Like all loyal soldiers, they say they will answer their nation's call, but Self-Defense Forces troops are also honest enough to admit a possible deployment to Iraq has them on edge.
Precipitating concern among the rank-and-file and a major rethink by senior Defense Agency officials was the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad on Tuesday.
With pictures of the carnage splashed over newspapers and television screens, one senior agency official expressed what everyone now knows: ``The situation is far more serious than expected.''
The attack on the former hotel that housed the U.N. office killed more than 20 and forced the government to postpone the SDF mission. If it ever gets off the ground, the dispatch will be next year at the earliest.
Right now it isn't even clear when a fact-finding team can be sent to Iraq.
"That's up to the government to decide. We simply follow orders,'' said a senior GSDF official.
But some Defense Agency officials were even more pessimistic, with one saying, "The prerequisite (recent legislation allows SDF activities only in noncombat areas) for the mission has been lost.''
The suicide bombing shocked agency officials who expected the security situation in Baghdad to gradually improve.
The agency planned to have troops do humanitarian work, including providing water and electricity to hospitals, until the security situation stabilized.
Officials hoped the low-profile, helping-hand approach would avoid inciting an Iraqi backlash.
The destruction of the U.N. facility was a wake-up call for many, including U.N. officials themselves and nongovernmental organizations, who believed their "good works'' inoculated them against Baathist holdouts and Islamic terrorists.
An officer assigned to the agency said, "We will have to redraw our plan on the premise that even humanitarian and reconstruction projects could be targets of terrorism.''
Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards
A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
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