Subverting the Japanese Peace Constitution undermines Hiroshima Day 2015 and the peace loving desires of the Japanese people .
Kevin P Clements
National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
Every year the people of Japan stop at 8.15 am on the 6th August to commemorate the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima . Indeed 2015 is the 70th anniversary of that tragic event and the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. It’s a year for solemn remembrance and contrition ( on all sides of the war) and a year for the Japanese people to say “Never Again” . They can only do this with moral conviction if their post war constitution is intact. This is because the peace constitution places a cap on defence expenditure and limits on the Government’s ability to utilise force or commit acts of military aggression. This has not resulted in any challenge to Japanese sovereignty over the last 70 years. On the contrary most nations have respected Japanese integrity and sovereignty because of its regional and global harmlessness to others.
This year, the commemorative events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki will take place but the Japanese people will not be able to say “Never again“ with the same moral legitimacy of the past. This is because the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has introduced 11 pieces of legislation which
(i) deliberately undermine the pacifist provisions of the Constitution -against the will of the Japanese diet and the Japanese people and
(ii) enables the government to engage in pro-active/pre-emptive aggression in the name of collective self defence. Both of these moves are retrograde and diminish Japan’s moral and political legitimacy as a nation with a pacifist constitution and a solemn commitment not to use force in pursuit of Japanese national interests.
These legislative changes which were passed by the Diet in the absence of all opposition members of parliament, will enable Japanese corporate interests to commit more resources to developing the Japanese military industrial complex.
Indeed., Japanese state and private sector interests have already entered into contracts to build submarines for Australia and wish to join Nato’s missile building consortium.
The principle beneficiary from these legislative changes is the United States which wishes to ensure that Japan plays a a more active role in the containment of China and in the never ending fight against global terrorism. This new legislation enables Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to cooperate actively with the U.S. and other US allies in foreign military operations overseas. It enables the pre-emptive use of force which directly undermines Article 9 of the Constitution. Most importantly of all if challenges the moral reputation of post war Japan as a peace loving country .
Japan’s Constitutional commitment to an exclusively self defence posture was an important source of legitimacy for other nations seeking to change their security strategies from offensive to non-offensive. Japan’s non-offensive defence posture was important in the development of co-operative and common security doctrines towards the end of the 20th century. Japan is now winding the clock back to totally outmoded 20th century notions of offensive national defence either alone or in the company of allies.
These recent moves also problematize Japan’s capacity to utilize its SDF for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and development aid.
On top of this being a disaster for Japan’s Pacifist Constitution and reputation it is also constitutionally dubious and threatens to undermine the Japanese rule of law. There is no bi partisan support for these measures, 80% of the population oppose it and opposition members of parliament made their position clear by boycotting the vote This move, therefore, is not just a rebellion against constitutionalism, it is also a serious challenge to the value of the democratic system Japan has been developing since the end of the Second World War. A majority vote without opposition parliamentarians present represents deep contempt for parliamentary democracy.
Evert since this administration has come to power, however, there have been signs of growing contempt for democratic process. Last year, for example, the government created its own National Security Council, which makes it possible for a small number of ministers to make security policy decisions free of either public or private scrutiny. To reinforce this concentration of power the administration passed the controversial state secrets protection law which makes it extremely difficult , if not impossible for serious debate within Government and outside on national security issues.
This means that Abe now has legislation which enables the government to authorize the use of force ( anywhere in the world) without being subject to significant public or parliamentary scrutiny. These national security decisions will now be based on what Abe calls “comprehensive judgment” by the Prime Minister, his national security advisors and a small number of other Cabinet members.
The Diet has no right to challenge these decisions. Nor does the Japanese public. Over the last two years the Japanese government has imposed bans on freedom of the press, and attempted to curtail the freedom of expression of critical academics like Koichi Nakano and others. Like other allies around the world the Japanese government has also started dumbing down news reportage by endeavoring to control the Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) and TV Asahi, by challenging any critical commentary on the Government’s performance or election campaigns.
There have been many other worrying signs as well, e.g (i) efforts to revise Japanese History in relation to Second World War atrocities; (ii) the reassertion of nationalist acts like flag raising and anthem singing during University and other school ceremonies and (iii) LDP prohibition of “Activities aimed at harming public interest and public order” and (iv) generating a climate of fear and intimidation in relation to threats from China and transnational terrorism.
The Prime Minister of Japan is hoping that the next generation of Japanese youth will have no recollection of the Second World War and Japanese complicity in its atrocities. He is hoping that they will be obedient to national authority and accept the remilitarization that he is initating and he is hoping that they will have no interest in being a pacifist, non offensive, strong and morally respected nation.
Abe’s wilful subversion of the Japanese Pacifist Constitution means that all those who gather at Hiroshima and Nagasaki this year will have difficulty establishing their pacifist and anti-war legitimacy . Their pleas of “Never Again” will sound hypocritical as long as the LDP is intent on quietly reactivating Japanese militarism and offensive military capacities.
There is no objective justification for any of these moves. The Chinese threat has been exaggerated, Japan remains relatively untouched by global terrorism and there is absolutely no need to squander moral reputation for cheap and short term political advantage. I hope the Japanese electorate will vote in large numbers at the Upper House election to challenge LDP subversion of the Constitution and basic democratic processes. I hope that the thousands who have been protesting against this legislation inside and outside of the Diet will prevail and again reassert Japan’s important moral pacifist credentials.