Category Archives: Asia – Pacific

Some Asia-Pacific Historical Context….A Mark Driscoll CounterPunch Article

This article just in from Auntie Mart:

“Good look at US military’s history & relationship w/Japan & people of Okinawa. This article gives us a good idea of what we can expect from our ‘good neighbors.'” -A. Mart

http://www.counterpunch.org/driscoll11022010.html

Undermining of Democracy in Japan
When the Pentagon “Kill Machines” Came to an Okinawan Paradise

By MARK DRISCOLL

When I arrived at the small village of Takae in the northernmost part of the main island of Okinawa to spend 5 days at a sit-in protest there in mid-July, my first image of the place was the unusual municipal charter that greeted me as I got off the bus. Codified in 1996, the residents pledge to: “1. Love nature and strive to create a beautiful environment resplendent with flowers and water; 2. Value our traditional culture, while always striving to learn new things; and 3. Create a municipality in which people can interact in a spirit of vitality and joy.” The charter mentioned no human founding fathers of Takae, rather it followed with lavish descriptions of the village flower (azalea) and bird (sea woodpecker) in addition to details about the gorgeous waterfalls and the rare combination of seacoast and mountains that creates a strong impression of a tropical paradise; UNESCO has identified the ecological diversity of this area as among the richest in the world. The sense of paradise is what brought Ashimine Genji to Takae ten years ago. Ashimine, a native of Okinawa who moved to the Japanese mainland during the economic bubble period in the mid-1980s, moved back to Okinawa when he got tired of the frenetic Tokyo life and exhausting wage labor. With his lover he bought some land in the mountains amidst waterfalls, animals and birds and started raising their 3 kids, while constructing a small organic restaurant. During my interview with him he insisted that the family was committed to living as simply, slowly, and sustainably as possible, and they deliberately spent the first two years in Takae without electricity, reluctantly attaching to a grid only when their oldest kid’s complaints wouldn’t stop.

It’s hard to avoid the descriptive mantra of Okinawan life as “simple and slow” in Japanese lifestyle magazines (with, in the last two years, “sustainable” [saiseisan] commonly appended) and perusal of these magazines convinced Naoko and Kôji Morioka to relocate to Takae four years ago. Amateur organic farmers and part-time artists raised in Tokyo, they had lived in Africa, India and Nepal before relocating with their two small kids to Takae to start full-time organic rice farming. Also refusing electricity, they built a small house from scratch just 30 yards north of a gorgeous waterfall and 300 yards from the sea, determined both to pioneer a new path of zero growth against Japanese postmodern capitalism and to enjoy the close community of Takae, consisting of farmers, fisherfolk and several convivial story-tellers/drunks. While about a fourth of Takae’s 160 residents are eco-conscious transplants from Tokyo and their kids, several claim descendants going back a millennium who have enjoyed the fruits (mango) and vegetables that grow wild in the area. Right smack in the middle of this sustainable paradise is where a large part of the newest US military base is about to be built.

Takae residents were kept in the dark about the base until just before construction was to begin. Leaks, reported in the Okinawa Times in late 2006, forced the Japanese Defense Ministry to hold an information session in early 2007. It was only here that the Ashimines and Moriokas were informed that the main helicopter base for the US military in Japan was about to be built in their backyard, including facilities for 3 Osprey heli-planes. When the Defense Ministry showed the people of Takae a Power Point slide of the projected base area, they realized that two of their homes would be within 400 meters of the proposed new base. Ashimine recalled how he felt after the session. “One minute I was living a life of harmony with nature with my family and friends, and the next minute I was being told that these killing machines (kiru- mashin) were coming to within a few hundred meters of my house; the disconnect (iwakan) was overwhelming” (Ku-yon June 2010; 101). Within a few months, Takae locals obtained a fuller picture of what was going on: based on a secret agreement between the Japanese Foreign Ministry and the US Pentagon made in 1996—finally signed into a dubious kind of legality in February 2009—the large, but increasingly obsolete US military base Futenma in central Okinawa was to be relocated with completely new infrastructure to northern Okinawa. The plan was to transfer the infrastructure of Futenma to the smaller US base Camp Schwab located 20 miles from Takae. But airport and helicopter facilities were necessary to fill out Futenma’s capacity and this is where Takae and the equally pristine fishing village of Henoko, 30 minutes southeast of Takae, would come into play. The old airport at Futenma would be replaced with a new V-shaped one carved out of the beach in Henoko, while Takae would get all the CH-47 and CH-54 helicopters together with the behemoth Ospreys.

Henoko’s proximity to Camp Schwab has created a palpable anti-base sentiment there, and local activists started mobilizing opposition to the proposed airport construction in 2004. With help from the all-women anti-base group Naha Broccoli, situated in the Okinawan capital of Naha, activist information sessions and bus tours of the proposed base areas began in June 2007 which jumpstarted regular contact among Takae, Henoko and Naha. Encouraged by activist friends in Tokyo to go Okinawa to look around, in July 2007, with about 40 others, I participated in the second Broccoli bus tour and was stunned—but I should have known better. The lack of transparency on the side of the Pentagon and the deafness to local Japanese concerns were standard neocolonial postures of US base presence in Asia going back to just after World War II. But witnessing the sustained protest in Henoko by anti-war activists spanning 3 generations inspired all of us on the tour. The required environmental assessment for new base construction had been underway for over a year and Henoko activists were doing their best to disrupt it, including a blockade of Japanese Navy vessels with cordons of local fishing boats and, with air tanks and wet suits, conducting underwater direction action against young Japanese Navy divers trying to complete the seabed assessment. In November 2007 a Henoko activist almost died when the breathing line to his airtank was severed.

Just after our bus tour, protest signs and colorful anti-base paintings started to show up around the two main gates to the newly fenced-in Takae helicopter facility. By August 2007, Rie Ishihara, a Takae mother of two started daily sit-ins in front of the main entrance by herself; soon she was joined by other locals and then by Naha activists. Quickly, anti-base Japanese started coming from the mainland, often devoting one day of their Okinawa vacation week sitting in at Takae. The mushrooming anti-base movement in Takae caught the Japanese Defense Ministry in Okinawa off-guard and when the environment assessment group started its two-year survey at the Takae site a year later, the Okinawan office of the Japanese Defense Ministry—the local defender of the US bases— preemptively took the whole town to court, serving 15 Takae residents a summons for “disrupting traffic” on Dec. 16, 2008. Ishihara told me that when she got the summons she thought it was a practical joke as everyone knows there is no traffic in Takae and a few local residents even refuse to drive cars because of the impact on the environment. But this was no joke, as the drawn-out legal hearings lasted a year and forced the Takae farmers to spend money on lawyers and court fees. On December 11, the provincial court in Naha ruled in favor of 13 defendants, although it ruled against Ashimine and the head of the Takae residents anti-base group Toshio Isa. Isa and Ashimine can now be forced to stand trial in Tokyo at any point the Japanese government decides.

While the events were unfolding in Okinawa, politics on Japan’s mainland were revealing similar anti-US patterns. During the campaigning for the crucial Lower House elections in July 2009, the upstart Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised in their manifesto to establish a “different policy with respect to the US-Japan alliance,” one central aspect of which would be a “significant re-thinking (minaoshi) of the US military in Japan including the situation of all the US bases”.  Soon to be Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama refined his critique of the US-Japan security framework by focusing on the unfair “burden” placed on Okinawa by having some 24,000 US troops stationed there, including 18,000 Marines—65% of the US military presence in Japan installed on a land mass less than 1% of Japan’s total. The party in power for all but one year since the end of the US Occupation of Japan, the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been losing support since it ordered Japanese soldiers to deploy to war-zones in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2002-03 in the face of Japanese public opposition polling at 80-90%.

The historic victory of the DPJ over the LDP in August 2009 should be seen as the culmination of multiple forms of opposition to the LDP’s blind allegiance to the US, together with a pragmatic understanding that Japan’s economic future lies more closely entwined with China. In addition to pledging to reform aspects of Japan’s military-security framework with the US, the DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa promised to enhance ties to China beyond the economic sphere, where China is now Japan’s largest trading partner. The double whammy of a confirmation that closer ties with China are beneficial together with a groundswell of resistance to the US military swept the DPJ into power. Right away, new Prime Minister Hatoyama went to work on his party’s campaign promise and started exploring ways to reform the US-Japan alliance; in a flush of post-victory confidence he wondered out loud what a future security framework would look like with “zero US troops stationed in Japan” (chûryû naki ampô). Several months earlier, Ozawa insisted that, “the [US Navy] 7th Fleet alone is sufficient,” meaning that as far as the DPJ leaders were concerned, the remaining 35,000 US troops should begin packing up their things to leave Japan permanently.

Although the US media underplayed this challenge, the Pentagon understood exactly what was at stake and wasn’t liking it. Despite President Obama’s cautious wait and see approach to the democratic regime change in Japan, the Pentagon immediately starting sparring with the Japanese Ambassador to the US Ichiro Fujisaki in Washington over issues like the Guam Treaty signed by the weakened LDP in early 2009, which dictated the terms of the new base construction in Henoko/Takae and the planned move of somewhere between 3000 to 9000 of the 18,000 Marines in Okinawa to new facilities in Guam—with Japanese taxpayers forced to pay 65-70% of the costs for both the move and the new base in Guam. During the July 2009 campaign several DPJ candidates echoed the argument made by Okinawan critics that the Guam Treaty was clearly unequal because it obliged the Japanese to construct one new base in Okinawa and to contribute most of the money toward building another in Guam, while the American side merely offered an ambiguous pledge to withdraw some troops while reserving the right to change its commitments when it wanted. Furthermore, critics argued that the Guam Treaty was illegal as it violated Article 95 of Japan’s constitution, which stipulates that any law applicable only to one locale requires the consent of the majority of the voters of that province, and support for the construction of the new base among Okinawans had been almost completely absent. Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to Tokyo for two days of meetings in late October 2009 clearly intending to muzzle the critiques of the US presence in Japan and to remind the new DPJ leaders of the post-WW II status quo, where senior (US) and junior (Japan) partners would continue to work together to contain China and North Korea. “It is time to move on,” Gates scolded the new Japanese leaders on October 22, calling DPJ proposals to reopen the base issues “counterproductive.” Then, deliberately insulting the DPJ in the eyes of almost all Japanese commentators Gates refused to attend the welcoming ceremony and formal dinner organized for him at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo on October 23. In enumerating the insults and behind the scenes threats made by Gates in Tokyo a few days after his departure, the Okinawan newspaper the Ryukyu Shimpo lambasted the “diplomacy of intimidation” practiced by the US in its editorial of October 26.

By several accounts, Defense Secretary Gates’ intimidation in late October 2009 ended the honeymoon Hatoyama and the DPJ were enjoying with the Japanese public. From that point on, the Japanese media grew increasingly vocal in criticizing Hatoyama’s sudden lack of political focus as “cluelessly running all over the place” (meitô). With respect to the issue of the new US base in Okinawa, he actually was running all over Japan trying to find an alternative location to Henoko/Takae since he was informed by Gates that the US Pentagon was unwilling to give up its plans for a new base there in Henoko/Takae. For his part, the DPJ’s pro-China leader Ichiro Ozawa responded to the Pentagon’s intimidation with a little of his own, and in November arranged a high-level trip to Beijing bringing 140 DPJ politicians and 400 other supporters to meet his friends. But the US and it’s LDP allies in Japan held the trump card in this high-stakes game as just a few weeks after Ozawa’s return from China in December he was greeted with a deafening chorus of accusations of financial impropriety. Based on rumors that dogged Ozawa months before the DPJ victory, on January 16, 2010 three of his former secretaries were indicted on charges that Ozawa neglected to publicly report the dormitory he purchased for them in Tokyo. During the ensuing trial it turned out that he didn’t declare it the first year, but did so properly from the second year on. The prosecutors never had any evidence of Ozawa’s direct involvement and his main secretary testified that Ozawa himself knew nothing about the failure to report. It became clear during the trial in March that the prosecutors were trying to use this court case to uncover facts in a second, potentially more serious case involving kickbacks from Nishimatsu Construction. Ozawa has been cleared of the first charge and has yet to be indicted for the second.

But the damage to the DPJ had been done. With Hatoyama unable to fulfill his campaign promise to prevent new base construction in Okinawa and reduce the US military’s footprint in Japan, the well-covered allegations of dirty money involving Ozawa and other DPJ leaders made the Japanese public think that the modus operandi of the corruption-prone LDP and the new DPJ were ultimately indistinguishable. The week after Ozawa’s secretaries were indicted, support for the DPJ dropped below 50%, and continued to plummet thereafter. Less than 9 months after their overwhelming victory, on May 25, 2010 Hatoyama announced that with all other options exhausted, construction on the new US base in Henoko/Takae would move forward. In dramatic contrast to their position of August 20009, Hatoyama spoke for the DPJ in saying that now, the US and Japan are in “complete agreement” on military-security matters. The DPJ’s coalition party, the leftist Social-Democratic Party, subsequently withdrew from the government; finally on June 2, Hatoyama himself was forced to resign. The Democratic Party, along with the democratic process, has been successfully undermined in Japan.

Japanese taxpayers continue to foot the bill for the US military presence in their own country. In Okinawa in recent decades, 80% of base costs are payed by Japan’s Foreign Ministry directly to the US who then pay “rent” to a few Okinawan landowners, a situation designed originally to camouflage the fact that the US military simply took at gunpoint the Okinawan land it wanted for new base construction. As the respected historian of post-WW II Okinawa Moriteru Arasaki has described in several books, the forced seizures (kyôsei sesshû) of Okinawan land by the US were largely of lush agricultural flatlands in the center of the main island, where the Futenma, Hanson and Kadena bases are located today. Arasaki explains that 44% of the pre-WW II rice farming area in Okinawa was stolen by the US, and these fields were filled in with sea water, sand and cement, a combination guaranteeing that they can never again be used as farmland. This situation transformed Okinawa from being an exporter of agricultural goods for 500 years into an importer overnight and made Okinawa dependent on shrinking development assistance from Tokyo. Moreover, the Marines have not proven to be the roles models for the new post-WW II democratic order that the US Occupation promised the Japanese people they would be. But in fairness to individual Marines, the legal structure of the Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement excuses outlaw behavior as soldiers are largely shielded from Japanese law. It took the gang rape of a 5th-grade Okinawan girl by 3 Marines in 1995 to slightly alter the situation of total extraterritoriality enjoyed until then. Furthermore, as Okinawa Times journalist Tomohiro Yara puts it in his 2009 book The US-Japan Alliance of Sand, the absurd fiction of owner (Japan) and renter (US military) encourages bad boy behavior in Okinawa. “What do you expect,” Yara quips, “when what has to be the most lenient landlord in the world pays 80% of the rent, doesn’t charge for any of the utilities, and then has to do the repairs himself when the renter decides to trash the place?”

But the last three years of anti-US sentiment in Okinawa has brought with it a renewed desire for independence—from the US military and from the Japanese government. The economic austerity facing Japan means that the old LDP mode of silencing Okinawan opposition through bribes and development assistance—what Okinawan leftists call “sweets (ame) to make us forget the whippings (muchi) handed out by the Marines”—is no longer feasible. Tokyo started being stingy about handing out sweet treats to Okinawa over a decade ago, leaving only the “whip” of the US military for Okinawans. The predictable outcome of the withdrawal of the sweets is the almost complete absence of Okinawan support for the new US base; a May 31, 2010 poll conducted by the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper found only 6.3% of Okinawans supporting it.

Mark Driscoll is an Associate Professor of East Asian History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He can be reached at: mdriscol@email.unc.edu

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US Social Forum 2010: A commentary on the challenges facing our movement toward social justice

By: Dr. Hope Cristobal

This year’s US Social Forum was held in downtown Detroit, Michigan from June 22 to June 26.  As one of the 10,000 progressive activists registered for the Forum, my experience that week was both captivating and disenchanting.

I was part of a small group of indigenous Chamorus representing a local non-governmental organization (NGO).  Our group – four from Guam, one from California, and one from Boston – was well organized.   Each was strategically packed with a schedule of mandatory workshops and People’s Movement Assemblies (PMAs) in order to maximize our attendance at such an important forum.  Our goal was to bring home good solid knowledge and skills in addition to networking with strategic folks involved in issues of decolonization and self-determination.  I can tell you, in this respect, we certainly were NOT disappointed!

Our information table was also brimming with material for the American public about Guam, especially about the proposed hyper militarization of our island home by the Department of Defense.  The biggest draw to our table was this quote, spelled out in big bold white letters, “The indigenous Chamoru people of Guam who have already suffered near genocide and violent colonization for over 400 years will bear the burden of U.S. military buildup on Guam – and have been given no say in the process.”  Many people who passed by our table slowed to read the sign, shaking their heads in disbelief.  Manning the table was valuable experience for each of us.  We learned how fellow Americans knew little about what is happening in the westernmost U.S. territory of Guam.  Our efforts did not go unheeded; we received a few hundred signatures in support of our petition to stop the military buildup and to grant the Chamoru people the exercise of our legal and political Right of Self-Determination.  I do, however, wonder, “What does the American public understand about this Right and the struggles of colonized indigenous peoples in this world?”

I quickly realized through the week, that the terms “self-determination,” “anti-imperialism,” and “decolonization” appear to be the new ‘cool’ terms thrown into the political rhetoric.  I witnessed the term “self-determination” be reduced to anyone’s right to personal freedom. The truth of the matter is that self-determination in the case of the indigenous people of Guam is not just a “right,” but a “Right.”  Meaning, the Right of Self-Determination as recognized in the United Nations Charter of 1945 and other relevant United Nations documents—and further identified as “jus cogens” in the international sphere – is an inherent Right of indigenous peoples to simply exist independently from our colonial power.  This independent existence is made real through the expression of our right to freely choose our political status, or our Self-Determination.

On the third day, I was drawn toward a workshop strategizing a revolutionary movement from the left.  The workshop handout read, “building a more powerful movement and a stronger left that can defeat capitalism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, xenophobia, and gender oppression.”  What about political oppression?  The sad truth is even among revolutionaries, this struggle – familiar to many colonized indigenous people – goes unnoticed most of the time.  Colonized indigenous groups can’t yet deal with the struggles of racism, heterosexism, ableism, xenophobia, gender oppression, and other equality issues until they are allowed the basic Right to exist and have a voice.  Ultimately, an able-bodied, white, heterosexual, male can’t vote for the President of the United States or be protected under the U.S. Constitution as long as he is a resident of Guam!

There are two problems that I can see with our revolutionary movement so far.  First, when the term “self-determination” is loosely akin to anyone’s right to freely choose their future, it undermines the larger human rights struggle for indigenous people.  This struggle is a legitimate struggle for those living in colonies – indigenous or non-indigenous – especially the 16 remaining Non-Self Governing Territories around the world who go to the United Nations multiple times a year, demanding their right to exist independently from their administering power.  Secondly, discussions on social transformation will continue to fall short as long as the left continues to be blind to their own political-privilege, ignoring the fact that there are politically disenfranchised groups that truly have no political voice in their future or how they choose to live their life.  I will define political-privilege as the political advantage, benefit, or immunity enjoyed by people who can freely choose or express their governmental, civic, legal, and constitutional options and who are exempt from the burden or liabilities incurred by people who lack this privilege. Political-privilege results in laws, regulations, and political viewpoints favoring the desires, needs, and perspectives of those who have this privilege over those who do not.

What should the left do?  First of all, acknowledge that political-privilege exists in this country and the fact that there are people who are not politically recognized as legitimate entities, is an equity issue and a human rights issue.  Secondly, be aware, understand, and make distinction between the Right of Self-Determination and the right of the politically-privileged to make personal choices in their lives.  Political-privilege will continue as long as those who have it remain ignorant to the true political meaning of “Self-Determination.”  Lastly, any revolutionary strategy needs to be inclusive of the politically-underprivileged and disenfranchised.  By this inclusion, privileged folks discourage the reenactment of colonial marginalization already committed by administering Powers of colonial territories and peoples.

Ultimately, until indigenous people living in this country can be afforded our right to political equity, there can be no legitimate fight for equality.

About the author:  As an indigenous Chamoru and active member of Famoksaiyan, Dr. Hope Cristobal was born and raised on the island-territory of Guahan.  She is a licensed psychologist who specializes in the treatment and assessment of indigenous and marginalized populations, focusing on the unique situation for colonized Chamorus from Guahan. She is a community advocate at the local, national, and international levels. She has presented at a number of workshops and conferences regarding the psychosocial problems currently facing the Chamoru people in Guahan and abroad.  Her testimonies to the United Nations’ Committee on Decolonization is highlighted in a documentary film, The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas Islands. You can contact Dr. Cristobal at hope.cristobal@gmail.com.

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Filed under Asia - Pacific, Events, General Information, Military/Military Build-up, Petition, Uncategorized

Christina Illarmo: USSF Presentation at the ‘American Lake’ or Ka Moana Nui?: Demilitarization Movements in the Asia-Pacific Workshop

Presentation at the
USSF – United States Social Forum
24 June 2010

‘American Lake’ or Ka Moana Nui?: Demilitarization Movements in the Asia-Pacific

The Pacific island of Guahan, where I was born and raised, has been touted to mainstream audiences as “the tip of the spear,” “the unsinkable aircraft carrier,” or as a kind of  “gas station” for U.S troops.  But this island is more than a military outpost, it’s place of waterfalls, fresh water caves, thick jungles, and warm sandy beaches. It’s also home to a loving and resilient native people who after surviving centuries of Western colonization have yet to receive their inherent right to self-determination.

We’ve been citizens since the 50’s, yet we still can’t vote for President, we aren’t represented in the senate, and our one Congressional Delegate can’t vote on the floor; but our voices are valid and our concerns are real.

This massive military buildup, which will realign troops from Okinawa to Guahan, puts our culture, environment, and our ­quality of life at risk while simultaneously violating our human rights. While Okinawa, Hawai’i, California, Philippines, and Korea have said no- we have not; and it is not because we say “yes”; it is because we were never ASKED. Our political status as a US Territory provides the United States a place wherein they may implement their plans with “no restrictions,” meaning: they can do whatever is in their best interest. When our local leaders voiced concerns during realignment negotiations, they were told that this was a “nation-to-nation” conversation.  This response reminds our people that we have never been equals within this country.  We are Americans; but then we are not.

Why does the US go so far out of its way to subjugate a peaceful little island 30 miles long and 7 miles wide with a population of 171,000?

In a simple word: LOCATION.

Any military official will tell you as a US Territory, Guahan is the only location of its kind in the Pacific, from which long-range bombers can strike nearly any target in Northeast, East and Southeast Asia. They see us as the “Diego Garcia of the Pacific”.

But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how important the Pentagon thinks we are, this costly, immoral and unsustainable practice of forcing bases on unwilling soil has a huge price tag ($4 billion) and it is breaking the backs of the American working class while destroying the lives of native peoples abroad.

Currently, the military is Guahan’s largest landowner, occupying roughly 1/3 of the land. Air force and naval bases restricted to the civilian public have not only displaced thousands of people, they have created a unique form of racial and socioeconomic segregation in which the service people behind the fence have their own hospitals, schools, homes, parks, churches, shopping centers, camping grounds, and beaches- all on land which was mostly stolen or forcibly bought for insultingly low prices from the indigenous Chamoru people. Besides the trauma of displacement, and being forced to use the English language in place of our own, our quality of life has seen other impacts. Before much of our rich and fertile ancestral farmlands were confiscated we had sustainable agriculture. Our farmers produced over 90% of our food. Today we must rely on expensive importing with our own local production reduced to 5%.

Last November the required draft environmental impact was released, outlining plans for the buildup. Those familiar with environmental impact statements and NEPA regulations will quickly tell you that the typical length of these types of documents run somewhere around 350 pages.  However, the DEIS detailing US plans to realign Okinawan troops to Guam was over 11,000 pages and contained three separate projects (all three of which contained plans large enough to justify their own formal commenting period).  This forced residents of Guam to digest, understand, and critique this massive document within a 90 day period. Residents were welcome to submit written comments but each were only given 3 minutes to testify at a series of only 3 hearings. You can see a few of these testimonies on the Voice of Guam Youtube Channel.

At first, attention and most discussion on the buildup was about how it was going to help our economy and create more jobs. But as the inadequacy of plans became apparent during the formal comment period, a shift in the island’s attitude occurred as agencies, such as the Guam Water Authority, began to speak out in concern, worried that the expected population boom of 80,000 people would overwhelm our already outdated and stressed sewage system and threaten our freshwater source.

Other organizations such as the Boonie Stompers, a club of hiking enthusiasts, began doing outreach, revealing that the military intended to acquire more land to create live firing ranges in pristine jungles. One such site for a proposed firing range is on the Northeastern shore between Anderson Air Force Base and another base we call “Andy-South”. This site includes the ancient Chamoru village of Pagat, considered to not only hold archeological and historical significance- to us it is a truly spiritual place- one of the few left intact that we still have access to. A firing range in Pagat would be no less an outrage than when the Taliban blew up the treasured, ancient Buddhas carved into the cliffs of Afghanistan.

The Guam’s Fisherman Coop helped make the public aware that the military wants to dredge 73 acres of thriving coral reef at Apra Harbor to make another parking spot for a nuclear aircraft carrier. Against the wishes of our people, local leaders, and the urging of the EPA and Center for Biological Diversity, they want to slam the reef with giant weights where the spinner dolphin plays, scalloped hammer head sharks pup, sea turtles swim, and giant blue elephant ear sponge grow. Then they want to scoop the remains out with giant cranes and dispose the equivalent of 50,000 dump truck loads several miles off the coast of the island.

Now, thanks to the work and dedication of local agencies and organizations, and help from off-island folks, our local people have chosen to reject the sense that all of these sacrifices are worth the false promise of economic security from an increased military presence.

It has been truly inspiring to see this grassroots movement explode. And this is where you come in.

First, commit to further educating yourself on the what is happening in the Pacific. Peruse the newsletter, “Stop the military buildup” produced by Famoksaiyan, a group of Chamoru activist based out of California. On it you will find more background on the issue and links to awesome resources such as “No Rest for the Awake” and the “Drowning Mermaid Blog”. Both blogs are written by University of Guam instructors, bright minds who are very active in youth work and are driving forces behind this movement. There is also an amazing podcast you can subscribe to for free on Itunes called “Beyond the Fence”. This is a weekly radio show on the islands NPR station which discuses different aspects of the buildup on every episode.

Next I implore you to stand in solidarity with us and take action. Spread the word about what you’ve learned. Tell your leaders that you don’t support your tax money being used on any more excessive military expenditures. Join the movement to close the base on Okinawa and other sites abroad. Because whether we are talking about Guam, Okinawa or Hawai’i… it’s no different, our suffering and our commitment to oppose the militarization of our homelands is the same.

– Christina Illarmo

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US Marine Training on Okinawa & Its Global Mission: A Bird’s-Eye View of Bases From the Air

posted by Martha Duenas Baum

The online Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus has recently posted several articles piecing together the larger context of the shuffling by Japan, China and the US in the past months. These dance steps have taken us through numerous proposals by the Japanese government to appease the communities in Okinawa who have suffered the abusive presence of US soldiers “training” for war; threatening and intimidating statements and visits by various US government and military officials to Japan warning of security threats, and the overwhelming response of the Okinawan  people coming together on 25 April with the force of an estimated 93,000 people to claim, “NO MORE US BASES IN OKINAWA. PEACE TO THE WORLD.”

The video footage of the bases on the island of Okinawa included in this post are rare scenes of the training areas occupied by the US military on the island.

The story of Okinawa is the story of the people of Guåhan. We are to the United States what Okinawa is to Japan: a strategic posession that carries enormous importance in the political, economic and military dominance of the United States in their quest for global control, that carries NO consideration of the culture, the islands or the people of our beloved islands.

The work of Japan Focus’ reporting can inform us in ways that can help us to understand this many-headed monster we face in standing up to the hypermilitarization of our islands. The information can help us to see the process and pattern of the United States in its relationship and treatment of its hosts in their land. We the people of Guåhan and the Mariana are mere possessions of the United States. When have they ever listened to us?  Consulted with us? Collaborated with us? Acted in good faith in the democracy that peoples across the earth yearn to experience under the governance of the United States of America?

What we have as the people of Guåhan (we have) are resources to inform and educate ourselves to our own colonized history under the United States, about the movements across the globe resisting such aggressive militarism that brings harm and destruction to our culture and our environment and we have the will to claim our place in the world amongst the numerous peace-loving communities who say “NO” to militarism and war and join the voices who say, “YES” to peace and prosperity for our world and mother earth.

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from The Asia-Pacific Journal::Japan Focus:

http://www.japanfocus.org/-Furutachi-Ichiro/3363

 

Furutachi Ichiro (video) and Norimatsu Satoko (text)


On May 20, 2010, TV Asahi’s nightly news program “Hodo Station” broadcast a 20-minute special by anchor Furutachi Ichiro on the US Marine Corps bases in Okinawa.  The previous day Furutachi and his staff flew around those bases by helicopter, from the south to the north of Okinawa Island, then to Iejima and Torishima, two islands west of the main island.  They provide rare bird’s-eye views of the bases, despite restrictions on how close civilian aircraft can fly. This is supplemented by rare footage of Marine training and action from Okinawa and Japan to Vietnam and Iraq.

Map of US military bases in Okinawa.  Red: Marine Corps; Dark Blue: Air Force (Kadena); Green: Army; Bright Blue: Navy; Light Blue: Water Space and Airspace for Training

About 20% of Okinawa Island is occupied by bases exclusively for U.S. military use, 77% (15 bases and facilities) of which are managed by the Marines.  Furutachi flew from Makiminato Service Area (Camp Kinser) just north of Naha, a logistic service base that supplied everything “from toilet paper to missiles” during the Vietnam War, then to Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City and Camp Schwab in the northern city of Nago, the two bases that have been the centre of media attention, with a replacement facility of the former planned to be built near the latter.  Furutachi guides viewers beyond the often-reported Cape Henoko, proposed site of the new base jutting into the bay, to the mountainous inland area of Camp Schwab, where Marines conduct jungle training, drawing attention to several rectangular buildings described as ammunition depots.

Map from the website of Okinawa Prefecture.  Torishima, which is not shown on this map, is about 60 miles west of the Okinawa Island.

Furutachi’s guided tour reminds viewers that Marines are really in Okinawa for training, a global mission that has little to do with “protecting Japan”, as many Japanese have been led to believe by the notion of “deterrence” incessantly cited by politicians. Particularly striking is the scale and nature of the drills conducted within Camp Hansen in central Okinawa, which is ten times the size of Futenma and occupyies more than half of the towns of Kin and Ginoza, and significant portions of Onna and Nago.  The camera reveals several “simulated cities” among the thick forests of the base where live-fire training prepares Marines for urban combat. 2,200 troops were dispatched from this base for the attack on Fallujah, Iraq, in November and December, 2004, in which thousands of civilians were killed and the city virtually destroyed.  Furutachi discloses that “Three months prior to the Battle of Fallujah, a USMC helicopter crashed into the campus of Okinawa International University adjacent to Futenma Air Station.  That helicopter was scheduled to go to Iraq after being joined by battle units of Camp Hansen.”

Camp Gonsalves, the largest of all Okinawa bases, is set in the rich “Yanbaru Forest” of northern Okinawa. Home to the Jungle Warfare Training Center, it is the only US jungle training facility in the world.  Furutachi moves onto Camp Kuwae (Camp Lester), where the largest military hospital in the Far East is located, Camp Zukeran (Camp Foster), where spacious suburban-style family houses “built with the ‘sympathy budget’ of Japan” are shown, and then on to Camp Courtney, headquarters of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and 3rd Marine Division.  Furutachi points out that “These facilities are command centers of US global wars from Hawaii to the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.”

The last two stops of Furutachi’s helicopter tour are the islands of Iejima and Torishima.  Iejima’s Marine air station is used for parachute drop training and take-off and landing training.  Torishima serves as an aircraft firing range for both Air Force and Marines.  The island, once covered with rich forests, is now completely disfigured.  After testing depleted uranium weapons on Torishima in the mid-90’s, the Marines have recently assaulted it with cluster bombs.

The significance of Furutachi’s report is in the detailed visual exposure of the training fields and live-fire ranges that have rarely been subject to scrutiny in Japan, the United States or internationally, in contrast to such visible emblems of the U.S. military presence in Okinawa as air stations and beaches.  Furutachi and other commentators were stunned to encounter the reality of simulated battlefields, beyond the dry statistics of bases that comprise “20% of the island”, a figure that the media repeat ad infinitum.

On May 23, Prime Minister Hatoyama announced the government’s plan to build a Marine runway over the Cape of Henoko, betraying his pre-election pledge not to build a Futenma replacement facility within Okinawa, an island already saturated with military bases. Okinawan people have expressed overwhelming opposition to base expansion on the island.  Footage like that provided below can not only strengthen the deep Okinawan resistance to expansion of the military base footprint on their island, but also could help to awaken Japanese who have found it easy to look the other way so long as the bases were largely confined to Okinawa. 

Norimatsu Satoko prepared this introduction for The Asia-Pacific Journal and for the Peace Philosophy Centre. She leads various peace initiatives in Vancouver and beyond, including, Peace Philosophy Centre and Vancouver Save Article 9.

U.S. Marine Corps Bases in Okinawa (1)

U.S. Marine Corps Bases in Okinawa (2)

 Recommended citation: Furutachi Ichiro and Norimatsu Satoko, “US Marine Training on Okinawa and Its Global Mission: a Birds-Eye View of Bases From the Air,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 22-1-10, May 31, 2010.

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