To the Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: February 2004

The Editor's page.

Dear Mr. Kelts,

As an Englishman, I am from a country that already has troops committed in Iraq. Therefore, it's good news that Japan has decided to commit its highly-skilled defense forces to the situation in Iraq. Japan should look forward and be proud that it has taken this momentous decision. Well done, Japan.

-- Glenn Aris

Dear Mr. Kelts,

Japan had better be ready for the deaths of its self-defense forces should they go to Iraq. As shown by the recent deaths of the Japanese and Spanish diplomats, those in Iraq will do whatever they can to disrupt and discourage those who are trying to bring about change in Iraq. They will target the Japanese and everyone should be aware of that fact from the outset.

I am an American businessman who lived in Japan until the end of September 2003. I am now back in the States. The view of the US fiasco in Iraq is not better from this side of the Pacific. The war was ill-conceived and ill-timed. The desire for vengeance on the part of this Administration has clouded clear strategic planning about the consequences of military action. The US has unleashed forces in Iraq that they do not understand and are not equipped to control. The escalating force being used by the US military will result in hardened attitudes against the occupation of Iraq. That hardened attitude will lead to attacks on all coalition forces.

Japan should steel itself for the sight of bodies returning home in pieces. When that happens, the strength of the US-Japan relationship will be tested in direct proportion to the number of casualties Japan suffers. It's not IF, it's WHEN. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

-- Kent Millington

Dear Mr. Kelts,

In my view, the Japanese Prime Minister's decision is right. It is true that Japan hasn't gone to war since World War II. But sending troops to Iraq is only to help the people rebuild their country. So helping the people is good for Japan.

In my country, Sri Lanka, we have had ethnic conflict for more than 20 years. And even here we are considering sending troops to help the people in Iraq.

-- Prabath

Dear Mr. Kelts,

While a great many Japanese consider the arguments stated daily by those supporting or opposed to the dispatch of the SDF to aid the US-led forces in Iraq, the overdue decision by Prime Minister Koizumi and his cabinet means that they will be going very soon. The question of what will happen should Japanese casualties be taken, however, seems wholly geared towards the likelihood that only "enemy" fire will inflict such tragedies.

The broader picture of how deaths occur in war has been somewhat ignored. Injury and death are indeed possibilities, as daily attacks on troops of all nationalities and local and foreign civilian aid agencies continue to occur. But considering this point and the probable reaction after the event in which Japan possibly loses its first soldier in action in 50 years, Japan MUST consider the following: If the Japanese troops suffer their first loss at the hands of US (yes, US) "friendly fire" -- what will happen?

From a total of around 57,000 fatalities, thousands upon thousands (around 17 percent) of Americans in Vietnam suffered this fate. All British "combat" deaths in the first Gulf War were reportedly at the hands of their allies. Of course, friendly fire does happen in war, but the extent that the US is involved appears somewhat extreme when considering the above numbers.

Speaking from my experiences in Southeast Turkey and then northern Iraq in the mid-90s, when the US downed two of its own Blackhawk helicopters, killing a great many friendlies (Kurds, British, French, Turks and Americans), and seeing firsthand the news blackout on the US base in the region -- I, and perhaps all who were there at the time are left thinking: How? Why?

Going from village to village in the area and meeting the locals soon thereafter, I was more afraid of the Green Berets at my elbow than any possibility of unfriendly locals. And I know for sure that my feelings are not now and were not then mine alone.

Japan: Are you aware of such a possibility, and if so, what will you do if a situation not unlike the above happens to your troops? It could, and the longer you stay in Iraq, the greater the chance that it will. How it might affect your relationship with

-- Mark Buckton

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