Sunday, May 17, 2015

35,000+ rally in unison to protect the marine life at Henoko, Okinawa's most beloved natural cultural heritage site • Coral scientist Katherine Muzik & filmmaker Oliver Stone share messages of support • Hayao Miyazaki joins Henoko fundraising group

Via peace photojournalist Takashi Morizumi

35,000+ rallied in unison today at Naha, the capitol of Okinawa, to call for the protection the marine life at Henoko, Okinawa's most beloved natural cultural heritage site: the only dugong habitat, and last fully intact (and healthiest, most biodiverse) coral reef in the entire prefecture.

Marine biologist Katherine Musik:
The rally right now in Okinawa is absolutely tremendous. Tens of thousands of voices, right now, shouting together, "NO", in perfect harmony! "NO" to the US military presence, how powerful!

Let's all shout, "Yes" to the blue corals, red sea fans, orange clownfish, "Yes" to the endangered dugongs in the sea, the endangered birds (yambaru quina, noguchi gera) in the forest!

"No" to imperialism, "Yes" to island autonomy!
Oliver Stone's message:
You have my respect and support for your protest on May 17. I cannot be with you in person, but in spirit. Your cause is a just one.

A new mega‐base built in the name of ‘deterrence’ is a lie. Another lie told by the American Empire to further its own goal of domination throughout the world. Fight this monster. Others like you are fighting it on so many fronts throughout the globe. It is a fight for peace, sanity, and the preservation of a beautiful world.
Muzik and Stone are part of a group of international scholars, peace advocates and artists, working behind the scenes to support Okinawa. In January 2014, they issued a statement and petition given to representatives of the US and Japanese governments:
We oppose construction of a new US military base within Okinawa, and support the people of Okinawa in their struggle for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of the environment

We the undersigned oppose the deal made at the end of 2013 between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima to deepen and extend the military colonization of Okinawa at the expense of the people and the environment. Using the lure of economic development, Mr. Abe has extracted approval from Governor Nakaima to reclaim the water off [landfill] Henoko, on the northeastern shore of Okinawa, to build a massive new U.S. Marine air base with a military port.

Plans to build the base at Henoko have been on the drawing board since the 1960s.  They were revitalized in 1996, when the sentiments against US military bases peaked following the rape of a twelve year-old Okinawan child by three U.S. servicemen. In order to pacify such sentiments, the US and Japanese governments planned to close Futenma Marine Air Base in the middle of Ginowan City and  move its functions to a new base to be constructed at Henoko, a site of extraordinary biodiversity and home to the endangered marine mammal dugong.

Marine biologist Katherine Muzik with Henoko elder community leader Fumiko Shimabukuro
Governor Nakaima’s reclamation approval does not reflect the popular will of the people of Okinawa.  Immediately before the gubernatorial election of 2010, Mr. Nakaima, who had previously accepted the new base construction plan, changed his position and called for relocation of the Futenma base outside the prefecture. He won the election by defeating a candidate who had consistently opposed the new base. Polls in recent years have shown that 70 to 90 percent of the people of Okinawa opposed the Henoko base plan. The poll conducted immediately after Nakaima’s recent reclamation approval showed that 72.4 percent of the people of Okinawa saw the governor’s decision as a “breach of his election pledge.” The reclamation approval was a betrayal of the people of Okinawa.

73.8 percent of the US military bases (those for exclusive US use) in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, which is only .6 percent of the total land mass of Japan. 18.3 percent of the Okinawa Island is occupied by the US military. Futenma Air Base originally was built during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa by US forces in order to prepare for battles on the mainland of Japan. They simply usurped the land from local residents. The base should have been returned to its owners after the war, but the US military has retained it even though now almost seven decades have passed. Therefore, any conditional return of the base is fundamentally unjustifiable.
Oliver Stone meeting Henoko elder community leaders in 2013
The new agreement would also perpetuate the long suffering of the people of Okinawa. Invaded in the beginning of the 17th century by Japan and annexed forcefully into the Japanese nation at the end of 19th century, Okinawa was in 1944 transformed into a fortress to resist advancing US forces and thus to buy time to protect the Emperor System.  The Battle of Okinawa killed more than 100,000 local residents, about a quarter of the island’s population. After the war, more bases were built under the US military occupation. Okinawa “reverted” to Japan in 1972, but the Okinawans’ hope for the removal of the military bases was shattered. Today, people of Okinawa continue to suffer from crimes and accidents, high decibel aircraft noise and environmental pollution caused by the bases. Throughout these decades, they have suffered what the U.S. Declaration of Independence denounces as “abuses and usurpations,” including the presence of foreign “standing armies without the consent of our legislatures.”

Not unlike the 20th century U.S. Civil Rights struggle, Okinawans have non-violently pressed for the end to their military colonization. They tried to stop live-fire military drills that threatened their lives by entering the exercise zone in protest; they formed human chains around military bases to express their opposition; and about a hundred thousand people, one tenth of the population have turned out periodically for massive demonstrations. Octogenarians initiated the campaign to prevent the construction of the Henoko base with a sit-in that has been continuing for years. The prefectural assembly passed resolutions to oppose the Henoko base plan. In January 2013, leaders of all the 41 municipalities of Okinawa signed the petition to the government to remove the newly deployed MV-22 Osprey from Futenma base and to give up the plan to build a replacement base in Okinawa.

We support the people of Okinawa in their non-violent struggle for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of the environment. The Henoko marine base project must be canceled and Futenma returned forthwith to the people of Okinawa.

Hayao Miyazaki
Last month, anime creator Hayao Miyazaki joined a new high-profile Okinawa- and Japan-based group raising funds for to support Governor Onaga's campaign to save Henoko. The group is buying advertising space in US newspapers  to counter the dearth of media reportage on the daily protests at Henoko and the All-Okinawan Movement. The most comprehensive report on this latest was posted at the pop media site, Rocket News' "Hayao Miyazaki joins politicians and CEOs donating millions to protest U.S. military in Okinawa".

Last fall,  Miyazaki, sent a  handwritten message to a former chairman of the Okinawan Prefectural Assembly, Toshinobu Nakazato, who has been enlisting the support of famous people from across Japan to support the movement to save the coral reef and dugong habitat in Henoko and the adjacent Yambaru subtropical rainforest, both which are threatened by US military training base expansion. Miyazaki's message stated, “Demilitarization in Okinawa is essential for peace in East Asia," which is consistent with the anime director's pacifist and ecologically oriented themes.

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