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Is U.S. military relief effort Operation Tomodachi really about friendship?

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"Tomodachi?" Friends? To many Japanese living near U.S. military bases, the bilateral “friendship” has seemed more like a prolonged occupation. Will Operation Tomodachi make friends of them, and turn their sullen resistance into gratitude?

It’s the biggest ever U.S. humanitarian mission in Japan – 20,000 troops, 113 aircraft and 12 ships thrown into the battle against chaos in the wake of Japan’s greatest postwar crisis, the earthquake-tsunami-radiation nightmare.

Thankfulness is indeed the dominant mode. Shortly after Operation Tomodachi was launched in March, a survivor told the Associated Press, “I’m really thankful. They are working really hard. I never imagined they could help us so much.”

The Japanese media have played it up as proof of Japan’s importance to its closest ally. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, in a Washington Post op-ed piece, wrote, “The attitude that Americans have demonstrated during this operation has deeply touched the hearts and minds of the Japanese.”

Humbug! cries Shukan Post (April 29). The whole vast operation is purely for show, it says – and who will be paying the bill, it demands, when the hearts and minds have been won? You guessed it – Japan.

Exhibit A in Shukan Post’s case is the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, Operation Tomodachi’s most visible symbol. No sooner did a hydrogen explosion rock the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 14 than the Ronald Reagan fled 160 km away to the northeast, American military officials claiming the crew was exposed to low-level radiation. The result, Shukan Post claims, was the damaging global perception that Japan was “awash in radiation.”

Exhibit B is the U.S. Marine Corps' Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF), 150 of whose members landed in Japan in early April and on April 9 staged training routines at the Yokota air base. The exercises were open to the press. Japan’s media treated them as “saviors,” notes Shukan Post sardonically.

They were nothing of the kind, it argues. “CBIRF was deployed following a strong request from the American government, to which Japan yielded,” the magazine quotes an unnamed defense ministry official as saying. “The plan was not for them to enter the fray, just to train in public view. All they accomplished was to create the impression that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in Fukushima in their protective gear dealing with the catastrophe were not to be depended on.” They were not called up to Fukushima at all.

Exhibit C: Between April 1 and April 3, 78 bodies were found along the Iwate Prefecture coast, supposedly by Japanese and American rescuers working cooperatively. On the 4th, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa spoke of how moved he was at this evidence of “the deepening alliance” between the two countries.

In fact, an unnamed Maritime Self-Defense Force member tells Shukan Post, “All the U.S. side did was send planes and helicopters into the air. The searching was done by Maritime SDF, Japan Coast Guard and Japanese police divers.”

Friendship doesn’t come cheap, Shukan Post notes. Operation Tomodachi, it says, is an $80 million undertaking, the cost to be covered through supplements to Japan’s financial commitment to support American troops stationed in Japan.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Of course propaganda is one part of anything like this, making the US military image good.

But some of the complaining seems like nonsense. Did they really expect a chemical response force from a foreign country to come in and save them? A well developed country, with long experience of nuclear power has a big problem, most of which was created by its own stupidity and systemic problems in the nuclear industry going way back (earthquake notwithstanding), and they want the US military to come in and save the day? That's lame-axx. The US military pulling photo ops is also lame but not criminal and to be expected. I saw us military helicopters descending on unsuspecting isolated shelters with food when no jpns were getting through there and the shelter-ees were understandably glad. Also saw soldiers clearing rubble with their bare hands. Maybe in some locations it was only air support. But it was still support.

The US fleet changing course after the explosion at fukushima got a lot of negative press in Jpn, but really, what would you do? They are not on a combat mission that needs to be accomplished today at risk of everyone dying, they are not under attack from nuclear weapons, the only logical thing to do is get away from the radiation. There was no/ horrible info (and just lies)coming out of Jpn gov and especially Tepco, and a reactor that has a mysterious unexplained breakdown problem just had an explosion. I say changing course and getting away was a good judgement call. They still came, just a little later by a longer route.

Not a fan of US military, but the complaining and criticism reported in this article get two thumbs down from Kittyjump.

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Hmm, sometimes this type of commentary is based on perception and not on official comments from the JSDF and US forces involved on the operation.

Exhibit D: (In fact, an unnamed Maritime Self-Defense Force member tells Shukan Post, “All the U.S. side did was send planes and helicopters into the air. The searching was done by Maritime SDF, Japan Coast Guard and Japanese police divers.”)

What this from an official MSDF source, or just an MSDF member? Get the facts on the reasons why this was done, whoever Shukan is. We owe Japan a debt of gratitude and we did it because we care about your country. I am honored to live in such a great country like Japan, and I want to support them in anyway necessary, not because I want to look good on newspapers...

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I think its obvious the US wanted & did/is helping Japan, a great gesture, thankyou!

Now is there any political undertones to some of this, well how cud there not be, use your brains J-media. Having said that the ball has ALWAYS been in Japans court to decide what,where, how US forces are deplayed in Japan or not.

Will the US use this to the their advantage in dealing with the J-govt, of course & they will, as they should!

But like a said the ball is & always be in Japans court & up to Japan as to what is/isnt done

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"In fact, an unnamed Maritime Self-Defense Force member tells Shukan Post, “All the U.S. side did was send planes and helicopters into the air. The searching was done by Maritime SDF, Japan Coast Guard and Japanese police divers."

The US military has in many cases tried to stay in the background to allow Japanese military and police to do their jobs. Nothing wrong with that. These "exhibits" sound pretty trivial to me.

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paulinusa

absolutely correct! Figures the local press is too stupid to see the obvious, The US wants to & is helping, but they are careful not to come across as saviors & take a bunch of credit, they are purposely trying to let the sdf look good, for crying out loud

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Right on, GW.

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Look. My understanding is that fully half of the SDF was up here doing relief. They needed to get to people and help them, and they understand Japanese.

The J government actually ASKED the US, Australia, NZealand, and SKorea for help. I am not aware that they asked anyone else, although help might have been offered.

I was a little worried about how all this would go down, and I think it was handled superbly. US forces were worried about radiation. People were concerned that they would be too John Wayne-ish. So they stepped back into a support role and let the SDF do touchy feely stuff. It was a great move and it demanded class and maturity. They supplied fuel and supplies. They cleared out Sendai airport in record time.

This demands its own paragraph. I know pilots flying in and out of Sendai airport who said that it would be AUGUST before flights would be using the facility. The US Marines turned that AUGUST into APRIL. And that was HUGE for this city. Then they used that facility to enhance aid to Natori and Ishinomaki and turned north to help isolated villages.

Now operation SOUL TRAIN is underway, to clear out train stations along the coast. It is successful and useful.

The important truth that the article ignores is that MANPOWER is in shortest supply in Japan. Paying US forces should not be a big deal. Having big guys with heavy equipment getting infrastructure together is crucial now. Saving SDF for other missions that are sensitive in different ways is important now.

Finally, I cannot think of a better way for people to get to know each other. Sounds corny, but the things that happen in Okinawa occur because soldiers and sailors and airmen are bored or stressed or lonely. Getting them out to DO WHAT THEY DO is the best way to improve their lives and let them see humanity. I almost think that helping people should be taught and experienced before anyone is taught to kill another human, but that is too much to hope for.

80 million? I think Japan is getting its money's worth. I hope politics does not ruin it all, becuase TOMODACHI was a success on a human and operational level.

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Stupid question. Of course it is. I wish the military was always used in this mannner. Those are some good friends my man.

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"unnamed Maritime Self-Defense Force member tells Shukan Post, “All the U.S. side did was send planes and helicopters into the air. The searching was done by Maritime SDF, Japan Coast Guard and Japanese police divers"

I have seen videos online of commanders telling their troops NOT to touch a Japanese person, living or dead. They were instructed to call SDF personnel immediately.

There is no way that I expect enlisted men to understand this directive, but I fully understand it and believe it was generally a wise policy.

To be quite honest, having swarms of aircraft and vessels up and down the coast made me feel good on many occasions. I can just imagine someone looking up from a campfire in Aomori and seeing the Ronald Reagan steaming by. What a hopeful sign that must have been.

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I almost think that helping people should be taught and experienced before anyone is taught to kill another human, but that is too much to hope for.

...........................All US military branches ( yes, including the NAVY ) run humanitarian missions on a regular basis working with the locals doing good things. We just don't publicize them. Hooah

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No sooner did a hydrogen explosion rock the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 14 than the Ronald Reagan fled 160 km away to the northeast, American military officials claiming the crew was exposed to low-level radiation. The result, Shukan Post claims, was the damaging global perception that Japan was “awash in radiation.”

And now there's a 20km exclusion zone around the daiichi reactors because of excessive radiation in the soil, air, and water. The "awash in radiation" statement might be a perception, but it appears to be pretty accurate perception, ne? The Ronald Reagan was downwind of the reactors so they were getting the lion's share of the fallout in those first few days... the days when everyone agrees the worst release of nuclear material was happening. I guess the Shukan Post (which appears to be equivalent to the New York Post in journalistic integrity) would have been happier had the carrier dropped anchor right in the path of the fallout.

“CBIRF was deployed following a strong request from the American government, to which Japan yielded,” the magazine quotes an unnamed defense ministry official as saying. “The plan was not for them to enter the fray, just to train in public view. All they accomplished was to create the impression that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in Fukushima in their protective gear dealing with the catastrophe were not to be depended on.” They were not called up to Fukushima at all.

Ahhh! Exhibit B! The CBIRF is specifically trained to handle the collection and clean-up of loose fissile material. The reason they are trained to do so is in the case of a handling incident of a nuclear warhead that results in the fissile material getting broken up and spread around the immediate area. I'm sure the Americans were strongly urging Japan to bring them in after seeing the sides of the reactor buildings blown away in the explosions. Who knew if any of the fuel in the pools was ejected along with the walls? The JSDF, not having any nuclear weapons, is specifically trained in the handling of loose nuclear material? I'm going to guess their training consists of, "Here's a dustpan and a broom. Go sweep it up." Ultimately, it was up to the Japanese Authorities to decide whether to send them in and I guess they feel that there has been no fuel rods spit out into the immediate area. So they sent the CBIRF back home.

In fact, an unnamed Maritime Self-Defense Force member tells Shukan Post, “All the U.S. side did was send planes and helicopters into the air. The searching was done by Maritime SDF, Japan Coast Guard and Japanese police divers.”

"The unnamed Maritime Self Defense Force member, who has spent the entire disaster mopping one corner of his barracks floor, claims he knows what he's talking about because he heard it from a friend of a buddy."

Uhhh... yeah. Folks, please go up to the Picture of the Day section here on JT and take a look at the picture for Wednesday, April 6th. So much for the truthfulness of this "unnamed Maritime Self Defense Force member". Enough said.

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The US provides 50% of all aid to the world and 70% of all cash aid in an emergency. The American military were on the ground it seems and helping immediately. They did the same with the Indonesian Tsunami. They diverted a Marine assault force heading to Iraq to assist the Indonesians with a huge number of helicopters, a force only the US can and will deliver.

Japan asked for aid from its western allies, the US, Australia, New Zealand and it came instantly. With 127 million people it is obvious Japan would be able to do most of the rescue work itself, but don't be so petty as to knock friends who come immediately to you aid in a crisis.

We received wide news coverage of the earthquake and Tsunami in Australia. All we saw was the Japanese people and authorities stoically handling themselves with dignity and calm in a crisis and the US and Australia et al immediately coming to Japan's aid with serious military hardware assistance. Where were the rest of the world? Waiting for the US military to do all the heavy lifting in a crisis as usual. You can always get a quote from a nitwit who would winge even if he got a front seat in heaven. "They shalt be done on earth as it is in Heaven" - that is what the US Military did. They are true and ever reliable "Good Samaritans". God Bless America I say!

I am glad the US has maintained a strong military presence in the Pacific and South East Asia since the forties. Certainly made me sleep better at night nowing US Marines and Navy are out there.

I just wish the US aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan would call in on my City Melbourne, We would love to say thank you!

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It is often said that actions speak louder than words, but who cares if the J-media don't care to report the actions and hard work of these young men and women? On the other hand, the J-media would prefer to run these kinds of stories and rewrite history. I feel for all of the US personnel that are working so hard to help the victims of these natural (and unnatural) disasters and will never been shown much appreciation by people in Japan. Tis a tragedy, too.

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Techically it was just plain Operation Tomo if your are just reading the single kanji on the badge, right? That sounds a little more streetwise anyway, kind of like Operation Aniki or Operation Oyabun or something.

Anyone else waiting for an Operation Tamagotchi? I missed that fad the first time around.

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Really this is what the Military should be used for instead of attacking Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. People and the media should be encouraging the humanitarian efforts of the military at all times instead of war efforts. =Always encourage +behavior.

I didn't like the "stand-down" on radiation monitoring after the disaster. The military could have used the radiation monitors to help the populace immensely.

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It's a Shukan Post article, which tells you exactly how much credibility you should invest into whatever it says.

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I agree this is such a stupid question, period.

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I'd much rather the friendship of the US military was used in this way than in the friendly fire they show with depressing regularity to their supposed allies in combat zones.

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"It is often said that actions speak louder than words, but who cares if the J-media don't care to report the actions and hard work of these young men and women?"

The Shukan Post hardly reflects all of J-media. I've only watched NHK and FujiTV but the coverage of US miliary assistance has been accurate and good.

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I am glad to see an almost 100% response about the US military here. They were humbly helping out and not taking any credit at all. I for one am standing and giving them an ovation. Keep up the good work.

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You know things are getting back to normal when the Japanese moaning starts up again. Those who complain about the US bases (mostly Okinawans) won't be satisfied by any amount of relief work carried out in other parts of Japan. They are storing up their whinging and whining, which will be restored to full force in a month or two.

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The local's complaints about the U.S. bases are a separate issue from Operation Tomodachi entirely. The two discussions should never be lumped together, yet the author of this article tried to do so at the beginning of the article. By doing so, he/she lessened any impact the remainder of his/her article might have made. If you ramble all over the place on your topics, how can anyone take you seriously?

That said, I now know of a place in Japan where they could relocate Futenma Base and not have to worry about civilians living within 20km of the base. :-)

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If they're even gonna complain when given humanitarian assistance, may as well up and leave them to fend for themselves. No point sticking around if you're not appreciated.

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Answer: Yes, it is. The US is proud to be the ally of Japan and I would like to believe the feeling is mutual. The time, money, and services donated to Japan by the American people should be proof of this.

To me, $80 million seems like very little for the support and expertise the US provided. That cost should be a drop in the bucket for either nation to bear. It costs almost $300,000 to start the USS Ronald Reagan's engines alone; when combined with the rest of the fleets deployed, the initial costs to even start the operation were in the millions of dollars.

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If they're even gonna complain when given humanitarian assistance, may as well up and leave them to fend for themselves. No point sticking around if you're not appreciated.

You can't abandon an entire nation's people because there are noisy haters with anti-American agendas amongst them. You have to keep in mind that people who are happy with what you're doing are usually silent on the matter. It's only the whiners that give these "journalists" something to write.

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If you get to know a variety of Japanese people across a broad economic and social spectrum, you'll find out that their silence (including their view of America and its military bases) does not indicate being "happy with what you're doing"

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Shukan Post forgot EXHIBIT D! Alot of Americans in Japan who really CARE about HELPING PEOPLE! They obviousely didn't do their research very well because we did alot more then just send ships and helicopters. Those ships and helicopters helped a great many people and worked WITH the Japanese to help in rescue, recovery, and aid delivery operations.

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What a terrible, negative article on JapanToday.com - This is WAY below your standard. Quoting Shukan Post.... with an article of this nature...disappointing, to say the least.

I thought this was a time for all to pull together, (as in not complain) and focus on the task at hand - I guess some Japanese people at Shukan Post (and JapanToday) don't want to wait - they want to nitpick now.

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It's from the Shukan Post. What else should we expect but this silliness?

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LFRAgain

Precisely. Who in their right mind would ever write an article, even a commentary piece, based on what anything the Shukan Post prints. Any sane person knows that the only thing good in an issue of the Shukan Post are photos of the semi-nude girls in the front. The rest is trash at best. For that matter, who writes these "articles" in the Kuchikomi/Shukan Post section anyway. Is there some anonymous intern poring over the latest edition of Shukan Post every week at the gas station (which is about the only place you'll run into a public copy)? An article based on something carried by the National Enquirer or The Sun would be more full of fact and genuine intrigue.

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Well, an interesting article, that I’m sure will generate a fair number of readers and comments, which is what Japan Today is in business for, so I don’t have an issue with them posting it on their site.

Agree that in reviewing this article, you have to first look at the source – Shukan Post, at best a “Tabloid”, but actually something several levels lower than that…..

Let’s address some the articles more outlandish claims;

“Exhibit A in Shukan Post’s case is the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, Operation Tomodachi’s most visible symbol. No sooner did a hydrogen explosion rock the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 14 than the Ronald Reagan fled 160 km away to the northeast, American military officials claiming the crew was exposed to low-level radiation. The result, Shukan Post claims, was the damaging global perception that Japan was “awash in radiation.”

An extreme exaggeration. The view that Japan was awash in radiation came far before the Ronald Reagan repositioned itself. I assume the author would prefer to have the ship remain in the path of the radiation, become contaminated, and continue to spread that contamination to other areas in Japan, in addition to overlooking any health effects on the crew……

"Exhibit B is the U.S. Marine Corps’ Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF), 150 of whose members landed in Japan in early April and on April 9 staged training routines at the Yokota air base. The exercises were open to the press. Japan’s media treated them as “saviors,” notes Shukan Post sardonically. They were nothing of the kind, it argues. “CBIRF was deployed following a strong request from the American government, to which Japan yielded,” the magazine quotes an unnamed defense ministry official as saying. The plan was not for them to enter the fray, just to train in public view. All they accomplished was to create the impression that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in Fukushima in their protective gear dealing with the catastrophe were not to be depended on.” They were not called up to Fukushima at all."

Inaccurate. CBIRF was a capability offered to Japan who accepted. They came and stayed at Yokota AB, and coordinated/trained with the JGSDF chem/bio/rad response force – a unit with a similar mission. They held one joint press event to show the public that they could operate together if the situation worsened and they were needed. This past Sat, Def Minister Kitazawa came to Yokota to thank the team for deploying and helping train the JGSDF. They are now in the processing of packing up and going home. As to not being called up to Fukushima, they were not needed there (thank goodness) and staying within Yokota was consistent with the strategic message of Operation Tomodachi – the US was merely in an “assist” role – the GOJ was in the lead.

"Exhibit C: Between April 1 and April 3, 78 bodies were found along the Iwate Prefecture coast, supposedly by Japanese and American rescuers working cooperatively. On the 4th, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa spoke of how moved he was at this evidence of “the deepening alliance” between the two countries. In fact, an unnamed Maritime Self-Defense Force member tells Shukan Post, “All the U.S. side did was send planes and helicopters into the air. The searching was done by Maritime SDF, Japan Coast Guard and Japanese police divers.”

Know for a fact that is inaccurate. Both the Army and Marines had personnel on the ground that searched and found victims. And the additional air support, both doing search and rescue and transportation, was a huge help.

"Friendship doesn’t come cheap, Shukan Post notes. Operation Tomodachi, it says, is an $80 million undertaking, the cost to be covered through supplements to Japan’s financial commitment to support American troops stationed in Japan."

This is perhaps the most outrageous, scurrilous and just plain inaccurate claim. The US initially budgeted $35 mission for the Japan HA/DR mission – that ran out fairly quickly and the amount increased to $85 million. As of today, that amount has been reached and additional funding is being requested. This is “Operations and Maintenance” money – funding used to operate ships, fly airplanes, purchase supplies, etc. As has been said before, the GOJ “Omoiyari Yosan” or sympathy budget only funds a limited set of stationing costs in Japan – some construction, some utilities and the salaries of Master Labor Contract employees. The GOJ cannot fund any operational or maintenance activities. The article’s statement is a pure bold faced lie.

But let’s get bogged down refuting spurious claims – we all know this article was not written as a serious piece of journalism – it was written to offend. Knowing who the source is, and their lack of credibility, no offense taken on my part.

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Ill-mannered, low level "journalism". They should be ashamed of themselves. They're not, of course...

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A good accurate analysis lincolnman.

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the Ronald Reagan fled 160 km away to the northeast, American military officials claiming the crew was exposed to low-level radiation. The result, Shukan Post claims, was the damaging global perception that Japan was “awash in radiation.”

So the US military should be blamed when idiots misinterpret their prudence? Idiots will be idiots. You can't blame the US for this fact of life.

I'm sure the US is hoping it efforts will help it with the Okinawa base issue, but the bottom line is, the US would have helped whether or not there was any controversy over bases down there. And my Japanese girlfriend says the TV media dowplayed the US help, at the insistence of the US and Japanese sides. That's why there was more about the US efforts in the print media.

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As an American with many Japanese friends I was disturbed and saddened to read such a negative piece of journalism. Yes friendship is not cheap but you do cheapen it when you start to whine rather than showing thanks and appreciation. I hope the view the Shukan Post promotes is a minority of Japanese sentiment towards Operation Tomodachi. Our brave and women of the US Military could have been doing other tasks to safe guard the freedoms of not only the United States but Japan.

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