The people of Okinawa are calling on the international community for help to stop the desecration of a sacred ocean site, Oura Bay in Henoko, for a new US Marines base. Oura Bay is the home of the dugong (the Okinawan manatee) and other endangered species, including extensive coral reefs.
The latest poll shows that 80.2% of Okinawans oppose this construction on environmental, ethical, and economic grounds. They are blockading the construction site from land and sea, and holding prefecture-wide rallies comprising all segments of the population. Reflecting this opposition, Okinawan voters elected Takeshi Onaga as their governor who is determined to work toward stopping the construction of the new base.
We, the undersigned US organizations, support the demands of Okinawan people that this construction be stopped.
We call on our members of Congress to sponsor briefings on Capitol Hill to hear about the highly undemocratic process of deciding on this location, which has been forced on the people of Okinawa by the US and Japanese governments; and to hear about the serious, long-term environmental and social impacts of US bases that Okinawans have been burdened with since 1945.
The US already has 1,000 bases worldwide.
We demand the clean up not build up of overseas bases, and that our money be moved from military spending to human and environmental needs.
Women for Genuine Security
Arab Resource and Organizing Center
Arkansas WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions)
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Political Education
Climate Justice, Boston College
CodePink, San Francisco-Bay Area
Fertile Ground Environmental Institute
Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
Granny Peace Brigade, New York
Hawai’i People’s Fund
Human Rights Action Service
Japan Multicultural Relief Fund
Japan Pacific Resource Network
No Nukes Action
Oakland SOL – Sustaining Ourselves Locally
Oregon WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions)
U.S. Labor Against the War
Veterans for Peace
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Women in Black – San Francisco
Women in Black – Union Square
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, San Francisco branch
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, East Bay branch
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-US Section
World Beyond War
(list in progress)
This massive new facility for the US Marines—with two runways, naval port, military housing, and sports facilities—is to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, located in Ginowan City.
Okinawan people’s determined resistance has blocked this construction for 18 years. They voted against it in a non-binding referendum in Nago City in 1997. They have tried to elect anti-base candidates at all levels: city, prefectural and national. A daily sit-in on Henoko beach, initiated by elders who lived through the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, marked its tenth year in April 2014. An intense “sit-in on the sea” successfully disrupted offshore test drilling in 2004 and 2005 when people occupied test-drilling platforms day and night. In January 2008, a US Federal Court ruled that the construction plan violated the National Historic Preservation Act by not protecting a Japanese “national monument,” the dugong and its marine habitat. Recently, environmental groups returned to court to try to stop the construction on environmental grounds.
Keiko Itokazu, a Japanese Diet member from Okinawa and co-chair of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, summed up this opposition:
“We should spend our tax money on welfare, not war. Military bases don’t protect the human rights of women and children. They destroy the natural environment, and tear Okinawan people’s hearts apart.”
US military footprint in Okinawa
The US military occupies 18.4% Okinawan land; and 74% of US military facilities in Japan are in Okinawa, the poorest prefecture comprising only 0.6% of the land area of Japan. Okinawan people have been subjected to crimes committed by US troops, including robbery, arson, rape, and murder; as well as military environmental contamination—noise, fires, aircraft crashes, and emergency landings. US bases contribute only 5% of the prefecture’s revenue and impede sustainable economic development by taking precious land and resources.
History of Japanese oppression of Okinawa
In 1879, Japan annexed the independent Ryukyu Kingdom (present day Okinawa) by force. Mainland Japanese marked Okinawans as backward, shiftless, and dirty. At the 1903 Osaka Exhibition, Okinawans, Ainu, Koreans, and other “inferior” peoples were put on public display. Okinawans were forbidden to use their language and forced to learn Japanese. Those who migrated to the mainland often met with prejudice and discrimination over jobs and housing; restaurants had signs saying “no Okinawans welcome”.
Okinawa was the site of a three-month battle near the end of World War II, as Japan sacrificed these islands in the hope of protecting its main centers. A quarter of the Okinawan population died in the Battle of Okinawa, often described as a “Typhoon of Steel.” Survivors took shelter in caves and gravesites. Much of the main island was pulverized to rubble. During the fierce fighting, Japanese soldiers committed many atrocities against Okinawan civilians: rape and murder, using them as human shields, and forcing them to commit suicide rather than risk capture by US troops. This issue is still alive today, as the Japanese Ministry of Education has censored history textbooks that describe the mass suicide and the Japanese military’s role in it.
In signing the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, Japan sacrificed Okinawa once again. Japan’s post-war constitution guaranteed basic human and civil rights but Okinawa was excluded from it and forced to serve as a US military outpost. When the US finally returned control of Okinawa to Japanese administration in 1972, the two nations agreed that US bases would remain.