The View from Okinawa
“Our brothers and sisters in the peace movement around the world, in Japan and elsewhere, are of extraordinary importance to us in the United States right now. Since September 11th, it has seemed like we are engaged in an almost impossible uphill fight against newly reinforced walls of ignorance, indifference and denial. One of the most difficult things for Americans to do, it seems to me, is to grasp what U.S. behavior towards the rest of the world looks like from outside the borders of our own country. This is a form of blindness that is not uncommon in the privileged and powerful. It is an overwhelming psychological tendency of those who are fortunate enough as yet, to be able to suffer the delusion of continuing national independence in an increasing interdependent world. We need your help to provide an antidote to this type of shortsightedness.”
– Marcia Morris, excerpts from remarks at the International Symposium and Japan Peace Conference held in Okinawa, November 29-December 2, 2001.
AFSC-CT Program Coordinator Marcia Morris represented AFSC at an International Symposium and Peace Conference sponsored by the Japan Peace Committee that was held in Nago City, Okinawa November 29 – December 2, 2001. Marcia, and Myrna Pagan from Vieques Puerto Rico, were the sole Americans at the Symposium which hosted a seven member international delegation from the U.S., Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Australia. The conference was attended by over 1,500 Japanese peace activists.
While the overriding concern of the proceedings was the ongoing work in Asia to organize against the presence of U.S. military bases in the region, the work of the conference was also deeply influenced by the impact of the terrorist acts of September 11th and the ongoing war in Afghanistan which the delegates unanimously referred to as the “War of Retaliation”.
In Nago City itself, peace activists are organizing to oppose the construction of a new deep water naval base off Henoko Bay. Environmentalists warn that the fragile coral reef that will be destroyed by the new base construction is the habitat of the beloved Dugong (or Pacific Manatee) which is an endangered species. Nago citizens rejected the offshore base and proposed sea heliport in a 1997 referendum, but plans move forward despite local opposition.
Japanese activists also expressed overwhelming concern about the participation of the Japanese Self Defense Forces in support of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and over the use of bases in Okinawa as a staging area for the war. Hiroshi Suda, the General Secretary of the Japan Peace Committee observed that the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk was immediately dispatched to the war with some 10,000 strong personnel from U.S. bases in Japan.
Sato Mitsuo, Secretary General of the National Campaign Committee for the Abrogation of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty expressed his indignation at what he considered the Japanese government’s “subservient participation” in the war on Afghanistan. He stressed that “The participation of the Self Defense Forces has significant implications. This is the first time that Japan has cooperated in war since WWII, in outright defiance and violation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution which renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation”.
Delegates from the Philippines expressed concern that the U.S. war on terrorism has setback their struggle to recover from the environmental damage left when the U.S. withdrew form Clark and Subic Bases in 1992. (To date the People’s Task Force for Bases Clean-Up has documented more than 100 fatalies and over 300 cases of chronic disease from the toxic chemicals left behind at the U.S. bases.) In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attack, U.S President George Bush called for all-out support from the Philippines in the war against Afghanistan. As a result of discussion with the Philippine government, the US has entered into a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement that would allow U.S. forces access to the former military bases at Clark and Subic.
Alexander Lacson from the Peoples’ Task Force for Bases Cleanup reports that “we are afraid that this will mean that Clark and Subic cannot be truly transformed into the business and commercial centers envisioned by the Philippine Government for the benefit of the Philippine economy”.
Filipino delegates to the 2001 Japan Peace Conference held in Nago City, Okinawa were Alexander Lacson, legal counsel of the People’s Task Force for Bases Clean Up (PTFBC) for the toxic waste victims and Corazon V. Fabros, Chairperson of the PTFBC and Secretary General of the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition (NFPC).
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The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002