The First Victim of War is The Truth
Tokyo Shimbun’s National News Chief (12/10/2014)
A few days after Japan lost the war, thick clouds of smoke spewed from government and military facilities as mass amounts of documents were burned. It was an organized cover-up to thwart investigations by the allied forces. Because of this more than half of Japan’s secret documents were lost, we lost our chance to get a handle on the full scope of the war. It’s a classic example of how the bureaucracy has no vision for making information public.
Politicians aren’t much different. When Prime Minister Eisaku Sato achieved the return of Okinawa, his profession of the three basic principles of non-nuclear arms won him the nobel peace prize. In the background, was a secret treaty that the Prime Minister had made with President Nixon. The former Prime Minister never informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about these secret negotiations and even kept the records of the agreement meeting hidden in his own home.
There’s an old Chinese saying, “It’s enough to make the people obey the law, there’s no need for them to understand it.” —That kind of though definitely permeates and is carried over into the State Secrets Act. There is no punishment for bureaucrats or politicians that unjustly hide information. There is no fair and balanced third party oversight group to check whether the release of information is justified or not. The only thing to determine what is a secret is the capricious decisions of the administration.
In the ever growing number of secrets, the truth will be sucked up. From the bottom of our hearts we should fear the arrival of such a rigid and crushing society. Seven months after the State Secrets Act was passed, the Abe Cabinet approved the collective self-defense interpretation of the constitution.
The path to deboning Japan’s constitution of Article 9 (which prohibits war) and allows the self-defense forces to fight overseas with the US has been cleared. The more a wartime regime moves forward, the more powerful a weapon the State Secrets law will become for the Japanese government
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said, “If there is an example of reporting being suppressed, I’ll resign.”
However, if any reporter seeks to clarify the discussion around sending Japanese troops to war, or any other state secret, they must be ready for a merciless investigation to descend upon them. All journalists know the saying, “The first victim of war is the truth.”
The Manchurian Incident began with a Japanese Army plot. The Japanese people were only told the truth during the Tokyo War Crimes trials. We shouldn’t let history repeat itself. Against this evil law, we must not remain silent and we must continue to raise our voices in protest.
Tanaka Minoru, the journalist who almost sued into silence for pointing out past ties to organized crime in relation to Japan’s nuclear industry shadow shogun and ‘fixer), Shiro Shirakwa, summarizes the problems with law succinctly.
“The top of any government organization can determine special secrets in four areas. The top secret classification period can be stretched from 5 to 60 years. The violators of the law who can be punished for leaks are not just federal or prefectural employees, or those working in the defense industry. If citizens or journalists, gain knowledge of such secrets by ‘improper’ methods or plot to obtain those methods or encourage others to share secrets, they can be punished. The longest punishment is 10 years. The ‘Suitability Tests’ that will now be conducted on government workers who may handle state secrets is invasive and said to violate basic human rights.”