Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"The U.S. is a Bad Country"

At the Korean Comfort Women protest this morning across from the Japanese embassy in Seoul
A PAC-3 'missile defense' battery just visible over the wall at US's Osan AFB in South Korea

I began my day in Seoul by going to a protest by the Korean Comfort Women with Juyeon Rhee (fellow member of the US Solidarity Committee for Democracy & Peace in Korea). The well attended protest was observing the 70 anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese imperialism.  This weekly protest of the Comfort Women began in 1991 and is held across the street from the Japanese embassy in Seoul.  During WW II Japan forced more than 200,000 Korean women to serve as sex slaves for their imperial Army.

The Comfort Women continue to demand that the Japanese government issue an official apology (which they have yet to do), pay financial restitution to the women, and include the important story in Japanese school textbooks.

Following the protest we boarded a train for the two-hour trip south to the US’s Osan Air Force Base in Pyeongtaek for a guided tour by a prominent local activist.  We were driven around the perimeter of the bulging base that is now adding a second runway – likely as a result of Obama’s ‘pivot’ of Pentagon forces into the Asia-Pacific to encircle China.  (More airfields are needed for Pentagon warplanes.) In order to make the base expansion possible the US has forced the South Korean government to take even more lands from local farmers.  Local citizens and their supporters resisted this land grab by waging a long fierce campaign but their villages and rice fields were eventually taken.

Osan AFB currently has F-16 and A-10 warplanes stationed there as well as the high-flying U-2 spy planes.  In addition the air base hosts PAC-3 (Patriot third generation) missile defense systems that are aimed at China.  Their job is to take out the retaliatory response following a US first-strike attack against Chinese nuclear forces.

The tour continued to the nearby US Army base called Camp Humphreys that is also undergoing major expansion.  Similar to Osan AFB the US forced the grabbing of two rice-farming villages near the Army base to provide additional lands for the base expansion.  These new facilities at Camp Humphreys will allow the US to move its current base inside downtown Seoul southward making it more difficult for North Korea to retaliate against the US bases following a Pentagon attack on the north.

We had dinner with one rice farmer who lost his land when his village was taken.  He and others moved to another nearby location but they couldn't replace their rice farms in the local area.  The farmer, now the mayor of his small village, had to buy new rice land two hours away and must make that long drive back and forth to work in his new rice fields. I was told he spent time in prison for “obstructing” the expansion of the Army base during their protest campaign.

The Pentagon currently has 27,500 troops in South Korea at 70 bases and military facilities.  In order to pay for the current expansion of its bases the US has demanded that the South Korean government pay for the big changes taking place at these military outposts.  (My liberal Democrat Congresswoman Chellie Pingree calls it 'burden sharing by the host nation'.) Thus for the Korean people it is a double insult – not only is their government an occupied client state of the US empire but the people must increasingly pay for unwanted US military operations inside of their country.

Our guide today several times, while driving us around the perimeter of the two bases, said, “The US is a bad country.”  I immediately thought how much I wished the American people could take this tour and hear his words.  This remarkable activist also spent time in prison for trying to protect his people from the American assault on their culture and way of life.  I was told that he helps take care of the elderly farmers who were not able to purchase new rice fields and now struggle to find ways to make money in order to survive.

I came away from Pyeongtaek today feeling sad, ashamed of the US, and disgusted with those many American people who don’t really care what happens to the people around the world who are displaced by US military bases – or are killed by the soldiers that make war from these outposts on behalf of corporate capitalism. 

I wish I could do even more to help spread solidarity for these good people who want nothing else but to be left alone. 


Blogger Ken Jones said...

It's true. Our country is so evil. Thanks for the report, Bruce.

8/12/15, 9:00 AM  

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