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A unit of the Air-Self Defense Force has withdrawn from Iraq after completing its five-year-long transportation mission. Fortunately the ASDF unit suffered no casualties despite constant danger. Still, the Diet should examine whether the ASDF’s activities in Iraq were proper from the viewpoint of the nation’s basic defense policy and the war-renouncing Constitution. The government insists that its decision to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was correct. The United States had invaded to pre-empt Iraq’s use of weapons of mass destruction. As no such weapons were found in the country, the government owes a convincing explanation.

The ASDF unit was sent to Kuwait in 2004 under a special law to provide humanitarian assistance for Iraq reconstruction. Although its mission was limited to southern Iraq at first, ASDF flights were later expanded to Baghdad and Arbil in northern Iraq. The unit’s three C-130s made 821 flights, transporting about 46,500 people and about 673 tons of cargo. It is suspected that the C-130s transported many U.S. troops and much U.S. military cargo. The government should make public detailed figures.

The special law restricted the Self-Defense Forces’ activities in Iraq to “noncombat zones” to avoid the appearance of violating the Constitution. But then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi used sophistry by saying, “The area where the SDF is carrying out its activities is a noncombat zone.” Yet it is reported that the ASDF unit had to cancel C-130 flights about 30 times because it received information on threats, including advance notices of missile attacks.

In April the Nagoya High Court ruled that the ASDF mission included activities that violated the Constitution. The Diet should scrutinize the ASDF mission on the constitutional matter. As the situation in Iraq calms down, the U.S. is likely to ask Japan to contribute more to the stabilization of Afghanistan. Japan should lay down clear principles on dispatching the SDF abroad within the framework of the Constitution.

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