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Press Statement

Contact: IWNAM Secretariat, genuinesecurity [at] lists.riseup.net

April 11, 2011

Relief and Recovery in Japan: U.S. Should Decline Monies from Japan's "Sympathy Budget" and End Military Dependence Globally

The International Women's Network Against Militarism (IWNAM) demands that the U.S. and Japanese governments stop spending U.S. and Japanese taxpayer monies for the upkeep of U.S. military facilities in Japan and other territories. During these times of natural disasters, funds should directly help the needs of victims of the earthquake, tsunami, and radiation poisoning from damaged nuclear power plants in Japan, and also create alternatives for employment world wide that do not rely on militarism, or further interpersonal and ecological violence.

The IWNAM, formerly named East Asia–US-Puerto Rico Women’s Network Against Militarism, has called for reallocation of global military spending in order to achieve genuine security for people.  We call for the cancellation of the “sympathy budget,” a part of the host nation support provided by the Japanese government to maintain the U.S. military stationed in Japan (See Final Statement, International Women’s Summit to Redefine Security, June 2000.) The “sympathy budget” has been criticized for covering much more than Japan’s obligation under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. It covers the salaries of Japanese employees, utilities for U.S. military personnel, and building costs for luxurious leisure facilities on US bases in Japan. In 2010, these expenses totaled 189 billion yen (about $1.6 billion).  If the Japanese government kept this money it could be used to help victims of the recent earthquake in the Tohuku region, people near Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants who were forced to evacuate their communities, and farmers and fishers whose products can not be sold because of the risk of radiation contamination.  Japan is in need of this money for reconstruction of the vast disaster-stricken areas, and recovery from economic and human losses. It is no longer sustainable for the Japanese government to maintain U.S. military bases in Japan. We believe that if the U.S. government would decline the "sympathy budget," it could be used to help those people directly and to help create a more sustainable world.

In addition, IWNAM demands that the Japanese government should stop building new military infrastructure at Henoko and Takae in Okinawa, and also in Guam, and use that money for survivors of these natural disasters.  Since the earthquake in March, the U.S. military and Japanese Self-Defense Forces have become increasingly visible in Japan. While their rescue efforts are recognized, we should not forget that the primary purpose of the military is not disaster rescue. Their primary training is to destroy the “enemy.” These natural disasters should not be used as opportunities for military forces to justify occupation of a country, as if they are heroes.  This obscures current military developments.  According to Lisa Natividad of Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice,

"On Guam (Guahan), the Japanese government has incrementally funded roughly $10 billion dollars, totaling 70% of the total cost of the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.  The island's people suffer poor health outcomes largely due to environmental toxicity and degradation from the presence of U.S. military bases and installations since the U.S. assumed colonial rule in 1898.  For example, cancer rates are excessively high on the island, with the largest number of cases living near military bases.  In addition, the U.S. currently occupies roughly 1/3 of the island, and is in the process of "acquiring" an additional 2,300 acres to construct a live firing range complex on ancient Chamorro sacred ground in the village of Pagat.  The acquisition of the additional land will increase U.S. control of the island to nearly 40%, thus leaving only a small portion of the island for its native people."

Furthermore, after Hurricane Katrina in the Southeast U.S., earthquakes in Haiti, and flooding in the Philippines, corporate and military interests capitalized on these natural disasters to further their own interests in the rebuilding process.  Afterward, these places were no longer economically accessible for communities who were previously living there, and they also experienced an increase in military surveillance.  We still need disaster troops and recovery plans to help people in times of natural disaster. But, we should also have a critical awareness of the cooperation occurring between militarist and capitalist forces who do not change structures of power when they take advantage of these vulnerable times to advance to geopolitical agendas of neo-liberal interests.

Dependence on militarism occurs when institutions that perpetrate violence provide employment for people. Interpersonal and ecological violence that manifests in military-dependent societies is not often seen as a product of the larger militarized society.  A recent case in Ohio, where a former U.S. Air Force member beat his Okinawan-born wife to death, illustrates interpersonal violence in militarized societies. The two met in Nago, Okinawa, while the man was stationed in Okinawa. They were married and moved to Cleveland, Ohio. On March 11, 2011, the wife was severely beaten by the husband and taken to the hospital where she was treated, but died from the injury. The local paper reported that this man had a history of violence with a former partner, but she was able to leave the relationship.  This example highlights the recurring pattern of interpersonal violence perpetrated by service members.

In Hawai'i, there is a proposal for an increase in helicopters at Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station (Oahu). A squadron of Ospreys (a hybrid helicopter and plane that transports troops), Cobra attack helicopters, and a squadron of Hueys are planned to be housed on Mokapu, Oahu, and deployed for practice on the Big Island. On March 30, 2011, a helicopter crashed killing one Marine, and injuring 3 others. The push for increased housing and training areas for of military aircraft in Hawai'i is a product of the U.S. military strategy in the Asia-Pacific, moving bases and troops from one island to another. Yet these decisions disregard the impact this has on local communities and environments in Hawai'i, Okinawa, and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region where military developments increase everyday violence and insecurity. 

In 2009, global military spending was estimated at $1,531 billion, an increase of 6% from 2008 and 49% from 2000. On April 12, 2011, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) will release its calculations of global military spending for 2010. We estimate that this figure could reach $1.6 trillion.  We join peace groups, budget priority activists, arms control advocates, and concerned citizens the world over in public demonstrations, solidarity actions and awareness raising events to call attention to the disparity between bountiful global investments in war-making and the worldwide neglect of social priorities. Please visit the website for Global Day of Action on Military Spending at http://demilitarize.org/.

The IWNAM demands that U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration

1)    Decline the Japanese “Sympathy Budget.”

2)    End the military build up in Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii and other territories.

3)    Stop the justification of militarism in times of natural disasters

4)    Fund alternative jobs that end dependence on militarism

Signed, on behalf of the IWNAM:

Kozue Akibayashi, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Japan

Ellen-Rae Cachola, Women for Genuine Security/Women's Voices Women Speak, U.S. & Hawai'i

Lotlot de la Cruz, KAISAKA, Philippines

Cora Valdez Fabros, SCRAP VFA Movement, Philippines

Terri Keko'olani, DMZ-Hawaii/Aloha ‘Aina/Women's Voices Women Speak, Hawai'i

Gwyn Kirk, Women for Genuine Security, U.S.

María Reinat Pumarejo, Ilé Conciencia-en-Acción, Puerto Rico

Aida Santos-Maranan, Women's Education, Development, Productivity and Research Organization (WEDPRO), Philippines

Kim Tae-jung, SAFE Korea, South Korea

Suzuyo Takazato, Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, Okinawa

Lisa Natividad, Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, Guahan (Guam)

The International Women’s Network Against Militarism was formed in 1997 when forty women activists, policy-makers, teachers, and students from South Korea, Okinawa, mainland Japan, the Philippines and the continental United States gathered in Okinawa to strategize together about the negative effects of the US military in each of our countries.  In 2000, women from Puerto Rico who opposed the US Navy bombing training on the island of Vieques also joined; followed in 2004 by women from Hawai’i and in 2007 women from Guam.  The Network is not a membership organization, but a collaboration among women active in our own communities, who share a common mission to demilitarize their lands and communities. For more information, visit www.genuinesecurity.org.

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