The Game is Over for Ichiro Ozawa, Japan's Most Unscrupulous Political Racketeer

Thursday, March 05 2009 @ 04:14 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto


More often than not the head of
the Democratic Party of Japan
wears a geeky mask presumably
because he is determined not to
let out the truth about his venal
political career and the collusive
alliance between the U.S. and
Japan, on which he has made a
fortune.


AS USUAL the revelation of what will possibly lead to the fall of Ichiro Ozawa came too little and too late. On March 3 the government-paid 1st secretary of the head of the Democratic Party of Japan was arrested by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of receiving donations from the now scandal-tainted Nishimatsu Construction Co., in violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

At first the prosecutors were saying the bribe had totaled 25 million yen, but in a matter of 24 little hours, the amount ballooned to 300 million. Actually the prosecutors and the members of the press club attached to their office needn't have used the roundabout method to gradually immunize the general public. Everyone had known that to Ozawa, 300 million is nothing but peanuts relative to the total amount he has collected throughout his 40-year career in politics.

Everyone of us had also known why the wrongdoing by politicians always dribbles out to the surface this way. These prosecutors seem to worry that this society could not withstand a laparotomy which would create a sea of pus across the board. More importantly, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, who heads the prosecutors office, certainly knows that the entire edifice would instantly fall into pieces once a thorough investigation were to be launched leaving no sacred cows. Given the reluctance inherent to the prosecutors, normally disguised as prudence, it looks quite likely that they had a very special reason for targeting Ozawa this time around. They seem ready to run a risk of accidentally hitting the core of the root problem. For those who are unfamiliar with the convoluted political landscape here, the grandfather of the Justice Minister is Ichiro Hatoyama, a former prime minister, and a younger brother of Yukio Hatoyama, Secretary General of the DPJ (not a typo.)

Actually this is Ozawa's nightmare finally coming true. In the past, every time the nation's premiership came within his reach, he recoiled in fear of this scenario. But this time, even Prime Minister Aso had looked prepared for cession of power to the DPJ, until the offices of the crook, alias the "champion of reform," were raided.

In the last couple of years the ruling coalition between the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito has constantly trod the path to self-destruction. (Komeito is a party backed by a legitimized cult named Soka Gakkai.) As a result, the DPJ, which was formed when the defectors from the LDP such as Ozawa joined forces with the former mainstream faction of the Social Democratic Party, is now facing a windfall opportunity to grab power.

Against this backdrop, Ozawa and the elder Hatoyama are now saying that the arrest of the secretary of the party head must be a conspiracy of the Aso administration. This cannot be true, however. We are already seeing the list of the recipients of donations from the construction company rapidly growing so long as to include big figures in the ruling LDP, such as former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. And if you have a certain amount of commonsense, you are inclined to believe that what is going on between the Hatoyama brothers is a fixed bout, at best.

A little more plausible conspiracy theory has it that now the entire bureaucracy is striking back against the legislature which has grown more and more defiant to it in the "theatricized politics" staged by the media. Now the bureaucrats feel that their vested interests are endangered. Although this theory has some point, they have no reason to single out Ozawa's camp. One of its most powerful support groups is the Federation of Public Corporation and Government Enterprise Workers' Unions, which was the most important tribute to Ozawa from the defectors of the SDP. In Japan's public sector, there is no conflicts of interest between employers and employees. From the taxpayers' point of view, both are parasites.

There is a third hypothesis: the CIA is behind the recent move on the part of the prosecutors. As Laurie Anne Freeman points out in her Closing the Shop, Ozawa, the trickiest and pushiest person in Japan's political world, is genius when it comes to taming the media. The very fact that not a single newspaper has mentioned the third theory can be interpreted to indicate that this is the case with the investigation into Ozawa's sources of funds.

If you look into Japan's postwar history with an unclouded eye, you will be struck by the excellent job the CIA has done to manipulate people's hearts and minds in this country without leaving its fingerprints. Consequently, today's Japan does not deserve to be called a sovereign nation. When compared to its repetitive intelligence failures in the Middle East, it's hard to believe that the same organization is doing business here. Aside from the fact that the Japanese are the world's most suggestible and credulous people, I think its overall success in Japan, or its recurring goofs in the ME for that matter, is largely attributable to the intelligence resources allocated based on misplaced priorities. It's a tragedy that Obama was silly enough to handpick Leon Panetta as CIA Director just because he is anti-torture. The right person for this position should have been someone who is flexible enough to end spying on allies at the cost of thinly staffed operations in hostile countries.

In the last couple of years, the U.S. government has been watchful for Ozawa even more than for Prime Ministers who came and went through the revolving door of the Cabinet Office. Not that Washington is wary of his stance toward the 49-year-old alliance between the two countries. On the contrary U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense have a good reason to believe they would be much better off working with him as Japan's leader because he is the easiest policymaker for them to handle to Washington's interests. At one time Ozawa was the biggest living stakeholder in the incongruous alliance because he had been the righthand man to Kakuei Tanaka, the former Prime Minister who fell from power when the Lockheed Scandal surfaced in 1976. Tanaka was the mastermind of the crime.

There are signs that Ozawa still remains one of the biggest beneficiaries of Japan's wasteful military spending. In 2007, it was revealed that an American arms broker Avex Aerospace Corporation, Torrance, CA, and its Japanese counterpart Yamada Corporation had been up to the same old business of bill-padding, going between American manufacturers of weaponry and the Japanese Defense Ministry. This was just the tip of the tip of the huge iceberg. At that time, Ozawa admitted that he had also received "a small donation" from Yamada Corporation a couple of months earlier and readily returned the most recent donation to the donor. That was enough to make the press corps surrounding him shut their mouth. He is not alone in habitually making believe that the problem is settled when the smallest part of the loot is returned to the donor.

It is true, however, that Ozawa's coffers have been impoverished since he fled the LDP as if a thief hastily leaving the crime scene. Fortunately for him, though, there is other pillars of fundraising he has inherited from Kakuei Tanaka. One of these pillars is the construction industry. Traditionally Japan's pork-barrel operators have considered construction companies to be inexhaustible and the most reliable providers of funds.

Late last month, he caused controversy on both sides of the Pacific. He said, out of the blue, that only the U.S. 7th Fleet (comprising about 70 ships and 300 aircraft) should be based in Japan, whereas it currently hosts 47,000 U.S. military personnel. We don't know exactly what the unprincipled bastard was getting at with his vulnerably controversial remark about the 7th Fleet.

Maybe it's just that he wanted to attract attention from his American friends. But, despite his total inability to articulate his "thoughts," he is the last man to say or do anything that doesn't earn him a big chunk of profit. It is uncharacteristic of him to let the drivel slip out without a sinister calculation. After all he is the one who has been artfully swimming in the swamp, into which taxpayers money keeps draining from the black box of the Defense Ministry in the last four decades.

You'll never know, either, why U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer and Hillary Clinton chose to openly see him in person, in August 2007 and February 2009, respectively, instead of having a clandestine telephone conversation. Neither will you know what these people whispered to Ozawa on these occasions. But one thing is for sure: he is asking for more from the bloated defense budget with his cryptic behavior.

We can't decode the encrypted messages being exchanged among these guys, but I don't think it's too farfetched to hypothesize that the U.S. government is behind the recent move on the part of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office. It looks as though someone is trying to discipline Ozawa so the jerk won't act like the tail wagging the dog. It can even be a blackmail.

Frankly, I am not particularly interested in knowing who is behind the ongoing investigation and what its outcome will be like. If I can learn something new as the criminal case unfolds in the next couple of months, the fact remains that there is absolutely nothing we can do to straighten out the mess. We have already run out of time.

But I think on the part of the U.S., the worst is yet to come. On that premise, I still see a ray of hope in the American people. They might wake up, before it is too late, to the reality about the bilateral alliance. Only then would they realize that in the absence of specifically identified common enemies since the end of Cold War I, policymakers on both sides are turning the alliance more and more against taxpaying citizens of the two countries. It goes without saying who are raking in handsome profits out of this hocus-pocus.

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