Hiroshima: A Divided Anniversary in Japan

August 14th, 2004 - by admin

Reza Fiyouzat / PressAction.com – 2004-08-14 23:43:50


(August 13, 2004) — Here in Japan, we just observed the 59th anniversary of the dropping of two atomic bombs with their own names, Little Boy and Fat Man, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. Coming from a soul-broken home, the mass evil duo, in two swoops, killed about 190,000 nameless lives immediately, and continued to kill survivors to this day, with the total number of killed now standing at 237,062.

To give a sense of proportion, according to official numbers in Hiroshima, a good 40 percent of the population was incinerated in temperatures reaching tens of thousands of degrees, almost instantly. To the people of that city, it must have looked the same as if a terrorist attack of ungodly proportions wiped out over one-and-a-half million residents of Los Angeles today.

The anniversary was marked by reminders of divisions internal to Japan, as well as of divisions between Japan and her neighbors. Some of the internal rifts have been repressed out of sight, while others occasionally make it out of the bag; and the external ones refuse to go away.

Hiroshima’s Mayor Scolds ‘Egocentric’ US
As the daily news from Iraq gets bleaker by the day, and as the clouds of smoke rising from Najaf grow darker by the hour, not all Japanese politicians can keep face.

At the Aug. 6 Hiroshima city’s official proceedings commemorating the atomic tragedy 59 years later, with Prime Minister Koizumi attending, the mayor in his speech chose to ruffle whatever feathers he could, by referring to, “The egocentric view of the United States,” which, according to Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, “has reached the extreme.”

The social anger, reflected only by a minority of politicians, over Koizumi’s violations of the Japanese pacifist constitution, by participating in the Iraq and Afghan wars, thus refused to stay away from this occasion, which had previously been a uniting event, or at least one bereft of “politics.”

Even so, it is easy to fancy that Koizumi must have smiled on in his head, even as he kept his icy features expressionless.

Japapese Pacifists Sent to ‘Reeducation Camps’
On the “silent” front, the controversy surrounding the mandated respect for the flag and the anthem simmers on in the background, subject to the media’s almost complete silence, and definitely subject to a complete lack of any critical coverage.

About 250 Tokyo-district teachers, who had refused to stand up to the flag and sing the anthem at the high schools’ year-end ceremonies held last March, have been ordered to pay fines, and/or take pay cuts, and attend reeducation classes.

According to Antiwar Joint Action Committee, “On June 22, 1,500 teachers and school administrators gathered in Tokyo Metropolitan City Hall. They held a rally asking for keeping the pay scales of teachers and school office workers who refuse to stand up to the Hinomaru (Rising Sun flag) and sing the Kimigayo (a song for Japanese Empire).” Present in this rally were some of the teachers who had been punished for refusing to stand up to the flag and sing the anthem.

The ongoing controversy’s latest chapter led to a court battle, on July 16, when 137 teachers filed for an injunction against the forced reeducation program, which is the same as those attended by teachers with problems with sexual harassment or alcohol abuse. “While the Tokyo District Court turned down the request for the injunction saying the specifics of the program were unclear, it said, ‘should an identical training program be forced repeatedly (on teachers) and their freedom of thought infringed, it may violate the Constitution or law,'” reported IPS News Agency, on Aug. 6.

Since repeated punishment is not likely to be tolerated, at least as stated formally by the court, we can hope that more teachers will file more lawsuits against the government, and most hopefully look forward to seeing more teachers joining in
and vocally denouncing government’s forced patriotism and becoming conscientious objectors by remaining seated and silent.

The Ghosts of Past Wars and Soccer Games
This anniversary was filled also with ghosts and ghouls of past wars visiting the unlikeliest of places. And it was in such places where things got really loud, without anybody being able to shut it up.

Soccer fans of the world know that regional cups were just concluded around the globe. In the Copa America, the younger, less experienced Brazilian team beat the older, more-practiced-together Argentines in the final, be it by penalty shoot out. On the western end of Eurasian landmass, the Greeks shocked all traditional European power houses, and became the Euro 2004 champions.

In the Asian Cup, held on the eastern end of Eurasia, the feisty Middle Easterners Iran and Bahrain were stopped at the semifinals while China and Japan went on to face each other in the final.

Given that the games were hosted by China, Japan’s route even under normal times would have been much bumpier. Soccer fans can be enthusiastic about the game itself to varying degrees in different countries, but when explicitly political issues get mixed in, the temperatures can rise more quickly, and with much more intensity. Since the Chinese have a long historical memory, and in order to understand the big picture of what Japanese national soccer team faced, it is instructive to glimpse back in time a little.

Unit 731 and ‘Military Medicine’
Seventy years ago, right around this time, Japan was ruling Manchuria, having set up an authentic local puppet in the form of resuscitated Henry Pu Yi, who had held the post of emperor until 1912, when the Manchu dynasty abdicated. Also, right about this time 70 years ago, the notorious Japanese Imperial Army’s scientific special unit known as Unit 731, those pioneers in the field of “military medicine,” had by now set up camp near the town of Harbin, to learn meticulously the laws of prevention by studying in detail the science of causation.

As in, causation of disease due to exposure to microorganisms and to the natural elements. As a result of this scientific curiosity, several thousand live Chinese soldiers and civilians were fed well, housed in comfortable temperatures and in antiseptic environments, so as to assure the purity of the results of the experiments about to be carried out on them.

The particular effects the Japanese scientists liked to study were those caused by cholera, plague, epidemic hemorrhagic fever, and very cold weather. All subjects died of course, which was exactly the point of the experiments, since it was the entire process of dying which needed to be meticulously recorded (for a horrifying account, see Hal Gold, Unit 731 Testimony, Yenbooks, 1996).

In a few years, the Rape of Nanking would unfold, killing 300,000 people in a mere six weeks; caravans of Comfort Women would be carried off; and later still, in the later stages of WWII, there would ensue the massive bombardments of the main cities, resulting in the same utter and complete destruction and mass murder as was brought on Dresden and Tokyo by the US and the Allies.

One of the cities heavily bombarded by the Japanese Imperial ferociousness was Chongqing. As history would have it, the same city was to play host to four of the games played by Japan’s national soccer team in the Asian Cup 2004. One might wonder who and how many in China were smiling their lips off when deciding on, or hearing about, that.

Japan-China Tensions Rise on the Soccer Field
One can easily understand why the Chinese soccer fans would be more than eager to vent their anger, in view of the fact that the Japanese government has yet to fully account for most of its atrocities. Add to that the Chinese masses’ increasing subjugation to really-existing-capitalism in their own society, intensifying social tension and uncertainty for increasingly larger sections of society, especially in the areas located further inland (as is Chingqing), away from richer cities along the coast.

Couple all of that with Koizumi’s open rejection of “protocol” by officially and repeatedly visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where you find buried convicted and executed Japanese war criminals, and we can understand the Chinese fans’ multiple sources of anger.

And to vent, what better or more democratic a place than a stadium?

Jeers and War Crime Banners Meet Japanese Players
On more than a few occasions, the Japanese players found themselves welcomed onto the pitch by jeering crowds throwing garbage at them, while unfurling huge banners with references to Japan’s wartime crimes.

In all four games played by Japan’s team in Chongqing, the crowds jeered and booed loudly, massively and forcefully, and without pause throughout the anthem, whose words are from an ancient poem praying for eternal life for the Japanese Emperor. One banner reportedly read, “This time we get to be the bullies!”

Even press conferences with the Japanese team’s Brazilian coach, the legendary footballer, Zico, did not stay immune to politics. Chinese reporters repeatedly asked the coach why the brochures given to the Japanese team represented China and Taiwan with two different colors, implying they are different countries.

Asahi Newspaper reported that the Japanese officials were more than displeased with how the national anthem and the national team had been treated. “LDP Secretary-General Shinzo Abe met on Wednesday with He Yong, a Chinese Communist Party secretariat member, who was visiting Japan. ‘The final will pit Japan against China,’ Abe told He. ‘I hope the government will maintain a situation in which Japanese players can play comfortably and Japanese fans can cheer them on. I want a total separation of sports and politics,'” (IHT/Asahi: Aug. 5, 2004).

Critics Fear Japan’s Support for US Occupation
As it turned out, Japan won the final, held on Saturday, Aug. 7. The Japanese fans were kept together and separated from the rest of the stadium by massive armed security. Due to the repeated official pleas, the booing and the jeering returned with less force, but the Japanese anthem was still not popular.

But when China lost 3-1, especially as the loss was laced with a controversial second goal, some of the Chinese fans just had to take it out on the local police. The Japanese fans had to be kept inside the stadium for several hours before the riot police fought off and disbursed all and declared it safe for the Japanese fans to leave.

CNN online reported on Aug. 8, that, “One 35-year-old man who described himself as a patriotic educator told Reuters it was important to remind the Japanese not to forget history. ‘We’re seeing their old fascism starting to come back a little. For example, they are sending troops abroad,’ he said.”

The Japanese team won the championship for the third time, but, most likely not understanding the lesson presented, must have returned home slightly confused and perhaps a little shaken. Most of them, being jocks, even if some do moonlight as dedicated followers of fashion, must have wondered, “Why do they hate us so?”

Not to pass too quickly over the Japanese officialdom’s desire for a total separation of politics and sports, it must be said that they were merely being consistent and principled. They have managed far better than that in separating politics from the Iraq war, by declaring their participation in it purely and simply as humanitarian reconstruction.

One may even surmise, on examining the parliamentary system applied here, that the rulers have even separated politics from politics. A virtual one-party political bureaucratic machinery that presents itself as democracy. Stealth Dictatorship should be the proper name for it. But cracks are appearing, as the dictatorship is becoming less stealth.

Massive Protests against Japanese Troops in Iraq
To punctuate all the excitement and the controversy appropriately, on Nagasaki day, Aug. 9, a steam leak at a nuclear reactor in Mihama (Fukui prefecture) killed four workers and injured seven more, two reportedly in serious condition. “No radiation is believed to have leaked outside the facility,” wrote The Japan Times the next day. The government stepped in expeditiously to tell the nation that all was fine, and reassured all of their wellbeing and safety, “Nothing to see here!”

But the most significant divisions were elsewhere. A very strange and perverted hypocrisy accompanied this anniversary, one that was exposed by the presence of peace and labor activists staging separate protest rallies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to counter the official ones, to demand of the Koizumi government to stop its support of the US war against Iraq and Afghanistan, and to bring back the troops immediately.

Most significantly, they also demanded that the Japanese government take action against the use of Depleted Uranium, which is deployed daily in the munitions used in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US and the UK armed forces.

Leuren Moret, President of Scientists for Indigenous People, a former Livermore National Laboratory geoscientist, who has become a whistleblower and campaigner for a ban on DU, has made it clear that, “Depleted uranium is the weapon that keeps killing. The half-life of Uranium-238 is 4.5 billion years, the age of the Earth … There is no way to turn it off, and there is no way to clean it up. It meets the US Government’s own definition of Weapons of Mass Destruction” (“Depleted Uranium: The Trojan Horse of Nuclear War,” in World Affairs: The Journal of International Issues, 1 July 2004).

As DU contained in munitions is vaporized upon impact, and as a result of subsequent oxidation, DU dust stays suspended in the air, in particles that are measured in microns (a thousandth of a millimeter). With rain and snow they enter the soil, and the chain of contamination continues on to crops, livestock and underground water reservoirs.

As explained by Dr. Hooper, Professor emeritus at the University of Sunderland, to writer Akira Tashiro, “A particle five microns or less can lodge permanently in the lungs … Theoretically, it would take about 24,000 years for all the particles to be completely eliminated from the body,” (“Discounted Casualties,” Chugoku Shimbun, 2001, p. 95). These particles may be lodged in the hilar lymph nodes, the kidneys, the nervous system, in the reproductive organs, and in the bones.

As told by Moret, regarding the first Gulf War in 1991, “Nearly 700,000 American Gulf War Veterans returned to the US from a war that lasted just a few weeks. Today more than 240,000 of those soldiers are on permanent medical disability, and over 11,000 are dead — 67 per cent of the babies [conceived by returning veterans] were reported to have serious illnesses or serious birth defects. They were born without eyes, ears, had missing organs, fused fingers, thyroid or other malfunctions. Depleted uranium in the semen of the soldiers internally contaminated their wives.”

But, the “health problems,” to use polite language, experienced by US soldiers provide a window onto the horror the Iraqi population has been subjected to, starting from 1991. They do not have the option of leaving. Their country is being literally gassed by DU dust that will last forever.

Moret writes, “Estimates of depleted uranium weapons used in 1991, now range from the Pentagon’s admitted 325 tons, to other scientific bodies who put the figure as high as 900 tons. That would make the number of estimated cancers as high as 9,000,000, depending on the amount used in the 1991 Gulf War.

“In the 2003 Gulf War, estimates of 2,200 tons have been given, causing about 22,000,000 new cancer cases. Altogether, the total number of cancer patients estimated using the UKAEA [United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority] data would be 25,250,000.

“In July of 1998, the CIA estimated the population of Iraq to be approximately 24,683,313” (ibid). Moret adds sadly, “Women in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq are afraid now to have babies, and when they do give birth, instead of asking if it is a girl or a boy, they ask ‘is it normal?'”

Citizens Defy the Government
So, the protesters defying the Koizumi government on Aug. 6th and 9th in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those exposing the lies and the murderous intent of the militarists may have been small in numbers, but they symbolize the grave rifts that exist within the Japanese society.

For they bear witness to the fact that for the first time since the barbaric atomic bombings, during this year’s anniversary, at the same time that the Japanese Prime Minister was dancing the ceremonial dance of pledging undying dedication to eradicating all atomic mass killers, the Japanese government was making sure that their soldiers stayed exposed to Depleted Uranium-infested air, food and water in Iraq. And that is the least of their complicities.

Reza Fiyouzat is an applied linguist and freelance writer living in Japan. Some of Fiyouzat’s writings have appeared on CounterPunch and (in English and Portuguese) on the Brazilian website Revista Espaco Academico. Fiyouzat can be reached at rfaze@gol.com.