Former Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe Assassinated

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his food writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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51 Responses

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    The assassin is quoted as saying 政治的信条以外の態度に対して不満があり、殺そうと思って狙った. I’m not 100% confident in the exact translation, but the gist of it is that he harbored dissatisfaction with Abe’s attitude for unspecified non-ideological reasons, and therefore decided to kill him.

    This kind of reminds me of the shooting of Gabby Giffords, where the shooter held a personal grudge against her because she didn’t answer some nonsensical question he had asked at a prior public appearance. Mental illness seems like a likely factor.

    Alternatively, he did it for political reasons but didn’t want his team to take the heat for it.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Actually, I think that was a description of his motives by the police rather than a direct quote. Now they’re saying that the assassin was targeting the leadership of a certain religious organization. Possibly related to Abe’s involvement in Nippon Kaigi, maybe a crazy conspiracy theory, or maybe a bit of both.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        No, that’s not right. He had wanted to kill the leadership of a certain religious organization, but they were too far away, and then decided on Abe when he learned that Abe was coming to Nara. It’s unclear what, if anything, Abe had to do with the religious organization. It sounds kind of like he’d decided to assassinate someone and did some satisficing when choosing the target.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          In my defense, he’s probably not making much sense to begin with, and I’m translating the media’s description of the police’s description of his statements.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    He was apparently arch-conservative and divisive.


    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      Oh, they yanked it.

      Probably for the best. Here’s the new one:


      • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

        Here’s a more sympathetic characterization from the Economist:

        As prime minister from 2012 to 2020, Mr Abe transformed his country, serving longer than any other Japanese leader in the post-war era. He pushed Japan to play a more prominent global role and to take a more active role in its own defence, a shift from decades of pacifism following the second world war. After stepping down because of the recurrence of a chronic illness, he returned to Japan’s parliament and remained a major presence in Japanese politics, heading the largest faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

        • Chris in reply to InMD says:

          The Economist had long been sympathetic (they did a big piece on/with him earlier this year, even), which in itself is, in a way, pretty damning.Report

          • InMD in reply to Chris says:

            I think it all depends on what you think the responsibility of a wealthy, influential country is to the rest of the world. My understanding is that there remain some really ugly ultra-nationalist ideas floating around in the Japanese political psyche that (conveniently) tend to get lost in translation to a Western audience. At the same time, does the existence of those forces relieve Japan of responsibility as a stakeholder in the world? Because to some degree that seems to be the actual alternative on the table and I’m not sure it’s the right one either.

            You look at Germany for example which has done about as much as I think one can expect an ultimately self-interested political entity to do when it comes to atoning for its past. Nevertheless at a certain point endless guilt and keeping oneself in timeout for a hypothetical greater good can become an excuse for not taking an ownership of the future. It also can play into the more counterproductive, damaging tendencies of US foreign policy, which I think we here in America should have an interest in reforming.Report

            • Slade the Leveller in reply to InMD says:

              Germany has passed laws and had their legislature acknowledge their war crimes. To my knowledge, Japan has not done much in that way.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

                Japan has a sizeable ultra-nationalist rightwing that is still very bitter about their defeats in WWII and works hard to make sure Japanese textbooks do not acknowledge their war crimes and other misdeeds during WWII. It is the equivalent of people who want to down play the War of Treason in the Defense of Slavery in the United States.Report

              • InMD in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I think the practical question on this from our perspective is does the existence of those sentiments mean that Japan must forever be a de facto protectorate of the United States? And how do the downsides of that weigh against slightly increasing the probably still very low odds of a revanchist Japan going out on wars of conquest in a totally different Pacific than the one that existed in the 30s?

                Not saying the answer is easy or that Abe was obviously correct, just that at some point we’re going to need accept that the post war settlements can’t last forever, and we need to decide what makes sense for the future.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

                Once we re-arm Germany and Japan…

                Which I say tongue in cheek as maybe we should re-arm Germany and Japan… but the thing that makes international affairs unusually difficult is that we’ve no particular assurance that a re-armed German and Japan will align with our interests (which are continuously shifting) rather than theirs.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Marchmaine says:

                It’s simple:

                If they align with their own interests instead of ours?

                We’ll call them “Ultranationalist”.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

                twitter mob too.Report

              • InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

                One day your kids have to leave the nest, and all you can do is hope that you taught them well, and that they will do the right thing.

                Though kidding aside I don’t think the decision is quite that stark. It’s hard for me to imagine a near future where either country goes rogue from US dominated alliances and institutions. There’s a lot of upside to having even more prominent seats at those tables and a lot of downside to walking away from them, particularly for countries with looming acute demographic crisis, and particularly for Japan, where it might mean navigating their relationship with China alone.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

                Of course… we’ll get some interesting sample data from Germany this winter.

                But to be clear, I’m a multi-polar guy… the goal isn’t renewed hegemony, it’s managing the devolution to multi-polar which puts one crosswise with the entire DC consensus which despite all it’s ‘international institutionalism’ isn’t multi-polar; and frankly hasn’t faced up to the fact that we’re going multi-polar whether we want to or not.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

                Japanese politics in general is right-leaning but because they are a largely secular/areligious/not-Christian nation, it often does not translate well to the United States view of right-wing politics. Japanese right-wing moral panics are not like Evangelical right-wing moral panics except for the xenophobia perhaps.Report

              • Slade the Leveller in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Interesting. Thanks. I know zero about Japanese politics.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

                It’s weird. I can find lots of claims they haven’t acknowledge their war crimes but when I drill onto the examples claimed I find that they have.

                My impression is there are elements of Japanese society that don’t want to accept blame, and that makes it easy to nut pick.

              • Pinky in reply to Dark Matter says:

                They definitely didn’t go the German route of sackcloth and ashes. There’s a whole weird belief that the Emperor was tricked into attacking, probably by Stalin. And China, Japan, and Korea absolutely hate each other, so any admissions of wrongdoing are half-hearted.Report

              • North in reply to Pinky says:

                It’s easy to forget that the entire far east region in general but especially the Japanese/Korea/China region have national histories and grudges that go 4an astonishingly long way back in history.

                Like, the US looks at Europe and says “Man those countries are old and set in their ways” but Japan/China/Korea are old nations in a way that makes most European nations look like wee babes.Report

              • Pinky in reply to North says:

                Yeah, I get the point you’re making, but I sometimes worry that we mythologize the Other by thinking that way. Korea, Kuwait, and Killarney all have messy, human pasts that affect their cultures. You’re right that particular phrases like “right wing” might not be applicable in the same way, but it’s a short hop from that insight to caricatures of the inscrutable Asian.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Pinky says:

                South Korea and China basically find Japan’s apology incredibly mealy-mouthed and insincere. The Japanese don’t quite get this and do not really understand why they end up in the Nazi role in the East Asian equivalent of Indiana Jones movies.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to LeeEsq says:

                You murder a few dozen million people and you get a rep.

                Having said that, there’s something awkward about modern day Japan being cast as the villain compared to modern day China.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

        What a bunch of losers! Don’t they know that if you fail to have an allergic response to conservative anything, it’s equivalent to Breaking Bread With Nazis?Report

      • Slade the Leveller in reply to Jaybird says:

        Bringing on the usual Trumpy screeching about NPR’s bias.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird says:

        first draft: … ‘has been found dead at a hospital of apparent shotgun blast to neck and side after attending ultra-nationalist rally.’

        I have no idea how internal Japanese politics work and who the shooter might be or what he represents… so, no comment… but probably related to Roe v. Wade, right? And technically not a shotgun, but more of a homemade short-barreled musket or unflared blunderbuss. And who am I to judge mostly peaceful 1st amendment acts of protest? But other than that, no comment because it’s not really about us. Or is it?Report

  3. InMD says:

    I like to think that Abe was an overall positive force on the world stage. If the big lesson of foreign policy from the aughts was that simply being a democracy with good intentions is not enough to be a positive force in world affairs, then the lesson of the teens was that neither is simply being an enthusiastic participant in global capitalism, and nothing more. Japan has a lot to give as a force for stability, which I believe Abe appreciated and that making that his legacy will be making that idea mainstream in Japanese politics.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    In general, I think the assassination of political leaders is bad for global security and stability even when the murderer is also domestic and may or may not have done it for domestic reasons. Below is a small thread about how Abe changed Japan’s role in international affairs

  5. Jaybird says:

    Hope he’s wrong, fear he’s right:


  6. Jaybird says:

    CW: Headline Gore


    • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

      IIRC, early reports in the Japanese media used similar language: It sounded like a gun went off, he collapsed, draw your own conclusions.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Given it was an improvised gun, it’s possible the look and sound of what happened didn’t “seem” like someone being shot… at least in terms of how people perceive it.

        There also may be different headline/reporting conventions in other countries as well as translation issues, especially between languages that don’t share structural elements.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

          I think they were just reluctant to report anything not known for certain. You can absolutely say “Abe collapsed after being shot” in Japanese, and later headlines did so.Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    From what I understand, this ties into the Unification Church.

    More colloquially known as “The Moonies”.