Although the US military claims that it boosts the Okinawan economy, we do not know what the Okinawan economy would look like without the US military there. Tourism might thrive when foreign troops aren’t running around and American bases no longer occupy prime beachfront real estate. What we do know is that Okinawans are willing to sacrifice whatever economic benefits they enjoy from US bases simply to be rid of them. Their message: “Just leave.”
US troops conduct community-outreach projects that include assisting Okinawans in their Special Olympics programs, but such do-gooding has not convinced Okinawans of our noble intentions. That is not surprising, since one outreach project is to invite Okinawans to the base to join the troops’ Fourth of July celebrations. Apparently lost on US military leaders is the irony of inviting an occupied people to partake in their occupier’s Independence Day festivities.
On top of this, The Telegraph reported last week that US soldiers on Okinawa are compromising security by selling guided tours of the base. Until American troops on Okinawa learn how to behave—they have a long history of criminal activity on the island, including 1995’s notorious group raping of a 12-year-old girl—American media should be ruthless in its investigations of Futenma. Unfortunately, news about the Okinawa base is usually buried in newspapers’ middle pages, if it reaches newspapers at all.
Okinawans do not want US bases on their islands. The US military has other potential locations for such bases, including Guam, a US territory whose residents want to host them. Why won’t we leave the Okinawans alone and give the Guamanians, our “sort-of” fellow Americans, what they want?
Unless Obama knows something that we do not, then he, as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the leader of the once-free world, should withdraw our military from an island that can no longer stand our presence and is tired of our officials telling her what to do.
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