The game has changed in Okinawa. The usual apologies for the latest gruesome crime, with promises to see that such things never happen again, has been thrown back in the faces of Washington and Tokyo. “Killers go Home” read one sign as 50,000 islanders protested at all the US bases.
The 26,000 US troops there, with estimates of 80,000 civilians, are now personae non grata. Okinawans want neither their protection nor money despite its having been a huge engine for the local economy. This is the reverse of the old saying “Put your money where your mouth is.” These people are ready to take the economic hit for a very important reason… their dignity.
The current atrocity was just one of too many to count. Investigators claim that the unfortunate 20-year-old Rina Shimabukiro was raped and stabbed to death by ex-Marine and current base contractor Kenneth Franklin Shinzata, age 32, who has confessed to the crime, including dumping her body in the woods.
The woman joins a long line of victims in the horror show of warped and depraved US military people. The current crimes have raised passions similar to the 1995 gang rape of a 12-year-old school girl. Estimates range from 50 to 60 rapes a year, and probably even higher during the high point of the Vietnam years.
When the fleet came into port, 50,000 mainly teenage sailors and Marines descended on poor Okinawa like banshees. Excessive drinking pitched drunken sailors battling MPs who often were lucky to escape with their lives. Bars and prostitution houses were torn to shreds by celebrating sailors acting out the reverse of the US Peace Corp contribution to the local people.
Veterans Today’s ex-Marine Gordon Duff remembers sitting at one of these bars and then finding himself being thrown through a plate glass window. He did not stop to inquire what his offense was, but ran for the nearest taxi to make his escape.
The world is no stranger to the violence inflicted on native populations in countless wars, including unspeakable crimes against women. No continent has been spared throughout history. In modern times, Africa has been the cruelest slaughterhouse, with the memories of the Hutu and Tutsi crimes branded onto the continent.
But more is expected from modern professional militaries with their endless training, rules and penalties. All branches of the US military have prisons for convicted felons for all the same crimes seen in the general population. And for those of us who grew up in the 60’s, we remember the days when minor local felons were sometimes given the choice of joining the Army or going to reform school or prison, and many took the military offer.
In the post Iraq war period, stories emerged of Hispanic gang members having joined the military to get weapons and combat training that would be of value to the home gang when they returned. They took advantage of recruitment shortages and a big push to make the military more multi-cultural, with the added bonus of US citizenship thrown in.
The stories of even some American bases too dangerous to be wandering around alone late at night have been heard for some time, the gang infiltration the major part of that problem. I am sharing that not to pick on one group over another, but to show that the people who inflict these crimes, such as we have seen in Okinawa, have something in their past that is unleashed on women at a time and place where they feel less susceptible to being caught and prosecuted.
Poor Okinawa has been too convenient a victim. By that I mean 70% of all US military bases in Japan are on the 1% of Okinawan territory. Mainland Japan has “dumped” this military crime problem far away from Japanese mainland eyes, where there could be a lot more negative publicity.
The Okinawans’ call for the bases to be removed will be decided in Washington and Tokyo. But the islanders are setting the example for the rest of us, that even if the path to victory is a long shot, the attempt must be made for the honor of the people. They are not taking this lying down. They are doing all they can do to get more concessions to spread the crime plague of US bases more evenly among the Japanese people.
Politically the Okinawan governor Takeshi Onaga stands 100% with his people. I wish more US governors would act like this. The flip side of his honorable stance is that of those who play the China bogeyman card, that the bases must remain, as they are to protect against “Chinese expansion”, a pitiful and already well-worn claim, with shades of the Iran nuclear weapons hoax.
It is not China that is the aggressor in this situation, but the creators and designers of the Asia Pivot, where China, as has Russia, has had to respond with more border military buildup to confront the US first strike capability moving closer and closer to its intended targets.
I will close with two items not touched upon by the mass media in this sad story. The history of the Japanese gangs in the nightlife and prostitution in the Okinawa crime and sex scandal has been airbrushed out of the story. And there has been no mention of the deep scars on both the land and the people involved in the horrible slaughters that took place on Okinawa in WWII, some of the worst fighting seen during the war.
Ex-Marine William Manchester fought there, and went on to an illustrious writing career, where he shared what he learned after a long reflection of his own nightmare there. He keyed off a Goethe quote about how there is no man so dangerous as the disillusioned idealist.
“But before one can lose his illusions he must first possess them. I, to my shame, had been among the enchanted fighters. My dream of war had been so colorful, so ethereal, so wholly unrealistic that it deserved to be demolished. Later, after time has washed away the bitterness, I came to understand that.”
We must all cross over the river, as did Mr. Manchester, and why he named his book, Goodbye Darkess. I give it my highest recommendation to you all. His expensive moral education on the battlefields of Okinawa, which he barely survived, is a portal for the rest of us to look through at this continuing Okinawan horror story.
Any American military or contractors who think there is a WWII justification for the military base overkill that has been put upon the Okinawans, deserve to have that view demolished. We can all help do that by joining hands with these stand-up people and their fearless governor, and yell with them, “We are not going to take it anymore”, and then know what it is like to feel good about ourselves.
Jim W. Dean, managing editor for Veterans Today, producer/host of Heritage TV Atlanta, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.