Japan Turns from Cherry Pink to Code Pink

by Col. Ann WrightCODEPINK DC Blog
May 10th, 2008

I've been in Japan a week speaking to groups of Japanese all over the country.Hisae Ogawa, founder of Codepink Osaka, Japan and one of three Japanese women who stayed at the Codepink House in September, 2007, asked if I would come to Japan to speak at the Global Conference on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, the renunciation of war and travel to other parts of Japan to discuss US military bases in Japan and sexual assault of Japanese women and girls by US military.

Codepink-Newest Peace Group in Japan

Hisae is a 30 year peace and social justice activist who knows just about everyone in Japan—and she is recruiting them all to join the newest peace group in her country-Codepink!Several days ago in her hometown of Osaka, I spoke on Codepink and the peace movement in the United States to a group of 160 women (and men) who represented 8 women's organizations.By the time they left, they were wearing the Codepink-Japan pink t-shirt, and now there is almost more CodePINK on the streets of Osaka than cherry blossoms!

Anger over US military using an artillery range in Hokkaido

The day following my arrival in Japan, Hisae and I flew to the northern island of Hokkaido to meet with peace activists about the use by US military of a small artillery range on the island.We were met by local peace activists and by an American woman who has lived in Sapparo, Hokkaido, Japan for the past 35 years, who travelled by train from Sapparo to met us and learn about Codepink!!!

The presence of the US military, 63 years after World War II, is a huge source of anger for the citizens of Japan, Korea, Germany and Italy.On the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the US military uses an artillery firing range known as Yausubetsu.The artillery range is small in comparison to ranges in the United States and Germany, only 30 kilometers by 10 kilometers, but the source of irritation to the Japanese farmers whose land was taken for the range and for those who live nearby the range is large.The peaceful rolling hills and valleys of the area are the home of the dairy industry of Hokkaido.The Japanese have used a cartoon of an angry dairy cow with boxing gloves as their symbol of protest of the US military's use of the range.

The Japanese government pressured all the farmers in the area to sell their land when the artillery range was established in 1962.All but three families eventually sold out.Mr. Kawase, refused to sell or move, and instead has built three structures that are used by activists year round to protest Japanese and American use of Yausubetsu for artillery practice.Mr. Kawase, a very spry 82 years old, build a huge Quonset hut on his property where 100 activists can sleep on mats, make posters and banners and listen to speakers.In the kitchen of the building, activists cook huge meals from the plants and vegetables of the Hokkaido countryside and serve fresh milk and cheeses from the angry local dairy herds.

On the roof of the building for all military aircraft flying over and for those on the land to see, Mr. Kawase has painted in huge Japanese script, the text of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution:

“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 forces as means of settling international disputes.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.”

That is a big statement, both morally and physically.Mr. Kawase painstakingly painted every character on the roof himself.

The majority of Japanese citizens approve the spirit of Article 9, but some believe that Japan should commit Self-Defense Forces to international collective defense efforts, such as the authorization by the UN Security Council for an international military operation to remove Sadaam Hussein from Kuwait.In 2007 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in marking the 60th anniversary of the Japanese constitution, called for a review of the document to allow Japan to take on a larger role in global security, appealing to the Japanese people to consider this as a means to revive national pride.

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is under seige by the Bush administration.They want Japan to provide more military support for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the “war on terror.”In torpedoing Article 9, the Japanese government kowtowed to the force of the Bush administration and sent a refueling ship to the Indian Ocean to provide fuel to US warships and more recently have flown military transport aircraft into Iraq.Those actions have outraged millions of Japanese who do not want their country to become involved in the wars of other nations.

Japanese courts have become involved as Japanese citizens have brought legal actions against their government for “infringing on their right to live peacefully.”The latest lawsuit was brought by 1100 Japanese citizens who argued that a continuing airlift mission of the Air Self-Defense Force to Baghdad was unconstitutional.The Nagoya High Court ruled on April 17, 2008 that the mission partially violated Article 9 of the Constitution but allowed the continuation of the Air Force mission.

The people of Kushiro, Hokkaido remember well the militarization of their country during World War II.82 year old Shingichi Miyake, now head of the Kushiro Peace Association, recounted the role his eastern city of Kushiro played during that period.The aircraft carrier with the airplanes that bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 left Japan from the harbor of Kushiro.Kushiro also was the anchor port for the “One Thousand Mile War,” a brutal campaign from 1942-43 over control from Attu to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands.Kushiro, the largest city in the chain of islands stretching from northern Japan into the American Aleutian islands, was protected from invasion from the United States by hundreds of patrol or “picket” boats.

Ironically, despite the legacy of militarization of the island of Hokkaido and the city of Kushiro over 60 years ago, the wetlands around the city of Kushiro are home to the Japanese cranes, the symbol of peace for Japan and for the world.The cranes represent the spirit of Article 9, a denunciation by the Japanese people of war and a desire to live in peace.

The citizens of Hokkaido join citizens from other parts of the world who are protesting the continuing presence and expansion of US military.The citizens of Vicenza, Italy for two years have protested the expansion of the US Army base into the only remaining green area in the city.Protest central in Vicenza is tent erected at the end of the abandoned airfield which will become the expanded home of the US Army.Like in Hokkaido, citizens of Vicenza use the tent as a visible presence symbol of protest and objection to continued US military presence 60 years after World War II.

The US military argues that “forward deployed bases” are critical for projection of US power, a warning to others that the US can be on their doorstep in minutes or hours.We, as citizens of the United States, must decide if it is the military we wanted projected, or whether it is in the best interest of our national security that some aspects of our country be “projected.”

I think the continued aggressive projection of military power by the United States is undermining our national security rather than strengthening it

Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War

After the end of World War II, the Japanese constitution, written by the United States for the defeated Japanese, rejected war as a solution for conflict.Article 9 states: “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.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.”

Now 61 years later, the Bush administration is undermining the spirit and intent of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution by urging the Japanese government to allow the Japanese Self-Defense forces to provide air and sea logistics assistance to Bush's war on Iraq. Former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage in 2004 complained that “Article 9 is an impediment to the US-Japanese alliance,” an alliance the Bush administration wants to use to spread the financial and military operational burden of the war on Iraq.

Over the objections of many Japanese citizens, the Japanese government has provided limited numbers of refueling ships for resupplying American warships and logistic transport aircraft that fly supplies into Baghdad.A recent decision by the High Court of Nagoya found that Japanese Air Self-Self Defense Force missions into Iraq were unconstitutional as they violated Article 9.

80 percent of the Japanese people want their government to retain their constitutional rejection of war and they are organizing to protect Article 9.In every city and village in Japan there is an Article 9 committee that meets frequently to educate the public on the need to retain Article 9 as it has played an important role in establishing trust relationships between Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.According to the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, Article 9 is of critical importance for the prevention of conflict and is the “foundation for collective security for the entire Asia-Pacific region.”

On May 3, Japanese Constitution Day, tens of thousands of Japanese in Tokyo gathered for a rally and march to protect Article 9. I was honored to speak at that rally in Hibaye Park and auditorium.On May 4 over 8,000 Japanese attending the Global Article Nine Conference to Abolish War listened to speakers from all over the world, including Americans Cora Weiss of the Hague Appeal for Peace, US Army conscientious objector Aidan Delgado and myself, a former US Army colonel and a diplomat who resigned in opposition to the Iraq war, who urged the Japanese people to continue to reject participation in war.1976 Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire called for nations of the world to look toward the Japanese constitution as a model for preventing armed conflict.

On May 6, I joined Dr. Jitendra Sharma, President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and Beate Sirota Gordon, who as a 22 year old woman on General MacArthur's staff, wrote the equal rights for women article into the Japanese constitution, in speaking to over 10,000 Japanese citizens in an arena in Osaka, Japan about the importance to the world of article 9.

Japanese citizens remembering World War II, as Americans citizens today, know the slippery slope of offensive military actions for political and/or economic objectives.The Bush administration's decision to invade and occupy, without the authorization of the collective international community through the United Nations Security Council, the oil-rich, Arab, Muslim country of Iraq reminds the Japanese of their invasion of resource-rich countries of Asia 70 years ago.Those actions resulted in a moral, ethical and legal crisis for Japan, as similar actions over the past five years by the United States have brought our country to national crisis.

Many Japanese government officials were tried for war crimes for their actions during World War II.

Holding officials of the American government accountable for their illegal actions in Iraq, for torture, and for illegal imprisonment of thousands of innocent men, women and children is the next step in American and international determination to end illegal wars of choice and making those responsible who do chose to use bullets rather than words.

For more information on the Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War, see www.whynot9.jp/index_en.html

More on travels in Japan to follow:Okinawa-US Bases and Sexual Assault and Rape of Japanese Women and Girls