Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I Learn Something About Our War on Terror in the Iraqi Theater

No, not that theater. I am watching Sunday Project, my favorite TV program (after the wacky wushu serials on basic cable). Soichiro Tawara, the hard-hitting septuagenarian host, is questioning Nobuteru Ishihara, ex-Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary and new Chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council, on the prospects for the extension of the counter-terrorism act.

Even as Mr. Ishihara is explaining the distinction between Iraq and Afghanistan and how Japanese withdrawal would mean a disaster for the valiant Pakistani navy, Mr. Tawara, as always - this is the rudest man on the planet we are talking about - interrupts him and whips out a web page printout, two pages be exact, courtesy, he says, of Yukio Edano, DPJ hyper-policy wonk. They have been taken from the US Centcom Web site, and shows that most of the fuel oil that the JSDN provides for refueling as logistic support for counter-terrorism activities actually goes to operations in Iraq. Mr. Tawara's point is that we'd been told that there's one law on the books for Iraq and another for the war on terror in Afghanistan but it turns out we've been mostly helping out in Iraq either way.

Mr. Ishihara does not skip a beat – he claims he wasn't aware of this information, and he does look sincere – and goes on to explain how the Indian Ocean [i.e. presumed theater of operations] stretches to the African coast and the Persian Gulf so the whole area must be patrolled of course and we wouldn't want the terrorists moving in and out of Iraq do we? Mr. Tawara keeps pressing his point, Mr. Ishihara keeps repeating that there is no way to draw the line between naval operations around Afghanistan - a landlocked state, come to think of it – and Iraq, and I am thinking, gee, call me stupid, but I wasn't aware of that… The two kept repeating themselves until Mr. Tawara gruffly broke it off.

Come to think of it, it makes sense. The counter-terrorism act says nothing about the theater of operations, and the Iraq act only covers "activities to support humanitarian reconstruction and activities to support secure safety". The jurisdictional distinction is functional, not geographical. The problem is, we've had Afghanistan/Iraq, Afghanistan/Iraq drummed into our heads over and over again and how everyone but Ichiro Ozawa and his cousin is supposed to be on board for Afghanistan; so the notion that the refueled ships actual operate mainly in the Iraqi war theater? That comes as a sort of double-take for me, not to mention for the obstinate Mr. Tawara. How will it play with the rest of the public? The fact that Mr. Edano passed it on is a sure sign that the DPJ is going to exploit this mostly-Iraq angle once the Diet convenes on Sept.10.

That's how I remember the exchange, though I probably misremember much of the details. (Like, was that Edano, or really Maehara?) (MTC, did you videotape it?)

Now I have a request. Do any of you know how to find the web pages? It appeared to have "Operation Iraqi Freedom" emblazoned at the top, a big picture of a couple of naval vessels, and tables to show how much fuel oil have gone where. I can't find it here.

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