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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ten Thousand Things blog - Connecting the Dots Around the Pacific Ocean

Here is Ten Thousand Things blog's excellent summary of the military colonization of islands throughout the Pacific Ocean.

Ten Thousand Things is the best source for more information on Okinawa, Jeju, Guam,and Hawai'i, with rich resources and links to issues in peace and sustainability.
  • Why does the U.S. government--which already controls a global military empire of over 1,000 bases--have an out-of-control appetite for more and bigger military bases, many of them located in places where locals do not want them?

    Does the US wage wars simply to acquire territory and create justification to build yet more military bases in these places--Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen?

    And how is it that most Americans remain unaware of this vast network of military bases and what it entails: confiscation of land from unwilling landowners; unceasing demands for base closures by locals (in the case of Okinawa, for more than sixty years); military-caused crime & violence (including rapes and deaths); environmental pollution and health issues created by the bases and weapons testing; and other "collateral damage"?

    And why is the US engaging in military expansion throughout the Asia-Pacific--a region of relative and stable peace since the 1970s when U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam?

    The US already has around 100 military installations in Japan and Okinawa. This includes Kadena Air Base, the largest US military base in Asia. Why does it need new helipads in a pristine Okinawan forest? The US already has at least 40 military installations in Korea. Why does it want the South Korean government to destroy a coral reef in Jeju Island--a World Heritage site because of its rich and untouched biodiversity--to build another naval base? And the US already has military bases covering 1/3 of the island of Guam.

    It's a huge stretch to consider China a military threat to the US when it is America's largest foreign creditor and given the immensity of economic integration between the two nations. In the early 1990's, political sensationalists unaware of the level of economic integration between the US and Japan predicted a US-Japan war "within twenty years." In hindsight, this appears sillly. Now similar pundits are saying the same about China.

    Similarly, China is Japan's top trading partner. Moreover, the Hatoyama administration has already eased tensions that the former Koizumi-led government created with its theatrical visits to the Yasukuni war shrine and differences with China over memories of Japan’s fifteen year invasion (1931-45) there.

    And North Korea may have an atomic bomb and a missile that can reach South Korea or waters near Japan. But if it ever engaged in such a suicidal attack--the US, Japan, and S. Korea would respond with nuclear and conventional power more than sufficient to destroy N. Korea. More bases, weapons and war games are overkill. The only solution is diplomatic engagement.

    Why put beautiful and environmentally sensitive Jeju Island, Korea; Takae (Yanbaru Forest) and Henoko, northern Okinawa; and Guam under threat of new, larger and technologically advanced US military presence--where residents are adamantly opposed--when these bases are not needed?

    What is the purpose of the new US military bases planned for Okinawa, Guam (and the South Korean naval base intended to port U.S. and South Korean Aegis destroyers outfitted with missile defense systems at Jeju Island)?

    Do they make sense to anyone besides those still infected with Cold War hangover imaginary fears?

    For almost a century, ever since the US seized control of the Philippines in 1898, the US had a military presence there. Its two major bases of the post- World War II era were Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Station--once the US' largest military installations in Asia. But after the 1986 fall of Philippine dictator and loyal US ally Ferdinand Marcos, Filipinos voted in 1991 to kick out the US military and the US was forced to relinquish both bases.

    After the fall of Saigon, in May 1975, the Royal Thai Government asked the US to close its military bases and remove all of its combat forces (27,000 troops, 300 aircraft) by 1976. In the late 1990s, Thailand also rejected new US requests to establish permanent military bases there.

    The US has nevertheless continued its military expansion in the territories of more docile Asian governments and colonies--frequently overriding the political will of the citizens and residents of those places.

    In the case of Guam, residents have generally been supportive of US military bases (which already cover 1/3 of the island)--according to filmmaker Vanessa Warheit--(whose new film The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas explores this history):
    Most families in the Marianas have family members serving in the US Armed Forces. The younger generation that has had the benefit of a college education is starting to push people to recognize the larger context -- but their culture is one that is based on a huge amount of respect for the elders (manam'ko), and the generation from the Pacific War - on Guam, anyway - still feels an enormous sense of gratitude to the US Marines for saving them from the Japanese Imperial Military.
    But because of the US' latest move to expand the bases to over 40% of the island, many Guamanians--especially the indigenous Chamoru and younger people who are concerned abou future water issues as well as a negative impact on Guam's beautiful natural environment and tourist industry--are resisting. Their opponents include a huge transnational military construction industry packed with contractors already bidding for projects.

    So now, we're witnessing local residents struggling to protect land rights; sensitive, biodiverse natural environments; and democratic processes--versus unnecessary military expansion fueled by international pork barrel politics--in Jeju island, Okinawa, and Guam.

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