July 26, 2000


In the waning days of World War II, on the island of Okinawa, a group of villagers had had enough. Their American conquerors, having vanquished the Japanese in one of the hardest fought battles of the Pacific conflict, had been enjoying the fruits of their victory – and Okinawan women were at the top of the list. GIs would come into the village, and take whomever they wanted: no one knows how many were raped, but the number is probably in the thousands. Japanese men had no choice but to stand by and watch as their wives and daughters were violated and abused. But there was some resistance. Evidence of it recently came to the surface when the bones of three American GIs, who had been listed all these years as missing in action, turned up in an isolated cave just north of the town of Nago. Now some elderly villagers have come forward with the story of what happened to those three nineteen-year-old American servicemen, who vanished, suddenly, so many years ago. The three, who had descended on Nago repeatedly in search of women to rape, had been ambushed by the villagers and killed. The deed was kept hidden out of fear of retaliation by the US military authorities – but why did the villagers choose this moment to come forward?


The reason is because, even after all these years, nothing has really changed. Barely a week prior to the recent G-7/G-8 summit held on Okinawa, an American soldier on a drunken binge wandered into an unlocked home and molested a 14-year-old girl; he was found in the girl's bedroom, half-naked, trying to rape her as the military police walked in to arrest him. This was only the most recent, and hardly the most heinous, of a long series of incidents stretching back over the years. In 1995, three US military personnel grabbed a 12-year-old Okinawan girl, drove her to an isolated spot in a rented car, bound her up – her mouth, eyes, hands, and legs – with duct tape, and repeatedly raped her. As she lay bleeding and unconscious, according to the account of one of the participants, Seaman Marcus Gill, they snickered and made dirty jokes about their victim. Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, recounts in Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire:

"A few weeks later, from his headquarters at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the commander of all US forces in the Pacific, Admiral Richard C. Macke, remarked to the press: 'I think that [the rape] was absolutely stupid. For the price they paid to rent the car, they could have had a girl." Although Macke was permitted to retire following this lighthearted comment, there was no Congressional or official inquiry into his leadership of the Pacific Command and no review of why a decade after the end of the Cold War the United States still had one hundred thousand troops based in Japan and South Korea. There was only endless public relations spin about how the rape of a child was a singular 'tragedy,' not a consequence of US basing policy, and how East Asia 'needs' its American peacekeepers."


But why do we have a right to expect something more of the Admiral of the Pacific Command? He, after all, is acting like conquerors have acted since time immemorial. The occupying soldiers of a victorious empire have traditionally enjoyed the "fruits" of victory – rape, pillage, and looting – without much sense of restraint, and the progress of science and technology has if anything accelerated such barbarian appetites: the Brits, the Germans, the Russians all raped their vanquished vassal states literally as well as economically. Why should the Americans be any different?


Indeed, they are worse, in an important sense, because in all these years they have not let up. Usually when a country loses a war, it is invaded and suffers all the indignities visited upon the defeated. Eventually, however, after some period of time, the enemy retreats, albeit weighed down with as much plunder as they can carry back to their own castle. But in the case of the US after World War II, this never happened: the extension of US military power, across the Atlantic as well as the Pacific, was never retracted: instead it was institutionalized and made permanent. Japan was directly ruled by the US occupation forces, and even after the Security Treaty was signed between the US and Japan in 1952, officially ending the occupation, still it continued in Okinawa, which was run as a virtual military colony for twenty years. The bars, whorehouses, discos, and clip joints that are a blight on the natural beauty of Okinawa were the focal point of anti-American demonstrations during the Vietnam war, and under considerable pressure the Japanese government finally got up the guts to ask the Americans if they wouldn't mind giving the island back. Their imperial overlords in Washington complied – but the American military presence increased.


Okay, you may say, but these rapes and other crimes are the exception, not the rule: virtually all of the US soldiers stationed in Okinawa are fine upstanding young men who wouldn't hurt the people they are supposed to be protecting. After all, as defense secretary William Perry told the Japanese in 1995 speech at the Tokyo National Press Club: "The bases are here for your good more than ours. Without the troops," he averred, "Japan would be vulnerable." But Japan is already vulnerable – just ask the parents of the Okinawan child recently raped on the eve of the summit, or indeed any one of hundreds of Okinawan victims of an American crime wave that shows no sign of cresting. Chalmers Johnson cites the following horrifying figures: in Okinawa between 1972 and 1995, American military personnel were implicated in 4,716 criminal acts – which boils down to a crime virtually every single day. Including only reported incidents, since 1988 US military bases in Japan have conducted 169 courts-martial for sexual assaults – a worldwide record. The runner-up is San Diego, California, which houses more than twice the number of US servicemen – who commit 66 percent less sexual assaults than their equivalents in Okinawa. The reported incidence of rape in the US is 41 per every 100,000; in Okinawa, it is 82.


Something about being a centurion stationed far from home, on an island outpost of empire, seems to bring out the worst in us. We claim to be exporting "democracy," "free markets," and the benefits of "globalization," but the rest of the shipment is mysteriously dropped from the packing list: crime, venereal disease, and the contamination of native cultures with the American strain of terminal decadence. It isn't enough that our own culture is swamped with images of pagan depravity: the contagion must be carried on the spears of our centurions, to infect the world at large. In this sense, the rape of the Okinawan women – from the war years to the present – is a metaphor for what the triumphant globalizers have in store for all the world's peoples.


After the pre-summit incident, US Ambassador Thomas Foley visited Foreign Minister Yohei Kono in Tokyo and, bowing low, intoned "I have come to express to you my profound regret for the events in Okinawa, and to tell you that steps have been taken so this won't happen again." But what "steps" are these? Will the Pentagon relent in its opposition to gays in the military, and replace the 26,000 soldiers stationed on Okinawa with the Lavender Battalion? This actually might not be such a bad idea: The sexual violence rate would drop to almost zero, and it should be a boon to the local economy: not only would condom sales increase exponentially, but the island's now almost nonexistent fashion industry would take off like a rocket.


Speaking of perversion, when the Rapist-in-chief came to Okinawa for the summit, and addressed the troops, he did not dare so much as mention the recent incident, except in the most oblique way:

"We know our hosts in Okinawa have borne a heavy burden, hosting half our forces in Japan on less than one percent of its land. They, too, have paid a price to preserve the peace, and that is why we need to be good neighbors to them in addition to being good allies; why each one of us has a personal obligation to do everything that we can to strengthen our friendship and to do nothing to harm it. We must continue to hear the concerns of our Okinawan friends to reduce the impact of our presence, to promote the kinds of activities that advance good relations."


The man who raped Juanita Broaddrick then segued into a litany of charitable and humanitarian activities conducted by the US military, such as volunteers in an English language instruction program for Okinawans. Perhaps this would have helped the victim of the 1995 duct-tape rape understand the lewd jokes her torturers made about her – just before she slipped into unconsciousness. Back then, secretary of defense Perry told the Japanese people: "The American people share this pain with you," but this time Clinton offered no such gesture. There was no apology, no condolences to the victims, not even any acknowledgment that the incident had taken place. It was a blatant insult to the Japanese people, and specifically to the thousands of Japanese victims brutalized by American criminals, that will not be soon forgotten. He then rushed off to the failing Middle East peace talks, underscoring his disdain for his hosts. The would-be world hegemons in Washington may think they can afford to ignore the rising resentment of their overseas vassals. But it might not be too long before an American President will have to sit up and take notice: for a crisis is looming in our relations with the people of Okinawa – and, in the longer term, with the government of Japan. If and when the crisis over Okinawa comes, whomever is sitting in the Oval Office will have had plenty of warning. Only the special form of arrogance known as hubris, which practically begs for a comeuppance, could blind American policy makers to what is coming.


"Okinawa is sitting atop a pool of molten lava," Governor Keiichi Inamine told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, "and it can explode at any minute." In an eight-part series for the Japanese newspaper, Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe wrote: "I have never before heard the word bakuhatsu (explosion) as often as I did during my visit ." According to a piece in the Frankfurter Rundschau, OE said that "If the authorities take a hard-line stance, simmering public outrage could boil over in a number of different forms – in a worst-case scenario, perhaps even in the form of bloody clashes between US troops and members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force." If and when that happens, I know what side I'll be rooting for. . . .

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