KYOTO — What is needed for the peaceful people of the world to build a lasting structure of peace — a firm bulwark against the nationalist wars of governments everywhere? I gained new insights from recent participation in the annual peace conferences commemorating the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Japanese peace movement is in a life and death struggle to maintain one critical structure of peace – one that has rooted Japan in a war-free environment since 1945. Imposed by the United States after Japan’s surrender, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is a renunciation of war that has kept Japan free of involvement in war for decades. No Japanese citizen has been sent to fight, kill, or die in any of the U.S. backed wars since then: Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, or Iraq.
With the onset of U.S. cold war-style belligerency towards China, the current Japanese Prime Minister Abe is pressuring the Japanese Diet (parliament) to remove Article 9. There is also pressure to pass several “war bills”, as they are known to the movement, which will remove other post-war restrictions on the military. The Japanese majority opposes these moves as both unconstitutional and dangerous. The presence of peace protestors rallying and marching in the park during the official government commemorations on August 6 and the faint smattering of applause from the 40,000 gathered to hear Abe’s official address are unmistakable signs of that opposition. As only a few of the hundreds of international peace delegates were given official seats at the commemoration, I stood beneath the trees in Peace Memorial Park, hearing that faint applause amid the pounding of protest drums and the roar of cicadas joining in a determination to be heard.
I first learned of Article 9 in a visit to the Kyoto Museum for World Peace, Ritsumeikan University. On the wall hangs a beautifully knit tapestry banner of Article 9, which reads: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a 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.” (Article 9, the Constitution of Japan, Chapter II. Renunciation of War).
For Americans to participate in anniversary observances around the August 6 and August 9 horrific atomic bombings of civilian populations is a necessary act of repentance and reconciliation, whether in peace actions at home or in Japan. That the Japanese people feel remorse for the actions of their government in Hawaii, China and Korea binds us in the call for peace.
From my experiences, I think that every nation should have an Article 9. We can spread the peace! The international adoption of constitutional amendments which renounce war is both necessary and possible, for victors as well as vanquished.
In May over 1,000 Japanese delegates traveled to New York for the United Nations Review Conference of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty, now signed by over 189 parties. The Japanese peace movement delivered more than six million signatures from all over Japan, calling for an international convention for the abolishment of all nuclear weapons. The petition asks all governments to enter negotiations without delay for a convention banning nuclear weapons.
The cries of the world’s people demand peace: No nukes! No war! No hate! To support these demands, sign the Japanese peace movement’s online petition here.
Photo: Cathy Deppe