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Monday, September 13, 2004


The heavily populated and occupied island of Okinawa is a major topic in Chalmers Johnson's book Blowback, and is mentioned in The Sorrows of Empire as well. U.S. forces took Okinawa in a lengthy and bloody battle in early 1945, and have never left. There are some 50 U.S. military bases on the island, most of them on the primest of real estate--ocean front, fresh-water access, good agricultural land--leaving over a million natives to get by on what's left. And even that's not done easily, since the Americans have the run of the island, and frequently commit crimes minor and major. These crimes are not handled by Okinawan police and courts, but by the U.S. military. In most cases, the offending soldiers get at most a slap on the wrist and maybe a transfer. The most notorious was the gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl by three Americans in the '90's, but there have been many others.

On August 13, a Marine helicopter flying off base crashed into a University building in Okinawa. Marines quickly cordoned off the area, keeping Okinawan police and reporters away from the crash site. The Marines apparently let a Dominos pizza-delivery car in, though. This reminded Okinawans that the island isn't theirs as long as it is occupied by an enormous American military presence, and sparked the largest anti-American protests in Okinawa in years.

Okinawa, South Korea, parts of Germany, Italy, and many other countries around the globe have been occupied more or usually less benignly by the U.S. military for decades. Iraq, Afghanistan, and many less visible places have been occupied more recently. That the people of the world will continue to bend over and take it seems pretty far fetched. Okinawans haven't had much support, from the Tokyo government or anyone else, in their struggle against American imperialism. But they do, now, have a lot more company.