Okinawa Americans demand halt of U.S. military base construction


We, people with ancestral ties to Okinawa living in the United States of America, demand the immediate halting of new U.S. military base construction at Henoko, Okinawa. This demand is presented to both governments of Japan and the U.S. The reasons for our demands include, but are not limited to the following:

Irreversible harm to the environment: The construction of the new U.S. military base and subsequent military operations at Henoko will damage Okinawa’s sea, land, and sky. The fragile natural environment of Okinawa has been a source of physical and spiritual nourishment for our ancestors and to harm it threatens the bodies and spirits of the people of Okinawa with whom we have maintained familial, cultural, and spiritual ties. Harming Okinawa’s environment inevitably harms us.

Irreparable harm to democracy and human rights: To know that a large majority of the people in Okinawa do not support new military base construction at Henoko is deeply troubling to us citizens and long-term residents of the U.S who recognize the benefits of a democratic society in which the voices and lives of individuals are equally valued. However, with the backing and support of the U.S. government, the Japanese government is ignoring the will of the people of Okinawa. It is not only the polls that have shown widespread disapproval of Henoko construction, but also the election of politicians who oppose Henoko construction, including the present governor, the mayor of Nago (where Henoko is located), and majority of Okinawa’s Diet representatives, which clearly indicate the overwhelming disapproval of the project itself and of the Japanese government’s use of state power to force Okinawans to accept it.

Irreconcilable identities: The construction of the new U.S. military base in spite of the irreversible damage it will have to Okinawa’s environment and the irreparable harm to the values of democracy and human rights that the U.S. purports to uphold, will make it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile our identities as Okinawans in the U.S. Toward our Okinawan homeland, we will feel shame in being “American.” Toward our American government, we will feel distrust and fear for its destruction of our homeland and resentment for its hypocrisy.

Further, the forcing of this project through by the Japanese government makes it difficult to find respect for Japan as it reminds us of a long history of Japanese oppression and exploitation of Okinawa. Japan’s recent actions, including last year’s forced construction of U.S. military helipads at nearby Takae, come in a historical context in which Japan forcibly annexed Okinawa in 1879, sacrificed Okinawa as a breakwater to American forces in 1945, handed over Okinawa to U.S. military occupation from 1945 to 1972, and continued to allow the U.S. military to keep 70.6 percent of its Japanese military facilities in Okinawa. In this context, the construction of the new U.S. military base in Okinawa again reveals the Japanese government’s true attitude to Okinawa as a pawn to sacrifice for the sake of the rest of Japan.

For the reasons this statement underwrites, we, the Okinawan Diaspora communities across national borders, demand that the U.S. and Japan end the dehumanization of land, people, and nature by stopping the construction of the U.S. military base at Henoko as a step towards democracy, peace and freedom for Okinawans, Japanese, and Americans.

List of signers as of March 13, 2017:
Eriko Ikehara; Wesley Ueunten (Associate Professor in Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University); Ben Kobashigawa (Prof. Emeritus, SFSU); Pete Doktor ([Hawai‘i Okinawa Alliance] and Veterans for Peace-ROCK [Ryukyu Chapter] Working Group Chair);
Amy Sueyoshi; Yoko Fukumura; Joseph Kamiya; JJ Ueunten; Utu Cacaji (Okinawa Times overseas reporter); Laura Kina (Vincent de Paul Professor Art, Media, & Design and Director Critical Ethnic Studies, DePaul University);
Gary Y. Okihiro (Dept. of Social Formations, Columbia University); Annmaria Shimabuku (Assistant Professor, Dept. of East Asian Studies, NYU); Noriko Oyama (Okinawa Peace Appeal in Washington, DC);
Rev. Ronald Y. Nakasone, Ph.D.; Ayano Ginoza; Mitzi Uehara Carter, Ph.D.; Julie Beal; Hisayo Kinjo; Alice Kurima Newberry (Okinawa-American Activist, Veterans For Peace, Associate Member);
Ryan Masaaki Yokota, Ph.D (Instructor, DePaul University); Jane H. Yamashiro, Ph.D (Independent Scholar, Berkeley, CA); Allyson Nakamoto; Eric Wada; Edward Kuba; Selina Higa (Hawai‘i); Shingi Kuniyoshi;
Asako Morton (Florida Okinawa Kenjinkai [Gajimaru-kai] member); John Tasato (Ancestral Homeland: Aza Chunna-Futenma, Ginowan, Okinawa; Member, Hawaii Hui Democracy for Okinawa; Advisor, WUB Hawaii; VP North America/Canada, WUB Network; Past HUOA President; and U.S. Army Veteran); Delaina Thomas; Moe Yonamine; Wallace Kohashikawa Ohana; Ashley Nakanishi Ohana (Naha/Chatan); Judy Miyahira Lindstrom; Carla Stern.
Also endorsed by the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission and Women for Genuine Security.
The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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