I wanted to share the exchange of emails when Kim shared her reflection with me and a number of other Okinawa supporters:
- Kim: Hello all,
I just wanted to send many warm thanks to each one of you for your support prior to my participation in NHK's Nihon no korekara program on Friday night.
It was a very challenging experience because of the nature of the program (so many discussants and the ambiguous nature of the questions thrown at us, plus the cameras
deliberately focused the majority of the time on the six "experts"). But I am still glad I did it!
As some of you have seen, I managed to make one comment about my disappointment in the Japan-U.S. alliance being based upon militarism, due to the ways that this destroys the
humanity of everyone involved, whether aggressor or victim.
I would have also *loved* to point out Michael Green's hypocrisy in continually touting the U.S. as the grand purveyor of democracy while ignoring the democratic process in Okinawa on the Futenma issue...but by the time I was relaxed enough to speak, the hot debate had begun and we were all literally screaming over each other to get a word in. Rather exciting, but still frustrating!
And I don't have adequate words to express my thoughts re. Yoshiko Sakurai. First of all: what decade is she living in, I wonder?! Given both her professed nostalgia for Ronald Reagan era politics and her quaffed hairdo, I felt like I was time traveling back to the mid-1980s! Very weird. I also was not impressed by the way she shushed the Okinawans who were trying to express their anger over treatment by the U.S. and Japanese government. Some of my friends pointed out that this was likely a deliberate strategy of NHK to try and make the U.S. position appear the most rational, by deliberately choosing screamers who would discredit their cause in the eyes of the Japanese viewing public. (One of them actually said something to the effect of "I wish I could chop Bush into pieces")!
At any rate, if I were an actual public speaker instead of a writer, I could have been much more effective...but it was still an interesting experience nonetheless.
Many thanks to you all again! (And an extra thanks to Martin for filming the clip of my comment!)
- My response: Dear Kim,
I just watched it on TV Japan.
Thank you so much for being the only one in the whole program who questioned the assumed nature of the military alliance itself. Former Defense University prof Magosaki said something meaningful in that regard, but you made that point very clear, thank you!
Sakurai Yoshiko and Kang Sun Joong represented the most powerful speakers from the right and left side, respectively, of today's Japan. They must be tired of seeing each other in such occasions but I felt there was some kind of strange rhythm and trust between them. Thank Heavens Kang was there ... the only person perhaps Sakurai respected in the left team and was ready to give in to from time to time. Sakurai can be a lot more wicked and aggressive.
Kang Sun Joong and Waseda's Ueki Chikako rightly stressed on the importance of departing from the Cold War thinking and diversifying the alliance to other forms than just military to deal with today's global challenges, many of which cannot be solved by forces, and Magosaki appropriately pointed out that the changed nature of the alliance from one for the security of Japan/Far East to one for the US's global hegemony makes the advantage of the alliance seriously questionable. Unfortunately these rational and current voices did not reach the minds of the three Cold-War team - Sakurai, Green and Tanaka. Tanaka Hitoshi, former top Foreign Ministry official shamelessly stated that Japan's cooperation with the Iraq War was inevitable because Japan could not afford to damage its relationship with the US in light of the threat of North Korea.
What was most shocking was the complete lack of discussion of any sort on Okinawa - nothing on the Futenma issue. Kang did talk about the unfair burden of Okinawans, and a few Okinawans did talk about their experiences and feelings. Sakurai and Tanaka did talk about the usual "futan keigen," or easing of burdens, but went on to other topics as if mentioning that term was a ritual that the status quo supporters just had to go through once to purify themselves of the guilt. In the end, there was no discussion of how that "easing" could be achieved. It was all about the culture of "atamagoshi" (discussion and decisions over the heads of Okinawans) again. There should have been at least one expert from Okinawa on the left side, like Yoshida Kensei, Doug Lummis, Miyagi Yasuhiro, Gabe Masaaki or Sato Manabu. There would have been so many choices and it is unfair that NHK didn't invite one.
To the simultaneous survey of the viewers on the question whether we should "deepen" the alliance or not, 65% answered yes, and 35% no. This question was ambiguous. Without defining the nature of alliance and without discussing what it meant by "deepening," the question is like one that asks whether we should change the Constitution or not. It was meaningless without discussion of specifics. To the question of whether the alliances was advantageous or disadvantageous, 75% of the viewer respondents answered "advantageous" and 25% "disadvantageous." Kang appropriately pointed out the answer would depend on where you live; if one lives in Okianwa, it would certainly be disadvantageous. Any advantage would lie on the sacrifice of Okinawans. But again, it was not discussed any further.
To complement the lack of Okinawan voices in the program, I will quote from the feedback by Yoshida Kensei, former Obirin U. professor and author Medoruma Shun.
- Yoshida Kensei (abbreviated translation)
(in his email to me and his email to NHK)
"The program started with a statement "the Japan-US Alliance, which have facilitated Japan's security and prosperity for the last fifty years." This program was supposed to reexamine the Japan-US alliance, but the NHK started with a bald affirmation of the military alliance. What was most outrageous was Sakurai Yoshiko's view of China's threat. She stressed on the military build-up of China but totally disregarded the US threat against China, including its nuclear build-up and the presence of US military bases surrounding China. She did not mention the US sale of weapons to Taiwan either. There was no discussion on how reduction of the burdens of Okinawans could be achieved."
- Medoruma Shun (abbreviated translation)
"Someone in the program was suggesting a national referendum on Japan-US Security Treaty should be held. That suggestion made me wonder whether he was ready to accept a US military base in his own backyard. Even if we have such a referendum, it is obvious that most people will vote with the assumption that they will "benefiit" from the alliance by imposing the base burden on Okinawa, and other places like Sasebo, Yokosuka, Iwakuni, Atsugi, Yokota, and Misawa. Some people mentioned "easing of Okinawa's burden," but that phrase itself assumes that the burden had to be born by Okinawa. The program did not discuss at all what can be done to reduce the burden of Okinawa or to deal with the current Futenma problem. I suspect there was a prior agreement with NHK and the participants not to go deep into these issues. How can we talk about the Japan-US alliance without talking at all about the biggest problem we are facing right now? Yamato Japanese first need to face squarely their own discrimination and violence against Okinawans, and the political delusions that led to the concentration of base burdens in Okinawa."
- Kim's additional comment on my response:
I think that the glossing over the Okinawa issue may have been deliberate...perhaps because the perspective represented by Green, Sakurai et. al does not really have a solid leg to stand on--which would have been made all too clear had an Okinawa expert been included on the panel. Again, it really felt like the whole thing was deliberately constructed by NHK in order to make the position of the U.S. government appear to be the only viable and trustworthy one. Disturbing indeed.
Many thanks to Kim Hughes, who made a precious contribution to the debate.
I would welcome feedback and comments.