Below is a letter that Dud Hendrick sent as he gets ready to leave for Okinawa.
Some of you may recall that in December of 2015, when I first returned to the Japanese island prefecture of Okinawa I sent several dispatches to chronicle our Veterans for Peace delegation experiences while standing in solidarity with the Okinawan people. (Note: I had briefly visited Okinawa on a temporary duty boondoggle from my year tour in Vietnam in 1967.)
Now I am returning once again and am again writing to champion the Okinawa cause—that cause being the damage done by the U.S. military occupation of their island.
Ours will be the third Veterans for Peace delegation to Okinawa (2015, 2017) undertaken in response to our mission statement which reads in part:
We, having dutifully served our nation, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace. To this end we will work, with others
• To increase public awareness of the costs of war
• To restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations
• To end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons
• To seek justice for veterans and victims of war
• To abolish war as an instrument of national policy.
To achieve these goals, members of Veterans For Peace pledge to use non-violent means and to maintain an organization that is both democratic and open with the understanding that all members are trusted to act in the best interests of the group for the larger purpose of world peace.
Experience, observation, reflection and study have informed VFP members' opinion that war is an insane and generally futile endeavor. It is our belief that our widespread military presence abroad more often serves as a "trip-wire", at the very least heightening tensions wherever it may be and is a provocative and de-stabilizing presence rather than one that serves peace.
The Okinawa story provides a valuable and useful case study. Briefly, here are some salient points that serve as a primer and set the stage for the current situation:
• Okinawa is 1/3rd the size of Long Island, NY—about 70 miles north to south and 7 miles wide.
• It is in the Ryukyu Island archipelago about 1000 miles south of Tokyo on Japanese mainland
• Okinawa was autonomous until 1879 when Japan annexed the entire archipelago.
• The Battle of Okinawa in 1945 was catastrophic for the Okinawa people. The island was flattened and over 150,000 civilians of a population of 460,000 were killed.
• Today the U.S. has 32 military bases on the island covering 20% of the landmass. Untold thousands of landowners were displaced to enable the construction of these facilities. It looks very much like a military occupation.
• Consequences of this presence include crime (around 350 documented rapes, sexual assaults and other crimes against women between 1945 and 2011), accidents, noise pollution, and environmental degradation.
Futenma Marine Air Station is the "poster" facility, attracting widespread and deeply emotional objection. It is located in the city of Ginowan, a densely populated area. Sixteen schools, several hospitals and Okinawa International University sit within a radius that would conventionally be devoid of housing or any activity unassociated with flight operations.
Since 1996, the U.S. and Japan have been in agreement that Futenma must go. The catch is that the U.S. is demanding that a replacement facility be constructed. Cape Henoko on pristine Oura Bay has been targeted, an option hugely unpopular with the Okinawan people. In 2012, over 100,000 Okinawans turned out to protest the relocation—numbers roughly equivalent to 22 million showing up for a protest in the U.S. The leadership of the Okinawan peace movement, now in its 13th year of opposition to the construction, believes for the reasons stated in a recent release (see below) that the time is ripe for a strong show of force and are calling for 400-500 people to amass at the construction gates each day from April 23rd thru the 28th.
It is this call that VFP is answering. This time we are only three. I'm proud to be joining two of our most prominent leaders, Tarak Kauff and Bruce Gagnon the coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
More about them and about our activities in my subsequent dispatches. We depart tomorrow and will be at the barricades Monday morning.
Wherever you are may spring finally find you.
Below is the statement sent out by the Okinawan peace movement explaining the purpose of the week long action.
Nonstop Six-Day Protest of 500 in front of Henoko Gate Statement
During the Nago mayoral election, the government's ruling party poured overwhelming amount of election funds and people into a small town of 60,000 people like a rushing jet stream of mud swallowing everything. As a result, citizens have been divided and a deep scar has been left.
In the upcoming Okinawa gubernatorial election in November, the government will no doubt intervene in the election in Okinawa at an incomparably larger scale than in the Nago mayoral election.
We are seriously taking the result of the Nago mayoral election and feel an urgent need to create a new movement toward the Okinawa gubernatorial election. If we lose in the gubernatorial election to a candidate who cheers on the Japanese government, it is clear to everyone that the new military base construction in Henoko will accelerate ever more rapidly and create an irreversibly grave situation.
Seawall construction started in Oura Bay in April 2017. But this construction has for the moment stopped. The reason appears to be, as the media says, the existence of fragile ground and active fault in the seabed. Hence the Okinawa Defense Bureau is moving forward the seawall construction on the Henoko side with terrible speed. If the enclosure is completed, earth and sand will finally be poured in there and then the landfill will start.
By changing the initial plan and making the landfill in the shallows on the Henoko side, the Japanese government is trying to make the Okinawan people feel "Henoko can no longer be stopped" and give up and undermine the support for Governor Onaga.
What is needed now more than anything is to energize the movement in front of Camp Schwab in Henoko and actually stop the construction. If citizens numbering from 400 to 500 can gather in front of the gate, the construction can definitely be stopped.
If this is realized, undoubtedly the Okinawan people's will to oppose the new military base construction in Henoko will remain unshaken and it will back Governor Onaga's demand to revoke the approval for the landfill and his determined exercise of administrative right.
Okinawan people remember how more than 150,000 Okinawan lives were taken during the Battle of Okinawa and their chimugukuru (deep spirit) will never accept a new military base. We can no longer allow the Japanese government's discrimination and repression against Okinawa.
We earnestly call upon all the people in Okinawa, Japan, and the world to participate in the action below. Please support and collaborate with this action.
Date: April 23 (Mon.) -28 (Sat.), 2018, 8 AM―4 PM
Place In front of Henoko (Camp Schwab) Gate
Nonstop Six-Day Protest in front of Henoko Gate Action Committee
Okinawa Heiwa Support, 198-2, Henoko, Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture,
Contact Info: 080-4343-4335