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What if Japan Were Iraq?

Posted October. 12, 2004 23:10,   


“What if 3,300 people died from a week-long series of vehicle explosions, rocket launcher attacks, automatic rifles, and air raids in Washington and New York?”

“What if 275,000 heavily-armed guerillas occupied Seattle, Las Vegas, and San Francisco?”

“What if thousands of graves and the monument commemorating the veterans of the Vietnam War were destroyed from daily air raids by American fighter-bombers with the excuse that they were mopping up militiamen?”

“What if the U.S. were Iraq?” was a posting on the homepage of Juan Cole, a professor at Michigan University, and is becoming a topic of conversation among American and Japanese netizens. The quotes are parodies of the U.S. blockade of Fallujah and air raids on Najaf, a sacred place for Shiites, which targeted the remnants of the Mehdi militia.

Having majored in the modern history of the Middle East and also frequently appearing in the media after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Professor Cole said that he wrote what he did because he was enraged by the government’s attitude, which only stresses the justness of the invasion and glosses over the miserable reality in Iraq.

Professor Cole’s writing is spreading through translation into various languages with titles including: “The Truth of Iraq that Cannot be Seen Through CNN” and “What if Japan Were Iraq?”

Professor Cole made his post on September 23 to contradict American President George W. Bush, who made a speech before the U.N. General Assembly saying that the situation in Iraq is ameliorating.

About 300 Iraqis died in battles against coalition forces, suicide explosions, and air raids during the week before the speech was made. Because the U.S. population is 11 times that of Iraq, if the U.S. were Iraq, the death toll would be tantamount to 3,300 people. He questions how the U.S. government can say that “the situation in Iraq is ameliorating and Iraq is on the verge of witnessing democracy and liberty right before its eyes” when such a huge number of people are dying every day in Iraq.

To on-the-spot broadcasts from Iraq by the U.S. media, he raised the opinion that they are equivalent to “journalists locked in several hotels in Washington and New York, because of insecure public order, and broadcasting the fall of major cities like San Francisco and Denver to heavily-armed guerillas.”

This writing has caused more of a sensation in Japan than in the U.S. through a Japanese parody.

“What if Tokyo’s Imperial Palace and National Assembly were attacked everyday by rocket launchers? What if 1,500 Japanese in large cities died from automatic rifle and grenade attacks in a week? What if old people died from air raids by American fighter-bombers with the pretext that they are catching terrorists? What if the U.S. president says in such a situation: ‘The occupation of Japan was just. The situation in Japan is ameliorating, and the Japanese are delighted by the advancement of democracy?’”

A Japanese netizen with the name of “Pander” wrote a reply, saying, “What if the prime minister, the minister of Foreign Affairs, and the minister of Justice were assassinated and the U.S. occupation forces inaugurated a puppet Japanese prime minister?”

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com