Summon Up Courage to Make Decision to Withdraw SDF from Iraq

April 9, 2004

Japanese Communist Party Central Committee Chair Fuwa Tetsuzo in a speech on April 9 called on the government to immediately withdraw the Self-Defense Forces from Iraq and avoid risking the lives of Japanese hostages taken in Iraq. He was speaking in front of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo as part of a nationwide JCP campaign to free the three Japanese civilians held hostage in Iraq.   The following is a translation of the speech:

     I am Fuwa Tetsuzo of the Japanese Communist Party. I am here today to talk about the serious incident that occurred yesterday in Iraq: the abduction of Japanese by an unidentified armed group.

     The three people held hostage had entered Iraq to volunteer to extend humanitarian assistance to children and residents of Iraq. The armed group has captured them and threatened to kill them unless the group's demand is met.  Whatever the group's demand, we must not condone such a threat, even if the group's demand for a withdrawal of the Self-Defense Forces from Iraq coincides with the Iraqi people's demand.

     Last evening, we published a statement by JCP Executive Committee Chair Shii Kazuo condemning this barbarous act and demanded the earliest possible release of the hostages. The government has said it will make efforts to get the Japanese hostages freed.  At the same time, it wasted no time in announcing that the SDF would not be withdrawn, even though it had not yet grasped the situation or identified the hostage-takers or established contact with them. This attitude raises a very serious problem.

     The question is how this incident will develop.  What if the three people are not released despite every effort being made?  The hostage-takers have imposed a deadline of three days from 9 p.m. yesterday. If the deadline expires before the SDF are withdrawn, the hostages will have to face the danger of execution, the worst consequence the terrorists warned of.

      We made representations to the government today demanding that it summon up the courage to make the decision to withdraw the SDF from Iraq, firmly believing that we must not allow our government to take any action that would result in the death of the captured Japanese citizens even though it is dealing with outlaws. 

They call for 'no capitulation to terrorists' demands', but is there justification in continuing to deploy SDF at the cost of lives?

     I know that some people argue that we must not capitulate to the terrorists.  Certainly, history shows that there can be a case in which we are forced to compromise human lives in order to defend principles.  In the Japanese Communist Party, many of our predecessors in the prewar days were forced to give their lives to defend the principles of popular sovereignty and peace in opposition to the war of aggression.

     Is there any justification or principle to defend in deploying the Self-Defense Forces in Iraq at the cost of human lives?

     The JCP has been consistent in firmly opposing the deployment of the SDF in Iraq.  Why?

     First, deploying the SDF in Iraq amounts to justifying the aggression which the United States carried out against Iraq in violation of international law.  This means that the SDF deployment is antagonistic towards the Iraqi people.

     Secondly, the whole of Iraq is now at war, and deploying the SDF there is a clear violation of the Constitution's Article 9 that strictly bans the use of force abroad.

In the Diet, an NGO representative said, 'Armed forces will put humanitarian assistance at risk'

     However, the Koizumi Cabinet refused to accept our proposal.  In dispatching SDF troops, it tried to convince the Japanese people that "the SDF are going to Iraq for humanitarian assistance, not for war."  It went so far as to say that in the situation facing Iraq, "no organization but the SDF can carry out humanitarian assistance."

     Is this true?

     Many volunteer activists, including those from Japan, have long been engaged in humanitarian assistance in Iraq before the SDF set to work in Iraq.  Japan International Volunteer Center  (JVC) President Kumaoka Michiya commented on the situation facing them and stated how they felt about it as an unsworn witness at the meeting on January 29 of the House of Representatives Special Committee on Iraq.

     According to him, at least 112 volunteer aid groups are working in Iraq.  Iraq is a dangerous place, of course.  What safety measures do they take to protect themselves against various dangers.  Mr. Kumaoka said, "We are trying to maintain our security by distancing ourselves from the military and military-related organizations."  This means they are trying to present themselves as humanitarian assistance organizations that are neutral and unrelated to the military.  He said, "If we are suspected of having relations with the occupation forces, it would be difficult to continue activities there.  We may even be exposed to hostility."  It was a very candid assessment.

     This representative went on to say, "Let me comment on the SDF dispatch. We are afraid that military elements getting involved with humanitarian assistance and  reconstruction might distort humanitarian assistance work itself.  Our concern is that they may compromise the neutrality of humanitarian assistance and endanger the activities of aid organizations such as the United Nations, the Red Cross, and non-governmental organizations."  His statement was modest but well articulated.

     The presence of the SDF in Iraq arouses deep concerns among these volunteer workers. The present hostage incident is precisely what volunteer group activists expressed concern about in the Diet in January.  I would say that this raises a very serious question and important lessons for us.

SDF is the last organization to ask to provide humanitarian assistance

     What's more, non-governmental organizations and volunteer groups are doing great jobs in humanitarian assistance, as clear from what was stated in the Diet in January.

     In Iraq, the SDF is mainly devoted to the supply of clean water to Iraqi people.  But this is precisely what many volunteer activists have long been doing in Iraq.

     They have supplied water for about 100,000 people.  This service cost tens of millions of yen, about 100,000,000 yen including equipment costs.  They assume that each resident needs 10 to 20 liters of water everyday.  This means that they supply about 1,000 tons to 2,000 tons of water everyday.  So volunteer workers have carried out activities in this way.

     The NGO representative commented in the Diet on what they witnessed in Iraq.  He said it isn't cost effective at all to use 40,400 million yen for the SDF to supply water in Iraq.

     What this representative stated turned out to be true.  A 40,400 million yen budget was established to dispatch the SDF.  The greater part of this money must have been used to build the SDF base.  An SDF advance team arrived in Iraq on January 19.  It was about two months later, on March 26 that they started supplying water.

     How much water do they supply?  Eighty tons a day, according to the Defense Agency.  Volunteers are supplying 1,000 tons to 2,000 tons of water for a population of 100,000 everyday.  Using that much money heavily equipped SDF units supply only 80 tons!  The Defense Agency director general says 80 tons of water is for 16,000 people.  But I suspect that it's overestimated.  Each person will receive about five liters of water a day.  If the NGO standard that every citizen needs 10 to 20 liters a day is applied, the SDF distribution is for 4,000 people to 8,000 people.  Using 400 times the amount used by volunteers, the SDF are supplying only five or ten percent of what volunteers are distributing.  This is a typical example of the costly and inefficient undertaking.

     What's more, the water distribution method is different between the SDF and volunteers.  Volunteers are distributing water together with the residents, making water available directly to residents. To carry out water distribution, the SDF in the suburbs of Samawah established its huge encampment surrounded by barbed-wire entanglements.  Water purification is being done within that encampment.  Water wagons from   Samawah City arrive at the SDF position and relay water to residents using hose over the barbed-wire fence. Thus, water is distributed to residents by Samawah City water wagons.

     It is easy to recognize this difference between the SDF's aid activity and humanitarian assistance carried out by volunteers in the residential districts.  You may recall the Defense Agency director general saying, "None other than the SDF can undertake humanitarian assistance."  The fact is, however, "the SDF are the last organization to be fit for providing humanitarian assistance."

     Suppose what would happen if 40,400 million yen used for the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces is redirected to the needs for humanitarian assistance by civilian organizations.  If this amount of money is redirected to water supply by civilian volunteers, 400 times the amount of water can be distributed to residents.  Remember that volunteers' waster supply to 100,000 people costs 100 million yen.  This means that water distribution to 40 million people is possible with 40,000 million yen, the amount the SDF have used.  Given the fact that Iraq has a population of 25 million, that amount of money is sufficient to supply the whole population of Iraq.  The SDF's work is one-tenth or one-twentieth of what is being done by volunteers.

     Friends, if the government really attaches importance to humanitarian assistance, it should stop deploying SDF units and treating the volunteers' lives lightly. I would like to call on the government to summon up the courage to make the decision to withdraw the SDF from Iraq.

A huge encampment in a peaceful area

     Another serious problem is that the government has tried to deceive the public by insisting that "the SDF will operate exclusively in areas in which no hostilities are taking place", an attempt to avoid public criticism over the violation of the Constitution's Article 9.  In the Diet, the government has repeatedly stated, "The SDF would be withdrawn from Iraq if the area of SDF deployment becomes a combat zone and does not meet the conditions of deployment."  In reality, however, news media are reporting daily that the whole of Iraqi is becoming a war zone.

     Our apprehension has come true concerning this question.  In other words, the dispatch of SDF troops in Iraq is playing a role in expanding the combat zone to the whole of Iraq.

     I said I suspected that the greater part of the 40,400 million yen earmarked for assistance to Iraq actually was used for building the SDF encampment.  Do you know the kind of encampment the SDF built in Samawah? The SDF built an encampment on land 750 meters long and 750 meters wide, enclosed with double barbed wire.  It's a 560,000 square meter area 12 times as large as the Tokyo Dome. More than 200 armored vehicles are on this base.

     Samawah had been a relatively peaceful region before. Establishing such a huge base in the outskirts of Samawah in itself is sufficient to turn the region into a war zone.

     This region used to be free of armed attacks, but recently, there were reports about attacks on the SDF base.  This indicates that the SDF deployment in Iraq is playing a major role in making the whole of Iraq a war zone.

     The government promised that it would withdraw the SDF troops whenever the area of their deployment becomes a combat zone.  Given the present conditions there, the government must consider withdrawing the SDF from Iraq.

Can the Constitution and human lives be compromised for the sake of relations with the U.S. Bush administration?

     The government gave two reasons for dispatching the SDF in Iraq.  One was that "only the SDF is capable of carrying out humanitarian assistance" and the other "the SDF will not operate in combat zones."  These arguments have collapsed completely.  No one can find any justification for the government to cling to the continued SDF deployment.

     The only reason for the government to stay the course may be Japan's relationship with the United States.  The SDF dispatch, which Mr. Koizumi had promised to Mr. Bush, was cheered by the United States.  So the Japanese government feels that it cannot back away. This may be the government way of thinking.

     The JCP has been questioning the government policy of compromising the Constitution and putting SDF members in harms way for the sake of a promise it made to the United States.  I now want to make one more point.  Do the three dedicated Japanese volunteers for humanitarian assistance to Iraq have to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the Japanese government's allegiance to the United States?

     The situation in Iraq is worsening each passing day due to actions by U.S. forces that antagonize the entire Iraqi people.  Southern Iraq is a region in which Shiite Muslims are the majority who suffered repression under the Saddam Hussein regime simply because they belong to a different sect.  For this reason, it was reported that most residents of this region welcomed U.S. forces when the Hussein regime was overthrown.  In less than a year, southern Iraqi residents who are Shiite Muslims were compelled to rise in action demanding a withdrawal of U.S. forces.  This reveals what the unlawful military occupation is all about.

     Today, many countries that cooperated with the United States in the early part of the occupation are beginning to withdraw their troops. Nicaragua and Singapore have already withdrawn troops. The governments of Spain, Honduras, New Zealand, and Kazakhstan have decided to withdraw troops. The demand that the United States stop the present way of dealing with things is increasing even among those countries that used to be cooperative to the United States.

     A recent U.S. opinion poll found that support for Bush's Iraq policy is no more in the majority.  This means that even in the United States an increasing number of people do not think that the U.S. occupation is tenable.

     The problem is that the Koizumi Cabinet is persistent in most dutifully following President Bush.  The Japanese people, who have the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, feel shamed by the subservience. We must not overlook this state of affairs for the benefit of the Iraqi people and for world peace.

     The task now is for Japan to end its submission to the United States and begin to call for a U.N.-led framework to be used to resolve the Iraq question.  Isn't this what Japan and the rest of the world must work for?

SDF pullout will pave the way for peace and humanitarian assistance to Iraq

     Time is running out for us.  The armed hostage-taking group has set a deadline at 9 p.m. of the day after tomorrow.  We cannot afford to waste even a minute.   Let's make our calls heard everywhere: Don't lose lives for Japan's cooperation in the Iraq occupation; Withdraw the Self-Defense forces from Iraq.  I call on you to raise your voices to influence the government.

     Let me repeat.  The Japanese government must not take any action that would cause a loss of our citizens' lives.  A speedy withdrawal of SDF troops will pave the way for world peace as well as true humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.  Let us joint forces to achieve this. (End)

The Central Committee of the Japanese Communist Party
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