Editorial: End to Iraq war declared

Long way to Mideast peace

The war in Iraq, which went on for nearly nine years, has finally ended. The United States will complete the pullout of its troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Before an audience of troops who had returned from that country, U.S. President Barack Obama praised them for their role in the building of a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.”

At the war’s peak 170,000 American troops were stationed in Iraq, and 4,500 died there. The war claimed the lives of 115,000 civilians, including those who died as the result of terrorist attacks or attacks by armed insurgents. Although the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein was toppled, tremendous harm was inflicted on the people of Iraq as a result of the war.

Terrorist bombings continue in Baghdad and other areas throughout the country. There are deep-rooted conflicts among Islamic sects, and concerns remain about political instability, including issues related to ethnic minorities.

Nevertheless the administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not agree to an extension of the stationing of U.S. troops to maintain security. We approve of his commitment to the restoration of sovereignty. We would like the administration to strengthen cooperation with various political forces and step up the pace of reconstruction. The international community must also lend its support to the building of infrastructure and the rebuilding of people’s lives.

Even if the Iraq war has been brought to an end, it is hard to tell whether or not this will lead to stability in the region, including Mideast peace.

Obama has also presented a strategy for the pullout of American forces from Afghanistan, which has been regarded as a major battlefield for the war on terrorism. But peace between the administration of President Hamid Karzai and the anti-government Taliban, which has regained strength, must now be achieved.

The U.S. military acted independently when it conducted an operation in neighboring Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

And the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force deployed in Afghanistan, which consists primarily of American troops, mistakenly bombed civilians in Pakistan, forcing the U.S. military to pull its troops out of that country this month. The rift between the two countries is widening, and destabilizing factors in the region surrounding Afghanistan are increasing.

Suspicions of a nuclear weapons development program in Iran, which lies between Iraq and Afghanistan, have also deepened. According to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has been conducting the necessary tests and developing related equipment. The conflict between Iran and the West, which has strengthened economic sanctions, has further intensified.

The prolonged Iraq war worsened the financial situation in the U.S. and heightened anti-U.S. sentiment in the Islamic world. In the “Arab spring” the pro-American regime in Egypt collapsed, and U.S. influence in the Middle East has greatly declined.

Obama avoided offering an assessment of the war, and victory can not be declared because the Hussein regime’s development of weapons of mass destruction, the cause for which the administration of former President George W. Bush went to war, was a fabrication. The U.S. bears heavy responsibility for this poor decision.

At the time, Germany and France opposed the war for various reasons such as the ongoing inspections by the United Nations.

But the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi supported the U.S. military operation and dispatched Self-Defense Forces to Iraq to provide support for its reconstruction.

There must have been other options. The developments leading up to the war, including the propriety of the government’s decisions, must be closely examined.

Amid ongoing international conflicts, there may be other instances in which Japan’s cooperation with the U.S. military is sought. Decisions must be made calmly and independently.

(Originally published on December 16, 2011)