Wed, 03 Dec 2003

Desire for help causes tragedy

The Japanese Embassy in Baghdad had recently been fortified with thick concrete barriers around the compound as protection against terrorist assaults. The Foreign Ministry seems to have been intent upon not having any member of its diplomatic mission killed or injured before the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces personnel there. But personnel at the embassy are at the forefront of the effort to rebuild Iraq. They could not stay inside the embassy building forever.

Widely recognized for being outgoing from early in his career, Oku traveled to outlying areas of Iraq to determine firsthand how the $1.5 billion (165 billion yen) in assistance Japan is providing can be put to best use to meet people's needs. This includes potable water, electricity and educational materials for schoolchildren. Oku also went alone to Nasiriya, where many members of the Italian contingent to the international peacekeeping mission were killed and wounded in November.

The ambush of Oku and Inoue might have been deliberate because they were Japanese. If they came to the attention of their assailants because of their keen desire to help the Iraqis, it was indeed a terrible tragedy.

Shots were fired around the Japanese embassy in mid-November. Although it is still not known whether the earlier attack on the embassy might have some relation to the ambush of the two Japanese diplomats, an organization that identified itself as al- Qaida relayed two warning messages to Arab media in the Middle East that it intended to target Japan. We hope the government will make all possible efforts to ensure the safety of our envoys.

On the same day the Japanese diplomats were killed, seven people were killed among a group of agents of the Spanish intelligence service who were working in cooperation with the U.S. and British forces. They were ambushed outside Baghdad. In November, the death toll among U.S. soldiers was the highest it had been in any month since combat operations began in March.

-- The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo