FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Another Washington Pawn in Tokyo

Japan has a new prime minister: Yoshihiko Noda.  The sixth Japanese PM in five years, Noda will also serve as the third consecutive PM from the Democratic Party of Japan, or DPJ, the so-called “liberal” party.  Noda gains his title after a party runoff following the resignation of former prime minister Naoto Kan.

Western media outlets, in their profiles of Noda, have focused almost exclusively on Noda’s fiscal policies or personal upbringing while avoiding what is a more pressing issue: Japan’s oppressive treatment of Okinawans at the behest of the imperial Obama administration.

Okinawa “hosts” U.S. military bases.  One base in particular has drawn the ire of local residents and even generated sustained media attention: the Futenma Air Station.  Futenma is the product of the Futenma Accord, an agreement reached in the wake of a 1995 incident in which three U.S. soldiers on Okinawa gang-raped a twelve-year-old girl.  Since then, Futenma has managed to upset local mayors and the Okinawan populace, whom Tokyo-based politicians treat as second-class citizens.

A majority of Okinawans want Futenma off their island, despite irrational and self-interested claims by U.S. military personnel that American troops generate commerce and provide much-needed security in the area.  If U.S. troops generate commerce and provide security, they also commit crimes, pollute, disturb the peace, and monopolize valuable properties where real estate is hard to come by.  The cruel paradox, then, is that commerce and security—the supposed justifications for the U.S. military presence—are undermined by the U.S. military.

U.S. administrations, from Clinton to Bush to Obama, have been complicit in—indeed facilitative of—Tokyo’s harsh and dismissive treatment of Okinawans.  That’s why Doug Bandow, among other commentators, has referred to the Washington-Tokyo alliance as collusive and colonial.  Okinawa has been colonized and occupied territory since the early nineteenth-century.  During WWII, Okinawans, who are culturally and ethnically distinct from the Japanese, suffered at the hands of both the Allied and Japanese militaries, which viewed Okinawans as a security threat.

The American military has occupied Okinawa ever since WWII ended.  For a time America officially possessed Okinawa, but America “returned” the island the Japanese in 1972—which is to say, America let the Japanese claim rights over Okinawa after Tokyo paid America over $600 million.  Japan continues to subsidize the U.S. military presence on Okinawa.

Before Noda and his predecessor Naoto Kan, Yukio Hatoyama was the PM—the first PM from the DPJ to serve in many years.  Hatoyama stood up to the United States and challenged Obama on the Futenma issue.  He campaigned on the promise of base relocation.  Not long into his tenure, however, the Obama minions—most notably Hilary Clinton, Robert Gates and company—went great lengths to silence Hatoyama and to turn public opinion against him.

That seemed to work in Japan proper, but in Okinawa protests against the base began to mount, and local mayors began to gather petitions to mail directly to Obama.  In the end, Obama’s heavy-handed foreign policy prevailed.  Hatoyama buckled under media pressure and international scrutiny.  He stepped down.  Okinawans were furious.  After all, wasn’t this U.S. president the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize?  Wasn’t this U.S. president the representative of hope and change?

In light of Obama’s triumph over Hatoyama, Kan avoided the Futenma issue, prevaricating whenever it came up.  Despite repeated media insistences that the Futenma issue has been settled and that relocation will take place within (not outside) Okinawa, the future of the Futenma air station remains uncertain.  Furthermore, the U.S. military continues carrying out noisy and dangerous fighter jet training exercises, which seem only more sinister in light of the over 40 U.S. helicopter crashes on Okinawa since 1972.

One wonders whether the U.S. military presence on Okinawa serves to circumvent Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which prohibits Japan from maintaining troops or using military force as a means of settling international disputes.  One wonders, in other words, whether Tokyo and Washington have devised a scheme whereby Japan appears to have no military, even though she plays a determinative role in U.S. military decisions and operations in the region.  In effect, Tokyo-based politicians have allowed the U.S. military to function as a de facto Japanese military—and U.S. military leaders and politicians seem to have enjoyed this role, which gives them wide latitude to influence Japanese public policy, both domestic and international.

Now it’s time to see whether Noda will do what Hatoyama could not: stand up to Obama and defy the Tokyo-Washington elites.  Unfortunately, Noda is himself one of the Tokyo-Washington elites.  But that doesn’t mean he can’t change.

It’s time to see whether Noda will demand that Futenma be moved to Guam, a U.S. territory that has expressed interest in hosting the base.  It’s time to see whether Noda will demand total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Okinawa and his entire country.  I, for one, won’t get my hopes up.  Noda will be the next impeccable suit in a long line of leaders who pander to U.S. interests at the expense of impoverished and angry Okinawans.  Let’s hope I’m wrong.  Futenma needs to go.  And Okinawans need a chance to live free from occupation.

Allen Mendenhall is a writer and attorney living in Atlanta. Visit his website at AllenMendenhall.com.

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 23, 2019
Peter Belmont
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail