Friday, April 18, 2008

A spanner in the works

Wow, did the judges in Nagoya throw the government for a loop yesterday, ruling that the dispatch of the Air Self Defense Forces to Iraq is unconstitutional.

Japan Court Rules Sending Troops to Iraq Illegal, Kyodo Says

By Naoko Fujimura April 17 -- A Japanese court said the country's dispatch of troops to Iraq was unconstitutional, becoming the first court to rule the mission illegal, Kyodo news service said.

Airlifting activities by Japan's Air Self-Defense Force in connection with the U.S.-led war in Iraq violate Japan's constitution, which renounces war, Presiding Judge Kunio Aoyama at the Nagoya High Court in central Japan said, according to Kyodo.

Even though the court declined to suspend the mission or award damages, plaintiffs won't appeal the ruling, the report said. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told reporters the decision won't affect Self-Defense Force activities in Iraq, Kyodo said.
The court ruled that the air dispatch was not just unconstitutional, but illegal, the flights into Baghdad violating the provision of the Special Measures for Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance Law limiting the activities of the Self Defense Forces in Iraq to "areas outside of a zone of conflict".

The response of the government? Dismisssive. "Heck, it's non-binding. So no problem." According to the Tokyo Shimbun, one legislator even said, "The lead judge just wanted his name to go down in history." (He did have a little caveat, continuing, "Even so, it's a problematic ruling.")

[Just an aside--but is it not interesting that when a judge rules that what a street criminal did is illegal, the street criminal is universally condemned, particularly by the law-and-order types in the Diet, as having been a bad, bad person. However, when a judge rules that what the politicians have done is is the judge who is wrong!

Perhaps politicians, when they were young, were taught to not respect the law by leftist teachers who would not sing the national anthem.]

The ruling represents a shot in the arm for a lot of causes that had fallen moribund.

The ruling will revive the Democratic Party's fight to withdraw the SDF from the Mideast, the next hurdles being the renewal of the Indian Ocean dispatch in January of next year (it was for only one more year, was it not?) and then in July, the renewal of the law permitting the ASDF flights in and out of Iraq.

The ruling will also revive the constitutional revision crowd, many of whom must have been stunned at the Yomiuri poll of a week ago showing that the number of respondents thinking the constitution in need of revision fell below the number of those thinking the constitution should be kept as it is. If the constitution does not permit the dispatch of the planes, and a dispatch of the planes is indeed vital to Japan's overall security--then efforts must be made to have the constitution amended, with popular disquiet an issue that needs be dealt with by-the-by.

Another group who can take heart in the ruling is a broad coalition of folks from all points in the political spectrum who share a common, humble wish: that the courts of the land force everyone, even the powerful and the influential, to obey the law as it is written. The Nagoya court looked at the words of the law and decided that they meant something--and in this land, that is no mean achievement.

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