[R-G] Tokyo Lets Loose Lapdogs of War
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Wed Feb 18 22:43:19 MST 2004
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Los Angeles Times
Tokyo Lets Loose Lapdogs of War
Japan may have regained its sovereignty in 1952, but the decision to
dispatch Japanese troops to Iraq earlier this month has reminded many of its
citizens just how little independence the country really has and just how
much control the United States retains.
If British Prime Minister Tony Blair is President Bush's poodle, then Prime
Minister Junichiro Koizumi is his cocker spaniel.
"We are still occupied by the American military," said an acquaintance of
mine who is a former official of Japan's Ministry of Education and now a
university president. "We are a satellite. Our foreign policy revolves
entirely around the wishes of Washington."
Like many other Japanese, he believes that Koizumi ordered Japan's first
military sortie into an active combat zone since World War II because he was
too weak to stand up to President Bush.
According to a recent Japan Broadcasting Corp. poll, 51% of the country
opposes getting involved in Washington's war against Iraq, while only 42%
supports Koizumi's decision. What's more, 82% of those polled said they did
not trust the prime minister's explanations for marching into the Iraqi
quagmire. Most believe that Koizumi had to go along with Bush or risk
damaging the alliance with the U.S.
There's no question that the U.S. takes Japan for granted. The Bush
administration likes to boast about how successful the U.S. Army was in
democratizing Japan after World War II, and it likes to suggest that it will
accomplish the same feat in Iraq. But it fails to note that the U.S.
military kept the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa as a Pentagon colony for
more than 25 years until 1972 and that the U.S. still has 38 military
bases on that small island.
Okinawa is home to 1.3 million Japanese citizens who since 1945 have
repeatedly had to bear the burdens of violent crimes by American soldiers,
continuous environmental and noise pollution, hit-and-run accidents, bar
brawls and behavior that would never be tolerated in the U.S. or the
mainland of Japan.
The Washington official charged with keeping Japan in the U.S. orbit is
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. His name probably appears in the
Japanese press more frequently than any other U.S. government figure.
Armitage has been hammering Koizumi for more than a year "not to miss the
boat" this time, referring to Japan's failure to support the United States
militarily in the 1991 war against Iraq. (He has apparently forgotten that
Tokyo bankrolled operations to the tune of $13 billion.)
After his reelection as prime minister in September, Koizumi railroaded a
vote through the Japanese Parliament endorsing the dispatch of Self-Defense
Forces troops to Iraq, even though he acknowledged that this was probably a
violation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.
Article 9, a key part of Japan's post-World War II constitution, prohibits
Japan from using force in the conduct of its foreign relations. Koizumi
tried to get around this by endorsing future efforts to amend the
constitution and by claiming that the Japanese army would undertake "only
humanitarian and reconstruction work" in Iraq.
But this is hardly a risk-free operation militarily or politically.
Domestic critics charge that sending the troops before amending the
constitution suggests that Japan does not believe in the rule of law. Two
former secretaries-general of Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party, Koichi
Kato and Makoto Koga, and the party's former policy chief, Shizuka Kamei,
declined to vote for the troop deployment.
The first of about 1,000 Japanese troops arrived Feb. 8 in Samawah, 168
miles south of Baghdad. Four days later, they came under mortar attack.
They've also been threatened by Al Qaeda for joining the U.S.-led
coalition and given that Al Qaeda delivered painful blows to the Turks in
Istanbul after issuing similar warnings, Japan should be braced for military
and civilian casualties.
Perhaps even more serious for the Japanese, Samawah was hit by U.S.
depleted-uranium ammunition in both 1991 and 2003. A Japanese journalist,
Mamoru Toyoda, equipped with a Geiger counter found radiation levels in the
town 300 times greater than normal. The Dutch troops also based there have
refused to remove or go near any of the radioactive debris in the area.
Death and disability because of radiation sickness is a particular horror
for all Japanese after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The British and Australian governments ignored their populations to join
Bush's might-makes-right adventure, when they could have stood aside like
France and Germany. It is too bad that Japan has now done the same thing,
permanently destroying the idealism behind its antiwar constitution.
Chalmers Johnson is president of the Japan Policy Research Institute and
author of "The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the
Republic" (Metropolitan Books, 2004).
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
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