In all reality, the U.S Marine base officially named Camp S. D. Butler named for a former marine located in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa just outside of the Japanese mainland, is not going to close anytime soon, especially with the Trump Administration in power and its ongoing rhetoric and hostility towards North Korea. If the United States were to take military action against North Korea, Camp S.D Butler would be the primary launch site of an attack, just as it was during the Vietnam War, due to its close proximity to the Korean peninsula. Despite any strategic benefits that the base may provide the U.S, the Japanese people especially those who live near the base are calling for its closure due to the behavior of U.S Marines stationed at the base and the accidents that have been occurring as of late, putting civilians in potential harm. The base is a result of the American occupation of Japan following its surrender in World War II and today, is nothing more than a direct violation of the nation’s sovereignty.
Following the end of World War II, Japan was under an international occupation led almost entirely by U.S forces under the command of General Douglas McArthur from 1945-1952. During this time, arms manufacturing was dismantled, political prisoners were released and wartime leaders were brought to trial for war crimes. Japan would draft a new constitution establishing a democratic government, reducing the emperor to nothing more than a ceremonial role and shift its economy from one based on farming to one that focused on manufacturing. In addition, it split up the business monopolies that ruled the economy and even encouraged labor unions until the fear of communism struck the nation just as it had in the U.S and elsewhere. The education system which was viewed as one that benefited the elites was also dismantled and reorganized to mirror the U.S model. Following the end of the occupation, the United States began construction of what would become Camp S.D Butler in 1955 on the island of Okinawa. Today Camp Butler is made up of four bases that are scattered throughout the prefecture.
For years the base has been a nuisance for the civilians who live nearby. Everything from the noise and emissions which are a result of aircraft overhead, the behavior of the marines stationed there and recent accidents involving aircraft has caused concern among those who call the island home. In 2008 Condoleeza Rice, then Secretary of State under George W. Bush apologized for a string of crimes that had been committed by U.S Marines on the island, including the arrest of one marine who was charged with the rape of 14-year-old girl on the island which comes after the 1995 gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by U.S serviceman, which led to riots and protests among the Japanese who demanded that the base be closed and the Marines be moved out. Other crimes that have led to arrests of U.S military personnel are drunk driving and trespassing which forced the U.S military to set an indefinite curfew for the serviceman and their families living on or near the base.
Recently a number of U.S aircraft accidents once again has nearby civilians concerned, however; accidents involving aircraft date back to 2004 when a helicopter crashed into the main building of the Okinawa International University and burst into flames. In November 2007, while drunk driving, a Marine whose blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit collided a with another vehicle killing the 62-year-old driver. Following this incident, U.S military personnel and contractors working for the U.S military have been restricted from leaving the base or their place of residence. In January of this year, NHK reported that a helicopter made an emergency landing on an Okiwanian beach due to a faulty rotor. Another helicopter made an emergency landing on the grounds of a hotel, another burst into flames after crashing in a field, and a helicopter window fell out and landed in a schoolyard where children were outside exercising. U.S Secretary of State James Mattis has apologized for the recent accidents saying that they “cause fear on the part of local residents and should not happen.” Mattis also stated that the U.S would take all of the appropriate steps to avoid accidents in the future.
How many times can the United State apologize for the wrongdoings of its military personnel on the island? How many apologies can it offer regarding crashed military aircraft that puts the locals in direct danger? How much longer are we going to ignore the calls of the locals and citizens all over Japan that we shut the base down and leave? If we are to truly call Japan our ally then we need to respect their wishes and end our military occupation if that is their wish. Be certain that if another country had a military base on American soil and their troops were committing crimes in our communities or crashing aircraft where we live and where our children go to school, putting them in danger, we too would be furious and demanding the base be closed and the military leave. What makes the United States so special that we have the right to violate another country’s sovereignty and ignore the cries of its people? It’s time to close the base in Okinawa and return the island to the Japanese people.
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