Ambiguous sarcasm over rush to change Constitution no joke to some

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


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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.