View Full Version : War-bereaved leader hails Koizumi

22nd April 2002, 23:42
Politics aside, universally, soldiers are soldiers. We train, live, suffer, train, and because of our similar existences, form a bond that spans time, culture and government.

Personally, I hope to visit the Yasukuni Shrine before I leave Japan. Sure, there are soldiers enshrined there that committed some pretty severe offenses, but they did so in the belief that what they were doing was right, the duty of a soldier. Whether what they did was factually right is ultimately up to history to decide, and as the saying goes, history is written by the victor... Had Japan won out in WWII, then I doubt there would be an issue at all.

It is the responsibility of the Leader of any country to honor his/her country's war dead. To do any less, regardless of their actions and the judgements passed by the passage of time, is to cheapen their sacrifice, demean their service, and ultimately to lessen the sanctity of what they were willing to do (that most others are not - to serve their country before themselves, and be willing to pay that ultimate price in such service.).

Folks should get off Koizumi's back and jump on his bandwagon. The US President goes to Arlington every year on Memorial Day to honor the Unknowns, yet we have had our share of folks that did things that were less than commendable. Nobody gripes about that.

Soldiers, wherever they come from and whenever they served, are deserving of the respect of their people. We owe a debt to those who have fallen that can never be repaid in any currency other than respect, honor or blood.

Just my humble and rather devalued 2 yen...

23rd April 2002, 00:45
War crimes are not the "duty of a soldier". They are reprehensible crimes against humanity, and to honour those who committed them is to condone the act itself. Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni isn't comparable to the US President's visit to Arlington or the Queen's visit to the Cenotaph; it's equivalent to visiting Auschwitz and saying, "Well, they did some good here".
And how does Koizumi hope to affect rapprochment with his Asian neighbours if he lacks empathy to such an extent that he can't even see why they're upset?
See you on Sunday.

23rd April 2002, 00:54
Never said war crimes were part of a "soldier's duty," but rather that the soldier served and his service should be remembered. It is enough that the soldier was tried for his crimes, convicted, imprisoned or executed. That dishonor is sufficient repayment for their crimes. However, they were soldiers of their nation, and I am sure their entire term of service was not criminal. I feel it would be a disservice to fail to acknowledge what amount of good their service did accomplish.

Ultimately, the enshrinement of the war dead of Japan (at least the way I see it, but what do I know, right?) is an impersonal enshrinement in a similar fashion to the Tomb of the Unknowns. The shrine serves as a focal point for ALL those who died in the name of Japan. As such, the leader should visit.

As far as how such visits impact Japan's neighbors? Well, to quote Maximus from Gladiator, "a soldier has the ability to look his enemy in the face." Politics are beyond my concern and, to a great degree, my understanding . I am a soldier, not a politician. Maybe that is irresponsible of me, but it is a fact that I am in no hurry to change. I agree he should understand why his visit upsets them, but they should understand that his duty is to his people, and he must remember them and honor them. Then, after having done his duty to his people, he can seek to do his duty to the greater community of the world.

23rd April 2002, 01:07
But Matt,
Honouring war criminals is to tacitly condone their actions. And Koizumi is a politician, so diplomacy should be high on his agenda. The problem, I suppose, is that Yasukuni enshrines war criminals alongside ordinary soldiers; the answer would have been to enshrine the war criminals elsewhere, but I suspect that the Japanese, many of whom are unrepentant for war crimes, were sticking two fingers up at the US during the occupation. If you don't think Tojo and Co.'s actions were wrong, why should you feel ashamed about enshrining the man? And hey: Remember the furore back when Reagan was president, and he visited Bitburg cemetery in Austria. You'd think Koizumi would learn from that, but I'll wager he doesn't equate the two. After all, these are Japanese war criminals we're talking about; you can't possibly compare them to the SS... Can you?

23rd April 2002, 01:29
Again, how much time of their entire career was comprised of "criminal time?" I am sure that their service, however compromised later, was more honorable than not.

Serving in the Army JAG Corps as I do, I see the impact that the dishonor of trial has on a soldier. I also see how the court looks at the nature of the crime, i.e. taking the soldier's entire service into account as well as the duration of the "criminal time." In our zero tolerance atmosphere there are some fairly minor offenses that are "career-enders," like DUI's, domestic assaults, etc. I refuse to believe that a soldier's entire career is erased due to a moment of complete ignorance.

Now, that is NOT to compare to torturing POWs, unlawful executions (a.k.a. murder), etc. I cannot say that I would be happy about seeing Mike McVey enshrined with a bunch of Medal of Honor winners. However, it cannot be overlooked that he served voluntarily, something a lot of overly political folks would never consider doing. I, for one, am something of an adherent to Heinlein's concept of civil duty - if you feel strongly enough about the political agenda of your country, put your own ass on the line to promote and protect it. If you do not, you lack the conviction your words proclaim, and to some degree fail to earn the right to have a say. And when I say "you," I do not imply you, Tony K., personally, either directly or implicitly. I mean the generalized "you" the audience.

**(Let me caveat this by saying that I feel that in the overly lax US of A, I feel it should be mandatory for all citizens to serve a minimum of two years at some point between the ages of 18 and 25. Failure to do so should have severe, though not crippling, repurcussions (i.e. lack of the right to vote, inability to hold public office, etc.). I am fully aware, however, that this will never happen...:( )**

So back to the point. While I understand that the rest of the world condemns Japan's war criminals (and rightly so) for their actions, that is the rest of the world. Japan has a duty to the war dead of Japan. Not to the dead of other countries. Japan as a nation has a duty to attempt to atone for the atrocities, but that does not, in my mind, necessarily remove Japan's requirement to acknowledge those who served her. For Japan (or any other nation) to turn their backs on their veterans, living OR dead, is the greatest betrayal I can think of (short of having one soldier steal the ammo, food, or wife of another ;) ).

And I think you are dead on the money about the explicitly JAPANESE nature of the criminals being discussed. If they were perhaps mercs hired by Japan, I doubt there would be this issue. And the SS are a whole other deal, right? ;)

Jeff Hamacher
23rd April 2002, 02:07
my subject line is a reference to a CBC documentary from a few years ago which really raised the ire of canada's veteran community. while the film covered the canadian military's more valiant acts during WWI and II, it didn't shy away from revealing evidence of what might be considered criminal activity, even in wartime. the CBC stood behind their "truth in journalism" stance, but had to fight a court challenge from the Canadian Legion (veterans' association) in order to air the doco.

the unrightable wrong here, as Matt pointed out, is the enshrining of Class-A war criminals along with the rest of japan's war dead. as a politician and one "face" of his country to the international community, Koizumi isn't exactly doing a bang-up job with foreign relations on this issue. on the other hand, what Matt says about "his responsibility to his electorate coming first" is also spot on. this is exactly the same challenge facing President Bush these days with his War on Terrorism, really, but i'll leave that for another thread.

it seems to me that, at this stage of the game, the only thing that could resolve the political problem is the creation of a brand-new memorial to japanese war dead, cutting all associations to Yasukuni and the war criminals. Koizumi could satisfy his electorate and his asian neighbours at the same time, unless the more nationalistic types in japan rejected his abandonment of the shrine (and you know they probably would).

i want to give Koizumi the benefit of the doubt when he speaks of good intentions during his shrine visits. Remembrance Day is supposed to serve the same high purpose: to give thanks to those who sacrificed their lives for the good of ours, to remind ourselves of the horrors of war, and to re-commit ourselves to the pursuit of peace so that those same horrors are never visited upon humanity again. does he mean it? it seems that some have yet to be convinced.

23rd April 2002, 02:19
Wish I coulda wrote it like that, but Ah'm jist one-a them thar Uhmurikan types...

Seriously, though, I agree. It is A Bad Thing (c) to visit the shrine, because, as Tony points out, some folks believe it "tacitly condones" their criminal actions (I don't think so, but I'm weird). For a politician I suppose it looks bad.

From the Grunt in the Trenches perspective, I approve. He honors his soldiers for serving him.

Since I just don't see a brand spanking new shrine being built, I guess it is something other countries are just going to have to get over, though Jeff and Tony's suggestions about separating the criminals from those who served more honorably may well be a Very Good Idea (c).

And let's not attack Georgie just yet... I get a migraine thinking about the mess we are possibly getting into with the newest Uhmurikan War.

Gil Gillespie
23rd April 2002, 03:42
Koizumi is from an old established political family in Japan, so he cannot be expected to just be Mr Politically Correct. He can be expected to be aware of the political repurcussions of his every action, including this one. Somewhere beneath this seemingly inocuous visit to a shrine honoring Japan's war dead is an orchestrated political move. He is too smart to be unaware of the sensitive nature of this particular shrine. There is an unspoken homage to some military or traditional force of which we are unaware.

Shrines to honored war dead exist throughout Japan. In my wife's home town of Shizuoka there is a such a shrine, a beautiful open expanse of traditional architecture and giant weathered cypress torii gates called Go Koku Jinja. Within the shrine precinct are areas devoted to specific battles of World War II (Mindinao, Iwo Jima, and other names that stir very different feelings in a white boy from New Jersey). The main statue is a larger than life bronze of a period infantryman wearing that little cap, holding a saya in his left hand and brandishing a katana in his right. Let's just say the mood is different from Michelangelo's Pieta.

Some of the biggest most popular shrines are to Hachiman, the god of war, such as Tsulugaoka in Kamakura and Katori Jinja in Chiba, near Tokyo. Modern Japanese visit these shrines without any overt association, such as an American might walk to his parish church. Junko goes to Go Koku Jinja because she feels the kami there; her father goes wherever he can find a place to park!

Koizumi could have visited any of these shrines to Japanese war dead without controversy, but he chose not to. His motives bear scrutiny, and his official statememnts should not be taken at face value. Prime ministers bear far more responsibility for their actions than American presidents. No prime minister could ever have survived Monica Lewinsky.

23rd April 2002, 03:50
The Yasukuni shrine is Mecca for right-wing militarists, such as those Koizumi relies on for support, so that probably explains his choice of venue. (If it can be called a choice, as it's become Yasukuni or bust for successive politicians.)

Jeff Hamacher
23rd April 2002, 05:07
Originally posted by Gil Gillespie
Koizumi is from an old established political family in Japan, ...
... and from what i understand both his father and grandfather were staunch nationalists.

He can be expected to be aware of the political repurcussions of his every action, including this one.
an excellent point, Gil. as many japanese do when faced with some kind of challenge, he sidesteps and shuffles around the thrust of complaints coming from overseas very cleverly, but he's not ignorant of the issues at all. as a politician, of course he knows on which side his bread is buttered (his electorate's). again the parallel to George the Junior ...

Prime ministers bear far more responsibility for their actions than American presidents. No prime minister could ever have survived Monica Lewinsky.
given that japanese politicians time and again outdo themselves with newly-engineered forms of scandal i find it a bit difficult to agree with this statement. what also must be borne in mind is that the whole Lewinsky affair was a domestic political crisis about which the international community gave little serious thought (although TV ratings would probably suggest that millions looked on in prurient glee). Yasukuni visits by japanese prime ministers, on the other hand, are an international issue; i think that PMs could continue august 15th visits to Yasukuni until the end of recorded time and suffer no domestic political damage. at least until the public school textbooks finally include truthful accounts of both modern japanese history and the origins of japan as a nation and a people ...;)

23rd April 2002, 05:56
Originally posted by Robert Rousselot

Mori, who is a TOTAL "dipstick" in my book, basically blurted out whatever he felt whenever he felt it.

Just like Dubya, then... ;)

Joseph Svinth
23rd April 2002, 08:35
Class A war criminals buried there include Tojo.

Another article on the topic, that explains the timing and context a bit better.

Yomiuri Shimbun

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's unexpected visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Sunday may have reflected his desire to worship at the shrine without stirring up controversy.

It was not unusual for the prime minister to visit Yasukuni Shrine--which enshrines war dead, including Class-A war criminals--during rituals the Tokyo shrine performs every spring and autumn. There was a time when successive prime ministers attended these twice-a-year ceremonies at the Shinto shrine as a matter of course. This practice started with Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, who headed the government for a total of about six years after World War II, and ended with Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who served from 1982 to 1987.


Yasukuni furor is of recent vintage

However, visits to Yasukuni Shrine by the prime minister grew into a sensitive issue in 1975, when then Prime Minister Takeo Miki visited the shrine on Aug. 15 that year in a "private" capacity. He became the first prime minister to worship at Yasukuni Shrine on the anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II.

After Miki's visit to the shrine, every prime minister was subject to a dispute over whether he worshiped there as a "private figure" or a "public person." In 1979, it came to light that the spirits of the war dead enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine included 14 Class-A war criminals. Despite this revelation, no prime minister stopped visiting the shrine.

However, visits to Yasukuni Shrine by the prime minister were suspended in 1986, after Nakasone visited the shrine on Aug. 15, 1985. His official visit to the shrine turned the smoldering Yasukuni dispute into an even more complex issue. After Nakasone's controversial visit, no prime minister worshiped at the shrine, either on the Aug. 15 anniversary of the war's end or at the shrine's twice-a-year Shinto rituals.

In this sense, Koizumi's latest visit to the shrine marked a return to the circumstances that had prevailed until Nakasone's last worship there or Miki's final visit to the facility.

Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 13, 2001--two days before the anniversary of the war's end--aroused controversy involving China and South Korea. His earlier-than-planned visit reflected his desire to show that he never gave in to "pressure" from China, which had signaled it would acquiesce to the prime minister's visit to the shrine only if he did so after Aug. 15.

Japan and South Korea will soon cohost the World Cup soccer finals. In addition, Japan and China are planning various events commemorating the 30th anniversary of the two nation's restored diplomatic relations. Given this, the prime minister made a wise decision when he chose to visit Yasukuni Shrine in April. Renewed confusion could arise if he visited the shrine in August.

No country has grounds to say when the top leader of another nation should pay homage to the memories of the latter nation's war dead. Any issue of that nature is a domestic one that reflects the tradition and customs of a nation.

In the days of Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki, the government said that it would not answer a question concerning whether a visit to Yasukuni Shrine by the prime minister constituted a "private" act or an "official" one. The current government should stand by this principle when it comes to the "private-or-official" controversy.

Honoring war dead is proper.

Still, it is not desirable that every Yasukuni visit by the prime minister stirs up controversy both at home and overseas.

Every nation has good reason to pay tribute to the memories of the people who have given their lives for their country.

For years, the government has held a ceremony in memory of the war dead at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo on Aug. 15. We suggest that a new facility be established to perform this government-sponsored annual ceremony. The facility should be made always open to anyone who wants to visit it, including foreign dignitaries and ordinary Japanese citizens.

A private advisory body to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda is studying various issues related to the proposed facility. We are interested in learning what kind of conclusion the panel will reach.

(From April 22 Yomiuri Shimbun)


For more discussion, follow links at http://english.enorth.com.cn/new/features/000119805.html

Jeff Hamacher
24th April 2002, 00:34

thanks for the information. it certainly helps to flesh out the controversy.

Originally posted by Joseph Svinth
We suggest that a new facility be established to perform this government-sponsored annual ceremony.
of course the journalistic bastion of japanese conservatism which is the Yomiuri Shimbun would support Yasukuni visits, but whaddya know! they actually liked my idea about a brand new memorial shrine to avoid the furore! and i swear, i didn't read that article before i posted, honest!

24th April 2002, 03:41
My local reaction from prefecturaly connected politicians in this and the neighbouring prefecture was, "What the hell does this man think he is doing. He has just put Japans peace relations with other countrys back years by stirring up opinions"

This year the protesters were not so prolific. Or perhaps one could say they were "more under control".

Hyakutake Colin