Hawai`i State & City Reps: Stand with Democracy by Standing With the Okinawan People
By Pete Shimazaki Doktor
YouTube video uploaded by Will Griffin on 2/29/16
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Okinawa was illegally overthrown by Japan and continues to discriminated against by Japan & the USA- the only nations to ever invade this formerly sovereign nation of Ryukyu. Nearly 1/5 of tiny Okinawa has been forced to host almost 3/4s of US armed forces, despite comprising only .6% of Japanʻs entire land mass. The vast majority of Okinawans (averaging over 80% according to years of polls, referendums & elections) want some demilitarization after 70 years of occupation since WWII, which brutally killed over 1/4 of the native people caught between Japan & US empires nurturing an anti-war culture having experienced the horrors of war, and constant social, political & ecological violations from the concentration of bases.
Instead, Japan & the USA are insisting another monstrous base be built back in rural Henoko, Okinawa that has already began destroying pristine reef that sustains the lives of multiple rare species, as well as an economy dependent on the health of the sea. Both Japan & the USA have pledged to close down Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, called “the most dangerous base in the world,” positioned in the middle of a civilian city and a track record of lethal accidents & disruption- but dictate that it be replaced back within Okinawa despite its already disproportionate base hosting. Futenma MCAS closure is now being “held hostage” by the unilateral demands that Henoko is its only option for relocation.
Most Okinawan political representatives hold a demilitarization position and have made several appeals to both US & Japanese governments with no avail. Major institutions within Okinawa, including business, municipal, labor & grassroots social justice organizations have formed an “All-Okinawa Council” to show unified opposition by all sectors of Okinawan society. Having exhausted political & legal means, for years many Okinawans & allies have resorted in mass daily protests in which non-violent resisters, often elders peacefully defending their land, are dragged & brutalized by Tokyo riot police.
Hawai`i has one of the largest populations of Okinawan emigrants & has a very similar indigenous history, including a history of Okinawans assisting their ancestral motherland, such as the sending of war relief aid after the devastating Battle of Okinawa. Again, members of the Okinawan Diaspora in Hawai`i have begun initiatives to pass resolutions of support for the Okinawan people, in City Councils and the State Legislature. Resolutions have been submitted to the Honolulu City Council and State Senate, the only bodies that have been willing to consider such resolutions thus far in Hawai`i- but are being blocked by Committee Chairs who will not schedule, let alone consider these symbolic expressions of solidarity. The Honolulu City Council Okinawa resolution 15-322 is still in negotiations and is not sure if it will be scheduled for vote. The Hawai`i Senate resolution (SCR57/SR29) has been shelved due to opposition by a few Senators (although there are supporters as well).
Now is such a time for the international community to stand with the peaceful aspirations of the Okinawan people when their popular will clearly expressed through democratic elections is so blatantly disregarded by Japan & the USA. The people of Hawai`i should also be able to express their concerns, through their elected officials. It is from the local level we wish to extend our people-to-people solidarity, where national governments are gridlocked and perpetuate unjust policies. We ask political representatives of Hawai`i to consider the injustice of the Okinawan people, the concerns of its constituents and join other cities that have shown moral courage by passing such resolutions- which the State of Hawai`i has done several times before in the past, going back to 1989. This not about being “anti-military” or “anti-anything,” as it is pro-democracy & pro-justice. After 70 years of uninvited military occupation, its time to respect democracy & self-determination in Okinawa.
I clearly stand with the Okinawan people. The sovereignty of Okinawa must be respected by all outside parties. If the popular vote of Okinawa wishes the American base removed, then that is exactly what needs to occur. I speak this from the perspective of a retired US Navy Commander who was once stationed in Okinawa and a Father and Grandfather who still has family living in Okinawa.
If we are not wanted as Americans, we need to pack up and get out.