Two young Italian filmmakers have posed an intriguing question in a documentary that focuses on a U.S. Army base in their country and touches on the situation in Okinawa Prefecture.Beyond Italy and Okinawa, the filmmakers connect the dots between ongoing U.S. military expansion around the world.
They sought to find out why U.S. troops continue to be deployed worldwide more than six decades after the end of World War II. The documentary "Standing Army" was completed recently by filmmaker Enrico Parenti, 31, and Thomas Fazi, a 28-year-old researcher and translator. The two were first drawn to the topic of the U.S. armed forces through a January 2007 decision by the Italian government to authorize the expansion of a U.S. Army installation in the city of Vicenza, in northern Italy. The base is the home to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and a staging area for troop deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 2,750 U.S. soldiers are assigned to the base. Under the expansion plan, an additional 2,000 troops stationed in Germany were to be transferred to Vicenza by 2012. That would make it the largest U.S. military base in Europe.
The filmmakers set out by interviewing local residents opposed to the expansion. Although an opponent to the plan was elected mayor of Vicenza in April 2008, a plebiscite he initiated against the base issue was crushed by a decision by the Council of State, Italy's highest administrative court. According to an unofficial survey of 25,000 residents by the city government, 95 percent opposed the base expansion. Coupled with the fact that 25 countries around the world, aside from Iraq and Afghanistan, now host units with 100 or more U.S. military personnel, with a total 120,000 servicemen and women scattered worldwide, the base expansion prompted the two to seek answers.
Their theme had a special meaning, particularly as Italians remain ambivalent about the continued U.S. presence after Italian fascist forces were defeated by U.S. and British troops in World War II. Many Italians sided with the Allies as part of the partisan movement. Parenti's mother is a U.S. citizen and his maternal grandfather and uncle fought in the Korean War, while Fazi's mother is British, making the issue especially poignant. Through their work with anti-base activists, Parenti and Fazi learned about a similar situation that has been facing an island halfway around the world.
The two traveled to Okinawa Prefecture to see for themselves the situation surrounding the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan. There, they watched military aircraft taking off and landing, noting that classes at a nearby school were constantly interrupted because of the roar of the engines. Including news footage of the 2004 helicopter crash at the campus of Okinawa International University near the Futenma airfield, the two sought to better understand the situation facing Okinawan residents.
The film, which has been shown at several events in Europe, was released on DVD in June.
Parenti and Fazi say they are hoping to find people willing to help show the movie and distribute the DVD in Japan.
Those interested can contact the two in English or Italian at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Obama administration has pushed to open several new bases in Columbia and Panama. In Okinawa and Guam, we see the same agenda for expansion since the 1990's and 2000's--under Clinton and Bush--unchanged by Obama's administration. The filmmakers pose these questions:
Over the course of the last century, the US has silently encircled the world with a web of military bases unlike any other in history. Today, they amount to more than 700, in at least 100 countries. No continent is spared. They are one the most powerful forces at play in the world today, yet one of the less talked-about. They have shaped the lives of millions, yet remain a mystery to most.
Why do countries like Germany, Italy and Japan – more than 60 years after the end of World War II and almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War – still host hundreds of US military bases and tens of thousands of US soldiers?
• What role do the bases play in maintaining US hegemony in the world?
• How will they shape our future?
• Is a global military presence the last resource of an economically-, politically- and culturally-declining empire?
• How do the bases impact the lives of local populations and how do these interact with their uniformed neighbours?
We will answer these and other crucial questions both through the words of prominent intellectuals, experts on the subject, political and military leaders, ex-government and CIA officials, philosophers and political activists – some of whom we have already interviewed: Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Chalmers Johnson and others – and through the shocking but often inspiring stories of those directly affected by US bases:
The citizens of Vicenza, struggling to stop the construction of yet another military base in their hometown; the Diego Garcia islanders, violently expelled from their island in the Indian Ocean to make space for a US military base, and who have been fighting for years to return to their birthplace; the many Japanese women brutalized by US soldiers in Okinawa; the various grassroots movements in Europe and Asia struggling for a base-free world; as well as those living inside the bases: the men and women who are often sent to faraway lands with little or no preparation for what they’ll find there.