Archive for the ‘War’ Category

James Foley on the Dehumanization of War: Acclaimed Filmmaker Haskell Wexler Shares 2012 Interview

September 15, 2014

AMY GOODMAN
DEMOCRACY NOW! / VIDEO INTERVIEW
Published: Sunday 14 September 2014
Haskell Wexler comments on President Obama use of James Foley’s name and on James Foley.

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In his address on Wednesday night, President Obama invoked the memory of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were recently beheaded by the Islamic State, as he outlined his case for expanded military actions in Iraq and U.S. airstrikes against the group inside Syria. We speak to Academy Award-winning filmmaker Haskell Wexler, who worked with James Foley in 2012 in Chicago while he was making a film about protests against the NATO Summit. “For the President to use Jim’s name and other journalists as reason to pursue the stated military policy to ‘degrade and destroy the Islamic State so that it is no longer a threat’ is an insult to the memory of James Foley and to the intelligence of the American people,” Wexler wrote this week. We speak to Wexler and hear James Foley in his own words, from a video interview he did with Wexler.

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ABOUT AMY GOODMAN

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

Obama Charged with ‘Imperial Hubris’ Unmatched Even by Bush

September 13, 2014
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Following his announcement to bomb Syria without congressional approval, president slammed for total disregard for constitutional safeguards regarding war-making

 

pilloried.jpgPresident Obama told the American public on Wednesday night that he will order significantly expanded military operations against the Islamic State in the Middle East, including more U.S. troops to Iraq and a bombing campaign in Syria. Anti-war voices and progressive critics were thoroughly unimpressed with the announced strategy as they issued warnings of the disaster to come. (Photo: CD / Public Domain)A day after President Obama told the American public he was preparing to bomb targets inside the sovereign state of Syria and that he did not need congressional approval to do so, critics are lashing out against what Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale University, described as “imperial hubris” on Friday.

In his scathing op-ed in the New York Times, Ackerman writes:

President Obama’s declaration of war against the terrorist group known as theIslamic State in Iraq and Syria marks a decisive break in the American constitutional tradition. Nothing attempted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, remotely compares in imperial hubris.

Mr. Bush gained explicit congressional consent for his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. In contrast, the Obama administration has not even published a legal opinion attempting to justify the president’s assertion of unilateral war-making authority. This is because no serious opinion can be written.

This became clear when White House officials briefed reporters before Mr. Obama’s speech to the nation on Wednesday evening. They said a war against ISIS was justified by Congress’s authorization of force against Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that no new approval was needed.

But the 2001 authorization for the use of military force does not apply here. That resolution — scaled back from what Mr. Bush initially wanted — extended only to nations and organizations that “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks.

And Ackerman’s not alone.

Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told the Daily Beastthis week that Obama’s claim of authority to bomb ISIS targets in Syria was “on its face” an “implausible argument.”

“The 2001 AUMF requires a nexus to al Qaeda or associated forces of al Qaeda fighting the United States,” explained Chesney, but “since ISIS broke up with al Qaeda it’s hard to make” the case that authority granted by the AUMF  still applies.

And as The Nation magazine’s Zoë Carpenter reports:

The White House’s dismissal of the need for congressional approval is also in conflict with positions Obama himself expressed as a presidential candidate. “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” Obama declared to The Boston Globe in 2008.

The situation in Iraq and Syria does not appear to meet that standard. Obama acknowledged on Wednesday that “[w]e have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland.” Meanwhile, intelligence sources say that the threat from ISIS has been grossly exaggerated. “It’s hard to imagine a better indication of the ability of elected officials and TV talking heads to spin the public into a panic, with claims that the nation is honeycombed with sleeper cells, that operatives are streaming across the border into Texas or that the group will soon be spraying Ebola virus on mass transit systems—all on the basis of no corroborated information,” former State Department counterterrorism adviser Daniel Benjamin told The New York Times.

According to Ackerman, the president has put himself in a perilous position.

“The president seems grimly determined to practice what Mr. Bush’s lawyers only preached,” the Yale professor concludes in his op-ed. “He is acting on the proposition that the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has unilateral authority to declare war. In taking this step, Mr. Obama is not only betraying the electoral majorities who twice voted him into office on his promise to end Bush-era abuses of executive authority. He is also betraying the Constitution he swore to uphold.”

And Carpenter says that in addition to defying Congress and his constitutional obligations, Obama should also be worried about the implications for his new strategy under international law. She writes:

It’s worth noting that the legality of an extended cross-border campaign isn’t only a question of the separation of powers. As Eli Lake noted at The Daily Beast, the White House has not explained the basis for the strikes under international law.

While the administration’s current attempt to circumnavigate Congress is hypocritical as well as potentially illegal, it’s also consistent with the way Obama has exercised US military power before. As Spencer Ackerman notes, he’s extended drone strikes across the Middle East and North Africa; initiated a seven-month air campaign in Libya without congressional approval; prolonged the war in Afghanistan; and, in recent months, ordered more than 1,000 troops back into Iraq. Promises of no boots on the ground notwithstanding, Obama’s war footprint is large, and expanding.

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Videos: How Do We Get to Peace? With David Swanson, Jill Stein, Kristin Christman, and Steve Breyman

August 19, 2014
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The 16th annual Kateri Peace Conference in Fonda, N.Y., was organized around these three quotations of Buckminster Fuller:

“In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.”

“I’m not trying to counsel any of you to do anything really special except dare to think. And to dare to go with the truth. And to dare to really love completely.”

“Love is omni-inclusive, progressively exquisite, understanding and compassionately attuned to other than self.”

Watch the discussions of each quotation below or here, and check out the video of Jill Stein singing and jamming on a boat on the Erie Canal!

 

http://davidswanson.org

David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more…)

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The Coming CLASS War

August 17, 2014
ANDREW SHENG
Published: Sunday 17 August 2014
War today has turned into a class war dealing with creed, clan, culture, climate, and currency. Because of this type of war, the US is slowly becoming widely unpopular as the rest of the world has become increasingly alienated from the US-centric international order.

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The eighteenth-century German military strategist Carl von Clausewitz defined war as the continuation of politics by different means, and, like the ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, believed that securing peace meant preparing for violent conflict. As the world becomes increasingly tumultuous – apparent in the revival of military struggle in Ukraine, continued chaos in the Middle East, and rising tensions in East Asia – such thinking could not be more relevant.

Wars are traditionally fought over territory. But the definition of territory has evolved to incorporate five domains: land, air, sea, space, and, most recently, cyberspace. These dimensions of “CLASS war” define the threats facing the world today. The specific triggers, objectives, and battle lines of such conflicts are likely to be determined, to varying degrees, by five factors: creed, clan, culture, climate, and currency. Indeed, these factors are already fueling conflicts around the world.

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Religion, or creed, is among history’s most common motives for war, and the twenty-first century is no exception. Consider the proliferation of jihadist groups, such as the Islamic State, which continues to seize territory in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram, which has been engaged in a brutal campaign of abductions, bombings, and murder in Nigeria. There have also been violent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar and southern Thailand, and between Islamists and Catholics in the Philippines.

The second factor – clan – is manifested in rising ethnic tensions in Europe, Turkey, India, and elsewhere, driven by forces like migration and competition for jobs. In Africa, artificial borders that were drawn by colonial powers are becoming untenable, as different tribes and ethnic groups attempt to carve out their own territorial spaces. And the conflict in Ukraine mobilizes the long-simmering frustration felt by ethnic Russians who were left behind when the Soviet Union collapsed.The third potential source of conflict consists in the fundamental cultural differences created by societies’ unique histories and institutional arrangements. Despite accounting for only one-eighth of the world’s population, the United States and Europe have long enjoyed economic dominance – accounting for half of global GDP – and disproportionate international influence. But, as new economic powerhouses rise, they will increasingly challenge the West, and not just for market share and resources; they will seek to infuse the global order with their own cultural understandings and frames of reference.

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Of course, competition for resources will also be important, especially as the consequences of the fourth factor – climate change – manifest themselves. Many countries and regions are already under severe water stress, which will only intensify as climate change causes natural disasters and extreme weather events like droughts to become increasingly common. Likewise, as forests and marine resources are depleted, competition for food could generate conflict.This kind of conflict directly contradicts the promise of globalization – namely, that access to foreign food and energy would enable countries to concentrate on their comparative advantages. If emerging conflicts and competitive pressures lead to, say, economic sanctions or the obstruction of key trade routes, the resulting balkanization of global trade would diminish globalization’s benefits substantially.

Moreover, the social unrest that often accompanies economic strife could cause countries to fragment into smaller units that fight one another over values or resources. To some extent, this is already occurring, with Iraq and Syria splintering into sectarian or tribal units.

The final key risk facing the world concerns currency. Since the global economic crisis, the expansionary monetary policies that advanced-economy central banks have pursued have caused large-scale, volatile capital flows across emerging-economy borders, generating significant instability for these countries and fueling accusations of “currency wars.”

The extra-territorial use of regulatory and tax powers – particularly by the US, which has the added advantage of issuing the world’s preeminent reserve currency – is reinforcing the view that currencies can be wielded as weapons. For example, the US has effectively balkanized global banking by requiring all foreign banks operating there to become subsidiary companies and requiring international banks with US-dollar clearing accounts to comply fully with US tax, regulatory, and even, to some degree, foreign policy (for example, refraining from trading with US enemies).

Hefty fines imposed by US regulators for breaching the rules – notably, the recent $8.9 billion settlement by BNP Paribas – are already causing European banks to re-think their compliance costs and the profitability of operating in the US. Meanwhile, American courts have forced Argentina into another national default.

But perhaps the strongest message is being sent via targeted sanctions on Russia’s oil, finance, defense, and technology industries, as well as on Russian officials. With this approach, the US and its allies are sending a clear message to anyone who may disagree with US policy: avoid using the dollar and dollar-denominated bank accounts. Some financial activity has already been driven into the shadows, reflected in the use of Bitcoin and other currencies that are beyond the reach of US regulators.

A recent example of the disaffected seeking an alternative to US leadership is the establishment of a New Development Bank and a contingent reserve arrangement by the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The problem for the US is that, in this case, the disaffected are five of the world’s major emerging economies, wielding combined resources that exceed those of the Bretton Wood institutions. It is highly unlikely that BRICS bank transactions will be denominated in US dollars.

In a recent speech, US President Barack Obama declared that the question is not whether the US will lead, but how it will lead. But, as creed, clan, culture, climate, and currency cause the world to become increasingly alienated from the US-centric international order, such declarations may be excessively optimistic. Indeed, in the coming CLASS war, no one seems quite sure whom to follow.

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ABOUT ANDREW SHENG

Andrew Sheng, Distinguished Fellow of the Fung Global Institute and a member of the UNEP Advisory Council on Sustainable Finance, is a former chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission, and is currently an adjunct professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His latest book is  From Asian to Global Financial Crisis.

The Waste of War

July 22, 2014
JEFFREY D. SACHS
Published: Tuesday 22 July 2014
Rather than solving a single underlying problem, the chaos is growing, threatening an ever-widening war. Is this the result of too many governments shooting first, and thinking after?

 
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Karl Marx famously wrote that history repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Yet when we look around nowadays, we can’t help but wonder whether tragedy will be followed by yet more tragedy. Here we are, at the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, and we find ourselves surrounded by cascading violence, duplicity, and cynicism of the very sort that brought the world to disaster in 1914. And the world regions involved then are involved again.

WWI began with a mindset, one based on the belief that military means could resolve pressing social and political issues in Central Europe. A century earlier, the German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz had written that war is “a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means.” Enough politicians in 1914 agreed.

Yet WWI proved Clausewitz tragically wrong for modern times. War in the industrial age is tragedy, disaster, and devastation; it solves no political problems. War is a continuation not of politics, but of political failure.

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WWI ended four imperial regimes: the Prussian (Hohenzollern) dynasty, the Russian (Romanov) dynasty, the Turkish (Ottoman) dynasty, and the Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) dynasty. The war not only caused millions of deaths; it also left a legacy of revolution, state bankruptcy, protectionism, and financial collapse that set the stage for Hitler’s rise, World War II, and the Cold War.

We are still reeling today. Territory that was once within the multi-ethnic, multi-state, multi-religious Ottoman Empire is again engulfed in conflict and war, stretching from Libya to Palestine-Israel, Syria, and Iraq. The Balkan region remains sullen and politically divided, with Bosnia and Herzegovina unable to institute an effective central government and Serbia deeply jolted by the 1999 NATO bombing and the contentious independence of Kosovo in 2008, over its bitter opposition.The former Russian Empire is in growing turmoil as well, a kind of delayed reaction to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, with Russia attacking Ukraine and violence continuing to erupt in Georgia, Moldova, and elsewhere. In East Asia, tensions between China and Japan – echoes of the last century – are a growing danger.

As was the case a century ago, vain and ignorant leaders are pushing into battle without clear purpose or realistic prospects for resolution of the underlying political, economic, social, or ecological factors that are creating the tensions in the first place. The approach of too many governments is to shoot first, think later.

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Take the US. Its basic strategy has been to send troops, drones, or bombers to any place that would threaten America’s access to oil, harbors Islamic fundamentalists, or otherwise creates problems – say, piracy off the coast of Somalia – for US interests. Hence, US troops, the CIA, drone missiles, or US-backed armies are engaged in fighting across a region stretching from the Sahel in West Africa, through Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.All of this military activity costs hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. But, rather than solving a single underlying problem, the chaos is growing, threatening an ever-widening war.

Russia is not handling itself any better. For a while, Russia backed international law, rightly complaining that the US and NATO were violating international law in Kosovo, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

But then President Vladimir Putin took aim at Ukraine, fearing that the country was about to drop into Europe’s pocket. Suddenly, he was silent about obeying international law. His government then illegally annexed Crimea and is fighting an increasingly brutal guerrilla war in eastern Ukraine, through proxies and, it now appears, direct engagement of Russian forces.

In this context, the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is terrifying not only for its brutality, but also in its intimation of a world gone mad. At the time of this writing, those who aimed and fired the missile remain unknown, though Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine are the most likely culprits. What is certain, however, is that the violence unleashed by Putin’s war on Ukraine has claimed hundreds of innocent lives and brought the world a step closer to disaster.

There are no heroes among the great powers today. Cynicism is rife on all sides. The US effectively violates international law by resorting to force without United Nations sanction. It sends drones and secret forces into sovereign countries without their approval. It spies relentlessly on friend and foe alike.

Russia does the same, inflicting death on Ukraine, Georgia, and other neighbors. The only constants in all of this are the easy resort to violence and the lies that inevitably accompany it.

There are four major differences between now and the world of 1914. For starters, we have since lived through two disastrous wars, a Great Depression, and a Cold War. We have had the opportunity to learn a thing or two about the stupidity and uselessness of organized collective violence. Second, the next global war, in this nuclear age, would almost surely end the world.

The third major difference is that today, with our wondrous technologies, we have every opportunity to solve the underlying problems of poverty, hunger, displacement, and environmental degradation that create so many dangerous tinderboxes.

Finally, we have international law, if we choose to use it. The belligerents in Europe and Asia 100 years ago could not turn to the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly, venues where diplomacy, rather than war, can be the true continuation of politics. We are blessed with the possibility to construct peace through a global institution that was founded to help ensure that global war would never recur.

As citizens of the world, our job now is to demand peace through diplomacy, and through global, regional, and national initiatives to address the scourges of poverty, disease, and environmental degradation. On this hundredth anniversary of one of the greatest disasters of human history, let us follow tragedy not by farce or more tragedy, but by the triumph of cooperation and decency.

How America’s Sporting Events Have Turned into Mass Churches That Give Blessings to Imperial Wars

July 13, 2014

The religious reverie—repeated in sports arenas throughout the U.S.—is used to justify our bloated war budget and endless wars.

Boston – May 30: Memorial Day festivities before the Red Sox game against the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park on May 30, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo Credit: Joyce Vincent / Shutterstock.com

BOSTON—On Saturday I went to one of the massive temples across the country where we celebrate our state religion. The temple I visited was Boston’s Fenway Park. I was inspired to go by reading  Andrew Bacevich’s thoughtful book “Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country,” which opens with a scene at Fenway from July 4, 2011. The Fourth of July worship service that I attended last week—a game between the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles—was a day late because of a rescheduling caused by Tropical Storm Arthur. When the crowd sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” a gargantuan American flag descended to cover “the Green Monster,” the 37-foot, 2-inch-high wall in left field. Patriotic music blasted from loudspeakers. Col. Lester A. Weilacher, commander of the 66th Air Base Group at Massachusetts’ Hanscom Air Force Base, wearing a light blue short-sleeved Air Force shirt and dark blue pants, threw the ceremonial first pitch. A line of Air Force personnel stood along the left field wall. The fighter jets—our angels of death—that usually roar over the stadium on the Fourth were absent. But the face of Fernard Frechette, a 93-year-old World War II veteran who was attending, appeared on the 38-by-100-foot Jumbotron above the center-field seats as part of Fenway’s “Hats Off to Heroes” program, which honors military veterans or active-duty members at every game. The crowd stood and applauded. Army National Guard Sgt. Ben Arnold had been honored at the previous game, on Wednesday. Arnold said his favorite Red Sox player was Mike Napoli. Arnold, who fought in Afghanistan, makes about $27,000 a year. Napoli makes $16 million. The owners of the Red Sox clear about $60 million annually. God bless America.

The religious reverie—repeated in sports arenas throughout the United States—is used to justify our bloated war budget and endless wars. Schools and libraries are closing. Unemployment and underemployment are chronic. Our infrastructure is broken and decrepit. And we will have paid a crippling $4 trillion for the useless and futile wars we waged over the last 13 years in the Middle East. But the military remains as unassailable as Jesus, or, among those who have season tickets at Fenway Park, the Red Sox. The military is the repository of our honor and patriotism. No public official dares criticize the armed forces or challenge their divine right to  more than half of all the nation’s discretionary spending. And although we may be distrustful of government, the military—in the twisted logic of the American mind—is somehow separate.

The heroes of war and the heroes of sport are indistinguishable in militarized societies. War is sold to a gullible public as a noble game. Few have the athletic prowess to play professional sports, but almost any young man or woman can go to a recruiter and sign up to be a military hero. The fusion of the military with baseball, along with the recruitment ads that appeared intermittently Saturday on the television screens mounted on green iron pillars throughout Fenway Park, caters to this illusion: Sign up. You will be part of a professional team. We will show you in your uniform on the Jumbotron in Fenway Park. You will be a hero like Mike Napoli.

Saturday’s crowd of some 37,000, which paid on average about $70 for a ticket, dutifully sang hosannas—including “God Bless America” in the seventh inning—to the flag and the instruments of death and war. It blessed and applauded a military machine that, ironically, oversees the wholesale surveillance of everyone in the ballpark and has the power under the National Defense Authorization Act to snatch anyone in the stands and hold him or her indefinitely in a military facility. There was no mention of targeted assassinations of U.S. citizens, kill lists or those lost or crippled in the wars. The crowd roared its approval every time the military was mentioned. It cheered its own enslavement.

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Japan and the Limits of Military Power

July 4, 2014
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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has disturbed many in Japan and increased anxiety in Asia by reinterpreting his country’s pacifist postwar Constitution so that the military can play a more assertive role than it has since World War II. While a shift in Japan’s military role was never going to be readily accepted by many, Mr. Abe’s nationalist politics makes this change even harder to swallow in a region that needs to reduce tension.

It is difficult to overstate the significance of what Mr. Abe has done. Since 1947, Japan’s Constitution, written and imposed by the American Army, has permitted the military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to engage only in self-defense. That meant the large and technologically advanced armed forces was barred from “collective self-defense” — aiding friendly countries under attack — and thus was far more constrained than those of other nations.

With the reinterpretation, Japan’s military would still face restrictions on what it could do, but it would be allowed for the first time, for example, to help defend an American ship under attack, destroy a North Korean missile heading toward the United States or play a larger role in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Mr. Abe has long argued for changing the Constitution on the grounds that Japan should assert itself as a “normal” country, freed of postwar constraints imposed as a consequence of its wartime atrocities and defeat. He now has another argument for expanding the military’s role: Japan, the world’s third-largest economy after the United States and China, needs to be a fuller partner with the United States in countering China as it increasingly challenges the conflicting claims of Japan and other countries in the South China and East Asia Seas. Washington has long urged Tokyo to assume more of the regional security burden.

What stood in Mr. Abe’s way was Article 9 of the Constitution. It says 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.” Any change should have required a constitutional revision, which would mean winning two-thirds approval in both houses of Parliament, followed by a referendum. Instead, Mr. Abe circumvented that process by having his government reinterpret the Constitution.

This is not the first time Japanese leaders have gone this route. Past governments have reinterpreted the Constitution to allow the existence of a standing military and permit noncombat missions abroad. But this step goes further.

The prospect of altering Japan’s military’s role is controversial as well as consequential, with many Japanese citizens voicing fears about being dragged into foreign entanglements. Several polls showed that 50 percent of all respondents opposed the reinterpretation; in recent days, thousands of people have protested in front of the prime minister’s residence.

Although some countries, like the Philippines, endorsed Japan’s move, China and South Korea, which suffered greatly from Japan’s aggression, are wary about how Japan might exercise this new authority. While they share blame for the current tensions with Japan, Mr. Abe is fueling their fear and mistrust with his appeal to right-wing nationalists and their abhorrent historical revisionism. For instance, heunnecessarily reopened the politically charged issue of the Japanese military’s use of Korean women as sex slaves during World War II, though his government’s recent report acknowledged the abuses. Still, the South Koreans havereacted with outrage.

The Japanese Parliament must still clear legal barriers to the constitutional reinterpretation by revising more than a dozen laws, which could take months. Mr. Abe’s governing coalition has a comfortable majority in both houses, and the revisions are expected to pass. Even so, there is time for citizens to be heard through their elected representatives. It is fair for them to ask Mr. Abe to prove that the shift “is not going to change Japan into a country that wages wars.”

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Thousands Call for ‘No War’ as Japanese Govt Authorizes Re-Militarization

July 2, 2014

Reinterpretation of Constitution marks dramatic shift from decades-long pledge to pacifism

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Thousands demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office in Tokyo in Monday against the remilitarization of the country. (Screenshot via Ruptly TV)Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday announced that despite public opposition the government of Japan was re-authorizing the military, marking a dramatic shift from the nation’s decades-long pledge to pacifism.

In a meeting Tuesday, the government Cabinet approved a reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, permitting Japan to now exercise the right to “collective self defense.” The post-World War II document forbids the use of force in all cases except when the nation comes under direct attack, outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes, and disallows maintaining armed forces with war potential.

According to The Asahi Shimbun, the reinterpretation of the document broadens the definition of “individual self-defense” to include “the defense of allies,” now allowing military force to be used on collective security operations sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council.

By reinterpreting Article 9, rather than changing the document altogether, Abe avoids having to hold a national referendum on a constitutional change.

Ahead of the announcement, roughly 10,000 people protested outside the government offices in Tokyo on Monday, calling for Abe’s resignation.

“Stop war. Stop Abe,” they shouted while wielding placards and banging drums, the Associated Press reports. “Protect the Constitution!”

One demonstrator reportedly set himself on fire to protest the remilitarization.

“Can we really keep peace by sending young people to a distant battlefield?” protester Yoshiki Yamashita said during the demonstration, which carried on into Tuesday. Abe has cited China’s military expansion and missile and nuclear threats from North Korea as the reason behind the reinterpretation.

As the Japan Times reports, the country is now permitted to come to the aid of an allied nation if:

The attack on that country poses a clear danger to Japan’s survival or could fundamentally overturn Japanese citizens’ constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

There is no other way of repelling the attack and protecting Japan and its citizens.

The use of force is limited to the minimum necessary.

The U.S. is expected to welcome their ally’s turn away from pacifism. The U.S. has made repeated calls for Japan expand their security operations, the Japan Times reports, and the two countries are expected to “revise by the end of the year their guidelines for defense cooperation.”

_____________________

Comment: Demonstrators counted 40,000 and 70,000 on June 30 and July 1.

Japan pushing on with reform of constitution despite fiery suicide bid

June 30, 2014

Japan pushing on with reform of constitution despite fiery suicide bidAn unidentified man sits on the top of a footbridge over the busy Shinjuku shopping district before setting himself alight in this picture taken by Twitter user “odin.so” on Sunday.AFP

TOKYO —

The Japanese government will press ahead with divisive plans to loosen restrictions on its military, a top government spokesman said Monday, despite widespread public anger and a protester’s horrific suicide bid.

Hundreds of people in the busy Tokyo district of Shinjuku watched on Sunday afternoon as a middle-aged man in a suit set himself ablaze above a footbridge, after making a speech opposing moves to let Japan’s well-equipped military fight on behalf of allies.

The dramatic suicide attempt was widely discussed on social media in both English and Japanese, with numerous videos and photographs posted by onlookers.

Many Internet users made the connection between the self-immolation and a groundswell of opposition to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to relax constitutional rules preventing Japan’s armed forces from going into battle.

Abe says growing regional tensions—including China’s increasingly assertive stance in various territorial disputes—and the erratic actions of North Korea mean Japan must be better prepared to defend itself.

The conservative premier’s plans to increase Japan’s military options are supported by the United States, Tokyo’s chief ally, but are highly controversial at home, where voters are deeply wedded to the pacifism Japan adopted after World War II.

The government’s chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga on Monday refused to comment on the protester’s suicide attempt, which he said was a police matter, but confirmed that the cabinet would push ahead Tuesday with plans to change the interpretation of part of the pacifist constitution.

Under the current reading, Japan’s large and well-trained military is barred from taking any action, except in very narrowly defined circumstances in which the country is under attack.

“We are in the final stage of the coordination between the ruling parties,” Suga told reporters. “Once the consensus is made between the ruling parties, we will have it approved by the cabinet tomorrow.”

The latest polls suggest at least half the population is against a more aggressive military stance.

The Mainichi newspaper said at the weekend that 58% of voters are opposed, while the Nikkei business daily, in its poll published Monday, said 50% of respondents were against the change.

China also warns against moves to bolster Japan’s military robustness, saying Tokyo is not sufficiently penitent over its actions in World War II.

It sent two ships into waters around disputed islands on Monday, a regular tactic in the long-running animosity.

But Suga defended the plan, saying: “The government should protect people’s lives and property as well as the country’s safety …and if there is a defect in the current legal framework, we will address it.”

Meanwhile, police said Monday that nothing was known of the protester’s condition more than 24 hours after he was rushed to hospital with severe burns.

The suicide bid received scant coverage in the mainstream media—which is sometimes criticized as servile—with none of the national newspapers using a picture in their short reports.

Broadcaster NHK, whose chairman caused outrage earlier this year by suggesting that the state-funded body should not contradict the prime minister, did not cover the self-immolation on the day.

At least two private broadcasters did, however, using footage that had been posted on YouTube.

Popular protest in Japan has tended over recent decades to be muted, and protest suicides are very rare, with only a handful taking place in living memory.

In 1970, right-wing novelist Yukio Mishima disemboweled himself after a failed attempted coup, in protest against what he saw as an overly meek state.

In 1967, a 73-year-old man set himself alight in front of the prime minister’s official residence over the then-premier’s support for US bombing of North Vietnam.

Abe had wanted to change the constitution to lower the bar for military action, but found himself unable to muster the required super-majority in both houses and leery of the public verdict in the necessary referendum.

Instead, he has gone the route of changing how the constitution is interpreted, a tactic supporters say is necessary to avoid the paralysis that often besets Japanese politics, but which critics say undermines democracy.

Hideki Konishi, professor of politics at Kansai University, said it serves neither side.

“Changing the rules by a cabinet approval only is not good for either supporters of collective self-defense or opponents,” he said. “This means that rules can change whenever there is a change of government.”

© 2014 AFP

Opinion has shifted against war

June 23, 2014

Billboards and ads to organize for abolition of war, an idea whose time has come

World Beyond War is excited to announce a brand new campaign launching today at Indiegogo aimed at raising the funds to place prominent billboards and signs and other advertisements around the globe in numerous languages, directing people to the World Beyond War website to get involved in the project of ending all war. Watch the video for the details:

Opinion Has Shifted Against War

Please contribute what you can , as soon as you can, to help the video and the campaign spread online. Please share it by email and social media. The faster this link spreads around the world, the sooner the acceptability of war will be made a thing of the past: http://igg.me/at/worldbeyondwar

PS: Those donating $10 or more receive a World Beyond War button. Those contributing $100 or more receive a scarf or a choice of the best antiwar books we’ve found, many of them signed by the authors. Those donating $200 or more receive two scarves or books, or a scarf and a book.

 


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