--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 23
EDITORIAL: U.S. pullout from Iraq.

U.S. President Barack Obama has set the end of 2011 as the deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq. The midterm goal of the plan is to end combat operations in the country by Aug. 31. In line with the schedule, the last U.S. combat unit left Iraq to move into neighboring Kuwait last week.

The number of U.S. troops remaining in Iraq will be reduced to 50,000, about one-third of the peak level, at the end of this month. Their main mission will be training Iraqi security forces that will take over the role of the U.S. troops.

The death toll of American troops in Iraq has surpassed 4,400, while estimates put the number of Iraqi civilians killed at more than 100,000.

Answering to an embedded foreign journalist, a U.S. soldier who has left Iraq said the best thing would be for no one to get hurt anymore. The U.S. forces have just done their duties, but many of them probably have mixed feelings, wondering if they fought a just war.
 イラクを離れた兵士が外国の従軍記者に答えた。「何がいいかって? 第一に、もう誰も傷つかないこと」。この戦争は正しかったのか。任務とはいえ、兵士たちにも複雑な思いが去来したのではないだろうか。

Immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States, many countries and people around the world supported U.S. plans for a war against terrorism. But the U.S. government's push to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein bitterly divided the world and provoked deep anger within the Islamic world. As a result, terrorism has spread widely both within and outside Iraq.

What was the meaning of the Iraq war? It is time for both the United States, which started the war, and Japan, which supported the U.S. action, to ask themselves some serious questions about what they did.

A 'preventive war'

Let us look back.

Suspicions arose that Iraq had a secret cache of weapons of mass destruction. If these weapons found their way into the hands of terrorists, the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush argued, they would pose a serious security threat.
The Bush administration used these concerns as justification for starting the war against Iraq despite a lack of definite evidence to support these claims.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq started with willing allies, such as Britain and Italy, flying in the face of opposition from Germany, France and other countries. The U.N. Security Council did not issue a resolution that clearly sanctioned the use of armed forces against Iraq.

A "preventive war" to nip a potential threat in the bud by a country solely on its own judgment violates the U.N. Charter, which permits a country's use of force only for self-defense against an imminent security threat to the country or when the Security Council has passed a resolution to approve military action.

The international community struggled to persuade the United States to restrain itself from heading into a preventive war. Before the Iraq war began, a French diplomat said it was a U.S. problem, not an Iraq problem.

The U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the president that invading Iraq would be very costly for both the United States and the world. He pointed out that occupying Iraq would mean the United States would have to own the hopes, aspirations and problems of all Iraqi people. Still, Bush decided to start the attack, true to his pledge to combat terrorism by all possible measures.

Lack of support

The U.S. administration was apparently driven by the shock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was, however, difficult for Washington to win support from people in Iraq or the international community for a fight against terrorism when it was actually an attempt to use force to upset an anti-U.S. regime without offering any clear rationale.

But the Bush administration couldn't understand this obvious truth.

The search after the collapse of the Saddam regime found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, making the war even more questionable.

The U.S. billed the overthrow of Saddam as part of its fight against terrorism and continued operations to eliminate the remnants and supporters of the regime. This provoked strong anti-American sentiment and a wave of terrorist attacks in Iraq. The U.S. invasion gave extremist groups like al-Qaida a justification for jihad in Iraq, setting off an endless chain of violence.

Iraq remains deeply mired in political turmoil. Parliamentary elections in March have triggered a political standoff between religious groups, failing to establish a new government and leaving the country in a political vacuum.

Meanwhile, the United States under President Obama, who harshly criticized Bush over the Iraq war, has dramatically changed its policy. Now, Washington is trying to rebuild war-devastated Iraq through efforts supported by the United Nations and the international community.

As the country that destroyed Iraq and created chaos in the country through its preventive war, the United States has a grave responsibility.

President Obama, however, has called the conflict in Afghanistan a "necessary war" and has tripled the number of U.S. troops deployed in the country since he took office.

But the United States has failed to win the hearts of the people in Afghanistan even though it has overthrown a regime linked to al-Qaida.
The current situation in Afghanistan, where the United States is struggling badly in its efforts to help rebuild the nation and eliminate terrorism, is reminiscent of Washington's plight in Iraq.

David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary, has cited overconfidence in military power as one of the mistakes made in the war against terrorism. Expanding the war front, which inevitably leads to a larger number of war victims, doesn't help increase allies for efforts to prevent terrorism. The United States should keep this lesson in mind for its operations in Afghanistan as well.

Japan supported the U.S.-led war against Iraq and dispatched Self-Defense Forces troops to what the government described as a "noncombat zone" in the country. It was a move to demonstrate its solid commitment to its alliance with the United States. But how should we judge the Japanese government's decision to back a war that was started on the basis of inaccurate information?

"There is obviously no way for me to know at this moment which parts (of Iraq) are combat areas and which are noncombat zones," then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said during a Diet session. Didn't the government make a wrong choice when it decided to send SDF troops to Iraq when it had no accurate information, as Koizumi's remarks indicated?

Review decision-making process

The North Korea problem influenced the policy decisions of the ruling party and the government concerning Iraq.

A senior lawmaker of then ruling Liberal Democratic Party said, "Can we afford to allow Japan's alliance with the United States to be damaged by walking away (from the Iraq war) when Japan is facing a threat from North Korea?"

But how was the Iraq war actually linked to the North Korea problem in policy debate within the Koizumi administration?

At that time, as chief of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Naoto Kan, the current prime minister, argued that sending SDF troops to Iraq, most parts of which were combat areas, was unconstitutional. The current DPJ-led government must now make clear what it has learned from the episode.

Government decisions about war must be rigorously scrutinized. Otherwise, the experience will leave no useful lesson for the governance of the nation, especially for its diplomatic and national security policies.

The time has come for the Diet to take a fresh and hard look at the process in which Japan made its decisions concerning the Iraq war through such efforts as intensive debate at an Upper House fact-finding committee.

by kiyoshimat | 2010-08-25 04:30 | 英字新聞

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