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Reader Response: Tuff Turf
Asia Buzz readers give their views on Peter McKillop's question "Why in the world are there American troops in Japan"

TIME columnist Peter McKillop struck a raw nerve with readers when he questioned why American troops were stationed in Okinawa, Japan. The column was in response to the alleged fondling of a 14-year-old Japanese schoolgirl by a drunk U.S. Marine--behavior described as "outrageous" by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. A hit-and-run accident several days later, involving a U.S. Air Force sergeant, led to an official U.S. apology and the slapping of a midnight curfew and drinking ban on all 26,000 U.S. military personnel on the island. Click here to read Peter's column if you missed it, or here to read more of our readers' responses.

I fully agree with Peter McKillop's article concerning American troops still in Japan. In fact, I will go one step further by suggesting that no American troops should be stationed anywhere in the world. Peace should be guaranteed for all nations by the United Nations, not by the U.S. The UN, therefore, should be armed with volunteers from all countries. That is truly a peacekeeping force.
July 8

Ticked off at Asia Buzz? Turned on? Talk back to TIME
Dear Sir, I would like to know whether you have ever met a United States Marine? In your article, you state that the Marines hold on to Okinawa for their own selfish reasons. I would love for you to see how hard our Marines work, and how selfless they are. You might think differently about us then. These young Americans are some of the finest we have. Of course, isolated incidents like the one you mention in your story cannot be tolerated. But all the other honest, hard-working Marines do not deserve the reputation you would give them.
Name withheld
Marine Lieutenant on Okinawa
July 7

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On July 7, 2000, TIME columnist Peter McKillop exhibited all the traits that make such a profession appealing: one can succeed at the job by being technically proficient without the added burden of gaining subject-matter knowledge. What a bunch of prattle. From the way he tells it, the entire Earth can be defended at the touch of a button and the post-Cold War world is a place of peace and harmony. Apparently I've spent the last 5 years of my life (I'm an active duty Marine Officer in Okinawa) golfing and snorkeling while unnecessarily clad in cumbersome gear and sweat-soaked cammies. Oh, and by the way, the island of Okinawa is in flames as the local population riots at the gates in violent protest of the unwelcome imperialist Americans. If only I'd known sooner that the Marine Corps was staged way out here of our own initiative. All this time I've been tricked into thinking we were directed to Okinawa to protect U.S. foreign interests and maintain stability in the region. If only I'd known that we could beam Marines to a besieged embassy from Guam in nanoseconds, rather than wasting vital hours moving them via air transport from Okinawa. If only I'd been privy to the secret that the Japanese people would rather have boatloads of nukes sitting in their harbors than a primitive brute-squad of uniformed Marines. If only I had understood how eager Japan is to build its own massive military, if only the Marine Corps would let them.

Rest easy, Peter McKillop, I and thousands like me rise before dawn each day, run several miles to stay fit, then put on our uniforms and stand ready to answer the call. If there's one thing we've understood for a long, long time, it is that the people we defend don't have to understand why we're defending them. Or what we risk. Or the sacrifices we make. In fact, we hardly even expect it any more. To be honest, we are, many of us, almost resigned to disparagement and disrespect these days. That's O.K. You don't have to understand it. Just know that when the time comes, I'll still give my life so you can keep writing. Semper Fidelis! (Marine Corps motto Always Faithful)
Cliff W. Gilmore
July 11

I think your reporter needs to do a little more research than he did. He has no idea, and he is only going by the bad stuff that happens. And bad things happen everywhere in this world, especially in the United States. You need to talk to the Okinawans who like the Americans here, not just those that hate them. You never hear anything about how a Marine saved an Okinawan's life, or how the Marines clean up orphanages on the island, or contribute to cleaning beaches. The press always focus on bad things--and then you wonder why youth are the way they are. I am proud that my husband is a U.S. Marine, and I am happy to be living in Okinawa with such genuine people who know what respect and family are.
Jennifer Chester
July 9

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Tuff Turf: Asia Buzz readers give their views on Peter McKillop's question "Why in the world are there American troops in Japan"

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Coverage of the G8 Summit in Okinawa

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I read with interest the article by Peter McKillop. While I agree in basis with the many facts raised--and I see each day the inconvenience the Americans bring to this island and its people--I must also tell you that the U.S. Marine Corps is not only to blame. All of the U.S. Armed Forces are stationed here in Okinawa. I suppose, though, that the biggest shadow is cast by the Marines. This [alleged sex] incident, which again has been linked with alcohol abuse, is deplorable and should not have to be tolerated by our host nationals. I, as a member of the armed forces, take it as a slap in the face as it undermines all of the friendships that I have made and the trust that I have cultivated in my two years here on the island. I have met with many Okinawans who are opposed to the U.S. presence, and I have to agree with their point of view. Why do we maintain this presence? And why are there so many bases on the island? I endure the hostile stares from the mothers and fathers of Okinawan children each day and even more so over the past 4 days. The overall conduct of U.S. servicemen here is very good. We seem to get along and interact with our host nationals very well, and I have always appreciated their hospitality and their acceptance of our presence. I am glad, however, that the Okinawans are very tolerant people, as I believe that had these offenses occurred in our country under similar circumstances, the street protests would still be continuing. Okinawa is a lovely place, but to be fair, not a tropical paradise. And the best golf courses are actually on Kadena Air Force base, as is one of the best swimming and diving beaches. So thank you for the article as my Japanese friends will find it very interesting to know that not all of America supports the occupation of their country.
Name withheld
July 8

Is the U.S. base in Japan necessary? I think absolutely not. Regardless of how the U.S. justifies its presence in Okinawa, the bottom line is, Japan by its constitution should not be hosting a military force. If the U.S. forces were to launch an attack from Okinawa, this would increase the danger of Japan being targeted by other nations. Retaliation would then follow. Don't we ever learn? With the technology of today, a small island like Japan would suffer severely if it ever became a war zone. And it would be the Japanese who would pay the heavy consequences, not the Americans. I believe Japan should take a neutral position and it should take the initiative towards peace by banning any military action in the country. After all, who paid for the consequence of WWII...innocent Japanese civilians.
Yuko Inagaki
July 8

Okinawa a paradise? You obviously haven't served here.
July 7

I am very disappointed once again at the profound ignorance of your columnist Peter McKillop. In his recent article on American bases in Japan, he has demonstrated his profound ignorance and shortsightedness. His point about China remaining hopelessly inward-looking is fitting maybe 30 years ago, but certainly not fitting for the world's most rapidly expanding economy today. That is only one among many reasons why Peter's view of the world is ridiculous at best. I am very disappointed that such a reputed organization such as TIME continues to employ such unworldly and biased columnists.
Frederick Kuo
July 10

Hey, I've just read your article, and it's right on! There is nothing I can add, except to say that the Okinawan people are very special, and we really should say, "Thanks, we're outta here!"
Elizabeth Collins
July 10

I do agree that the crimes committed by these individual soldiers are heinous and they deserve whatever punishment they get. But to deride a whole organization for the actions of a few members is totally ridiculous. Let me ask you something: Since U.S. President Bill Clinton had an affair, do you think that it is right to ridicule the entire government, or as a matter of fact, the whole country (since we voted him in)?no! Absolutely not. We didn't--because even though there have been proven corrupt politicians, we didn't rethink our way of government because, as sleazy as they are, they still do the job that keeps this country together. The same thing goes for the Marines. There are some bad apples, but they are plucked off the field. And the remaining soldiers continue to defend American interests.
J. Aguilos
July 10

Peter McKillop, I should be writing to you to congratulate you on your recent article on the U.S. Marines in Japan. However, I am sorry to say that I am not. Your article, well, I'll put it this way, "I don't know where to begin." Okinawa serves as a strategic location for us (I am a Marine stationed in Okinawa). We are closer to North Korea and China for one. If we left all of our Marines in say, Hawaii, you would be looking at, at least 4 days before we could get help, to Japan, South Korea ... I am sorry if I seem rude, I really do not mean to be. But when I read your article, a red flag went up. I think to myself, "how could someone who is not an active decision maker in our country's actions, make such a poor, uneducated and ignorant analysis of a situation he knows nothing about." Keep up the good work!
Jeff Skinner
July 10

Peter McKillop is wrong in claiming that the U.S. military has enough assets stockpiled in Asia to fight to their hearts content until reinforcements arrive. First of all, neither Diego Garcia nor Guam is in Asia. They are remote islands, one in the Indian Ocean and the other in the Pacific. Secondly, while there is a great deal of military equipment on these islands, there are troops only to maintain it, not to employ it. Certainly, there are problems in basing U.S. troops abroad. No doubt, these problems need to be resolved. However, isolationist claptrap from someone who obviously does not know much about his subject merely exacerbates the problem.
W.B. Johnson
July 12

Edited by Nick Papadopoulos/Hong Kong

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