After 90 percent of the Diet endorsed the government’s war contingency laws Friday, former Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota said the politicians and government officials who pushed the legislation do not understand the “horror and reality of war.”
“People cannot be protected in times of war,” said Ota, who had firsthand experience in the ground battle on Okinawa, a major battle toward the end of World War II.
Now an Upper House member of the Social Democratic Party, Ota, 76, was drafted to fight in Okinawa in 1945. An estimated 100,000 civilians died in the fighting, along with the same number of Japanese soldiers and about 12,500 American servicemen.
Of Ota’s approximately 150 schoolmates who were also sent into battle, only 36 came back alive, he told The Japan Times in an interview.
Civilians had no option but to be drawn into the fighting because, as a small island, Okinawa could offer no refuge, Ota said.
“There was no food or water for them,” he said. “The women would be raped and killed. Knowing they would die anyway, they chose to end their lives by blowing themselves up.”
As the invasion forces neared, there was widespread propaganda that civilians would be killed if they were taken prisoner and that the Americans would rape the women.
Ota believes the battle for Okinawa offers a good lesson for Japan, considering today’s speedier and more powerful weapons. Like Okinawans once did, Japanese may find their country offers little escape from battle.
Ota is also skeptical of the suggestion that rights and belongings will be protected during a war.
“Anyone who knows about war knows it is about winning and that no laws will be followed,” Ota said. “They say people will be compensated for the trees cut down by the Self-Defense Forces in their gardens, but how is that possible? They won’t be moving around the battleground carrying registry books.”
Ota said that those who pushed or voted for the legislation should have done so only after inserting a provision that states “the people who drew up this law will be the first to go to the battlefield.”
“The way the government is fanning public opinion and the way the media reported (deliberations) looks very similar to how this nation was plunged into (the last) war,” Ota warned. “I am disappointed by this nation’s postwar democracy, which is shallow and superficial. I am stunned rather than angry.”
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