Fruit of the Trees On Which They’re Grown,
Watered by the United States
(The following is a letter sent to the U.S. Congressional Representative from Astoria, New York in September, 2013. I’d signed a petition and written a note to the Congressperson’s office opposing the aerial bombing and shelling of Syria that was then aggressively being promoted by President Barack Obama and Secretary John Kerry as a form of international law enforcement (despite their inability to gain the support of any governments in this interpretation of U.S. responsibility with respect to international law) and a form of humanitarianism (which the US government has pioneered as a proper use of its military, giving birth to such concepts as “preemptive humanitarian bombing“.) I recognize that there is a kind of pointless flailing at power in such activities when power has already made up its mind and is exercising its prerogatives; but this was one I wanted to write. The homology between U.S. action in both the Middle and Far East constitutes a point I think is worth reiterating.)
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Dear Representative M*,
I sincerely thank you for your reply to the petition regarding Syria. I would like to add a few thoughts that I believe can be construed as a meaningful tie-in between the horror of events in Syria and events elsewhere that are unfolding simultaneously which are of deep concern to me, both as an individual and as a constituent in your district. I hope that you will find time to read and consider them.
Syria and Regional Projection of U.S. Power in the Middle East
For me and others, recent events in Syria tell us a great deal about what the United States has become most strongly identified with in world affairs today by all who live outside our borders, and increasingly here in the U.S. as well. Along with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Kingdoms, the U.S. has openly funded armed rebellion in Syria for at least 2 1/2 years. You must also be aware that the war in Syria – aimed at toppling the authoritarian but secular Assad regime – forms a component of a long-term strategic policy the U.S. has assumed with regard to the projection of U.S. power in the Middle East and globally. U.S. policy under Mr. Obama, and under Presidents Bush and Clinton before him has become one that aims at stirring and supplying violent, armed resistance from North Africa to Iran, in the interest of establishing the appearance of necessity to justify a long-term forward position for U.S. troops, U.S.-allied troops, and a preferential situation of U.S.-based (but not U.S.-loyal, nor necessarily U.S.-beneficial) development and energy interests in the Middle East and Central Asia. Big investment projects and military industries with billions of private profits at stake now dictate the direction of U.S. foreign policy. The insistent US support and condoning of military activities in Lybia, Bahrain, as well as military “policing” in Turkey, Israel and the Occupied Territories, and Egypt have served to rebuild and reinforce the perception of necessity that the U.S. base soldiers, sell armaments, and support militarists in these states, be they in or out of government. That, as a result, the people of the region are being driven into the arms of militant resistance to counteract these policies, and are in turn made victims of the resulting formation of armed militias that have seized on the opportunity to assert themselves within the instability and chaos, is neither secret nor mysterious. And of course, the U.S. has all the more readily offered to support groups that are sufficiently right-wing or religio-politically Islamist, regardless of the long-term consequences and political character of the groups receiving the arms and aid.
Parallel in East Asia: Olympics, Nuclear Waste, and TPP,
Sacrificing Our Children to Buy Favor with Japanese Elites
Bases and Development Projects: The same fundamental direction and interest also underlies the United States’ current East Asian posture. The current aim of U.S. policy there is to enhance investment opportunities for large development projects that are set to occur in years and decades to come, and for those already underway. They are numerous: the development of Burma (see, for example, Kurt Campbell’s recent portfolio as Asst. Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Dept of State, followed by his current post as the head of a private construction and investment consortium which is now earning billions there); the ongoing controversial reconstruction and relocation issues of US military bases in Japan, as well as others dispersed around the Pacific Rim in Korea (Jeju Island), Guam, and so on, resented and detested by the local populations, but granted space by local elites; and soon, other large projects in Thailand, Indonesia, and so on.
Praise For Fascism: The U.S. directs a large measure of the major thrust of its efforts in East Asia through its local ally and sponsor, Japan. Today, Japan is awash in political reaction; the Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister have all made public praise and overlooking of the criminal nature of the Emperor-fascist system of the WWII era a necessity of life from politicians to school teachers. The extreme rhetoric that continually arises reveals the depth of the underlying illness: a former Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance’s praise for Hitler’s abrogation of the Weimar Constitution; a line of of officials exhort the population with the necessity and exceptions offered for the history of sexual enslavement of Korean, Chinese, and Filipino women around military bases from the War era until our own; violent, abusive demonstrations that take place weekly in Korean communities in Tokyo with the support of Japanese police and government officials, communities that owe their very existence to the colonization of their country by Japan in the early part of the last century, during which they were brought to Japan to do coerced, forced labor.
Trade Pact, Undermining Labor, Class Warfare: Soon, once finalized, the negotiations for the TPP – Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” agreement – will further entrench right wing elites in East Asian politics and economic power, and will have devastating long-term effects on working people here in the US as well.
Olympics, 2020, and the Uncontrolled, Festering Sore of Fukushima: Now, to provide political cover and a smile on the tiger, we have the Tokyo Olympics announcement for 2020. The Japanese efforts to obtain this honor involved scandalous insults against the countries in competition with them, including those aimed at the Turks, whose principal disadvantage as an Olympic host, said the Japanese representative, is that its population is Muslim, (and such people “like to kill each other” or words to that effect). Most importantly, the costs of the Olympics will include the diversion of massively needed rescue and redevelopment money for the victims in the region of the TEPCO nuclear power plant’s destruction in Fukushima, where extremely high, death-threatening, life-shortening levels of radiation have been allowed to continue for two years to fester, to flow into the ground water, to be dumped into the harbor to flow freely into the Pacific, and to make Japanese seafood, rice, and other crops dangerous and inedible. Even to criticize the Government of Japan for its negligence of its children’s health and safety is now cause for serious backlash from Japanese government officials, who claim that to do so is to “hurt the feelings of the victims” while in fact it is perfectly obvious that the most severe damage stems from the Japanese state itself, which leaves 100,000 to 200,000 victims in refugee camps until today (2013), unable to relocate, while pathetically weak and inept efforts are made at cleaning up the toxic radioactivity of the region (where radiation levels range from 10 times the government’s maximum safety level, to fatal levels near the plant) and containing the still-spreading disaster. In order to survive, farmers in Tohoku are required now to sell radiation-contaminated rice to the people of Japan that neither they nor government officials would dare to feed to their own families. Tea grown to the southwest of Tokyo, the opposite, downwind side of the city from the Tohoku region and Fukushima, was so badly irradiated that it had to be discarded, its existence largely suppressed in the media. Yet, despite its situation directly in between the two regions, the Japanese claim that Tokyo never experienced any radioactive fallout and that the people of that city are and have always been safe from dangerous radiation.
Child Abductions in the Political Calculus: All of this comes down, finally, to the ultimate reason for which I am bringing this line of argument to your attention today. It is the abduction of my son, Louis “Rui” Prager, from New York in June, 2010, about which I have previously written to you.
I once believed that Rui’s abduction was a product of a series of private, personal issues: his mother’s mental instability and traumas which drove her to act irrationally with hostility and sociopathic indifference to the cruelty she directed at my son and at me; the corruption of the Japanese legal profession, where lawyers advertise their availability to assist in creating child abduction cases over the Internet, reaching out to solicit disgruntled parents in private homes in the US and across the world who might otherwise have not thought to undertake such a risk; and the peculiarities of the Japanese judicial system, where “family law” consists largely in the whim of judges whose professional sense of duty towards protecting the rights of children and parents is highly suspect and seriously lacking. All of this contributed, and as I thought in the aftermath, all are deeply embedded in an environment that condones and socially reinforces the practice of child abduction. It is a symbiosis in which none of these planes of affect and practice would survive without the others.
Collusion and Political Coercion, U.S. Style: There is now a much more powerful clarity to the circumstances that we face as parents of children abducted by and to Japan; and that is the unquestionable collusion of US government officials, policy makers, and enforcers on both sides.
In the 60 years since Japan regained its independence from the US after the occupation of Japan that ended the Second World War, abduction and disappearance of our children has been growing steadily. Despite the existence since the 1970’s and 1980’s of international treaties which purport to protect children and parents’ rights, the US has been peculiarly and particularly passive before the ongoing abductions to Japan, which is to this day known as a black hole for child abduction. Now, the US and Japanese elites have achieved an aim which was thirty years in the making: Japan’s accession to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Why, after 30 years of a steadily rising rate of abductions to Japan, is this private, exclusively civilian court-based, non-criminal, non-policing formula the “solution” that the US government has sought and will now attain?
Japanese Nationalism vs. Japanese Democracy: I used to find this difficult to understand; but now it is quite clear. The US has allowed the Japanese to abduct child after child, destroy family after family, and has by financial and political support, promoted to power, again and again, a class of political actors in Japan that indoctrinates its people in the conservative nationalism which US policy makers, solely interested in private military, construction-development and financial profit, deem to be in their interest. The hold on power that the Liberal Democratic Party has had in Japan since the post war years, itself a party whose origin and founding in the mid 1950’s was promoted by the US occupiers in order to take full advantage of the administrative structure and personnel of Japanese emperor-fascism in order to build a bulwark state against the competition for regional influence and economic advantage with the Soviet Union, and later China, continues because the US will have it no other way. The Japanese people made efforts, again and again at local and national levels, to develop an authentic democracy to restore their rights to safe, secure lives, and to develop the kind of society that conformed to their values; but they have been thwarted in those efforts by the repeated interference of US military, political and financial representatives. Japan, it was decided, should remain entrenched as a kind of Cold War holdover, a vassal state, a client of the United States; and it remains that to this day.
U.S. and Japan Sacrifice Children and International Law: What my son (and thousands of others like him) has therefore now become is a sacrificial lamb, whose life has been given in exchange for U.S. providing official cover, adopting a minimizing rhetoric, and firmly opposing any form of redress for parents, or prosecution of Japanese child abductors. Had the US stood for any principle of international law, or for the protection of children from predators, as it significantly claims to be doing in Syria, it could and would have put a stop to these thousands of abductions long ago. The U.S. government has become sufficiently embarrassed internationally for its essential partnership in condoning Japanese state-sponsored and state-supported child abduction that it at last began to pressure the Japanese to sign a toothless civil law convention, which effectively immunizes against criminal prosecution Japan’s entire class of abductors, legal advisers with their international solicitations to abduct, court officials, and bureaucrats whose work will now be only slightly tailored to funnel future (and no past) abductions into a private, civil court, still under Japanese direction, under the sway of Japan’s increasingly insular, nationalist politics of identity and ‘sovereignty’. The expense of these civil, non-criminal proceedings for Japanese abductors will be supported by financial aid from the Japanese state, while foreign parents whose children have been stolen by and to Japan will be forced to bear the brunt of the cost of pursuing their children’s abductors and attempting to recover their children, alone, privately, individually. This is the neo-liberal project in action, with its cruelty exposed. The state will continue to pursue obscenely lucrative contracts for development banks and international investment trusts, a sufficient number of whom find their way through the halls of the State Department into the private sector; but it will abandon its purported role as protector of citizens, particularly those most vulnerable ones, children.
September 11th – A Long, Sordid U.S. History of Indifference to Justice for Children: Congressman, I was reminded on the date I received this reply from you of the 40th anniversary occurring at this time of the US Department of State under Henry Kissinger, and US intelligence agencies’ financial and logistical support of a military coup d’etat which overthrew a democratically elected liberal government in Chile in 1973, with exaggerated, trumped up justifications that it was socialist, or communist and radical, and a bad example for Latin America. Into power with full U.S. aid came General Augusto Pinochet, whose first action as the new head of government was to round up all the members of liberal or left-of-center-leaning political parties, all trade unionists, all supporters of the overthrown liberal regime such as teachers at schools and universities, town officials, and community leadership, and imprison or execute them in a tremendous spectacle of violence, some of which occurred in the capitol’s football stadium before large crowds, in a display aimed at the crushing and intimidation of a widely based political and social opposition. Thousand upon thousands died, were shot or imprisoned in the years that lay ahead after the coup. One might wonder: what became of the children of all those trade unionist families and imprisoned workers and political party members whose blood stained the hands of Pinochet’s American supporters?
The answer has been documented. They were taken away in the thousands and given to new families, where their identities as sons and daughters of those the dictatorship considered politically undesirable were permanently lost. To this day, there are parents anxiously pursuing their children in Chile, trying before they die to let them know that they love them, and to tell them what they suffered at the hands of a right wing terrorist state, acting under U.S. tutelage and sponsorship, now 40 years and a lifetime ago.
Obama and Kerry – Committed to Internationall Law? The American governments’ commitment to the principles of justice and protection of international law, so prominently on display in the rhetoric of President Obama and Secretary Kerry in recent weeks as they demand that the Congress approve their continuing support of war in Syria, whether by direct assault, bombing, or by supplying the rebellion directly, or via Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has been under question by transnational and international publics for a long, long time. It is also clear that the American people have increasingly and drastically lost faith in that commitment, and have grave doubts about the collective motivations at work, unleashed by our system of government. Would this not be a time to demand that the central government of the United States change its tune? Why should Syrian children, mothers and fathers pay the price of the greed of elites and corporate masters? And why must our children be permanently lost to us in order to tread lightly on a relationship between ungenerous, undeserving power brokers and profiteers in Tokyo and Washington, D.C.?
Abduction is the Rule, Not the Exception, in the U.S./ Japan Relationship: Congressman, I’m afraid that we are led by the record of past and current events to an inevitable conclusion: Japanese child abduction does not occur despite the efforts of the Department of State in the U.S.- Japan relationship. Japanese child abduction occurs AS A RESULT of those efforts, and because of that relationship.
It is the fruit of the tree it has grown on, as is all fruit.
We, parents of American and Japanese abductees, are depending on you to demand of the Department of Justice, Department of State, and the U.S. Executive that our children be returned home, without further delay. This is not a minor irritant that can be brushed aside. It is an ongoing crime against the vulnerable, perpetrated under any number of false pretenses.
Please help us.
Thank you for your attention, your time, and your support,
Brian W. Prager
Father of Rui, aka Louis Prager, Kidnapped to Japan in 2010