Close the military bases in Japan
Robert James Lopez, Jr.
Denver, CO 80203
We must stand together in removing the U.S. military presence in Japan. The current military presence in Japan is a waste of money, military personnel, it puts many unnecessary burdens on Japan and her people, the bases have prompted numerous accidents, endangered residents, and led to health problems, and the incessant crimes committed by rather frequently, and with no stop in sight.
No vital purpose is served by the military stations in Japan. Former Air force Chief of Staff General Ronald Fogelman was quoted as saying “serve no military function. They don’t need to be in Okinawa to meet any time line in any war plan” (Bandow). They’re unnecessary and must be removed immediately. The U.S. government needs to apologize for the incorrigible way in which they treated the Japanese civilians. However, some people still believe that our military position in Japan is vital to our national defense. Jeffrey Hornung, of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, addresses this very issue:
What are the Marines in Okinawa for? If you say they are for deterrence, then you have to ask, deterrence from what? If you are talking about China, then that would be the 7th fleet. If you are talking about N. Korea, then I would say it’s the troops who are (based) in korea. If you pull the Marines out, is that going to hurt Japanese national security or US national security? I don’t think so (Spitzer).
The military believes the bases in Japan are superfluous, and this needless spending can no longer occur. The cost of removing the military presence from Japan can be surmised by the statement “short term costs for long term savings.” If we are to help decrease our deficit, we should cut back on needless military spending because the military budget takes up the majority of congressional spending. The short-term costs for removing the military personnel and their families will be tremendous the closure of those bases will save the United States a large sum. It can also help mitigate future costs that would have otherwise been incurred because of the maintenance, relocation costs, or any other unanticipated expense.
Those stationed in Japan can be better utilized by bringing them back to the states and posting the marines either in Hawaii or California. We could also post several of these marines in Guam. The U.S. military was already planning to move approximately 8,000 marines to Guam, though this plan has experienced great delays (Chanlett-Avery and Rinehart). The longer these bases are open, the more money we are wasting, including the transportation costs of moving marines and equipment across seas, the money it costs to run the facilities to keep them open, and the costs associated with accidents caused by the U.S. military in Japan. According to the website, closethebase.org, “There have been 1,434 incidents and accidents related to military exercises from 1972, when Okinawa returned to Japanese administration, until the end of December 2008, including 487 airplane-related accidents” (Institute for Policy Studies). These incidents cost, not only thousands of dollars in damages, but also the cost of innocent lives of Japanese civilians. These bases are no longer in areas with very few people, they are now in major metropolitan cities and as a result more accidents are occurring, causing more destruction to civilian residences, hospitals, and schools, in general it is dangerous for every town hosting a base. One particular incident, involving a Jet plane form Kadena air base crashed into a primary school, burning down the school, a community center, and approximately 17 houses went up in flames. Eleven children were found dead, six adults from the neighboring houses were found dead, and 210 severely injured (JPC, 6).
The majority of the actions committed by the United States, during their confiscation of land from Japanese citizens after world war two, was not taken legally in accordance to the Hague Convention. According to the Hague Convention of 1899, section 2, article 25, “The attack or, bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended, is prohibited. Many villagers were forced off their land by the U.S. military; according to the JCP, on Iejima Island, “the U.S. military unloaded 300 armed troops and vehicles, and surrounded the village.” Against unarmed villagers “They bulldozed 13 houses, burned them, and confiscated their land.” (JCP 4). The use of armed troops against unarmed villagers is in clear violation of international law. The United States has never apologized for their actions or to the families they violated, destroyed, and tore apart.
The United States also violated another article of the Hague Convention, Hague Convention 1899, article 46, section 2, states, “Family honors and rights, individual lives and private property, as well as religious convictions and liberty, must be respected. Private property cannot be confiscated.” By violently ripping Japanese civilians from their homes, the United States once again violated international law without any repercussions or apologies. Even in the few circumstances in which the United States purchased Japanese land legally, they still managed to violate this same law; “in some cases this purchase reportedly involved deception or outright coercion, using bulldozers and bayonets to evict unwilling residents” (Chanlett-Avery and Reinhart, 4). These actions contribute to the defacing of the international image of the United States. We are degrading our own country in front of the entire world by not keeping to an agreement we signed.
The difficulties facing Japan and her people, due to the U.S. military bases, are insurmountable and numerous. One of the most overlooked issues is the tensions created between the government in Tokyo and the citizens of Okinawa. It is frequently forgotten that Okinawan’s are an ethnic minority and are not descended from the mainland Japanese (Mainichi). The Okinawan people feel that they are purposefully burdened by the hardships imposed by the presence of these bases, does nothing more than inflame the already unstable relationship between the Okinawan’s and the Japanese Government.
In regard to the relocation agreement for the Futenma base in Okinawa, the Japanese government is burdened with the expense of relocation, paying more than half of the total cost; approximately $10.3 billion, or 60% (Chanlett-Avery and Reinhart). Not only are the Japanese burdened by costs associated with stationing American troops in their country, they are also burdened by the physical constraints of the military bases. According to the JPC, “Roads, water works and sewage systems have to make a detour to avoid the air station. It is a major obstacle to improving the city’s infrastructure” (JPC 8). When the bases were first built, they did not account for the population explosion Japan has since experienced. As a result of the bases placement, the local government cannot improve their infrastructure, inhibiting needed growth and development. The airbase Kadena also prohibits the residents from building above a certain point, greatly hindering the development of high rise residential dwellings, which can help ease the burdens caused by overpopulation.
All of these problems that Japan faces due to the U.S. military bases are greatly overshadowed by the fear imposed on them by the presence of the U.S. military. From the very beginning, when the United States took over sovereignty of Okinawa, the Okinawan citizens had no means of seeking legal redress or any kind of authority for crimes committed by United States service members (Chanlett-Avery and Reinhart).Even today very little can be done about the endless atrocities committed by the U.S. military in Japan. Teachers tell their students to avoid military bases and not to take any shortcut home that goes along a military, in fear that their children will be raped and assaulted by the U.S. military (JPC, 7).
The Okinawans are afraid for their own safety, and with many reasons to be. According to Closethebase.org, “There were 5,584 criminal cases involving US military personnel, including 559 atrocious cases of murder, burglary and rape. In Japan, sexual and violent cases such as rape or indecent assault are often not made public, so the number of actual cases is considered much higher” (Institute of Policy Studies). In 2012 alone, there have been several crimes committed against the Japanese by U.S. servicemen. In October 2012, two navy sailors were arrested for the rape of an Okinawan woman, two months after a U.S. Marine was arrested for molesting a woman in Naha (Shaughnessy). Right after the incident with the sailors, a U.S. airman broke into a 13-year-old boy’s room and physically assaulted him while the boy was asleep (Ogura). If this were to happen here, in the United States, we would not hesitate to dissolve any military base responsible for these violent attacks against civilians. Closethebase.org provided a list of some of the most recent attacks committed against Japanese civilians by U.S. military personnel,
• In September 1995, three marines raped an elementary school girl.
• In October 1998, a high school girl was run down and killed by a drunken US marine.
• In June 2001, there was rape case by a US airman.
• In November 2002, there was an attempted rape case by a US lieutenant.
• In May 2003, a US marine in Okinawa raped a woman, resulting in extensive injuries.
• In July 2005, a US airman in Okinawa indecently assaulted an elementary school girl.
• In February 2008, a US marine was suspected in the assault a junior high school girl.
In conclusion, if the United States had to deal with any of the problems faced by Japanese civilians, in the wake of these military bases, we would not hesitate, we would immediately close any base if it were one of our children being raped, assaulted and murdered. With more than 5,584 reported crimes have been committed by the U.S. military stationed in Japan, it tarnishes our nation’s image to the international community and especially to our number one ally, Japan. It is a waste of money to house the military personnel across seas, and these bases are a burden on taxpayers as well. It would be more economically feasible to redistribute the troops among our bases in Hawaii, California, and Guam. The bases no longer serve any military strategy or function, beyond training, and many professionals with knowledge of the situation agree. I am asking everyone that took the time to read my report on these atrocities to not only sign the petition but also to contact your congressman and demand that the U.S. military be immediately withdrawn from Japan. Be active, get involved, and see change unfold.
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Bandow, Doug. "Give Okinawa Back To The Okinawans."Forbes.com. 23 2012: n. page. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2012/01/23/give-okinawa-back-to-the-okinawans/
Chanlett-Avery, Emma, and Ian E. Rinehart. "The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and the Futenma Base Controversy." Federation of American Scientists. Congressional Research Service, 03 2012. Web. 15 Nov 2012. www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42645.pdf
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Ogura, Junko. "U.S. airman accused of attacking Japanese teen after breaking into home." CNN.com. 02 2012: 1. Web. 19 Dec. 2012. http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/02/world/asia/japan-okinawa-us-airman/index.html
Shaughnessy, Larry. "U.S. troops in Okinawa on curfew after arrests in rape case." CNN.com. 19 2012: 1. Web. 19 Dec. 2012. http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/19/world/asia/japan-us-troops/index.html
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