NEW YORK — On Nov. 25, Australian voters replaced Prime Minister John Howard of the Liberal Party with Kevin Rudd of the Labor Party, who promised to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq. The new prime minister is preparing Australia for post-Bush America.
Howard joined Jose Maria Aznar of Spain and Tony Blair of England in becoming an ex-prime minister because of his blind allegiance to U.S. President George W. Bush. Loyalty to Bush has become fatal to the political lives of politicians who ignore voters’ increasing distrust of Bush. Shinzo Abe of Japan is also such a political casualty.
In mid-September, then Prime Minister Abe of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suddenly resigned because he failed to persuade the opposition leader, Ichiro Ozawa of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), to extend the Anti-Terrorist Special Act (ATA) beyond its Nov. 1 expiration. ATA was a clone of Bush’s infamous Patriot Act and Iraq Resolution, which Bush manipulated to invade Iraq unilaterally and abuse his executive power at home. He has been systematically destroying the bedrock of American democracy, including the separation of church and state, constitutional limits of presidential power, an independent judiciary, voting integrity, citizens’ protection against illegal spying, and unlawful imprisonment and torture.
Under ATA, Japan had been carrying out the constitutionally questionable task of refueling U.S. and Pakistani naval ships on the warpath in the Arabian Sea.
In August, through the offices of the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Bush requested Ozawa’s assistance in extending ATA so that the refueling of U.S. and other warships could continue. Ozawa rejected the request and his DPJ let the ATA expire, forcing the ruling government to recall Japanese naval ships from the Arabian Sea. Bush thus lost another important piece of his contrived “multinational alliance” for the war on terror.
The Japanese public had become increasingly opposed to activities that supported Bush’s Iraq occupation and his saber-rattling against Iran. It was the first time in the post-World War II history of U.S.-Japan relations that Japan’s government was forced to say “no” to the U.S.
The LDP government warned of the consequences of losing “international trust.” In reality, Japan’s image as an independent democracy has improved, even in the U.S. Three-quarters of Americans oppose Bush’s domestic and foreign policies. Early in December, when Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda broached enactment of a new ATA with the opposition party leaders, Ozawa conveyed the DPJ’s unequivocal opposition.
On July 29, Japanese voters had given the DPJ a historic victory when it captured the Upper House, preventing the LDP from railroading Bush’s requests through the Diet. In the fall of 2006, the U.S. Democratic Party whose “take-back-America” campaign resonated well with American voters, captured both the Senate and the House.
Borrowing a page from the Democratic Party playbook, the DPJ campaigned on an anti-Bush and anti-LDP slogan of “Corruption, National Pension, Health Care, Jobs and Bush’s Iraq,” which was well received by Japanese voters.
DPJ’s awakening took some time. In July 2006, Ozawa and I discussed Bush’s foreign and domestic policies that were hurting Japan. Ozawa knew that Bush had duplicitously exploited Americans’ fear of a repeat of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and had unilaterally invaded Iraq for U.S. military bases and Iraqi oil. The Bush neoconservative revolution — dysfunctional privatization of government, “slash-and-burn” business deregulation, staggering debts to finance the Iraq occupation and exorbitant tax cuts for the wealthy and big business — was dismantling America’s democratic “New Deal” systems. The U.S. was being pushed back to the corrupt, undemocratic and conflict-ridden Gilded Age of the late 19th century.
During the Gilded Age, the government openly colluded with big business and the wealthy at the expense of ordinary people. Crony capitalism finally ushered in the Great Depression (1929-1933).
Ozawa understood that Bush’s Iraq fiasco would raise the crude oil price well above $90 a barrel because the crude oil price includes a $30 to $40 “war risk premium” per barrel. The rise of the crude oil price would weaken the U.S. dollar and threaten Japan with its third “Oil Shock” in 35 years.
Bush’s dogmatic encouragement of Wall Street’s fraudulent “Ponzi” games, stock-price manipulation, subprime mortgage-based “financial bubbles” would burst and plunge the U.S. into a recession and the world into a debilitating financial crisis. Bush was damaging not only the U.S., but Japan’s national security and economy.
Japan has already been hurt by the so-called “Koizumi-Abe” reforms (2001-2007) promoted by the Bush administration. These measures are Japanese clones of the Bush revolution — erroneous privatization of government functions, unruly deregulation of financial markets, staggering budget deficits, and atrophying democracy.
The ideological embrace of the “shareholder value mantra” and “American-type corporate governance” have predictably produced American Enron-style corporate malfeasances and “robber barons.” They have widened income and social gaps between the haves and have-nots and crushed the social and economic safety net for the middle and working classes.
Encouraged by the Bush administration, the LDP government has made it easier for American firms to execute hostile takeovers and piecemeal selloffs of Japanese corporations. It has gutted standard labor laws to enable American-style management “aristocrats” to lay off employees and pad share values.
The resultant money-game frenzy is now tempting corporations to outsource even skilled jobs abroad. It is damaging Japan’s renowned manufacturing prowess and technological innovation anchored in management-employee cooperation, job security and employee training.
Once-docile Japanese voters have finally rebelled against Bush and his Japanese followers. They have used their voting power to defend their livelihood and fledgling democracy. They do not want tomorrow’s Japan to become “Bush’s America” today.
Yoshi Tsurumi is professor of international business, Baruch College, the City University of New York.
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