In 1995, three US Marines kidnapped, beat, and raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl. The men were convicted in a Japanese court, served their time, and went home. One of them went on to murder his girlfriend and then kill himself. The other two live somewhere in obscurity. As for the child, I have no information on what happened to her. I assume she was shielded from public view, and I hope that she has been able to get on with her life. For the people of Okinawa, this horrible crime is still very much alive. For the last 20 years, the people have been trying to get the US military to leave.
This last weekend, Al Jazeera reported, Thousands Protest Against US Airbase in Japan’s Okinawa. There are a total of 47,000 US military personnel in Japan, and over half of them are located on the Okinawa prefecture (kind of like a Japanese state). And the people are not happy. Think about it. There are roughly a million and a half people on the islands. And after two decades, they are still showing up in large numbers to protest. An estimated 35,000 protesters showed up in Naha — by far Okinawa’s largest city with a population of less than 350,000 people. It’s impressive, and maybe we should listen to them. (Obviously, it is a question for the Japanese government, but if we led, they would follow.)
After the outrage of the rape, the US military decided to move their Futenma base, where roughly 3,000 Marines are stationed. But all they wanted to do was to move it from one place on the Okinawa prefecture to another. Not too good. A 2007 poll found that 85% of the people in Okinawa were against the US military presence. But it seems only about half of them want the bases to go away completely; the other half would like to see them greatly reduced in size. And it isn’t surprising. According to The Guardian back in 2011, between 1972 and 2009, there were 5,634 criminal offense committed by the servicemen. “Among them are 25 murders, 385 burglaries, 25 arsons, 127 rapes, 306 assaults and 2,827 thefts.”
So why aren’t the military bases being moved? Well, according to the Japanese government, it is all Okinawa’s fault. At this point, Tokyo says that if they don’t want the base moved to another place on Okinawa, they have to come up with an alternative. This reminds me very much of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As an occupation force, Israel is in charge of security, but Israel constantly complains about the Palestinian Authority not controlling its people. It’s the usual thing: those with power use it however they want, and when they don’t, they dump the responsibility onto the weak.
But look at the map at the top of this article. The red areas represent US military bases. We have these all over the world. This is what American empire looks like. I know that conservatives like to respond that we aren’t controlling the governments of other countries. But we don’t allow non-compliant governments to exist in areas that are important to us. And that was the same way it was under the British empire and the Roman empire. They always had their local stooges. I don’t think it is necessary for us to have an empire. In the long run, I think it is bad for us. But the least we could do is cooperate with the wishes of the people of Okinawa.