Rightists’ constitution chicanery

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Rightists’ constitution chicanery

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Gen. Douglas MacArthur forced Japan to adopt the Peace Constitution, and the country cannot have armed forces. Since it is not normal, the Constitution should be revised to restore sovereign power. So argues Japan’s right wing, and many average Japanese support the idea.

Is it true? Did MacArthur really force Japan to have a pacifist constitution? Did his General Headquarters (GHQ) actually use its military authority? In fact, that’s a lie. The right wing of Japan created and spread this myth about the constitution.

As a war criminal country, Japan had to scrap the militaristic Meiji Constitution upon surrendering to Allied Powers. It had to draft a new constitution corresponding to the Potsdam Declaration, which mandates abandonment of the militaristic system and absolute monarchy, and implementation of democracy. Initially, MacArthur entrusted the Japanese government to create a new constitution. State Minister Joji Matsumoto initiated the draft of the Constitution in October, 1945. However, Matsumoto stuck with the Meiji Constitution framework, including imperial sovereignty, without consulting the GHQ. Mainichi Shimbun reported the contents of the draft as a scoop. So MacArthur rejected it and had his GHQ staff write a completely new document.

The Constitution Research Association, a research group of progressive scholars, contributed to the GHQ’s draft of the new constitution. Notable members included legal experts Yasuzo Suzuki and Iwasaburo Takano. Thanks to their contribution, the GHQ completed the draft of the Peace Constitution in nine days and presented it to MacArthur. Their draft became the framework of the current Constitution of Japan.

Their story was made into a 2007 movie, “The Blue Sky of Japan,” directed by Yutaka Osawa. The film depicts the making of the Peace Constitution by the Japanese intellectuals who pursued peace and human rights.

Also, it is not true the Peace Constitution was forcibly enacted. The GHQ neither forced nor pressured the Diet to pass it. The House of Peers and House of Representatives of the Imperial Diet reviewed and passed the Constitution properly. In the process, multiple revisions were made. The proposal for unicameral legislature was changed to a bicameral legislature. Also, lawmakers were initially against the ban on having a military, but Hitoshi Ashida of the constitutional revision committee calmed the opposition.

After three months of discussion, the House of Representatives passed the Peace Constitution on October 7, 1946. At the main session, Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida said, “The revision of the Constitution that will become the founding stone in building a new Japan was finalized after passionate and careful review and appropriate revision by the House of Representatives and House of Peers.” During his one-minute speech, lawmakers gave three applauses. If the new constitution was forced by the GHQ, would it garner such strong support? This is not a behind-the-scenes story. It can be found on the Web sites of the Japanese House of Representatives and the Diet Library.

Are the rightists in Japan suffering from group amnesia? Why do they claim the constitution was forced upon Japan? The theory is leading up to Shinzo Abe’s “Hollywood action.” He seems to want to tackle Article 96 on constitutional revision to scrap Article 9, which prohibits an act of war by the state and having armed forces with war potential. A constitutional revision requires a two-thirds vote in both houses, but he wants to lower it to half.

It is a serious provocation against the Constitution. Civilized states have stricter requirements on revising constitutions than on other laws to prevent infringement on basic rights by reckless state power. That’s the intent of a rigid constitution. Making a constitutional revision to lower the requirements for revision ignores this purpose completely. Abe seems to be underestimating the citizens. Is the Constitution on the same level as traffic and food hygiene laws? Can the Constitution change shape like Play-Doh? If there were constitutional scholars in Japan, they would never allow this revision. Moreover, Article 99 of the Peace Constitution defines the duty of cabinet members to respect and defend the Constitution.

Abe has said that when he retires, he would like to become a director and make a Yakuza movie. Instead of acting out such a low-class movie, I recommend him to watch “The Blue Sky of Japan,” if he is able to understand the essence of it.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Nam Yoon-ho
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