Since an outbreak of the terrorist attacks, the Japanese media have enthusiastically covered this unprecedented disaster just like the rest of the media in the world. And like everyone else, Japanese people also feel deep sympathy for all the victims and rage against these horrendous acts.
Although we share the same kind of fundamental emotions---fury, sorrow and agony, each individualıs opinions beyond these feelings are varied. My journalist friend says, "Although public opinion here understands the necessity of a retaliatory attack, many people are concerned that things will escalate to a much more destructive, large-scale war, as Americansı patriotism mounts. There is an opinion that the Americaıs attitudes to impose their values on other countries would only cause repulsion among Muslims. I personally think that America should retaliate, but it would be an extremely difficult mission for them to hunt down the target which even the Soviet Union could not handle."
A Christian friend of mine thinks that any kind of eye-for-an-eye retaliation that results in killing people is absurd. She explains, "Once I saw an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. which stated that America prayed for the success of explosion of the atomic bombs when they dropped them in Japan. I simply cannot understand people praying for the success of killing. You can pray for peace, but you should not pray to God for the success of retaliation in war. "
On the other hand, there are hard-liners who believe that the effort to find the solution without physical retaliation is not appropriate. A friend of mine who is an engineer says that those people who insist that things should not be settled by violence, but by negotiations are too naïve and cowardly.
The fact that this atrocity has been compared to Pearl Harbor and Kamikaze attack has made Japanese people uncomfortable. We were concerned that people in the world would be reminded of what we did during the war and associate us with these total inhumane terrorists. And it is also tragic that many Arabic American are experiencing kind of harassment that many Japanese Americans experienced after Pearl Harbor. (1)
My lawyer friend, who is an expert on U.S.-Japan business transactions, analyzed that it is quite natural that these attacks are compared to Pearl Harbor. He says, "the historical impact of these attacks is enormous, as they were never attacked on their main land by another race."
As shown above, general feelings of the Japanese people toward America are very complex. We are thankful that Americans supported our economic recovery after the war and that the Americaıs military umbrella has provided us security. On the other hand, there are a fair number of people who feel that we have been too submissive to Americans, and we give in to their demands blindly. Repeated rapes by U.S. soldiers in Okinawa have fueled anti-American sentiment among Japanese people.
Coincidentally, the debates on these terrorist attacks seem to have triggered the eruption of a Japanese love and hateı feeling towards America in a twisted way. We support the U.S. and we agree that we should fight against terrorism too. But through the discourse concerning these attacks, some of us find ourselves ending up more critical of the U.S. and the ramification of its foreign policies than before.
"Why do Americans always want to mind other peoplesı business?" "Why donıt American people consider the inability of its government to save their country from terrorism? The government is calling for retaliation so that they can distract peoplesı attention from its failure. Why donıt they notice that?" "Why did Americans become this fanatic patriots?"
These are examples of general criticisms and questions that have been expressed in Japan. There are also a couple of things that I personally feel uncomfortable about.
Firstly, the American media, especially national TV network coverage does not appear to be keen on addressing the fundamental question: why did this happen or why have many terrorist groups in the world targeted the U.S.? Most of the news coverage has lacked a historical and analytical point of view and I feel that the tenor of the media argument in favor of eye-for-an-eye retaliation is too naïve, if it is not accompanied with the fundamental discussion of the cause of these terrorist attacks. Resorting to force without examining the root of terrorism will spawn a cycle of revenge.
American people believe in justice, freedom and a democratic society; so do other western "civilized" countries. But there are many other societies that do not share the same outlook. And I simply do not know to what extent these "civilized" countries can impose their rules upon other so called "uncivilized" countries and try to "enlighten" them. The key issue is, as Huntington points out, if different civilizations each believe in their own legitimacy and justice and are doomed to clash against each other, how could we reconcile our differences and lead the world to peace?
Of course this horrendous atrocity should never be justified by any means, but it is too simplistic to draw a conclusion that "we have been absolutely right and do not have anything to be blamed for." It is the U.S. military that supported and trained Afghan guerrillas to fight against communists. It is the U.S., the leader of the free world, which supports undemocratic authoritarian governments in Middle Eastern countries. Unless every American faces the hypocrisy of American diplomacy and reflects on what it means to be an American, finding a constructive solution will be difficult.
Another thing that bothers me is this bursting patriotism that has swept the nation. Part of it naturally arose from the people, themselves, and part of it was fuelled by the constant media coverage emphasizing the importance of unity and solidarity under the stars and stripes. This patriotic sentiment seems extremely shocking to Japanese eyes who identify cars and trucks bearing the national flag as belonging to ultra right-wing extremists. It is hard to imagine Tokyo filled with national flags. It is a shame that we Japanese are not taught to respect its flag, national anthem or even our own country. I do not say that patriotism is wrong. But we, Japanese have been careful about expressing this kind of feeling, because we know from history that excessive patriotism lead to disastrous world war.
What is nationalism? What is patriotism? Are they good or bad? Being exposed to so much of it has made me very confused. Maybe it is a good time to think about these basic and profound questions. Maybe I am just envious and feel excluded that I cannot share the same spiritual uplift.
And what is new to me is that the media seems to be overtly uncritical of the American governmentıs policy. I have heard the President praised by the media in many occasions but hardly heard any criticisms of him. Is the American media this pro-government all the time? Or maybe because it is a time of national crisis, the media stopped criticizing? The fact that terrorist attacks were so well-planned, yet were totally unexpected means there must have been something wrong with this governmentıs security policy. The American government spends billions of dollars for defense, including expenses for nuclear weapons, yet it was incapable of preventing this primitive form of violence. Loose airport security, old-fashioned national security strategy which basis was formed in the cold war era, lack of information gathering skills------who should be responsible for all these? It seems that Americans and media here are too tolerant of their government.
2. Media Coverage in Japan on the Terrorist Attacks
The magnitude and the impact of these attacks have captured the Japanese mediaıs attention from the outset of the tragedy. When the news broke on the morning of September 11th, it was around 9 to 10 oıclock in the evening in Japan---just about the time many Japanese businessmen and women were returning home from a long, tiring day of work and were starting to relax in front of the TV. The live pictures of the collapsing twin towers transmitted from the US stunned the whole country instantly. A shock wave spread immediately and the people were engulfed by terror and grief.
The following morning, the Japanese government, which claims to be a strategic ally of the United States, swiftly announced that it "will spare no effort in providing necessary assistance and cooperation." (Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, at the Meeting of the National Security Council, September 12, 2001.) (2)
Interpretation of this "necessary assistance and cooperation" varied considerably among media. In particular, the Yomiuri Shimbun(3), the most-circulated national paper(10 million copies a day) and its rival, the Asahi Shimbun(4), the second largest paper, have shown stark contrast in their opinions. It is no wonder that they express conflicting views time to time, since Yomiuri is known to be conservative, whereas Asahi has been labeled leftist.
Yomiuri, a fervent advocate of the Japan-US military and security alliance, has repeatedly tried to rally public opinion to support US actions in every way.
"The battle against the horrific terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of thousands in the United States is not a war that should be waged by that country alone. It is a war that must be fought jointly by the international community to meet the challenge against peace, freedom and democracy. Japan must fulfill its maximum duty as a member of the democratic worldDuring the Gulf War, which was fought just after the end of the Cold War, Japan provided financial aid piecemeal, thereby disappointing the US and causing the international community to lose confidence in Japan.Japanıs role should not necessarily be limited to providing financial assistance and supplying materials." (Editorial, The Yomiuri Shimbun, 9/16/1001)
What Yomiuri has fretted over is the fact that the role of Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) has been limited by the Constitution and that the Constitution does not permit the government to dispatch armed forces to foreign lands, seas and airspace for the purpose of using force. So Japan could never join military actions abroad even if waged under the UN flag. Yomiuri think that this restriction has prevented Japan from "fulfilling its obligation and becoming a full-fledged member of the international community."
Thus it has repeatedly proposed to revise the Constitution to loosen the restriction on the use of the SDFıs weapons and give the SDF more authority to guard global security.
Yomiuriıs hawkish views continue: "What worries us is that there are voices in this country calling for a cautious response with statements such as Revenge invites revenge and is therefore uselessı and "Japan will become a target of terrorism if it joins hands with the United States. But are such views plausible?" (Editorial, The Yomiuri Shimbun, 9/16/2001)
By calling for the provision of whole-hearted support to the US, it seems that Yomiuri tries to sway public opinion in favor of more affirmative and aggressive actions, which inevitably require revisions to the whole set of rules concerning the deployment of the military forces.
Yomiuri asserts that Japanıs support of the US should be complemented by "legislative reform." Yomiuriıs core position is summarized below.
"A major hindrance to support efforts is the governmentıs interpretation of the right to collective self-defense, that is, the right to use force to prevent armed attack on a foreign country with which it has close relations, even when Japan is not under direct attack. For years, successive governments have said that Japan has that right, but that the Constitution bans the nation from exercising that right. Japan will be the odd man out in the international community if it refuses to play a responsible role in the ongoing crisis. And simply citing restrictions imposed by the Constitution on its right to collective self-defense wonıt cut it. Japan must resolve to end its self-imposed restriction on the right to collective self-defense." (Editorial, The Yomiuri Shimbun, 9/16/2001)
Compared with the Yomiuriıs militant tone, Asahiıs views appear to be much more pacifistic. Asahi is, in general, critical of any U.S. retaliation through the use of force.
"The U.S. should try to find ways to harness cooperation, rather than sticking single-mindedly to eye-for-an-eyeı retaliation..it comes as no surprise when President George W. Bush pledges to find those responsible and bring them to justice.ı But a military response alone poses the risk of getting caught up in a vicious cycle of retaliation following retaliation." (Editorial, Asahi Shimbun 9/13/2001)
It is interesting to note that Asahiıs tone is often more cynical and harsher referring to U.S. policies, in general.
"What is beyond our comprehension is that the United States, which had called on other countries to be on the alert for terrorism, failed to get wind of such a massive terrorist plan beforehand..There is a limit to what can be done to fight international terrorism unilaterally even for the mighty United States. The United States should try to find ways to cooperate with the United Nations generally, and regional organizations and allies, in particular, rather than sticking single-mindedly to eye-for-an-eyeı retaliation.
Asahiıs pacifism penetrates its whole news coverage. It suggests that the US ought to pursue non-violent solutions, such as diplomatic negotiations.
"Fighting violence with violence will only hurt U.S. leadership and Americaıs clout in the international community. The unenviable task of Japan as a friend is to try to make the U.S. realize the folly of revenge.(Editorial, The Asahi Shimbun, 9/14/2001) "Diplomatic channels and efforts to dry up financial sources of revenue for terrorists are just as important as military action. It is much better for the world community to put their heads together than to conduct military action alone."(Editorial, The Asahi Shimbun, 9/22/2001)
Asahi criticizes the States for its unilateral attitudes and suggests that it should act harmoniously with its partner nations under some international framework and rules.
"Even if the U.S. uses forces single-handedly, it must win the full support of the international community in advance. If the U.S. gives the impression of avenging the terrorist attacks by force alone, this will impair solidarity among the coalition partners..U.S. should not make light of the international framework (such as the UN) in carrying out the warı against terroristsAt the same time, it should not be forgotten that an act of war by any nation is strictly regulated by international law.Terror is a challenge to all humanity. The fight against it cannot be fought without the cooperation of the international community" (Editorial, The Asahi Shimbun, 9/24/2001) "Even though the Americanıs rage is understandable, unbridled military action is meaningless and dangerous. For the international community to jointly support U.S. military action and at the same to hold it in check collectively, the U.N. Security Council must be consulted."(Editorial, 9/22/2001)
Asahi is also critical of the Japanese governmentıs attitude toward the American government. With respect to the Japanese prime ministerıs pledge of support to the U.S., Asahi asserts that "it was very rash and indiscreet of him to endorse U.S. reprisals before knowing exactly what Washington intends to do."(Editorial, The Asahi Shimbun, 9/14/2001)
Asahi has shown serious concern over the governmentıs plans to enact legislative changes authorizing the dispatch of the SDF to provide logistical support, mainly for U.S. forces.
"Japan must support the U.S. endeavor, but not to the extent that this country is actually part of the American military force. Also, its actions must be within the framework of our Constitution.A decision to allow the SDF to supply arms and ammunition sharply deviates from what has previously been permitted under the ConstitutionDuring the Persian Gulf War, American officials reproached Japan for failing to make a tangible contribution to the war effort.ı Apparently, the government this time hurriedly put together its plan for supporting the US, out of fear of making the same mistake. It obviously intends to make widespread changes to this countryıs basic security and defense policy without even bothering to discuss the issues very fully. If that is true, the prime minister is seriously at fault. (Editorial, the Asahi Shimbun, 9/21/2001)
Being persistently dovish, Asahi argues that Japan should "not allow itself to be driven into reckless support of U.S. military actions, but should try to make the U.S. realize the folly of revenge."(Editorial, The Asahi Shimbun, 9/14/21).
As shown above, these two major national newspapersı views are completely opposite. These schizophrenic perceptions may well reflect the Japanese peopleıs complex love and hateı feelings toward the U.S. that persist even today.
(1) On the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II; http://www.janm.org/nrc/
(2) On the reaction of the Japanese government to the terrorist assaults; http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/saigai/terojiken/index_e.html
(3) The Yomiuri Shimbun;
(4) The Asahi Shimbun: