Here is Mark Selden's comment on former Consul-General of Okinawa Kevin Maher's remarks on Okinawa and US military bases there, which has stirred a big controversy in Japan. Mark wrote this to Ryukyu Shimpo, in response to the Okinawan newspaper's request for a comment on the US diplomat's briefing with the American University students in December, before they went on to a two-week study tour to Tokyo and Okinawa. According to the latest news (Sankei news below in Japanese), the Prefectural Assembly of Okinawa and Naha City Assembly both passed a unanimous resolution to protest against Maher's remarks. The move is expected to be followed by other municipalities in Okinawa. Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio said those remarks "hurt the feeling of not just Okinawans but also all Japanese. He held a phone conference with U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos and told him that Maher's remarks were very inappropriate. The US Embassy issued a statement that Roos told Edano of his regret, and that the reported remarks would not be compatible at all with the U.S. government's policy or the utmost respect that the U.S. pays to Okinawan people. (PP)
Kevin Maher's comments are striking in several ways.Mark Selden is Coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, and Senior Research Associate of the East Asia Program, Cornell University.
First, their arrogance is unusual primarily in the fact that it is rarely expressed so crudely in public: in this case, of course, it came to public attention only because the students who attended his briefing saw to it that the talk was publicized.
Second, and here his remarks are very much in keeping with the views of both Japanese and US officials on plans to further increase the military base burden on Okinawa by building a new base at Henoko: that is, they are content to impose the base on the Okinawan people who have shown overwhelming opposition to the new base: in successive elections, in the largest demonstrations in Okinawan history, and in sustained sit-ins at Henoko and Takae that are among the longest in human history.
Third, some of his remarks are as false as they are offensive, frequently choosing to blame the victim and ignoring the acts of the assailant. For example, he is quoted as stating that "The controversial bases in Okinawa were originally in the middle of rice fields, but are now in the middle of towns because Okinawans allowed urbanization and population growth to surround United States facilities." Most of the bases were indeed carved out of fields in the late 1940s when virtually the entire Okinawan population that survived the battle was thrown into detention camps and their lands paved over to form bases, never to be returned. It is extraordinary that Maher holds Okinawans responsible for the subsequent urbanization which has created in Okinawa city one of the most dangerous and noise-polluting bases in the world.
Finally, Maher comments that "There is nowhere else to base US Marines. The DPJ suggested a replacement facility in mainland Japan, but there is no place in mainland Japan for the US Military." No place else? Interesting. The United States uniquely maintains more than 1,000 military bases as its prerogative throughout the world in an empire of bases . . . excluding hundreds in the United States. I am not aware that many other countries maintain even a single base outside their own territory. What is clear of the proposed new Marine Base is that it has virtually nothing to do with protecting Okinawa or Japan. With the vast majority of the 12,000 Marines (by some counts, 18,000) fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Okinawa is largely a training base for fighting US wars far from Japan or Okinawa, a fact consistent with US plans to shift 8,000 Marines to Guam at Japanese expense.
There have been signs in recent months that the US government, far more than the Japanese government, has begun to recognize that imposing a new base on Okinawa over the opposition of the vast majority poses huge problems that had best be avoided. The Okinawan resistance movement has begun to make its voice heard in Washington through the court challenge to the Henoko Base filed in California on grounds of environmental disruption; through its voice expressed at the polls and in demonstrations. As construction begins on the Takae Helipads, and as preparations continue for Henoko construction, the movement will have to find means to strengthen both its political resistance and its ability to publicize that resistance internationally. Our Asia-Pacific Journal http://japanfocus.org/ has attempted to provide one vehicle for giving voice to the Okinawan resistance.