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

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

American arrogance at Futenma



 
I am writing this from the Henoko area where we are staying tonight in a lovely traditional Okinawan house – seven of us sleeping on the floor on bamboo mats.  The rest of our group is in another house about five miles away.  Early in the morning we will gather at Camp Schwab (US Marine base) for the daily gate blockade.  It is at this base that the twin-runways are being built on top of pristine Oura Bay.  Protests have been held here daily for over three years.

This morning we went to Futenma (US Marine air base) in Ginowan city and joined local community activists for their daily protest as US military forces came into work.  They have been protesting at this base every day for the past 16 years.  Talk about a serious commitment.

Futenma is famously called the most dangerous US base on the planet.  The airfield there is plunked down in the middle of an urban area – surrounded by schools, day care centers, shops and civilian homes.

Every airport and military airfield in the world has an area called a ‘clear zone’ at both ends of the runway.  A clear zone means no one can live in that area or no schools or stores can be located there.  The problem at Futenma is that on each end of the runways the clear zone is not clear.  For a long time the US military has refused to deal with this very serious problem.

Over the years US military aircraft have crashed near the base - one chopper once landing on top of a local university.  Just last week, on December 7, a piece of a Marine helicopter accidentally fell off and it landed on the roof of a local day care center – missing children playing in the back yard by just a few feet.  This was just one more case where the local population, who want Futenma closed, feel utter frustration with the US military.

As aircraft from Futenma circle the base they routinely fly over the Okinawan neighborhoods but avoid passing over the US military housing areas on the base.  Imperial forces have the privilege of relative quiet while the local population be damned.

While at the base several of our younger VFP (Veterans For Peace) members took the microphone and spoke directly to a handful of US military police who were 'protecting' the front gate of the base.  Some of our guys were themselves in the Marines and shared stories of having been young GI's who knew nothing about US foreign policy when they joined the military.  They urged the current Marines to learn more about why the local Okinawan people oppose the base and suggested they stop viewing the local population as an enemy as they are often warned to do by their commanders.

One of the local protest leaders that I had met on my previous two trips here asked me to move down the fence line with him where an American, dressed in civilian clothes, was trying to untie their banners from inside the base that they had hung on the fence. I joined the people in fixing the banners and the arrogant American began sticking his camera up to the fence taking my picture.  I told him I was not intimidated by his camera and he challenged me to a fight at the front gate.  I told him I thought he was an arrogant bastard.

It's a shame and an embarrassment that Americans inside the base treat the local people with so much disrespect.  

I am reminded of a time when I was a kid living in Wiesbaden, Germany playing baseball inside our air force base.  This particular part of the base was also plunked down in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  I noticed an old German man with his face pressed up against the base fence staring at us playing our strange game of baseball.  He had a look on his face that said to me, "Take your baseball and go away and give us back our peaceful place."  

Today at Futenma I felt good joining with the locals as they demanded their neighborhood be returned to them as a peaceful place.

Bruce 

1 Comments:

Anonymous Brother Jonah said...

The Air Fartz used to call civilian casualties "bonus" then changed it to "overkill" and then "collateral damage" and now it's "the terrorists are hiding behind civilians." But WHICH terrorists? My niece, her husband and kids and for a while my mom lived in an apartment about 200 yards or so from the front gate of Peterson AFB. There's an elementary school a couple of blocks from that, and a couple of day care centers. But nobody better say it's Peterson hiding behind American kids.

12/17/17, 2:47 PM  

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