By: Charles Douglas Lummis
A message from VFP-Ryukyus/Okinawa Chapter Kokusai (VFP-ROCK)
While Okinawa comprises only .6% of the Japanese national territory, over 70% of the US military bases in Japan are located there. And now the US and Japan are building a new USMC super airbase in Henoko, northern Okinawa. The people ask, Why Okinawa?
The answer: because it’s Okinawa, once independent, colonized, then annexed by Japan, with the Okinawans still treated as second-class citizens.
Forcing the base on Okinawa is a way of keeping it out of Japan proper. Okinawans call it structural discrimination.
This new base affronts the Okinawans’ dignity as an indigenous people (recognized by the U.N.) and their anti-war convictions. It will destroy the coral garden that is Oura Bay, scheduled to be partly filled, and drive out the endangered Dugong from its northernmost habitat. It will cause yet more air, water and noise pollution, more accidents and crimes, especially crimes against women. But such appeals to the US and Japanese Governments have had no effect. Japan’s attitude seems to be, Isn’t that what colonies are for, to keep those problems out of the homeland?
But national interest considerations may have some effect in the US. In 2017 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) made a study of the US military presence in the Asia Pacific. Subtly, the report made known that the GAO doubts whether the Henoko project is in the US interest. Since then, reasons for doubt have increased. For example:
*Okinawa Defense Bureau soil tests show that where a seawall is to be built, the sea bottom has the resilience of mayonnaise. A seawall there would sink out of sight.
*Surrounding the location are scores of buildings, residences, condos, schools and electrical towers that violate US Defense Department height limit regulations, endangering both local people and Marine pilots.
*Underneath the location are two earthquake faults.
*Last November, despite the desperate efforts of the Japanese Government to put their man in office, anti-base Tamaki Denny won the Okinawa Governor’s election by a landslide.
*Last December the Japanese Government (quietly) announced that the money appropriated for construction of the seawall on Oura Bay in 2018 has been returned to the treasury, as the work was not done. Moreover, no such money has been appropriated for 2019. This puts the project, two additional years behind schedule. The official reporting this said it is impossible now to say when seawall construction will begin on Oura Bay. Soil testing, begun in 2014, continues. The cost estimate has increased by a factor of ten, much of that for the hundreds of riot police who daily drag sit-inners away from the gate.
Why does the Japanese Government keep plugging on with this probably unachievable project? Mainly, it seems, to save face. They can’t bear to lose to the Okinawans. But is it the US Government’s job to rescue them from this embarrassment?
These are matters about which the GAO and the USMC need accurate knowledge. The trouble is, as the GAO informed VFP-ROCK, to start an investigation they need a nudge from Congress. So we have started a campaign to persuade Congress people to give the GAO that nudge. For anyone who wishes to participate in this, click here!
VFP-ROCK is confident that the Henoko boondoggle will not pass inspection.