Published on Monday, June 2, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
by Alice Slater
ARTICLE 9: 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 force as means of settling international disputes. (2) 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.
After World War II, the victorious allied powers, implementing a transition to democracy in Japan, required Japan to forego any future aggressive military action by including a provision in their new Constitution to renounce war and the threat or use of force. But by 1950, following the outbreak of the Korean War, when US General MacArthur ordered the establishment of a 75,000-strong Japanese National Police Reserve equipped with US Army surplus materials, numerous assaults have been made on the integrity of Article 9. By 1990, Japan was ranked third in military spending after the US and the Soviet Union, until 1996 when it was outspent by China and dropped to fourth place. Today, the US-Japanese joint Theater Missile “Defense” which in reality poses an “offensive” threat to China, as well as the US military bases in Japan, and other US-Japanese military cooperation have further undermined the spirit of Article 9. Presently, the Bush Administration is creating an all out assault on the peace constitution, pressuring the Japanese government to amend Article 9 in order to permit Japanese soldiers to serve in the wars of the Empire, providing fresh cannon fodder for battles in Iraq and Afghanistan and other imperial adventures yet undeclared.
The citizen activists of Japan are resisting the US led assault on their beloved peace constitution. This May in Tokyo, at the launch of a Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War, organized by the Japanese NGO Peaceboat, 15,000 people showed up for the first day’s plenary and over 3,000 people had to be turned away from the filled-to-capacity convention center, causing the organizers to set up an impromptu program outdoors for the overflow crowd where keynote speakers, including Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, rallied the participants to call on their government to preserve their constitution’s provision for the renunciation of war. This unprecedented turnout to uphold Japan’s constitution, launched a Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War with more than 22,000 people attending the three day meeting in Tokyo, and 8,000 more gathering in Hiroshima, Osaka, and Sendai to organize for peace. More than 40 countries were represented at the various plenaries and workshops with over 200 international visitors, which examined opportunities to reinforce and expand Article 9 in a new 21st century context. Article 9 was promoted not only as a disarmament measure for all the nations of the world, but as a means of redistributing the world’s treasure, now wasted at the rate of over one trillion dollars per year to feed the murderous war machine, using those funds to restore the health of the planet and end poverty on earth.
One of the most moving and inspiring presentations was the shared experiences of a young Iraqi Sunni soldier, Kasim Turki, who quit fighting in the middle of a fierce battle in Ramadhi and has now organized a team working to rebuild schools and hospitals in Iraq, joined by Aidan Delgado, an American Iraq war vet, who also laid down his arms in the middle of a battle in Iraq and took conscientious objector status, refusing to ever kill again. The two young soldiers and former enemies have become friends, sharing experiences and urging the abolition of military power and war. Their presentations were welcomed resoundingly by the participants who were inspired and moved by their fierce devotion to peace.
Although cruel wars have been common throughout human history, there has been nothing like the enormous speed up of destructive war, fueled by science and technology, suffered in this last century, starting with 20 million deaths after World War I and ending with well over 100 million deaths by the end of the 20th Century — the horrors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda — only a few of the tragic catastrophes rendered by the instruments of war. Yet it was only in 1969, less than 40 years ago, that humanity landed on the moon and, for the first time saw the image of our fragile, beautiful blue planet, floating in space, giving us a new perspective of a unified world, sharing this small spaceship earth. It could only have been a profound influence on our consciousness that is bound to help us shift from the paradigm of war and technological domination and control to a more balanced nurturing interdependent vision for the health of earth’s inhabitants in an expanded understanding of Article 9.
The US Constitution was imperfect at its drafting, failing to consider slaves as people or to recognize women’s right to vote. Evolving consciousness led to the abolition of slavery and the enfranchisement of women. Similarly, it is hoped, by the many participants who gathered in Japan, that a transformed earth consciousness will perfect the original limited vision of the “Renunciation of War” infusing the Article 9 initiative for a global effort to stop all violence on the planet, not only for Japan, but for the whole earth. We discussed not only the violence of wars in the traditional meaning but in an expanded context of destruction against all living things and the very living systems of our planetary home itself — or as Professor Keibo Oiwa at Meiji Gakuin University characterized it in the workshop, “Linking Environment and Peace”, a Pax Ecologia.
And as we met in Tokyo, half way around the world in Berlin, only a few days earlier, Germany convened a meeting of sixty nations to launch a Campaign for IRENA, an International Renewable Energy Agency, see www.irena.org, to facilitate new reliance around the world on the safe, abundant, free energy of the sun, wind, and tides, foregoing resource wars and food shortages, currently plaguing the earth’s people as a result of a non-sustainable out of date energy regime of fossil, nuclear and biofuels. Irene, the Greek word for peace adds a unique resonance to this critical initiative to shift our dependence on energy to benign sources, plentifully distributed around our planet for all to access peacefully. Support for the establishment of IRENA was issued in the final statement of the Article 9 conference to the participants at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference which convened at the same time in Geneva to address issues of nuclear disarmament and proliferation.
Currently, only one other country, Costa Rica, has a constitutional provision similar to Japan’s to abolish war. At the close of the conference, Carlos Vargas, representing Costa Rica, invited the organizers to his country for a follow up planning meeting to expand the Article 9 Campaign to make peace provisions a reality in every national constitution around the world. For more information, see http://www.article-9.org/en/index.html ; http://www.peaceboat.org/english/index.html
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.