J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
Issue No. 271
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
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[**We once again invited longtime J@pan Inc contributor, veteran military
analyst, Fuji TV commentator and Meiji University Lecturer Michael E.
Stanley to contribute a guest editorial. This week, he sheds light on
the 9/11 hearings in the US and reviews the Al Jazeera hostage video
shown in its entirety to him at the Fuji TV studios.]
@@ VIEWPOINT: GUEST EDITORIAL -- The "Far East" and 9/11
PLUS: "Hostages?" The Tale of the Tape
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>> ANIME ATTACKS: Disney's divorce from digital animator Pixar
and the Michael Eisner debacle comes at an ideal time for Japan's
animation titans. Leo Lewis speaks to the president of TOEI, whose
forthcoming assault on the US and Europe speaks volumes.
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>> TRUE LIES: A new book about the M-fund, a secret cache of cash
worth billions and overseen by the US and Japan, is stirring up
controversy and ... death-threats. David McNeill explains -- and we
speak to the authors, who are currently in hiding.
PLUS: Alejandro Lopez of Beacon Communications on how to reinvigorate
advertising in Japan's reviving brand market; a visit to Tokyo's oldest
slums; our expert analyses for investors looking to navigate Japan's
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@@ VIEWPOINT: The "Far East" and 9/11
Over my years of covering aspects of the US military presence in Japan
I became good friends with several of the services' public affairs officers.
Dub Allen, who was the media chief for the US Navy's Military Sealift
Command facility in Yokohama, was one of them. Dub would occasionally pass
along unclassified US government announcements that he thought would be of
One of these arrived in my Outlook Express inbox early in September 2001.
The message was directed toward US military and government personnel in
the Far East, and was dated September 7. It mentioned a high possibility
of terrorist action against American personnel or facilities --
and possibly prominent businesses -- in the "Far East" within the week
to follow, and it urged all personnel to be on guard. I cannot quote or
paste the original message here, as it was on my hard drive which went
south in the summer of 2002. However, I did make a couple of notes about
it, and I am sure that it could be traced as Dub had forwarded the
official e-mail notice itself.
As we all know, a few days later, the events of September 11, 2001 were
burned into the world's consciousness. I distinctly remember thinking of
the message from Dub while the events were still unfolding late on the
evening of September 11, Japan time.
The question kept nagging at me: what possible connection might there
be, if any? The fact that nothing whatsoever transpired here in the
Far East added to my curiosity.
During the days and weeks that followed the tragedy of 9/11, it became
common knowledge that the intelligence agencies of the US were terribly in
need of Arabic translators. It therefore makes sense that some pre-9/11
communication intercepts that might well have given warning of the
impending action by Al Qaeda had gone untranslated -- or perhaps they
had been mistranslated.
When President Jimmy Carter visited Poland back in the 70s, he was
accompanied by a Polish interpreter selected by the US government.
This individual embarked on a series of mistranslations and
misinterpretations that must have had the people of Poland puzzled,
shocked -- and laughing. One gaffe had the president's goal of
support for the "desires of the Polish people" rendered as support
for the "lusts of the Polish people." If such an egregious error
were possible at that level, what kinds of errors, omissions, and
missed cues might crop up from an underfunded and understaffed (and
at that time, obviously unappreciated) group of Arabic-language
translators working for one or more intelligence agencies?
I am told that Al Qaeda's messages and communications have a certain
archaic, Koranic style to them. I am therefore fairly convinced that
any intercepted chatter warning of impending terrorist action against
Americans "in the Far East " was in fact referring to somewhere else.
In what part of the United States did both attacks occur? Both the
departure airports of the four hijacked flights and their targets are
on the Eastern seaboard. It is entirely possible that something on
the order of -- "We will attack the infidel Americans in September.
We will strike them down in the east" -- WAS intercepted, but the
reference to "east" was assumed to refer to the "Orient" by either
a translator or an intelligence analyst.
The current hearings in the US capital are beginning to reveal a pattern of
evident negligence and incompetence on the part of the CIA and the FBI in
regard to the threat posed by Al Qaeda prior to 9/11; I would like to submit
that my thesis here is indeed a part of that pattern -- that the agencies
had actual intelligence in hand, but they were too shortsighted,
nearsighted, and preoccupied with their turf wars to see what was before
them. A month before the official warning about the Far East, senior
officials were already aware that at least one "Islamic extremist" (their
term) had been taking flying lessons. Tom Clancy had the Japanese villain of
his thoroughly overdone 1997 international potboiler novel DEBT OF HONOR
crash a jet airliner into the Capitol building for 'revenge;' coming up
with a similar idea a couple of years later would not require too much
in the way of mental gymnastics.
-- Michael E. Stanley
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>> "Hostages?" The Tale of the Tape
As soon as Al Jazeera had aired video of the the three Japanese taken by
their kidnappers, I was asked by the Fuji TV News Center to look over the
tape. What the Japanese public saw again and again on their TV screens was
only a small part of the original recording. NHK and the commercial
stations in Japan elected to avoid showing the more "shocking" and
"violent" parts of the tape
I saw the whole thing at least twenty times, rewinding, replaying, and
closely examining some of the details. And it was eminently clear that
all was not as cut and dried as the Japanese media evidently wanted the
public to believe. For starters, there was no blood whatsoever, nor --
at least to my eyes -- any convincingly realistic "violence."
By now, readers are likely familiar with the story and the nature of the
three individuals, but I think it pertinent to note here that Soichiro
Koriyama, the photojournalist who just happened to be one of the three
is a staffer for the Weekly Asahi, which just happens to be one organ
of the Asahi group -- which has been critical of the ruling LDP and
the Koizumi administration for quite a while.
The tape opens with shots of the three Japanese blindfolded and
squatting/half-sitting on the floor of a dingy building that looks to have
bullet scars on its walls and unglazed open rectangles for windows. The
sitting/squatting posture is odd -- there is a strangely relaxed posture
evident. They are not on their knees and they are holding their heads up in
a normal way; their heads are not bowed. There is no sign of fear in their
Another thing that was obvious to me was that the blindfolds of the three
Japanese were far too neat; looking as though they had just been
tied in place -- and not very tightly at that. The captives' hair was neatly
caught behind the blindfolds, which would not likely be the case if they had
been blindfolded earlier. This is especially obvious on the foreheads. That
seems odd, in that it is far more likely that the captors would blindfold
the three immediately upon capture in order to disorient them, reduce any
possibility of resistance, and keep them from seeing the route over which
they would travel to where they would be held. Moreover, the captives'
hands were not bound and they were not gagged with cloth or tape; neither of
these effective psychological measures for creating disorientation and
establishing and displaying dominance was done.
The captors standing around them hold an odd collection of weapons. We can
see the usual AK-47 assault rifles -- but two Dragunov SVD sniper rifles are
also evident; it seems unusual indeed that a terrorist "snatch team" would
carry such weapons.
At one point, what appears to be a South African-made R-6 assault rifle is
thrust at one hostage. Another captor holds an RPG-7 rocket launcher
with its characteristic conical round in place; obviously very much a
terrorist icon par excellence. But having a live round in the
launcher while holding it indoors is really a pretty stupid thing to do,
as the explosion of the warhead and the backblast from the propellant would
take out everybody in the room if there were an accidental discharge. A
curious edged weapon is also visible: a long, almost swordlike antique
bayonet (most likely a WWI-vintage type issued to the Ottoman army) is
brandished at the captives' throats at one point.
Suddenly, the tape shows the three Japanese without blindfolds and
apparently talking and gesticulating with their captors. There is no stress
on their faces. Moreover, there is no sound on the tape during this or
the previous sequence.
Suddenly, we are presented with a side view of the three with blindfolds in
place; the captors still stand around them holding their weapons. This
blindfolds on-off-on sequence leads me to believe that an early part of the
tape showing the captives without blindfolds was recorded over, possibly to
cover up some inadvertant "error". Then the scene changes, and the sound
comes on. A captor holding the collector's-item bayonet mentioned above
holds it to throat of one blindfolded captive and then another, all the
while shouting "no Koizumi" (sounding more like "nogozumi"), "no USA, and
"no Japan" (sounding like nodzaban) -- all the while forcing the threatened
captives to repeat the same. The badly-pronounced, parrotlike phrases
and the amazingly coordinated call-and-response sequencing hint that
something may have been "scripted" before the tape started rolling.
Finally, we are shown a wide-angle shot of the three hostages -- still
blindfolded -- as their captors push them onto their backs. Koriyama,
the Weekly Asahi photojournalist, is on the right side of the screen; a
black-clad captor who has been standing to his right (as seen on the TV
screen) pushes Koriyama down in an odd sort of way that seems out of
character for a terrorist. Koriyama moves a bit, and the captor steps
In so doing he reveals what is to me a damning piece of evidence: an
AK-47 assault rifle with its banana clip in place is clearly visible
propped against the wall within arm's reach of Koriyama.
It would be absolutely lunatic incompetence for a soldier or terrorist
to leave his loaded weapon in such a position if there were any kind of
threat in the room. And if it were a hasty oversight, surely one of
the other captors would either move the weapon, shoulder it themselves,
or have its owner move it out of reach.
This few seconds of tape is telling. To me, it reveals that there was
obviously no real threat perceived by the captors; they had no reason to
fear a rash action by one of their victims because they had -- in my
opinion -- agreed to this scenario beforehand.
It is my analysis that the three were acting -- in their own minds,
to be sure -- like the "human shields" that went to iraq before last
year's war. Perhaps the chance to become "hostages" and force the
Japanese government's hand was just too good to pass up. And with a
journalist along to "scoop" the whole thing -- well, sounds like a
screenwriter's dream to me.
The above is my opinion, and if anyone can offer conclusive and
convincing proof that will explain away the discrepancies I cite,
I will publicly retract what I have written.
-- Michael E. Stanley
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