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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Head's Up: Obama appoints Pesticide Lobbyist as USTR Chief Ag Negotiator--disappointing fair trade, organic & sustainability advocates worldwide

Disappointing millions of fair trade, organic, anti-GMO and sustainability advocates in the U.S. and worldwide, President Obama appointed Islam Siddiqui as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Siddiqui was one of 15 people Obama recess-appointed to government posts last weekend to bypass Senate approval hearings.

More than 80 environmental, small-farm and consumer groups opposed the GMO advocate's Senate confirmation. Siddiqui was vice president for agricultural biotechnology and trade for CropLife America, a trade group of biotech and pesticide companies, including Monsanto. CropLife fought popular initiatives seeking to ban GMO food in California--claiming that pesticides positively impact endangered species. CropLife also lobbied the Bush administration for human and child testing of pesticides, and wrote a letter to Michelle Obama urging her to use pesticides in the organic garden at the White House.

Siddiqui also worked for the Clinton Administration at U.S. Department of Agriculture as Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Senior Trade Advisor to Secretary Dan Glickman and Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.

Paula Crossfield at Civil Eats covers the story in "Pesticide Lobbyist Gets Posted as Chief Agricultural Negotiator." More at a great organic blog, Living Maxwell.

What does this mean for Japan and the rest of Asia?

It means that the USTR will be pushing GMO, non-organic, unsustainable practices (on behalf of industries)--as it did under the Bush administration. Asia is a region where governments have more respect for citizen concerns about the health risks of GMO (with notable exceptions like China's recent acceptance of GMO rice and India's acceptance of GMO cotton). The Japanese government has particularly listened to citizens' voices on this matter.

More than ever, grassroots organizations and consumers are going to have to encourage and support government efforts to maintain health and consumer standards that the USTR may falsely label "trade barriers."

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Loss of the sea would mean death to Okinawa" -- Uruma residents rally against proposed U.S. military base in their prefecture

Uruma residents raise their fists during a rally Thursday night against the relocation of U.S. Air Station Futenma to an offshore area of the city. (Photo: Mainichi)

The Mainichi reported that residents of Uruma rallied last Thursday against the Japanese government's proposal to build a U.S. milittary base on an artificial island on their beach:
Residents of this Okinawa Prefecture city have held a rally to express their opposition to a government plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to an offshore area of the city.

More than 500 people attended the rally held at a hall in Uruma on Thursday night. The gathering was organized by a liaison council of citizens opposing the relocation that was formed by former prefectural assembly members and others...

Mitsue Tomiyama, co-leader of the council, expressed anger at the relocation plan. "How far will the government ridicule local residents?"

The rally attendees adopted a resolution stating that "we are protesting to the government for ridiculing Okinawa. The loss of the sea would lead to the death of Okinawa." They then demanded that the government withdraw the plan to relocate Futenma to an offshore area of the White Beach district of Uruma, and close down Futenma base.

On March 19, the Uruma Municipal Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution opposing the plan while Mayor Toshio Shimabukuro has also voiced opposition to the plan.

20 years and counting- Kyoto Action for a military-base free Okinawa

US for Okinawa Network members join Kyoto Action at a Saturday rally in January

Twenty years ago, when Keiko (pseudonym) started protesting the military occupation of Okinawa, she never would have believed how much media and governmental attention the cause of the Okinawan people in removing military bases from their lands would be garnering today.

Keiko is a members of Kyoto Action, an organization opposing bases in Futenma, Henoko, and beyond that began holding Saturday rallies in the heart of Kyoto City in 2004 to distribute information about the military occupation of Okinawa, its members would never have believed

Kyoto Action member discusses the impact of bases in Okinawa with a passerby

The photos above are from a Kyoto Action rally in January which included members of the newly formed Kyoto Branch of the US for Okinawa Network. A Peruvian man of Okinawan heritage and several United Stations, joined Kyoto Action members of all generations, ages 19-82, in appealing for a base-free Okinawa. Long-time member Takeichi Tsuneo proclaimed that "only through collaborating internationally will we reach our goal of a base-free Okinawa." Although the group is specifically campaigning for Okinawa, it also calls for the removal of military bases from Guam, Hawai'i and island nations.

An excerpt from the Kyoto Action flyer states:
In Heneko, where the beautiful and plentiful ocean spreads along the beach and is home to endangered species such as the dugong, both the Japanese and U.S. governments are planning to fill up the sea to construct a new U.S. military base. In the local towns, old men and women who have survived the terrible Okinawa War are still leading sit-in protest actions. They have been conducting these protest sit-ins every single day for more than 10 years. Every day, with deep devotion, they start their canoes and ships to protect their beloved sea. And even, now a desperate protest action continues against construction imposed upon them by force by our government. Now Henoko needs many more people to come help take part in their protests. They need stronger voices for opposition for more people to pay more attention.

Here in Kyoto, we too object to U.S. military base construction in Okinawa. Some people might say they don't care about Okinawa, because they can not imagine what Okinawa is like. Well, we want to end their indifference. We don't want to live lives based on tormenting others. We invite you to join our action and raise your voice against the U.S. military base construction in Okinawa.

To join the members of Kyoto Action in their activities, email no_base@livedoor.com or join them every Saturday from 5pm-630pm in front of the shopping district at Kawaramachi Sanjo.


For more information about activities of US for Okinawa in Kyoto email Jennifer at teeter42@gmail.com and refer to the website for information about the Tokyo branch (http://us-for-okinawa.blogspot.com/)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Earth Hour" call around the world for a binding pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions

Millions of people concerned about sustainability are observing "Earth Hour" around the world--turning off their lights at 8:30 p.m.--in a call for a binding pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Lai Peace Park where U.S. Veterans, My Lai survivors, & Hibakusha gathered to pray for the end of war and for world peace


Children in My Lai, (Photo: My Lai Peace Park website)


The My Lai Peace Park was initiated by Quakers of Madison, Wisconsin and Vietnam war veteran Mike Boehm to help heal ongoing trauma from the Vietnam War experienced by Vietnamese civilians, veterans and American veterans.
Beginning with the My Lai Loan Fund, established January 10, 1994, the Madison Quakers have funded a series of projects in My Lai. They include the My Lai Primary Schools, My Lai Peace Park, medical supplies, and the Art Penpals project. Other projects funded by the Madison Quakers are loan funds in seventeen other villages (as of 2007), the construction of 'compassion houses', aid for ethnic minorities, the Sisters Meeting Sisters project and more.

The objectives of these projects go beyond economic aid. For almost 40 years My Lai has been evoked only in the context of grief, anger and recrimination. Before beginning our first project in My Lai the Madison Quakers were resolved to break that chain of hatred and to find ways to re-humanize people who had been de-humanized; the Vietnamese people certainly, but also American veterans, anti-Vietnam war protestors and others. By breaking the chains of hatred which have kept us apart we begin to understand that we are more alike than we are different.

We have shown over the years that if we can sit down with humility and respect and a willingness to listen and learn from each other then anything is possible. If hope can rise from the ashes of My Lai it can arise anywhere.
In 2008, Nanzan University historian Hiroshi Fujimoto, together with Mike Boehm, accompanied a group of Hibakusha to My Lai Peace Park for the 40th anniversary of My Lai where they gathered with the survivors of the My Lai massacre on March 16 in a plea for the end of weapons of mass destruction and peace in the world.

The Madison Quakers have worked with the people of My Lai to build primary schools; to fund hundreds of My Lai women in small businesses, and to build simple "Compassion Houses" for families Agent Orange victims.

Mike Boehm's moving "Hope Rises from the Ashes of My Lai," the story of his journey from war in Vietnam to "homelessness," (a healing time of retreat), to working to heal trauma from the Vietnam War in himself, other veterans, and survivors in Vietnam and their descendants--shows how positive transformation in one human being has ripple effects to others and the larger world. In Boehm's life, this led to the flowering of healing and hope at My Lai Peace Park.

"Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all." -- Oscar Romero

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.

-- Oscar Romero

Monday, March 22, 2010

U.S. says Okinawan base expansion plan must have local approval; hopefully the U.S. will extend that standard to its existing bases on the island

In a 180 degree shift from its previous position over the past 14 years (insistance that Okinawans accept an unwanted military base expansion in an ecologically sensitive area of northwestern Okinawa) the U.S. told the Japanese government that the local population must approve the base.

The proposed expansion would have destroyed the only habitat of the critically endangered Okinawan dugong  a federally protected natural monument. The prior U.S. insistence is comparable to Japan asking Americans to approve a Japanese military base inside the U.S. that would have destroyed the last habitat of the the Bald Eagle. Not surprisingly, Okinawans throughout the island—joined by millions of environmentalists around the world—have fiercely protested the U.S./Japan expansion since its announcement.

Concurrent with its new stance on Okinawa, the U.S. might cancel its plans for military expansion in Guam--where 30% of the small island is covered with military bases.

This proposed expansion was another part of the U.S. plan for "Full Spectrum Dominance" in the Asia-Pacific, embraced by former PM Koizumi, a neo-con who initiated the integration of Japan's Self Defense Forces with the U.S. military. Koizumi's administration also entered into a 2006 agreement with the Bush administration to move forward on the controversial proposal, even after it had been successfully challenged by environmentalists in a U.S. court.

The proposed Guam expansion would have included moving 8,000 Marines to that small island. This "build-up" met with resistance in Guam, was criticized by the EPA, and may be in reconsidered as well:
The Futemma transfer is part of a broader 2006 realignment road map for U.S. forces stationed in Japan, which also includes the relocation of 8,000 Marines to the U.S. territory of Guam by 2014.

The planned transfer of the Marines may be shelved if the Futemma facility is kept in continued use.
The U.S. troops in Okinawa are not there for any ongoing use involved in the defense of Japan and Okinawa. They use the prefecture for weapons testing and war training.

Japan's Self Defense Forces is large, with the most sophisticated navy in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan ranked 7th in the world—spending $46.3 billion on its military (3% of the world's total military spending) in 2008.

However, its military—as are all other national militaries worldwide—is dwarfed by the U.S., which ranked 1st—spending$ 607 billion (41.5% of the world's total).

China ranked 2nd—spending $84.9 billion (5.8%). France and the UK ranked 3rd and 4th—each spending about $65 billion (4%). Russia was 5th--spending $58.6 billion. Germany was 6th—spending almost the same amount as Japan.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jay Gilliam of US for Okinawa: Media discourse on US-Japan base expansion plan for Okinawa overlooks Article 9

In a letter, "Peace link to base relocation," to the Japan Times, Jay Gilliam of US for Okinawa points out that media discourse on the US-Japan plan to expand a U.S. military base in Okinawa overlooks Japan's Peace Constitution:
News coverage of discussions between Washington and Tokyo over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, has curiously been silent on the connections with Japan's "peace" Constitution. As an American citizen and graduate student in conflict resolution at International Christian University in Tokyo, I am saddened that both countries are not working hard enough to re-imagine and re-orient East Asian security toward beaches and not bases.

Today, we — in Japan and the United States — have the chance to take an even stronger stance for peace in East Asia by rejecting arguments for regional security based on U.S. military might and by embracing confidently the peace-loving spirit of Japan's Constitution and its people, especially Okinawans, who have democratically voted against bearing the burden of living so dangerously close to military bases.

This year, during the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance, both countries should not miss the opportunity to show that Japan and the U.S. will again hold their honored places in international society, striving to secure East Asia by more peaceful, nonmilitary means — not by bullying. Despite calls to honor the 2006 relocation agreement, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and U.S. President Barack Obama should honor the calls — from Okinawa to Oslo — for peace. This would be a more fitting way to bring the alliance into the 21st century.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jeju Island, Korea soft coral habitat under threat of planned naval base construction

This 2010 video shows the soft coral habitat in the Gangjeong sea, which will be destroyed, if the proposed Jeju naval base proceeds.Jeju Island is a beautiful volcanic island south of Korea, with Mt. Halla--the highest mountain in all of South Korea--at its center. 12% of the island is covered by a Gotjawal Forest, a pristine, naturally formed forest habitat for unique and endangered plants and animals. Groundwater from Gotjawal is the main water source for the island's half millon residents.

In 2007, UNESCO named Jeju a World Heritage site:
Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes together comprise three sites that make up 18,846 ha. It includes Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere, with its multicoloured carbonate roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava walls; the fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, rising out of the ocean, a dramatic landscape; and Mount Halla, the highest in Korea, with its waterfalls, multi-shaped rock formations, and lake-filled crater. The site, of outstanding aesthetic beauty, also bears testimony to the history of the planet, its features and processes.
Jeju is also a UN designated biosphere preservation zone with 137 designated cultural assets all over the island.

The southern coast of Jeju is home to the soft coral habitat in the video. In 2001, the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration designated it a national monument protection area. It appeared that the South Korean government recognized and valued the irreplaceable and unique natural beauty and traditional indigenous culture of Jeju.

However, in 2006, the South Korean government made another designation based on a profit rather than a preservation motive. It named Jeju a "free international city" to make way for gambling casinos and a naval base in southern Jeju intended to port U.S. and South Korean Aegis destroyers outfitted with missile defense systems that the villagers say will be used to surround China's coast--potentially making their once peaceful island a target if hostilities break out.

Peace activist Bruce Gagnon wrote in October at his blog that the South Korean government approached three villages about hosting the base. The first two turned the government down. So, in the case of the third village, Gangjeong, the government decided to offer bribes to some of the residents. Most of the residents remained opposed to the base, but the bribes created enough of a division to allow government to say they will build the base in this village:
The villagers of Gangjeong do not see the Navy base as offering them much. Their local economy is thriving from the tangerine groves that are everywhere in the town and from the abundant numbers of tourists who come there to experience the seaside. In fact the Navy base would take significant portions of their village land now used for farming and would destroy the environment. The rocky shoreline would be covered with cement and the proposed base pier would extend to the edge of where the fresh water Gangjeong River flows into the sea.

Kang, Dong Kyun, the mayor of the village and a key protest leader, told me that 70% of the drinking water for the community comes from the river and would surely be negatively impacted by the Navy base. Take away our water, he said, and you destroy the town.

Throughout the village you see many tall bamboo poles with yellow flags on them that say, "We desperately oppose the Naval base." But no one in the government wants to listen to them. They have tried all the usual steps of meeting with government officials, organizing protests, and they recently tried to recall their provincial governor in a special election but did not turn out a high enough percentage of voters to make the vote official.

Mayor Kang told me, "This is the land of our ancestors that we must pass on to the future generations. This village must not be used as a 'strategic' base but must be preserved. The government is dividing people against each other which is the worst thing of all. The long lasting people will ultimately win."
Sung-Hee Choi at Nobasestorieskorea.blogspot.com has been following the nonviolent protests of the villagers which include elderly people and tangerine farmers.

The South Korean government must be reminded of its own earlier acknowledgement and understanding of the reality of the irreplaceable value of Jeju Island's natural and cultural beauty, including the residents of Gangjeong. A guided missile base is going to destroy the soft coral habitat and living cultural treasures (the tangerine farmers & elders), and is not going to attract tourists.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"The Biggest Global Movement in History" — Citizen Action for Biodiversity, Indigenous & Traditional cultures, Sustainability, Peace & Justice



It is my belief that we are part of a movement that is greater and deeper and broader than we ourselves know or can know. It flies under the radar of the media by and large. It is nonviolent. It is grassroots. It has no clusterbombs, no armies, and no helicopters. It has no central ideology. A male vertebrate is not in charge.


This unnamed movement is the most diverse movement the world has ever seen. The very word "movement" is too small to describe it. No one started this worldview. No one is in charge of it. There is no orthodoxy. It is global, classless, unquenchable, and tireless. Its shared understanding is arising spontaneously from different economic sectors, cultures, regions, and cohorts. It is growing and spreading worldwide, with no exception.

It has many roots. But primarily the origins are indigenous cultures, the environment and social justice movements. Those three sectors and their subsectors are intertwining, morphing, and enlarging... This is a democracy movement...It's marked by kinship, communities, symbiosis. It's Pachamama ("Mother Universe"). It's Mama. It's the earth talking back, waking up...
The talk is now three years old––but this clip of Paul Hawken speaking at a 2006 Bioneers conference describing the collective energy of hundreds of thousands of civil society organizations made up of tens of million of people––if not more, from all over our planet–– is breathtaking and more relevant than ever.

The social entrepreneur drew his talk from his 2007 book, Blessed Unrest: How The Largest Movement in the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.

The movement Hawken describes is not something new. Citing poet/environmentalist Gary Snyder and actor/activist/writer Peter Coyote––Blessed Unrest refers to "the great underground, a current of humanity that dates back to the Paleolithic and its lineage can be traced back to healers, priestesses, philosophers, monks, rabbis, poets, and artists 'who speak for the planet, for other species, for interdependence, a life that courses under and through and around empires.'"

Hawken's imagination was captured by not only the explosion of movements––but also by the shift towards the "intertwingling" of causes––environmentalism; sustainability; biodiversity; indigenous issues; civil society, children's issues; community development; cultural heritage; democratic activism; fair trade; good governance; human rights; social, and economic justice; disarmament and peacemaking; water and other resource rights; and gender issues.

Orion excerpts Blessed Unrest here.

Four Rivers massive construction/dam/dredging project will destroy rivers, wetlands, and biodiversity in South Korea

Reuters: "South Korea green growth to hurt environment: report":
Lee's government intends to spend 22.2 trillion won ($19.68 billion) to dredge, dam and beautify four major rivers with golf courses and bike trails in a plan that is supposed to increase the supply and quality of fresh water and prevent flooding.

"(It) will impact 50 bird species negatively, causing further declines in several sensitive waterbird species that are ecologically dependent on shallow rivers, flood-plain wetlands and estuaries," the conservation group Birds Korea said in a report released on Thursday.

The group, which has conducted some of the most extensive studies of waterfowl in the country, said the further damming and deepening of rivers through dredging will lead to the decline of feeding grounds and biodiversity.

"We have lost almost all of the natural stretches. This project is going to kill off what little remains," Nial Moores, director of Birds Korea, told Reuters.

Among the species threatened with habitat loss and population declines are several listed globally as critically endangered -- including the spoon-billed sandpiper -- and others South Korea lists as "national natural monuments."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nonviolent Pink Joan of Arc duo lead World Peace Now's commemoration of the 7th anniversary of the US/UK invasion of Iraq this Saturday in Tokyo

"Pink Jeanne d'Arc" performance artists Kunihiko Ukai and Rena Masuyama, a/k/a "Momo Iro Jean," promise to liven up the event with their special celebration event against war...(Photo: Renaart.exblog.jp)

At this time of record military spending; the push for military schools, and obstinate military empire-building by a few very rich people against the wishes of the billions of peace-loving people in our world—the world more than ever needs a Nonviolent Pink Joan of Arc.

Performance artists Kunihiko Ukai and Rena Masuyama subvert the dominant Western paradigm (embodied in the original Joan of Arc who wielded a sword and killed in the name of God—in quest of power and territory) that violent force is the best way to acquire resources, land, and resolve conflicts. Of course—on an unevolved and morally challenged level— it makes some sense that nations that have no legitimate claim to territories would resort to violence—knowing that their positions would not be honored in civilized forums.

Rena Masuyama is the wife of Shiva Rei, a freelance journalist who reported from Iraq. Rei will be one of the speakers at Peace Not War, Japan's upcoming "Spring Love" event. Masuyama used to be part of a performance art peace group called the "Momoiro (peach-colored, as in the color of buttocks) Guerillas"—another subversive inversion of the the concept of the macho mindset that emotionally fuels the war paradigm. The "Momoiro Guerillas" had nothing (no ill will, no violent intent) to hide in contrast to armored, armed, and camouflaged guerilla warriors.

Pink Jeanne D'Arc will be performing at the World Peace Now event commemorating the 7th anniversary of the ongoing U.S. war in Iraq.

Thanks for the head's up to Martin Frid at his Kurashi--the "Eco" Blog:
Peace groups are gathering at noon in Tokyo on Saturday for a big anti-war event on the 7th anniversary of the Iraq War.

The booths with information as well as rally speeches start at 13:00. Do join the parade, as they call the demonstration, starting at 15:00 from Shiba Koen.

There are events in the evening as well, with music and presentations.

Background on World Peace Now from Jennifer Chan's Another Japan is Possible: New Social Movements and Global Citizen Education (short excerpt of interview with Machiko Hanawa):
World Peace Now (WPN) came into being as an amorphous network when youth-centered groups centered around CHANCE!pono2 and many civic groups (dominated by relatively older people) taking action against the attack on Iraq got together and organized the first demonstration on October 26, 2002. In that first attempt, eight hundred people joined.

WPN started as a broad coalition of individuals in citizens' groups, religious groups, and international NGOs who have agreed on four principles: no more war, opposition to the war in Iraq, opposition to the Japanese government's support and cooperation for the attack on Iraq, and nonviolent action. There were some thirty organizations at the beginning, but currently the number has increased to fifty.

Until this kind of coalition came into being, many NGOs in Japan focused on a single theme and acted separately. In order to overcome this, we requested the participation and self-expression of NGOs in different fields, including Peace Boat and Greenpeace Japan. In this way, on Jan. 18, 2003, before the start of the attack on Iraq, seven thousand people participated in the demonstration in Tokyo, and fifty thousand people joined on March 21, 2003, right after the attack was started. After December 2003, when the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) joined the occupation of Iraq, opposition to the occupation of Iraq and immediate withdrawal of SDF became WPN's demands.

In March 2004, the first anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, WPN also joined the international antiwar action again. This time, 130,000 people in 120 places across Japan marched on the streets.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Standing Army: A journey into the world of US military bases, one of the most defining--and less-talked about--realities of our time


Standing Army is a new documentary film from Italian-American director Enrico Parenti and Anglo-Italian director Thomas Fazi.

The filmmakers connect the dots between continued U.S. military expansion around the world. The Obama administration has pushed to open several new bases in Columbia and Panama. In Italy, citizens are still protesting the expansion of a US military base into the last green space in Vicenza--a World Heritage site. In Japan and Guam, we see the same agenda for expansion since the 1990's and 2000's--under Clinton and Bush--unchanged with Obama's presidency.
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.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vandana Shiva: GMO crops "suicidal" compared to native crops adapted to flood & drought--"Resilience is built through diversity"

GMO companies have pushed their way into India, persuading small farmers to purchase expensive GMO seeds on borrowed money. Many of these farmers have committed suicide after the promises of better cotton yields turned out to be false hype--poor or bad GMO crop yields resulted in insufficient income to pay back their debts.

In February, India's government imposed a moratorium on the use of a GMO eggplant because of safety concerns.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Indian environmentalist and GMO-free advocate Vandana Shiva, warned that the use of genetically modified crops is "suicidal" because they, unlike native and normal crops, cannot adapt to flooding and drought:
"The (GM) system is more about companies making money from farmers than food security..."

Plenty of drought- and flood-resistant traditional crop varieties already exist and simply need to be brought back to market, supporters of traditional farming say.

Shiva said India has hundreds of varieties of rice, and many that show resistance to flooding, drought and saltwater are now being carefully bred at Indian research institutes to increase yields and are then re-released to farmers.

In India's northeast Assam province, where fields have been flooded for weeks after intense rains, demand has surged for two rice varieties that can survive weeks under water and also produce well even in dry conditions.

Planting a broader variety of crop strains - rather than a couple of GM varieties - should help protect the world food supply and insure it against emerging climate threats, including an expanding range of crop pests.

While a pest might decimate some varieties of crops, it is unlikely it could destroy a wide range of varieties, she said.

"Resilience is built through diversity," Shiva said.

Keeping small farmers on their land is also key, she said, because small farmers are more productive per acre than big-scale growers, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation's figures.

"The majority of people in the world are still farming on small farms," she said. "If we're addressing food security we'd better enhance the security of small farms."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

U.S.-based "Network for Okinawa" launches website: Closethebase.org

The U.S.-based "Network for Okinawa" has launched its new website: CloseTheBase.org.

So far the website offers:

•  A Center for Biological Diversity sign-on letter to President Obama and Prime Minister Hatoyama addressing the environmental damages of the planned project to open a U.S. military base to Henoko, Okinawa.

• An article, "Can Japan Say No to Washington?," by John Feffer, of Foreign Policy in Focus, exploring the Okinawa base issue within the context of U.S. military empire.

•  A petition, "We must protect the reef and its inhabitants." Speak out and tell President Obama to protect Okinawa’s reefs and stop all plans for the construction of a military base.

For in-depth background on US military bases in Okinawa, see Satoko Norimatsu's Peace Philosophy Centre blog and Japanfocus.org.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

NHK's "Korekara" focuses on the planned expansion of a US Marine base in Henoko--an ecologically sensitive area in northern Okinawa

From Martin Frid's Kurashi--News From Japan blog:
If you live in Japan, tonight's program at NHK starting Friday evening at 22:00 pm promises to be a very interesting show. The NHK Korekara is a debate program with a long history. They do their resarch and invite only the best to talk about the Korekara issues.

これから of course in the sense of "from now on" or "what's next" so it is very timely that NHK will devote this hour to Okinawa issues.

Living here, I just humbly wish this NHK show would be broadcast elsewhere as well, as an inspiration to all the peace activists around the world.

Do write and ask your local TV station to contact NHK and find a way to talk about this issue not only in Japan but everywhere else where American military bases are a part of the daily life. How many places? How many military bases does the United States of America have on foreign soil?

The NHK Korekara program is a standard feature with a long history. The producers and everyone will take great care to make a balanced, fair program that makes sense to Japanese viewers. I'm glad that people like long-time Japan resident Kimberly Hughes from US for Okinawa will participate. But I'm actually more interested in how NHK Korekara will portray and present the concerns of people in Okinawa, Japan. Stay tuned.

"War Makes People Insane": Dramatic work by performance artist Tari Ito lays bare the realities of military sexual violence


(Photo: Kimberly Hughes)

This past Saturday, in a compact event space in Tokyo’s Waseda district, performance artist Tari Ito climbed atop a chair and slowly unfolded a small cardboard box. A solemn expression on her face, she began rhythmically shaking the box back and forth, slowly at first and then gradually faster, the nails spilling out in a cascade of showering steel that soon reached a furious crescendo. After the box was emptied, she began crawling around on the floor to collect the nails with a large magnet, occasionally interrupting herself to pick up some of the nails with her teeth and spit them aside.

Ito’s subsequent actions were no less startling. Rubbing two glass Coca-Cola bottles together in a screeching cacophony, she then began drinking from similarly shaped rubber versions that were filled with water, soaking the entire front of her shirt in the process. With footage of U.S. military airplanes projected onto the wall behind her, she next began blowing up the rubber bottles like balloons (or condoms?) before turning to frenziedly slurp the water directly off the table.

                                                                   (Photo: Sheila Souza)

Once again becoming somber, Ito turned to begin carefully laying down small T-shirts onto the floor, which she then affixed to the ground using tape covered with handwriting. Silently reading to herself before ripping off each piece, her expression conveying deep concern and pain, she then shared with the audience several examples of what she herself had written on the tape: the details of individual crimes committed by U.S. military personnel against women in Okinawa.

As she had done previously with the nails, Ito then began painstakingly gathering up each piece of tape, until each individual story of human suffering had been swallowed up as unrecognizable pieces of the larger narrative.


(Photos: Sheila Souza)

"When I performed several years ago at a museum in Okinawa, where I was positioned directly in front of an image depicting the battle that had taken place there during World War II, I became so overwhelmed that I
later had no recollection of anything other than the very beginning and end of the performance," she shared with the Tokyo audience in a talk session following Saturday's show. “It was almost like I had blacked out mentally.”

Ito, who has performed various works on social themes including gender, sexuality, and war for the past several decades across Asia, Europe and the Americas, said the following in an artist statement about Saturday’s performance, which is titled “One Response”:
The theme of my performance is the existence of survivors of sexual violence, who have been treated as non-existent. By sexual violence I mean that which has been conducted under military regimes, and by survivors, I mean women who were forced into military rape camps called “comfort stations” by Japan’s Imperial Army between the late 1930s through 1945 as it expanded its military front all over Asia. Following Japan’s surrender, Okinawa was occupied by the U.S. dictatorship until 1972, and a large part of its land has been continuously retained by the U.S. military to date. The survivors I am referring to also include the numerous people who were raped by military personnel stationed in those U.S. bases.

The systematic crimes of the Japanese military, and those committed by American soldiers, have significantly different meanings. They are also similar, however, in the sense that war makes people insane. These crimes are also not different when we consider the fact that soldiers of both armies have sexually assaulted women and children in random attacks, including all-too-often incidents of murder. Many of these survivors have had their integrity torn apart, and have remained unable to express what happened to them. They have been traumatized and deprived of their lives.

While living in contemporary Japanese society, I have witnessed the denial of the past existence of “comfort women,” or Japanese military sexual slaves. Descriptions of this system have been deleted from students' history textbooks, and a flock of right-wingers recently disrupted a panel exhibition organized in Tokyo by a civil group on this issue. Similarly, I have also witnessed the abandonment of human rights of people in Japan by the Japanese government, as the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement withholds their right to bring lawsuits against crimes committed by U.S. service members in Japan.

To act against the huge power behind these incidents of sexual violence, I often doubt whether the expression of performance art can really make a difference. But still, I continue. I am unable to ignore this issue, and I continue to have faith in the possibilities of performance art.

I believe that Japanese people, women in particular, have a responsibility to bring about a political resolution regarding the issue of sexual enslavement by the Japanese military. We must demand that our government apologize and pay reparations, as the victims have been demanding for years. Second, we must work to ensure that such wrongdoings are never repeated.

Whatever the form of violence—whether it is domestic violence in everyday life, or frequent occurrence of sex offenses by the US military personnel in Japan—it is not an exaggeration to say that as long as we do not resolve the problem of wartime sexual enslavement by the Imperial Army in the past, we are in fact allowing the causes of violence against women to prevail. Existing discrimination against women continues to be justified because people lack adequate human rights consciousness.

In order for Japan to mature as a nation, this situation must be resolved.
Tari Ito's Japanese-language website is here.


(Photo: Kimberly Hughes)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March 10 -- Anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising in Lhasa against the Chinese in Tibet

March 10th is the 51st anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day, commemorating the 1959 Tibetan uprising in Lhasa against the Chinese in Tibet.

There will be a ceremony in Dharamsala and HHDL will give a statement (English text will be available).

There will be a live webcast of the ceremony on 10th March at 8:30am IndianStandardTime (GMT+05) which can be seen at the Dalai Lama live website.

The Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the 51st Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day honors Tibetans who remain steadfast in their nonviolent resistance to Chinese repression and attempts to eradicate Buddhist practitioners and Buddhist culture in Tibet; voices solidarity with the Ughyurs who are facing parallel repression; expresses gratitude to India, other governments, and all those who continue to support Tibetans.

Lydia Venieri: "Free the Panchen Lama"

                                                    Lydia Venieri's "Free the Panchen Lama"

Greek-born artist Lydia Venieri's massive photographs on satin examine state-perpetrated violence through the eyes of children's dolls.

Her disturbing juxtaposition of the innocence of childhood with examples of aggressive invasion and war around the world shatters mainstream images normalizing state violence. Violent nations use militarized education, media, sporting events and other forms of socialization to encourage the acceptance of state violence as a "natural" feature of our domestic and global landscapes.

Venieri, a New York-based artist awakens us from the desensitization that results from the daily bombardment of dressed-up images of militarism and war by reminding us of our child's heart.

On May 14, 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was named the 11th Panchen Lama by the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. A few days later, Chinese authorities arrested Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and removed his family from Tibet. He has not been seen since May 17, 1995.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Japanese & Okinawan anti-nuclear & peace mission find shared concerns in dialogue with indigenous Chamoru and other residents of Guam

A Japanese and Okinawan peace mission visited Guam to share their experience under US military occupation with their counterparts on the small island. Their dialogue with the indigenous Chamoru and other residents of Guam revealed shared parallel US military occupation experiences since the end of the Pacific War and shared concerns about continuing US military escalation on their small islands. DMZ Hawai'i reposted this story by Therese Hart published in the Marianas Variety:
Tsuru Masaaki, leader of the 21-member delegation known as the Kyushu block Japan Congress against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs said yesterday that the delegation’s mission was to share with Guam residents and leaders, the hardships their people have gone through with the military presence in Japan and to learn from local residents and leaders the issues facing Guam and the impending military buildup and its presence here.

When asked by Variety if the group planned to have an alliance with Guam, Masaaki said that they had no particular plan to draft any joint resolution or take any kind of action, but because they met with Guam residents and exchanged experiences, “We promised to continue to help and to have an exchange so in the future, we’re going to do something.”

“We came here to know the situation of Guam because we heard that in Guam people have the same kind of problems as the people in Japan. We came here to see the situation, only, not really have a special purpose of implementation.

Masaaki is from the Fukuoka Prefecture and is an attorney, as well as the executive chairman of Fukuoka local Japan Congress against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs Saga Prefecture.

Uezu Yoshinao from Okinawa shared his views of the military presence in Okinawa, saying that Futenma Airbase is the most dangerous air base in the world.

Yoshinao backed up his statement saying that Futenma airbase is located near residential homes and public buildings. In August, 2004, a U.S. helicopter crashed and parts of the copter flew towards the residential area.

“Years ago, a U.S. helicopter crashed and part of the copter flew towards the residential area and people were really scared. Fortunately, there was nobody who was injured by that accident, but people are always facing that kind of fear,” said Yoshinao.

Yoshinao said that this situation would never have existed in the United States.

“In the U.S. this location cannot exist. Futenma airbase is near a residential area and public buildings. If this were in the U.S. you couldn’t build an airport in that area that is close to a residential area. So why in Japan, can you be allowed to do that and not in the U.S.? So as soon as possible, the airbase should be removed from there,” said Yoshinao.

Yoshinao said that incidents that will never be forgotten is one such as the rape of young Okinawan girls by U.S. military personnel.

The raping of young girls in Okinawa … this is just one example…The people of Okinawa has been suffering so that is why we want the U.S. bases out of Okinawa,” he said.

Yoshinao said he believes that the U.S. bases or military presence in Okinawa is representative of the United States itself. Therefore, the U.S. government must take responsibility for the base.

Senator Tina Muna Barnes said that it was clear from the beginning of the dialogue that local prefectures from Japan have the same concerns as Guam.

“They are on a fact-finding mission. There are concerns and parallels with issues such as ours regarding their land, their marine life, the aspect of how air space is being utilized, and self determination. I think all those things — we share all those concerns as common ground — so when is the United States going to step up to the plate to make sure there’s collaboration and there’s a fair playing field for everyone,” opined the lawmaker.
Kuam.com's Nick Delgado also published a story on the same mission:
Nearly two-dozen officials from various parts of Japan met with island leaders today to get a better understanding of how Guam feels about the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to the island. And it seems both Japan and Guam are on the same page.

"This group is a peace group they advocate peace," said Senator Judi Guthertz. Local leaders shared similar concerns about the military buildup with a visiting delegation from Japan. Organizations represented in the group include the Social Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Congress Against A-&-H Bombs, and several Japan labor unions and peace organizations. Officials questioned island senators about the reaction from the community when it came to issues stated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, as well as how Guam handled the military giving back land they once used.

It's a problem both Senator Ben Pangelinan and Speaker Judi Won Pat say remain unresolved. "We continue to be restricted in full development of this land because of the contamination caused by the United States activities on those lands." "We have so many similarities that not one of their toxic sites have been cleaned up, none of ours has actually with the exception only of one," they said respectfully.

Okinawan Movement for Peace Central Manager Yoshinao Uezu shares his concerns for Guam as he says the people of Okinawa have more than the excepted handful of troubles when it came to the military. "Okinawan people have been suffering from all the environmental problems like noise, not only from the Marines, but all the military personnel they got all the noise and also the incidents and accidents and we have been suffering a lot," said Uezu.

Uezu didn't have much advice to give about life with the Marines, however, he hopes that Guam will not have to be placed in the same battle they're dealing with today. "I think much more complex feelings the Guam people have about the U.S. bases, but now I understand the situation of Guam and learned a lot, so I want to bring this experience to Okinawa," he said.

As the delegation continues their tour of the island, group leader Masaaki Tsuru, who is from Fukuoka, says their goal is to get to the bottom of the real situation that the military has planned for Guam. "We go back to Japan and we let them know what we get to know here and continue to fight against the U.S. bases in Japan," said Tsuru.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Full Spectrum Peacebuilding unites traditional conservatives, traditional liberals, libertarians & progressives

Dot Walsh of The Peace Abbey, a multi-faith retreat center near Boston, shared this article about an emergent coalition in the US--spanning the political spectrum--that seeks to end the war in Afghanistan and to halt US military expansionism ("Full Spectrum Dominance").

Some of the across-the-spectrum organizations involved (Cato Institute (traditional conservative) and The Institute for Policy Studies (progressive) also support the Network for Okinawa.

Here's a report from Sam Smith of the US-based Progressive Review on what they're calling "Full Spectrum Peacebuilding":
Last Saturday I spent eight hours with three dozen other people in a basement conference room of a Washington hotel engaged in an extraordinary exercise of mind and hope.

The topic was, by itself, depressingly familiar: building an anti-war coalition. What made it so strikingly different was the nature of those at the table. They included progressives, conservatives, traditional liberals and libertarians. Some reached back to the Reagan years or to 1960s activism, some - including an SDS leader from the University of Maryland and several Young Americans for Liberty - were still in college...

The session had been conceived by long time activist and current head of Voters for Peace, Kevin Zeese, along with artist George D. O'Neill, Jr. who had been chair of the Rockford Institute, a leading traditional conservative intellectual think tank in the 1980s, and who had worked on Pat Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign.

What we shared was an antipathy towards war. It was not so much that we were anti-war as we were seeking a post-war world. Our approaches might differ but our goals were, at worst, next door.

As Zeese put it in an introduction the session, it was about "views from the right, left and radical center, views that reflect those of many Americans which are not represented in the political dialogue in Congress or the White House, or the mainstream media. Throughout American history there have been times when movements developed that were outside the limited political dialogue of the two major parties...

"Polling actually shows majorities often oppose war and escalation of war. But these views are not represented in government or the media. In addition, opposition to war is not limited to people on the left; it covers the American political spectrum and it always has. There is a long history of opposition to war among traditional conservatives. Their philosophy goes back to President Washington's Farewell Address where he urged America to avoid 'foreign entanglements.' It has showed itself throughout American history. The Anti-Imperialist League opposed the colonialism of the Philippines in the 1890s. The largest anti-war movement in history, the America First Committee, opposed World War II and had a strong middle America conservative foundation in its make-up. The strongest speech of an American president against militarism was President Eisenhower's 1961 final speech from the White House warning America against the growing military-industrial complex. In recent years the militarist neo-conservative movement has become dominate of conservatism in the United States. Perhaps none decry this more than traditional conservatives who oppose massive military budgets, militarism and the American empire.

"Of course, the left also has a long history of opposition to war from the Civil War to early imperialism in the Philippines, World Wars I and II through Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It includes socialists, Quakers, social justice Catholics and progressives. Indeed, the opposition to entry into World War I was led by the left including socialists, trade unionists, pacifists including people like union leader and presidential candidate Eugene Debs, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams and author and political activist Helen Keller. . .

"Opposition to Vietnam brought together peace advocates with the civil rights movement, highlighted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s outspoken opposition to the war. . . .

Chris Barnard's "Full Spectrum" Dominance" exhibiting at Sam Lee Gallery in LA through March 13

Chis Banard: "Dogfight", 2007, Oil on canvas

LA-based visual artist Chris Barnard's series of paintings, "Full Spectrum Dominance," is on exhibition at the Sam Lee Gallery in LA's Chinatown.
Chris Barnard’s Full Spectrum Dominance — a subversive reference to the strategic United States military doctrine "Joint Vision 2020" – features large-scale, oil on canvases that examine connections between landscape painting and contemporary socio-political concerns.

Challenging this US military dogma, which calls for total armed supremacy in space, sea, land, air and information, Barnard’s work critiques the country’s ongoing ideology for power and military expansion by focusing on ideas of authority, imperialism, and environmental degradation.
Barnard's brilliantly conceived and executed work reflects both the emotional and actual landscapes embroiled in this sad, anti-democratic, violent, destructive, apocalyptic worldview conceived by neo-con ideologues.

The gallery describes Barnard’s most recent painting " Pile Going Critical (Source of Friction: Humans):"
Here, an ominous piece, measuring 54-by-64 inches, showcases a series of dark strips of horizontal blocks and a few bands of colorful paints, all of which become increasingly drippy towards the top of the canvas.

Seen from a distance, this work resembles an apocalyptic infernal (its form referencing the world’s first nuclear reactor built for the Manhattan Project), foreshadowing a world where existence can be annihilated by a human-made smoldering mound of blackness.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Amir Amirani: We Are Many--Feb. 15, 2003 global protest against the US War in Iraq--Reverberating Worldwide Soul Cry for Peace




"We Are Many" by film director Amir Amirani

On February 15, 2003, millions of people joined each other on the streets of 800 cities worldwide: the largest anti-war demonstration in history to protest the US/UK invasion of Iraq.

The demonstration (and related protests from January to March of the same year) resulted from the coordination of peace groups joined together in global networks.

Ordinary people (between 6-30 million) around the world included those from the entire range of the political spectrum; the entire range of the religious spectrum (Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics & atheists); all generations; from every socio-economic class. Except for the tiny minority who believed the Bush/Blair justification that the war was about (ultimately non-existent) WMD in Iraq--the majority of people around the world did not want this war just as the majority now do not want the war in Afghanistan, and continued US global military escalation.

Among the people who marched for peace: 3 million in Rome • 750,000 in London • 50,000 in Glasgow, Scotland • Between 100-200,000 in Paris (total of 500,000 in 80 cities in France) •  Between 300-500,000 in Berlin (joined by Germans in 300 cities and towns, including trade unionists and church leaders •  100,000 in Brussels (center of the EU government) •  10,000 in Warsaw • 150,000 in Athens • 80,000 in Lisbon • 60,000 in Oslo • 60,000 in Stockholm & Gothenberg, Sweden • 100,000 in Montreal •  80,000 in Toronto • 40,000 in Vancover (& 67 other Canadian cities) • 300,000 to one million in NYC • 50,000 in LA • 4,000 in Colorado Springs (who withstood violence from police using tear gas, stun guns and batons) • 100-300,000 in Damascus • 10,000 in Beirut • 5,000 in Jordan • 25,000 in Tokyo, followed by another 5,000 the next day (including smaller protests at some of the 100 US military bases located in Japan and Okinawa--used to train troops before deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan • 10,000 in India • 3,000 in Seoul • 20, 000 in Cape Town, South Africa • 200,000 throughout Australia • 10,000 in New Zealand.

Of course, these millions of people did not stop the US and UK invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003.

But their collective soul cry against unnecessary war and ever-increasing military expansion still reverberates.

In the global anti-base and demilitarization movement • In the transnational (US, Japan, global environmentalist) coalition challenging the construction of a US military base that would destroy a coral reef and the home of the critically endangered dugong in Henoko, Okinawa and bring war-training helipads into the nearby pristine Yanbaru Forest • In the Guahan refusal to accept without question a massive military expansion on their island (1/3 of which already covered with US military bases) that would destroy the world's largest mangrove forest and a coral reef •  In the Japanese decision to stop assisting in the refueling of warships to Afghanistan • In the recent Dutch decision to pull out of Afghanistan • In tangerine farmers' and other villagers' protest against the construction of a missile base that would destroy a coral reef at Jeju Island, Korea (a World Heritage site because of its unique biodiversity) •  In Vincenza, Italy (a World Heritage site because of its ancient history and culture) where residents have not ceased protesting against a new US military base • In the School of the Americas Watch coalition that works to heal the wounds of state terror and stop US miliary escalation in Latin America • In a new US coalition (spanning the political spectrum) to stop the Afghanistan war

These are just a few of the examples of people working across our planet now for a culture of positive peace, cooperation, justice, and sustainability. Martin Luther King called those who work to build zones of liberation, peace, and redemption in our world the "dedicated minority."

Martin Luther King: Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal

Martin Luther King on war and peace in Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community:
A final problem that mankind must solve in order to survive in the world house that w have inherited is finding an alternative to war and human destruction. Recent events have vividly reminded us that nations are not reducing but rather increasing their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The best brains in the highly developed nations of the world are devoted to military technology. The proliferation of nuclear wapons has not been halted, in spite of the limited-test-ban-treaty.

In this day of man's highest technical achievement, in this day of dazzling discovery, of novel opportunities, loftier dignities, and fuller freedoms for all, there is no excuse for the kind of blind craving for power and reesources that provoked the wars of previous generations...The question is, do we have the morality and courage to live together as brothers and not be afraid? Many men cry "Peace! Peace!" but they refuse to do the things that make peace.

The larger power blocs talk passionately of pursuing peace while expanding defense budgets that already bulge, enlarging already awesome armies and devising ever more devastating weapons...The heads of all nations issue clarion calls for peace, yet they come to the peace table accompanied by bands of brigands each bearing unsheathed swords.

The stages of history are replete with the chants and choruses of the conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace. Alexander, Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne and Napoleon were akin in seeking a peaceful world order, a world fashioned after their selfish conceptions of an ideal existence. Each sought a world at peace which would personify his egoistic dreams. Even within the life span of most of us, another megalomaniac strode across the world stage. He sent his blitzkrieg-bent legions blazing across Europe, bringing havoc and holocaust in his wake. There is grave irony in the fact that Hitler could come forth, following nakedly expansionist theories, and do it all in the name of peace.

So when in this day I see the leaders of nations again talking peace while preparing for war, I take fearful pause...

Before it is too late, we must narrow the gaping chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds which precipitate and perpetuate war. We are called upon to look up from the quagmire of military programs and defense commitments and read the warnigns on history's signposts.

One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal...How much longer must we play at deadly war games before we heed the plaintive pleas of the unnumbered dead and maimed of past wars?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Center for Biological Diversity: Military Expansion in Okinawa & Guam "like actively waging warfare against nature & human communities"--Take Action

Some DC commentators are calling US miltary escalation plans for Okinawa and Guam today's real life Avatar. 100 bases in Japan and Okinawa (20% already militarized). 1/3 of Guam already militarized.  What remains of these small islands' coral reefs, irreplaceable biodiversity, indigenous cultures facing more threats from US military expansion.

Via the Center for Biological Diversity:  Military Plans Threaten People, Beauty of Guam and Okinawa       Take Action
Last month, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted comments to the Navy on plans to more than double the military presence on the island of Guam -- threatening imperiled species and islanders' well-being at the same time.

The military buildup would send 24,000 military personnel to the island by 2020, increasing Guam's population by 14% in the long term and by 45% during the peak of the buildup. Plans include a proposal for dredging Guam's most popular diving destination that would devastate coral reefs, the largest mangrove forest under U.S. jurisdiction, and imperiled species like the scalloped hammerhead shark.

Making matters worse, this buildup is in addition to the U.S. military's plan to construct a massive military air base off Okinawa , Japan -- ruining some of the last habitat for the highly endangered Okinawa dugong, cousin to the manatee. The Center has been fighting to protect the dugong since 2003.

Said Center Conservation Director Peter Galvin:

"The military's so-called "transformation in the Pacific" will result in massive environmental destruction in Guam and increase environmental destruction in Okinawa. Destroying the environmental and social well-being of an area, even in the name of 'national or global security,' is itself like actively waging warfare against nature and human communities...

The U.S. Military Transformation in the Pacific Program will not solve our community-relations problem in Okinawa and will just exacerbate existing ones in Guam--all the while destroying critical environmental areas in both places."

Take action now to "SAVE GUAM WILDLIFE "and "DEFEND THE DUGONG".

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Japan-U.S. Citizens for Okinawa (JUCON) network reaches out to American people on Okinawa base issue

With time running out on the contentious Futenma airbase relocation issue, a coalition of Japan-based NGOs, citizens groups, journalists and prominent individuals have joined hands with their U.S.-based counterparts to draw upon one as-of-yet untapped resource: American popular opinion.

Named the Japan-U.S. Citizens for Okinawa (JUCON), the initiative announced its first project as a fund collection to take out a full-page ad in a mainstream U.S. newspaper. Members hope to draw readers’ attention to problems associated with the planned transfer of the US military base at Futenma base to Henoko, an environmentally sensitive coral reef in northwestern Okinawa, home to the critically endangered dugong, a Japanese national monument and protected species.

JUCON was officially launched on Wednesday at the Lower House of the Japanese Diet. Several members spoke emphatically about the enormous burden existing U.S. military bases already pose upon Okinawa’s population and ecosystem—and the need for restraint in building more facilities.

“While continuing to focus attention on the problems associated with relocating the Futenma facility to Henoko Bay, we must also keep one eye on the larger context—which includes plans to build helipads in Takae village,” said keynote speaker Makishi Yoshikazu, an Okinawa-based architect and one of the plaintiffs in Japan's domestic dugong lawsuit.

“I find it extremely problematic that the U.S. government is asking for more helipads without providing any information about why and how these facilities—nor the existing 15 helipads—will be used in the future,” he continued.

“What’s more, the U.S. is refusing to provide any environmental assessment--using the technical justification that none is required since these are ‘helipads’ and not 'heliports'”. Purple: Existing 15 helipad facilities; Blue: 7 facilities to be returned; Pink: 6 new proposed helipad construction sites

Makishi writes at his website:
The untold truth is that the U.S. military has plans to locate dangerous Osprey aircraft in Henoko—which will then be flown to Takae in the Yanbaru forest in order to carry out jungle warfare training exercises
The website--a comprehensive resource (in Japanese)--includes links to You Tube videos showing test runs and actual crashes of the lumbering, unsafe aircraft.

In addition to Makishi, other JUCON speakers at the press conference included Hoshikawa Jun, the executive director of Greenpeace, Japan; Nohira Shinsaku of Peace Boat; and Hanawa Shin-ichi from the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Their presentations were followed by comments from the floor, where one attendee emphasized, “It is critical that average citizens be truthfully informed about the details of this issue.”

Another noted, “I sincerely hope that JUCON will be able to bring home the following point to people in the United States: that what we are actually talking about here is the loss of life itself.”

Speakers at JUCO's inaugural event, with banner reading "No Bases Wanted in Oura Bay or Anywhere in Okinawa!"

On the train later that day, I looked through the new NGO's pamphlet, entitled "2010: International Year of the Dugong” and “Henoko, Oura Bay, the Blue Coral Ocean: Why Our Biodiversity is so Rich." Both made clear in beautiful photographs all that is at stake. I then began thumbing through the packet of documents obtained from public U.S. military records that were also handed out at the meeting. I was shocked by repeated descriptions of the military base options being discussed in Okinawa as “landfills” vs. “near-shore steel carpets".

The thought of Okinawa’s pristine beauty, gentle dugong, gorgeous coral reefs, and thriving ocean ecosystem being threatened by either a “landfill” or a “steel carpet” is enough to invoke outrage. This is a sentiment that I myself experienced several years ago, when I visited Henoko and Takae and met with peaceful sit-in protesters at the Tent Village on the beach who have been protesting the proposed construction since the plan was announced in 1996. JUCO hopes to invoke the same outrage in U.S. citizens to encourage their support of a resolution to the Futenma issue that support and affirms life—not destroys it—by closing down the base and scrapping plans to relocate within the prefecture.

John Feffer, in his article,"Pacific Pushback: Has the U.S. Empire of Bases Reached Its High-Water Mark?," astutely points out another aspect to the situation that is worthy of arousing Americans' suspicion about what is being proposed in Okinawa in their name:
Failure to relocate the Futenma base within Okinawa might be the first step down a slippery slope that could potentially put at risk billions of dollars in Cold War weapons still in the production line. It’s hard to justify buying all the fancy toys without a place to play with them.
Yesterday, The Japan Times published an article about the new JUCO network, and the blog of US for Okinawa includes a post with the text of the speech delivered by organizer Rose Welsch at Wednesday’s press conference. The blog also includes a link to a petition calling for the closure of Futenma and no new military base construction in Okinawa.

JUCON is creating a website in English, which we will link to shortly. The Japanese language website is here.

--Kimberly Hughes

Greenpeace: Save the 50 Critically Endangered Okinawa Dugongs



Dugong living on the northwestern coast of the island of Okinawa are threatened by the proposed expansion of a U.S. military over the coral reef they inhabit. Only about 50 of these irreplaceable sea mammals remain in the wild. Related to the West Indian manatee, the dugong is a Japanese national monument and a US federally protected critically endangered species.

The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a Swiss-based international environmental protection NGO declared 2010 as the "International Year of the Dugong" in its support to protect the dugong during the 2010 UN Year of Biodiversity.

In August of 2009, a group of Okinawans filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government––challenging the environmental legality of the planned US military base expansion in an ecologically sensitive coral reef in northeastern Okinawan:
...The complainants claim construction of a new airfield on the lower part of Camp Schwab, with runways reaching into Oura Bay, would endanger the threatened Okinawa dugong, a marine mammal related to the manatee.
The Okinawan lawsuit followed a successful 2008 judgement in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense filed by The Center for Biological Diversity in U.S. federal court:
In the vibrant turquoise waters of Japan’s Henoko Bay, dugong herds once grazed peacefully on vast meadows of sea grass. But after decades of active U.S. military operations in the region, possibly fewer than 50 last dugongs now struggle to survive in Okinawa — once dubbed the “Galápagos of the East” for its rich biodiversity.

The Center has used innovative legal tactics to secure new protections for the dugong. In 2003, we led a coalition of Japanese and American environmental groups in suing the U.S. Department of Defense to halt the construction of an American airbase in Henoko Bay. Since the dugong is protected under Japanese cultural properties law, the Center filed the first-ever international lawsuit under the U.S. National Historic Preservation Act to protect its last habitat. In 2004, we helped organize a resolution by 889 of the world’s leading coral-reef experts that called on the Japanese and U.S. governments to abandon their plan to construct the offshore airbase. And we led hundreds of international conservation groups in calling on former President Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to cancel the airbase plan.

In 2005, a federal judge ruled that our lawsuit over the airbase could proceed under the U.S. National Historic Preservation Act. The international coalition reiterated opposition to the airbase and rejected an altered construction proposal by the United States and Japan that would still devastate dugong habitat. Finally, in 2008, a federal judge ruled against the U.S. Department of Defense, requiring it to consider impacts of a new airbase on the dugong in order to avoid or mitigate any harm.

Unfortunately for the dugong and the creatures that share its habitat — including three imperiled sea turtles — the United States is now considering expanding an existing airbase near Henoko in dugong habitat. The Center is working hard to stop those plans.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Steven Leeper: "We must graduate from a culture of war & violence into a culture of cooperation."


From Hiroshima, the global epi-center of hope, optimism of the global nuclear abolition movement--powerful insights from Steven Leeper, chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Foundation--from "“Mr. Truman Meets Hiroshima on the Future of Nuclear Weapons, 1944-2020"--a cross-Pacific dialogue with scholars at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri last night:
We need to get this awareness into our consciousness. That is the key...that we want to be liberated from the threat of nuclear annihilation...

Recently India and North Korea were the only two nations that expressed a desire to keep nuclear weapons in a United Nations conference last year.

How can the voices of ordinary people help to change?

Energizing at the global grassroots level...this is the key right now.

There's something called the "nuclear trance." Our culture has trained us to feel nuclear weapons are a fact of life...

But nuclear abolitionists are not a fringe group. We're the vast majority of people on this planet...

Only a very small group of people are trying to maintain nuclear weapons, but they're very powerful because of their money...

We must graduate from a culture of war and violence into a culture of cooperation.

And we must say we will have a peaceful, sustainable world..

Mayors for Peace are developing this culture at the city level...

How can we apply pressure on our governments to make nuclear abolition happen.

The key is to work on this together. We are being tested on the extent that human beings can start cooperating for survival.

Nuclear weapons are the first test. If we don't pass this one, we won't go on to the next ones.

We must work for the banning, stigmatizing of nuclear weapons.

This involves advancing human consciousness and moving from a war culture to the peace culture that Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King talked about.

Maybe humans can't become nonviolent completely. But we have to become nuclear-nonviolent.
A video replay is available soon at this link.

-- Jean Downey (this loose transcription is from handwritten notes taken during the dialogue)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Children of Armageddon/May the Bomb Be With You spotlights nuclear bombing suvivors--in Japan, the Marshall Islands, Tahiti & New Zealand


The atomic bombing museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki try to teach visitors that the people of those cities are not the only survivors of nuclear weapons and the nuclear weapons industry. The nuclear nations have nuclear bombed their own lands and the Pacific and Atlantic over 2,000 times.

The US nuclear bombed itself and the Marshall Islands over 1,000 times. The former Soviet Union nuclear bombed Kazakhstan 460 times and the Ukraine, Turkmenistan and other parts of Russia over 200 times. France repeatedly nuclear bombed Algeria and the Pacific Region, and recently admitted it intentionally targeted French soldiers. The UK nuclear bombed Australia and the South Pacific 45 times (and participated in many of the US bombings in joint tests). China nuclear bombed the historic Tarim Basin, where ancient mummies with European features and clothing were found--a Uyghur region. India and Pakistan have nuclear bombed their own lands six times, respectively. North Korea has bombed itself twice.

Millions of people--have suffered and are still suffering from uranium mining, nuclear bombing fallout, nuclear weapons manufacturing, and nuclear waste threats throughout the world. (In the latest news, the governor of Utah refused shipment of depleted uranium from a South Carolina nuclear weapons plant.) Many of these millions are part of an ever-broadening transnational nuclear abolition movement that now brings together indigenous peoples with environmental groups, anti-nuclear groups, Japanese atomic bombing survivors and descendants, nuclear "test" bombing survivors, atomic veterans, downwinders (which includes everyone on earth--to some degree), industrial radiation victims, and nuclear plant disaster victims. And their descendants.

Vancouver-based film director Fabienne Lips-Dumas creates a cinematic portrait of the legacy of some of the world's 2,000 nuclear bomb explosions--focusing on Japan, the Marshall Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand and the planet--in her 2009 documentary film Children of Armageddon/May the Bomb Be With You:
In the face of a potential nuclear renaissance, this passionate and deeply moving account explores the legacy of nuclear arms in Japan, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, New Zealand, and around the world.  The film features Noam Chomsky, Hans Blix, Judge C.G. Weeramantry, Arjun Makhijani, and Douglas Roche.

With the reality of a nuclear threat more and more present - especially because of recent U.S. politics – Maki, the granddaughter of a Hiroshima bombing survivor, strives to keep the memory of the horror alive so that history is not repeated.

Evelyn, originally from the Marshall Islands and exiled in Honolulu, is the adopted daughter of a woman irradiated by a U.S. thermonuclear bomb.  Not only has she lost her home, she lives with the nightmare of genetic malformations and cancers at the forefront of her mind.

Mauréa, a young, Tahitian, anti-nuclear activist, who inherited her passion for activism from her father, struggles in a society where mentioning anything nuclear is taboo.  Through Mauréa’s journey we discover a country torn apart by nuclear colonization and an environment rendered vulnerable to plutonium, one of the strongest poisons in the world.

In New Zealand, an anti-nuclear country, we meet Annie.  She walks in the shoes of her parents, heroic figures in the peace movement, and instrumental in the condemnation of arms by the International Court of Justice.  Annie works to inspire youth towards activism and away from fear and complacency.

These young women introduce us to the film's themes: the rewriting of history for the purposes of political opportunism, the reality of new nuclear arms, planetary contamination, the anti-missile shield program, and peace movements.

From Hiroshima, the Marshall Islands, Tahiti, and New Zealand, to Vienna, Washington D.C., and Vancouver we hear the accounts of scientists, media and political experts, activists, and, of course, the descendants - who cling to the hope that their testimony can free us from the threat of sudden destruction.
-- Jean Downey