Readers weigh in on U.S. military presence

Fear of breaking taboo

During my 31 years in Japan I have appreciated The Japan Times’ coverage of social issues such as discrimination against ethic and social minorities, which the vernacular papers give only passing mention to.

Why then on the issue of the Okinawan bases does The Japan Times, like the other media, choose to limit discussion chiefly to whether the prime minister’s flip-flops are hurting the U.S.-Japan alliance? While vague reference is made to the suffering of Okinawans, your editorials and news coverage exclude those experts who are unafraid to breach the taboo of questioning the Japan-U.S. security treaty. The result of this information blackout can be seen in the lack of critical thinking displayed by young people in “Views From The Street: Should Japan continue to host American military bases?” (May 11).

As long as some of the facts are withheld, it is only natural that people will continue to believe that despite the “nuisances,” U.S. forces are needed to secure Japan’s peace and, incredulously, to preserve Article 9 of the Constitution.

Few are aware, for example, that U.S. forces violently seized the land for Okinawan bases, and that these bases were the staging areas for missions which killed millions in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Few equate the Okinawa base issue with the fact that the very nation which rained death upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki continues to wage global imperial war, enrich weapons manufacturers and encourage an arms race which makes a mockery of experts’ claim that the U.S. presence helps to preserve the peace.

Even in South Korea, there are many voices who say a decreased U.S. military presence would increase security, and bloody battles have been fought between antibase protesters and police there — all, of course, unreported in the Japanese media.

Secret agreements have forced Japan to pay a “sympathy budget” of $2.274 billion yearly to maintain its unequal status as a client state in the permanent and discredited American “war on terror” while politicians and pundits continue to peddle the fiction of an equal relationship that preserves the peace.

Tama University President Jitsuro Terashima notes that mainstream Japanese intellectuals, who command the bulk of media attention, remain “slave-faced” (dogan) toward a bullying colonial master. Most worrying to experts such as professor Gavan McCormack is that, given the unbalanced media coverage which helps to manufacture consent for maintaining the status quo, Hatoyama may well be forced by U.S. pressure to adopt something akin to martial law in defiance of Okinawans and antibase protesters. The Japan Times should be less concerned with Hatoyama’s flip-flops and ask what the consequences of that would be for Japanese democracy.


Japan faces very real threats

Re: “Futenma is undermining Japanese democracy” (Just Be Cause, May 1):

Debito Arudou is an enigma. On one hand, he can’t bash Japan enough. Yet on the issue of American military bases, he practically labels the U.S. as a ravenous beast interfering with Japan’s sovereignty. Since he often attacks Japan as a haven of anti-immigrant racism, it begs the question of whether he thinks the U.S. should get out of Japan so it can then spend its days persecuting foreigners.

There are a number of sweeping generalizations in his arguments against U.S. military bases. Chiefly, he seems to think that Japan faces no military threat against it and will be just fine without an American military presence. Never mind that North Korean ships attack Japanese fishing vessels or that Russian planes often invade Japanese airspace. China actually attacked a U.S. military plane, forcing it to land and then inspecting the plane a few years back. And with North Korea sinking a South Korean ship recently, is Japan truly safe from attack?

Just because China, North Korea or Russia won’t actually attack in a full-scale invasion, it doesn’t mean Japan can handle things without a stronger military presence than its own. Debito seems to think in terms of all or nothing — that unless Japan is all-out invaded it has no real military threat against it. He’s wrong.

China and North Korea have greatly built up their arsenals over the past decade. And thanks to a deal from the Clinton administration, North Korea has nuclear reactors.

Exactly what would happen to Japan if it were left virtually undefended? China refuses to condemn North Korea after sinking just one South Korean ship. What would happen if North Korea attacks an entire fleet of Japanese ships in the Sea of Japan? This is an entirely realistic scenario, and Japan would be left on its own with a military that isn’t ready for grand-scale combat.

Fortunately, these scenarios are still “what if” situations because a much more capable military is patrolling Japan’s airspace and territory. The U.S. is defending Japan’s sovereignty, not undermining it. Debito needs to be a little less myopic on the threat Japan faces.

Kanazawa, Ishikawa Pref.