Report of VFP Support for Okinawa Campaign

Mostly From: Bruce Gagnon's Blog: Organizing Notes

June 1 2015

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
No US Bases on Okinawa


We oppose construction of a new US military base within Okinawa, and support the people of Okinawa in their struggle for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of the environment

We the undersigned oppose the deal made at the end of 2013 between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima to deepen and extend the military colonization of Okinawa at the expense of the people and the environment. Using the lure of economic development, Mr. Abe has extracted approval from Governor Nakaima to reclaim the water off Henoko, on the northeastern shore of Okinawa, to build a massive new U.S. Marine air base with a military port.

Plans to build the base at Henoko have been on the drawing board since the 1960s.  They were revitalized in 1996, when the sentiments against US military bases peaked following the rape of a twelve year-old Okinawan child by three U.S. servicemen. In order to pacify such sentiments, the US and Japanese governments planned to close Futenma Marine Air Base in the middle of Ginowan City and  move its functions to a new base to be constructed at Henoko, a site of extraordinary bio-diversity and home to the endangered marine mammal dugong.

Governor Nakaima’s reclamation approval does not reflect the popular will of the people of Okinawa.  Immediately before the gubernatorial election of 2010, Mr. Nakaima, who had previously accepted the new base construction plan, changed his position and called for relocation of the Futenma base outside the prefecture. He won the election by defeating a candidate who had consistently opposed the new base. Polls in recent years have shown that 70 to 90 percent of the people of Okinawa opposed the Henoko base plan. The poll conducted immediately after Nakaima’s recent reclamation approval showed that 72.4 percent of the people of Okinawa saw the governor’s decision as a “breach of his election pledge.” The reclamation approval was a betrayal of the people of Okinawa.

73.8 percent of the US military bases (those for exclusive US use) in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, which is only .6 percent of the total land mass of Japan. 18.3 percent of the Okinawa Island is occupied by the US military. Futenma Air Base originally was built during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa by US forces in order to prepare for battles on the mainland of Japan. They simply usurped the land from local residents. The base should have been returned to its owners after the war, but the US military has retained it even though now almost seven decades have passed. Therefore, any conditional return of the base is fundamentally unjustifiable.

The new agreement would also perpetuate the long suffering of the people of Okinawa. Invaded in the beginning of the 17th century by Japan and annexed forcefully into the Japanese nation at the end of 19th century, Okinawa was in 1944 transformed into a fortress to resist advancing US forces and thus to buy time to protect the Emperor System.  The Battle of Okinawa killed more than 100,000 local residents, about a quarter of the island’s population. After the war, more bases were built under the US military occupation. Okinawa “reverted” to Japan in 1972, but the Okinawans’ hope for the removal of the military bases was shattered. Today, people of Okinawa continue to suffer from crimes and accidents, high decibel aircraft noise and environmental pollution caused by the bases. Throughout these decades, they have suffered what the U.S. Declaration of Independence denounces as “abuses and usurpations,” including the presence of foreign “standing armies without the consent of our legislatures.”

Not unlike the 20th century U.S. Civil Rights struggle, Okinawans have non-violently pressed for the end to their military colonization. They tried to stop live-fire military drills that threatened their lives by entering the exercise zone in protest; they formed human chains around military bases to express their opposition; and about a hundred thousand people, one tenth of the population have turned out periodically for massive demonstrations. Octogenarians initiated the campaign to prevent the construction of the Henoko base with a sit-in that has been continuing for years. The prefectural assembly passed resolutions to oppose the Henoko base plan. In January 2013, leaders of all the 41 municipalities of Okinawa signed the petition to the government to remove the newly deployed MV-22 Osprey from Futenma base and to give up the plan to build a replacement base in Okinawa.

We support the people of Okinawa in their non-violent struggle for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of the environment. The Henoko marine base project must be canceled and Futenma returned forthwith to the people of Okinawa.

Norman Birnbaum, Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University

Herbert Bix, Emeritus Professor of History and Sociology, State University of New York at Binghamton

Reiner Braun, Co-president International Peace Bureau and Executive Director of International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

John W. Dower, Professor Emeritus of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Alexis Dudden, Professor of History, University of Connecticut

Daniel Ellsberg, Senior Fellow at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, former Defense and State Department official

John Feffer, Co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus ( at the Institute for Policy Studies

Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

Joseph Gerson (PhD), Director, Peace & Economic Security Program, American Friends Service Committee

Richard Falk, Milbank Professor of International law Emeritus, Princeton University

Norma Field, Professor Emerita, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

Kate Hudson (PhD), General Secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Catherine Lutz, Professor of Anthropology and International Studies, Brown University

Naomi Klein, Author and journalist

Joy Kogawa, Author of Obasan

Peter Kuznick, Professor of History, American University

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace laureate

Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action

Gavan McCormack, Professor Emeritus, Australian National University

Kyo Maclear, Writer and Children’s author

Michael Moore, Filmmaker

Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus, Brown University/ Veteran, United States Army, Henoko, Okinawa, 1967-68

Mark Selden, a Senior Research Associate in the East Asia Program at Cornell University

Oliver Stone, Filmmaker

David Vine, Associate Professor of Anthropology, American University

The Very Rev. the Hon. Lois Wilson, Former President, World Council of Churches

Lawrence Wittner, Professor Emeritus of History, State University of New York/Albany

Ann Wright, Retired US Army Colonel and former US diplomat

Monday June 1
Fighting to Save Nature and Culture

35,000 citizens recently rallied on Okinawa opposing US military bases

At Oura Bay in Henoko the US Marines are building a new airbase with a runway that will extend out over the bay destroying endangered sea life

The right-wing newspaper, Washington Times, ran a piece on Monday entitled "The other side to the Okinawa story: The 'All Okinawa' opposition to US military presence [occupation] is a leftist ruse".

The hit piece was written by Robert Eldridge (former political affairs and public diplomacy officer, Marine Corps Installations Pacific on Okinawa). He wrote about the current visit of Okinawan Gov. Takeshi Onaga to Washington to express the demand of his people that the US government close the military bases on their island.  Gov. Onaga was elected in a recent landslide vote by the citizens on Okinawa who have had more than enough of US bases, destruction of their environment and culture, and want them immediately closed.

In the Washington Times Eldridge commented:

    Mr. Onaga, a four-term mayor of Naha, the prefecture’s largest city, was elected governor in November 2014 as the result of a sophisticated campaign amid a highly divided and complicated election. Although formerly a conservative and once rising star of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Okinawa, even running his opponent’s re-election campaign in 2010, he broke with his predecessor and chose to run on an anti-base platform dominated by the organizational might of the Communist Party, the archenemy of the conservative LDP...

    There are many other fictions created by these activists [Okinawans who oppose US bases], who work hand-in-hand with the local media, national and international “peace” groups and politicians, and whose base (no pun intended) are these very anti-base forces...

    There is more than meets the eye regarding Okinawa. Washington, especially those in the media and think tank world, mustn’t be fooled any longer. Okinawa is too important geostrategically for the United States, Japan and the entire Asia-Pacific region to become, as Mr. Onaga urges, “a peaceful buffer zone with no bases.”

Mr. Eldridge gives himself away when he spins on about the 'geostraegic importance' of Okinawa to Washington and the Pentagon's 'pivot' into the Asia-Pacific region.  Instead of the US taking responsibility for the 70-years of American abuse of Okinawa, the author slams the governor who turned against his own right-wing ruling party in Tokyo in order to give voice to the people's deep outrage.  For that he is accused of being an agent of Bejing.  Pure red-baiting trash.

On Sunday I joined several members of Veterans for Peace (VFP) to deliver a letter to officials from the Okinawan government that was addressed directly to Gov. Onaga.  The letter gave strong support to the island people in their long struggle to rid their homeland of US military bases.  VFP national board member Tarak Kauff (New York) read the letter that concluded with a pledge to build national and international support for Okinawa and declared that, if invited, the organization wished to send a strong delegation of its members to the island to stand with the people.

Immediately after Tarak had finished reading the letter one Okinawan official said, "You have our invitation.  Please come and see for yourselves."

Tarak Kauff presents the VFP letter to Okinawan officials (Photo by Ellen Davidson)

In the fall VFP will indeed lead a delegation to Okinawa and will go to Jeju Island in South Korea as well.  These twin-campaigns for peace and environmental sanity represent the most visible Asia-Pacific island struggles that are similarly being waged in Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines and beyond as the US moves to consolidate control of the region on behalf of corporate interests.

Following the presentation of the letter everyone moved to a nearby restaurant where about 60 people gathered to have dinner with Gov. Onaga and the delegation of other elected officials from Okinawa.  Many of those attending the dinner were Okinawan-Americans, women who had married former American GI's or other US officials that were once stationed on the island.

There is much talk about whether the Okinawan delegation to DC will be successful in changing US policy.  Considering that Obama won't even answer letters from elected officials on Okinawa does not give one much confidence that US policy is likely to change anytime soon.  But don't be fooled by inside-Washington baseball.  The real change is taking place in the hearts of people on Okinawa, in Japan, and throughout the world.  The images of the US Marines building a runway that will extend out into pristine Oura Bay where coral and endangered sea mammals are being threatened reveal a manifest injustice.  Already large concrete blocks have been dropped into the bay at 75 sites (for runway construction) and as a result 94 colonies of coral have been destroyed.

The fact that the US ignores the voices of 80% of the Okinawan people and plunges ahead with devastating base expansion indicates the obvious colonial status of the island people. 

In Japan taxpayers are apparently allowed to target to which prefecture (regional government) they want their taxes to be sent.  As a way to express solidarity for Okinawa, all across Japan taxpayers are designating that their money go to support the people fighting the US imperial bases. 

Even here in the US there are legions of citizens who would support the heart-broken people on Okinawa or Jeju Island if they only knew about what was really going on there.  Thus the decision by VFP to stand with the people in the Asia-Pacific is significant because it opens the door for the American people to learn about this atrocity being committed by the US endless war machine.  It is a good time for people to open their hearts and speak out against the global full spectrum dominance project by Washington.

Tarak concluded the letter to the Okinawan people by reading:

We promise to carry your message to members of Congress, the administration, our international Veterans For Peace membership and to every corner of our land. In fact, this summer at our annual convention in San Diego, California, the theme will be “Peace and Reconciliation in the Pacific,” so we are already working to bring awareness about the region to our members and beyond.

The cry of the people of Okinawa must ring loudly all across America—and we will do our part to make the voices of the Okinawan people heard.

Letter to Okinawan Governor

May 27, 2015

The Honorable Takeshi Onaga
Governor of Okinawa Prefecture
Ryukyu Islands, Japan

Dear Governor Onaga:

Veterans For Peace was founded to help end war. We have lived directly with the experience of U.S. empire and our members have served in war and been stationed on bases around the world. Many of our members have served on, or flown to, U.S. bases on Okinawa over the years. We are deeply concerned about, and oppose construction of, a new U.S. military base within Okinawa. We stand in total solidarity with the people of Okinawa in their long struggle for peace, dignity, human rights, and protection of the environment.

At this time, Veterans For Peace is particularly disturbed by the U.S. attempt to build a massive new U.S. Marine air base with a military port at Henoko. Not only would the Henoko base be an environmental disaster—the location is rich in bio-diversity and is home to the endangered marine mammal dugong—but the base would also be a betrayal of the Okinawan people who for many years have requested that the U.S. government remove its huge military boot-print from the island.

  As you are aware, Okinawa is host to nearly 74 percent of all U.S. military bases in Japan. More than 18 percent of the island of Okinawa is occupied by the U.S. military. The people of Okinawa had their land taken during WWII, and the United States shows no sign of ending its occupation of the island.

Recent elections on Okinawa have clearly demonstrated the will of the people to remove these U.S. bases. How long can any people be expected to suffer from U.S. military pollution, rapes and harassment by U.S. troops, noise, and the constant fear of being a war target as tensions increase between Japan and China? We know that President Obama’s announced “pivot” of even more U.S. forces into the Asia-Pacific means that more airfields, barracks, and ports-of-call will be needed, but Okinawa should not have to bear this heavy load one day longer.

The Okinawan people have shown remarkable courage and determination as they have stepped up their non-violent resistance to the recent deployments of the Osprey aircraft at Futenma base and plans for the Henoko base. Just in recent days, once again, large numbers of Okinawan citizens have protested these U.S. military operations and it appears that Washington and Tokyo are still ignoring the people’s heartfelt demands. Given the U.S. leading role in militarism around the globe, we in the United States have a special responsibility to protest our government's actions.

Veterans For Peace understands this responsibility and stands ready to offer its assistance to the people of Okinawa. If invited to do so, we are prepared to bring a delegation of our members to Okinawa to stand in solidarity with the people of Okinawa in their protests against the bases at Futenma and Henoko. Veterans For Peace joins with the people of Okinawa in rejecting the notion that Okinawan lands should be strategic war posts for the furtherance of U.S. military expansion.

It is an honor for members of Veterans For Peace to meet with Okinawan leaders who are now in Washington, D.C., on their trip to appeal to the U.S. government to hear the plea of the Okinawan people. We promise to carry your message to members of Congress, the administration, our international Veterans For Peace membership and to every corner of our land. In fact, this summer at our annual convention in San Diego, California, the theme will be “Peace and Reconciliation in the Pacific,” so we are already working to bring awareness about the region to our members and beyond.

The cry of the people of Okinawa must ring loudly all across America—and we will do our part to make the voices of the Okinawan people heard.

In Peace and Solidarity,

Barry Ladendorf
Veterans For Peace

Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Close US Bases!

On April 25, a people's gathering will be held in Okinawa to call for the closure of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, the return of the land, and to oppose construction of another base elsewhere in Okinawa.

The US-Japan Security Pact signed by the mainland Japanese government resulted in Japan's consent of allowing the U.S. to force its unwanted military bases on the people of Okinawa. The U.S. bases have damaged Okinawa's rich environment, and created daily issues: noise pollution, accidents and crime, and the linked dangers of war.

The problems of the bases in Okinawa are not Okinawa's problem. They are, instead, a problem of those of us from the mainland who are forcing this burden onto the people of Okinawa.

We must seriously consider this issue now--more than ever.

If no site in mainland Japan is willing or planning to accept the bases in its own territory, then this burden must not be forced onto Okinawa. We cannot push the problem around within Okinawa and pretend that we are not aware that this is happening.

The U.S. Marine Corps must withdraw, and the Futenma Air Station must be closed.

The people of Okinawa are united in their opposition to the forced placement of the Futenma base in Okinawa.

- Copied from Ten Thousand Things

In Washington DC: The people of Washington, DC will show solidarity with the Okinawans with a rally, in front of the Japanese embassy, on Sunday, April 25 at 2 p.m. The embassy is at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

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