SDF likely to face terrorist threat in Iraq
John de Boer (Research Associate, GLOCOM)
The Asahi Shimbun reported last week that the Japanese government is getting ready to send another fact-finding mission to Iraq to study the situation on the ground in advance of the diet approved Self Defense Force (SDF) dispatch. Recent news reports indicate that this mission is driven by a fear that SDF troops in Iraq will face violent opposition. A source close to prime minister Koizumi was quoted in Asahi as stating that the final decision regarding Japanese troops in Iraq will be made "in consideration of whether Japan will be a target of terrorists" (2 September). Yasuo Fukuda, the chief cabinet secretary, has tried to brush this notion aside by stressing that the local situation is not unstable enough to "completely rule out any dispatch". However, the reality facing the occupiers in Iraq tells a different story. The continuing chaos and almost daily deaths of US soldiers has forced president Bush to beg for patience and money. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the death of scientist David Kelly has placed a very unpopular British government under investigation. Moreover, terrorism, poverty, neglect, violence, occupation and destruction is killing more than 20 Iraqi civilians daily and forcing millions more to live in misery and fear. In light of the prevailing disorder, the Japanese public should be alarmed that Fukuda considers the current Iraqi situation stable enough to send in unarmed Japanese troops. As to whether Japanese troops could be a terrorist target, one need not look further than the recent bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq. If an organization that did not endorse the US led invasion of Iraq was targeted it is more than likely that supporters of the invasion/occupation (one of them Japan) would also be on the list.
Japan should also learn from president Bush's current trials. His speech to the nation on 7 September depicted a president struggling to regain public trust and ultimately fighting for his future. The fact that his words failed to convince most should be further warning to Japan that the US president may eventually lose public support for this increasingly unpopular and costly occupation.
Following his address, a New York Times editorial expressed disappointment that the president didn't announce a "course correction" in Iraq. The paper warned of increasing public disillusion with Bush's policy in Iraq stating that, "given the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been uncovered in Iraq, the president needs to be much more up-front with the American people about why our troops are there" (8 September). The editorial further insisted that Bush's tendency to "refer to everyone from the Ba'ath party loyalists to guerrilla fighters as terrorists, seems designed to confuse the public rather than clarify the administration's goals". The Washington Post struck a similar tone admitting that Bush was on the defensive as he "needed to tell the truth about what is happening in Iraq and show that there is a policy to deal with it". As of today, growing number of people in the US are coming to identify with Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean's point of view which stresses that, "the government is feeding misinformation to the American people in order to justify an enormous commitment of US troops". More and more agree with David Corn, author of the forthcoming book entitled The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers), when he says that, "the available evidence to date supports the notion that Bush was lying to the American public" when justifying the invasion and occupation of Iraq (The Nation, 8 September).
In his latest speech President Bush redefined his objectives in Iraq and centered them on fighting "terrorism". Undoubtedly, terrorism is on the increase in Iraq and represents one of the main forces of instability in the country and in the region as a whole. This reality should be obvious to all Japanese decision-makers. To suggest that Japanese forces will not face terrorist attacks in Iraq when the focus of Bush's plan has highlighted this threat as its main concern is highly irresponsible and unintelligent. Furthermore, that this same US president is currently facing his biggest political crisis as a result of US deaths and failures in occupied Iraq should force Japan to think twice before sending troops. At minimum it should wait until a UN Security Council resolution is passed establishing UN authority over the country and creating a truly international coalition committed to justice, peace and prosperity Iraq. By ignoring the lessons of US failures in Iraq, Japanese leaders will dispatch a highly vulnerable SDF in what David Corn has called "Bush's Iraqmire". The outcome would likely see body bags, devastated military families, an angry public and a government in serious trouble.