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"The Character Assassination of Ozawa Ichiro" by Karel van Wolferen

A week or two before 3.11, an intriguing book written by veteran Dutch journalist Karel van Wolferen was published from Kadokawa Shoten, under the bilingual title 誰が小沢一郎を殺すのか? - The Character Assassination of Ozawa Ichiro. The Japanese part literally means "Who is going to kill Ichiro Ozawa?" I am a seasoned translator who is extremely fussy about word choices. But since there are no Japanese words precisely equivalent to "character assassination," I think the discrepancy between the two languages here is more or less permissible.
When it comes to the subtitle, however, I find the way translator Minori Inoue handled it somewhat objectionable, whether or not he did it with the consent of the author whose manuscript had no subtitle in it. Inoue settled for a Japanese phrase which goes 画策者なき陰謀, literally reverse-translated as The Conspiracy without a Conspirator. Of course, this is a gimmick to promote the sales of the book. Needless to say, there is no such thing as a crime without a mastermind or a perpetrator.

Despite all this, I think the book is a must-read particularly if you are one of those suckers who are usually wasting time and money on the rubbish written by Japan "experts" in the U.S. or the U.K. such as Joseph Nye and Bill Emmott. Unlike these bastards who are totally incapable of analyzing politics, or anything else for that matter, the Dutch journalist has real insight into Japan. More important, he has conscience that prohibits him from giving his audience delusive ideas such as Japan should be treated as "the anchor of the arc of freedom and prosperity."

With his outstanding analytical ability, Wolferen knows a political analyst should never generalize things although that is the most effective way when brainwashing people. In the first chapter, the author explains why he has delved so ardently into the character assassination of Ichiro Ozawa since 1993 when the scandal-tainted politician left the Liberal Democratic Party. He notes that although character assassinations are commonplace in any country and at any time in history, the particular one persistently targeted at Ozawa has some distinctive features.

For one thing, Japanese assassins are much more insidious and persistent than their foreign counterparts. Also, they always base their accusation against their foe on extralegal social norms instead of written laws. A violation of laws such as the Political Funds Control Law doesn't matter that much here. As a result, it takes a tremendous amount of time for them to achieve their ambiguous goal. Ozawa is not yet really done for, but it's already been 18 years since they started targeting the self-proclaimed reformist.

As Wolferen points out, another fallout from the character assassination in Japanese style is that the total picture of the scheme is impenetrably opaque. All along it remains unclear who is going to get rid of Ozawa and what for. The methods to eliminate the target are also by far subtler and more roundabout than those used in a negative campaign in the U.S.

These are the reasons Wolferen decided to write The Character Assassination of Ozawa Ichiro.

When you are through with this book, you will certainly have a little clearer picture of what the fuss over the "criminal" case against the former head of the Democratic Party of Japan is all about. At least you will get a vague idea about the conspirators who have hatched this plot. But, it looks as though the clearer ideas you get from the book, the more cryptic the real implication of the character assassination looks. This is where Wolferen fails.

Questions that still remain unanswered in the book include:

■ How did the translator come up with the misleading subtitle? Can it be that he thought, by any chance, there are too many conspirators to list, even by group names such as the corrupt public prosecutors, bureaucrats who have huge vested interests across the nation, the U.S. government, liberal and conservative ideologues retained by Washington, the mainstream media, and the alternative media? I even suspect that Inoue thought it wouldn't make sense to point a finger at a fictitious figure such as the son of the Sun Goddess - or the author may have told his translator to refrain from explicitly offending the incumbent emperor, in deference to his readers.

■ What's wrong with assassinating the most unscrupulous political figure, in one way or the other? Wolferen still believes Ozawa has been a reform-minded politician and that is why he left the Liberal Democratic Party in 1993. Even so, the author admits he hesitates to call him one of the greatest politicians in the postwar Japan. Actually, it's unlikely that a bandit like Ozawa can be a reformer as he claims. But at the same time, you can never expect a law-abiding person to be an agent of change. After all, he deserves the predicament he has been going through in recent years. But that does not mean these corrupt prosecutors and judges have the moral authority to punish him. This is the tragedy inherent to Japan.

■ Why on earth didn't the more or less faceless conspirators think about economizing time by quickly killing Ozawa physically as someone had a yakuza mobster stab to death Koki Ishii, the maverick lawmaker, back in 2002? Can't it be that the assassins are targeting not only Ozawa but also millions of other Japanese? If that is the case, it all clicks because you can't kill so many people at a time.

■ If we should take the tricky subtitle at face value, what would be wrong if we assumed there is no particular victim in the ongoing character assassination? Actually, I often get the impression that it's other people who fell victim to the crooked lawmaker - and not the other way around. I also believe anyone else could have been scapegoated in place of Ozawa almost by the definition of the word. If I were Wolferen's translator, I might have subtitled the book something like
被害者なき犯罪 or The Crime without a Victim.

■ If DPJ's landslide over LDP two years ago should be considered to have marked the end of the 1955 System as the author seems to believe, why are we still seeing the same attempt by the same people to get rid of Ozawa going on endlessly? From this blogger's point of view, the coup d'etat Ozawa staged in 1993 was just a hiccup of the system artfully crafted by the U.S. government in 1955. Its design concept was such that nobody should be able to alter it, let alone destroy it. Wolferen writes the political landscape resulting from Ozawa's departure from the LDP was something to be called "1.5-party system" and that as a result of the snap general election in August 2009, a fullfledged 2-party system is now in place in this country. But he is uncharacteristically wrong here; we now have a very unique twin-party system where the two political groups are really inseparable from each other as if they were the Siamese twins.

Actually, this country has been going around in circles for decades now. Every attempt to transform it into a viable nation has proved futile. Wash your eyes clouded with all the hogwash about Japan you've heard from the likes of Joseph Nye and Richard Armitage, and take a sober look at what's really going on here. Do you see the faintest signs that Japan is changing?

On October 6, Ozawa pleaded not guilty at the opening of his trial. But people can't wait until April when the first ruling is expected. They have already stepped up their criticism against the villain. Day in, day out, and almost around the clock, the entire population, from self-proclaimed pundits and scholars, to brainless punks, is cheerfully ganging up on Ozawa as if they can change their country only by ostracizing the former "shadow shogun."

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan has resumed his secular pilgrimage at its checkpoint No. 54, expecting he will have been cleansed of his past political sins by the time he reaches the goal where the 83rd temple sits. In the meantime, his successor Yoshihiko Noda, who claims to be as innocent as
泥鰌, a loach, is committing another bunch of sins, such as planning to take part in the TPP talks scheduled for November just to please Obama, going ahead with the relocation plan for the U.S. Marine Corps's air station to Henoko, another city in the same Okinawa main island, and trying to dupe the gullible Japanese into footing the bill for the government's mishandling of the 3.11 disaster.

I think if there still is a way to implement a disruptive change in this country, the first thing the Japanese people should do is to find answers all by themselves to the questions Wolferen validly identifies but stops short of answering himself. Among other things, it is crucially important to specifically identify institutions to be targeted by assassins before deciding whether to destroy them physically or by character assassinations.

If I may take the liberty of answering these questions on behalf of Wolferen, I would say the primary targets are the EMPEROR and those who benefit from the TREATY of MUTUAL COOPERATION and SECURITY between the UNITED STATES and JAPAN.

All in all, Wolferen was mistaken when he thought the topic was worth writing a book about. Things we have been witnessing since 1993, or even as early as 1955, are inexplicably weird. If I had still written a book dealing with these phenomena, I would have titled it The Mass Assassination Plot Hatched by the People against Themselves. As you already know, the Japanese people traditionally have a strong propensity toward self-destruction.

I think you may want to look at this video which is PART 3 of a series of 8 videos of the open debate held in July between Karel van Wolferen and Ichiro Ozawa. ·

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"The Character Assassination of Ozawa Ichiro" by Karel van Wolferen
Authored by: samwidge on Tuesday, October 11 2011 @ 04:44 PM JST

I think that you could write whole books on character assassination. Perhaps whole libraries should be filled with nothing but books on the subject.

There would be:
1. CA for profit.
2. CA for fun and profit.
3. CA for political profit.
4. CA for political harm.
5. CA for childish teasing.
6. CA to draw out secrets.
7. CA to divert attention to less serious issues (The Clinton-Monica episode that took us away from investigation of environmental wrongdoing by the president.)
8. CA to win wars.
9. CA to draw attention to serious issues not directly connected to the CA in question.
10. CA executed by the mentally ill.
11. CA that backfired.
12. "Grand successes" of CA.
13. Character assassins who went to prison.
14. CA that lasted through generations.

The habit is so overwhelmingly present at every level of life that nobody escapes, not even small children. Character assassination is sport of a sort.

True, there are people who ought to have light thrown on the ugly things they do but, in the end, everybody is reasonably good folks... getting their characters assassinated anyway.

Over here in the states, character assassination of President Obama has become so broad that our people have become numb about the honesty or dishonesty. Ditto for the previous presidents. Not only are we mad at our leaders, we are mad at each other. Character assassination in hyperbole has become a genuine game, a sport done only for the thrill of making people laugh.

This is the one part of politics that makes people hate their leaders and the people who talk about their leaders -- It seems that they're all liars. Life goes on... but intelligence does not.

You said, "Japanese assassins are much more insidious and persistent than their foreign counterparts." That fits with our impression of the ninja and other Japanese "art forms." Perhaps you are correct. Perhaps Americans do it so casually that character assassination becomes a subliminal message that makes us hate without knowing why.

You make an interesting point about, "the two political groups are really inseparable from each other as if they were the Siamese twins." America's two parties are genuinely inseparable. They function like walking on two feet. Neither is quite like the other and walking is not possible without the differences though it is true that each foot often kicks the other. It is the only way we know to make politics work without violence.

I think that you are right in saying, "... the Japanese people have a strong propensity toward self-destruction." I do not know of any nation that survives without that same strong propensity.
"The Character Assassination of Ozawa Ichiro" by Karel van Wolferen
Authored by: Diogenes on Wednesday, October 12 2011 @ 12:48 AM JST
Wolferen’s book and debate are pointless in a totally failed system. In fact, it appears to be a diversion that attempts to lend credibility to the 1955 system. “Yes, we can debate within the system, and it takes an outsider to see that all is not lost. Ozawa is not tainted but is actually a champion of the people.”

When all of the threads that have held the society together—the political system at all levels; all of the courts; the law enforcement branches; businesses enmeshed with the other three in a totally symbiotic relationship where no light of truth and honesty can enter and cause change--then you must circumvent all of these poisonous organs.

While I have been very skeptical of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations because these kinds of events are usually created by agents of the state or persons on the payroll of the state, yet this movement seems to be different. This article on this event is worth reading.

The people congregating at the park near Wall Street have spontaneously created, if this article is accurate, a new way of organizing themselves. They have no leaders and for a good reason. If there are leaders, then the old “Cut off the head and the snake dies” strategy will destroy the movement with ease. Also, the people are completely aware that undercover police are attempting to infiltrate them. They are stupidly dressing like protesters and coming up to individuals and asking “Who are the leaders?” If there are leaders, then Glen Beck’s response would be easy to implement. Here’s a quote from Mr. Democracy Beck:

"Beck then made the first of his dark analogies. Saying that the only thing
that could control the movement would be a forceful crushing from "the top,"
he added, "It will be the Night of Long Knives. It will be a purging of this
country." This was a seeming reference to the political murders carried out
by the Nazis in 1934.

"Beck then turned to "capitalists," and here his warning was even starker
and more graphic:

'"Capitalists, if you think that you can play footsies with these people,
you're wrong. They will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill
you...they're Marxist radicals...these guys are worse than Robespierre from
the French Revolution...they'll kill everybody." Huffington Post"'

These people are really frustrating the likes of Beck and the rest of the puppets that we see either in government or the media. On PBS’s evening news, the stiffs in suits are asking every night, “What do they want?” and “Why don’t they have leaders?”

The Coast Salish Indians utilized a native form of what is known as “counting coup.”
Wikipedia accurately describes it like this: “Warriors won prestige by acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, and these acts could be recorded in various ways and retold as stories. Any blow struck against the enemy counted as a coup, but the most prestigious acts included touching an enemy warrior with the hand, bow, or with a coup stick then escaping unharmed.”

This “counting coup” has been how political demonstrations in the U.S. have been done in the U.S. from the 60s to the present time. After the street battles, the police could count their coups and the protesters could count theirs. In the end, not one damn thing was accomplished, and the organs of the state knew what to expect. It was a dance that both sides knew the steps only too well. This new movement appears completely new and transcends all of the previous roadblocks. I now think that this is a genuine grass-roots movement that is very smart. No matter what, it’s the best we’ve got at this critical time.

If this movement fails or gets nullified, then the march to WWIII will continue unabated. China and Russia are being surrounded and until just a few days ago, have kept a lid on direct reactions to having gigantic military forces amassed on their borders. Now a Russian official has drawn the line in the sand, and why wouldn’t they? There is nothing the Russians or Chinese can say to stop these psychopaths. It’s up to us, in these Western countries, to stop them, to stop NATO. It’s a matter of life or death, our lives or our deaths. If these maniacs can’t be stopped, then the Georgia Guidestones first declaration will be fulfilled.

1. Maintain Humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.

To accomplish this insane commandment requires that 6.5 billion or more of the rest of us have to perish. WWIII could make that crazy commandment a reality and solve all kinds of political and financial problems.

And the Ozawa circus goes on and on, while in the U.S., the Republicans are eating their young in public, guaranteeing that Obama will get elected for a second term.

If there are gods, then pray to them. We’re all on the Titanic II and there is an iceberg dead ahead.
"The Character Assassination of Ozawa Ichiro" by Karel van Wolferen
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Wednesday, October 12 2011 @ 02:46 AM JST


I think you are absolutely right in saying Wolferen's argument is totally pointless. I gave a review to his book only for the following reasons:
1. I have been fed up too much with Japan "experts" in the U.S. who swallow everything they hear from their Japanese counterparts. Unlike Wolferen, they constantly generalize things using ill-defined or meaningless words such as democracy, autocracy, freedom and prosperity.
2. I thought that by discussing this book, I would be able to convince my audience that the character assassination of Ozawa is yet another nonissue.

And thanks for the links. Talking of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I'm also skeptical. These days, the line between spontaneous activists and rebels recruited by government agencies or the media is getting more and more blurred. So you can no longer tell who are fighting against whom and what for. But actually you don't have to know if, for instance, Obama is hiding behind the curtain because nothing will change until the right person or institution gets physically destroyed. A symbolic act, such as the destruction on 9/11/2001, will make no difference at all.

Yu Yamamoto