Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Sense of Sacred: Mauna Kea, Hawai'i and Oura Bay, Okinawa

The Okinawan movement to save Henoko and the Yambaru subtropical rainforest is one aspect of a global indigenous movement calling for respect of indigenous cultural heritage, especially natural sacred sites under ongoing threat of destruction.

Indigenous peoples know that sacred sites are centers of collective spiritual and psychological power that go into the past and into the future, connecting generations. Maybe this is why sacred and cultural heritage sites have been targeted for destruction by invading powers for millennia.

In "The Sense of Sacred: Mauna Kea and Oura Bay," published at The Asia-Pacific Journal earlier this month,  Katherine Muzik  compares the similarities between the struggles to save Mauna Kea in Hawai'i and Henoko in Okinawa to introduce William B.C. Chang's analysis of the foreign settler pattern of violating indigenous religious and cultural heritage rights as well as land rights and indigenous human rights:
“Sacred is not necessarily a place. It is a relationship, a deep visceral relationship: beyond reason, beyond law, beyond rationality.”

These words were recently spoken by William B.C. Chang, a University of Hawaii Law Professor, in his impassioned testimony to the UH Board of Regents, about the current conflict on Mauna Kea here in Hawaii.

To the Hawaiians, the Mountain known as Mauna Kea, or Mauna a Wākea, on the Island of Hawaii, is a sacred place. Thus, the proposed construction of the northern hemisphere’s biggest telescope, thirty meters tall (TMT), 18 stories high, on eight acres of the mountain top, costing $1.4 billion, has recently sparked peaceful but ardent protests and occupations by Native Hawaiians, environmentalists and allies across the Pacific. With 13 telescopes already blighting the landscape, the protesters seek to prevent further desecration.

To the Okinawans, the Sea known as Oura Bay, on the Island of Okinawa, is also a sacred place. For nearly two decades, Okinawans have protested its destruction by US/Japan military expansion.

Besides being sacred and beautiful, what else do these two very distant places share? They share history, of illegal takeovers by a foreign power and the subsequent, on-going outrage among the local populations. Locals in Hawaii and Okinawa are deeply angered by the heinous and reckless environmental destruction their islands have suffered. They are frustrated by the destruction that continues, despite prolonged protests. In both cases, illegal land-grabs by the US have resulted in the waste of their natural resources and the disintegration of their cultural identities. However, being sacred, both places continue to inspire passionate and courageous struggles against foreign dominance.

The Hawaiian Islands were once a kingdom, a sovereign nation. In a series of events, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 by a group of US and European businessmen, ending in annexation as a “Territory of the United States” in 1900. And so too, were the Ryukyu Islands, sovereign. Invaded by Satsuma forces in 1609, they were formally annexed by Japan in 1879 as “Okinawa Prefecture”. After World War 2, the US “acquired” Okinawa from Japan, establishing military bases which have remained and proliferated, destructively, for the last seventy years.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Women Cross DMZ: "Every step for peace is important!."

Via journalist Tim Shorrock: "Every step for peace is important!" "We're here because we don't believe in war!

The women who just crossed the DMZ include Suzuyo Takazato, co-founder of Okinawa Women Against Military Violence, Ann Wright), Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire, an Article 9 and Okinawa supporter, Christine Ahn, a Korea scholar. This action reflects decades of cross-border interconnections between women's networks working for peace and democracy for all of East Asia and the world.

Great article by Jon Letman: "These Women Have Crossed the Line: 30 activists cross North Korea DMZ for peace":
In an historic move, a group of global feminist activists march into the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea to create a space for a new type of conversation about truly ending the Korean war.

At the time of this blog post in Seoul and Pyongyang it’s already Sunday, May 24th, International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, when a group of more than 30 women are scheduled to cross the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at Kaesong from North Korea into South Korea. Their goal: to draw attention to Korea’s “forgotten” and unfinished war, and move toward a real peace that can reunite families and, perhaps, a divided nation...

The Korean War (officially 1950-53) stands out for its bloody toll. Some 4 million people, mostly civilians, perished. Although a “temporary” cease-fire was signed, the last 62 years have been marked by a protracted cold war defined by ongoing threats by both sides of the DMZ, decades of profligate military spending, and what is effectively a permanent state of near-war and the fear of attack. The idea to walk from North Korea into South Korea began with a dream that lead organizer Christine Ahn had several years ago. The concept grew after Ahn connected with feminist icon Gloria Steinem who took a public stand in 2011 against the militarization of South Korea’s Jeju island.

The movement evolved into WomenCrossDMZ as Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia joined Ahn, Steinem and what has grown to more than 30 women from South Korea, Japan, the US, Britain, Australia--at least 15 countries, in all.

Gwyn Kirk, a founding member of Women for Genuine Security, and one of the DMZ marchers, says WomenCrossDMZ is intended to create a space for a new type of conversation about ending the Korean war once and for all. After more than 60 years of tit-for-tat provocations, costly and dangerous brinksmanship and outright nuclear threats, Kirk says it’s time to create a different future.

That this movement is organized entirely by women is natural, says Kirk, pointing to UN Security Resolution 1325 which reaffirms “the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction…”
The visionaries are being criticized by mostly male (patriarchal?) journalists who appear threatened by their move to shift public narratives dominating political commentary in East Asia from that of fear and aggression to those of hope and reconciliation:
Independent investigative journalist Tim Shorrock had a different take. In an email from Seoul, he called the DMZ march “an important milestone because it runs against the grain of the militarist approach to Korea taken by the Obama administration and the hostility of the South Korean government.”

Shorrock, who has covered Korea and Japan for more than three decades, said the women’s march and symposia held in Pyongyang and later Seoul, sends a message to the North that peace and reconciliation are possible. He hopes the march will also spur the U.S. to “take measures to defuse the tense situation in Korea and adopt a more flexible approach to settling its differences with North Korea.”
Christine Ahn cuts to the chase of the tragic, absurd 60-year stalemate:
WomenCrossDMZ, Ahn says, seeks to “get to the root cause of the issue of divided families” and what she calls “crazy militarization” and “crazy repression” of democracy in both North and South Korea...

Ahn describes WomenCrossDMZ as “peace women” who want to find a peaceful resolution to the Korean stalemate. To do that, she says, requires listening, understanding, dialogue and a degree of empathy which is absent today. Dehumanizing the other side won’t bring peace, Ahn says. “It’s a tough place to be, but I really believe there is no other alternative.”

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tim Shorrock on the Kwanju Uprising in 1980 & Women Cross DMZ on May 24, 2015

Via our friend, journalist Tim Shorrockwho traveled to Korea this week to receive an honorary citizenship of Kwangju, and to report on the Women Cross DMZ.

On May 24, 2015, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, Gloria Steinem, Christine Ahn, and Suzuyo Takazato, founder of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, and 26 women peacemakers from around the world will walk with Korean women, north and south, to call for an end to the Korean War and for a new beginning for a reunified Korea. They will cross the 2-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) that separates millions of Korean families as a symbolic act of peace.

Tim Shorrock, the son of missionaries, grew up in Japan. His parents were colleagues of Toyohiko Kagawa, a Presbyterian minister who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his prewar and postwar peace activism in Japan and East Asia.  Shorrock is one of the most insightful and sensitive observers of Japan, Korea, and East Asia. His cross-border upbringing has given him a wide field of vision on this history, and his perspectives are always deeply grounded in humanitarian and democratic values.

His investigative reportage exposed the US role in South Korea in 1979 and 1980 when the  Carter administration supported the South Korean military "as it moved to crush the Kwangju Uprising, the largest citizens’ rebellion in the south since the Korean War ended in 1953."
As a journalist, I’ve been intimately involved with Kwangju since the first days of the uprising. In May 1980, as a student activist at the University of Oregon, I helped distribute some of the first on-scene reports of the military atrocities in Kwangju smuggled out of South Korea by Christian human rights groups and American missionaries.

Later that decade, I was one of the only journalists to visit Kwangju and document what had happened there. And over the course of the 1990s I obtained nearly 4,000 declassified documents that repudiated the official U.S. story that American officials and generals had no involvement in the events that led up to the rebellion.

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.

Friday, May 15, 2015

May 17: All-Okinawa Mass Rally for Preservation of Henoko, an indigenous sacred site, & Okinawa's most important natural cultural heritage site, habitat of the Okinawa dugong & the last fully intact coral reef in all of Okinawa

Via our friend, Dr. Masami Mel Kawamura, at Okinawa Outreach:
On May 17, a mass rally will be held at the Okinawa Cellular Stadium in Naha, Okinawa to demonstrate Okinawa’s determination to stop the construction of a US military base in Henoko and Oura Bay in northern Okinawa.

With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the battle of Okinawa and of the World War II, this rally will certainly be one of the most important rallies held in Okinawa against the detrimental legacies of the war.

The people of Okinawa have suffered enough from the continuing immense presence of US military, which still occupies 18 % of Okinawa Island today. And for the last 19 years, the people have also suffered from the US and Japanese governments’ reckless pursuit of the Henoko base plan and their complete disregard for Okinawa’s democratic voice against the plan.

While the US and Japanese governments continue to do their talk in Tokyo or Washington, we the people of Okinawa know that the real struggle site that counts most is here in Okinawa. We are determined to fight through to protect our sea, our land, and our life.

Featuring Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, along with other distinguished speakers, the rally will show how the people of Okinawa are united with each other and with supporters from around the world in our fight against the Henoko base construction.

When: Rally starts at 1:00 am on May 17, 2015

Where: Okinawa Cellular Stadium, in Naha
Reverend Kinoshita of Nippon Myohoji
witnessing for the protection of Henoko,
an indigenous sacred site, with shrines & rituals going back millennia, 
and Okinawa's most important natural cultural heritage site, 
habitat of the Okinawa dugong & the last fully intact coral reef in all of Okinawa. 
(Photo via our friends at Blue Vigil in Solidarity with Okinawa in NYC

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5/3 - Available for online viewing: John Junkerman's Japan's Peace Constitution

Full-length version of John Junkerman's 2005 documentary film, Japan's Peace Constitution available for online viewing from 5/3, Constitution Day, until 5/7, courtesy of Siglo Films: Film description:
This timely, hard-hitting documentary places the ongoing debate over the constitution in an international context: What will revision mean to Japan's neighbors, Korea and China? How has the US-Japan military alliance warped the constitution and Japan's role in the world? How is the unprecedented involvement of Japan's Self-Defense Force in the occupation of Iraq perceived in the Middle East?

Through interviews conducted with leading thinkers around the world, the film explores the origins of the Constitution in the ashes of war and the significance of its peace clauses in the conflicted times of the early 21st century. Key interviews include:

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Dower

Paris-based social theorist Hidaka Rokuro

Beate Sirota Gordon, drafter of the equal-rights clause of the Constitution

Political philosopher and activist Douglas Lummis

Political scientist Chalmers Johnson

Kang Man-Gil, president of Sangji University, South Korea

Shin Heisoo, co-representative, Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan

Korean historian Han Hong Koo

Chinese filmmaker and writer Ban Zhongyi

Syrian writer Michel Kilo

Lebanese journalist Josef Samaha

Linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky

Director John Junkerman is an American filmmaker, living in Tokyo. His first film, Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima, was coproduced with John Dower and nominated for an Academy Award. His 2002 film, Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times, also produced by Siglo, received widespread theatrical distribution in Japan, the US, and Europe.

A companion book in Japanese, including the complete interviews with John Dower, Hidaka Rokuro, Chalmers Johnson, Noam Chomsky, Beate Sirota Gordon, and Han Hong Koo has been published by Foil.