by Kenji Asai
Representing the Movement for Democratic Socialism, MDS, and on behalf of the peace-loving people of Japan, I extend my deepest solidarity to all of you attending this historical gathering of the Second Cairo Conference.
Just last Tuesday, on December 9, the Japanese government approved a basic plan to dispatch Self-Defense Forces (SDF) troops to Iraq. We strongly condemn this decision, which paves the way for the deployment of military units to combat zone for the first time of Japan`s history since World War II.
According to the plan, up to 600 Ground SDF personnel will be sent to engage what the government calls humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in southern Iraq. However, this dispatch plan is never humanitarian nor for reconstruction. The troops, if sent, will surely be engaged in counter-insurgency operations conducted by the U.S.-led occupying forces against the Iraqi resistance, and lead to the most dangerous situation where our soldiers may be killed or even kill the innocent Iraqi people. We never allow this to happen.
The dispatch plan completely violates our Constitution, which declares in its Article 9 as follows:
1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
Our military is called the Self-Defense Forces. But how can it be described as self-defense when SDF units are sent far abroad beyond the oceans and participating the brutal occupation of a country which has never attacked Japan? The government plan stipulates that the Ground SDF troops will be unprecedentedly heavily armed with armored vehicles, recoilless rifles and anti-tank rockets. How can it be called humanitarian assistance?
We will definitely stop this worst-ever move of our government. The Japanese public is strongly opposed to the SDF dispatch. Every opinion poll shows that the majority of respondents, 70 to 90%, are against the government plan. This sentiment has grown bigger especially after two Japanese diplomats were killed in an ambush that occurred late last month near Tikrit. Prime Minister KOIZUMI Junichiro and high-rank government officials have repeatedly told, "Don`t be intimidated by terrorism" and "Don`t flinch from terrorism." But these are the words of aggressor. Ordinary people know clearly that Bush`s war on Iraq has brought in instability and chaos into the country.
Encouragingly, families of SDF soldiers have begun to speak out against the dispatch. More and more letters expressing concerns and worry about their loved ones are coming in to the editors of major newspapers. In addition, local councils of cities and towns, which host SDF bases and facilities, have one after another adopted resolutions protesting the government plan and demanding its cancellation. Peace activists in Japan plan to have successive rallies and demonstrations in communities where the SDF units to be sent to Iraq are stationed, as well as pressurize our legislators to give up the plan by lobbying.
We, the Japanese people, hoping to maintain and strengthen friendly relations with the people in the Middle East and sticking to our Peace Constitution, assure you that we will stop the SDF troops from participating the occupation of Iraq.
Lastly, let me introduce our campaign to establish a people-based International Criminal Tribunal for Iraq, ICTI, to try and charge George Bush and his allies with their war crimes committed during the Iraq war. This ICTI movement is coming from our experience of the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan, ICTA. Just today and tomorrow, parallel to this Conference, the Final Trial of the ICTA is being held in Tokyo, Japan, to declare George Bush be guilty of his war crimes in Afghanistan. (See: http://afghan-tribunal.3005.net/english/) Following this endeavor of the ICTA, a steering committee of the ICTI was set up in last October. We, in cooperation with other efforts for such tribunals done by peace groups around the world, would like to advance this movement to try warmongers based upon international law, and invite all of you to be endorsers of this ICTI movement. (See: http://www.cairocampaign.com/Docs/ICTI_Appeal_e.htm)
End the occupation! Stop the troops dispatch! Let us create a world free from war, aggression and injustice!
Thank you very much.
Movement for Democratic Socialism, Japan
(December 13, 2003)