Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Because they can't spit on civilians 

The Japanese authorities are very keen not to provoke too much their domestic anti-war crowd:

"Japanese soldiers returning from a tour of duty in Iraq this month got an unusual request from the Tokyo airport authorities: Do not wear your uniforms.

"So, 82 soldiers coming back from their humanitarian mission in southern Iraq had to peel off their camouflage uniforms and buy suits and ties in Kuwait for the trip home, airport and government officials said yesterday. When they arrived at Tokyo International Airport on Aug 7, the only hints of their military affiliation were their camouflage duffel bags.

Japan's military was disappointed. 'Uniforms are our symbol. We went to represent our country, so why can't we wear our uniforms?' General Hajime Massaki, chief of staff of the Ground Self-Defence Forces, protested last week."
Partly, General, because the Transport Ministry had promised various "civic groups" that the Tokyo Naraita Airport would not be used by the military. And partly because the Singapore Airlines, which flew the troops home, also requested that they dress as civilians. In the words of the airport's spokesman, "We have to think how ordinary passengers might feel sitting next to a large group of soldiers in uniforms, occupying nearly one-third of the seats." Quite safe, I would have thought.

In another Iraq-related development, Swedish tabloid reports that
two of Saddam's cousins, both former generals who have recently escaped from Iraq, were granted refugee status in Sweden. The paper quotes an unnamed Iraqi intelligence official as saying that "Sweden was the first country that came to mind, since they [Saddam's cousins] trust the country’s humane asylum system."

Swedish tabloid quoting unnamed Iraqi intelligence sources does not inspire confidence, so we'll have to wait and see whether the story turns out to have any solid foundations. If true, however, this is a worrying development. After all, from the Nazis down, all members of bloodthirsty regimes technically qualify for asylum as they would have a reasonable fear for their life or their safety and well-being had they stayed in their own country. But the line has to be drawn somewhere - refugee status cannot be abused by suspected criminals merely trying to avoid justice. Unless Sweden thinks that the cousins' only real crime is that they fell foul of the United States.


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