The Lower House has passed a bill to extend by two years the July 2003 ad hoc law to deploy the Self-Defense Forces for noncombat activities in Iraq. The specific aim of the bill is to extend the operations of the Air Self-Defense Force in Iraq since the law expires at the end of July.

Because the ASDF’s operations are veiled, the Upper House must do its best to unravel them and delve into the questions of why the ASDF unit must stay there and whether its operations are truly contributing to the law’s purpose of deploying the SDF in Iraq on humanitarian and reconstruction missions.

The Defense Ministry’s Web site says that from March 3, 2004, to May 10, 2007, the ASDF transported 523.62 tons of goods in flights on 505 days. It also transported personnel. But it is unclear how many people and how many tons of goods were transported for which organizations. On the basis of an April 24 government report to the Lower House, Tokyo Shimbun reports that after the Ground Self-Defense Force unit withdrew from its mission in Samawah in July 2006, the ASDF transported 46.5 tons of goods on 150 occasions — including 706 people and 2.3 tons of goods for the United Nations on 25 occasions. The newspaper adds that the ASDF transported personnel for the multinational forces on the remaining 125 occasions, but how many people were transported is unclear.

This means that more than 80 percent of the flights were for transporting multinational-forces personnel and goods. The Upper House must press the government to explain how such a transport mission contributes to humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. This is important because the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated since the recent surge in U.S. forces there.

The Upper House must also review the government decision to support the Iraq war now that it is clear that weapons of mass destruction, the reason that the United States started the war, did not exist. The government at the same time should seriously consider what Japan can do — other than deploying the ASDF — to help Iraqi people in a concrete manner.

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