2015/08/12

A Rescript for the Termination of Nuclear Energy

Over the past six months, Japan has marked several famous anniversaries that occurred during the tragic months leading up to defeat in WWII: the bombing of Tokyo in March, the Battle of Okinawa in June, the atomic bombings in early August, and the surrender on August 15th. During this time, the hawkish government of Prime Minister Abe has re-interpreted the constitution so as to allow Japanese military forces to fight outside of Japanese territory, and it has been pushing steadily to restart nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, the Emperor has been traveling often, domestically and internationally, to express messages of regret for wartime aggression and dedication to the cause of peace. The Emperor is not allowed to comment on government policy, so some have wondered if this effort is a veiled attempt to work against Prime Minister Abe and strengthen the nation’s commitment to pacifism. [1]
One could also wonder if he may be having some private thoughts about how the crisis in the nuclear energy sector resembles the nation’s irrational gamble on war in the 1940s. Most of the military and political leadership knew in 1941 that war with America would end in ruin, yet because of a rotating cast of reckless deciders, and leaders who refused to lead and halt the madness, the government drifted toward Pearl Harbor. Once the war had begun, the sunk costs made it impossible to surrender no matter how obvious it was that Japan could never win. [2]
In the same way, it is quite obvious to anyone who is paying attention that you can’t have a corrupt and derelict nucleocracy operating fifty nuclear reactors on a small land mass of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and typhoons, and leave all the accumulated nuclear waste (which is also bomb fuel) piling up with no way to dispose of it. It is a crime against nature and future generations, an insult to neighboring countries, and a betrayal of Japan’s commitments to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is just as suicidal and irrational as the determination to keep fighting a war that was lost from the day it was declared.
The Abe government wants to resume operating nuclear power plants in a vain hope to recover the sunk costs and to supposedly “stimulate the economy” by selling this dirty technology to the developing world. The dead-ender military men of 1945 wanted to keep fighting, on empty stomachs and fuel tanks, against both a Soviet and American invasion, along with the prospect of a continuing rain of nuclear bombs. For them a national mass suicide seemed to be preferable. They descended on the palace on August 14th to launch a coup, and the vinyl recording of the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War had to be smuggled out in a women’s laundry hamper to be broadcast over the radio.
The irony nowadays is that in the nuclear dilemma there is no one to compare to the few men who had the sense to find a way to surrender. There is no monarch with constitutional powers to step in and make the decision that would avoid a greater catastrophe. I have to wonder if the Emperor has ever wished he could walk over to NHK studios and deliver a speech like the one his father gave on August 15, 1945. I’ve got the draft of it all ready to go (see below).
It is easy to read the surrender speech of 1945 and be dismayed by the evasion of unpleasant topics, such as the recent Soviet invasion of Manchuria, or we can laugh at the understatement of phrases such as “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.” But in seriousness I suggest it may be just this sort of face-saving language that we should look to as a shining example of a way out of our modern world war that is our destruction of nature. I look forward to the day when the five members of the UN Security Council might muster the courage to make similar admissions. Self-deception can get us into vicious circles of tragic errors, but along with plenty of evasion, euphemism and face-saving lies, it can also provide a way out.

(玉音放送 gyokuon-hōsō, Jewel Voice Broadcast)
Imperial Rescript on the Termination of Nuclear Energy (draft proposal, final decision still pending)
To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply on the general trend of the world and the actual conditions pertaining to our Empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure. We have ordered our government to inform the government of the United States, Britain, China, and the Soviet Union that our Empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration (the Potsdam declaration).
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations, as well as for the security and well-being of our subjects, is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by out Imperial ancestors and which lies close to our heart. Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement. But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Although the best has been done by everyone—the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the state, and the devoted service of our hundred million people—the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interests.
The enemy, moreover, has begun to employ a new most cruel bomb, the power which to do damage is indeed incalculable, taking toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation . . . but would lead also to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are we to save millions of our subjects, or ourselves, to atone before the hallowed spirits of our Imperial ancestors? This is the reason we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the Powers.
We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia. The thought of those officers and men who have fallen on the field of battle, of those who have died at their posts of duty, or those who have met with untimely death, and of their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day. The welfare of the wounded and war victims and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood are objects of our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will certainly be great.
We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable. Having been able to save and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly least any outburst of emotion, which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife, which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities and the long road before it. Devote your united strength to construction for the future. Cultivate ways of rectitude, further nobility of spirit, and work with resolution, so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.
To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply on the general trend of the world and the actual conditions pertaining to our nation today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure. We have ordered our government to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency that we accept the provisions of our citizens opposed to our further production of nuclear energy and so-called "nuclear waste."
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations, as well as for the security and well-being of our subjects, is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our ancestors and which lies close to our heart. Indeed, we have recklessly endangered the natural world with our energy policy, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the rights of others to live in an unspoiled environment, or to embark upon aggrandizement at the expense of future generations. But now we have been on this path for nearly sixty years. Although the best has been done by everyone—the gallant efforts of our engineers, scientists, corporate leaders, the diligence and assiduity of our servants of the state, and the devoted service of our hundred twenty million people—the nuclear catastrophe situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of renewable energy technologies have all turned against our interests.
Our competitors, moreover, have begun to employ a new and most innovative technology, the power of which to not do damage is indeed incalculable, taking no toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to create plutonium, it would only result in the ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation . . . but could lead also to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are we to save millions of our subjects, or ourselves, to atone before the hallowed spirits of our ancestors? This is the reason we have ordered this radical departure from our established policy.
We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our citizens, and other nations of the world, who have consistently cooperated with us since the great disasters of the year 2011. The thought of those people who lost their lives, their loved ones or their homes, of those who were terrified and harmed by radiation spreading throughout the world, pains our heart night and day. The welfare of those who have lost their homes and livelihood are objects of our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter would certainly be great if we were to continue down our erroneous path.
We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we come by changing what we thought unchangeable and suffering what is actually bearable. Having been able to save and maintain the structure of the state, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity. Beware most strictly least any outburst of emotion, which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife, which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose confidence of the world. Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities and the long road before it. Devote your united strength to construction for the future. Cultivate ways of rectitude, further nobility of spirit, and work with resolution, so that you may enhance the innate glory of our land and keep pace with the progress of the world.

Notes

[1] Emperor prodded Abe with WWII ‘remorse’ remark, The Japan Times, June 5, 2015. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/06/05/national/politics-diplomacy/emperor-prodded-abe-wwii-remorse-remark-commentator/#.VcoLXFSqpBd

[2] Eri Hotta, 1941: Countdown to Infamy (Vintage, 2014). See location 543/7672, Kindle edition:

“Japan’s fateful decision to go to war can best be understood as a huge national gamble. Social factors made the gamble harder for the leaders to resist, but their final decision to take the plunge was a conscious one. Believing that Europeans fighting Hitler had left their colonial possessions relatively unguarded, some bellicose strategists in the military planning bodies effectively pushed their aggressive proposals forward, convincing their superiors that the more time they took, the fewer resources they would have left to fight with and the more the United States would gain to prepare for what was in their minds an “inevitable” clash—a geopolitical necessity to determine the leader of the Asia-Pacific region… Objectively speaking, it was a reckless strategy of enabling a war by acquiring new territories to feed and fund that war… Not everyone gave up completely on a diplomatic settlement with the United States until fairly late, but nobody was ready to assume responsibility for Japan’s “missing the bus,” in a popular expression of the time, to gain strategic advantage… An unlikely Japanese victory was predicated entirely on external conditions… that were beyond Japan’s control, such as wishful scenarios of the United States quickly suing for peace or of Nazi Germany conquering Europe.”

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