Cultural autonomy for Okinawa

In his Aug. 10/11 letter, “Real contribution of U.S. bases,” Robert Eldridge claims that the U.S. military’s presence is much larger than the “official” 4 to 5 percent of Okinawan gross domestic income. He does not provide any statistics or basis for that assertion, but claims that his estimates show up to five times that amount.

The fact is that the official numbers are a much better way to assess the economic impact of the bases than his vague and unsupported assertions. His “own experiences” seem a very weak method on which to make a judgment. The infrastructural development of Okinawa since the end of World War II is also a poor basis for arguing that the U.S. military should continue to have a presence on the Okinawan islands, as the rest of Japan seems to get along just fine without the aid of the U.S. military.

His other excuse for the continued occupation of Okinawa against the will of the Okinawan people is that Japan enjoys lower defense costs thanks to the contributions of the U.S. military. This is a dubious claim at best, since Japan is one of the world’s highest military spenders already, and its Self-Defense Forces are fully capable of providing for Japan’s defense needs.

Eldridge ends his letter by appealing to the relationship between U.S. military members and the Okinawan community. The individual desires of U.S. military members in Okinawa should not take precedence over the Okinawan people’s aspirations for political, military and cultural autonomy.

If the U.S. government, or the government in Tokyo, really cared about the Okinawan people, it would enable them to make full use of Okinawa’s islands, instead of continuing to make apologies for America’s hegemonic and Tokyo’s bureaucratic disregard for the rights and freedom of the Okinawan people.

timothy bedwell
tokorozawa, saitama

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.