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Oliver Stone likens Japan to U.S. vassal

Relationship said corrupt, coming at the expense of sovereignty

by Marcie Kagawa

Kyodo

Japan has an unhealthy relationship with the U.S. and should reclaim its “political sovereignty,” American film director Oliver Stone said in a recent interview.

A staunch anti-war critic who has directed a number of war and political films, the 66-year-old Stone called the U.S. relationship with Japan “corrupt” and “disgusting,” arguing that the current dynamics of the relationship leave the nation at the mercy of American whims.

“You (Japan) are really in bed with us (the United States) and you are in bed in a very strange way because you have economic power, but you don’t seem to have political sovereignty,” Stone said. “I believe that if the Japanese can free themselves from the U.S. interests, they would be a regional force for good in the world.”

Since the end of World War II, the United States has used Japan as a satellite country to take care of its business in Asia, Stone argued, for instance by setting up military bases in Japan to launch U.S. forces during the Vietnam War.

“From the beginning, (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur, it seems to me, set up a satellite country that would serve American interests in containing communism in the Far East. Japan was a satellite nation bought and paid for, and the Constitution was always violated,” the filmmaker said.

Stone added that the United States continues to misuse Japan to promote its interests in containing China via Washington’s strategic pivot from Europe and the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region.

One part of the Constitution that has and continues to be violated, according to Stone, is Article 9, which he called an “idealistic, beautiful concept.”

Article 9 stipulates that the Japanese people renounce war and will maintain no military forces. But Japan maintains the Self-Defense Forces for protective purposes and also allows the presence of U.S. forces on its territory.

“I don’t know what a self-defense force means,” Stone said. “All militaries are for self-defense, so essentially you’ve subverted the Constitution, the Article 9, whatever that means, because you’ve called it whatever you want.”

Stone, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, said he continues to see strong militarism in Japan through the rhetoric and actions of its leaders.

“It’s clear from Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe and Prime Minister (Eisaku) Sato (1964-1972) that there’s a lot of militaristic feeling in Japan — the old empire still breathes,” he said.

“Abe has said some very stupid things and it’s dangerous for them, for Japan, to start talking about shrines and going to worship at World War II shrines and not apologize to the Koreans or Chinese. It’s not good.

“The Germans have apologized and moved on. The Japanese, for some reason, a certain portion of that population is very rigid,” Stone said.

Stone has been vocal on other bilateral issues as well, especially the use by the United States of the worlds first atomic bombs, dropped on Japan in August 1945.

“In America, you get the attitude, a blase attitude like, oh, who cares about the atomic bomb, that was 70 years ago,” he said. “But you don’t understand that it’s the founding myth of our sole superpower culture. It gives us the right to dominate the world.

“We think of it as a good thing because it helped end the war with Japan and we’ve confused the issue, so we make our own moral code up out of that atomic bomb as a good thing.

“Every year, when we go to the real shrine, it’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We have to remind people that it was unnecessary to drop that bomb,” he said.

This August, Stone will travel to Hiroshima and Nagasaki with American University professor Peter Kuznick to participate in the 2013 World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. The pair will also promote their 10-part documentary series and companion book collaboration, “Untold History of the United States,” released in 2012.

  • Temujins

    Oliver Stone is a smart person and a great movie director but he does not understand the chinese real motives and intentions. Chinese recent behaviors and mistreated Tibetans do not need to convinced anyone China is threat to peace and security in Asia and the world.

    • Frank Schirmer

      You are stating an opinion that is widespread and unquestioned in Japan, but not so much in the rest of the world.
      From a Western perspective, neither China nor Japan look like very stable countries and with the recent developments in Japanese politics and public opinion, it looks like China may even be ahead of Japan on the trail to become a stable, reliable partner to the West.

  • shinjukuboy

    Japan has never apologized? The willful ignorance about what Japan has done after the war in an attempt to atone for the travesty of Empire is really astounding. Apologies, money, technology, the list goes on. Japan has done it all. I wouldn’t expect this from Oliver Stone. In any case, Japan Empire can only be understood in terms of European Empire, of which Japan was a copy. It is a package.

    • Christopher Frey

      I don’t agree that Japan’s Empire can only be understood in terms of European Empire. It’s a matter of definition. If you think that Japanese colonialism began with Taiwan, then perhaps that is true. However, if you blur the lines between internal and external colonialism, Japan’s colonial practices go back to at least the beginning of the Tokugawa era, if not before, in far northern Tohoku, but especially in Hokkaido and Okinawa.

      • shinjukuboy

        I was only addressing the slaughter of Chinese by Japanese, which is always the issue. It is as if the Europeans did not hurt anyone, but they also slaughtered millions on their rampage across the world (just check, for example, what happened in Belgian Congo). European Empire and Japanese Empire were cut from the same cloth.

      • Frank Schirmer

        Well, the Europeans don’t deny either that it happened nor the extent to which it happened, and there are no revisionist movements of any weight – which makes all the difference here.

      • zer0_0zor0

        You obviously know very little about Japanese history, so why make such a comment?

      • Christopher Frey

        Please enlighten me about what I should know.

      • zer0_0zor0
  • Takashi Doyama

    So which came first, Yasukuni Shrine or WW2? Would be a bit absurd to say that we predicted WW2 back in the 19th Century when the shrine was actually founded.

    If you want to go into the honouring the war dead debate, may I remind Mr Stone that the Americans did not apologise for civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, or for the civilians killed in Pakistan by drone strikes, or those people who suffered the crippling effects of Agent Orange. And neither has I apologised, for that matter, for Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or the fact that they intentionally incinerated all of Tokyo. It’s double-standards that war atrocities of Japan are consistenly mentioned, whereas those of his home country are downplayed.

    The author has to understand that not all Japanese soldiers, like their American counterparts, were criminals, and that the vast majority have died serving and protecting the nation, much like the rest of the world.

    • zer0_0zor0

      Yasukuni Jinja was founded to honor those that died in the Meiji Restoration, which “restored” the emperor as sovereign–which hadn’t been the case basically since the establishment of the Kamakura bakufu in 1192, almost 700 years earlier.

      The Korean empress refused to recognize the new government–as relations had been restored under the Tokugawa after the invasion by Toyotomi Hideyoshi–and some Japanese imperialist extremists brutally assassinated her, which was the event that set the stage for colonization. They also likely set up Ito Hirobumi (a leading Restoration rebel and the first prime minister in the Meiji government) to be assassinated in Korea because he was too moderate for them and represented an obstruction to their machinations.

      There is a deeper and more sinister background to the relationship between post Meiji Japan and Korea and China than atrocities that happened during war.

      On the other hand, I would say that a similar charge can be laid against the British with respect to the Opium Wars in China.

      Those are common to each other in that they relate to imperialism. The Yasukuni Jinja is thus more laden with meaning than a graveyard for the war dead, such as Arlington, and that is why plans are under consideration to create alternative memorial sites to honor the war dead. It is rather complicated.

    • Takahiro Katsumi

      It’s no double standard. It’s a matter of historical truths (not facts) and institutional dysfunction. The historical truth part is that Japan was not only defeated in war but prosecuted in the name of the law (however it may be flawed). Then, Japan accepted those legal judgments via a legally binding multilateral treaty, and were then allowed to return to the international community on that condition. This is the truth. And there were no forces or institutions, or even customs to prosecute the victor states. This only came into being in 2002 through the establishment of the International Criminal Court or ICC.

      The institutional dysfunction is that ICC is still a treaty organization and it does not have universal jurisdiction over the crimes committed in all forms of international conflicts, U.S. is not a member to the Rome Statute and thus they can only be held accountable through local national laws, American laws or military courts. To rectify this, during the first term of Obama Administration, President Obama established a new position in the government (not Department per se) called Ambassador-at-Large for the Office of Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. Department of State. It’s kinda like the Human Rights and Humanitarian Ambassador of Japan which recently appeared on the news. Only more sophisticated and with higher authority. This Ambassador-at-Large has led the delegation in conferences on ICC.

      U.S. is slowly becoming in-tuned with the rest of the world (at least 122 of them in the ICC) to have itself ready to be held accountable and to own itself an established system of global criminal justice so that it can prosecute their own international crimes under internationally established standards as prescribed in the Rome Statute. This is allowed through the principle of complementarity.

      So the U.S. cannot (and probably will not) apologize for its past crimes or accept itself to be held accountable for. But it is working to re-establish itself as a more responsible global power that plays by the rules under the international rule of law. It’s been really slow. I admit. But they are starting to move ahead. For these concrete developments I must give them some credit.

      • zer0_0zor0

        Yes, good points.

        Some commentators have attempted to characterize the USA as a neo-colonial power, just slightly removed from imperialism.

        I seem to recall President Obama making a statement at one point that “We are not an empire”, but I don’t remember the context.

        The right wing fringe in the USA can be heard to decry the impending “world government” that is going to take away their freedom, indicating a substantial amount of pure disinformation and delusion.

        Democracy is increasingly being embraced as the international norm at this point, the USA doesn’t own it.

  • Glen Douglas Brügge

    Stone obviously has no concept of Japan’s current situation. Possibly his suggestions might have been viable during the economic boom of the post-WWII years, but not now. Japan is at odds with its Chinese and Korean neighbors, and the US leaving will not automatically change this (and I am not sure why he believes the US presence hinders Japan’s ability to be a force for economic good in the region?). If anything, having US bases does help add stability to the region. The JSDF would not be able to deter any external threats if Japan’s neighbors to the West began gearing up for war ( certainly not in it’s current state). And if Japan was given free reign all of a sudden, and had the resources to build up a large military, one can just imagine what sort of anger that would cause in the region – China would inevitably clamp down on Japan, either militarily or economically. It’s odd – at the same time he is damning the American presence, while telling Japan the very presence of the JSDF smacks of a potential return to WWII-era aggression. What does he expect? A Japan free of any form of military force whatsoever? Stone is living in a historical past that is not viable in the present.

  • ChrisHorton

    Japan’s ties to the US are a Gordian knot. The coming collapse of the dollar may be the sword that cuts it. The Japanese people would do well to organize and engage their rulers more resolutely in struggle against their creeping two decades of impoverisation, economic stagnation and austerity, against the creeping militarization, and challenging the resurgent mythology of empire.

    When the dollar folds, the time of decision for Japan’s future will be on them. The clash will be sharp and the choice will be stark: Empire and destruction as Japan’s long-repressed ruling class breaks free of its change and goes on a rampage, or genuine popular sovereignty leading to peaceful development and harmony.

    Come to think of it, there is no people on Earth for whom this advice is more apt and urgent than the American people. We too are watching our land, our birthright, the bright promise of our future being trampled and destroyed by a rampant Empire in its death throes. But from within the “belly of the beast”.

    Strangely, we too will be faced with a choice between the popular solution and a right-wing nationalist rebellion against that Empire (against the “world government”. I don’t claim to really understand that choice or how close the analogy really holds, or how a victory of the racist right will play out. I’m not even sure that the Tea Party right represents a real challenge to the Empire. I do know that the American people too need urgently to take to the streets and organize, now, against the program of austerity, privatization and destruction and against the mythology of Empire, if we are to have any chance of seizing the initiative when the crisis fully hits.