Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shinzo Abe to Resign

Ohayoo gozaimasu.

I know, I know, I keep promising to post something on my paper, but for now I've decided to put that on hold. I did make a genuine attempt at writing a post on the paper about a month ago, but then I realized that I had spent about five or six paragraphs trying to explain what "potential well" and "potential barrier" mean. I will write about it eventually-- in fact, right now I'm taking a graduate seminar class, which is all about effective communication of scientific ideas to the public, so that should help.

For today, though, I give you an exciting piece of news:

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has annouced he will resign.

And no, this is not just an obscure Japanophile thing. This is actually pretty good news for Japan and for all of Asia. Not great news, mind you, but a small victory. To understand the significance of Abe's resignation (to me, at least), we need to begin with an obscure piece of WWII history.

It's no secret, at least outside of many Japanese schools, that during WWII Japan's Imperial Army committed many horrendous war crimes. The Massacre of Nanking is the most infamous. Another example, particularly relevant to Shinzo Abe, were the so-called comfort women, ie prostitute slaves.

Lesser known, but even more appalling, was Unit 731, a human experimentation program established for the development and testing of biological weapons. It is estimated that over 3000 men, women, and children were butchered and killed in these experiments, and that hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians were killed as result of "field tests" of biological and chemical weapons.

What makes this even more disturbing is that following the war, the United States govenment covered up Unit 731 and allowed those in charge of the Unit, who otherwise would have been charged as war criminals, to go free. In return, the United States was provided with data aquired from Unit 731 experiments. Many former Unit 731 officials went on to acquire prestigious and influencial positions in Japan and the U.S.: Dr. Kitaro Masaji co-founded the Green Cross corporation which, prior to a recent series of mergers, was one of Japan's largest pharmaceutical companies; Dr. Shiro Ishii, head of Unit 731, went on to give lectures at American universities, and eventually ended up supervising biological research at the university of Maryland; another Unit 731 officer became president of the Japan Medical Association.

Of course, none of the atrocities of Unit 731 have any direct connection to Abe. The cover-up of Unit 731, however, is one of the earliest examples of the United State's post-war cooperation with Japan's militarist, imperialist right-wing. In the hopes of supressing a potential communist/socialist take-over, the U.S. occupying forces, led by General Douglas MacArthur, began a supression of left-wing element. The occupying force's efforts ranged from the monitoring and censorship of over a thousand leftist publications to the forced cancellation of massive union demonstrations in Tokyo. (See John Dower's Embracing Defeat for an excellent account of this).

Even after the occupation officially ended, the U.S. continued its manipulation of Japanese politics. Joseph Grew, U.S. ambassador to Japan who was detained during the war, befriended Japanese Minister of Commerse and Industry-- and suspected Class A War Criminal-- Nobusuke Kishi (the latter apparently played a round of golf with the former during his captivity). After the war, Grew became the first member of the CIA's National Committee for a Free Europe. Using his influencial position, Grew arranged for Kishi to recieve CIA funding, which Kishi used to found Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, whose members-- mostly Japanese conservatives opposed to the Japan Socialist Party-- were recuited and approved by the CIA. With the CIA's coninued assistance, Kishi became prime minister in 1957, and the LDP swept into both houses of the Diet (the Japanese Parliament).

(Note: This is recounted in Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. This link will take you the blog of Jim Lippard, who summarizes the relevant chapter of the book.)

Due to the combined influence of the U.S. occupation's supression of Japan's left and the CIA's financial support of the right-wing LDP, Japan has been, more or less, a one-party state since the nineteen-fifties. Until the early nineties, every Japanese prime minister came from the LDP (which, by extension, means that the LDP held the lower house of the Diet for every term up until the early nineties). And it was only last July that the LDP lost its majority in the upper house. It was this loss that prompted the resignation of Abe.

Even though the LDP's defeat seems to have occurred largely over issues of economic inequality and government scandals, I'd still like to think that, at some level, Abe's resignation symbolizes a rejection of right-wing nationalism in Japan. Abe, Nobusuke Kishi's grandson and a rightist's rightist, sought to remove pacifist clauses from the Japanese constitution, attempted to (re)introduce textbooks into Japanese schools that whitewashed Japanese wartime atrocities, and denied that comfort women were coerced. He resignation, to me at least, signifies the long overdue humiliation and rejection of a party founded by war criminals and spies.

Maybe the butchers of Unit 731 will come next (other than the ones who've already come forward, like Yoshio Shinozuka).

1 comment:

She said...

I'll chalk that up as a victory, indeed.

Too bad we have such a small blackboard though.

It really is a shame that recorded history is so subjective. Imagine the things that haven't been leaked, the people who haven't come forward... the things we still don't know.

Anyways. Yay Japan.

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