Meeting with Okinawan Mayors
Nago City, Okinawa Mayor Susumu Inamine, joined by mayors from three other island communities, shared his deep opposition to US base expansion with peace group leaders yesterday in Washington.
Mayor Inamine told those assembled for the late afternoon meeting, "We are walking on the edge of life" as they witness growing destruction of their beautiful island home. The US is forcing the Japanese government to build a new Marine base called Henoko in Nago City. The airfield for the new base would extend out into Oura Bay where coral and endangered sea mammals are being threatened. Already large concrete blocks have been dropped into the bay at 75 sites (for runway construction) and as a result 94 colonies of coral have been destroyed.
The US response to the 80% of Okinawans who oppose the US military presence is to say that it is just a "domestic dispute" between the Japanese government and Okinawa. Mayor Inamine told us that, "Okinawa is still a colony of the US and Japan." Okinawan political leaders have repeatedly contacted President Obama but have received no reply. The current US Ambassador to Japan, the person selling this US military expansion project, is Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of JFK. This illustrates to me how 'liberal' Democrats are complicit in promoting the US military empire.
After the heartbreaking presentations by the Okinawan mayors they asked the various leaders from peace groups who were present to speak. Folks representing Veterans for Peace, Popular Resistance, CodePink, Peace Action, and the Global Network spoke. Also there was Maine filmmaker Regis Tremblay whose documentary the Ghosts of Jeju tells a similar story about people's resistance in Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea where a UNESCO recognized nature preserve is being destroyed to build a Naval base for US warships.
When it was my turn to say a few words I talked about as a young boy often paging through albums of photos taken by my step-father who was stationed on Okinawa and in Korea during the Korean War. He worked in photo reconnaissance so had many photos from the period. At that young age I was introduced to these two cultures and the US military occupation of their lands. At the time I thought nothing about the occupation but was fascinated with the people and their war-torn lands.
Obama's 'pivot' of additional US military forces into the Asia-Pacific necessitates more barracks for troops, more airfields for war planes and more ports-of-call for warships. Thus what is happening to Okinawa is similarly happening across the region as the Pentagon aims its war machine at China.
I shared that at the end of July the Global Network will hold our 23rd annual space organizing conference in Kyoto, Japan to stand with nearby villagers who are protesting the recent stationing of a US 'missile defense' (MD) radar in their community. The Pentagon has also deployed MD interceptors at several bases on Okinawa. I told the mayors that prior to our meeting in Kyoto that the Global Network will have a delegation of our members travel to Okinawa on a solidarity visit.
I ended my words by saying that the US government and many of our citizens are suffering from a spiritual sickness that puts $$$ and power first. I said that spiritual healing would only come from a renewed connection to nature and thanked them for their determined efforts to lead that transformative healing.
Photos by Ellen Davidson