Report from VFP in

From: Bruce Gagnon's Blog

December 8-16 2017

Friday, 8 December 2017
Heading to Okinawa for VFP solidarity trip

I am heading today to Boston from where I will fly to Okinawa to join another Veterans For Peace (VFP) delegation that will once again stand (and sit) with the people trying to stop US base expansion on their beleaguered island.

In 2015 I traveled to Okinawa with a VFP delegation and we protested outside several of the US bases on the island.  (Photo of us above at Camp Schwab where the US is having twin-runways built on top of pristine Oura Bay. See my previous Okinawa posts here.)

There are presently 32 US military bases scattered throughout Okinawa taking up about 20% of the total land mass on the island.  And the US wants to take even more land due to Obama's 'pivot' of 60% of US military forces into the Asia-Pacific region to encircle China and Russia.  Trump is now continuing that policy which means more ports-of-call are needed for Navy warships, more runways are need for US warplanes and more barracks are needed for American troops.

Earlier this week VFP sent around an article about Okinawan protest leader Hiroji Yamashiro, 64, chairman of the Okinawa Peace Activity Center.  He was arrested Oct. 16, 2016, and kept in prison for several months.  During his incarceration, Yamashiro was stuck in solitary confinement for four months with no natural light after guards covered up his windows.  He is now on trial and Japanese prosecutors seek a 2˝-year prison sentence.  Remarkably the Stars & Stripes military newspaper has just done a story about Yamashiro which you can find here.

This will be VFP's third delegation to stand in solidarity with the Okinawan people.  They have been protesting regularly since 1953 against US military bases but you'd never know about that from the media in the United States.  They've elected a governor and many mayors who are actively opposing the US military expansions which are destroying their environment and damaging their culture.  See an excellent documentary film on the Okinawan story here.

I'll do my best to post as often as possible while there.  The way we defeat this US military empire is to cut the military budget in Washington which has now reached one trillion a year.  It's a difficult task but we also need to break thru the media silence about US bases overseas (there are more than 800 of them) and help the American people see how much global resentment and rage our military empire is causing.

One thing you can do is come to Baltimore, Maryland on January 12-14, 2018 and attend the national Conference on U.S. Foreign Military BasesWe will be talking about Okinawa and many other places around the globe where the US military is occupying lands. I will be there participating in the plenary panel on US bases in the Asia-Pacific region.

Monday, 11 December 2017
Witnessing the deep peace movement in Okinaw

I am heading today to Boston from where I will fly to Okinawa to join another Veterans For Peace (VFP) delegation that will once again stand (and sit) with the people trying to stop US base expansion on their beleaguered island.

Our very diverse Veterans For Peace delegation had a good start today with an orientation and then made several stops at key sites that remember the 1945 Battle of Okinawa which saw 1/3 of all civilians on the island killed when the US attacked and knocked out the Japanese occupation.

The legacy of the war is so powerful that one of our local guides told us that the protests against US base expansion currently underway on Okinawa are heavily motivated by the strong memories from the epic 1945 battle.  People here have deep scars from the war - unlike most people in the US who've never experienced such catastrophic loss.

In all my travels I've concluded that the Koreans are pound-for-pound the best organizers I've ever seen.  But Okinawa, since the early 1950's, has the broadest and deepest movement that I've witnessed anywhere.  The governor and most of the mayors on the island are part of the peace movement.  There are war museums all over the place.  Even the caves that the Okinawan people hid in during the US invasion in 1945 have become shrines.

Okinawa Prefecture Peace Park

Bus loads upon bus loads of school students from the Japanese mainland were seen everywhere we went today as the effort to remember this horrible nightmare of war on Okinawa gets embedded in the next generation.

The right-wing Japanese government of Shinzo Abe, now in complete partnership with the US imperial war project, is working hard to reclaim its own imperial past.  Coupled together the US and Japan are making outrageously provocative military moves in this part of the world to encircle China and Russia.  Most people here in Okinawa see that this US-Japan strategy is a danger to world peace and could very well lead to WW III.

North Korea is being used as a foil - a distraction from the real agenda.  The US-Japan (along with an aggressive NATO) are trying to ensure that China and Russia do not challenge Washington for global power.  China and Russia keep saying that want a multi-polar world rather than the US model of uni-polar corporate control.

The US is on a collision course and if Washington decides to roll the dice and go to war it will likely be the last one.

I wish the American people could wake up from their deep sleep and see what harm our military empire is causing here in Okinawa and other places around the planet.

This VFP delegation is committed to doing all we can to pull the curtain off the face of the war machine.  It would be great if more people cared - and acted in concert with the long suffering people of Okinawa.

Tuesday, 12 December 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.

Tuesday, 13 December 2017
Blocking construction at Camp Schwab

We arrived early this morning at the gates of Camp Schwab at Henoko.  We held the great banner made by fellow Mainer Russel Wray (Hancock) as GI’s and Okinawan civilian employees began arriving for work.  The line of cars was long so entering the base was slow going which made it possible for the car drivers to get a good look at the banner.

Soon enough two Stryker assault vehicles (produced by General Dynamics) tried to leave the base carrying several decked-out combat Marines on top of each of them.  We moved out in front of the gate and blocked them for quite a while.  When the Japanese police were finally sent in to move us we all sat down in the road and the police tried to move us but we held on tight to each other.  They finally moved the Stryker’s around us so we just got up and continued with holding the banner.

At 8:15 am we moved to the construction gate entrance and were joined by about 100 Okinawan people (mostly elderly).  We all sat down and waited for the construction trucks to arrive.  About 8:45 lots of police came and began trying to tear us apart as we locked arms and legs.  One by one they dragged and hauled us away to a nearby cage that was guarded with many Japanese police.

After sometime in the ‘cage’ we devised a plan to create a diversion at one part of the cage so that the police would be drawn there and then several of us lept over the fence and ran into the middle of the road and laid down in front of a couple construction trucks. Right behind me dove in VFP board member Monisha Rios who grabbed ahold of my leg and held on for life.  One of our guys, Miles Megaciph who is a former Marine who was once stationed at Camp Schwab (and is a rapper), dove under the truck that we were blocking.  The police worked hard to drag me and a couple of our other VFP folks back to the cage.  Miles was arrested for going under the truck and taken to the local jail house.

After a couple minutes I jumped the fence again, put on a side-step football move to get past the police, and got in front of the truck again.  After a bit the cops threatened to arrest me too and one of the protest leaders came and asked me to not be arrested.  So, I got up and moved back to the cage which was really hard for me to do under the circumstances.

All in all, we held up the line of construction trucks for maybe 30 minutes but when you figure that every day people are blocking the gates and slowing down the process to build the twin-runways for US Marine aircraft right on top of Oura Bay it makes it all worthwhile.  This whole movement is slowing down the war machine and forcing them to spend a lot more time and money.

Around mid-day we got a report that another Marine helicopter accident happened at Futenma where we protested yesterday. The story is that a window fell out from a chopper and landed on top of an elementary school. So, it’s almost like a daily occurrence now that parts of these US Marine choppers are falling from the sky and landing on schools and day care centers.  A quickly called protest was planned for this evening at the Futenma base but we are now an hour north of there and could not attend.

We’ve not had decent Internet connection for the last two days so its been tough to get out all the photos and video that our crew have been taking.  Every one is chomping at the bit to get the word out but we are doing the best we can to share information.

We heard that Trump’s Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama lost the special election today which will be a real set back for the Donald.  Nice to get some good news now and then.

Wednesday, 14 December 2017
Easy Rider .....

Photo by Will Griffin ......see more at The Peace Report

Defend Oura Bay on Okinawa

Photos from 13 December Camp Schwab blockades

Photos by Ellen Davidson - see more here

Saturday, 16 December 2017
More photos from VfP Okinawa Trip

Photos by Ellen Davidson - see more here

Tuesday, 26 December 2017
Coverage of VfP in Okinawa on RT

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