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John Decker
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Dear Editor, Thank you for your considered reply. It is very important to make a distinction between Okinawa and Japan, even though Japan works hard to ignore this reality. Okinawa was an independent kingdom until 1872, when it was forcibly annexed by Japan; the people of Okinawa did not have a vote in the national government (Diet) until 1912, but they have always been treated as "second class". During WW2, Japan banned the Okinawan people from speaking their native language, Uchināguchi, or the Okinawan “dialect”, also called Hogen, a crime which was considered espionage (since the Japanese could not understand it), and which was punishable by death. The Japanese pressure against Okinawan culture has never stopped. The horrific destruction of Okinawa and well over 100,000 of its civilians by both Japanese troops and the 90-day allied bombardment ("typhoon of steel") before the Allied invasion in no way justify the treatment of Okinawa as a US Colony until its reversion to Japan in 1972; and, ever since, mainland Japan has kept Okinawa margianilized and impoverished, while enjoying bargain rate defense, courtesy of the US Taxpayer and the gracious people of Okinawa. Why should 70% of US troops in Japan be based on Okinawa, with only 0.6% of Japan's land mass? 90% of those bases should be elsewhere in Japan; NIMBY, indeed. Actually, the Phillipine economy, for one, has done remarkably well since closing the enormous US Bases there. Clark Air Force base was closed there in 1991, after a volcano blotted out the base; the people of the Phillipines worked with the US to get Subic Bay closed in 1992. Last year, the Phillipine stock exchange was the best performing in the world. The idea that any country is better off with a "welfare" economy, feeding off of military "subsidies" is as condescending as saying a young single mother is better off on welfare than if she got an education and a decent job. Okinawa has lots of economic opportunity that can't be realized while 20% of the island is a military base, which is galvanized by every regional (US) military event (Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan all used and use Okinawa as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier"). Again, look at current events in the Phillipines. The world is a very dangerous place, of course, and the US is the world's best hope for freedom and humanitarian life. As a veteran from a family of veterans, I'm sure we agree on this and many other things. The US should demonstrate its global leadership by pressuring Japan to do the right thing, and sincerely work to relieve Okinawa of this historically unjust and strategically unnecessary situation. It is only because the people of Okinawa insist on peaceful protest that the US and mainland Japan can continue to ignore them. But they don't want it, and they don't like it. A contract signed while one's neck is under a bootheel is not worth much.
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