Ashraf al-Qedra, gives recognition and respect by naming many of the dead and his list may be read here.

In 2003, pictures of 42 British soldiers who had died in Iraq to date were cut, pasted and filed (scanned below). As the Independent on Sunday headed it “Forty-two reasons why we should be told the truth about the conflict”.

killed in iraq 03killed in iraq bottom rows2 03

Truthful media headlines and photographs would bear out the words of WW1 veteran Harry Patch: “War is organised murder, and nothing else.

Professor Robert Wade: the key to peace in the Ukraine

Robert Wade, Professor of Political Economy and Development at the LSE’s Development Studies Institute (DESTIN), worked at the World Bank, 1984–1988 and the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex from 1972–1995, undertaking fieldwork in a range of countries including Italy, India, Korea, Taiwan and Pitcairn Island.

prof robert wadeAt a  recent engagement at the University of Oslo to discuss the present and future of global financial governance

Professor Wade has responded to a FT editorial, following the recent visit of John Kerry, US secretary of state, to President Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort of Sochi, which asserted that deeper engagement with Russia is worth pursuing. It could integrate the US into the western diplomatic effort on Ukraine, involving Angela Merkel, and François Hollande. He writes:

“You are right that “America’s outreach to Moscow is justified but your longstanding view that the Ukraine crisis is an interstate war between (united) Ukraine and Russia is, at best, questionable. It leads you to place almost all the responsibility for securing peace on Vladimir Putin, as though the president is largely in control of the military fighting the Ukrainian army.

“The German weekly Der Spiegel published a report (March 7), based on sources in German chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and the Federal Intelligence Service, describing the US and Nato claims about Russia’s controlling role as a gross exaggeration. At the end of August 2014 eight retired US intelligence officers wrote to Ms Merkel saying much the same.

The conflict is more accurately understood as an internationalised civil war. Foreign states are engaged on both sides. But the primary dynamic is the resistance of the large Russian-speaking (by no means pro-Russia) minority, roughly 40% of Ukraine’s population, against forces in the Ukrainian-speaking majority seeking permanently to subordinate them.

The key to peace is that both the Kiev government and its western backers must remove the grounds for Russian speakers to fear that the Kiev government is using the civil war to get the west to underwrite the ascendancy of Ukrainian speakers.

Professor Robert Wade

London School of Economics

London WC2, UK

 

Animated Japanese mascots in campaign against restarting nuclear reactors and for the peace constitution

The 2014 elections in Japan were the first in which online campaigning was permitted, and the Wall Street Journal reports that Japan’s Communist Party was widely seen as having made best use of it. 

JCP has its own kawaii (cute) characters now, animated mascots – the Proliferation Bureau . The cast of eight mascots include Otento-sun, a sun who is fighting nuclear power, a purse called Gamagucchan who looks after tax reduction for ordinary households, Shiisa, an Okinawan lion dog (shisa) in charge of the issue of US bases in Okinawa, and Kakusan (“proliferation”), the leader. See them in action here.

This year, armed with a bigger budget, they want to stop Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from letting the sales tax rise again, from restarting nuclear reactors and from revising the nation’s constitution.

kawaii characters

In local elections this year, as the Economist reports, the JCP emerged as the country’s largest opposition at the local level. 

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The International State Crime Initiative (UCL) hosting film: non-violent resistance in West Bank village surrounded by Israeli settlements

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isci headerThe International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) is very excited to announce it will hosting a screening of 5 Broken Cameras and a Question and Answer Session with Emad Burnat (Director, ‘5 Broken Cameras’) on Tuesday 2nd June 2015 at 18.00, Arts 2 Building, Arts 2 Lecture Theatre, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

isdi film headerDocumentary overview: The documentary is a deeply personal, first-hand account of life and non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village surrounded by Israeli settlements. Shot by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, Gibreel, the film was co-directed by Burnat and Guy Davidi, an Israeli filmmaker.

Structured in chapters around the destruction of each one of Burnat’s cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over five years of village upheaval.

As the years pass in front of the camera, we witness Gibreel grow from a newborn baby into a young boy who observes the world unfolding around him with the astute powers of perception that only children possess. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify and lives are lost in this cinematic diary and unparalleled record of life in the West Bank.

Tickets to this event are limited. To register, please sign-up by clicking here.

Fatima Kanji | Research and Policy Manager

International State Crime Initiative (ISCI)

www.statecrime.org | Follow ISCI @statecrime | Like ISCI on Facebook

School of Law

Queen Mary University of London

Mile End Road

London | E1 4NS​

0207 882 6414