Not in my Backyard: The US occupation of Okinawa


“The peace and security of the Pacific region rest on your backs.” – said by Al Gore (March 24, 1997) to the troops and families at Yokota Air Force Base near Tokyo.

I ordered 2 shots of espresso with 2 pumps of white mocha and then wanted to share some thoughts this morning. Ask yourself this, if you were living in the North Pole, would you be thankful for having an air condition installed in your house? Would you feel relieved because it would vastly improve your quality of life and give you more peace of mind? Probably not because the avg temps are around 0-10 F. Well, the bases that the United States have set up around the globe is analogous to having an A/C in the North Pole: unnecessary.

Have you ever thought of what it would be like to live in an America where 20 or 30 Chinese military bases were set up? Imagine American cities dealing with 150,000 jet takeoffs a year, roughly 140 per day of Chinese F-15s. Imagine our beaches destroyed and polluted by the soil erosion from artillery firing and damage to coral reefs by ships and amphibious landing practices. Imagine the runoff jet fuel and other toxic substances permeating the soil and water supplies with neither any clean up. Finally imagine that the hundreds of thousands of Chinese military personnel did not contribute any taxes, and wielded their power and authority as they pleased. Well, this is what it is like to be occupied or contained by a United States military installation.

At the height of the Cold War, The United States built chain of military bases stretching from Korea and Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, England, and Iceland – in effect ringing the Soviet Union and China literally thousands of overseas military installations. In Japan alone, immediately following the end of the Korean War, there were 600 U.S. installations and approximately 200,000 troops.

What does the US say it is doing in Okinawa 55 years after the end of WWII? Through the postwar period, the United States has vacillated between two basic arguments: the forces are either in order to defend Japan or in order to contain Japan. Though one contradicts the other, each is alternately resurrected, depending on the current situation in East Asia, and used to justify policies that were first formulated to deal with conditions that existed in 1951, when the peace treaty and the security treaty were negotiated, and that ceased to exist at least two decades ago. Even in 1951, Japan was in no danger of being attacked by another nation and even less capable of attacking one of its own neighbors.

Surely Japan is not threatened by the failed Communist regime of North Korea whom can barely feed its own people and is still engaged in a barely repressed civil war with South Korea, which is twice as populous, infinitely richer, and fully capable of defending itself.

Maybe the fear is China? Nope. Japan’s policy is to do everything in its power to adjust to the reemergence of China on the world stage. It also appreciated that China, while resurgent, still has only a gross domestic product of $560 billion, compared to Japan’s $5 trillion and the United States $7.2 trillion; a defense budget of $31.7 billion, compared to Japan’s $47 billion and the United States $263.9 billion; and perhaps as many as 149 strategic nuclear weapons, compared to the United States’ 7,150. In polls, the Japanese public has repeatedly expressed a greater concern about oscillations in U.S. policy toward China than about anything China has done or has the capability to do to Japan.

Another benefit of occupying Okinawa has been the good of helping the economy. Nope. While tourism is the major industry for the island; the presence of so many sprawling, disconnected Americans installations, as well as over 50,000 Americans who do not pay taxes and have no stake in Okinawan’s future, does nothing to enhance the island’s attraction to Japanese and Taiwanese tourists … the incomes generated from the base are only 5% of the gross domestic product of Okinawa. This is far too small a contribution for an establishment sitting on 20% of Okinawa’s land.  

Furthermore, the Japanese have the ability to defend themselves just fine without the help of the United States. With the second largest navy in the Pacific, more destroyers than the United States, and 120 F-15 fighter inceptors, Japan is quite capable of meeting any challenge.  

Let’s for a minute admit that no attempt has been made to invade the main islands since the Mongol fleet dispatched by Kublai Khan was dispersed by a “divine wind” in A.D. 1281. After the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, the Americans essentially gave up on the idea of an invasion and turned instead of defeating Japan through the use of nuclear weapons, strategic bombings, and a blockade.

Maybe it’s time we end the imperialism. I have no doubts that if China or North Korea began setting camp in the United States there would be moral outrage. Yet, when we do it … we think it’s morally justified.

When We Talk About War, Why Not Discuss Collateral Damage?

collateral damage: noun : deaths, injuries, and damage to the property of people who are not in the military that happens as a result of the fighting in a war.

In WWI there was a ten-to-one ratio of military personnel killed versus civilians, whereas in WWII that ratio became 60 percent civilians, 40 percent military. Since WWII, a vast majority of the people who have gotten killed in wars have been civilians. Gino Strada, the Italian war surgeon who has operated on war victims all over the world these last 10 years, estimates that 90 percent are civilians, and one-third are children.

And by the way, I don’t want to insist on the distinction between innocent civilians and soldiers who are not innocent. The Iraqi soldiers whom we crushed with bulldozers, toward the end of the First Gulf War in 1991, in that way were they not innocent? The U.S. Army just buried them; hundreds and hundreds of them. What of the Iraqi soldiers the United States mowed down in the so called Turkey Shoot as they were retreating already defeated? Who were these soldiers on the other side? They weren’t Saddam Hussein. They were just poor young men who had been conscripted.

I suggest that the history of bombing – and no one has bombed more than this nation – is a history of endless atrocities, all calmly explained by deceptive and deadly language like “accident,” “military targets,” and “collateral damage.”

Indeed in both WWIII and in Vietnam, the historical record shows that there was a deliberate decision to target civilians in order to destroy morale of the enemy: hence the firebombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, the B-52’s over Hanoi, the jet bombers over peaceful villages in the Vietnam courtside. When some argue that we can engage on “limited military action” without “an excessive use of force,” they are ignoring the history of bombing. The momentum of war rides roughshod over limits.