John de Boer (University of Tokyo, currently in Spain)
Judging from what American government and opinion leaders are saying US military retaliation to the terrorist attacks on September 11th is likely to be the deadliest and most devastating attack experienced in modern history. Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, spoke of "ending states who sponsor terrorism." Francis Fukuyama explained that "US revenge cannot be accomplished with pinpoint cruise missile strikes." William Raspberry of the Washington Post claimed that, "our (the US) response to Pearl Harbor was proportional, our response to this terrorism cannot be…we want blood."
Japan cannot unconditionally support nor participate in retaliatory strikes that aim to wipe out states and are based on the consideration that the proportional response to Pearl Harbor was the nuclear decimation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. As a friend and ally, at minimum Japan must convince America that any military response needs to be in accordance with international and humanitarian law. And, if at all possible, it should remind the US that violence only breeds more violence, as has been demonstrated time and time again in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The notion suggested by Jim Auer in Taniguchi's essay that Japan's military cooperation in these retaliatory strikes could reverse its infamous past is not only ridiculous but also extremely dangerous. Japanese have paid dearly for their government's attack on Pearl Harbor with hundreds of thousands of deaths. Furthermore, such participation will do nothing to "rid the world of evil" as President Bush claims, but will only invite terrorist reprisals on Japanese soil. As the eminent authority on Middle Eastern affairs, Robert Fisk reminds us that "this is not the war of democracy versus terror that the world will be asked to believe in the coming days. It is also about American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes and US helicopters firing missiles into a Lebanese ambulance in 1996 and American shells crashing into a village called Qana and about a Lebanese militia paid and uniformed by America's Israeli ally hacking and raping and murdering their way through refugee camps."
Japan was right not to cooperate in Clinton's bombing of Sudan in response to the 1997 terrorist attacks carried out against US embassies in Africa. According to Noam Chomsky, "in scale the attacks of September 11, 2001 may not reach the level of Clinton's bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it)."
Japan has already pledged to support the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and will cooperate with the United States in bringing the perpetrators of these major atrocities to justice. However, Japan must not participate in a US military retaliation that could resemble anything close to what was witnessed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki over 50 years ago.