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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #208: April 16, 2004

Japan welcomes Iraq hostage release, debate goes on

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan welcomes Iraq hostage release, debate goes on"
Elaine Lies (Reuters);:


The three civilians held captive in Iraq have been safely released. It has already been reported everywhere, and a lot more, with enhanced analyses and scrutiny, are expected to follow. This comment is a brief impression on the incident.

At the top of the list, it must clearly be noted that the villain is the group who kidnapped the three people. The act is a crime in any society, even in Iraq, and the criminals should be arrested and punished, and that in accordance with Iraqi law by Iraqi authorities. (Even though this is merely a matter of principle at this point.)

The next on the list of causes is the behavior of the captives. Danger in Iraq was clear and obvious, and the Japanese government had issued numerous warnings on the risks and "asked" citizens to stay away from the area. (Remember, the government of a civilized free society supposedly has no right to "restrain" people from leaving its own jurisdiction, thence wherever they go.)

Government's "responsibility" to protect its citizens, mentioned often recently in various manners including media, has been traditionally considered as the obligation of the government to protect its citizens from ill-treatment by the governing body in a foreign land. As there is apparently no licit and effective governing body in Iraq which should function as a counterpart to the Japanese government, it has been a very legitimate procedure for the government to announce its inability to assist its citizens when running into travel there.

Therefore, it is not a Japanese government's responsibility to save its citizens when they are caught in a hurricane in Florida, except for to propose or ask the US government it they could use assistance.

Japanese people have been anxious and sincerely wished their safe return, but with a similar level of sympathy to those catching pneumonia by swimming in Arctic Sea, or a tourist mugged in New York City's Harlem at night in late 60s, where in either case being there was in accordance with their will. In fact, some hard-line comments suggests the cost of their rescue operation should be charged to the captives, just like in the case of saving a climber who got stuck during an attempt to reach the top of Mt Everest. This general response of the people appararently surprised many, especially who had thought they knew the "Japanese" very well, including the government official such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda, who very quickly adjusted his positioning to express a firm stance on the issue, as if to prevent his rival, Mr Abe to become more popular.

One thing became clear through the events this time was that, despite the screaming and yelling of few militant activists, fanning of noises (and emotions of the families of the captives) by some media believing in sensationalism, significant majority of Japanese people saw the incident as a result of reckless, if not irresponsible, actions by those individuals held captive. There was literally nobody, except the depressed and excited members of the family of captives, who expressly proposed recalling SDF from Iraq "because of, and in the hope to recover" the hostages. Most people recognized the incident separate from the policy of the state. Needless to add, in any case it would have been imprudent and obscene to discuss such important matters under a pointing gun.

Having said all this, SDF in Iraq is an issue in its own right, and debates and discussions should continue among Japanese people, as it is a major affair to set their country's course into the future. It has been indicated that perhaps the kidnap might have a positive effect in promoting meaning discussions among people, as the incident has vividly displayed an emotional and hysteric behavior is not a productive process for people to contemplate such an important issue.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications