Update from Okinawa
|Photo taken last night after our dinner at a community center near US Marine base where twin-runways are going to be built over pristine Oura Bay which will destroy endangered dugong mammals (relatives of manatees) and coral reefs.|
|Yesterday morning three of us from Veterans For Peace walked onto Kadena AFB with our banner that says No US Bases on Okinawa. We were quickly pushed back by security.|
|We joined the daily blockade this morning of the construction entrance to US Marine base Camp Schwab for two hours|
|Activists at Takae show us the places in the forest where the US has cut down 25,000 trees to build helipads for their Osprey aircraft landing zones|
It's been a busy couple of days here on Okinawa since arriving. We've been protesting outside various bases - the US military controls 20% of the entire island for its various Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine bases. Planes, helicopters and other military vehicles are constantly in motion on the island which creates a huge amount of noise pollution which the population strongly opposes.
Several major base expansion projects are now underway in Okinawa - particularly the twin-runways for Marine aircraft that is scheduled to be built on top of beautifully diverse Oura Bay. A protest outside Camp Schwab Marine base has been going on daily for more than 900 days and the lead organizer for the movement has been put in jail by the Japanese government on ridiculous charges. His real crime is that he has been an effective leader.
A second base expansion is the military training area in the Takae forest in the northern part of the island. We made the 90 minute drive there today and met with villagers who live in the forest (only 140 of them) who have been fighting against the plan to cut large tracts of trees in the forest to construct helipads for the Marine Osprey helicopters (one of which recently crashed in Oura Bay while being refueled by a US Air Force KC-135).
We learned that 25,000 trees have already been cut and roads are being built through the jungle which is loaded with endangered species. The people have been resisting against this forest destruction for years but the US insisted on the new helipads being built so the colonial puppet Japanese government has complied with the directives from Washington.
All of this base expansion is aimed at China and Russia. The US is moving 60% of its military forces into the Asia-Pacific (Hillary Clinton named it the 'pivot') thus more airfields, ports-of-call, barracks and weapons depots are required for this major influx of US troops.
You can imagine the same kind of expansion of facilities is happening in Poland today as the Pentagon is moving large supplies of tanks and other military vehicles to that new regional hub. The environmental consequences of these kinds of base expansions is always extreme.
Several times in the last couple days Okinawan peace leaders have mentioned the name of Caroline Kennedy - JFK's daughter who now serves as Obama's Ambassador to Japan. She has insisted that the Marine base runways must be completed and the expansion of Marine helipads at Takae inside the forest jungle must go forward. The word is that the Japanese government has pushed hard in recent months to move these projects along so that her 'legacy' as the US enforcer assigned to control Tokyo will be complete.
Tomorrow we will hold a vigil outside the jail where the Okinawan peace leader Hiroji Yamashiro is being unjustly held. You can sign a petition calling for his immediate release here
(Click on the photos for a better view)