As many peace advocates have probably already heard, this year’s G7 Summit will be held in Japan between the 19th and the 21st of May, in the City of Hiroshima, where many tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, were killed by President Harry S. Truman on the 6th of August, 1945.
By Joseph Essertier
Hiroshima is often nicknamed “the City of Peace,” but the peace of Hiroshima will soon be disturbed by visits from dangerous agents of state violence, people like U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron. Of course, they must advocate peace while they are there, but it is unlikely that they will actually do something concrete, such as getting Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin to sit down in the same room together and start talking, maybe about some agreement along the lines of the old Minsk II agreement. What they do will partly depend on what we do, i.e., what citizens demand of their government officials.
In June of last year, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, “who led the West’s imposition of sanctions on Russia in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea, said the Minsk agreement had calmed the situation and gave Ukraine time to become what it is today.” In November, she went even further in an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit, when she said that the agreement had enabled Kiev “to become stronger.” Well, a “strong” country that is strong in the sense of possessing a capacity for death and destruction on a vast scale might gain some security in that old, primitive way, but it can also become a threat to its neighbors. In the case of Ukraine, it has had the blood-drenched, killing-machine NATO standing behind it, backing it up, for many years.
In Japan, where many hibakusha (victims of nuclear bombs and nuclear accidents) continue to live and tell their stories, and where their family members, descendants, and friends are still suffering from what was done to them, there are a few organizations who know what time of day it is. One of these is the Executive Committee of the Citizens’ Rally to Question the G7 Hiroshima Summit. They have published a joint statement including the following strong criticisms. (World BEYOND War has signed on to it, as one can see by looking at the page with the original Japanese statement).
Obama and Abe Shinzō (then Japan’s Prime Minister) closely collaborated in May 2016 to politically exploit the spirits of the nuclear holocaust victims of Hiroshima in order to strengthen the US–Japan military alliance. They did so without offering any apology to the victims of war crimes committed by each nation during the war. In Japan’s case, war crimes included numerous atrocities that the Japanese Imperial Forces committed against many Chinese and other Asians in addition to the Allied soldiers. In the US case, these included extensive fire and atomic bombings of many cities and towns throughout the Japanese Archipelago. [This year] Hiroshima will again be used for deceptive and corrupt political purposes. The outcome of the G7 summit meeting is already clear from the outset: citizens will be manipulated by empty political sham. The Japanese government continues to deceive its citizens with a fake promise that Japan is working hard for ultimate nuclear abolition, while touting itself as the only country to have suffered in the atomic bombing. In reality, Japan continues to rely entirely on the extended nuclear deterrence of the US. The fact that Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio chose the city of Hiroshima, his constituency, for the G7 summit meeting is nothing more than a political scheme to display the pretence of an anti-nuclear stance. By emphasising the nuclear threat from Russia, China and North Korea, the Kishida government may be trying to justify nuclear deterrence, to allow this pretext to deeply permeate the public mind without the people’s awareness. (Author’s italics).
And as most peace advocates understand, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence is a false promise that has only made the world a more dangerous place.
Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio may even invite South Korean President YOON Suk-yeol, who recently came up with the brilliant plan “to use local [Korean] funds to compensate Koreans enslaved by Japanese companies before the end of World War II, saying it’s crucial for Seoul to build future-oriented ties with its former colonial overlord.” But must victims compensate other victims? Should thieves and perpetrators of violence be allowed to hold onto 100% of the wealth that they stole? Of course not, but Kishida (and his master Biden) appreciate Yoon for ignoring the demand for human rights justice in his own country, and instead responding to the demands of wealthy and powerful officials of the wealthy and powerful countries America and Japan.
During the G7 Summit, millions of people in East Asia will be very conscious of the history of the Empire of Japan and Western empires. The above-mentioned joint statement reminds us what the G7 represents:
Historically, the G7 (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada plus the European Union, except for Canada), were the six countries with the most powerful military, up until the first half of the 20th century. Five of these countries (US, UK, Germany, France and Japan) still account for the top ten annual military expenditures in the world, with Japan as number nine. Furthermore, the US, Britain and France are nuclear-weapon states, and six countries (excluding Japan) are members of NATO. The G7 and NATO therefore overlap closely, and needless to say, the US [is] in charge of both. In other words, the key role of the G7 and NATO is to support and promote Pax Americana, which is “maintaining the peace under the U.S global domination.”
The statement points out that Japan is now at a critical juncture in its history, that it is now in the process of becoming a major military power, that suddenly increased investments in a Japan war machine will “lead to further impoverishment of the general population, more pressure on constitutional amendment, further instability in the East Asian region and the outbreak of military conflicts.” (The issue of “constitutional amendment” refers to Japan’s ruling party’s attempt to move Japan’s constitution away from the pacifism of the past three quarters of a century).
With so much at stake in Japan and internationally, and with the legacy of the City of Hiroshima in mind—as a city of war and peace, and as a city of perpetrators and victims—the Japan chapter of World BEYOND War is currently laying plans for the 20th of May for engaging in street protests there using our new banner; educating people about the history of the war-making of the City and of Japan; how another world, a peaceful world, is possible; how a disastrous war with China is not pre-determined and inevitable; and how ordinary citizens have options such as grassroots action and have a responsibility to exercise those options. Travel to Japan and travel within Japan is relatively easy and socially acceptable now, so we invite people who live in Japan as well as people overseas to join us in our protests, when we will demonstrate that some people remember the value of peace and will demand peace-and-justice-promoting policies from the G7 governments.
In the past, the G7 has tackled issues of war and international security—they kicked Russia out of the G8 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, discussed the Minsk agreement in 2018, and made an agreement in 2019 supposedly ensuring “that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons.” Inasmuch as poverty and other inequalities are a cause of violence, we must keep an eye on what these governments say about economics and human rights issues.
As I pleaded in an essay last year, don’t let them get us all killed. Those of you who are interested in joining us in person during the three days of the Summit (i.e., from the 19th to the 21st of May), or can help us possibly in other ways from where you live in Japan or abroad, please send me an email message to email@example.com.
Essertier is Organizer for World BEYOND War’s Japan Chapter.