The Issue of Iraq and Japan°«s Role


Tetsundo Iwakuni

Director-General, International Department

The Democratic Party of Japan

Member of the House of Representatives

December 1 2003


    The Koizumi cabinet has dodged, ducked, dithered or dismissed the handling of the Iraq issue, the future of Japan°«s national security, economic measures, employment, and pensions, without holding sufficient debate.  The investigatory team sent to Iraq will, for some reason, return on December 27, as though waiting for the close of the Diet session.  The special investigation into Ashikaga Bank will also, for some reason, be announced finally on December 28, rather than closing on December 27.


Two Proposals for International Contributions


    The terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, the first year of the 21st century, were a particular shock to me, as someone who had been assigned to the Middle East for eight years and who had worked for many years in New York City, the very target of those attacks.  In the light of my own experience, having been immersed in Arab society as the manager of a Japanese company°«s Beirut office, and in Western society in Paris, London and New York, this kind of terrorism could be perceived as nothing but a despicable and murderous act against humanity, and a challenge to civilized society.


    That does not mean, however, that acts of revenge against innocent Arab nations and peoples should be condoned.  In order to prevent the folly of the entire world being plunged into an endless cycle of revenge with no hope of resolution, I discussed this issue two years ago in the Diet, making two proposals.  These were the creation of an °»International Conference for Islamic Development Assistance°… and the preservation of law and order through a °»United Nations (U.N.) Peace Standby Force°….


Protecting Freedom, Peace and Human Lives


    First of all, regarding the °»International Conference°….  Chronic unemployment is causing young people to veer toward dangerous terrorist attacks, and economic poverty permits dictatorial states to exist.  I believe that Japan°«s most valuable contribution toward world peace could be to take the initiative ahead of other nations in advocating the construction of an international framework for the economic development and democratisation of the Arab region.


    The major Western nations have all at some time in their history been directly involved in the colonisation and waging of war in the Islamic cultural sphere that centres on the Middle-East.  In contrast, Japan alone among the so-called major economic powers is fortunate enough not to possess this kind of history.  Japan has never been an aggressor against the Arab nations, and despite having sufficient weapon-manufacturing capabilities, has never exported weapons to those countries.   On this point, Japan has succeeded in drawing a line between herself and those Western powers who have been direct aggressors and have also engaged in weapons sales.  Because of this very fact, a sense of affinity and solidarity, a feeling that Japan was a victim like themselves, exists in the Arab nations in the Middle-East.


    °»Only Japan understands us.  If Japan speaks, we will listen.°…  I have heard such voices many times in the countries of the Middle-East.  However, the new development reported in yesterday°«s news that two Japanese diplomats had been murdered suggests that this kind of sentiment among Arabs may be waning, due to the perception that Japan is Bush°«s lapdog.  Should this be the case, is it not all the more necessary for us to take immediate action?


    There is no mistaking the fact that the Arabs need the active participation of Japan.  It is difficult to eliminate the hatred and conflict between such monotheistic nations as the Arab nations and Israel, or the Arab nations and the United States.  It is for that very reason that Japan, a country that is the cradle of polytheism in terms of both religion and tradition, should play some sort of positive role.  


    Advocating this kind of international conference is a role for which the United States and the United Kingdom, who are suffering even now from a kind of °»historical bad debt°… following historical wars and errors made in relation to the Arab nations, are particularly unsuited.  It is still not too late for us to take action.


    If this international conference bears such fruits as the increased support of existing desalination projects, mainly in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and the provision of agricultural development aid, nurture of small and medium sized enterprises and improvement of the educational environment including school facilities, in countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan, the economic gap between the developed nations of the West and the poorest Islamic countries will be reduced. The treacherous magma that propels Islamic youth toward dangerous terrorist activities will hence be suppressed, amounting to a so-called °»safety-net for the Western nations.°…  In other words, this form of aid would not only benefit the Islamic countries, but could also ensure the protection of freedom, peace and human lives in all nations.


Japan°«s Appeal for Love Amongst Humanity


    Next, regarding a °»U.N. Peace Standby Force°….  The Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) should not be dispatched to Iraq.  The piecemeal interpretation of the Japan-US Security Treaty and armed activities by the SDF overseas pose the greatest risk imaginable.  Without being afraid of, shrinking from or swayed by such criticism as °»it°«s just one-country pacifism°… and °»Japan should also become a °∆normal°« nation,°… Japan must come to a conclusion as to how to fulfill her peace-building obligations to the international community from a 21st century viewpoint.


    Discussions about whether Japan is a °∆normal°« nation or whether she is not are out of place to start with.  The fact that Japan was both an aggressor and a victim in various wars, including World War II, that occurred in Asia during the first half of the 20th century, and that she is the only country to have experienced the °»mass destruction°… of the atomic bombing, the most inhumane act of murder in the history of humankind, is history that cannot be erased, and hence there is no way that she can possibly be a °∆normal°« nation.


    The Japanese Constitution was created based on this kind of thinking, and the first and second paragraphs of Article 9 express a philosophy that strictly adheres to purely defensive security.  I believe that now is the time for Japan to stress more clearly that our preservation, for half a century, of a constitution based on a philosophy that rejects belligerent attacks on other countries, is a reflection of the strong desire of the Japanese people, who are aiming to achieve love among humanity.  To achieve this, Japan should take the lead in advocating the establishment of a °»U.N. Peace Standby Force°… that would operate as a rule under the command of the United Nations.  In addition to the first and second paragraphs of Article 9, a third paragraph should be inserted along the lines of:  °»However, the provisions of the preceding paragraphs should neither prevent Japan, as a member nation of the United Nations, from retaining a United Nations Standby Force operating under the command of the United Nations, nor hinder operations of this Force taking place under the command of the United Nations.°…  First, this would further clarify that the nature and role of the SDF is to carry out purely defensive security for Japan.  Second, this measure would provide constitutional authority to the exercise of our obligation within the international community toward the establishment of world peace. And third, the ideological confusion within the Diet regarding the revision of the emergency law and other related legislation would be resolved.


    We should raise Japan°«s profile by immediately advocating an °»International Conference for Islamic Development Assistance°… and a °»U.N. Peace Standby Force°… and offer both money and knowledge.  We should leave actions that can be carried out by any country, like the dispatch of SDF troops to Iraq, to other countries.  If President Bush reproaches us for not keeping our promise, we should simply say °»I°«m sorry°… and persuade him by means of these two proposals.  If we can explain the Eastern concept of °»hard hands soft heart°… [literally demon°«s hands and the Buddha°«s heart], even via an interpreter, and thus succeed in transforming President Bush into °»President Busshu°… [In Japanese °∆Busshu°« can also mean °»the Buddha°«s hand°… so this translates as °»The President with the Buddha°«s touch°…], this will be a great victory for Japanese diplomacy that will be welcomed by the world.  Isn°«t it time for the Japanese Prime Minister to take action?


Iwakuni is a member of the Japanese House of Representatives and the former mayor of Izumo City.  His column °»Ichigetsu Sanshu°… is published every Monday in the Nihonkai Shimbun, a daily newspaper, and read regularly by over 400 members of the Japanese Diet, including the Prime Minister.  This translation is an edited version of the original Japanese.