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Ambiguous sarcasm over rush to change Constitution no joke to some

Aso’s Nazi-inspired quip rubs Seoul the wrong way

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Outspoken Finance Minister Taro Aso has caused another international stir by urging Japanese politicians bent on revising the Constitution to learn from the way Germany under the Nazis amended the Weimar charter.

Aso’s remark drew criticism from South Korea.

But Aso’s remark, reportedly made Monday in a speech in Tokyo, sounded ambiguous and may simply have been just more sarcasm over Japanese rushing to amend the Constitution.

The Liberal Democratic Party, to which Aso belongs, is seeking to revise the Constitution, including war-renouncing Article 9, so Japan can use the right of collective self-defense as stipulated by the U.N. Charter.

This would expand the scope of military cooperation with the U.S. The LDP also wants the Self-Defense Forces to be renamed the National Defense Forces and so noted in the Constitution.

“The purpose of constitutional revision should be the stabilization and peace of the state. Constitutional revision is a just means” for that goal, Aso said, according to Kyodo News and other media reports.

“I don’t want (people) to make a decision in an uproar. . . . The Constitution should be revised based on public opinions that carefully examined the situation,” Aso reportedly said. “I don’t want (people) to discuss revising the Constitution in a frenzy.”

Then Aso mentioned how the Nazis effectively abolished the 1919 German Constitution.

“(The Nazis) did it in a ‘let’s-keep-it-quiet’ manner, and the Weimar Constitution was changed almost before people realized it. Why don’t we learn from that method?” Aso said.

His remarks are contradictory because while on the one hand he urged people to make a level-headed decision, he also recommended the revisionists learn from the Nazis’ way of changing the German charter on the sly.

The latter may have been a sarcastic comment against politicians bent on revision, since Aso often uses sarcastic, intricate rhetoric when he criticizes somebody.

But South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young blasted Aso on Tuesday.

“Such remarks definitely hurt many people,” the Yonhap news agency quoted Cho as saying. “It is clear what such comments on the (Nazi) regime mean to people of the time and to those who suffered from Japan’s imperialistic invasion.”

  • Michael Craig

    Aso taking a page from the Nazis?! Their Cabinet approval’s going to drop for sure!

    • Takahiro Katsumi

      Not sure if the Japanese public REALLY know how Nazis came into power…

      • Manfred Baur

        Certainly not.
        But on the other hand given the TV coverage on the subject they probably know more about the Nazi’s history than they know about their own.

      • junia

        We (Japanese) must learn it! Fortunately now we have the Wiki Pedia etc. and can find a huge amount (as huge as the quantity of the history of our tragedy and errors) of historical materials to discover.

      • 思德

        It’s good that you’re interested in the history… every nation has painful errors that smear its history… we do ourselves a disservice to try to ignore them (speaking as an American).

  • Steve

    The problem with ignorant politicians is that they get voted and encouraged by ignorant voters. the REAL problem happens when ignorance becomes majority…

  • Poetic Justice

    It looks like Japanese politics have taken a turn for the worse. What sad beings are these Neo-conservatives who are trying to revive the military industrial complex in Japan. Look at what the military industry has done to the U.S., a land where people were once free.

    • FF

      Last time I checked, the USA is still free. Until the government starts slaughtering us in the millions, setting up labor camps, and blocking free speech, you have not the slightest of a right to say the USA isn’t free. You just made yourself look very misinformed.

      • commandergreen

        they got the fema camps ready, I am sure the left would love to roll out ‘hate speech’ if they havent already.

      • WUT?

        You’re just saying that because the NSA is watching every word you are writing, that’s how ” free” you are.

      • 思德

        I’m not so sure how “free” I am as an American. Maybe “free” to pay lots of taxes if I ever become marginally financially successful, “free” to participate in various social safety net claptraps, “free” to have my internet and phone metadata taken on a whim and “free” to have drones operate over my head.

      • Michael Sullivan

        I don’t have equal protection under the law, and I can’t say words that other people can say. Screw you, I am not free.

  • Michael Williams

    This is very likely, a sarcastic, backhanded comment, to revising the constitution, in the ways that the LDP is rattling. Use some common sense, no one in their right mind would say, “Hey guys, let’s rip a page from history and improve upon the National Socialist Party’s methods of creating a fascist government!”

    If you do some research onto that subject, you would know that Hitler and the National Socialist Party, created a dictatorship through legal avenues by creating amendments to the Wiemar Constitution, through laws such as Reichstag Fire Degree and the Enabling Act.

    Now look at his comments, and you may see them as a pessimistic reaction to what he most likely perceives as politically irrational desire to hastily amend the Japanese Constitution, likely in a foolish manner, just because the LDP has the numbers to do so. Take in mind, the position the LDP is in, to have a near super majority, is very rare, and will not last; thus the aspect of haste.

    It is foolish to take such a comment literally. If he really desired to use legal means to topple democracy in Japan, he would not have made that comment to the public. The only reason the South Koreans made a comment over this, is because of the islands that both countries are in mutual dispute over; which just fans the flames over a comment that was made to be thought over; that is what intelligent based sarcasm is used for.

    • Ron NJ

      If any politician elsewhere in the world made statements even coming remotely close to “We should take a page from the Nazis and do ____” not only would there be a national outcry, every neighboring country – and probably many non-neighboring ones as well – would be up in arms. Once again Japan gets treated differently because Japan.
      And a former (and current deputy) PM from a former Axis power to boot! It is really nothing short of reprehensible and shows not only his lack of understanding and appreciation of history but also a callous disregard for the rest of the world.

    • Bradley Fried

      Taro Aso has never been in his right mind, so . . . so much for your theory.

    • junia

      Hitler invoked the “emergency” art.48 of the Weimar constitution and gathered, lawfully, legislative and judical powers in executives-ss-Fuhrer. Followed by the years of tragedies of the humanity… right? We, must learn, learn and learn from the history not to repeat errors.

  • R B Quinn

    Aso is another run of the mill politician who talks without first engaging his brain!

  • zer0_0zor0

    His remarks are contradictory because while on the one hand he urged people to make a level-headed decision, he also recommended the revisionists learn from the Nazis’ way of changing the German charter on the sly.

    That about sums it up, no intent at sarcasm there.

    A more blatant display of intent by a member of the ‘ruling party’ to undermine the public interest would be hard to find.

    • Louis Kwong

      Honestly, it would be a virtue for being quiet sensibly but rather not to repeat the political plunder again like what she did in the second world war. Any nonsense nationalistic rhetoric would remind the pains of the past. And next time she won’t be so lucky to get away from the blood stains in Asia. Japan will perish altogether because of the tremendous pressures of the pains in the past and it adds fuel to the flames.

  • gnirol

    I guess Mr. Aso doesn’t know a word to indicate an error. “…learn from the errors of the Nazis in revising the Weimar Constitution” would have avoided the whole problem, if indeed that’s what he meant. I know Japanese people don’t like pointing out errors in others, but we are talking about the most reviled group of the 20th century, after all, not just some mildly unpopular politician he might want to criticize with care. I think calling an error an error when the Nazis made it would have been acceptable even to those squeamish Japanese who hate to hear a word directly criticizing anyone.

  • V Lee

    Besides Aso who is a clown, I just don’t understand how the Japanese public could have voted for politicians such as the following into public office.

    1) Abe (who had problems defining ‘war aggression’; who purposely sat in a plane with the number 731, the same number of the infamous biowarfare unit that tortured and killed many innocent men, women and children; who had until recently always denied the existence of comfort ladies i.e. sex slaves). 2) The Mayor of Nagoya (who denied the Nanking Massacre in the presence of Nanjing delegates during a welcoming speech ‘celebrating friendship’ with that sister city). 3) Ishihara Shintaro (who is openly racist, the worst of the lot in denying war crimes). 4) Toru Hashimoto (I am sure we all know his views now). 5) The countless politicians from all political stripes that visit the Yasakuni shrine, which houses war criminals and glorifies Japanese militarism. These are just some more infamous examples. Many others are unreported in the Western press.

    And the same Japanese public often asked why is there an anti Japanese conspiracy or propaganda? What a culture of denial!

    • 1derer

      I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the Japanese people have really shitty choices when it comes to who they can vote for. There’s a notoriously widespread feeling of political alienation in Japan because the current system is such an “old-boys club”.

      Additionally; during the last elections, there was a great deal of interview coverage with Japanese LDP voters saying that they didn’t like any of the candidates, but they felt like the LDP was their only choice after the DPJ had failed to accomplish any meaningful reforms.

      Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a disturbing amount of right-wing jingoism in Japan, but it’s terrible and false to label the entire country that way.

      For instance, the Japan teacher’s union, which has a very large membership, has had a policy against supporting the flying of the regular Japanese flag as well as other national symbols since it’s inception. They see even the basic elements of Japan’s national symbolism as too militaristic.

      Further, the 6.8 million strong RENGO umbrella of trade unions has among its core principles: “Defense of the [pacifist] Constitution”, “Disarmament, Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, and Realization of World Peace”, “Realization of a Society Based on Sexual Equality”, and most significantly to your post: “Changes of the Regime and Realization of a Wholesome Parliamentary Democracy [in Japan]”

      When Hashimoto made his remarks about Comfort Women, RENGO said this: “These remarks are absolutely outrageous, not only violating the human rights for all women and men but also destroying trust in Japan from the international society. No matter what age we are living in, women should not be regarded merely as sexual existence and any sexual violence against women is impermissible. As for men, his idea that men are sexually uncontrollable is also unacceptable. Any remarks made by those who hold any public positions like a leader of an open party are extremely grave and their discernment and dignity are always tested. The remarks by Mr. Hashimoto who does not have any sense of human rights are totally despicable.”

      This is pretty unequivocal pacifism, human rights respect, and dissatisfaction from a group of 6.8 million Japanese voters. It’s not a country of bad people, it’s just got a lot of bad politicians supported by a hardcore rightest-base, the latter being a problem that a lot of nations are currently being forced to fight against.

  • Hanako Yamada

    Did you read Aso’s original all statement ? He just gave the nazis as bad example of domocracy. So many Japanese who aren’t controled with Asahi Newspaper get angry.

    • DieEver

      There is no excuse…. Looking back what Aso had said before, such as sex slave, Nanking Massacre, Millitarism and so on, we can figure out whether Aso’s word concerning Nazis is his true thought….

      He had mentioned that Japan could learn from Nazis… If you are right that he thought of Hitler as a bad example, just as Rabbi Abraham Cooper asked, what ‘techniques’ from the Nazis’ governance are worth learning??

  • orthotox

    It is not contradictory! There’s nothing at odds with being level headed and being sly, too. Consider Obama . . .

  • Victor Laszlo

    There’s only one thing more frustrating than politicians who speak before thinking and that’s posters of comments on boards such as this who assume they know exactly what a politician meant. Oy vey. Get a grip. So many people are on offended mode 24/7. So much wasted emotion by arguing in comment sections. If they could harness the power of all the arguing that goes on in comments every day, the human race would never need another molecule of oil, solar or gas for energy.

    And now back to your arguing already in progress. Enjoy.

  • Hanako Yamada

    Mr. Aso mentioned it for a example as a bad democracy constitution.
    If you read the all comment of Aso, you can understand that easily, he just wanted to say ” We have to amend Japanese constitution calmly and we have to discuss good points and bad points, and show them to Japanese voter. We have to amend Japanese constitution calmly, not with making noises. So we Japanese support Mr. Abe. Don’t believe the information of anti Japanese information from Japan. Now you know, our common sense of Japanese. You already know, what we do in crisis like big earthquake, tsunami, and train accident.

  • The Apologist

    “The Nazis used underhanded tactics to deceive their own people. Let’s do the same thing!”
    What kind of politician would actually say this to the public, even if they were secretly Nazi sympathizers? None. So something is wrong with this picture. The answer is pretty clear when context is applied. What Aso was saying was: “Behind the scenes constitutional amendment railroading was what the Nazis did. And we all know how that turned out. So let’s learn from that…”

    Anybody got a problem with that? Sure, he could have been clearer, but commentators could also stand to be more accurate.