Let us promote international solidarity for the eradication of damages caused by U.S. bases
1. International Symposium of the 2000 Japan Peace Conference "Message from Okinawa: Let us promote international solidarity for the eradication of damages caused by U.S. bases" was held in Naha City, Okinawa from 30 November to 1 December, 2000. The following panelists presented their views: Joseph Gerson (American Friends Service Committee, USA), Francesco Iannuzzelli (Peacelink, Italy), Lim Samjin (Green Korea United), Ismael Guadalupe (Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, Puerto Rico), Maria I. Reinat-Pumarejo (Institute for Latino Empowerment, Puerto Rico), and Hiroshi Suda (Japan Peace Committee). There were also written reports submitted by the American Friends Service Committee (Hawaii), Luisa Morgantini (MP of European Parliament, Italy), Arab NGO Coordinating Center (Egypt), Anti-Base Coalition (Australia), Greek Committee for International Detente and Peace, German Peace Council / German-Japan Peace Forum, and the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition.
2. The panelists visited Nago City on 29 November prior to the symposium and met the residents fighting against a plan to build a new U.S. marine base and expressed their cordial solidarity to their struggle. At the meetings, participants stressed the need to strengthen and develop international solidarity and cooperation against a new U.S. base plan. They met Tsuneyosi Miyagi, deputy mayor of Nago City and called upon him to withdraw the city's decision to accept a new base, based on the will of citizens shown by the referendum, as well as on the stand to defend safety and interests of the citizens.
3. The damage inherent to U.S. military bases abroad includes danger of war and infringement of sovereignty; devastation of environments and peoples' health; destruction of private and commercial properties and noise pollution. Military accidents, including release of radiation, have cost human lives and endangered the food chain. Peoples' lands have been confiscated to build bases, sometimes in violation of international law. "Host" communities - and especially women - have been traumatized by intolerablly high rate of crimes, including rape and sexual harassment. While U.S. bases in each country have their own histories, size, form, and role, they not only have in common served as steping stone for military interference and intervention for U.S. hegemony. They are also the root cause of constant violations of human rights, destruction of peoples' life, and environmental pollution. The panelists emphasised the following:
- Japan : There are some 130 U.S. bases with 40,000 troops all over the country, which include Marines, a carrier-centered task force, and an expeditionary air force. There are no other countries in the world which host such "forces of assault". They are conducting aircraft night landing practices, low altitude flight exercises even over the urban residential areas infringing Japanese domestic law, and live shelling exercises. Thus outrages of "extraterritorial" privilege by U.S. forces are openly conducted as if they were in one of their "colonies". In Okinawa, where 75 % of U.S. bases in Japan areconcentrated, the situation is much more serious with frequent aircraft accidents and atrocious crimes, huge noise and environmental destruction. Concern is expressed internationally that a plan to build a new U.S. Marine base in Nago, ignoring the will of residents, will damage important elements of the natural environment where rare species such as dugongs live.
- Korea : There are 95 bases with 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, which cover a total area of 80,000 acres. Due to these bases, the Korean people face the real threat of environmental disaster and human abuses. The Korean people, including government agents, are fornidden to access U.S. bases, and are denied the right know the environmental situation. Currently the U.S. has no responsibility to restore environment when moving into another place. The U.S. military has caused environmental destruction, including dumping toxic formaldehyde in the Han River in February 2000. And, at the U.S.Air Force's Koonni Range, for half a century, continuous bombing exercises have been carried out just as in a war. 11 people have been killed from bombing accidents. The noise has destroyed the health of the residents.
- Vieques : Vieques is an island-municipality off the east coast of Puerto Rico. Its 9,300 inhabitants are sandwiched between an ammunition facility on the western end of the island and the inner range of the weapon testing and training facility. These facilities occupy 26,000 of the entire 33,000 acres of Vieques land. As a result of military exercise and war games, Vieques faces intense ecological damage, a high incidence of cancer, noise pollution, incomparable levels of poverty, general distress of the population, and the destruction of its flora and fauna. The Vieques situation is particularly sensitive since the navy's military games involve chemical and nuclear weaponry. Puerto Ricans have clearly expressed their desire for the withdrawal of the naval facility through acts of civil disobedience, sustained protests and political lobbying. Yet the U.S. persists imposing its will on the people of Vieques. Many people are awaiting trial in Federal Court after having been arrested in civil disobedience protests.
- Italy : The U.S. bases in Italy and the Italian Bases available for NATO operations represent the strategic point for the offensive intervention policy of the U.S.A, as happened during the recent war against Yugoslavia. The presence of nuclear weapons, the patrolling of nuclear powered vessels, and the military exercises have caused accidents, environmental damages and many civilian deaths. The bases are also a violation of engagements taken in Rio de Janero 1992 World Summit, as they infringe bio-diversity and the precautionary principle. This applies both to the nuclear arsenal and military operations involving nuclear-powered units.
- USA : Base damages are not limited to foreign military bases, but they are prevalent in U.S. communities all over the country. These are largely unknown to the U.S. people. U.S. citizens need to become conscious of how militarized U.S. society has become with the huge military budget and hundreds of military bases in their communities and arounf the world. U.S. citizen have the responsibility to know how U.S. troops and bases impact people in "host" nations as well as to work in solidarity with people fighting to prevent war, to assit their struggles for freedom from military colonialization, and to end the damages caused by U.S. bases.
4. On the eve of the 21st century, we can not tolerate the world wide damage caused by U.S military bases from the view point of world peace as well as of independence of nations, defense of democracy, human rights, life, environment, and of local communities. The bases stand in opposition to the achievements of peoples' struggle for peace and progress in the 20th century including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person" (Article 3). Already, in many parts of the world, people have been struggling to protest against the outrageous activities of U.S. bases and to defend their human dignity. People with conscience should learn the reality of base damages and listen to the voices of their victims. The eradication of base damages should be tackled urgently and jointly by the broad range of people the irrespective of differences in thought, creeds, politics, or their opinions about military alliance. Peace movements need to work on this task by mobilizing different social and civil movements and forces inclusive of various political trends.
5. As long as bases exist, their negative impacts can not be eliminated completely. It is necessary to remove U.S. foreign military bases in order to finally eradicate base damages. In the Symposium, the determination was expressed to fight for the future removal of all U.S. foreign military bases.The participants also pointed out the problems of agreements on the status of U.S. forces (such as Japan-U.S. SOFA and Korea-U.S. one) which allow the outrages of U.S. force by ignoring domestic regulations of "host" nations as well as life and security of residents. It was stressed that revision of these unfair agreements is urgently needed.
6. It was stressed that the hegemonic strategy of the U.S. maintaining 100,000 troops in Asia and similar number in Europe, with a vast number of military bases, is the background to today's base problems. The U.S. military alliance system has become much more dangerous with a new Japan - U.S. Guidelines for Defense Cooperation and with NATO New Strategic Concept. Ignoring the U.N. decisions, the U.S. aims to conduct preemptive military intervention by mobilizing allied forces. The contradiction of the U.S. strategy with the recent trend for peace in Asia, as represented by the North - South summit meeting of Korea is becoming much clearer. Under these circumastances, U.S. foreign bases are losing the ground for their continuted existence.
7. The solution of base problems posed by the U.S. bases has become a new international agenda at a time when the world stands at the crossroads of war or peace towards the 21st century. And there is a growing possibility of developing united efforts and cooperation among national movements for this task. >From Okinawa, which suffers from the heavy burden of U.S. bases, we call for the promotion of international solidarity for ending the damage caused by U.S. bases and for their removal.
American Friends Service Committee, USA
Green Korea United
Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques, Puerto Rico
Maria I. Reinat-Pumarejo
Institute for Latino Empowerment, Puerto Rico
Japan Peace Committee
(in Japanese alphabetical order of the name of countries)
Suggestions for further activities
The following suggestions for further activities were made during the symposium, which should be discussed and put into concrete actions
- to develop resources for grassroots activists to learn about the impacts of military bases as well as about movements for the eradication of base damages and for the withdrawal of the bases in different countries (also data on environmental damage, information about most effective actions of civil disobedience)
- to develop networks to regularly exchange information and to communicate and respond to solidarity appeals from anti-base movements world wide.
- to link peace movements with economic justice movements making connections between U.S. economic and military globalization.
- to organize international joint campaigns including a signature campaign for the cancellation of the plan to build a new U.S. Marine base in Nago City, based on the residents' opposition as well as recommendations of IUCN Assembly (October 2000) about the protection of Dugongs.
- to organize grass-roots, regional, and national forums on the impacts of U.S. foreign military bases (if possible, inviting victims and experts from affected nations).
- to organize an International Day of solidarity for the people suffering base damages and for peace (a day of simultaneous actions worldwide). A rally in Washington DC of the representatives of these people.
- to promote the exchange of information between the movements for fundamental revision of governmental agreements that allow U.S. force to enjoy "extraterritorial" priviledges.
- regular exchange of delegations to exchange and disseminate information about each movement and situation.
- legal actions over the violation of sovereignty by foreign military forces, and monitoring on their activities.