I just returned from Japan after participating in a week of events for Iraq. Although these events were organized by Iraq Inquiry, a group of Japanese aid workers who are pressuring their government to do a formal investigation into the crimes committed against Iraq; the issue Japan’s increasing militarization, at the request of the US government, was also a major focus this week.
After World War II, Japan drafted a peace constitution. Article 9 of that constitution forbids Japan from participating in war or preparing for one. But that article was recently reinterpreted, allowing Japan to now participate in “collective self-defense”. This reinterpretation of the constitution has been called a “political coup“, and many fear that this will allow the US to drag Japan into foreign wars in the future.
Japan assisted the US in its invasion and occupation of Iraq by shipping weapons, by allowing the US to use its bases in Japan for logistical operations to Iraq, and by send Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to Iraq as humanitarian workers. Many Japanese citizens opposed Japan’s participation in this war and occupation. A class action lawsuit was led by Yoshinori Ikezumi in 2004, arguing that the deployment of Japan’s SDF violated Article 9 of their constitution. This lawsuit succeeded in getting a ruling from the Nagoya High Court in July 2007 that acknowledged the unconstitutional nature of Japan’s participation in Iraq; however, no Japanese politicians were ever held accountable. The new interpretation of Article 9 will make future actions like the one led by Ikezumi impossible.
For all of the above reasons, Japanese citizens are extremely worried about their country’s path towards militarism. We held speaking events in six cities and found large and engaged audiences, of anywhere from 40 to 100 people, each night. I was extremely impressed at the turn out to these events. Nothing similar is currently possible in the US. Although we have several vibrant movements here, the anti-war movement is small and insular. So I was really encouraged to see such a strong movement. I also met several aid workers who are doing great things to help Iraqis.
Our events discussed the human consequences of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. People were shocked to learn the horrible details of what has happened to Iraqis. There was also a lot of interest in PTSD, and especially in Moral Injury. I described for them the VA’s inability to deal with moral injury when it’s related to the issue of participation in an illegal and immoral war, and they seemed genuinely concerned–not just for US vets, but also for what might happen to their own SDF in the future. We also discussed the Islamic State, and whether Japan should get involved in the US’s (new?) war in Iraq. It appears that the Japanese media has reported on IS in much the same way that the US media has by representing IS as the lone purveyor of violence in Iraq.
All in all, we had an extremely successful week. We received a lot of positive media coverage, even by Japan’s mainstream media (which also is not currently possible in the US). I hope that the momentum created by this week’s events will lead to the creation of an independent committee within the Japanese government for a formal investigation into the crimes committed against Iraq. I also hope that we in the US can take a lesson from our friends in Japan. Great things are happening in the US for Palestine, for the environment, and against police brutality. But nothing is being done for Iraq, and that needs to change.