A questionable war
John de Boer (Research Associate, GLOCOM)
With each passing day we witness more death, destruction and despair. The war in Iraq was launched in the name of hope and more specifically for the cause of liberty. Yet, as it stands today, it is difficult to judge whether that objective is closer or farther away. In addition to the suffering, assessing progress towards that goal is distorted by the barrage of information we receive from a multitude of sources, which simply do not conform. Governments are fighting for power over territory, people, resources and "truth" has been the first casualty.
Up until now, the Japanese government has played a marginal role in this conflict. Counted as one of the "coalition" (very loosely defined), it has openly supported the US led invasion. News sources indicate that Japan has promised to give $100 million to Jordan to help it cope with the "effects" of the war. It has also provided $5 million to the UN for humanitarian aid. Nevertheless, the Japanese government has refused to provide "significant" financial aid to pay for the current war on Iraq citing the state of its economy which has been damaged by a decade long recession. It has also rejected President Bush's request to expel Iraqi diplomats from Tokyo claiming that routes of dialogue need to be kept open. Although the US has asked Japan to send troops to post-war Iraq as a police force, it is also unlikely that Japan will comply without a UN resolution on Iraq after the war. Considering the Bush Administration's contempt for the UN and Blair's failure to convince Bush in favor of a central role for the UN in Iraq's reconstruction this past week, a UN resolution may be asking too much.
Perhaps the most significant Japanese presence in Iraq to date is made up of the 45 Japanese nationals in Baghdad. The majority are journalists, the rest are "human shields" and NGO representatives. According to the AFP, the Japanese government has been trying to convince these citizens to get out of Baghdad, however, these individuals view such calls as more of a threat than the bombs that are being dropped around them by US and UK forces. Indeed, these national's have instructed their government not to contact them for fear that Iraqi officials would suspect that they were spies. Concern is mounting in the Foreign Ministry as the number of Japanese in Iraq seems to be increasing daily. On 20 March there were but 30 in the country, a week later there were 45.
Like the 45 Japanese nationals in Iraq, some fear that Prime Minister Koizumi's stance on this war is placing Japan in an increasingly precarious position. In fact, stated bluntly, most do not understand why the government insists on supporting the US in this war that could have been avoided. When viewing the dead being left to rot on the streets or carried back home in red white and blue, one cannot help but think that a continuation of UN inspections would have avoided all of this and brought us closer to the objective of disarming Iraq. Meanwhile, UN humanitarian efforts would still be in place, preventing tens of millions of Iraqi's from starving or bleeding to death. As for getting rid of the brutal Saddam Hussein, this is neither a right nor a responsibility that we outside of Iraq are entitled to assume. Japan and many other countries could, however, have pressed dictators such as Hussein to conform to his obligations as have been outlined in international law. They should likewise join human rights organizations and their millions of members in denouncing abuses and calling for justice against their perpetrators, whether they be in Baghdad, Boca Raton or Beijing.