Despite intense crackdowns, activists on the Japanese island of Okinawa continue to resist the construction of new US Military Bases. They come in kayaks and canoes to protect the bay, maintain a tent city on the beach, and hold candlelight vigils. From posters to marches, songs, and a petition expressing international solidarity, Okinawan residents have left no question about their fierce opposition to construction of a new military base for the U.S. Marines on their island.
Overriding these emphatic voices, the Japanese and United States governments have begun work on a new facility at site of Henoko—initiating offshore drilling, tearing down buildings, and bringing in construction supplies. The building of this base has broad ramifications: it will destroy local marine life, pollute natural resources, and put residents in danger. Even more disturbingly, it reflects the long-term violation of Okinawans’ democratic rights—namely, their ability to set the policies that affect their lives.
Nonetheless, despite intense crackdowns to suppress resistance, Okinawan activists remain determined to continue their opposition to this base. One of them is “Henoko Blue” civilian canoe team which has aim to protect beautiful Sea of Oura Bay, Henoko, Okinawa from the plans to build a new U.S. military base there.
On the 18th of February, two big crane ships continued boring concrete blocks into the sea. Members of “Henoko Blue” canoe team have tried to show them their relation to this by means of banners and posters.
“Henoko Blue” members also tried to set up a banner on floating fence.
So this is how local civilians try to bring their words and feelings to the world. They can do it only by means of peaceful protests. All the surrounding nature they had grown up with is being destroyed for military purposes. Will the world answer their call?
On a Japanese island famous for long life expectancies, elderly women are at the forefront of the continuing protest movement against U.S military installations.
For an entire year, 60-year-old Kumiko Onaga slept in a tent across the street from a U.S. military base on Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost island. In the middle of the night, when trucks carrying construction material approached at the entrance gate of the base, she jumped out of her sleeping bag and tried to block the vehicles. Then, each morning, she drove home, showered and went to work as one of her town’s few women city council members.
“People know me as ‘the sleeping bag councilwoman,’” Onaga says with a smile, adding that more people know her by her nickname than her real name.
Onaga and others on Okinawa have long opposed the relocation of the contentious Futenma Marine Corps base to the remote fishing village of Henoko on the northern part of the island. Part of the plan involves the construction of military runways in the coral-filled coastal waters next to the base.
“We were forced to accept these bases,” says Kyoko Matayoshi, 66, who lives just over a mile from the Futenma base. She and many local residents say their biggest concerns are noise, pollution and safety.
In 1995, the rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl on the island by U.S servicemen prompted huge protests and ultimately led to the decision to move the Futenma base from a densely populated area to northern Okinawa. Though these incidents are rare, a string of rapes by U.S. servicemen stationed on Okinawa has rattled nerves over the years. Last year, a former U.S. Marine was arrested for the gruesome murder of a 20-year-old Okinawan woman. This sparked a fresh wave of demonstrations against the American military presence on the island.
Matayoshi and others are part of a women’s group that protests the Futenma base. “When we started 20 years ago, we never had the intention to do this movement for such a long time,” she says. “It’s not even activism, we’re just doing this to survive.”
Matayoshi says instead of relocating the base within Okinawa, the Japanese government should move it to the mainland. Former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama agreed to this plan several years ago, but backtracked on his promise in 2010 and later resigned.
An unfair burden
“In Okinawa, we have been double-colonized and dominated,” says Matayoshi. Before Japan annexed the island in the late 1800s, Okinawa flourished as the independent Ryukyu Kingdom, trading with nearby nations. During World War II, the Japanese military government used the island as a bloody battlefield, and tens of thousands of Okinawan civilians died. After the war, the island came under U.S. control.
Okinawan women have a long history of resistance, and many of them organized grassroots rallies when their families’ land was turned into U.S. military property. “Those women who survived the war and post-war period became our role models and our teachers,” Matayoshi says.
Under a treaty that dates back to the end of World War II, U.S. forces defend Japan from rival nations, such as North Korea and China. Now, about 27,000 troops are stationed on the island, and it’s considered a strategic defense location in the Asia Pacific region.
While Okinawa is home to roughly 70 percent of the U.S. military bases in Japan, it has less than one percent of the nation’s landmass, angering many Okinawans who say that’s an unfair burden.
Women at the Frontlines
Etsuko Urashima, 68, lives near the village of Henoko, where the Japanese government is preparing to construct military runways. The soft-spoken writer has become one of the most well-known organizers of the protest movement.
In 2011, Urashima co-founded a women’s group to support the city’s anti-base mayor. “The anti-base people with official leadership positions are mostly men, but the main force of this movement is women,” she says. “When women are at the frontlines, it’s said those movements are successful.”
“If we had not been doing these protests, the base in Henoko would have been built a long time ago,” Urashima says. One major concern, she says, is that the proposed plan to build aircraft runways on the environmentally fragile coastal waters will damage the area forever.
Construction of the new runways started a few years ago, but stalled last year after significant local opposition and a lawsuit filed by Okinawa’s governor against the plan. It was a small victory for many of the protesters, until Japan’s Supreme Court overturned the lawsuit in December 2016, and work resumed in February.
Protecting Future Generations
“I’d never taken part in any civil movement before,” says Onaga, the “sleeping bag councilwoman.”
“I was even scared to just do a sit-in, because I wasn’t used to it.” At demonstrations outside military bases, Japanese riot police gather and physically carry protesters out of the area.
“In one late-night protest, the riot police formed a human fence to block us as construction material was transported into the military base,” she says. “The police hit me in the back and broke my rib. It took a month and a half to heal, and it was very scary and painful.”
Onaga says women are a big part of the protest movement because they want to protect future generations. “We’re a tiny island, and the bonds are strong here,” she says. “I think Okinawan women feel that they all collectively share the responsibility of raising our children.”
Her views have also brought unwanted attention from right-wing groups in Okinawa. “I get a lot of abuse and threats online,” Onaga says. “The very first time they uploaded something about me, I did get scared, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from protesting.”
Resistance in the Forest
Protesters have also set up tents in Okinawa’s northern Yanbaru forest, where the U.S. military is constructing six helicopter landing pads. Twice a week, crowds gather to demonstrate, while riot police closely guard the area and film protesters with camcorders.
Eiko Ginoza, 69, often protests with an 86-year-old woman who survived the Battle of Okinawa.
Ginoza vividly remembers when a U.S. military fighter jet crash-landed into an elementary school in her town in 1959, killing 11 students and six locals. Now a grandmother of seven, she says, “My grandchildren are scared whenever they see an aircraft because they fly really low.”
At a morning rally, Ginoza and other protesters chant slogans. As a truck pummels down the two-lane road carrying construction materials for the helipad, they surround the vehicle and try to block it. The truck continues on and enters the construction site.
“We are nonviolent, and we don’t want to harm people,” she says. “We just stand in front of the trucks, or we lay down under the trucks.”
She and the other elderly women protesters say they won’t give up their fight. “We only have one chance to live, so we’ll continuously say no to the base,” Ginoza says.
Throughout its history, the US Military had an inconsistent policy when it came to homosexuals in the military. Prior to World War II, there was no written policy barring homosexuals from serving, although sodomy was considered a crime by military law ever since Revolutionary War times. In 1778, Lieutenant Gotthold Frederick Enslin became the first soldier to be drummed out of the Continental Army for sodomy.
Homosexuality Policies in the Korean War and Vietnam War
During World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, the military defined homosexuality as a mental defect and officially barred homosexuals from serving based on medical criteria. However, when personnel needs increased due to combat, the military developed a habit of relaxing its screening criteria. Many homosexual men and women serviced honorably during these conflicts. Unfortunately, these periods were short-lived. As soon as the need for combat personnel decreased, the military would involuntarily discharge them.
1982 – Complete Ban of Gays in the Military
It wasn’t until 1982 that the Department of Defense officially put in writing that “homosexuality was incompatible with military service,” when they published a DOD directive stating such. According to a 1992 report by the Government Accounting Office, nearly 17,000 men and women were discharged under this new directive during the 1980s.
The Birth of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” 1993
By the end of the 1980s, reversing the military’s policy was emerging as a priority for advocates of gay and lesbian civil rights. Several lesbian and gay male members of the military came out publicly and vigorously challenged their discharges through the legal system.
By the beginning of 1993, it appeared that the military’s ban on gay personnel would soon be overturned.
President Clinton announced that he intended to keep his campaign promise by eliminating military discrimination based on sexual orientation. But, this didn’t sit well with the Republican-controlled Congress. Congressional leaders threatened to pass legislation that would bar homosexuals from serving if Clinton issued an executive order changing the policy.
After lengthy public debate and congressional hearings, the President and Senator Sam Nunn, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reached a compromise which they labeled Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue. Under its terms, military personnel would not be asked about their sexual orientation and would not be discharged simply for being gay. However having sexual relations, or displaying romantic overtures with members of the same sex, or telling anyone about their sexual orientation is considered “homosexual conduct” under the policy and is a basis for involuntary discharge.
This is was known as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and became the Department of Defense policy.
Changing Times for Society and the Military
At the time, most military leaders and young enlisted folk (who were forced to live in the barracks with a roommate) took a conservative view about allowing gays to serve openly in the military. But the attitudes of society changed through the next two decades. By 2010, most junior enlisted (the one’s who have to live in the barracks), today, saw nothing wrong with homosexuality and would not be bothered by serving with those they know to be gay. Today, almost everyone gets a single room (with no roommate) following basic training and job school. In those few situations where military personnel share living accommodations (such as deployments and ships), it is generally several military members living together.
Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell 2010
In December of 2010, the House and Senate voted in favor to repeal the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” President Obama then signed it into law December 22, 2010. A repeal is ant action of revoking or annulling a law or congressional act. The nation decided that by September 20, 2011, homosexuals would no longer fear discharge from the military by admitting to their sexual preference. Homosexuals have the freedom to serve in the armed forces openly.
Over 13,000 servicemen and women were discharged for being gay while the don’t ask, don’t tell policy was in effect. The repeal has prompted many to try and reenlist. Many men and women who have been serving came out of the closet on various media. Many organizations and groups supporting gay and lesbian military members surfaced and have even organized official public gatherings with the military.
Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages
Following the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, the Department of Defense announced it would extend spousal and family benefits for same-sex marriages that would be the same as those given for traditional marriages.
Transgender Regulations Repealed 2016
Another frontier was crossed when the ban on service by openly transgender persons in the military was repealed on July 1, 2016.
Last Friday 2 Okinawan local young men heard shots near the US military base. They have come close to the US base walls and saw US marines shooting dogs. There were about a hundred of them, all barking and screaming. These 2 guys reported about this to local mass media.
The reporters of this media found out that in US army dogs have limited service time. As for US Forces Japan dogs after years of service for human are collected from all bases to a special place in the centre of Okinawa Island (Central training area). As soon as this facility gets filled all dogs are to be ‘cleared’. So those 2 guys saw a procedure of dogs execution by US marines.
That’s what all friends of US get. A bullet in their backs…
Records of sexual assaults in the U.S. military in Japan, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, are opening a rare window into the opaque world of military justice.
AP analysis found the handling of allegations verged on the chaotic, with seemingly strong cases often reduced to lesser charges.
Even when military authorities agreed a crime had been committed, the suspect was unlikely to serve time.
Nearly two-thirds of those whose punishments were detailed in the records were not incarcerated. Instead they were fined, demoted, restricted to their bases or removed from the military.
In about 30 cases, a letter of reprimand was the only punishment.
Several of the documents describe investigations that appeared to indicate a crime, but were dropped with little or no explanation.
Such is the case for an investigation that began in January 2008 against a Navy doctor who would go on to sexually abuse women in the military until his clinical privileges were suspended in 2009.
Airman Tina Wilson’s name is redacted from the report, but she spoke up a day after she went to the health clinic at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, a US base southwest of Tokyo, to have a dressing changed following surgery on her tailbone.
The doctor, Lt. Cmdr. Anthony L. Velasquez, walked over to look at the wound as a corpsman took care of the dressing. Then Velasquez announced that the results were in from a staph-infection test, and that he was going to check Wilson’s lymph nodes.
He checked her neck, then went under her shirt and ran his hands up the sides of her torso. Then he asked Wilson, whose pants were unzipped because of the dressing change, to lie on her side. He felt her left hip bone, then slid his hand down the front of her pants and under her panties.
Wilson pulled up her pants, and confused and shaken, headed for the door.
“I have to tell somebody,” Wilson said in a recent interview with the AP.
“What if he’s done this before, you know. There is a little girl right behind me that’s going to see this guy next,” she said explaining her decision to report the incident.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) document summarizing the investigation prompted by Wilson’s complaint shows that three other women subsequently came forward, saying Velasquez had also touched them inappropriately.
Nevertheless, after 10 months the investigation was closed with no action.
According to the document, Yokosuka Naval Hospital declined to take any action against the doctor, and the Navy legal services office in Yokosuka determined the case would not be forwarded to Navy officials in San Diego who oversee medical operations in Japan.
Finally in 2010, after accusations from more than two dozen women, the Navy filed multiple counts of sexual misconduct and other charges against Velasquez.
Most of the charges were dropped under a plea deal.
Velasquez’s punishment: He served a week in the brig, was dismissed from the Navy, lost his license to practice medicine, and was required to register as a sex offender.
Retired Rear Adm. Richard B. Wren, the former commander of Navy forces in Japan who oversaw Velasquez’s court-martial, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Wilson, 27, left the Navy, distraught over how her case had been handled.
“It was the process that victimized me more than the day that he violated me,” Wilson said.
The number of sexual assault cases taken to courts-martial has grown steadily _ from 42 percent in 2009 to 68 percent in 2012, according to DOD figures. In 2012, of the 238 service members convicted; 74 percent served time.
“How many more rapes do we have to endure to wait and see what reforms are needed?” asked Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York.