(Japanese children crossing a street in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan on 7 May 2005, amid a heavy police presence and the presence of an estimated 100 cheering, flag-waving rightists in the background. The rightists had turned out to give a warm send-off to several hundred soldiers of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces as the troops departed their nearby garrison for Samawah, Iraq.)
AN APPEAL FOR ARTICLE 9 (commentary)
By Brian Covert
HYOGO, JAPAN — Today, August 15 , marks 60 years since the end of World War II, a war that took millions of lives and changed the course of history. All around the world today, it is a time for quietly reflecting on where the human race has been and where it’s bound.
Nowhere is that more true perhaps than here in Japan, which had been both the victimizer and the victim in that war. Sixty years on, Japan has yet to deal as a nation with the magnitude of the killing and suffering it caused in neighboring Asian nations and elsewhere; the same can also be said of the United States and its horrendous atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and every war that America has waged around the world since then.
But this special day of remembrance marks not only a time of much-needed reflection on the most basic issues of life and death, peace and war. It is also marks a time for much-needed action.
This action, I believe, could be in the form of some concrete steps that can be taken to join together with people from different cultures and nations in a common global cause. I would like to make an appeal here for one of those steps on the road to a common international action: Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution.
The two paragraphs of Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, enacted in 1947 in the ashes of World War II, read in their entirety:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. / In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
The Importance of Article 9
The question naturally arises: Why is Article 9 important to us all today, more than a half-century after it was written? There are several reasons.
First of all, Article 9 serves to balance the scales of justice in favor of peace and against war. Article 9 gives the world another choice beyond that offered by the Bush regime in its threat of “you are either with us or you are with the terrorists.” The world need not choose between two sides of terrorism. Article 9 offers a real and viable alternative for all people by offering the practical alternative of building peaceful societies.
Secondly, Article 9 seeks to break the vicious circle of vengeance that wars and war economies thrive on. For example, for the countries — especially in Asia — that were ravaged by the Japanese military’s fascist fantasies of global domination, Article 9 has served as a source of postwar political stability in nipping militarism in the bud. The global circle of violence must be broken and replaced in our time with one of peace and understanding among all nations. Article 9 takes us closer to that goal.
Thirdly, Article 9 works to build upon true economic prosperity by discouraging military buildup and encouraging societies to devote their budgets to peacetime development. That has certainly been true in postwar Japan, which owes its economic prosperity in great part to its “Peace Constitution,” as it is referred to here. Along with addressing the moral roots of war, we must realistically begin to address the economic roots of war as well. Article 9 allows us to do just that.
Fourthly, Article 9 builds upon the earlier foundations for peace that are already in place. Did you know, for example, that the United States and 61 other nations of the world signed on to the Kellogg-Briand Pact (or Paris Pact), a treaty “providing for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy” that went into effect on 24 July 1929? This pact remains a binding treaty today under international law — and thus technically is still part of the supreme law of the land under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. Japan’s Article 9 can help build upon such legal foundations around the world.
This is all not to say, of course, that Article 9 has been a cure-all for Japan’s problems; it hasn’t. With great encouragement from the U.S. Pentagon over the decades following World War II, Japan is said to have become the world’s fifth-largest military spender. Moreover, the U.S. occupation forces that came into Japan following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have essentially never left: An estimated 45,000 U.S. troops are still stationed at American military “camps” around Japan today, mostly in Okinawa to the south. The U.S. military, of course, even now bills the Japanese government for most of those American military expenses in Japan. All this has happened despite the existence of Article 9 in the Japanese Constitution.
But at the same time, it is no exaggeration to say that without Article 9 in place in Japan, the international community would have been much less stable over these past decades and the ambitions of Japan’s militarists would have resurfaced much earlier.
“Resurface”? Yes, it’s true: Sixty years after the end of World War II, Japanese militarism is surfacing once again — this time in the form of assistance in fighting America’s so-called “war on terrorism.” Under pressure from the U.S., Japan — the country that once suffered the atomic genocide of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — has sent hundreds of young soldiers of its Self-Defense Forces to Samawah, Iraq, to help shore up the American occupation. Samawah is an area of Iraq recently found by former U.S. military scientist Dr. Asaf Durakovic to have high levels of deadly depleted uranium (DU) contamination from weapons used by the U.S. in its illegal March 2003 invasion of Iraq. The atomic bombings have come full circle.
Along with that, the arch-conservative Japanese government, using current Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as its frontman, is making all-out efforts to change Article 9. The reason? Ostensibly to make it easier for Japan to dispatch its military to any overseas location at any time without any say by the Japanese public. The new U.S. ambassador to Japan, a George W. Bush loyalist named Thomas Schieffer, has been explicit in his expectations that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces play an even stronger role in helping America fight its so-called “war on terrorism” in Iraq. And Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi, backed up by the rising neo-conservative forces in Japan’s government, are more than ready to bow to the demands of the warlords in Washington.
It is against this backdrop that vibrant citizens’ movements have been growing recently in Japan to stand up and protect Article 9 from being changed in any way. People from all walks of life in Japan — students, teachers, retirees, actors and actresses, labor union members, musicians, scholars, politicians, business owners, NPO volunteers, activists, authors and more — are standing up together and making their voices heard in Japanese society in favor of protecting Article 9. These are thriving citizens’ movements, where the real meaning of democracy can be truly seen and felt at local levels throughout Japan.
But we are far from being in the safe zone. Japan’s corporate-dominated mainstream news media, like others elsewhere in the world, have mostly ignored these calls for peace. The Japanese government, under pressure from Bush and his neo-conservative cronies, is steadily chipping away at the war-renouncing clause of Article 9, with many in Japan seeing it as just a matter of time before Article 9 crumbles under the weight of U.S imperialism. The irony is that America was the one that helped give birth to Article 9, and now, nearly 60 years later, America may well be the one to kill it off.
That is why, at this crucial hour, many of us in these pro-Article 9 citizen movements in Japan see an urgent, immediate need to reach out to brothers and sisters around the world for solidarity and support — not in the form of money but in the form of your voices and organizing efforts.
Let us use Japan’s Article 9 for the reason it was originally created: to prevent future wars and stop militarism. Rather than helplessly stand by and watch the Peace Constitution of Japan die a quiet death 60 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, let us work together anew to spread the seeds of Article 9-type guarantees throughout the countries of the world. Yes, it can be done.
If your conscience moves you to do so, here are some practical, concrete steps you can take today:
• Find out more about Article 9. It is important as a first step to understand what Article 9 is, how it came about, why it has been an important part of world peace so far, and why it is worth protecting and spreading around the world. Some recent news reports concerning Article 9 are listed below to help get you started. A web search will offer you a wealth of other websites providing useful information on Article 9.
• Sign a petition calling for the protection of Article 9 and for the withdrawl of Japanese military forces from Iraq. The petition has gotten off to a good start but the momentum must be kept going. Simply follow the directions in filling in the information (in English or Japanese), including your personal message to Prime Minister Koizumi. The sponsor of the petition, the Japan-based Global Peace Campaign, has pledged to deliver the voices of peace collected here to the office of the prime minister of Japan. [Note: The petition signing period has since expired.]
• Pass this appeal around to whoever and wherever you can. Every person who reads this appeal counts as a potential voice in support of Article 9 and for peace.
• Make contact. A few of the Article 9 movement organizations within and outside Japan are listed below. Make contact with them and let them know that you too are standing up in support of Article 9. Some of the Japanese sites don’t have English webpages, but they all have e-mail contact listings. Don’t let the language barrier deter you!
• Consider creating an Article 9 for your own country. Article 9 stands as a testament to the possibilities of peace for the entire world, not just for Japan. By replacing the words “the Japanese people” with your own nationality, you have the basis of a war-renouncing clause that can be applied to your own country’s circumstances. Dare to imagine, if you will, what could happen in many nations of the world (especially the USA) if governments were legally bound to such war-renouncing clauses by their own citizens.
In closing, if the memory of millions of those who needlessly died 60 years ago in the rubble and ashes of a not-so-distant war are to mean anything, then this appeal on behalf of Article 9 must somehow be a beginning, not an end. If the voices of young people and old people today are going to mean something now, then let it be in defense of peace and prosperity for all people instead of war and wealth for the greedy few.
And if the voices for peace and peaceful prosperity everywhere are to ring out loudly in the future, then let it be a vision of tomorrow based on true brotherhood and sisterhood, not on concepts of “divide and conquer” and delirious dreams of global domination. We all live on the same Mother Earth and together we must find ways to keep on living here in harmony.
Much has been happening in Japan concerning Article 9 since this appeal was first published on 15 August 2005, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
As the updated news website links below indicate, the government of Japan has been moving fast and furiously to weaken the remaining vestiges of Japan’s beloved “Peace Constitution.” Now that a new, hard-core neo-conservative, Shinzo Abe, is the prime minister of Japan, the game seems fixed: With the Bush administration’s blessing, the government of Japan is set to hold a national referendum in 2010 on whether to “amend” Article 9, ostensibly to allow Japan to send its Self-Defense Forces anywhere in the world in support of the U.S. “war on terrorism.” The strict terms of the referendum seem almost guaranteed to work in the government’s favor.
Is this the end of Article 9? The only thing standing in the way of the Japanese government’s plans to do away with the war-renouncing clause in the Constitution is the Japanese people. Public opinion in Japan so far has been strongly in favor of keeping Article 9, and that is a big plus in favor of constitutional democracy in Japan. A big minus, however, is the existence of a corporate-dominated “news media wall” in Japan that stands between the Japanese public itself and the issue of Article 9 — a wall of media silence or reluctance to truly inform the people about how precious Article 9 is and how calamitous it will be for Japan, and indeed the world, to lose Article 9. And of course, there is also the continued U.S. government pressure on the ultra-rightist government leaders of Japan to toe the line on the “war on terrorism.”
Anything can happen in three years, and if Japanese public opinion against changing Article 9 is to stay strong, it will need the strong support of peace-loving people around the world as well. That is where you come in: Read this appeal through once more, check out the updated website links, and if your conscience still moves you to do so, pass it on to as many people around the world as you can.
A former defense minister of Japan, who recently resigned, has said that the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 could not be helped, given the geopolitical situation at the time. If such an atomic genocide is to be considered a crime against humanity, as it certainly must be, then remarks like that from public officials that insult the dignity of victims of war anywhere in the world should also be held to account. It is time for people of good conscience everywhere — regardless of religious, political or cultural differences — to stand up together and put an end to this madness of globalized militarism.
I end this updated appeal with the same words I used to end the original version two years ago in 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII:
Consider giving true peace a chance by giving Article 9 a chance in our time.
Brian Ohkubo Covert is an independent journalist based in Hyogo, Japan, and a member of the western Japan chapter of the Peace Constitution League.
NEWS STORIES ON ARTICLE 9 AND RELATED ISSUES:
"Article 9 hindering U.S. ties, bid for UNSC seat: Armitage"
Japan Times, 23 July 2004
"Article 9 a UNSC-bid hurdle: Powell"
Japan Times Weekly, 21 August 2004
"Japan extends its military reach"
BBC News, 10 December 2004
"Article 9 changes could threaten regional security: NGOs"
Japan Times, 5 February 2005
"Schieffer calls troop cut unrealistic"
Japan Times, 21 July 2005
"End run around civilian control" (editorial)
Japan Times, 28 July 2005
"Thousands gather in support of retaining pacifist Article 9"
Japan Times, 31 July 2005
"Mourning pacifism in Hiroshima"
International Herald Tribune, 8 August 2005
"60 years after its defeat, Japan still struggles with responsibility"
International Herald Tribune, 15 August 2005
"Japan’s LDP begins overhaul of pacifist Constitution"
AP/Reuters/AFP, 23 November 2005
"Constitution survey shows 77% oppose changing Article 9"
Japan Times, 4 May 2006
"Japan’s Parliament endorses referendum on constitutional change"
International Herald Tribune, 14 May 2007
"Japan’s Revolution is Far Too Quiet"
Foreign Policy, May 2007
ORGANIZATIONS / WEBSITES WORKING TO PROTECT ARTICLE 9:
Article 9 Association (Kyu-jo no Kai)
Founders of this support group include Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Literature, and author/activist Makoto Oda.
—Japanese page: http://www.9-jo.jp/
Article 9 Society (Dai Kyu-jo no Kai)
Group founded by Dr. Charles Overby, a U.S.-based scholar and war veteran
—English page: http://www.article9society.org/
—Japanese page: http://www.a9s.org/japannet_002.htm
Global Article 9 Campaign
Cosponsored by the Japanese NGO “Peace Boat” and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). Features info on Article 9 and a link to a petition you can sign in support of Article 9.
—English page: http://www.article-9.org/english/index.html
—Japanese page: http://www.article-9.org/jp/index.html
Institute for Global and Cosmic Peace (Chikyu Uchu Heiwa Kenkyu-sho)
A research institute that focuses on social and political issues, including Article 9.
—English/Japanese page: http://www.igcpeace.org/archives/88
Kenpo Angya no Kai (lit.: “Constitution Pilgrimage Society”)
(no English pages)
Kenpo Kaigi (lit.: “Constitutional Congress”)
(no English pages)
Peace Constitution League (Kenpo Kyu-jo Sekai e Mirai e Renraku Kai)
(no English pages)