Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Age of Indiscipline

Is Watanabe Yoshimi even in the Liberal Democratic Party anymore? Here he in an interview, printed in the Friday edition of the Tokyo Shimbun:

"Ideally, the reformation of the political world calls for the breakup up of the LDP and the breakup of the DPJ, with the realignment then taking place based on ideals and policies. That cannot be done all at once. Therefore it would be good for us to craft an agreement that, on the basis of the results of a general election, we will put together a Crisis Management Cabinet combining the #1 and #2 parties."
Why has the LDP leadership not kicked him out for calling the party brain dead? For categorizing it as in desperate need of breakup? For joining with the opposition in demanding an election? He has been ratcheting up his attacks on the Prime Minister and the party...and the leadership does nothing.

But then, no one seems to held responsible for anything anymore.

General Tamogami Toshio, the chief of staff of the Air Self Defense Forces, submits an essay that demands a repudiation of the postwar diplomatic and political order (to a rigged private contest, no less)...and the best the government can do is demote him with honors, full pension and lump sum separation fee intact.

Fifteen members of Special Forces Unit gang up to kill one of their own who sought a transfer another unit...and no charges are filed.

Three sumo wrestlers beat a teenager to death...and they receive suspended sentences because, as Roy Berman an anonymous commenter points out, the judge accepted the notion that the young men were only following orders.

The Diet passes just 12 bills. Twelve. In almost four months of extraordinary session. It is slated to get through only more before the December 25 close of the session. Then it's party time until the start of the regular session in the later half of January.

We live in an era without accountability.


Jun Okumura said...

MTC: You should be able to put together a string of incidents to make a similar case for the United States as well, starting with many things that have happened during the course of the war in Iraq. But does that mean we’re all living in an “Age of Indiscipline?” Let me do a rundown on the cases you present for Japan:

I don’t understand what you mean by demoted “with honors”, but a demotion is a demotion—well, actually, he was relieved of his duties but was not demoted in rank as the Japanese equivalent of a three-star general (we don’t have four-star generals, correct me if I’m wrong), but you see my point. Had the authorities went on to subject him to administrative sanctions, I believe that he would have received nothing more than a slap on the wrist for a procedural infraction, and rightly so. I’ve come increasingly to believe that the authorities declined to do only partly because of their professed claim that they did not want to keep on the public dole while the administrative procedure dragged on for months. My guess is that they feared that, as the issue remained in the public spotlight, criticism would grow over the fact that the they had appointed a person who was fairly outspoken about his views to a position of political sensitivity (if only because he and his office had to work with their U.S. counterparts). You can be sure that the authorities will be very careful in vetting current and future candidates for similar promotion.

The hazing deaths are cases of the ritual violence incorporated in mainly fraternal societies dedicated to physical conflict gone horribly wrong. (I say “mainly” with the gender-transcendent Abu Ghraib in mind.) I’m not aware that the criminal authorities have given up on the JMSDF case just yet, but I do agree that the Japanese courts tend to consider ritual violence in otherwise legitimate communities as mitigating circumstances as opposed to that in socially unacceptable ones. Thus, the sumo wrestlers get off with suspended sentences (assuming the prosecutors did not file an appeal) while yakuzas get life sentences (or death by hanging in the case of multiple murders). Of course there’s the matter of intent, but you see my point. The next time a similar case occurs in a sumo stable (or the JSDF), I’m pretty sure that the Japanese courts will come down more strongly on the offenders. That is how the Japanese system tend to work.

The lack of meaningful action in the Diet has nothing to do with the above; it’s totally the outcome of the political tactics of the moment. Recall that previous sessions of the “twisted” Diet have been far more productive, at least in terms of the number of legislative bills passed.

Is there anything positive to be gleaned from these events other than the fact that the legitimate communities will do their best to make sure that they won’t happen again. But do they add up to an “era without accountability”? I think the case remains to be made.

Anonymous said...

I must admit, I was rather startled when I saw you were quoting me for something I had never said.

As for war crimes, isn't just following orders the standard defense by the rank and file? Modern international war crimes law allegedly calls on soldiers to disobey unlawful orders on the battlefield, but are there seriously any cases of that happening in a professional military?

The lack of accountability regarding US actions also remains to be made. I don't seriously expect the incoming administration to investigate and perhaps prosecute government officials and military officers involved in the planning and execution of illegal torture, but we should at least give the Obama people a window to prove us wrong before rushing to condemn. Of course, that does not mean pressure shouldn't be put upon them to do so. Condemning IS more fun though.

Anonymous said...

I should clarify my last statement to say "illegal acts such as torture." I don't want to imply that there is or should be such a thing as legal torture.