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September 2000

Home Sweet Home?: US Troops in Okinawa
by Terri Keeley 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Inside the News

AT A GLANCE: US Troops in Okinawa

  • The presence of US military bases in Okinawa has harmful effects on the people, the environment, and the economy.
  • The problem of sexual assault and disrespect for local populations is not limited to a few servicemembers; it is representative of the general US policy toward countries hosting its troops.
  • Okinawan groups are highlighting the negative impacts of US bases and are pushing for change in US policy.
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In July of 2000, a 19 year-old Marine was arrested for indecency and unlawful entry. He had entered an Okinawan City apartment, crawled into the bed of a 14 year-old girl, and fondled her. The incident resurrected memories of the 1995 abduction and rape of a 12 year-old girl by three US servicemen, two marines and a sailor, also in Okinawa. In both cases, the US media created the impression that the incident was somehow an isolated occurrence and that just a few "bad apples" were to blame.

International Women's Summit, Okinawa's Participants Display
Photo: Mary Ann Smith

In reality, the servicemembers' behavior was not an aberration or a problem limited to US forces stationed in Japan. Nor is the reaction in Okinawa unique. It is a reflection of a local population's increasing anger and resentment toward the presence of US forces, who seem above reproach. The treatment of women is the tip of the iceberg; the US military's arrogance and insensitivity extends to many aspects of its dealings with host countries and in Okinawa, has legal, environmental, and economic manifestations.

The 1995 rape and the incident in July of 2000 are symptoms of a larger problem. Such blatant disrespect for women near US foreign bases, which includes violence and abuse as well as the promotion of prostitution, is not only condoned, but regarded as just a part of the male military experience. This attitude permeates the entire institution, extending to the upper echelons of power, almost as if it were an unwritten policy.

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