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.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Okinawa: U.S. strategy to circumvent protests


  • Yesterday, due to the swell of the crowd at the construction gate at Camp Schwab, the government cancelled the usual convoy of dump trucks delivering huge rocks that are placed in Oura Bay.  So about 50 people, including our VFP delegation, were taken to a Nago City port where the government has been loading rocks onto a ship that then takes them directly to Oura Bay in order to circumvent the gate blockades.  Our job yesterday at the port was to stand in front of dump trucks as they drove up to unload their rock cargo which was then scooped up and placed inside the ship.
  • It takes 170 truck loads to fill a ship with rocks.  There are presently two ships making this voyage each day with two more soon to join this effort. Usually about 10 protesters are at the port to symbolically interfere with the process.  Since we had 50 of us there we were actually able to 'significantly slow them down' according to one of the protest leaders.
  • Just across the highway from the port is a mountain that is being blasted apart for the rocks which are then trucked to the port area.  At the current pace of construction we were told it will take another 15-20 years to complete the twin-runway airfield on top of Oura Bay.  So this is going to be a protracted struggle.
  • Last evening VFP members Dud Hendrick, Tarak Kauff, Doug Lummis (who lives in Okinawa) and myself went to dinner in Naha City and were joined by our friend Sunshine who drove more than an hour to spend time with us and to wish us farewell.  During the dinner we had a fascinating and illuminating political discussion.  Dud kicked the conversation off by asking for an evaluation of the past week of protests.  We were told the government is spreading rumors across Okinawa that those protesting outside Camp Schwab are getting paid 20,000 yen a day.  I'd previously heard the same thing from a Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist monk Yuichi Kamoshita who told me about a lunch meeting he recently had with a Marine stationed at Camp Schwab.  The Marine said that he had heard (likely from the Marine authorities) that protesters were paid 20,000 yen each day by China.  (I'm still waiting for my check.)
  • Another thing we heard last night was about the concerted effort by US-Japan to sell the base expansion at Camp Schwab to the public.  US military troops do things like organize baseball games for the public and teach English in local schools as a way to normalize the US military presence on the island.  A local corporate leader and military supporter, a likely candidate for governor in the next election, sponsored an event that drew 250,000 mostly young people to hear from actors, musicians, and comedians flown in from mainland Japan.  This effort is intended to de-politicize the next generation of Okinawans.
  •  The US’s National Endowment for Democracy (a CIA front) is believed to be funding Okinawan right-wing NGO’s to assist in the process of destabilizing and impeding the anti-bases movement on the island.  The NED is well-known for its similar operations around the world – one of the more recent examples was their key role in the 2014 coup in Ukraine. 
  • The anti-base movement obviously has a hard time competing with this kind of corporate/government money and power.  Currently there is a big debate inside the movement about the best ways to proceed under these trying circumstances.  One thing they need is greater international solidarity.  Peaceniks around the planet could help by sharing information about the Okinawan movement and organizing small delegations to come to the island in order to learn more about the issues here and to join the protests at the many US bases.
  • It is in every ones interest to support movements like the one in Okinawa.  The more we can be in planetary solidarity with one another the better chance we have to slow down and stop the growing US-NATO military juggernaut which continually pushes us toward more war.  

Bruce

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