Koide Hiroaki: The shooting of Mr. Abe

Aug 3, 2022
Japan flag
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Translated and introduced by Norma Field (Professor Emerita, University of Chicago).

In the days and months following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Koide Hiroaki, for some 40-years a nuclear engineer at the Kyoto University Reactor Research Institute, became Japan’s preeminent scientific critic of nuclear power and of Abe government policy. On July 9, the day after former Prime Minister Abe’s assassination, Koide wrote and posted on the web the following essay, translated here with his permission and the addition of a brief introduction.

Introduction – A Country Descending into War

On July 8th, two days before the House of Councillors election, Mr. Abe was gunned down and died. I wrote the words that follow shortly thereafter. The fears I had initially have unfortunately been born out: the mass media have only busied themselves lauding Mr. Abe’s achievements. I do not know how much this may have impacted the results of the election. What is clear is that the Liberal Democratic Party has won by a landslide, and the forces favouring Constitutional revision have more than the two-thirds majority necessary for such action.

In war, human beings kill each other. In modern wars, the heaviest damage is inflicted on ordinary people who are non-combatants. War must not be waged, whatever the justification. But Mr. Abe has been awarded the highest decoration of the country, the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, and it is said that a state funeral will be held in the fall (later settled for September 27). Threatening trouble “if the bad guys attack us,” Mr. Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party have steadfastly strengthened the military; they are preparing to revise the Constitution so as to make Japan capable of waging war. And now, many Japanese are supportive of this position. We have fallen on perilous times. My heart sinks.

Thoughts on the Shooting of Mr. Abe (July 9 2022)

Mr. Abe has been gunned down. He is dead. I am not saddened. If I were to name those whom I detest most on the fingers of one hand, Mr. Abe would be included. He oversaw enactment of the Act on Protection of Specially Designated Secrets; the Legislation for Peace and Security, including the right of collective self-defence (“war law”); and the establishment of a criminal conspiracy law. He launched a bid to host the Olympics in Tokyo to divert attention from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Finally, he worked toward Constitutional revision. Everything he did, everything he was attempting to do, had to do with making money and preparing the path for Japan to become a country capable of waging war.

Mr. Abe was the despicable sort of person who was overbearing toward countries and people deemed weak, and obsequious before the powerful. A thorough-going basher of the DPRK (North Korea) who grovelled before Mr. Trump, Mr. Abe purchased vast amounts of weaponry as the latter directed. Lying came to him as naturally as breathing. The Moritomo Gakuen elementary school scandal; the Kake Gakuen veterinary school scandal; the “cherry-blossom party” scandal; the two-per household distribution of manifestly substandard “Abe masks” as Covid-19 relief measure—Mr. Abe and the special-interest groups that were his hangers-on spent tax-payer money as freely as if it were their own. When threatened with exposure, he drew on bureaucratic offices at his beck and call to conceal, alter, and destroy evidence and managed to avoid incrimination. In the course of this, an official was even driven to suicide, but Mr. Abe took no responsibility and got off scot-free. I would like to have exposed each one of his misdeeds and seen to his punishment.

It has been my publicly stated position that every human being is irreplaceable, that it is wrong for any of us to kill or be killed. It is true that I wished Mr. Abe might die before he could commit further misdeeds, but I did not think it permissible to kill him. Rather, I find it regrettable that he was killed before he could be charged for the acts he had already committed.

Many people have called the shooting a “barbarous act not permissible in a democratic society,” but I do not subscribe to such a view. All acts, all events, take place within the great flow of history. To attempt an evaluation of individual acts in isolation from history is erroneous. In any case, it stretches credulity to think that there might still be people who believe Japan to be a democratic nation.

Mr. Abe’s policies drove citizens, especially young people, into a life of poverty and robbed them of the capacity to think about politics. While proclaiming that elections were the heart of democracy, he exploited single-seat constituencies to suit his agenda, and however low the turnout, so long as he won, he proceeded to do as he pleased. He took hard-earned tax money and spent it freely on himself and his family members.

It would be absurd to even contemplate the amount of taxpayer money poured into nuclear power and wasted. All 57 nuclear power plants in Japan were deemed to be safe and licensed when the Liberal Democratic Party held power. Of course, the Fukushima Daiichi plant was also deemed safe and licensed. It is the accident at this plant that created immense harm and innumerable victims such that even now, 11 years later, a “declaration of nuclear emergency” continues to be in effect, and people continue to suffer. Nevertheless, not a single member of the Liberal Democratic Party, Mr. Abe included, nor a single member of the bureaucracy that has supported this party and operated nuclear power plants has taken responsibility. Even the courts are but an agency of the state that has permitted the operation of nuclear power plants. They refuse to acknowledge state responsibility; nor will they hold the chair, president, and other executives of TEPCO accountable. Having learned from Fukushima that however tragic an accident may occur, no one will be held to account, they have already announced their continued support of nuclear power generation. Going forward, they talk of doubling the defence budget and turning Japan into a country that can wage war.

A foolish government for a foolish citizenry. If that defines democracy, perhaps so. But if such is the case, the sorrow of the downtrodden and the oppressed will one day explode. I cannot know what was in the mind of the person who shot Mr. Abe. But, to repeat, I will not subscribe to the view denouncing the act from the outset as “unforgivable barbarism.”

What concerns me, with election day for the House of Councillors just around the corner, is people feeling sorry for Mr. Abe and letting that drive their voting. I am, moreover, apprehensive that this incident could be used as justification for bolstering the Peace and Security and conspiracy laws, making this an even more undemocratic, unseemly nation.

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