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Time to Set Okinawa Free
Thursday, 05 February 2009 19:45
by Sherwood Ross

It’s way past time for the U.S. to get the hell out of Okinawa — and, for that matter, to take its Tokyo good buddies with it. Before Japanese warlords annexed the Ryuku islands in 1879, Okinawans enjoyed more freedom than they do today. Every liberty-loving American ought to be shouting: “Okinawa for the Okinawans!”

Right now, this Los Angeles-sized Pacific gem of 454-sq.-miles is Pentagon Tropical Paradise No. 1. It’s a land of martinis-and-honey where our 25,000 military personnel and their 23,000 dependents can live in high-rise splendor with housing allowances approaching $1,000 or more a month (plus cost-of-living perks), enjoy PX shopping as good as it gets, and tan on the exotic beaches as Kin Red and Kin Blue.

This comes at a price, though — paid for by U.S. taxpayers and 1.3 million long-suffering Okinawans. The Pentagon has studded their island paradise with airfields, barracks, artillery and bombing ranges, ammunition depots, toxic chemical, depleted uranium (and nuclear bomb) storage dumps — everything a demented mind could wish for to threaten modern civilization. These lethal chazzerei take up 20 percent of Okinawa’s acreage, swindled from its hapless owners by Uncle Sam without benefit of cash payment the same way Joe Stalin collectivized Soviet Russia’s farms.

What particularly galls the locals (85% of Okinawans polled want the Yanks o-u-t) is not just the presence of U.S. troops, mostly Marines, occupying their homeland, but the hundreds of ensuing rapes and sexual violations of their daughters, some as young as twelve. These have spurred vast anti-American demonstrations. The incidence of rape on Okinawa is twice that of the States and the Dayton Daily News reported the military has freed hundreds of U.S. sex offenders despite their court-martial convictions.

Last March, Okinawans rallied in a baseball stadium to protest the latest child rape and, according to the Associated Press, “banners demanding the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops ringed the makeshift stage.” The AP noted that “problems with base-related accidents, crowding and crime are endemic.”

Okinawans can do little to stop this lawlessness: “When U.S. servicemen and their families commit crimes, they shall be detained by U.S. authorities until Japanese law enforcement agencies file complaints with the prosecutors’ office,” the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) states — and by then the perps could be back in Hahira, Georgia.

Although the New York Times editorial page claimed “American military behavior in Japan has generally been good since the occupation in 1945,” between 1972 and 1995 U.S. service personnel were implicated in 4,716 crimes. At one point up to a third of the Third Marine Division was infected with venereal disease, prompting author Chalmers Johnson in “Blowback”(Henry Holt) to crack “one has to ask what the New York Times might consider bad behavior.” What’s more, Newsweek noted that when Okinawa poet Ben Takara surveyed girls at Futenma senior high, one-third to one-half of them said they had “scary experiences with U.S. soldiers on their way to school or back home.”

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Approximately 75 percent of all U.S. forces in Japan (why, fellow taxpayers, do we keep any forces in Japan, why?) are concentrated on Okinawa, having less than one percent of Japan’s total land area, which “amounts to a permanent collusion of the United States and Japan against Okinawa,” Chalmers observes. The answer is found in Tim Weiner’s “Legacy of Ashes”(Anchor Books), who recalls Okinawa was “a crucial staging ground for the bombing of Vietnam and a storehouse of American nuclear weapons.” Weiner notes that when opposition politicians in 1968 “threatened to force the United States off the island” the CIA funneled big bucks into Japan to defeat them at the polls.

In short, Japan can conveniently dump the military burden of its U.S. defense pact on the backs of their captive Okinawans, with 14 military bases jammed onto its 70-mile-long expanse. (Japan itself has just eight U.S. bases.) This saddles Okinawa with the constant hullabaloo of jet warplane noise. (The Futenma base alone has 52,000 takeoffs and landings a year.)

Yoshida Kensei, former professor at Obirin University in Japan, and Asian Studies Lecturer Rumi Sakamoto of Auckland University, New Zealand, write that Okinawa is nothing more than a U.S. “military colony.” They want to rid the island of all “war cooperation” and reallocate its land to “agriculture, fisheries, and trade,” high tech, medicine and tourism. And they wouldn’t mind seeing Okinawans make some real cash by converting the U.S. bases into remunerative housing areas, commercial and industrial properties, and educational or research parks.

Author Johnson quotes editor Koji Taira of the Ryukyuanist as writing, “the incomes generated directly or indirectly by the bases are only 5 percent of the gross domestic product of Okinawa. This is far too small a contribution for an establishment sitting on 20 percent of Okinawa’s land…In effect, the U.S. and Japan are forcing on Okinawa’s economy a deadweight loss of 15 percent of its GDP every year.”

As Johnson concludes, “Okinawa is still essentially a military colony of the Pentagon’s, a huge safe house where Green Berets and the Defense Intelligence Agency, not to mention the air force and Marine Corps, can do things they would not dare do in the United States.”

World War Two has been over for 60 years: Okinawans need to be free of the Pentagon and free of Japan.

Sherwood Ross formerly reported for the New York Herald-Tribune, The Chicago Daily News, national magazines and wire services. He currently runs a national public relations firm for good causes out of Miami, Florida. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com

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Comments (2)add comment

Raco said:

I was stationed in Okinawa for two years.
Man what a lovely place. Americans pissed me off there though. At times i'd pick up rocks, and just throw it any Y plate american car passing by. I thought why not give them a taste of their own medicine. Then the claim about the economy. Was i the only one who realized this? that the amount of money we put into the Okinawan economy was not worth the amount of land we held in Okinawa? Then again, I would never have met my gf. I wondered about Okinawan independence. I think Okinawa is better off with Japan. Indpendent, their quality of life will drop. Unless they would much rather live like they did before, In which case; it's ok. But remember, the Youth and recent generations won't stand for that. So with Japanese union comes American forces. If Okinawa stays with Japan, they will probably hold the bulk of American forces. Especially since American interest is directly west of Okinawa and South. Not North of Fukuoka. Then how about Chinese. How about China, for the sake of argument; if Okinawa was never part of Japan... If Okinawa is part of China, well look at where Okinawa is located. Okinawa will just end up another military base for Chinese forces. Looking to keep Japan and the U.S. at bay. Okinawan independence will ruin the economy there. Although the american presence is stunting Okinawan growth, It's a better alternative than indpendence.
May 22, 2009
Votes: +0

sbaker said:

I was seriously curious about whom was writing this article the entire time I was reading it. I was truly suprised to see that a well educated worthwile journalist would write such a ignorant article. The Okinawan people as a whole do not wish for the Americans to leave, this is evidenced through polls conducted by legitimate companies, not by personl opinion. Their is a vast amount of local businesses that would fail if not for the Yen that American service members, civilians and families put into the economy inlcuding restaurants, resorts, government contractors and the like. I lived in Awasse for three years and all my neighbors were Okinawan. Most did not speak english and were at the normal poverty line for Okinawa. Each and everyone appreciated the American military and the fact that they prevent China and other rebel countries from invading. There are some who would like to see the American presense dwindle, China, North Korea and Russia to name a few, not to mention the hundreds of communists that live among the locals.

Regarding the criminal allegations, it would have been nice for the author to break down what defines crime. Is a DUI at .03% targeted at Americans and traffic accidents included in the totals, I suspect the answer is yes. There has been some tragedies committed by Americans on Okinawa, but not to the degree that the Author emplies. For instance, the alleged rape in 2007 was by a Phillippino working in a Japanese drinki bar whom was sold to the service member by an OKINAWAN. And later the girl reneged her accussations. I by no means defend the actions of this service member, yet point out that mass media ethics in Okinawa are scewed at times.
June 01, 2009
Votes: +0

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