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Recent Incidents Involving the U.S. Military on Okinawa

March, 2001

The US Military and the Japanese People

Recently the US military has been responsible for several outrageous incidents that have exacted a heavy toll on the Japanese people and on Japanese-U.S. relations. The most dire of these occurred on February 9 when a US nuclear attack submarine, the Greenville, practicing a surfacing maneuver, rammed and sank a Japanese fishing trawler, the Ehime Maru off the coast of Hawaii. The Ehime Maru was a training ship for Japanese fisheries. Of the 35 people aboard it, nine are missing including three crewmen, two teachers, and four students, all now presumed dead. Reports leaking out of Hawaii indicate that the sinking of the Ehime Maru resulted from gross negligence and from the "military first" commitments of the Pentagon and many US policy makers.

Naval vessels like the Greeneville are hardly the only expressions of US military power in the Pacific. The 47,000 US troops and more than 100 military bases and installations in Japan, concentrated in Okinawa, play central roles in US dominance of the Asia-Pacific and its peoples. On January 23, two weeks before the sinking of the Ehime Maru, Lt. Gen. Earl B. Hailston, commander of the US Marine regiment based in Okinawa, sent an internal e-mail to 13 members of his command in which he called the governor of Okinawa and other Okinawan political leaders "nuts and a bunch of wimps." This arrogant and macho slur was the General's reaction to the unanimous passage by the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly of a resolution calling for a reduction of the US Marines in Okinawa. The resolution itself was the result of public outrage at the sexual molestation on January 9 of a 16 year old Okinawan girl, allegedly by a US Marine.

Commander Hailston's abusive language was a direct insult to the people of Okinawa and their leaders. Leaked to the press, it caused a political furor in Japan and considerable embarrassment in the United States. The assemblies of several Okinawan cities and towns passed resolutions calling for Commander Hailston's dismissal. Chatan township's resolution was also motivated by anger over a series of arson attacks on local restaurants by a US Marine and the month-long delay by US military authorities in turning the suspect over to Japanese police and judicial authorities. Chatan township's resolution called for the removal of all US Marines from Okinawa, and it was the first such assembly in Okinawa to raise this demand.

As concerned US citizens and people living in the United States, we call upon President Bush, Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces, to rectify, so far as is possible, these military misdeeds that have taken Japanese lives and otherwise hurt the people of Okinawa and Japan. Those responsible, from the highest to the lowest rank, must be held accountable. With his transgression already in evidence, Lt. General Hailston must be removed from his post of command.

The US Navy is conducting an investigation of the Greeneville's fatal collision with the Ehime Maru. This investigation must answer two questions: How was it possible that this US submarine, equipped with advanced technology to locate vessels in adjacent waters, hit and destroyed the Japanese fishing trawler floating just above it? How was it that the Greeneville made no attempt to rescue the passengers of the Ehime Maru as alleged by the trawler's captain?

President Bush would do well to re-evaluate our country's military presence in Okinawa and Japan. US Marines have been committing offenses against the Okinawan people such as those cited above without cease since they first arrived fifty-six years go. Endless apologies, agreements, and promises have not ameliorated the Okinawan plight . Much as Okinawan voters did previously, in a prefecture-wide referendum, democratically elected representatives of the Okinawan people are calling for the reduction and eventual removal of all the US occupying forces. This appears to be the only way to remove the frequently dangerous and long-festering sore in the U.S.-Japanese relationship. This solution seems all the more feasible since the perceived threat of Soviet expansion, the post-World War II rationale for the US military presence in Japan, no longer exists and because China is not the enemy of, and poses no immediate threat to, Japan or to the United States.

For the Boston Okinawa Committee

Dr. Joseph Gerson
Cathy Hoffman
Yuichi Moroi
Dr. Boone Schirmer

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