“Southwest Islands” means mainly the Ryukyu Archipelago, also known as Okinawa Prefecture. “Taiwan contingency” presumably means an attempt by China to regain control of Taiwan by military force. In the expression “Attack bases”, “attack” is understood as “attack on China”. But if China is attacked from Okinawa that would mean, international law being what it is, China will have the right to defend itself by counterattacking Okinawa.
From this we can understand why the US and Japanese governments have included only Okinawa (plus a sliver of land at the southern coast of Kyushu) in this hypothetical combat area. Okinawans have long known what the Japanese Government means when they repeat (over and over) that Okinawa is the only possible location for any new US bases in Japan: Mainland Japan wants no more than the small number they have (with the accompanying crimes, accidents, ear-splitting noise, pollution, etc.), and Mainland Japan has learned that it has the power to keep the main part of the base burden on Okinawa, legally a part of Japan, but culturally and historically, a colonized foreign land.
The Government report says nothing about “attack bases” in any part of Tokyo, for example, becoming a war zone, though it has its bases. It seems that the Government imagines it can concentrate not only the inconvenience and humiliation of foreign bases, but also the horror of war they may bring with them, in Okinawa.
Many see this as turning into a repeat of their experience of 1945, when war, not their own, was brought to their country, and they paid the heaviest price: over one in four of Okinawan people dead. Now they have unwanted bases again in their country, and more being planned, likely to have the same result. The Okinawans have no quarrel with China, nor with Taiwan. Should such a war begin, very few will support any side in it. It’s not just that they will hold an opinion opposed to it; when a colonizing country fights a war against a third party in the territory of the colonized people, that doesn’t make it that people’s war. Even if the US and Japan make Okinawa a battleground in this war, that doesn’t mean that the Okinawans themselves will be, existentially, “at war”, even as the noncombatants making up a “home front”. Yes, the US bases are in their land, but that’s because the Tokyo and US Governments insist that they be there, ignoring the Okinawan people’s will. The irony is that should the killing begin and things go as the Japanese Government plans, it is the Okinawans who will bear the brunt of it. And no one will be indicted as a war criminal for this “collateral damage”.
The official founding of the new organization No Moa Okinawa-sen – Nuchi du Takara (No More Battle of Okinawa – Life is a Treasure) is to be announced at a gathering on March 19 (1:30~4:00PM, Okinawa Shimin Kaikan, in case you happen to be in town). (Full disclosure: I’ll have a few minutes on the mike.) It’s going to be awfully hard to come up with a winning strategy, but it’s just possible that one of the second thoughts giving pause to these various belligerents could be that starting a “contingency” that includes Okinawa would certainly lead to the violent deaths of many members of one of the world’s most peace-loving peoples, who have nothing whatever to do with the issues in this conflict. This being one among the many excellent reasons for avoiding this most foolish of wars.
Doug Lummis was born in 1936 in San Francisco. He attended UC Berkeley on a Navy ROTC contract, and later did three years active duty as an officer in the Marines – the last year in Okinawa. Lummis’ writings–many of which concern Japan’s relationship to the United States–are critical of US foreign policy. His works include the books Radical Democracy, A New Look at The Chrysanthemum and the Sword and Japan’s Radical Constitution.. He has also published numerous pieces in journals such as The Nation and Japan Focus. Susan Sontag has called Lummis “one of the most thoughtful, honorable, and relevant intellectuals writing about democratic practice anywhere in the world. He is a member of Veterans For Peace and helped found the Okinawa chapter of VFP, of which he is president.