Tragic death of 2 Japanese journalists in Iraq -- Akahata editorial, May 30

Two Japanese journalists Hashida Shinsuke and Ogawa Kotaro, and an Iraqi translator were killed in an attack in the south of Baghdad, Iraq's capital. An Iraqi driver narrowly escaped unscathed. Targeting civilians is a brutality we cannot condone.

We express our deepest sympathy to their victims and the bereaved families.

Last November, two Japanese diplomats were killed in Tikrit. The tragedy this time forces us to face up to the harsh reality in Iraq and think again about what Japan should do.

Amid virulent hostility

The recent attack took place amid the Iraqi people's growing fury and resistance to the U.S. occupation forces which continue to carry out brutal siege and "mop-up" operations targeting all Iraqis in Fallujah, western Baghdad, and Najaf and Karballah in southern Baghdad. As happened in the Abu Ghraib prison, physical torture and abuse against Iraqi captives became an issue in the world as well as the United States. Actions that rouse Iraqi people's anger are continually occurring.

In mid-March, Ogawa was in Fallujah to collect testimonies from residents about their terrible ordeal, including a father who gave his account of his newborn baby boy killed in random shootings at his house by the U.S. forces in the middle of the night and his own imprisonment; a mother who was trying to calm her daughter who wanted to die because she got pregnant after being raped in jail by a U.S. soldier; and a man who shouted, "Foreigners siding with the United States are all our enemies. If I have a chance, I'll kill them." Ogawa wrote in the June edition of the monthly Gendai magazine, "Both adults and children are not smiling," and "I felt much more pressure here than any other town I visited."

The U.S. forces reportedly killed 600 to 700 residents in Fallujah in April. Ogawa had reported, "In Fallujah, people's hatred is growing, and the hatred is spreading all over Iraq." Ogawa and Hashida were attacked at a time when Iraqi people's hostility and hatred toward foreigners who they think are on the side of the U.S. occupation forces are increasing.

There's an argument that Self-Defense Force units should not be withdrawn from Iraq precisely because of the recent incident. What they are suggesting is tantamount to calling for the reality to be ignored for the sake of the continued deployment of the SDF in Iraq. The Special Measures Law for Iraq provided that SDF troops will be deployed to "non-combat zones". With the whole of Iraq turned into a war zone, such a definition does not make sense. The premise that the government used for the enactment of the law is no longer tenable as "humanitarian and reconstruction assistance" has had to be suspended several times.

SDF dispatch criticized

The Koizumi Cabinet dispatched the SDF in order to support the U.S. war of aggression against Iraq and cooperate in the barbarous occupation of Iraq as a member of the "Coalition of the Willing" that supports the United States. That's why Iraqi people who used to have pro-Japanese sentiments are now severely criticizing Japan. The Iraqi driver who was with the two Japanese journalists reportedly said that the assailants called them "U.S. agents". We have to face up to the reality that the Iraqi people now show a sense of anguish toward Japan and the SDF because of their being on the U.S. side.

Defense Agency Director General Ishiba Shigeru said that the recent incident will not affect the activities of the SDF in Iraq. However, ignoring the reality of Iraq will only increase the danger that the Japanese will be killed or SDF personnel will kill Iraqi people. The SDF must be withdrawn immediately. (end)

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