- Questions addressing the US-Japan conspiracy are essential –
The Open Letter failed to address the issue of the US-Japan Military Alliance
On December 25, 2016, three days before Prime Minster Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor, a group of 53 scholars and experts including film director Oliver Stone from the US, Japan and a few other nations released “An Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe On the Occasion of Your Visit to Pearl Harbor.” Below is the full text of the letter.
An Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe On the Occasion of Your Visit to Pearl Harbor
December 25, 2016
Dear Mr. Abe,
You recently announced plans to visit Pearl Harbor in Hawai’i at the end of December 2016 to “mourn the victims” of the Japanese Navy’s attack on the U.S. naval base on December 8, 1941 (Tokyo Time).
In fact, Pearl Harbor was not the only place Japan attacked that day. The Japanese Army had attacked the northeastern shore of the Malay Peninsula one hour earlier and would go on to attack several other British and U.S. colonies and bases in the Asia-Pacific region later that day. Japan launched these attacks in order to secure the oil and other resources of Southeast Asia essential to extend its war of aggression against China.
Since this will be your first official visit to the place where Japan’s war against the United States began, we would like to raise the following questions concerning your previous statements about the war.
1) You were Deputy Executive Director of the “Diet Members’ League for the 50th Anniversary of the End of War,” which was established at the end of 1994 in order to counter parliamentary efforts to pass a resolution to critically reflect upon Japan’s aggressive war. Its Founding Statement asserts that Japan’s more than two million war-dead gave their lives for “Japan’s self-existence and self-defense, and peace of Asia.” The League’s Campaign Policy statement of April 13, 1995 rejected offering any apology or issuing the no-war pledge included in the parliamentary resolution to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of war. The League’s public statement of June 8, 1995 declared that the majority parties’ resolution draft was unacceptable because it admitted Japan’s “behaviors of aggression” and “colonial rule.” Mr. Abe, do you still hold such views about the war?
2) In the Diet questioning period of April 23, 2013, you as Prime Minister stated that "the definition of what constitutes 'aggression' has yet to be established in academia or in the international community." Does that mean that you do not recognize Japan’s war against the Allied and Asia-Pacific nations and the preceding war against China as wars of aggression?
3) You state that you are going to visit Pearl Harbor to “mourn” the 2,400 Americans who perished in the attack. If that is the case, will you also be visiting China, Korea, other Asia-Pacific nations, or the other Allied nations for the purpose of “mourning” war victims in those countries who number in the tens of millions?
As Prime Minister, you have pressed for Constitutional revision including reinterpretation and revision of Article 9 to allow Japanese Self-Defense Forces to fight anywhere in the world. We ask that you reflect on the signal this sends to nations that suffered at Japan’s hands in the Asia-Pacific War.
These questions per se seemed to be quite reasonable as they were based on historical facts as well as on Abe’s past public statements and political performance. The ceremony at Pearl Harbor to be conducted by Abe and Obama was scheduled for December 28, 2016. Considering that the ceremony’s main purpose was to re-affirm and reinforce the US-Japan military alliance, it seemed to me that these questions were clearly inappropriate. They completely failed to address the issue at hand. In fact I was one of those who were invited to join the signatory group for this open letter. Having read the draft, I proposed the addition of a few more questions, pointing out that we should draw attention to the fundamental issue of the US-Japan military alliance. This is the parties’ mutual acceptance of their denial of their respective war responsibilities – Japan’s responsibility for numerous war atrocities and US responsibility for the indiscriminate mass killing with atomic bombs. As my proposal was rejected, I declined to join this group action.
The Open Letter failed to assess the political exploitation of the war victims of the Pearl Harbor Attack
The following is my further explanation as to why I found this open letter utterly inappropriate for this occasion.
The questions set out in this letter were simply directed to Abe in person, focusing upon his personal views on various war-related issues. The ceremony, however, was going to be conducted by Abe and Obama together. The aim was to reconfirm and further consolidate the US-Japan military alliance. The intention of the ceremony was apparently to console the spirits of the victims of the Pearl Harbor attack that the Japanese Imperial Forces conducted 75 years ago. I thought, naturally, that we needed to confirm what its fundamental purpose would be. A related and important question would be how we should assess the fact that this ceremony of remembrance was going to be conducted by the Japanese Prime Minister, who utterly denies Japan’s responsibility for the war of aggression, together with the US President, who does not admit his country’s crime and its responsibility for the atomic bombing. The questions in the open letter should have been directed to the fundamental nature of the US-Japan military alliance in relation to these two nations’ respective official memories of the war. But the actual questions in the open letter concerned only Abe’s personal views and ideas on Japanese war issues – questions that would deflect the real issue away from our attention, trivializing the relevant issues as the personal problems of a reckless politician.
It should be remembered that Abe was not the first post-war Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbor and pay his respects to the American victims. Three of his predecessors also made the visit, but their visits were always in connection with the US-Japan Security Treaty. In 1951 Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru went to Pearl Harbor on the way back from San Francisco after he signed the US-Japan Security Treaty by which the US gained entitlement to maintain indefinitely its military bases on Japanese soil. Five hours after signing the Peace Treaty with former enemy nations, Yoshida was taken to the Six US Army Headquarters at Presidio just north of San Francisco in order to authorize a new agreement with the US government on the continuing US military presence in Japan and allowing the US to continue to directly control Okinawa as before. The aim of Prime Minister Hatoyama Ichiro’s visit in 1956 was to demonstrate Japan’s continuing commitment to the US-Japan Security Treaty and the country’s loyalty to the US. This was despite his visit to Moscow ten days earlier to conclude the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration on the restoration of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. In 1957 Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, Abe’s grandfather, visited Pearl Harbor on the way back from Washington D.C. after a meeting with President Eisenhower where the possibility of amending the US-Security Treaty was discussed.
|Yoshida Shigeru signing the US-Japan Security Treaty|
In this way, visits by Japanese Prime Minsters to Pearl Harbor always took place as highly political gestures designed to confirm and reconfirm the US-Japan alliance. The succession of visits by Japanese prime ministers to Pearl Harbor is a typical example of the political exploitation of war victims. Similarly the aim of Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor was to boost his popularity both in Japan and the US by conducting a ceremony for “peace and reconciliation” and also to reinforce the military alliance with the US. His purpose was to strengthen further his campaign to abolish Article 9 of Japan’s peaceful Constitution and to allow Japanese military forces (still called “self-defense forces”) to conduct military operations side by side with US forces anywhere in the world. Needless to say, the Obama administration supported Abe’s political intentions by accepting his proposal to visit Pearl Harbor.
Thus mere criticism of Abe’s flawed view of the history of the Asia-Pacific War cannot reveal the significance of a political ceremony in which Japan and the US conspired together to exploit the war victims. One of the important questions to be asked should therefore be why none of the successive post-war Japanese prime ministers - including Yoshida, Ishibashi, Kishi and Abe - have ever visited Asian and Pacific nations to mourn victims of the war that Japan conducted and to offer sincere apologies to these nations. Such careful and critical thought and inquiry are totally lacking in the questions set out in the open letter.
A ceremony in which the US and Japan mutually accept denial of their respective war responsibilities
The memorial ceremony at Pearl Harbor in December 2016 was conducted as a “return salute” in response to Obama’s visit to Hiroshima Peace Park in May of the same year. In his speech in Hiroshima, Obama discussed the atomic bombing with no reference whatsoever to the crime and responsibility of the US. Instead he described the atomic bombing as if it were a natural calamity that had no identified human agency, explaining it thus: “On a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed.” Furthermore, by declaring that “mankind possessed the means to destroy itself,” Obama implied that all mankind was guilty. In my recent essay, ‘US President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima: a Critical Commentary through the Eyes of Hannah Arendt’, I explained the hidden significance of this ostensibly solemn memorial ceremony conducted near ground zero in Hiroshima in the following way:
Japanese political and military leaders also utilized the deceptive concept of collective guilt immediately after Hirohito officially surrendered to the Allied nations on August 15, 1945. The national doctrine of “National Acknowledgement of Japanese War Guilt” whitewashed the guilt and personal responsibility of many of Japan’s wartime leaders, including Hirohito, the Grand Marshall of the Japanese Imperial Forces – guilt and responsibility for killing and injuring millions of Asians as well as more than three million Japanese. Yet the current Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo, does not even use this misleading doctrine of collective guilt in order to evade Japan’s national war responsibility. He shamelessly denies the historical facts of numerous war crimes and atrocities that the Japanese committed against Asians, for example, the Nanjing Massacre and the phenomenon of military sex slaves.
Because the US president evaded his national responsibility in Hiroshima for the atomic bombing by laying guilt and responsibility at the feet of all mankind, the US is tacitly resonant with Abe’s denial of Japan’s war responsibility. Obama and Abe stood together in Hiroshima Peace Park. But in reality this scene was a celebration of their mutual acceptance of denial of their respective war responsibilities. Of course this ceremony had also served as another hidden mutual verification - confirmation of the rightness of the US nuclear deterrent strategy and the US-Japan military alliance. *
It is politically deceptive to mourn the war victims without admitting the crimes and responsibility of one’s own nation and to give a false impression of a deep desire for peace for one’s former enemy nation as well as one’s own. This is nothing but an effective method of concealing those very crimes and that responsibility. True reconciliation and peace can only be achieved when victims accept sincere apologies offered by perpetrators for the crimes as well as acknowledgement of responsibility for them. Yet both Obama and Abe, as national leaders, failed to fulfill this duty.
The American justification of the atomic bombing and Japan’s acceptance of this justification is the foundation of the US-Japan military alliance
In order to understand this mutual acceptance of denial of their respective war responsibilities, we need to comprehend how the US decided to use the atomic bomb against Japan and how Japan reacted to this serious crime against humanity.
As has been well substantiated by a number of historians, the real aim of the US in employing nuclear bombs against Japan was to demonstrate to the Soviet Union the mass-destructive power of the new weapon. The purpose of this was to discourage the Russians from embarking on war against Japan. As many military leaders in the US forces thought at the time, strategically, to end the Asia-Pacific War, the use of a nuclear weapon was not remotely necessary. Rather than military or other reasons, the real motivation was political. In fact the US Government, led by Harry Truman, plotted to make sure that Japan would not surrender until the new weapon of mass destruction was ready to be used. In order to pursue this aim, Truman made sure that there would be no reference in the Potsdam Declaration to the Allied nations’ plan concerning the future status of Japan’s emperor system – the most crucial issue for the Japanese government.
On the other hand, Emperor Hirohito and his military and political leaders needlessly wasted time by delaying their surrender to the Allied nations. They wanted to be sure that Japan would receive a guarantee from the Allied powers that its emperor system would be maintained after Japan’s surrender. For this reason, Japan continued to conduct a series of unwinnable battles in the Pacific, most notably in the Philippines and in the Okinawa Prefecture. They forced tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers and civilians to sacrifice their lives and also killed many local people. To some extent, these useless and wasteful shenanigans on the part of the Japanese suited the US plan. What really led Japan to make the decision to propose the surrender, which boasted a sole condition – permission to maintain the emperor system – was not the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was the Soviet Union’s entry into the war against Japan, which happened a few hours before the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
On August 12, the Japanese government received a response which hinted at an acceptance of Japan’s proposal. Yet, it took until August 14 - two more days - for Hirohito and his cronies to finally accept the Potsdam Declaration. In the meantime, almost every day until August 14 after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US forces continued fire-bombing many other Japanese cities. The target of one of the last conventional bombings on August 14 was Osaka, in which 700 one-ton bombs were dropped from 150 B-29 bomber planes. The result was the death of more than 800 civilians, just a matter of hours before the official end of the war.
It is clear therefore that, in the real historical sense, the US and Japan share combined responsibility for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the US for plotting to ensure that Japan did not surrender until the bomb was ready; and Japan for unwisely inducing the atomic bombing by delaying the capitulation. Yet the US created a myth that the atomic bombing was necessary in order to end the long-lasting bloody war in the Asia-Pacific. Its aim was to cover up its grave war crime of the unnecessary killing of over 210,000 people, mostly civilians, including 40,000 Koreans. On the other hand, Hirohito stated in his Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War that his government had decided to surrender because of the loss of life brought by the atomic bombs. Hirohito deceptively singled out the atomic bombings, and not the Soviet Union’s entry to the war against Japan, as the decisive factor in the decision to surrender.
Hirohito was thus able to completely ignore the war crimes committed by the Japanese military across Asia and the Pacific, as well as the anti-Japanese resistance that was taking place throughout Asia. In addition, he exploited the A-bomb’s damage to indirectly justify the war as a “war to liberate Asia.” In this way, the atomic bombings became a means to conceal not only the responsibility for the war of Hirohito himself and other wartime leaders, but also the legal and moral responsibilities of the Japanese people for a war conducted in the name of the Japanese empire. This war took tens of millions of lives throughout the Asia-Pacific. Just as President Truman fabricated a myth to cover up the US government’s responsibility for its serious war crimes, so too did the Japanese government use the same A-Bomb attacks to conceal its own war responsibilities.
In this way, both the US and Japan exploited the tremendous destructive and lethal power of the atom bomb for their respective political justifications for ending the war. Moreover, they tacitly accepted each other’s justifications. In other words, the post war era for Japan and the US commenced on a base of US and Japanese mutual acceptance of denial of their respective war responsibilities.
The US-Japan Security Treaty was also based firmly upon this mutual acceptance of these denials. Japan for its part, with this treaty, officially accepted the American myth that justified indiscriminate mass killing with nuclear weapons. Since then Japan has strongly supported and still supports US nuclear strategies, to the extent that the Japanese government now repeatedly requests the US government to maintain its strategy of nuclear deterrence. In parallel with this policy, Japan built its own nuclear energy facilities throughout the nation and still shows no sign of terminating its commitment to the use of nuclear power - despite the horrendous accident five years ago at Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Station.
On the other hand, immediately after the war, the US decided to use Hirohito’s status as emperor to achieve smooth control of the Japanese nation under US occupation forces. Accordingly, the US decided not to question Hirohito’s crime of and responsibility for the war of aggression. In corroboration with the Japanese government, the US created a myth that, despite his pacifist beliefs, Hirohito’s prestige had been politically exploited by a small group of warmongers during the war. Such treatment of Hirohito by the US was, of course, closely related to the fact that, as a token gesture, only a small number of Japanese military and political leaders were tried at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. Even after Japan’s independence was restored in 1951, the Japanese emperor system was continuously exploited under the US-Japan Security Treaty, and is still manipulated for the benefit of both Japanese and US political and military co-operation.
Because of this US-Japan conspiracy, the majority of Japanese not only failed to form a clear idea of their nation’s war responsibility but also came to see themselves as the victims of war rather than as perpetrators. As a nation Japan still does not openly recognize the criminality of the many brutal acts it committed against other Asian peoples or its own responsibility for those acts. As a result, it cannot expose the significance of similar crimes that the United States perpetrated against the Japanese people. Many people in Japan are caught in a vicious cycle. Precisely because they do not thoroughly interrogate the criminality of the brutal acts the US committed against them or pursue US responsibility for those acts, they are incapable of considering the pain suffered by the Asian victims of their own crimes or the gravity of their responsibility for them. This mentality can be called a “sense of war victimhood without identifying victimizers.” It is the reason why Japan has willingly subordinated itself to US military control, although it has never been trusted by neighboring Asian nations and cannot establish a peaceful relationship with them.
In other words, the popular Japanese historical view based on a “sense of war victimhood without identifying victimizers” is the product of the US-Japan conspiracy, and not the creation of Japan itself. We therefore need to “work through the past” with its double meanings – i.e. the intertwined complex of Japan’s past and America’s past.
Unfortunately, the open letter to Abe completely lacks this perspective - the viewpoint of the US-Japan conspiracy. In this sense, as mentioned earlier, to simply question Abe’s deficient personal view of the history of the Asia-Pacific War is quite inadequate and pointless.
Questions addressing the US-Japan conspiracy are essential
Many Japanese people, in particular high-class militarists, politicians and bureaucrats, who psychologically subjugated themselves almost like slaves to the emperor system before and during the war, quickly submitted to the rule of the US, which brought them “freedom and democracy.” They did so without questioning the real nature of “freedom and democracy,” underpinned as it was by the great destructive power of nuclear and other lethal weapons. They happily acquiesced to “the new society” that the US provided - democracy based upon constitutional monarchy. This is one of the fundamental ideologies of the official historical view of the Asia-Pacific War, based as it is on a “sense of war victimhood without identifying victimizers.” The preconditions for acceptance of this new society were an acceptance in turn of the American justification of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as Hirohito’s immunity from responsibility for the war. One prominent post-war politician who acceded to this scheme of delusion was Kishi Nobusuke, grandfather of the current Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.
Indeed, Kishi himself was a product of the US-Japan conspiracy. In October 1936, Kishi took up the position of head of the Department of Industry of the State Council of Manchuko - Japan’s puppet state. In March 1939 he became the deputy director of the Office of General Affairs and effectively seized the power to control the entire economy and industry of Manchuko. While working in Manchuko, Kishi closely corroborated with the leaders of the Kwantung Army, in particular the staff officers, and contributed to the formulation of the five-year industrial development plan. This formed part of the preparations for war in China. By developing various kinds of military manufacturing there, this was a plan to make Manchuko a vital strategic base for the Japanese Imperial Army.
One of the reasons that Kishi was arrested and charged as an A-class war criminal suspect shortly after the war was his role in preparing for the war of aggression. It is said that Kishi secretly raised a huge sum by utilizing his power in Manchuko, and furtively gave financial support to many powerful militarists and politicians including General Tojyo Hideki. In October 1941 he was appointed Minister for Commerce and Industry of the newly sworn Tojyo Cabinet. In November 1943, when Prime Minister Tojyo established the Ministry for War Industry - and concurrently served as its Minister - Kishi continued to work for Tojyo both as Deputy Minister for this new government organization and as a minister of state. In the Tojyo cabinet, he was the key person in the rapid restructure of Japan’s economy and industry that enabled Japan’s massive war effort.
It was therefore not surprising that, soon after the war, Kishi was charged as an A-class war criminal suspect. Yet, at the end of 1948, the US adopted a new policy making Japan the vanguard in northeast Asia against the rapidly expanding communist bloc. Kishi together with many other prominent war crime suspects was acquitted and discharged. Furthermore, when he officially returned to politics in 1952 and became Japan’s prime minister in 1957, he received strong support from the US government. His younger brother Sato Eisaku, who served as his government’s Minister of Finance, secretly asked the US government for “financial support to fight against communists.” The US government responded to this request by providing support from the CIA’s fund for covert operations. Later, in 1964, Sato also became prime minister and held that position until 1972. As is now well known, both Kishi and Sato as prime minister made secret agreements with the US government to allow US forces to bring their nuclear weapons to Japan without informing Japanese authorities. If this is not a US-Japan conspiracy, what else can it be called?
An open letter should have been addressed to both Abe and Obama, asking questions concerning both Japanese and American responsibility for this US-Japan conspiracy. For example, the following questions to Obama would have been ideal:
* Mr. Kishi Nobusuke, the current Prime Minister’s grandfather, was arrested as an A-class war crime suspect shortly after the war because of his wartime contribution to preparation for the war of aggression. Yet at the end of 1948, along with the new US policy to appoint Japan as the vanguard in northeast Asia against the rapidly expanding communist bloc, Kishi was acquitted and discharged. As President of the United States, how do you assess this fact?
* While he was Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Sato Eisaku, Mr. Abe’s great-uncle, introduced a policy called “Three Non-nuclear Principles.” This prohibited production and possession of nuclear weapons in Japanese territory, and prohibited also their entry to Japan. On the strength of his anti-nuclear policy, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1974. But later it was revealed that he had made a secret agreement with the Nixon administration to allow US forces to bring nuclear weapons into Okinawa. As a US president who also received the Nobel Peace Prize because of your anti-nuclear stance, what do you think of this hypocrisy?
* The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Abe, claims that Japanese forces did not commit atrocities against Asians and Allied POWs. He utterly denies Japan’s responsibility for the war of aggression. Similarly in Hiroshima in May 2016 you, as the US president, did not admit responsibility for the crime of indiscriminately killing over 210,000 people by means of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - mostly civilians, including 40,000 Koreans. You visited Vietnam shortly before going to Hiroshima. There too you refused to discuss American responsibility for the intense and indiscriminate bombings, including the use of agent orange, that the US forces conducted during the Vietnam War. Because of your past performance, we think that you and Mr. Abe share the same problem of moral deficiency. How do you respond to this criticism?
* At present, people in Okinawa and Iwakuni, where large US military bases are located, live in deep fear of accidents involving US military planes such as Osprey and other types of jet fighter. They are also extremely concerned about the effects on their communities and environment of the building of the new US military base at Henoko in Okinawa and expansion of the Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi. Out of this serious concern many people, including the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture Mr. Onaga Takeshi, are currently vigorously involved in a civil campaign against US military activities in these regions. Yet the Abe administration is trying to quash these people’s voices using heavy-handed measures. As the Supreme Commander of the US forces, how do you feel about the serious concerns of these Japanese people?
In May 2015 I was also invited to join the signatory group of an open letter to Abe Shinzo that criticized his handling of the so-called “comfort women issue” (i.e., Japan’s military sex slaves), which was initiated by some American Japanologists. At that time, too, I pointed out that Japan’s lack of a sense of its own war responsibility was closely intertwined with the American justification for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I proposed to amend the content of the letter so that Americans would also think about their own war responsibility in conjunction with the “comfort women” issue. But my proposal was rejected. Through these repeated experiences I learned that, like many Japanese, American scholars and citizens are also required to “work through their own past,” the process that Theodor Adorno clearly advocated in his 1959 public lecture, Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit (The Meaning of Working Through the Past).
To conclude my critique of “An Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe On the Occasion of Your Visit to Pearl Harbor,” allow me to quote Adorno’s words from this lecture.
Above all enlightenment about what has happened must work against a forgetfulness that all too easily turns up together with the justification of what has been forgotten. …….
A working through of the past understood as enlightenment is essentially such a turn toward the subject, the reinforcement of a person’s self-consciousness and hence also of one self. This should be combined with the knowledge of the few durable propaganda tricks that are attuned exactly to those psychological dispositions we must assume are present in human beings (emphasis added).
- End –
* ‘U.S. President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima: a Critical Commentary through the Eyes of Hannah Arendt’