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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #260: November 1, 2004

Japanese Troops to Stay in Iraq

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japanese troops to stay in Iraq"

Related Article:
"Japan confirms identity of corpse"
Al Jazeera


A Japanese 24 year old man, who had been studying in New Zealand since the beginning of the year, for unknown reasons went the Israel in September. (A record of visiting Israel on the passport could hardly been a help in the Arab world.) In mid-October, he went to Amman, Jordan where he conversed with a Japanese film director and the innkeeper of the hotel, both of whom strongly advised against his plan of going to Iraq.

On the evening of October 20, he took a regular route bus to Baghdad, to arrive in Baghdad the following day. There are reports that on the evenings of 21st and 22nd, he was turned down lodging by a couple of hotels in Baghdad. He was seen in the morning of 23rd at the bus terminal, apparently trying to return to Amman, but was denied as there was no service that day. There are reports of him being advised to hire a taxi, but he had only 20 dollars which was insufficient to pay for the trip. He was seen talking to a couple of men on the street, then getting into a car with those men.

On 27th, Al Jazeera aired him held hostage by the terrorists, conveying the message for the withdrawal of Japanese SDF within 48 hours. Prime Minister Koizumi immediately rejected the possibility of giving in to the terrorists' demands while the government began to seek means to save the young man. And in the early morning of 31st, the man's body was found in Baghdad.

Japanese people's reaction to the incident had been fairly indifferent from the outset. Especially considering the chaos when, in April, three Japanese civilians, later all released, were held hostages. For one thing, people this time were busy coping with the damages left by typhoon "Tokage" and then by a fierce earthquake which attacked parts of Niigata Prefecture, forcing more than 100,000 people to evacuate and where still more than seventy thousand people are unable to return to their homes as their houses are lost or otherwise inhabitable.

Another reason for the inert public response to the incident was obviously the learning effect through past experiences and the people's increased awareness in the affairs of the world, through media reports of unpredictable behaviors by certain neighboring countries and confrontations in various parts of the world.

Thus, while sympathizing with his family for the tragedy, the man was considered as if going into a hungry lion's cage, without any preparations and despite the warnings from everyone. At the age of 24, that was his own choice which must be honored, to the extent it would not become a cause of unreasonable level of burden for others.

Having said that, the obvious fact of terrorists being criminals has finally began to be acknowledged by the Japanese public. Until recently, many were apparently unclear of the differences between terrorists and patriots, which had been deliberately muddled further by clamorous "activists."

Japan's SDF is not in Iraq to exercise its "Force." They have not fired a bullet, and they have no intention - or even the right except in very limited circumstances - to do so. They are there to help rebuild Iraq for the people living there, just like they are now helping the victims of the earthquake in Niigata where tremors are still continuing.

Good chunks of Japanese people do wish to have the SDF called back. But that is not necessarily out of doubt in the righteousness in terms of political, social, or religious perspective for the SDF to be there. Japanese people are disenchanted with the way their expensive workforce dispatched to help build the infrastructure in Iraq being received there, that if Iraqi people are really filled with hostility toward Japan's SDF, it would not worth paying taxes for it.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications