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The Death of Article 9?


Article 9. [1] 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.
[2] 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.


This historic and important clause in Japan’s postwar Constitution, ratified in 1947, stands unique in the world for its clear renunciation of war and “war potential” as a policy of the state.

However, in the same way that the former administration of George W. Bush “reinterpreted” the laws of the United States to allow for the torture of foreign prisoners in overseas military prisons as a matter of government policy, the ultra-rightist prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, recently decided that Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution needed to be “reinterpreted” to suit Japan’s growing international responsibilities in the 21st century (in other words, to make the USA happy).

So, prime minister Abe last month took the first steps toward changing the clear meaning of Japan’s Constitution, without any public debate or proper discussion within the halls of government or in the media, and
gutting Article 9 like a slab of dead fish to be served up at a sushi bar.

This has been a long time in coming, with the U.S. government and military pressing Japan for just such a change for decades. Then, what led Abe to do it now? In two words: Barack Obama. The U.S. president is a constitutional law scholar, a specialist in the field of constitutional rights, who at this stage of his presidency (unlike Bush) still has some modicum of respect both at home and abroad. If even Obama was in favor of Abe’s push for “collective self-defense,” as
Obama indeed was, Abe must have felt emboldened enough to risk the domestic backlash here at home to finally give Big Brother America what it has long wanted: a change in Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution.

So, here we had the spectacle of a U.S. president, who prides himself on his socially liberal values and working-class roots, aligning himself with a conservative, arch-nationalist prime minister of Japan who is from the silver-spoon elite class — all in the name of U.S.-Japanese bilateral security ties. If that picture looks all wrong, it’s because it
is wrong.

We should have no doubts in our minds by now that when it comes to issues of war, militarism and politico-economic power struggles, so-called "liberal" Obama and s0-called "conservative" Abe are in the very same (corporate) pocket.

The question inevitably arises: Is this the death of Article 9 after all? It may well be. But I wouldn’t call the game over just yet.
Recent public opinion levels against Abe’s moves have seemingly slowed down his plans to deliver the burial rights on Article 9, at least until next year.

What I would really like to see happen within the coming year or so is a mighty wave of righteous Japanese public anger that rolls right over Abe’s plans to change the Constitution like a massive steamroller — and flattens Tokyo’s pro-war agenda once and for all. But could all this happen in a conformist society like Japan?

I admit the odds don’t look good for that happening. Yet if history shows us anything, it is that anything can still happen. The only force standing between Article 9 and the powers-that-be in Washington/Tokyo is you and me — informing ourselves, standing up, raising our voices and getting out into the streets in large numbers to send a clear message:
HANDS OFF ARTICLE 9.
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