Thoughts on the Fall of Democracy on the occasion of the 71st Anniversary of Hiroshima Day
“O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst.”
Mark Twain “The War Prayer”
The day after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, U.S. President George Bush declared a “War on Terror,” claiming that this was not simply a terrorist attack but a war. According to the results of a joint survey conducted by Physicians for Social Responsibility (U.S.), Physicians for Global Survival (Canada), and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Germany), the War on Terror conducted by the multinational force led by U.S. forces has so far killed at least 1.3 million and possibly more than 2 million people in the three main war zones - Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Most of these victims are civilians including many children and infants. A different survey estimates the death toll in Iraq (total population 32.6 million) between 2003 and 2011 as about half a million, 70% of which were civilians. About 60% of these civilian deaths, including many children, were the victims of direct attacks with guns, explosives, aerial bombings and the like, and the rest were deaths due to the destruction of hospitals and other medical facilities as well as disease caused by stress such as heart failure. It can be assumed that many civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan have also been either director indirect war victims.
The estimated death toll by the end of 1945 as the result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was 230 thousand, and the aerial bombings conducted by the U.S. forces throughout Japan in the final year of the Asia-Pacific War, including the atomic bombing, killed about 560 thousand people, predominantly civilians. How should we, citizens of Hiroshima, conceive of 1.3 million deaths as the result of the War on Terror, even though they were not victims of the nuclear war? The estimated number of Chinese and other Asian deaths resulting from Japan’s 15 year-long war of aggression was more than 20 million. How should we, Japanese citizens with this abhorrent record, tackle the war of aggression that the U.S. together with other western powers conducted in Iraq?
On December 14, 2011, with the completion of withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Iraq, President Barack Obama made an official announcement of the “end of the Iraq War.” Yet, in fact, not only Iraq but also Afghanistan are still in a deep quagmire of war, causing many civilian deaths almost every day. According to the estimate made by two terrorism specialists, Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, the Iraq War “generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third.” Indeed, jihad, i.e., terrorist attacks, conducted either by Islamic fundamentalists or those influenced by such religious fundamentalism are now spreading from Iraq and Afghanistan to northern Africa, the entire Middle East, Southeast Asia as well as to the U.S. and Europe. Even within a month of July this year, more than a dozen deadly terrorist attacks were carried out at various places in the world, including Dacca in Bangladesh (22 deaths), Bagdad in Iraq (213 deaths), Medina in Saudi Arabia (4 deaths), Nice in France (84 deaths), Munich in Germany (9 deaths), and Kabul in Afghanistan (80 deaths).
The recent chain reaction of terrorist attacks in France, Germany, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other nations is undoubtedly a counter-attack by the self-claimed Islamic State (ISIL). This reaction was against aerial bombings, which have escalated by Coalition Forces led by U.S., French and British forces. Russian forces supporting the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime of Syria were also involved. According to recent research conducted by the Oslo Peace Research Institute, the number of direct conflict fatalities increased more than threefold after the Western powers initiated air strikes against ISIL and the CIA began its indirect military interference in the war. In particular, aerial bombing conducted by the Coalition and Russian forces against ISIL produced not only many civilian deaths but also more than 4 million refugees by mid-2015. This aerial bombing is still producing many more displaced people. According to information provided by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the total number of refugees in the world at the end of 2014 was 59.5 million, half of whom are children. Compared to this, the number of European refugees forced to leave their motherland during World War II was approximately 2.1 million. Therefore, it is by no means an exaggeration to say that, currently, the world is in a state of global war that can be described as “the Global War of Terrorism.” As already explained, this Global War of Terrorism was initiated by the War on Terror, and we are unable to see how we could end this horrific situation.
In retrospect, it is clear that, immediately after the September 11 attack in 2001, terrorist attacks on civilians of the nations of military power by violent non-state organizations such as al-Qaida suddenly increased. In this sense, it can be said that the 9/11 incident probably corresponds to the Pearl Harbor Attack that opened the Pacific War. Yet the vital difference between the Global War of Terrorism and the Pacific War is that the current global war is not a war fought between nation-states equipped with immense and wide-ranging arms. It is an “asymmetric war.” Non-state terrorist organizations such as ISIL, which do not possess massive military power, are executing a strategy of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, specifically targeting civilians of the countries of Coalition Forces and their allies. Yet the nations armed with strong military forces are incapable of defending the domain of daily civilian life. This is because military arms possessed by powerful nations are designed to confront similar formidable weapons of other nations, and are thus totally incapable of preventing and tackling haphazard terrorist attacks on civilians using small arms. Terrorist groups are clearly aware of this weak point in the mighty military powers like the U.S., France and Britain. The only viable defense strategy against such terrorist acts could therefore be steady and continuous peace-building humanitarian activities. It is only such activities that can eventually eliminate violent terrorist organizations like ISIL.
Counter terrorist attacks such as aerial bombings conducted by the Western military powers against non-state terrorist organizations are, however, killing and injuring many civilians in areas under the control of these repressive organizations. Of course, atrocious and cruel conduct by non-state terrorist organizations carries no legitimacy and cannot be justified. Yet many instances of so-called “precision bombing” are also in fact indiscriminate attacks on pitiful civilians oppressed by terrorist groups. The attacks by drone that Obama has been vigorously promoting are no exception at all. Drone attacks may sometimes kill terrorist leaders, but those deceased leaders are quickly replaced and their terrorist activities continue. Furthermore, according to an article published in New York Times on April 23, 2015, of 3852 people who were hitherto killed by 522 Drone attacks, 476 were civilians. Even this data is apparently an underestimation, and actual civilian casualties of Drone attacks including medical doctors and nurses may be far more numerous. (According to the information available at the website “The Intercept: Drone Paper,” for example, 90% of drone-attack victims killed by Haymaker Operations conducted between May and September 2012 in Afghanistan were not the “intended targets.”) In other words, “precision bombings,” which always produce much so-called “collateral damage,” are in fact “state terrorism” committed by powerful military nations. Such acts of state terrorism create further indiscriminate attacks by non-state terrorist groups on civilians, which are leading to endless vicious cycles of terrorism. As a result, the world is now in a state of political chaos and peril, in which no one can predict when and where a violent act of terrorism might kill or harm people. There is no doubt that the recent result of the British “Brexit” referendum and the attempted military coup in Turkey are also closely linked with the ongoing Global War of Terrorism.
Why are such horrendous, indiscriminate terrorist attacks on civilians suddenly increasing in so-called “civilized nations” such as France and the U.S.? How should we interpret such frightening phenomena? It is noticeable that most perpetrators of such terrorist acts are either immigrants or children of immigrants from the Middle East or the northern Africa. For example, all of the nine men, who carried out indiscriminate carnage at the Bataclan concert hall and outside Stade de France in Paris on the evening of November 13, 2015, were French citizens born to migrant parents from Algeria or Morocco. On July 14, 2016, a young man deliberately drove a cargo truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, killing 84 people and injuring 303. That man, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, was born in Tunisia but living in Nice on a French residency permit. As widely reported, all these people were typical, ordinary young boys with little initial interest in Muslim religious activities - they enjoyed, for example, dancing at discos, playing football and the like. Yet, within a relatively short period before committing the mass murder, they suddenly became radicalized with fundamentalist Islamic ideas. Take the case of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, for example except for a short period leading up to the attack, he was completely uninvolved in religious activities and not even a practicing Muslim. As the French anthropologist Alain Bertho suggests, it seems that the religious radicalization of these people was closely entwined with social and political conditions which these children of migrants faced. It is almost certain that these men felt that, despite the fact that they were French nationals born in France, they continued to be treated as aliens, suffering from various forms of discrimination. Many were forced to live in migrant ghettos in the outskirts of Paris. Clearly illustrating such discrimination is statistical data that, in 10 years between 2005 and 20015, 102 migrants or descendants of migrants in France died because of violence inflicted upon them by police; yet no police officer has so far been prosecuted for such crimes committed against members of the public. The fact that many young French minorities are unable to find hope in their future in the country of their birth must contribute significantly to the arousal of deep anti-social sentiment among them. As a result some of them find a means to deliver their intense anger in the extremely violent form of a non-western religious ideology, i.e., Muslim fundamentalism. In other words, their radicalization can be called the “Islamization of anger.”
From 2003, France began engaging in military activities in Afghanistan. From 2011, it started sending its forces to various places in northern and central Africa, and from September 2014, French forces began joint operations with U.S. forces involving aerial bombing in Iraq and Syria. As I have already mentioned, coupled with bombing conducted by other Coalition and Russian forces, French military intervention in these areas has contributed to driving from their homelands a massive number of refugees. About 1.5 million Syrian refugees have so far moved into Lebanon, where half a million Palestinian refugees are already living. Jordan is hosting more than 664 thousands refugees on top of 2.2 million Palestinian refugees; and in Turkey there are 2.5 million refugees who have very little hope of finding a safe place to live. Because the Macedonian government relaxed its strict policy against illegal immigration in June 2015, a large influx of refugees seeking safe haven suddenly began moving into Western Europe, in particular Germany, from Turkey through Greece and Macedonia. Yet many boats overloaded with refugees sank in the middle of the sea on the way to Greece from Turkey, and as a result thousands of people including many small children were drowned. Yet, except for Germany for a short period, other EU countries including France were reluctant to accept such large numbers of refugees. Eventually, in March 2016, the EU evaded its responsibility by forging an agreement with Turkey to forcibly return refugees, arriving in Greece via Turkey, back to Turkey. As part of this agreement, the EU promised to pay Turkey 60 billion euros.
Indeed it is natural to assume that many young “migrants” in France felt angry when they saw on TV every day many Syrian and other refugees from the Middle East making frantic efforts to land on Greek islands as well as dead bodies of babies and children drowned in the sea. In some sense it is therefore also natural to presume that those radicalized French terrorists showed their anger towards French people who were enjoying themselves at a concert hall, a football stadium or in a street of celebration, while paying no attention to the pain of unfortunate refugees. In particular, their terrorist acts in the form of “suicide bombing” clearly express the degree of their anger and despair as “migrants” in France.
(Of course I am absolutely against any form of terrorist acts including suicide bombing, but I strongly believe it is vital to understand the psychology of suicide bombers. On this topic, see the following article: http://apjjf.org/-Yuki-Tanaka/1606/article.html)
On the other hand, on the pretense of protecting “freedom and democracy,” the so-called advanced nations are now vigorously introducing policies to limit or oppress individual civil rights; to control public information and political ideas; and to tighten national intelligence services. In fact, such “security policies” are now allowing a small group of politicians and bureaucrats to monopolize political power. Exploiting the popular fear of terrorism, they are now trying to further intensify their political power by instigating racism against migrants and minorities, and heightening nationalism. Over many decades, Western nations (including Japan) have been promoting “freedom and democracy” in their own countries. Yet, in this long historical process of so-called “civilization,” outside their own countries – particularly in their colonies and ex-colonies, they extensively used and are still using both military and economic violence. As Sigmund Freud clearly illustrated in his book Civilization and Its Discontent, civilization itself produces anti-civilization and increasingly reinforces it. It can be said that, in response to such “civilized violence” (i.e. state terrorism), those Western nations are now receiving a tremendous backlash – the “savage violence” of terrorism. Ironically this backlash of violence is now destroying the “freedom and democracy” of the “civilized” world. We must realize that the Global War of Terrorism is therefore producing a serious crisis: the obliteration of “freedom and democracy.”
Both the current immense popularity of Donald Trump as Republican candidate for the U.S. President and the present political situation of Japan clearly reflect this crisis of the breakdown of democracy. In the last few years, the Japanese government under Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has moved quickly to introduce undemocratic polices one after another, e.g., the enactment of the Secret Information Protection Act; the decision to reinterpret Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution in order to approve the exercise of the right of collective self-defense; passing the unconstitutional Security-related Legislation; the construction of a new U.S. military base at Henoko in Okinawa; resuming operation of nuclear power plants, and so on. In April 2016, Abe also abolished Japan’s long time policy of prohibiting the export of Japanese military technology and weapons, and thus Japan’s military industry is now being rapidly incorporated into the U.S. military-industry complex. In addition, Abe initiated joint research into unmanned military planes with Israel, the country that has an infamous record of indiscriminate and mass killing of Palestinian civilians, in particular by aerial bombing. Based on these highhanded policies, the Abe administration is rapidly strengthening and expanding its military alliance with the U.S.. In actual fact Japan is now an active participant in the War on Terror. While augmenting the military budget every year, the budget for social welfare schemes has been considerably cut, leading to an increased widening of the gap between rich and poor. Abe is now seriously planning to abolish Japan’s peaceful constitution in order to drag the Japanese nation deep into the Global War of Terrorism. We must act now to overthrow the Abe administration as quickly as possible before it’s too late!