Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peace Activist Farmers challenge Japan Air Force - "Armed forces aren't good for the human race."

John M. Glionna's article, "Farmers wage turf battle with Japan air force," in the Sept. 10, 2009 Los Angeles Times describes one small part of Japan's widespread grassroots peace movement. The article spotlights farmer Umezawa Masaru who recently turned down an offer of $5 million for his farmland in Hyakuri:
...The 60-year-old farmer is one of several local antiwar activists who over the last half a century have waged an often-tense turf battle with the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan's military is known.

Residents here say the military co-opted much of the area's farmland to build the air base in the 1950s, casually pushing aside hardworking farmers like so many pawns on a chessboard. Many argue that the base itself is illegal. Controversial Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution prohibits the nation from maintaining armed forces with war potential, they insist.

And so in a bold defensive maneuver, they have surrounded the base and inhabit its confines. While Umezawa's family and another hold on to land within the base, other families operate farms around its borders.

In the face of stiff resistance from the landowners, the government has followed a less-controversial policy of trying to buy land rather than seizing it by eminent domain. But the activists have refused to sell -- even when offered double the market value...

Still others have used their property to create "peace parks" within the air base, a patchwork of well-manicured oases from which they watch the young jet jockeys in the cockpits of their multimillion-dollar military hardware.

"We're a small army of people," Umezawa said, "but we've much more willpower than they do."

Umezawa believes he has to make a stand. "Armed forces just aren't good for the human race," he said...
Japanese people––across a wide stratum of society––have struggled for decades in opposition to renewed remilitarization initiated by the U.S. Occupation in tandem with US-supported militarist LDP politicians in 1947. Under the Cold War policy of "reverse course" the Occupation backpeddled from initial idealistic American goals to promote demilitarization and democracy in Japan.

(In Ann Wright's May 2008 article for the Veterans for Peace website, she depicts a larger (national and global) context of Japanese citizen actions agains militarism, telling the story of farmers protesting a U.S. artillery range in Hokkaido:
...On the roof of the building for all military aircraft flying over and for those on the land to see, Mr. Kawase has painted in huge Japanese script, the text of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution: "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of forces as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized...”)

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