Bill Totten's Weblog

Monday, July 18, 2005

Ditching the US albatross ...

... is the beginning of world stability

by Bill Totten

Nihonkai Shimbun and Osaka Nichinichi Shimbun (June 16 2005)

(I've written a weekly column for two Japanese newspapers for the past three years. My colleague, Patrick Heaton, prepared this English version from the Japanese original.)

In May of this year the computer software company I lead moved its headquarters to the Kudan area of Tokyo. The new office is just a short stroll from Yasukuni Shrine. I sometimes take walks on the grounds there to enjoy the lush green of this season and whenever I do, I feel refreshed in mind and body.

As is well known, a variety of controversies surround the Yasukuni Shrine issue. Recently, the Chinese Vice Prime Minister even cancelled high-level talks scheduled with Prime Minister Koizumi over the latter's visits to the shrine. China's reasoning is that Japanese leaders have not shown enough true remorse for the actions throughout Asia perpetrated by Japan's military government sixty years ago. Further, since the shrine contains memorials to former Japanese leaders classified in the Tokyo tribunal as war criminals, by visiting the shrine Japanese leaders do not adequately take into account the feelings of victims of the Japanese military during World War Two.

Even after having lived in Japan for nearly forty years and having little difficulty understanding Japanese culture and customs in general, I still find it somewhat difficult to understand the actions and statements of the Japanese government concerning the war. In the past when I have expressed my opinions about the war I have been criticized and slandered on the Internet. Nevertheless, I still venture to give my opinion on this issue.

Eradicate the idea of Japan abandoning Asia for Europe

I believe Japan should apologize to other Asians for its policy of abandoning Asia for Europe, which it pursued during and after the Meiji era (1868 to 1912), and reject that policy outright. Japan used that policy to justify invading other Asian countries. Japan's worship of and toadying up to the US has its roots in this policy. The Meiji leaders adopted democracy and capitalism from the West while at the same time following a policy of invading Asian countries, with which they previously had amicable relations, to try to become a great world power on par with Western nations. For Japan to repair relations with its neighbors, it must stop looking down on them and try to become re-accepted as one of them. If Japan pledges never to ape the West again it might be granted a new start.

Acknowledge involvment in the rending of Asia

The first step to renouncing the policy of abandoning Asia in favor of the West is to stop being a lackey of the US and to become an independent and sovereign Asian nation. After Japan sincerely apologizes to the governments of the countries it victimized, it should be able to explain to its neighbors that the reason Japanese officials must visit Yasukuni Shrine is to follow tradition and honor the souls of warriors who were compelled by their predecessors to lose their lives in the war. If such an explanation were made after apologizing, I do not believe other nations would complain about official Japanese visits to the shrine. So why doesn't the Japanese government do this?

Usually, when a nation's government loses a war that it started, it is forced out of power; that is, it loses its power and authority to rule that nation. But the American conquerors allowed the Japanese government that started and lost that huge war to continue to rule even after the battles stopped. The US allowed the Japanese government to stay in power on the condition that it govern on behalf of the United States; that is, the US allowed the Japanese government to run Japan as a colony of the US.

Since the end of the nineteenth century America's strategy toward Asia has been 'divide and conquer'. That is why the US has needed to keep Asian countries from uniting in opposition and resisting the United States. Even if one country alone could not resist the US, a united Asia would be a powerful counterforce in much the way the EU is today. The group that has aided the US most in keeping Asia divided has been the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), whose founders the US left in power after World War Two.

Policies that primarily benefit the US

It is a fact that during the latter half of the Showa era (1925 to 1988), Japan was able to become an economic powerhouse owing in large degree to this alliance. But for the most part, both the LDP and the opposition parties have taken policies that primarily benefit the US rather than Japan and its people. One of Japan's tasks in this alliance has been to become the orphan of Asia, unable to join in an Asian union that would rival the EU or the US.

England, once known as Great Britain, is today the principal US lackey in Europe trying to weaken the EU on behalf of the US. Because England's leaders know their country can never be a leading member of the EU, their only hope is to try to wield more influence than the country really has by acting as a slave to the US. Israel performs comparable services for the US in the Middle East because today it owes its very existence and continued survival to the US.

Japan is not in the same position as England or Israel. Japan has grown as an honest and truly independent member of Asia, has prospered since the war and will probably continue to do so in the future. If Japan would only stop serving the interests of the US, Japanese citizens would be that much safer, happier, and more prosperous.

If Japan were to stop serving as the US's vassal, preventing Asian countries from uniting, I believe the Asian community, and the rest of the world, would be a much safer place. Disappointingly, the Japanese government avoids facing the realities of both the past and present. Instead it tries to hide behind fictions, such as the idea that its past invasions of its Asian neighbors were meant to free them, and that its continuing alliance with the US ensures stability in Asia.

I believe Japanese government leaders could make much progress toward confronting the realities of the past and present by ceasing to be toadies to the US. Once others in Asia see that the actions and policies of Japanese leaders are intended for Japan in Asia and not for Japan as an Asian vassal of the US, I believe they will be more understanding of traditional Japanese respect for the ancestors who died while serving their country, the true purpose of visits to Yasukuni Shrine.

Bill Totten


Post a Comment

<< Home