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Japanese editorial excerpts -3-.

TOKYO, May 10 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the Japanese press:

RUMSFELD'S APOLOGY (IHT/Asahi as translated from the Japanese-language Asahi Shimbun's editorial published May 9)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld...offered his ''deepest apology'' to the people of Iraq. Rumsfeld described the incidents as a deviation from both American values and military discipline.

Rumsfeld revealed that ''a lot more pictures'' exist as evidence of the ''unbelievable'' abuse that took place at the facility. He noted that an independent inquiry panel will be formed to clarify the facts, with studies also to be made of compensation to the Iraqi victims.

Yet, we feel that the secretary evaded mention of the true crux of the problem. For example, what prompted young American troops to engage in such heinous behavior in the first place? Was this abuse the result of organized instructions or policies handed down by the military or intelligence services? When did President George W. Bush first learn of the mistreatment, incidents which came to light in January through a whistle-blower in the U.S. military?

In seeking to crush resistance to the occupation and restore peace and order, American troops have systematically destroyed mosques, detained normal citizens, subjected women to indiscriminate and degrading body searches and engaged in other harsh practices. In the siege of Fallujah, little if any hesitation was shown in killing large numbers of noncombatants.

Such strategies have certainly failed to win the goodwill of the Iraqi people, with blatant discrimination, defilement of Islamic tradition and other abuses serving instead to fan the fires of local revulsion and insurgency. The prison torture scandal has clearly occurred within this same baffling context.

There is a widely accepted international tenet that the ultimate respect must be shown to human rights, even at times of war and occupation. Perhaps the most symbolic statement of this sentiment is the Geneva Convention, which sets forth the rules for treatment of prisoners of war. Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 2001, however, the U.S. military has relegated this rule to backseat status. The decision to consign the handling of prison detainees to the private sector is just more substantiation of this lamentable shift.

The opacity of the U.S. military structure itself is also coming under harsh fire. Within his testimony, Rumsfeld also explained why the prison photos were not disclosed at the point that the abuse investigation began. The reasoning, he said, was based on the judgment that such pictures would excessively provoke the Iraqi people and place U.S. forces at greater risk. We can only wonder how such self-serving comments have been received by the Iraqi people.

Though Rumsfeld has denied any intent to step down as defense secretary and take responsibility for the debacle, strong calls for his resignation are being heard from the Democrats and the news media.

In the final account, these vicious prison abuses only further underscore the highly damaged nature and mindset that the ''Bush war'' has assumed.

(May 10)
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:May 17, 2004
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