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No Base Okinawa presentation


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My presentation for the conference on No Foreign Bases in Baltimore, Jan 2018. Covers issues surrounding U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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No Base Okinawa presentation

  1. 1. ( (
  2. 2. (Congressional Research Service,
  3. 3. 1945 WW2-US Control 1879 Japanese Annexation 1972 Reversion <- U.S. Military control -> <- Japanese control -> Japanese control-> Ryukyu <-Kingdom
  4. 4. Northern Training Area
  5. 5. approach/anpo/osprey/ futenma/pdf/env_review.pdf
  6. 6. -Base relocation originally announced in 1996 -Sit-ins began on April 19, 2004 -Daily sit-ins for over 13 years -70-80 percent of the island opposes the new bases
  7. 7. “Chalmers Johnson studied the U.S. military base structure around the world, and gradually came to the conclusion that “Okinawa was typical, not unique.” And he proposed an interesting new hypothesis. The 725+ bases around the world are not the means to empire, they are the empire. The bases are not built to serve a strategy for protecting U.S. interests; rather, U.S. strategy is (in large part) designed to protect the bases. The bases are themselves a form of rule, and generate their own interests. They are organized into regional commands, and the regional commanders (CINCs, meaning commanders in chief) are like proconsuls in the Roman Empire, out- ranking ambassadors, making foreign policy statements, and reporting directly to the president rather than through the normal chain of command. In most of the countries where the United States has bases, U.S. military personnel enjoy the colonial privilege of extraterritoriality thanks to Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs), which protect them wholly or partially from prosecution under the laws of the country where they are based. The United States admits having such agreements with 93 countries, “though some SOFAs are so embarrassing to the host nation that they are kept secret, particularly in the Islamic world.” This empire of bases, as Johnson calls it, forms a world of its own, “an aspect of contemporary American life that most Americans never see.” Here on Okinawa where I live, if you drive up Highway 58 from Naha past Kadena Airbase, and then you look across the fence into the base you will see parking lot filled with scores of big school buses. So there are that many children in there, tragically and unconsciously living the lives of colonials! Inside the bases there are schools from daycare through college, churches, shopping malls, bars, restaurants, tennis courts, private beaches, many individual and team sports, a counseling group for controlling stress and anger, a hotline for battered women, a rape survivors’ group, a childhood sexual abuse survivors’ group, police, courts, jails, and countless lawn mowers, not only for the golf courses but also for the lawns on the big empty spaces between the scattered buildings. Outside the bases, although Okinawa’s relatively prosperity compared to the 1950s and 1960s has shut down a lot of the businesses aimed at GI trade, there are still bars, restaurants, tattoo parlors, souvenir shops selling things no Japanese or Okinawan would ever buy, whorehouses, and a large number of evangelical churches (these generally with American ministers) catering to the U.S. military. Houses are not scattered but crowded together; there is no space for lawns. To be stationed on such a base is to be given an education in colonial arrogance. Disrespect for the local population is not an individual “attitude” one may or may not have; it is in the air; it is built into the structure of things; it is unconscious. Johnson’s conclusion that “Okinawa was typical, not unique” is one with which few Okinawans would agree. It is correct in that the Okinawa bases are not an isolated case but rather part of a world system of bases operating under a unified imperial policy. But it ignores the old Hegelian principle, that Quantity becomes Quality. The sheer scale of the U.S. military presence on Okinawa means they dominate daily life there in a way they do not in, say, Italy or Britain, or Greenland, or even “mainland” Japan. In Okinawa there is no place free from the scream of fighter planes and the roar of giant transports overhead; there is no day in which some news about the bases is not in the newspapers; there is no politician who can carry out a campaign without taking a position on them; and there is no one under sixty who can remember when they were not there.”