U.S. Out of Okinawa! Peace Action’s Solidarity Message in the Ryukyu Shimpo

February 4, 2014

Below is the front page of today’s Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper (newspapers are still very important in Japan), with this message from our Executive Director, Kevin Martin:

I had the extraordinary pleasure of visiting Okinawa almost a decade ago as a guest of the Japanese peace group Gensuikin, and I found it to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The only thing that surpassed the beauty of the islands and the sea were its lovely, generous, welcoming, friendly, peaceful people. I was moved to tears by the beauty of Peace Memorial Park, with its “waves” of memorial markers honoring the dead from World War II reaching down to the sea and out to the world, and was fascinated to learn about the history and culture of the Okinawan people. Seeing the terrible stain of U.S. military bases on this gorgeous part of the world literally made me sick to my stomach when I visited the hilltop park overlooking the Futenma base and saw the giant transport planes flying just over an apartment building and conducting touch and go exercises. My organization, Peace Action, has long stood with the people of Okinawa in demanding the removal of U.S. bases. Closing Futenma and building a new base at Henoko is not an acceptable solution, the U.S. bases must go!

Unfortunately, the bases on Okinawa are only a part of a misguided “rebalancing” or “pivot” of U.S. military forces to the Asia-Pacific region. The Obama and Abe Administrations do not represent the will of their publics in pushing for a closer military alliance aimed at isolating China or threatening North Korea. The Japanese and American peoples share deep bonds of friendship and appreciation for each others’ history and culture, and of course have many economic ties. Strengthening those bonds should be the priority, not a larger military buildup in the region. Peace Action stands in solidarity and in peace with the Okinawan people in their opposition to Henoko and to rising militarism.

Feb 4 Ryukyu Shimpo Kevin Martin_01

 


Open Fire and Open Markets: The Asia-Pacific Pivot and Trans-Pacific Partnership

January 22, 2014

Excellent, concise analysis of the link between the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S. military’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, published by our colleagues at Foreign Policy in Focus. The author is the always right-on Christine Ahn, who in addition to her attributions listed below is a Peace Action Advisory Board member.

Thomas Friedman once said the hidden hand of the market needs the hidden fist of the military. The TPP and the Obama administration’s Pacific Pivot pack both.

By , January 14, 2014.

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By increasing U.S. market access and influence with China’s neighbors, Washington is hoping to deepen its economic engagement with the TPP countries while diminishing their economic integration with China. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The struggle for food sovereignty in the Pacific got a major boost last December when Billy Kenoi, mayor of Hawai’i’s Big Island, signed a law that prevents farmers from growing any new genetically engineered crops (with the exception of papaya). This follows a successful push on Kauai, at the other end of the islands, to force large growers to disclose the pesticides they use and which genetically engineered crops they are growing.

This is a major step in the battle for more ecologically sustainable agriculture in Hawai’i, which has suffered for over a century under the heavy weight of U.S. corporate and military domination.

Yet like other local, state, and national regulations intended to protect the public and the environment, these anti-GMO laws can be swiftly overturned if President Obama signs the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the world’s most ambitious and far reaching free trade agreement yet. On January 9, the U.S. Congress introduced “fast-track” legislation allowing the Obama administration to sign the TPP without undergoing public debate. Fast-track authority would grant the White House the power to speed up negotiations, while giving Congress only 90 days to review the TPP before voting.

The TPP spans 12 countries — including the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — comprising 40 percent of the world’s economy. Like nearly all trade agreements signed since NAFTA, the TPP is almost to certain to allow multinational corporations from anywhere in the bloc to sue governments in secret courts to overturn national or local regulations, such as Hawai’i’s recent GMO laws, that could limit their profits. So it’s not just Hawai’i’s food sovereignty that’s at risk.

“This is not mainly about trade,” explains Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade.” More than 600 corporate lobbyists representing multinationals like Monsanto, Cargill, and Wal-Mart have had unfettered access to shape the secret agreement, while Congress and the public have only seen a few leaked chapters.

But the TPP is even more than a corporate Trojan horse. It’s a core part of the Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, which is centrally about containing China.

A New Cold War?

Ahead of the fall 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) meeting in Hawaii, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined a plan to transfer U.S. military, diplomatic, and economic resources from the Middle East to the Pacific, in what she called “America’s New Pacific Century.” Describing the pivot in militaristic terms as “forward-deployed diplomacy,” Clinton hailed the TPP as a “benchmark for future agreements” leading to “a free trade area of the Asia- Pacific.”

Yet the TPP excludes China, which has become the second largest economy in the world and is poised to outpace the U.S. economy in a matter of years — a fact that is none too pleasing to U.S. elites accustomed to unrivaled hegemony.

Like the United States, the future of China’s economic growth lies in the Asia-Pacific region, which by all indicators will be the center of economic activity in the 21st century. By 2015, according to a paper from the conservative Foreign Policy Research Institute, “East Asian countries are expected to surpass NAFTA and the euro zone to become the world’s largest trading bloc. Market opportunities will only increase as the region swells by an additional 175 million people by 2030.”

Enter the TPP. By increasing U.S. market access and influence with China’s neighbors, Washington is hoping to deepen its economic engagement with the TPP countries while diminishing their economic integration with China.

Obama’s “Pacific Pivot” also seeks to contain China militarily. By 2020, 60 percent of U.S. naval capacity will be based in the Asia-Pacific, where 320,000 U.S. troops are already stationed. The realignment will entail rebuilding and refurbishing former U.S. facilities in the Philippines, placing 2,500 marines in Australia, transferring 8,000 marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam and Hawai’i, and building new installations like the one on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. Meanwhile, the U.S. military regularly stages massive joint military exercises involving tens of thousands of troops and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with its key allies — and China’s neighbors — Japan and South Korea. It has been regularly conducting Cobra Gold exercises with Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and even Myanmar.

Official Washington seems to believe that these are necessary precautions. According to theRAND Corporation, for example, 90 percent of U.S. bases in the region are “under threat” from Chinese ballistic missiles because they are within 1,080 nautical miles of China. But who is threatening whom? The Chinese have precisely zero bases in the Asia-Pacific outside of their own borders.

Some U.S. analysts insist that a more robust U.S. military presence is necessary to curb China’s ambitious territorial claims in the region. Without a doubt, China has recently taken a more aggressive stance in regional territorial disputes over dwindling natural resources, angering many of its neighbors. But by turning to the United States as a check against China, less powerful nations invite a bargain with the devil as Washington will advance its own strategic interests. And by getting itself involved, Washington risksencouraging China’s rivals to behave more provocatively, as well as angering China itself. According to Mel Gurtov, “While accepting that the United States is a Pacific power, Chinese authorities now resist the notion that the United States has some special claim to predominance in Asia and the western Pacific.”

A One-Two Punch

“The hidden hand of the market,” as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman famously wrote in the 1990s, “will never work without a hidden fist.” The Asia-Pacific Pivot, a one-two neoliberal-militaristic punch, packs both.

Of all people in the world, Hawaiians know this especially well. Once a sovereign nation, Hawai’i was the starting point for America’s century of imperialism and conquest in the Pacific. Most people don’t know this critical history, but what fueled the overthrow of Hawai’i’s monarchy was trade. During the 1800s, American merchants were profiting handsomely from exporting sugar from Hawai’i to the United States. When faced with new tariffs that the U.S. government imposed to protect the domestic sugar industry in the American South, the exporters orchestrated a coup with the U.S. marines to overthrow the islands’ queen and annex Hawai’i so that Hawaiian sugar would not be subject to tariffs.

With the world facing the pressing issues of global climate change, biodiversity loss, rising food prices, and declining sources of fossil energy, what is now needed more than ever are policies that promote local, sustainable economies that ensure the well-being of their people and protect the ecosystems upon which all of our lives depend.

Local communities seem to get it — new laws like the GMO restrictions recently passed in Hawai’i are a step in that direction. But with multinational elites and the U.S. government pushing undemocratic monstrosities like the Pacific Pivot and the TPP, prospects for a more genuine security appear more distant than ever.

Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Christine Ahn is a Senior Fellow of the Oakland Institute and Co-chair of Women De-Militarize the Zone (DMZ).


Statement of Solidarity with Okinawa in opposition to U.S. military bases

January 7, 2014

While it hadn’t gotten much attention in the U.S., the decision last month to move forward, despite years of local protest and international opposition, with a new U.S. Marine base on the northeast coast of Okinawa, will prove to be controversial, and opposition will no doubt continue. Our colleague Joseph Gerson from AFSC helped pull together the attached statement, which I was glad to sign Peace Action on to. I had the honor of traveling to Okinawa a decade ago to experience its beauty (both the island and the people) and learn of the nonviolent struggle to remove U.S. military bases. More on this issue soon.

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

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.

 

January 2014

 

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 (www.fpif.org) 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

(In the alphabetical order of family names, as of January 7, 2014)


Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99%

December 18, 2012

published by Foreign Policy in Focus

Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent

By Kevin Martin, December 18, 2012

Relief, rather than elation, was probably the emotion most U.S. peace activists felt when President Barack Obama won re-election. While Obama has been very disappointing on most peace issues, Mitt Romney would have been all the worse. So what now to expect from a second Obama term?

Most likely, more of the same; anyone expecting Obama to be decidedly more pro-peace this time around is likely to be sorely dispirited. However, there is a diverse, growing peoples’ movement in the United States linking human and environmental needs with a demand to end our wars and liberate the vast resources they consume. This, combined with budgetary pressures that should dictate at least modest cuts in the gargantuan Pentagon budget, could lead to serious constraints on new militaristic ventures such as an attack on Iran, “modernization” of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise at a cost of over $200 billion, a permanent U.S. force of up to 25,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, or an absurd military “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific aimed at isolating Russia and especially China.

We in the peace movement need to be able to think, and act, with both a short- and long-term perspective. In the near term, swiftly ending the war in Afghanistan and ensuring no long-term U.S./NATO troop presence, stopping drone strikes, preventing a war with Iran and building support for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, pushing for serious cuts to the Pentagon budget, and advocating progress toward nuclear disarmament will consume most of our energies. Renewed emphasis on a just and lasting peace between Palestine and Israel should also garner more attention and activism. Finally, peace activists will need to lend solidarity those working to save social programs from austerity-minded elites and to address climate chaos.

In the longer term, we need to hasten what Professor Johann Galtung calls “The Decline of the U.S. Empire and the Flowering of the U.S. Republic.” We have an opportunity in opposing the outrageous “Asia-Pacific Pivot,” which the military-industrial complex has concocted without asking the American people if we support it or want to continue borrowing from China to pay for it (too weird, right?). We can point out the insanity of this policy, but we can also devise a better alternative, including building solidarity with the peoples of Okinawa, Jeju Island, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and other nations in the region opposing the spread of U.S. militarism and advocating peaceful relations with China.

Defining the Democratic Deficit

This pivot is just the latest example of the fundamentally undemocratic nature of U.S. foreign policy.

The more we in the peace movement can point out that our tax dollars fund policies contrary to our interests, the easier it will be not just to build specific campaigns for more peaceful and just policies, but also to create a new vision for our country’s role in the world—to create a new foreign policy for the 99 percent.

So we peace activists need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We need to offer credible, sustainable alternatives on the issues listed above, with specific actions ordinary people can take that make a difference. But we must go further and advocate a foreign and military policy that is in the interest of the majority of this country, one that comports with widely shared ideals of democracy, justice, human rights, international cooperation, and sustainability.

It’s no news flash that elite and corporate interests have long dominated U.S. foreign policy. Illustrating this democratic deficit has two related aspects. The first is the question of access: “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” Currently, although it technically foots the bill, Congress—let alone the public—has barely any say in how U.S. foreign policy is set or implemented. On a second and integrally related note, in whose interest is it to perpetuate a gargantuan military budget, maintain a vast and expensive nuclear arsenal, or start an arms race with our banker, China? It’s hard to imagine that any ordinary person could conclude these policies serve anyone but the 1 percent.

Notions of justice and human rights are widely resonant in the United States, but they require careful consideration and explanation. “Justice” should not be invoked simply as it concerns parties to a conflict, but rather should entail racial, social, and economic fairness for all those who are affected by the grinding military machine. Emphasizing the broader social consequences of militarism will be key for growing our ranks, especially among people of color, community activists, and human needs groups. And while “human rights” is a no-brainer, it requires courage and commitment to communicate how U.S. foreign policy constantly contradicts this ideal abroad, even as our government selectively preaches to other countries on the subject.

International cooperation, while it can seem vague or milquetoast—especially given the neglect or outright stifling of “global governance” structures by the United States—is a highly shared value among people in this country and around the world. Selling cooperation as a meaningful value is fundamentally important for undermining the myth of American exceptionalism, which so many politicians peddle to sell policies that only harm our country in the long run.

Finally, while the environmental movement still has loads of work to do, the successful promulgation of the concept of sustainability is an important achievement, one we can easily adapt to military spending, the overall economy, and a longer-term view of what kind of foreign policy would be sustainable and in the interest of the 99 percent. Climate activists and peace activists need to know that they have a vital stake in each other’s work.

A glimpse of the power of democracy was in evidence on Election Day, and not just in the legalization of gay marriage and recreational marijuana in a few states. When given a choice, as in referenda in Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut advocating slashing military spending and funding human needs, people will choose the right policies and priorities; both initiatives won overwhelmingly.

Contrary to the hopes many people in this country and around the world invested in Barack Obama (which he didn’t deserve and frankly he never asked for), it’s never been about him. It’s about the entrenched power of the U.S. war machine, and about how we the peoples of this country and around the world can work together to create more peaceful, just, and sustainable policies. We can do it; in fact we have no choice but to do it.

Kevin Martin has served as Executive Director of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund since September 4, 2001, and has worked with the organization in various capacities since 1985. Peace Action is the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with 90,000 members nationwide.

Recommended Citation:

Kevin Martin, “Towards a Foreign Policy for the 99 Percent” (Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, December 18, 2012)


Preserving the Island of World Peace – Noam Chomsky and Matthew Hoey on the struggle to stop a missile defense base on Jeju Island, South Korea

October 4, 2011

We’ve written on this blog before about this struggle to stop constuction of a missile defense base on Jeju Island, South Korea, as well as the fight against U.S. military bases on Okinawa. And of course Peace Action is a co-sponsor of a conference in Washington later this month on Asia-Pacific Peace and Security, where these issues will be highlighted .

Here is the latest on the struggle on Jeju Island, in the Korean newspaper The Hankyoreh, by Noam Chomsky and Matthew Hoey.

Also, for those in the DC area, there will be a protest at the White House state dinner for South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak October 13 at 5:30 pm.  It’s important for international solidarity with the people of Jeju, and for the U.S. and especially the Korean media, that there be a strong protest of the base when President Lee when he visits the White House.

Finally, see Matt Hoey discussing the struggle on the lovely shoreline of the island.


Support Okinawan Peace-Makers!

September 23, 2011

The Japanese island of Okinawa is perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve ever been blessed to visit. Okinawa’s people, peaceful history (before the stationing of Japanese troups there during World War II, there was no culture of war or even indigenous weaponry on the island), culture, geography and language (which pre-dates the Japanese language, and is thought by many linguists to form the basis for Japanese, along with Chinese languages) are all unique and wonderful. The only stain on this idyllic place are U.S. military bases.

The small island bears the heaviest burden of U.S. bases of any part of Japan (even though the island is closer to Taiwan than to Tokyo). Many Okinwans feel doubly oppressed, by the Japanese and U.S. governments, with the placement of U.S. bases causing severe social, environmental, agricultural and financial problems on the island. (Many Okinawans also feel it ought to be independent of Japan.) Peace Action has been proud to stand with our sister group Gensuikin and other peace movement, civic and governmental allies in Okinawa in calling for the removal of U.S. bases, especially the Futenma Marine base (the last two years, our Organizing and Policy Director, Paul Kawika Martin, and Peace Action of New York State Executive Director Alicia Godsberg have also travelled to Okinawa to support organizing efforts there).

This week, Okinawa peace-makers are runnning an advertisement in the New York Times, bringing their demands to a larger international audience. Please take a moment to read and learn more, (and here is the website with even more information) and circulate the ad to friends you think might be interested in learning more and supporting the cause of peace for the people of Okinawa.


Bringing the message back from Japan

August 16, 2011

By Alicia Godsberg, Executive Director Peace Action NYS

(Note: Alicia represented Peace Action at the Gensuikin Conference in Hiroshima/Nagasaki,August 3-9,
and also made a trip to view the U.S. bases in Okinawa and meet with peace activists.)

The rest of the trip in Japan was so packed and busy, I barely had time to sleep let alone write, so this blog is coming to you from Brooklyn – tired, but grateful for what I’ve seen and learned.

My last post was about Hiroshima, but I left out something very important – on our way to the
opening ceremony for the Gensuikin conference we passed several groups of high school students who
were out collecting signatures for a petition against the use of nuclear weapons.

My translator Yasu told me that although school is out for the summer, students in Hiroshima have to attend peace education on August 6, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of their city. The importance of peace education is something the Japanese delegation brings up every year in the United Nations during the meetings of the General Assembly’s First Committee (the disarmament committee), and it is something we in Peace Action NYS have talked about.

At our regional retreat last month in New Hampshire, we also discussed the importance of peace education for young people, and I think this is an extremely important issue. I was lucky to have spoken to some high school students in Brooklyn in May about
the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and have been invited back by their teacher for next year – I think I will talk about peace with the students next time.

In Nagasaki the workshop on nuclear energy that I participated in was even larger than in Hiroshima, and at both places there were excellent discussions with the audience about the safety and future of nuclear power in the world and in the United States. Fukushima is still creating environmental and humanitarian disasters in Japan, and the audience was interested to learn about the anti-nuclear
power movement in New York and the greater U.S. Again, recent U.S. sub-critical nuclear experiments were discussed, as was the need for the swift entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The commemoration of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki on August 9 we attended was smaller than the one in Hiroshima, but that was because several were taking place throughout the city instead of one big ceremony. Ours was at the hypocenter, above which the atomic bomb detonated 66 years earlier, and again it was a powerful and emotional moment. In Hiroshima people talked of it being the first city where an atomic bomb was exploded and that was unbelievably sad; in Nagasaki people spoke of the necessity for it to be the last place an atomic bomb is ever used, which in some ways was even more powerful of a message. The atomic bomb museum there did not spare you from personal and gruesome stories of radiation effects on people, which only reinforced the idea that such a horrible event can never be allowed to happen again.

The trip took an entirely different turn when we flew south to the island of Okinawa, home of many U.S. military bases and a culture that is distinct from that of mainland Japan. At this point I was the only foreign guest with the conference, and I was asked last minute to speak a few times about the U.S. military presence there. I was able to travel throughout the island and meet local peace activists engaged in 24/7 sit-ins to prevent the U.S. from building new heliports in the northern forests and who were protesting the noise pollution from existing U.S. bases that are located on top of civilian neighborhoods.

I promised the activists there that I would take their message back to the peace activists in the U.S. – that the U.S. is seen more like an occupier than an ally in Okinawa and the people of Okinawa do not want any U.S. military bases on their island, let alone any expansion of them. In my brief speech to a rally outside Futenma Air Base, near where a Marine helicopter crashed 7 years ago into
the local university, I said our peace movements need to work together, with the Okinawan peace activists continuing to protest so that our military and government can no longer use the excuse that the people of Japan want our military there to protect them, and our peace movement in the U.S. will use the budget crisis at home to try and prevent the continuing spread of U.S. military bases
abroad (as well as at home).

I think the thing that will stick with me the most from the first part of the trip is the human face of the very abstract idea of the effects of nuclear weapons, and how this has to inspire all of us to keep going with our anti-nuclear weapon work despite the heavy challenges it faces.

From Okinawa, I think I will be left with the sour taste of seeing with my own eyes how the U.S. has basically taken over that beautiful island without regard for the people or environment there, and the awful feeling that left in me as an American who loves all the amazing things about my country, but knows we are falling short of our own ideals in so many places.

A big thank you to everyone at the Peace Action national office for allowing me to have this incredible experience, and to everyone in New York who kept things going in the NYC office while I was away.


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