|LECTURE BY ALLEN NELSON
TO END THE MISERY OF WAR
| On July 12, 2007, Mr. Allen Nelson made a speech at Doshisha University
in Japan. He has experienced the Vietnam War firsthand, and also now supports
the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese control. He told the audience how
miserable war is based on his own horrible experiences.
He himself has suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), as well as having experienced bad relations with his own family and being homeless. Now he has overcome his suffering and is trying to reach out to young people who used to be like him or who have no other way in life to go than to war. Did you know that 80 percent of homeless persons in America are veterans of the Vietnam War?
Mr. Nelson said about Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which is
in danger of being amended in a few years: “When I read Article 9, I was
so impressed. This is really a wonderful and precious article. The nation
must obey the constitution. Why is the nation going to break it now?” These
are the words of a person who really suffered in war. He insists that violence
doesn’t change society.
n addition to Doshisha University students, people of Vietnamese descent
person, a Japanese news reporter, and many other people came to listen
to his lecture (an estimated 80 persons in total). After the lecture, many
people queued up in line to ask Mr. Nelson for his autograph or to shake
hands with him.
Transcript by Natsuko Toda
| Lecture by Allen Nelson (excerpts)
① I realized that America says that it’s a Christian country but I can tell you now, real Christians do not drop nuclear bombs on children; real Christians do not kidnap people, put them in chains and use them as slaves.
The problem we have is that George Bush says he is Christian, he goes to church every Sunday, walks out of the church with the bible, but he never dares to open it and read it.
② The reality is that the United States military bases are not here to protect the citizens of Japan — the United States military is here to control your government. So here in Japan, you don’t have true democracy. What you have is a puppet government, and this government is controlled by the American military. The Japanese government does anything that the Americans tell them to do.
So the reality is that you are an occupied country. Japan is occupied by the United States military. I know it’s hard for you to believe this because here in mainland Japan, you don’t see the military troops, you don’t see the occupation troops. But go to Okinawa, talk to the Okinawan people — they know that you are occupied because they see the troops every single day.
So here in Japan you don’t really have a prime minister. The prime minister is only the “governor of Japan.” You have a president, and your president’s name is George Bush. So when you are angry and you want to go protest, it does no good to go to the Diet; there is no power at the diet. You are going to have to come to Washington D.C. and protest to the “boss” of America.
③ America always has money for wars and violence. America always has enough money to build more and more nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. But there is never enough money to provide homes, jobs and opportunities for our people.
④ The rich and powerful of our societies, their children never go into the military. Their children travel abroad, attend prestigious universities, work in their family’s corporation.
George Bush says the “war on terrorism” is very important. George Bush sends other people’s children off to war to kill and to die. George Bush has two daughters who are old enough to join the military, but George Bush’s children, they will never join the military. They will never see Iraq.
The ex-prime minister of Japan [Junichiro Koizumi], he was also very quick to send other people’s children to the Iraq war. The ex-prime minister of Japan, he didn’t send his son to the war. His son stayed very safe in Tokyo — I even saw him on television, selling beer.
It’s always just the poor children of every nation that find themselves in the battlefields, killing each other.
⑤ Because of the Iraq war and the media’s propaganda, many people have a misunderstanding of what soldiers and marines do when we go to war. We do not go to war as social workers, we do not go to war to help old ladies get safely across the battlefield. We do not go to war to hand out candy to children. And we do not go to war to build hospitals and schools. Soldiers and marines go to war to kill.
⑥ It’s very important that every citizen — and all you students — realize how lucky and fortunate you are to have your Article 9 because every major countries’ children on this planet know the misery of war. My children in America know the misery of war. The British, the French the Germans, the Italians, the Australians, the Chinese, the Koreans — all of their children know the misery of war. But here in Japan you don’t know war because Article 9 of your constitution has saved you from suffering the horror of war.
But as you know, your new prime minister [Shinzo Abe], he’s working very hard to remove Article 9 from your Constitution. You students and the citizens of Japan must never allow Article 9 to be removed from your Constitution.
You have been saved and protected from the misery of war by this Constitution, by Article 9. Now it’s time for the citizens of Japan to stand up and raise your voices and protect Article 9.
|Question and Answer Session
1. Q. Hello. My name is Natsuko Toda. I belong to the social studies faculty of Doshisha and major in mass media studies. I’m happy to hear you say how wonderful Article 9 is. Now I’m really proud of Article 9. However, because of Article 9, Japan’s international cooperation is limited. For example, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are not allowed to fight, even though they go to the Iraq war. Because of those limits, Japan is sometimes criticized for only paying money. From a global point of view, despite the criticism, is the Japanese Article 9 still appreciated?
A. I’ve heard this criticism about the Japanese government: that you sent money in the first Gulf War and that there was a lot of pressure on the Japanese government to send troops to the second Gulf War as well.
But the reality is that your Constitution forbids you from sending money
or troops. And other nations should respect your Constitution the same
way that nations’ constitutions are respected around the world.
The United States will never ever allow another country to tell us that
we should get rid of guns. Our constitution guarantees the right to have
guns, and we would like to change that. So I think that the Japanese government
made a very, very big mistake by not obeying its Constitution, which forbids
it from going to war.
So as an American, it was very interesting for me to see how the government
breaks the law. The constitution is the highest law of the land. And Japanese
citizens, you obey the law, you pay taxes, you take care of your children,
you take care of yourselves — but the government constantly breaks the
law by not obeying Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.
2. Q. Thank you very much for your wonderful lecture. Actually this
is my second time to listen to your speech. I’m studying in the graduate
program of American Studies at the Imadegawa campus right now. Actually,
my major is African-American history and my case study is about the Black
Panther Party, whose members visited Japan in 1969. You are also African
American. So I think African Americans have a good tradition to have a
wider perspective and to help others, you know, to deal with various issues.
So from my perspective, I put you in that tradition, the relationship
between the Japanese and the African American. So do you also think that
way sometimes? That’s my question.
A． Thank you for your question. It’s a very interesting question because
I remember the Black Panthers very well and what they tried to accomplish.
I think the difference, in my belief, is that I do not believe in violence
as the way to change our society. I’ve known from my time in Vietnam that
violence is not going to bring us peace — it is only going to bring more
hatred. So I am proud to follow in the traditions that are more like Gandhi
or Martin Luther King Jr. I believe in power, not violence.
So, if you look at the history of these two men: Mahatma Gandhi tried
to use nonviolence to throw the British out of his country. And the same
thing with Martin Luther King Jr.: He made America a better country without
using violence. And so I believe that nonviolence is the way to change
our society — it’s much more productive, it’s more powerful than using
violence. Violence only brings more violence. And so, I reject that part
of the Panthers’ philosophy.
3. Q. Hello. My name is Shimizu, I belong to the economic faculty. I’m very shocked and am at a loss for words, listening to your story. I’m very interested in your story. Now I want to ask you one thing: My American friend is going to Iraq this February and is going to stay there for two years. So, while he is in the military or after he gets back from military service, what can I do for him? How should I deal with him? I would like to hear your opinion about it.
A． This is a very interesting question because I have worked with poor
children in America who have to join the military because they have no
place else to go. This is your friend, so I would say to you that you should
support him, write him, let him know that you care about him, tell him
to stay alive and try not to kill people.
4. Q. Mr. Nelson, I want to thank you for your lecture today. It was
the first time I’ve ever heard from a real Vietnam war veteran. I especially
was moved by the part about the smell of blood during war.
Of course, with the whole generation of Vietnam war veterans tremendously
suffering from post-traumatic stress, it must be something that never leaves
you. For example, in giving a lecture, did you have any sort of trauma?
Or for example, how do other people you know deal with the stress? What
might be possible ways to try to conquer as much as possible this post-traumatic
A． The only way that you can speak about your war experience is that you have to be in therapy, you have to work through it. It takes a long time. It’s very, very painful while you are in therapy because you have to deal with what you’ve done; you have to take responsibility for what you’ve done. So we have veterans still in therapy who are still trying to work through their trauma from the Vietnam War. Eighty percent of all homeless people in America are veterans: the people who have been absorbed into the military, who have been to war.
It’s a really troubling disease, and I remember doing a lecture with another marine who had not been in therapy. And when it came time for him to speak, he started talking to the kids and then he just ran out of the room. He just left. He said, “I can’t do this.” And so it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of support from family and friends; it is very difficult. In some ways, it is sort of therapeutic for me to do this, and in some ways it isn’t. I don’t like giving this lecture, I don’t like going back into the jungle, I don’t like seeing the baby born, I don’t like talking about stacking bodies. But this is a responsibility that I have because I survived, and I can talk about it. So I owe it to all human beings who have not been to war that tell you, “Don’t go. You ain’t missing nothing. Life is better than death at any point, and it’s a terrible experience to go through war.”
We have to remember that 59,000 Americans died in Vietnam and over 2,000,000
Vietnamese and Cambodian people died. They can’t tell the story about what
happened. So for us who survived the war, it is our duty to tell the story.
It’s just like the survivors of the A-bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki: They
have to tell their story, they have to talk about the misery which they
saw, what happened in those cities because they survived, which so many
others did not.
5．Q. Thank you for your lecture today. I am Tanida, a reporter with the Mainichi Newspapers. I often listen to people who have experienced wars. Every time I hear their story, it really shocks me and the story is enough to tell how miserable wars are without using slogans like “war is bad” and “nuclear weapons are bad.” Now, people like them are getting older and older, while nuclear weapons and countries involved in wars remain. In this situation, how can we, as outsiders of wars, tell other outsiders of wars — how miserable war is and how important peace is ?
A． Thank you for your question. It’s a good one, especially for Japan, because the WWII generation is getting older and older, and soon they will disappear. But I think it’s very important to document their stories. I mean, you have grandparents who lived through WWII and experienced that. You need to get the tape recorder, sit down and have them tell you their story.
And it’s very important that you students realize how powerful you are
and how much power you have. You have governments trying to whitewash the
WWII history. They are putting lies in the books for the primary school
children and the junior high school children. And you students have to
insist that the truth has to be taught to these children, the truth of
the WWII generation, their stories. You have to make sure that this government
is not allowed to just whitewash the realities of WWII.
So when I visit the primary schools and I talk with the fourth graders,
fifth and sixth graders, the children have a sense that something happened.
They are not sure what happened or why it happened. But they have a sense
that you’re not being told everything about what has happened in the past.
So it’s very important that the university students realize that you have
a responsibility — you’re attending a very prestigious university. But
it also means that you have the responsibility of making your country better
to educate these children and let them know the truth about what happened
in the WWII.
And it’s not because you should feel guilty. You should never feel guilty
about what happened during WWII. But you do have a responsibility to reconcile
with people who were hurt and injured during WWII because of your imperial
You know, for instance, a couple of years ago, I remember a young Japanese
girl who visited China. And the Chinese people treated her very badly,
where she was. And she didn’t know why. I mean, of course, she knew that
Japan was in China during the war. But she had no idea what happened, what
the Japanese did to the Chinese people. So her feelings were hurt; she
felt really bad that she was treated this way. This is why the truth has
to been told because if she knew exactly what happened in China, what the
Japanese imperial soldiers did, then she would be able to understand the
pain of those Chinese people and why they treated her that way.
So I believe that these are the types of stories — the WWII generation
who suffered through the bombings and the Japanese soldiers who went to
war and came home — these are the stories that need to be in the children’s
textbooks, the truth.
And I should tell you that I have quite a few friends who were Japanese
soldiers during WWII. They are in their 80s and 90s now. These friends
of mine, they went to China and Burma, they went many places, they did
many things, they saw much horror. They are still suffering from post-traumatic
stress syndrome. They cannot tell their family. They want to tell their
family but this disease never allows you to talk about it. And when they
came home from the war, there was no help here, all the major cities have
been bombed; Japan was trying to pull itself back up again. And so, all
these years these men have continued to suffer, and so it’s their stories
that need to be told. I mean, it’s amazing how governments continually
try to duck the truth in any way that they can.
You can imagine if you could put yourself in a place of a “comfort woman”
[sexual slavery victim], and you are in your 70s and 80s now. And you hear
the prime minister of Japan [Abe] deny any involvement by the Japanese
imperial army of recruiting these women and holding them as slaves — you
can imagine painful that is to hear. If you could imagine the people of
Okinawa with the textbooks being changed and the government starting to
lie, saying that all Japanese army troops did not encourage and order mass
suicide — and you were in Okinawa and you saw you heard the orders being
given, you saw families destroying themselves, following the orders — you
could imagine how painful that is. But that is the stuff that needs to
be in the textbooks, and this government needs to be ashamed of itself
for constantly trying to hide the brutality of what happened in WWII.
6．Q. Thank you for your lecture. My name is Misawa. I’m a senior and major in newspaper studies. I’m moved to tears, listening to your lecture. I’ve heard various miserable stories of war. Through many mass media, I hear, like, 20 people died at [such-and-such a place]; many people died in Iraq. However, listening to such news, thinking about it, I still couldn’t realize how bad it is. So today, listening to your story, I could have a chance to seriously think about the problem. Now, I want to not only think about the problem, but actually see and feel something. I can’t experience war, but if you know somewhere we can really see something which is concealed by the mass media, I would like to hear about it.
A． That’s what we all have to do. I read three newspapers. And if I’m home, I go on the Internet and I try to find as much information as I possibly can because I realized that the media is very biased. And we don’t have a free press — our press is owned by big corporations, and they are not interested in telling us the truth.
So this is the real problem that we have because in America, the American
peace activists and many people ask me, “Is there a peace movement in Japan?”
Because the American media does not show Japanese citizens peacefully protesting
against the bases and protesting against the violence that Japanese people
face that live around the bases.
Certainly, the Japanese media does not cover what’s going on in Okinawa. There has been a protest that’s been going on for years in Okinawa. A lot of people in Okinawa are trying to protest and to stop the building of this heliport [in Nago, Okinawa], which is very controversial. After the rape of the 12-year-old girl [in Okinawa by U.S. soldiers in 1995], the military and the Japanese governments said that they would remove the base. But instead of removing it, they are relocating it to another area in Japan and there have been new protests. But of course, many Japanese people don’t see this on the evening news.
So it’ s the media. We really have to do our own research to find the
truth because even this meeting today at this campus, this is an important
meeting. I’m American, I’m performing from America to speak to you but
CNN is not here — and they are not coming here because they don’t want
the American people to hear your voices. They want the American people
to believe that you’re happy with the bases here protecting you. And so
we finally may have to use the technology like the Internet; we have to
double-check things that we read. Never read anything in the newspaper
and just believe that is true.
So the Japanese citizens that are here tonight who were in university
during the Vietnam War: During the Vietnam War, the media showed you the
bodies, they showed you villagers being burned, they showed you bodies
of the women and the children. But this Iraq war — it’s a clean war. Everything
they show you is the remains of a burned car, but you don’t see any bodies,
you don’t see any dead people, you don’t see any suffering. So that’s why
many of our citizens don’t really know that a war is going on.