Sunday, October 07, 2007

Refueling Issue Update

1. Newspaper reports say that the ruling coalition will introduce the bill only after the Budget Committee has completed its session on October 17. If true, this means that the earliest opportunity to submit the bill will be October 19, after the Cabinet meeting, giving the House of Representatives less than two weeks to vote on the bill. It is looking more likely that the supermajority revote will be held in January, before the Diet recesses and reconvenes in its annual regular session, most likely in the bottom half of January.

2. I had written here that the LDP considered both OEF-MIO and ISAF constitutionally acceptable. But I have recently seen Foreign Minister Komura state that direct participation in ISAF activities as of now would be unconstitutional, since the area could not yet be considered a non-combat area. Defense Minster Ishiba, the man who not only knows everything about military affairs but can also recite Article 9 by heart, gave a more elaborate explanation today on Sunday Project, pointing to two elements; 1) the existence of a conflict between states; and 2) a state of war that would make Japanese participation unconstitutional, and that 2) constitutionally barred Japan from taking part right now.

I don't think that this is a sound legal argument. War is war in a legal sense only because there are two or more states involved. Mr. Ishiba, in arguing for the continuation of the refueling activities, stated (and nobody is disputing) that there was no state as an enemy combatant in the case of OEF-MIO. But the same holds true for ISAF. In fact, Article 9 has even less to do with OEF-MIO (which did have Afghanistan as an enemy combatant to start with) than it does with ISAF (which has only non-state domestic insurgents and Al Qaeda as adversaries). But who asked me for my opinion? So this is a correction of the facts of the issue.

3) Mr. Ishiba also claimed that, although Pentagon is still in the process of conducting a thorough survey of the Kitty Hawk refueling controversy, he has so far been developing a conviction that the diesel fuel was not diverted to the Iraqi War. Everything seems to acquire more credibility - or at least plausibility - when Mr. Ishiba says it, so I'm going to suspend judgment until the case is laid out in public with due evidence, as he promised.

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