Japan’s Continued Lurch Toward Militarism Prompts Public Outcry

‘If Japan becomes another regular nation which goes to war like the United States, Japan will lose its singular brand,’ says protester

by Deirdre Fulton

Inciting public protests and a walkout by opposition lawmakers, Japan’s lower house of parliament passed a set of controversial security bills on Thursday, paving the way for the country’s military to potentially fight abroad for the first time since World War II.

The move offered further evidence of the pacifist nation’s march toward militarism, with one protester telling NBC News: “This is going to make it easier to go to war. It’s wrong.” According to news outlets, hundreds of protesters stood outside the parliament building on Thursday, chanting anti-war slogans during the debate and vote. Some held banners that read: “No to war legislation!”

“By upholding our constitution, I think we’ve earned the respect and trust from the world… and its something that has been carefully protected for 70 years. If Japan becomes another regular nation which goes to war like the United States, Japan will lose its singular brand.”
—Norikazu Hamada, protester

According to Irish Times reporter David McNeill in Tokyo, most members of Japan’s opposition parties walked out of the chamber in protest before the vote on Thursday afternoon. Some shouted “shame” and held signs calling the bills “unforgivable.” 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose ruling coalition put forth the bills, wants Japan’s armed forces to join in military activities abroad and defend allies under attack—principally the United States—a policy Abe hasdubbed “proactive pacifism.”

The New York Times reports that “Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them had it been free to act.”

But legal scholars counter that Japan’s constitution explicitly disavows war. Article 9 of the nation’s constitution, which came into effect on May 3, 1947, states: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

Opposition lawmaker Yukihisa Fujita told CNN this week that the change will “damage the way Japanese people and country is viewed. It will damage the view of Japanese as a diplomatic nation.”

And according to the Associated Press, polls show about 80 percent of Japanese oppose the bills and the majority believe the legislation is unconstitutional. Sheila Smith, writing at the Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound blog, states that “[c]itizen activism against the prime minister’s policies is spreading, and on the streets and in town halls across Japan, there is a push to build a coalition of opposition to Abe’s effort at defense policy reform.”

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partners hold a two-thirds majority, which is needed to approve bills, in the lower house. The upper house, where the LDP and partners also hold a majority, now has 60 days to rule on the bills. Even if it rejects them, the bills would be sent back to the more powerful lower house, which can then pass them into law.

According to the Japan Times:

One of the two security bills will establish a new permanent law to allow the [Self-Defense Forces, or SDF] to provide logistic support for a foreign military engaging in U.N.-backed operations, while the second will amend 10 security-related laws and remove various restrictions on the SDF’s operations.

The latter bill would allow Japan to use the right of collective self-defense as defined under the United Nations charter, or the right to use force to aid an ally under attack even if Japan itself is not.

Japan marks 70 years since the end of the second World War next month.

“By upholding our constitution, I think we’ve earned the respect and trust from the world… and its something that has been carefully protected for 70 years,” said 34-year-old protester Norikazu Hamada on Thursday. “If Japan becomes another regular nation which goes to war like the United States, Japan will lose its singular brand.”

Unsurprisingly, the United States has supported Abe’s push. “We certainly welcome, as we’ve said before, Japan’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the alliance and to play a more active role in regional and international security activities,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby reportedly said Wednesday.

Late last week, Reuters reported that Japan is interested in joining a 12-nation NATO missile building consortium that would give Tokyo its first taste of a multinational defense project. The news outlet wrote: “Two Japanese sources familiar with the initiative said discussions in Tokyo were at an early stage, although joining the consortium would dovetail with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s more muscular security agenda, which included the lifting last year of a decades-old ban on arms exports.”


Source: Japan’s Continued Lurch Toward Militarism Prompts Public Outcry

Amid Torture Scandal, APA Officials Step Down

American Psychological Association leaders, including CEO, follow ethics director out the door

by: Nadia Prupis

Amid ongoing revelations that the American Psychological Association (APA) aided the U.S. government’s secret torture program, several APA officials on Tuesday announced their resignation from the organization, including its chief executive officer.

Dr. Norman Anderson, who became CEO of the APA in 2003, said he was leaving in order to “allow the association to take another step in the important process of organizational healing,” according to a press release.

Also stepping down from their posts are deputy CEO Dr. Michael Honaker, who will leave on August 15, and communications director Rhea K. Farberman.

Those three officials, along with several other senior APA members, were named in a 542-page report released last month by law firm Sidley Austin examining the APA’s role in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s torture program.

Honaker supervised the APA’s ethics director, lawyer and psychologist Stephen Behnke. Behnke left his post last week.

As David Luban, founding editor of Just Security and Georgetown University Law Center professor, wrote in an op-ed on Monday, the report—known as the Hoffman report for Sidley Austin’s lead investigator, David Hoffman—portrayed Behnke as “the impresario of the organization’s campaign to depict itself as a human rights champion, while quietly permitting its members to engage in coercive interrogations and shielding them from ethics complaints.”

“If the APA is taking steps to right this ship, the departure of the people who were implicated [in the Hoffman report] is essential,” Luban told Common Dreams.

In one instance outlined in the report (pdf), Behnke told Honaker that he had done contract work for the Department of Defense (DOD), giving paid ethics lectures to agents participating in interrogation training at a U.S. Army base.

“Honaker did not provide this information to CEO Norman Anderson or the Board,” the report states. “Honaker said that it did not occur to him that the Board would need to know or discuss this information, because he saw it as a standard example of Behnke providing ethics training to an important group of psychologists, as he does in a variety of settings.”

“If the APA is taking steps to right this ship, the departure of the people who were implicated [in the Hoffman report] is essential.”
—David Luban, Just Security

Behnke’s communications with Anderson, Honaker, Farberman, and others at that time showed an intention to curry favor with intelligence agencies.

The APA’s involvement in the CIA torture program hasbeen known for some time, but the report made clear the extent of the association’s role. In another case, Debra Dunivin, then a member of the Guantanamo Bay Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT), pushed for the inclusion of certain military and DOD officials on the APA’s Psychological Ethics and National Security (PENS) task force.

Dunivin’s husband, APA practice directorate chief Russ Newman, acted as an “observer” to the task force, ostensibly to provide input to the creation of interrogation guidelines—but, as the report states, no one at the APA brought up the “obvious” conflict of interest arising from Newman and Dunivin’s marriage. Neither Anderson, Honeker, Behnke, Gilfoyle, APA President Ron Levant, or APA President-Elect Gerald Koocher, took any steps to “disclose or resolve the conflict.”

But that was far from the only problem found during the Hoffman investigation. During one meeting of the PENS task force, Farberman reportedly “made comments about not implying that torture occurred at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay.”

At another time, Dunivin reportedly “conveyed to Farberman the need to stay the course and place BSCTs in a ‘positive light’ in APA’s communications efforts, Farberman said,” according to the report.

And it was business as usual on Tuesday, with the APA quietly announcing Anderson, Honaker, and Farberman’s resignations with little to indicate that the torture scandal influenced their decisions.

“Ms. Farberman and the Board are in agreement that going forward APA plans to hire a chief communications officer who can provide a fresh start to the association’s communications needs as it grapples with the problems identified by the Hoffman report,” the press release stated.

Earlier this month, psychologists Stephen Soldz and Steven Reizner, who have led the charge for the last decade to remove psychologists from the interrogation business, delivered remarks to the APA board about the Hoffman report which outlined necessary steps to rectify the association’s influence on the torture program. That included the firing of Behnke, Anderson, Honaker, and Farberman, among other staff members.

“But,” Soldz and Reizner added, “housecleaning is a small piece of what is necessary for full accountability: How do we hold leadership and governance itself accountable? How do we answer the question, how did this happen and what must we do to insure it doesn’t happen again?”

Source: Amid Torture Scandal, APA Officials Step Down | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Facing ‘Retirement Crisis,’ Sanders Leads Charge for Social Security Expansion

Concerted campaign includes letter signed by 70 lawmakers and petition signatures from more than 2.5 million Americans

by: Deirdre Fulton

On the eve of a once-in-a-decade White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA)—and in the face of what they describe as the “impending retirement savings crisis facing this nation”—a group of 70 Democratic lawmakers led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) on Sunday called on President Barack Obama to expand Social Security benefits.

“We write today to request your help in ensuring that Americans continue to have sufficient resources to maintain their standard of living in old age,” said 69 U.S. House members, plus Sens. Sanders, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in a letter (pdf) sent to the White House Sunday evening. 

Citing widespread and bipartisan support among the American public, the letter urges Obama to “include proposals to expand Social Security benefits for millions of Americans in your policy brief at the upcoming Conference.”

In fact, the lawmakers continue, “[a]s Social Security is affordable, universal, efficient, secure, portable, distributionally fair, and popular, expanding its modest benefits should be the number one retirement security recommendation of the White House Conference on Aging.”

A coalition of progressive civil society groups echoed that call on Monday, when they delivered more than 2.5 million petition signatures also demanding that the Obama Administration prioritize Social Security expansion when crafting aging policy.

The Hill reports:

Social Security has divided Obama and his liberal allies on Capitol Hill. The president infuriated many Democrats in 2013 when he unveiled a 2014 budget package that would calculate future cost-of-living increases in Social Security using the chained consumer price index (CPI), which would reduce benefits over time.

The move was largely political: Obama had included the provision as an olive branch to Republicans, who have long championed benefit cuts under Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the name of reducing spending and shrinking government. But the provision did nothing to bring GOP leaders to the budget negotiating table.

Although Obama had emphasized that he would consider the chained-CPI provision only as part of a package deal that included tax hikes, many liberal Democrats were nonetheless outraged that he would open the door to cutting seniors benefits.

As Eric Kingson, co-director of Social Security Works and co-author of the new book Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All,wrote at the Huffington Post last week: “Most American workers face a personal retirement income crisis. Absent expanding Social Security, they will be unable to maintain their standards of living when they grow old.”

Kingson urged WHCOA delegates to support expansion provisions including:

  • Modest across the board increase in monthly benefits;
  • Larger minimum benefit payments for low wage-workers;
  • Caregiver credits to offset some of the cost of caring for children, ill or family members with disabilities;
  • Use of the more accurate Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) to calculate [cost of living adjustments].

“If the goal is to strengthen economic security, WHCOA delegates should make clear that the richest nation at the richest time in the world’s history should make a down payment to provide greater retirement income security for today’s and tomorrow’s seniors,” Kingson wrote in a post co-authored with former Social Security Works legislative director Molly Checksfield. “Addressing the retirement income crisis and significant income problems of today’s retirees in a way that supports the expansion of the nation’s most successful and popular domestic policy will resonate most effectively with the American people.”

Last month, Democratic presidential candidate Sanders lashed out in response to Republican rival Jeb Bush’s suggestion that the U.S. raise the retirement age—which economists have said amounts to a benefit cut.

“I have a hard time understanding what world Gov. Bush and his billionaire backers live in,” Sanders, founder of the Senate Defending Social Security Caucus, said in early June. “When the average Social Security benefit is just $1,328 a month, and more than one-third of our senior citizens rely on Social Security for virtually all of their income, our job must be to expand benefits, not cut them.”

Source: Facing ‘Retirement Crisis,’ Sanders Leads Charge for Social Security Expansion | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community