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

Tuesday, October 11 2011 @ 03:08 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

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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