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Japan's pacifist ideals stripped as Abe steps closer to resurrecting old war machine

Following intense wrangling in Japan's upper house of parliament between the coalition led by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and opposition parties, culminating in frantic chaos as lawmakers opposed to the war bills tried to physically impede a final round of debate in the upper caucus, the controversial legislation was eventually enacted early Saturday that marks the biggest security shift in Japan in 70 years.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's contentious war bills were passed despite the best, albeit last minute, ditch attempts by the opposition camp to block the bills' passage into law, which included submitting a number of no-confidence and censure motions against ruling party and Diet members, Abe's Cabinet and, indeed, the prime minister himself.

But the opposition camp's calls for abandoning the war bills, which in essence will reverse 70 years of pacifism in Japan, fell on deaf ears as the ruling coalition controls both houses of parliament and, as Abe himself has proven, once his mind is made up, his now infamous process of steamrolling his agendas through to law is seemingly and worryingly, exceedingly difficult to stop.

"The opposition parties threw everything they had at the ruling coalition to try and prevent these bills being enacted, but if you chart Abe's moves, from creating a U.S.-style National Security Council and enacting the strict state secrets legislation, as well as eyeing the creation of an overseas spy agency, there was a certain inevitability about the security bills' being enacted today," Asian affairs commentator Kaoru Imori told Xinhua.

"Nevertheless, all of these moves culminating in the bills being enacted have gone against the public's will, the level of opposition we have seen at sizable protests across the country in the months, weeks and days leading up to today, with the largest being at the National Diet building itself including late into the evening on Friday, have rendered Japan's Constitution meaningless and have browbeaten this peaceful nation into remilitarizing," Imori said.

Abe's style of unilateral leadership was reprehensible and undermined Japan's democratic ideals, he added.

As with a myriad of other experts on the matter, including defense analysts, constitutional scholars and the best legal minds in the country, Imori's sentiments have been reflected by the Japanese public, the vast majority of whom feel misled by Abe and his administration and are now worried about the war path Japan could potentially now be on.

The Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) group has been one of the principal organizers of the largest protests held at the National Diet building. It predominantly reflects the voice of, not just the youth in Japan, but what has come to be a message of universal, commonsensical opposition to what most individuals, civic groups and lawmakers in the country opposed to the war bills feel is the prime minister's abuse of political power and devious means of resurrecting Japan's Imperial war apparatus from the dead.

"It's happened in stages and for the best part the public did not see it coming, but as the nation, and hopefully those outside of Japan have also seen recently, the public; the real Japanese people who don't harbor such nationalistic, revisionist and ultra right-wing tendencies, do not support the militaristic direction that (prime minister) Abe is leading the country in," Tetsuya Murata, a founding member of SEALDs, told Xinhua.

"We, the Japanese people, remain united against the enactment of these bills, demand that our Constitution is respected by the government and not unlawfully disregarded as and when suits the Cabinet. We are opposed to Japan having a military, believe in pacifism and at the earliest possible moment will do everything we can to oust Abe and his cronies from power. This is our pledge," Murata said.

The overwhelming consensus among ordinary members of the public is that Abe won reelection into power on the back of his promises for economic reform and made pledges to reinvigorate the economy that have yet to come to fruition, as the nation's economy shrank in the second quarter of this year with production and exports remaining sluggish and the promised reflationary efforts currently flat with the inflation gauge sitting at zero, while Japan's credit rating was also downgraded this week.

The public feel duped by Abe who promised them a better standard of living and is instead dictating the nation's future participation in potential war scenarios.

"These bills becoming law is a major step towards Japan being involved in global conflicts alongside its allies, particularly the United States, who is keen to use Japan as its 'defacto military' and has for decades, since the end of WWII, used this island-nation as its hub to police the Asia-Pacific region," pacific affairs research analyst, Laurent Sinclair, told Xinhua.

"There's nothing new here particularly on the surface of it, but Japan's forces will now be able to operate without geographical constraints and under very murky guidelines as to what they can and cannot do; to the extent that a host of combative scenarios could now be justified legally, as we all know the control of parliament in such affairs is somewhat meaningless while Abe and his Cabinet are at the helm – they run the government, control the administration and the ruling bloc, and can boss parliament as the coalition has power in both houses," said Sinclair.

He said that recent history has shown that Abe and his Cabinet have utter contempt for the Constitution and will now likely set about revising it, so as to avoid the melodrama that followed the Cabinet's unilateral reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, which paved the way for the LDP-led block to steamroll the security legislation through the lower house in July, without the backing of the opposition camp.

The opposition parties demanded more discussions and debate to clarify the exact parameters of the Self-Defense Forces' potentially new expanded military role, or the public, who, while slow on the initial uptake of Abe's war moves, were quick to voice their absolute opposition.

Other analysts like Teruhisa Muramatsu told Xinhua on Saturday that it was too late to "play the blame game" but said that the public and the main opposition led by the Democratic Party of Japan "bore some responsibility" for Abe's runaway government and imminent military expansion, as they voted Abe and his LDP back into power, despite being familiar with Abe's military and revisionist agenda from his many years as a right-wing politician.

The opposition block, at the time, offered no viable alternative to the LDP in the 2012 election.

"I don't think Abe has ever really truly tried to mask his real intentions. He openly admits he admires Nobusuke Kishi, his grandfather. Kishi, nicknamed the 'Showa Era Devil,' was a former prime minister also known for his revisionist, militaristic and chauvinistic ideologies and prior to that, after WWII, was a ' Class A' war criminal suspect and renowned sympathizer of other Japanese war criminals," Muramatsu, a renowned political analyst, said.

"In some respects, Abe, also a legacy-led politician and advocate of visits by (himself and other) politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine – the physical embodiment of Japan's past imperialism and militarism, where 14 Class A war criminals are enshrined and honored, is following in Kishi's footsteps. But Kishi's own attempts to steamroll contentious security bills into law was his eventual downfall and they could very likely be Abe's, " said Muramatsu.

"For this to happen, and it needs to, the public must maintain if not escalate their protests and give the opposition parties the ammunition they need. At the same time the Diet has to hold the government accountable for the SDF's operations overseas and maintain a degree of control over their activities."

This means comprehensively blocking further moves to reinterpret or revise clauses in the Constitution that legally constrain Japan's use of military force, he said.

"Finally, the international community, including the U.S., needs to be wary that Abe will likely try to push his military agenda far further than just 'coming to the aid of allies,' or providing mere humanitarian support, and try to fully flex Japan's military muscles. This cannot be allowed to happen," Muramatsu concluded.

[Source: By Jon Day, Xinhua, Tokyo, 19Sep15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 21Sep15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.