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US and Japan Must Admit Iraq War a Mistake
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By Yzuru Nakagawa

We didn't need Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma's comment to realize that the Iraq War was clearly a mistake. An Asahi Shimbun public opinion poll shows that most people also think so.

How did the mistake start?

As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out, there is no doubt it goes back to the illegality of the start of the war four years ago.

In countries ruled by law, it is a matter of course for authorities to take out a court-issued warrant before they conduct an investigation. By the same token, in international society, if countries want to use force against others, they are required to seek a resolution passed by the UN Security Council.

The UN Charter allows members to use force only when they meet formal procedures set by the Security Council.

What the United States did to start the Iraq War can be likened to the police conducting a criminal investigation, not with a proper warrant but with one it previously obtained for a related case. This is clearly against the law.

Just before the outbreak of the war, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell made reference to Security Council Resolution 1441 passed in November 2002 as legal grounds to attack Iraq.

The resolution was aimed at offering Iraq "a final opportunity" to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction. The governments of both Japan and the United States have admitted that the resolution does not automatically allow the use of force against Iraq.

Rather, the Japanese government appears to base its reasoning on Resolution 687, passed in 1991 to end the Gulf War triggered by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The resolution partially left in place economic sanctions from the Gulf War to pressure Iraq into removing weapons of mass destruction.

If that was the case, the resolution to allow the use of force in the Gulf War must still be effective. This seems to be Tokyo's reasoning in its defense of the Iraq War.
But there is no way a series of resolutions demanding that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait would still be in effect after the Gulf War.

Since the United States was aware of the flimsiness of its argument, it sought to have the Security Council pass a new resolution. But the moment it gave up the effort, it made the decision to trample the rule of law. International society was powerless before the unlawful behavior of the world's only superpower. Sadly, this is a reality of the 21st century.

As the saying goes, where might is master, justice is servant. But it doesn't mean we should sit back and do nothing. If we do, the world will become distorted.

This lack of reason reminds us of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's irrational statement: "Just because we cannot find Saddam Hussein, it doesn't mean he doesn't exist. Therefore, we cannot say that there are no weapons of mass destruction."

The situation is even having a serious impact on education. When a senior high school textbook to be introduced this spring stated that the Iraq War was "a first strike" by the United States, the publisher was ordered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to rewrite the entry. This is because "first strike means an act of aggression banned by international law," according to the ministry.

It shows that as long as the government stands by the argument that starting the Iraq War was just, it has no choice but to cover up lies with lies.

Anyone who breaks the law must be punished. This is common sense. Some may see the way Americans are struggling to get out of the Iraqi quagmire as punishment. As long as the status quo continues, it is unlikely that the United States will win the Iraqi people's understanding.

Why don't Washington and Tokyo, which has been supporting Washington, both admit, albeit belatedly, that starting the Iraq War was a grave mistake?

It is true that such an admission involves major political difficulties. But once they overcome the difficulties, a new path awaits them.

The author is professor of international journalism at Tezukayamagakuin University.
(China Daily via The Asahi Shimbun April 20, 2007)

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