November 17, 2017

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Why Did Taro Yamamoto Abstain from the Vote on the Resolution to Condemn ISIS ?

Although the resolution to condemn ISIS was unanimously adopted by the Upper House on February 6, Taro Yamamoto showed his disapproval for the resolution by leaving the chamber during the process. His behavior invited significant criticism from other MPs and from the public. MP Hiromi Yoshida of the Liberal Democratic Party said it was impossible to understand his decision since before the meeting started, she had confirmed that Yamamoto’s party to support the resolution. Since other members of Yamamoto’s party in the Upper House (Ryoko Tani and Ryo Shuhama) voted in favor of the resolution, some people assumed that this indicated internal disunity within the party.

Yamamoto’s party is relatively new. The People’s Lives Party, led by Ichiro Ozawa, joined with independent lawmaker Taro Yamamoto after the election of December 14, 2014. The members of the party changed its name to “People’s Lives Party, Taro Yamamoto and Friends” in January 2015, and Taro Yamamoto became one of the party’s co-leaders, along with Ozawa. Taro Yamamoto originally wanted the name of the party to be “Ichiro & Taro,” but Ozawa insisted that the name of the old party, “People’s Lives Party,” remain in the name of the new party. As a result, they compromised on “People’s Lives Party, Taro Yamamoto and Friends.”

Why did Yamamoto walk away from the vote? According to him, he supported the resolution until the seventh sentence. He asked the Steering Committee of the Upper House to revise to the resolution, but his request was rejected. That is why he abstained from the final vote.


Text of the resolution

The Condemning Resolution toward the act of terrorism against the Japanese nationals in Syria

Recently in Syria, inhumane and despicable acts of terrorism were conducted by ISIS against two Japanese nationals.

The Upper House strongly condemns this unforgivable violence.

Moreover, when we think of the pain that the families of the two nationals are going through, we are so regretful and hereby express our deep sympathy for them.

These acts of terrorism are not justified for any reasons or objectives.

Our country and our citizens condemn terrorism resolutely.

Our House hereby declares its determination to maintain a steadfast rejection of terrorism.

Our country will contribute to peace in the international community by extending humanitarian assistance towards countries in Middle East and Africa.

Our country demands the Japanese government to enhance cooperation with the international community in the fight against terrorism, as authorized by UN Security Council resolutions.

Moreover, we demand the government to take measures to protect Japanese nationals both domestic and abroad.

Finally, our House expresses deep gratitude on behalf of the Japanese people to Jordan, as well as all countries and international organizations who lent their strong cooperation and efforts to securing the release of the two Japanese nationals.

Be it resolved.

On February 6, Yamamoto explained the reason why he abstained from the vote. The following is a translation of his statement, which was published on his blog.

To people who think that I must be a terrorist because I walked out of the chamber during the vote for the resolution condemning the execution of two Japanese citizens:

I will explain the reason why I chose to leave my seat, and to abstain from vote on the resolution. If you were to label me as a terrorist, please do so only after you understand my perspective.

First of all, did you actually read the resolution? I assume that there are people who thought that there were no serious problems with the resolution. Certainly, I agree with the text of the resolution until the seventh sentence. It is common sense that kidnapping and murder are unethical. However, I requested that the House Steering Committee revise and amend the latter part of the resolution. Since there is a rule that revisions to resolutions require the approval of the leaders of the House Steering Committee, it is not something that one member, like me, can influence.

I felt that the resolution needed to demonstrate the determination of MPs to prevent acts of terrorism against Japan and Japanese citizens abroad, since we have received the trust of the Japanese citizens to secure the safety of its people. Instead, the resolution includes meaningless phrases like “we will not give in” or “we will not forgive.”

With this as the background, I made proposals for a minimum amount of revisions. They are as follows:

  1. Investigate the root causes of the hostage crisis, going back to the start of the Iraq War in 2003;
  2. Acknowledge countries’ support without specifically naming them; and
  3. Create an official English translation.

I will explain each of these proposals briefly.

(1) It’s only natural that a thorough investigation of the hostage crisis is a necessary role for the government. Were the actions of the Abe administration appropriate from the revelation of the hostages’ capture until the release of the video demanding a ransom? From the hostages’ detentions to their murders, what kind of decisions were made by the government’s crisis management teams and related organizations? Why did the administration call an election while knowing that the nationals were being held in captivity as hostages? Prime Minister Abe made a visit to the Middle East knowing that these Japanese nationals had been taken hostages, and he made a speech while he was there. Was that the best way to try to rescue the hostages? An investigation is necessary. There are many things that the administration has to do to be accountable and officials should not run away from this responsibility by saying their actions fall under the Act of Protection of Special Designated Secrets.

Moreover, why does this investigation need to stretch back to the Iraq War? It is necessary to consider the background for why ISIS has become as large as it is today. In 2003, an American president declared that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that it was therefore necessary to take military action. Three hours after that speech, Japan announced its support for the military campaign. After the destruction of Iraq by the coalition forces, it turned out that Iraq did not actually have WMDs. Under false pretexts, the US attacked a country, took away its sovereignty and destroyed it. Japan and some other countries supported this. However, almost 10 years after the withdrawal of Japanese Self Defense Forces from Iraq, Japanese officials and the public have become indifferent about the aftermath of the Iraq War.

I am one of the people who were indifferent about the problems in Iraq. The public safety of Iraq has become worse and worse. The murders of Sunnis by Shiites, which bordered on ethnic cleansing, was conducted on a daily basis. ISIS emerged from this situation. In Fallujah, where many Sunnis live, peaceful demonstrations by residents towards the Al-Malaki government did not stop the violence against Sunnis. These demonstrations spread across Iraq and grew into larger demonstrations, but the Al-Malaki government responded by shooting and killing many of the demonstrators.  The international community, including Japan, decided to ignore this, and the media did not aggressively cover these incidents.

We should not think that the hostage crisis took place is simply because two Japanese nationals stepped into a dangerous area on their own accord. Rather we should think that the hostage crisis happened as a result of a faulty belief that there were WMDs in Iraq, which led to the destruction of the country (even though WMDs were not found), which in turn resulted in the deterioration of public safety in the region and the birth of ISIS. Shouldn’t we do a thorough investigation from the start of the Iraq War at least?

(2) I think it is important to express gratitude to people who have helped you. But, I also think we should avoid listing the names of specific countries. The specific country who is listed in the resolution is Jordan, which is a country that participates in air strikes against ISIS.

I think that expressing gratitude to a country carrying out armed attacks entails risks.  The very fact that gratitude to specific countries is printed in the resolution adopted by MPs who represent the Japanese people can be interpreted as saying that “we will not give in” or “we will not forgive” are the sole opinions of Japanese citizens.

I think that the likelihood of Japan becoming a target of terrorism will increase if we do not distance ourselves from countries that are members of the coalition.

(3) Throughout this incident, we have learned that the things that are said and the information that is sent out by the Japanese Prime Minister can end up being interpreted as more aggressive, depending on the translation. Therefore, I proposed to have the resolution translated into English. Then, every single Japanese word would be translated in a way that conveys what we really mean, and the resolution would not be mistranslated into a ways that do not reflect what we really intend to say. This is important because the resolution is adopted by Japanese MPs together, as a body.

I submitted a concise version of the three proposals I discussed above. However, they were not reflected in the resolution at all. I decided to walk out of the chamber during the vote in order to try to minimize the risk of terrorism against Japanese citizens who live in countries that are unstable.

Lastly, since the rest of the members of my party (People’s Lives Party, Taro Yamamoto and Friends) supported the resolution, but one of its co-leaders protested the vote, there are some people who imagine that this is a sign of internal disunity in the party. Please do not worry. It is our party’s policy to respect the individual opinion of each of its members. The individual members are not constrained by the official position of the party. Moreover, I consulted thoroughly with my fellow co-leader Ichiro Ozawa and other members of the party before the vote.

( Source:



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