Today’s Liberation Day, one of the few holidays celebrated in both North and South Koreas, so it’s a good day to start boycotting Japan.
Outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid his respects at Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Tuesday, the anniversary of his country’s World War Two surrender, a parting shot sure to enrage neighbors China and South Korea.
The Shinto shrine honors Japanese World War Two leaders convicted as war criminals along with 2.5 million war dead and is considered a symbol of Japan’s past militarism in the two Asian countries, where memories of Japanese aggression run deep.1
If the annual Yasukuni visit doesn’t motivate you enough, think of all the Treasury securities Tokyo buys:
MAJOR FOREIGN HOLDERS OF TREASURY SECURITIES
(in billions of dollars)
HOLDINGS 1/ AT END OF PERIOD
Country May 2006
Tokyo is the largest institutional investor in Treasury securities, the main financier of the multinational empire led by Washington, propping up the dollar and paying for Washington’s wars.2
For those of you who are not satisfied with going after imperialists without also going after anti-imperialist Islamists, have I mentioned that Toyota Land Cruisers are the vehicles of choice for the Taliban as well as the empire’s aid agencies, having received Osama bin Laden’s product endorsement?
Mr. bin Laden, like many of the sheiks and princes of Saudi Arabia among whom he grew up, likes Toyota Land Cruisers, as did his military commander, Muhammad Atef, a former Egyptian policeman who is believed to have been killed by American bombing last week.
There is a hierarchy of vehicles among the more important lieutenants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, Mr. bin Laden’s terrorist organization. Not for them anything discreet and durable, to go with the austerity of their faith: nothing but a Land Cruiser will serve. For ordinary fighters, men with long beards and longer barrels on their ubiquitous Kalashnikovs, the vehicle of choice is the Toyota Hilux, a compact pickup truck popular throughout the developing world.3
If that is still not enough, how about this? “Japan consumes 22 percent of Iranian oil exports and is slated to begin development this year of the largest and most modern onshore petroleum fields built in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution [Azadegan4].”5
Does Tokyo not have any regard for human rights violations — its own, Washington’s, and Tehran’s? Do people who buy Japanese goods and governments who court Japanese investors not care about
the prisoners of the empire and its enemy
Click on the chart for a larger view.
SOURCE: The International Centre for Prison Studies, “Entire World — Prison Population Rates per 100,000 of the National Population,” Accessed on 19 July 2006
Download the chart and data as an Excel file.
There’s more to this not-so-secret affinity between Japan and Iran than trade and investment: Iran’s “new conservatives” want to make their country “Islamic Japan”:
After Speaker of the Majles Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri lost the 1997 presidential race to Khatami and the conservatives went on to lose their parliamentary majority in 2000, a subgroup of middle-aged conservatives began to argue for revising the conservatives’ political message. Many on the old right clung to revolutionary tenets denouncing the West and preaching selflessness, with a particular stress on “martyrdom” as the sacrifice of one’s life — literal and figurative — for the sake of Islam. These slogans clashed with the reformists’ focus on opening Iran to the outside world and leaving behind the heroism of revolutionary martyrs in favor of a society in which Islam would not impose self-abnegation and self-denial. The new conservatives saw that the rhetoric of self-sacrifice had become meaningless to the generation born after the revolution — over half of Iran’s total population. In their newspapers, they began to question the old guard’s puritanism and obsession with lamentation and, instead, to borrow themes from the reformists to better compete in the electoral arena. Progressively, expressions of the conservatives’ message sounded less and less like the dolorous exhortations of the old guard. Their widely publicized slogan in the 2004 parliamentary campaign — “a free, developed and joyful Iran” (Iran-e azad, abad vashad) — had no specifically Islamic component. Instead, the conservatives spoke of economic wellbeing (refah-e eqtesadi) and the transformation of Iran into a kind of “Islamic Japan.” While the traditional conservatives had mentioned economic justice, they had normally rejected rhetoric of economic development and material progress in deference to Khomeini’s saying that “economics are for the beasts.”6
Whether you hate America and its imperialists or Iran and its Islamists or both, if you follow their money, as well as the genealogy of their new management philosophy, you eventually get to Japan.
Lastly, if you are worried about Anti-Semitism, “New Anti-Semitism,” Zionist exploitation of “New Anti-Semitism,” and so on, a “Boycott Japan” campaign is an ideal tool to counter them all at once. Your slogan can be, “It Ain’t ‘the Jews’ — It’s the Bank of Japan!”7
1 Linda Sieg, “Japan PM Visits War Shrine on WW2 Anniversary,” Reuters 14 August 2006.
2 The power elite of the empire are all American, but the ruling class of the empire are multinational. Two of the richest individual members of the American ruling class, Bill Gates (Net Worth: $51.0 billion) and Warren Buffett (Net Worth: $40.0 billion), have bet against the dollar, but they have lost money. Tokyo — together with Beijing, the second largest buyer of Treasury securities — has enough money to veto their doubts about the soundness of the empire’s finance. See a fascinating sketch of the triangle trade and investment among Japan, China, and the USA: R. Taggart Murphy, “East Asia’s Dollars,” New Left Review 40, July-August 2006.
3 John F, Burns, “Trucks of the Taliban: Durable, Not Discreet,” New York Times, 23 November 2001,
4 Reuters, “Japan’s Inpex Says No Date Set for Iran Deal,” 10 August 2006.
5 Anthony Faiola and Dafna Linzer, “Japan Wary of Plan for Sanctions Against Iran: U.S. Ally Feels Tug of Financial, Energy Ties,” Washington Post 13 June 2006: A14.
6 Farhad Khosrokhavar, “The New Conservatives Take a Turn,” Middle East Report 233, Winter 2004. I take it that the philosophy of the President of Iran is a mix of new (modernity and development) and old (social justice at home, anti-imperialism abroad).
7 About “New Anti-Semitism” and Zionist exploitation of it, consult Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). The most hilarious marketer of the “Rise of ‘New Anti-Semitism'” is Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D. Among other things, Finkelstein says this about Chesler:
If virtually any criticism of Israel signals anti-Semitism, the sweep of the new anti-Semitism, unsurprisingly, beggars the imagination. Apart from usual suspects like Arabs, Muslims, and the Third World generally, as well as Europe and the United Nations, Chesler’s rogues’ gallery includes “Western-based human rights organizations, academics, intellectuals”; “Western anticapitalist, antiglobalist, pro-environment, antiracist,” and “antiwar” activists; “progressive feminists,” “Jewish feminists” (“American Jewish feminists stopped fighting for women’s rights in America and began fighting for the rights of the PLO”); “European, and left and liberal American media” like Time magazine, the Associated Press, Reuters, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, British Guardian, Toronto Star, the BBC, NPR, CNN, and ABC, as well as many Israelis like the late “Yeshayahu Leibowitz of Hebrew university” — an orthodox Jew and one of Israel’s most revered intellectuals. And “anyone who denies that this is so,” Chesler throws in for good measure, is also “an anti-Semite.” (Beyond Chutzpah, p. 38)
For the power of the Bank of Japan, chew on this: “‘All liquidity starts in Japan, the world’s largest creditor country,’ said Jesper Koll, chief economist for Japan at Merrill Lynch & Co. ‘When rates go up here, rates go up everywhere'” (William Pesek, Jr., “Japan’s Boom May Explode Yen-Carry Trade,” Bloomberg.com, 21 February 2006).
Yoshie Furuhashi is Editor of MRZine.