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Tae Guk Gi and Stars & Stripes
Six Pary Talks
Asian Peace Philosophy
☞ Issue 119
U.S military bases in Okinawa
U.S. MILITARY BASES IN OKINAWA
Okinawa Peace Committee
Allen Nelson Network、Japan
Ⅰ Brief History of the Bases
1 Battles of Okinawa in World War II
On March 23, 1945, the day Iwojima fell, the U.S. forces started their final bombardment on the islands of Okinawa and on April 1st began landing operations on the main island. This became the theatre of the last great battle of World War II, which lasted until nearly the end of June, taking a toll of some 14,000 lives of Americans and 234,000 Japanese, including one third of the population of the island, mostly non-combatants.
The battle was fought in order for the Tokyo government to gain time in eliciting more favorable surrender terms from the Allies; the primary concern of the Japanese establishment was protecting the national polity, that is, keeping the Emperor system intact. The greatest aberration in this tragedy was that many Okinawans、besides being bombarded from the sea, were forced to end their lives at the explicit or implicit coercion of the Japanese military. People of Okinawa learned from this bitter experience that the troops would not protect them.
2 From the U.S. Occupation Rule to Return to Japan
Before its landing operations on Okinawa, the U.S. military had made a thorough study of the terrain in preparation for construction of their bases. Seizure of the bases of the Japanese forces was followed by additional expansion through forcible expropriation of the local residents’ land and property. The Emperor ratified this strategy.
From 1945 to 1972 American military officers governed Okinawa as their exclusive preserve. The 1952’s retention of Okinawa proved to be the price the American government extracted from Japan in return for the signing of an early peace treaty and of the Japanese-American Security Treaty, of which Article 3 guaranteed the U.S. authority over Okinawa semi-permanently. When Vice-president Nixon visited the island in November 1953, he made an official announcement to the effect that the U.S. would continue to possess Okinawa as long as the Communist threats existed on the earth. In his 1954 State of the Union message, President Eisenhower declared America’s intention of permanent possession of Okinawa, denouncing any movement for Reversion as pro-communist. With this cry for securing the bulwark against the Communist bloc, the United States continued upgrading its military facilities.
On April 3, 1953 the U.S. forces started anew to expropriate people’s land. The process of “seizure at bayonet point” by burning and bulldozing houses and cultivated fields continued throughout the 1950s. Sites for large parts of the present U.S. and Self-Defense Forces bases were thus “constructed” during this period. The popular protest movement at that time demanded Okinawa’s return back to Japan with its pacifist Constitution and later against the bombing of Vietnam by B-52s based in Okinawa.
3 Bases under Japan-US Security Treaty
Okinawa returned to Japan with the enactment of the Return Treaty on May 15, 1972. But the people’s dreams were far from realized. Japan’s administration was in the hands of those who prioritized the Japan-US alliance before the pacifist Constitution. Officials in Tokyo made great efforts in legislation, financing and administration in order to assuage their American partner’s will regarding the bases in Okinawa.
In the cold war period the US government planned to rebuild its military strength, which included updating equipment, implementing tougher training of personnel and realignment of the troops in Okinawa; hence the role of Okinawa as a strongpoint for the Gulf War and “anti-terrorist” wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And today Washington is planning further upgrading of bases, steps that could facilitate illegal wars on a global scale. People of Okinawa are raising their voices against this in their firm determination never to be victimized or to victimize other people.
Ⅱ Present State
1 Outline of Bases
(1) Okinawa within the Bases
As of December 31, 2006 the U.S. military bases in Okinawa extend 233.6 square meters across 34 facilities (33 on the main island almost exactly a match of Los Angeles in size). As a prefecture of Japan, Okinawa occupies only 0.6 percent of Japan’s total land area with 1.1 percent of the country’s population, but about 74.4 percent of U.S. military facilities in Japan are concentrated there. 10.3 percent of Okinawa prefecture(18.2 percent of the main island) is occupied by U.S. forces. Additionally 29 water-bound areas and 20 air space areas are used as practice ranges. No wonder people satirically say that “Okinawa is in the bases.” Nor is it surprising that air traffic control of commercial flights is in the hands of the U.S. military.
(2) Personnel and their Families
The U.S. troops in Okinawa consist of the Army, Navy, Air force and Marines. As of September 31, 2005, approximately 42,750 Americans (whose 22,470 are personnel including 12,520 marines) live amid 1.36 million inhabitants of the islands.
2 Features of U.S. Military Forces in Okinawa
(1) The Core for Invasion
Okinawa has been the base for expeditionary forces for large scale wars as well as for local disputes. As a deterrent outpost for the battle fields Okinawa has historically played an essential role in the U.S. wars of invasion.
In the Vietnam War B-52s strategic bombers, temporarily deployed at Kadena base, sallied forth from Okinawa for saturation raids. Marines trained in killing were dispatched to the front one after another. Besides being an important logistics station, Okinawa was the site for treatment of the wounded, disposal of corpses and for equipment repair.
In wars against Iraq thousands of marines, together with transport and attack helicopters, tanker planes, navy engineer corps and army special forces, left the bases there in the operation “desert shield” of August 7, 1990 and in the operation ”desert storm” of January 16, 1991. In the operation “desert fox” of November 17, 1998, some 2,000 marine expedition were the sole unit dispatched from Okinawa.
Afterward in the “retaliatory” attack on Afghanistan and in the recent Iraq War marines and air force units left Okinawa for mopping up operations in which innumerable non-combatants were victimized. Okinawa also served as a base for units dispatched to Columbia, Somalia, Ethiopia, East Timor, Indonesia and the Philippines.
(2)Upgrading of Special Operations Capability
Mr. Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, said in April 1997 that Okinawa was a hideout for special operations forces, training of secret agents, secret transportation of weapons and intelligence gathering.
Permanently stationed in Okinawa are special operations forces for the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marine Corps with its special operations capability. The Bush administration is, in its long-term war, demanding a further upgrading of special operations forces.
(3)Spying, Conspiracy Base
In military operations, logistics and intelligence are of tantamount importance. Okinawa supplies a network of intelligence facilities that cover the Asia-Pacific region. Communication units of the Army, Navy, Air Forces and the Marine Corps are permanently stationed in special bases, including units for stealth operations.
(4)Preparation for NBC Warfare
As for NBC weapons, 1,200 nuclear warheads were stored in Okinawa before the 1972 reversion. Chemical weapons are still kept there and training for NBC warfare is ongoing.
Ⅲ Tolls of Bases
The military demands that soldiers follow orders to kill and destroy. When those men come into town for leisure activities, they are often incapable of leaving their violence at the base; violence is permitted to stroll freely through civic communities.
In the military nothing is valued more than bravery, which is often reflected in bold handling of weapons and driving of vehicles, vessels and crafts. Moreover, Americans often display “conquerors’ sentiments” in dealing with Okinawan people. “This is the land we have possessed at the expense of our own blood.” Subsequently accidents and crimes cannot be eradicated as long as the bases remain in Okinawa.
1 Forest Fires, Stray Bullets due to Live Ammunition Exercises
In firing exercises in Okinawa, live ammunition is being used in most weapon types from anti-tank missiles, recoilless rifles, trench-mortars, grenade dischargers, heavy and light machine guns, rifles and pistols. At least 443 forest fires have occurred, destroying 32.5km squares of wild fields. Some people living near the firing sites have been hit by stray bullets.
2 Aircraft Accidents
At Kadena and Futenma bases respectively about 100 and 70 aircraft are permanently stationed. This number sometimes exceeds 200. Since the Reversion, 43 aircraft, including helicopters, have crashed; that represents one accident per eighteen months. Near-miss cases that could cause serious disaster are reported almost daily.
3 Noise Pollution
The number of landings and take-offs of military planes is generally estimated to exceed 40,000 at Futenma and 75,000 to 80,000 per year at Kadena. An agreement has been signed not to use the bases in principle between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. the next day, but the U.S. has priority rights for military reasons and causes noise disturbances throughout night hours.
This produces various physical effects on local residents: high blood pressure, digestive trouble, impaired hearing and neurosis. Low-weight births and behavioral aberrations have been observed among infants and children.
Military aircraft fly frequently and very low over the houses every day; few Americans could imagine rows of houses standing only several hundred meters away from the runways, where soundproofing devices prove ineffective.
4 Environmental Damage
The bases in Okinawa used for daily exercises and sorties produce a variety of poisonous substances, some as a result of illegal abandonment. Waste oil, carcinogenic substances like PCB and chrome, asbestos, depleted uranium; all these substances have irrevocably contaminated the subtropical land. Unexploded ordnance is summarily left on the slopes of Okinawa.
5 Crimes by Military Personnel
Human rights abused and even murder have been directly linked to U.S. troops stationed in Okinawa
On September 4, 1955 a six-year old girl was found dead at Mizugama, Kadena. She had been raped and killed by a U.S. military man at Kadena base. Forty years later in 1995, a 12-year-old school girl was raped by three military men at Motojima. These are only two widely publicized instances of countless, similar atrocities occurring daily.
From the Reversion until the end of 2004, 5,243 personnel have been arrested in 5,358 reported cases, of which 541 were atrocious offenses such as murder, rape, robbery and arson. Twelve people were killed during this period alone, and countless others were victimized previously. In car accidents, many people were killed, though bereaved families were compelled to bear silently due to the legislation in favor of the accused..
Ⅳ Ongoing Buildup and People’s Protest
A realignment of US troops and Japan’s Self-Defense forces is underway in a seeming global-level preemptive strike potential. The bases of Okinawa are at the core of this initiative.
On December 6, 1996 the Japan-US Special Action Committee was held in Okinawa, where an agreement was reached for the reduction and return of eleven facilities. Most significant was the return of the Futenma Marine Air Station, a sprawling base centered within a densely populated city. Astonishingly this worn-out airbase is being replaced by equivalent, indeed significantly upgraded, facilities in another part of the island, The “return” thus resulted in a reshuffle and an upgrade.
The infuriated, local community has continued to stage sit-in protests on the beach and off-shore waters at Henoko, Nago city, the site for construction of the replacement base. This on-site non-violent action has been supported by concerned citizens not only from Okinawa but from all over Japan.
The people of Okinawa boast a legacy of powerful campaigns against new base plans. These campaigns have consistently drawn on people’s solidarity and non-violent determination in the face of rampant coercion and bribery. This non-violent principle dates back to the “anti-war” landowners who consistently and firmly resisted the use of their land for military purposes. Their steadfastness reflects their bitter experiences during the battles of Okinawa in World War II. They, therefore, decided never to participate in the victimization of other people as well as being victimized themselves, even though the Japanese government has used all possible means, including financial incentives and legislative changes, to pressure them
In accordance with a U.S. call for a more mature U.S.-Japan alliance, closer collaboration of US forces and Japan’s Self-Defense forces is underway and with it the maneuver for amendment of Japan’s No-War-Constitution with its Article 9. The military buildup in Okinawa represents a primary cog in this wheel of global war mongering.
In Kadena base, interceptor missiles and PAC2/3 have recently been deployed, and temporarily with them F-22 jets. At Henoko in preparation for a “substitute” base, the Government has boldly ignored the protocols of environmental measurement law. Some staff members of SDF go all the lengths to glorify the brutal, bloodiest battles only half a century ago.
Okinawan people are thus fighting against the Tokyo government as well as the Bush administration. This protest includes campaigning against Japan’s SDF as well as financial and media-related circles that play essential roles in militarization. The peace movement endeavors to protect human rights from damages incurred by the presence of the bases, and, in a broader sense, it strives to counteract cynical attempts at undermining human unity.
“Life is a Treasure,” a slogan that has been handed down in Okinawa for generations, is an ideal shared by peace-loving peoples of the world. We in Okinawa will continue to work together for the cause of world peace.
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