The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 22. 2012   

May 28, 2012   
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In This Issue

We feature two articles on the US-Afghan War. A group of Afghan Peace Volunteers provides a rare glimpse of Afghan peace sentiment, warning of an Afghan Okinawa, that is a permanent US military occupation of Afghanistan after the proclaimed US troops withdrawal. Peter Dale Scott reexamines the war through the twin lenses of US-Soviet conflict and oil politics. David Johnson and Philip Brasor point to the arbitrary character of Japan's death penalty procedures, particularly in light of the lay judge system. And Yuki Tanaka reports on a NYC conference on the lessons of Fukushima . . . for Japanese, Americans and the world.

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Afghan Peace Volunteers with an introduction by C. Douglas Lummis, An Afghan OkinawaWar Zero?


Reading this beautifully written appeal from the Afghan Peace Volunteers is like hearing, amid the drums and trumpets of war, the delicate sound of a flute. What is heartbreaking about the Afghan struggle is that none of the main contenders we hear about - the Karzai government, the U.S. military, NATO, the Taliban, al Qaeda - seems capable of hearing that sound. An eye for an eye, said Gandhi, and the whole world goes blind. A bomb for a bomb, it could be added, and the world goes deaf as well - in particular, deaf to the sound of peace. It is heartening, and a source of hope, to hear that sound coming from Afghanistan, despite everything.

As one who lives in Okinawa, I find it fascinating that these young people (they seem to be a group mostly of college students) have chosen Okinawa as exemplifying the situation they want to avoid. The differences are great, but on the point they want to emphasize - never-ending U.S. military occupation against the will of the people - the comparison is fair enough.


The Afghan Peace Volunteers are a grassroots group of ordinary, multi-ethnic Afghans seeking a life of non-violence, the unity of all people, equality, and self-reliance. We seek non-military solutions for Afghanistan and do not work for the benefit of any political group or religion. We envision Afghans from all ethnic groups uniting for a non-violent movement towards a peaceful life.

C. Douglas Lummis, a former US Marine stationed on Okinawa and a present resident of Okinawa, is the author of Radical Democracy and other books in Japanese and English. A Japan Focus associate, he formerly taught at Tsuda College.
Recommended citation: Afghan Peace Volunteers with an introduction by C. Douglas Lummis,"An Afghan Okinawa," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 22, No 3, May 28, 2012.

 Read More. . .

Peter Dale Scott, The NATO Afghanistan War and US-Russian Relations: Drugs, Oil, and War

I delivered the following remarks at an anti-NATO conference held in Moscow on May 15, 2012. I was the only North American speaker at an all-day conference, having been invited in connection with the appearance into Russian of my book Drugs, Oil, and War. 1 As a former diplomat worried about peace I was happy to attend: as far as I can tell there may be less serious dialogue today between Russian and American intellectuals than there was at the height of the Cold War. Yet the danger of war involving the two leading nuclear powers has hardly disappeared.

Unlike other speakers, my paper urged Russians -- despite the aggressive activities in Central Asia of the CIA, SOCOM (US Special Operations Command), and NATO -- to cooperate under multilateral auspices with like-minded Americans, towards dealing with the related crises of Afghan drug production and drug-financed Salafi jihadism.

The underlying cause of U.S. activity in Central Asia, in traditional areas of Russian influence like Kazakhstan, lies in the heightened interest of western oil companies and their representatives in Washington, for three decades or longer, in developing and above all controlling the underdeveloped oil and gas resources of the Caspian basin.5 To this end Washington has developed policies that have produced forward bases in Kyrgyzstan and for four years in Uzbekistan (2001-05).6 The overt purpose of these bases was to support U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. But the U.S. presence also encourages the governments in nearby Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, both areas of U.S. oil and gas investment, to act more independently of Russian approval.



Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War, The Road to 9/11, and The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. His most recent book is American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan. His website, which contains a wealth of his writings, is here

Recommended citation: Peter Dale Scott, "The NATO Afghanistan War and US-Russian Relations: Drugs, Oil, and War," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 22, No 4, May 28, 2012.


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David T. Johnson, Covering Capital Punishment: Murder Trials and the Media in Japan

Philip Brasor's fine article on Japan's lay judge system and the capital trial of Ms. Kijima Kanae [in this issue] contends that the application of the death penalty in Japan is arbitrary-and it is. Of the last 6 Ministers of Justice who served while the Liberal Democratic Party was in power, 5 authorized executions and 1 did not. Of the 6 Ministers of Justice who have served since the Democratic Party of Japan took power in August 2009, 2 authorized executions and 4 did not. In total, therefore, 7 of the last 12 persons to serve as Minister of Justice gave orders to hang and 5 did not. This is not the arbitrariness of a coin flip; it is the capriciousness that comes from a system that makes the occurrence of executions depend on the ideology of individual Ministers and (to some extent) the values of his or her party. If a Minister of Justice opposes capital punishment or does not want to participate in state killing, he or she can prevent executions simply by not signing execution warrants. A few years ago Minister of Justice Hatoyama Kunio of the LDP (who authorized 13 hangings while serving as Minister for less than a year in 2007-08) suggested that the execution process should be made more automatic by abolishing the Minister's discretion to make these life and death decisions. The execution process should be like a "conveyor belt", he said, and the Minister should not be allowed to turn the switch off.

David T. Johnson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawaii, co-author (with Franklin E. Zimring) of The Next Frontier: National Development, Political Change, and the Death Penalty in Asia (Oxford University Press, 2009), and co-editor of Law & Society Review. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal associate.

Recommended citation: David T. Johnson, "Covering Capital Punishment: Murder Trials and the Media in Japan," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 22, No 1, May 28, 2012.


 Read More. . .  

Philip Brasor, Japan's Lay Judge System and the Kanae Kijima Murder Trial

However one feels about the death penalty, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that its application in Japan is arbitrary. At a mid-April symposium hosted by the Delegation of the European Union to Japan and the EU Institute in Japan at Waseda University in Tokyo, former Justice Minister Hiraoka Hideo publicly denounced his successor Ogawa Toshio 's decision to have three men on death row hanged on March 29, saying that the government needs to discuss the matter more before continuing with executions. The fact that Hiraoka on principle did not sign any execution orders during his tenure while Ogawa, in accordance with a very different set of values, approved three soon after assuming office shows that choices regarding life-and-death are governed by personal whim. Don't forget, these two men belong to the same political party, the ruling DPJ.

At the same symposium, Kaido Yuichi, the secretary general of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, called for a change in judicial rules in relation to the two-year-old lay judge system. At present, a death sentence can be delivered if the majority of the 9 judges-six non-professionals and three professionals-vote in favor of it and one of the majority is a professional judge. The JFBA, which has called on the government to launch a public debate on abolishing the death penalty, says that death sentences should only be validated if the decision is unanimous.

Philip Brasor is a Japan Times columnist. He blogs at

Recommended citation: Philip Brasor, "Japan's Lay Judge System and the Kanae Kijima Murder Trial," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 22, No 2, May 28, 2012.


 Read More. . .   

Yuki TANAKA,  A Lesson from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident


At 3:36 pm on March 12, 2011, the day after the mega earthquake and tsunami hit northeast Honshu, Japan's main island, the No.1 reactor building of the Fukushima No.1 Power Plant exploded. Soon after, an order for 77,000 residents from 28,000 households within 20 km of the power plant was issued, instructing people to evacuate to areas outside a 20km zone around the plant. However, this official command was never received, as the electricity and all communication lines, including telephone and internet, had been cut by the earthquake. Nevertheless, rumor spread quickly that the radiation emitted by the explosion was so deadly that it would kill everyone in the vicinity unless they escaped immediately.
Many people from within the 20 km zone, as well as vast numbers of residents from outside the area, began to flee. Mothers with babies and small children were the first to leave. No one had anticipated a nuclear accident of this magnitude and no one was prepared for the ensuing crisis. People did not have enough drinking water, baby food, nappies, medicine and other essentials. They did not have enough petrol to travel long distances. Yet they grabbed what they could and tried to flee by car. Traffic jams soon created further chaos and in parts cars moved only 50 meters in an hour. Many cars queued to purchase petrol, further delaying the escape of those inside and increasing their exposure to the radiation.

This Fukushima experience demonstrates that no evacuation plan could prepare a community for a major nuclear power accident like this or the one that occurred at Chernobyl. Evacuation drills will never ensure order when a nuclear accident causes mass panic, brought about in part because we cannot see, smell or touch radiation. Fear leads to confusion, disorientation and inevitably irrational behavior.

This is a report on the Eyewitness Fukushima Symposium held in NYC in March.

Yuki Tanaka is Research Professor, Hiroshima Peace Institute, and a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal. He is the author most recently of Yuki Tanaka and Marilyn Young, eds., Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth Century History and of Yuki Tanaka, Tim McCormack and Gerry Simpson, eds., Beyond Victor's Justice? The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Revisited. His earlier works include Japan's Comfort Women and Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II.


 Read More. . .