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GSDF logs on Iraq mission lack info on period when security worsened

The Defense Ministry (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Gaps are evident among thousands of pages of daily activity logs for a past Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) mission in Iraq that the Defense Ministry released on April 16, with a general absence of logs for the period between the spring of 2004 and early 2005, when the local security situation worsened.

The reason for the absence of the logs is unclear, but without them it is not possible to verify whether GSDF members were really sent to a "noncombat area." Japan's pacifist Constitution renounces the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

Logs found at the GSDF's Ground Research and Development Command (GRD) in March last year did not include terms and phrases such as "combat," which were reportedly included among the nearly 15,000 pages of data recently released by the Defense Ministry. Separately, questions remain over why the existence of the logs at the GRD was not initially disclosed.

Activity logs found at GSDF and other locations are limited to those covering 435 days between the period from January 2004 to September 2006. There is hardly any information pertaining to the year between March 2004 and March 2005. Information in some logs indicates that there were frequent attacks by armed forces between the spring of 2004 and autumn of that year, when the U.S. military launched an initiative to enhance the security situation, in southeastern Iraq including the city of Samawah, where the GSDF camp was located. During the roughest period, there were said to be about 500 attacks a month.

Only a portion of logs pertaining to mortar and other attacks in the area of the GSDF camp, such as those on Nov. 7, 2005, and Dec. 4, 2005, have been found. There are no available logs to verify the conditions between Aug. 21 and 24, 2004, when attacks occurred for three straight nights, and Oct. 31, 2004, when a rocket pierced a storage container at the GSDF camp site.

There are also cases in which information in existing logs is insufficient. For example, when demonstrators surrounded a GSDF vehicle on Dec. 4, 2005, in an area of Rumaythah on the outskirts of Samawah and threw stones at it, the log simply stated, "GSDF vehicle encountered a crowd while preparing for a ceremony to mark the completion of a care facility. Vehicles sustained damage." According to reports, at least one of the demonstrators had a gun, and Iraqi security guards who rushed to the area dispersed the demonstrators by threatening to shoot. The log, however, simply stated "separate report," and there were no additional pages providing details.

The logs discovered at the education and training section of the GRD on March 27 last year covered just 33 days. Of these, 26 pertained to the period between January and February 2004, when the GSDF's camp was set up. This was before attacks on the camp started. The remaining seven days of logs made no reference to attacks the GSDF encountered and references to the term "combat" were absent.

A perplexed GSDF official who spoke to the Mainichi Shimbun commented, "Why were the logs for this period alone retained?"

On March 10 last year, after then Defense Minister Tomomi Inada ordered a renewed investigation into the existence of the logs, the GRD, responding to an inquiry from the Ministry of Defense, answered that there were no remaining logs. The existence of the logs was kept secret until a report was filed with the Ground Staff Office in January this year. The Ministry of Defense is investigating the background to this.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Maetani, City News Department)

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