Monday, December 24, 2007

Okinawa Soldiers

Thanksgiving, 2007

Almost all the passengers on our flight from Tokyo's Narita Airport to Naha, on Okinawa Honto, were Americans, presumably either army personnel or family. Most seemed to be in their 20s or early 30s at the oldest, although there were a few older than that. Based on their dress and manner of speech, it seemed that they were mostly lower middle class, and came from places other than the two Coasts. We saw the same people in and around Naha, the main city, and also near the army bases, where we saw the businesses set up to service them -- A & W Root Beer, McDonald's, taco stands and shops selling various American goods.

We also saw the protesters outside the army bases. Even though we could not read their signs, it was clear what they wanted. I had to wonder, however, if all the locals felt the same way. Clearly, a large part of the local economy is based on selling to the Americans.

I could not help wondering about these young Americans and what they were doing thousands of miles from home. From what I could tell, they had no interest at all in Japanese culture. They were not there to learn about Okinawa, or even to enjoy the tropical weather, for which few of them were properly dressed. Although I did not ask any of them, I drew the conclusion that these young American were in the army because that was the best option available to them. The fact that they had been sent to Okinawa, as opposed to some other base, was merely a coincidence.

It also occurred to me that my tax dollars are paying for all this. What are these soldiers doing in Okinawa that they cannot do at home? Certainly, they could train at home; that is not why they have travelled over 5,000 miles from the continental United States. Are these Americans going to prevent an invasion by China or North Korea? The idea seems preposterous. Neither of those countries would actually invade Japan. And if there is a risk of such an invasion, why is the United States willing to fund an army base to prevent such an invasion, when Japan is not?

It is time for the Okinawa Soldiers to come home.

No comments: