You are hereAsia
By John Grant
When lo! An angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, . . .
Renato M. Reyes, Jr. (pictured at right) is secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan). He has been with the organization since 2001. He was also the founding chair of the youth group Anakbayan in 1998. He blogs here and was involved in protests when U.S. President Barack Obama recently visited the Philippines. I asked him about it.
Was Obama unwelcomed in the Philippines?
The PH government rolled out the red carpet for Obama. In the streets however, thousands marched to protest Obama’s PH visit. The protests were aimed at the unequal relations between the US and the Philippines, in particular, US military intervention and economic impositions such as the TPPA. The visit also coincided with the signing of a new agreement called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which would bring back US military facilities in the Philippines.
We had a two day protest, the first was a march near the Presidential Palace where we burned a giant effigy of Obama on a chariot and Aquino as his running dog. There were protests in different parts of the country as well. On the second day, we marched near the US embassy where we were met by a phalanx of policemen. The police used their shields and water cannons to disperse the protesters but we stood our ground. It was our indignation regarding the signing of the EDCA.
What agreement have the governments signed?
The EDCA is an agreement that allows US forces to use our PH facilities, to build their own facilities within these facilities and to preposition their equipment in PH territory. These facilities will function as bases where US forces can station troops as well as deploy troops and weapons systems such as armed drones. The EDCA is consistent with the US strategic rebalancing towards Asia, and is in furtherance of US economic and security interests in the region.
What do people of the Philippines think about it?
There are different opinions. Some welcome the EDCA thinking that it would help the Philippines against China’s incursions. They wrongly believe that the EDCA will result in the modernization of the PH armed forces. Those in the mass movement are very critical of the EDCA. Lawmakers from the Senate and Lower House have also raised serious objections. Two petitions have been filed before the PH supreme court questioning the EDCA. Lawyers, academicians, lawmakers, church people and activists have united to oppose the EDCA.
How is a dispute with China over some islands being used here?
The dispute with China is being exploited by the US to justify its permanent military presence in the Philippines. The US gives the false assurance that it would support the Philippines in the event of an armed attack by China. When Obama was confronted with this question during his PH visit, he avoided answering it and instead claimed that the US was interested in cooperating with China. The US is not likely going to war with the US due to the disputed areas in the West PH Sea. The US uses the Philippines as a footstool in Asia but would not come to the aid of the Philippines. The PH government meanwhile shows utter mendicancy and puppetry when it thinks that its sovereignty can be upheld through a foreign power.
I like to think of the Philippines, along with Ecuador, as a success story, a place that told the U.S. military to get out (in 1991) -- how did that happen and what has happened since? How is this connected to U.S. military presence back to 1898?
The Filipino people have a long history of resistance to US colonial occupation and neo-colonial domination. The resistance includes armed struggle against US colonialism and currently, neo-colonialism.
The Filipino people struggled for decades against the presence of US bases and were finally successful in 1991 when the PH senate rejected a new basing treaty. The US basing agreement was so lopsided in favor of the US and constituted an affront to our sovereignty. The treaty rejection was possible only because there was a strong mass movement that campaigned for several decades.
Are you working with people opposed to bases in Okinawa, Jeju Island, elsewhere?
We are in solidarity with the anti-bases groups in Okinawa, Jeju, Australia and Korea. We have joined actions in opposition to the construction of new bases as well as the abuses of the US troops. We are part of the Ban the Bases global network which shares information and conducts campaigns on bases issues.
I'm speaking with the Mayor of Nago City, Okinawaw, who was elected to stop a base and is coming to the United States to try to stop it. What would you like me to say to him?
To the people of Okinawa, we are in solidarity with you. Never give up the struggle to boot out foreign bases. A nation cannot be truly free if foreign troops continue to be stationed on its shores.
What would you like to say to the people of the United States?
To the American people, do not let your taxes be spent for war and occupation, for US bases and intervention. Please support the campaign to shut down these bases and to get the US troops out of Asia and other continents.
Philippines climate chief Naderev Yeb Sano made a plea to the world? Is that effort connected with the effort against bases? Do these movements work together?
I met Yeb Sano when we were in the university during the 90’s. His plea may not be directly related to the bases movement. However, there are many environmental groups campaigning against the bases, including for compensation for the environmental damage wrought by US forces in their former bases in Subic and Clark as well as the recent destruction of a part of the Tubbataha Reef.
You are a musician: How does that fit into your activism?
I’ve been playing music since I was seven. I play the piano, guitar, blues harp or harmonica and the ukulele. Music is another outlet where we can express ourselves and help amplify the message to a broader audience. We did a series of recording two years ago when a friend got arrested in a remote province. We called it Prison Sessions, and we did videos of our sessions. We used the recordings to raise awareness of the plight of political prisoners and imprisoned artists. My friend was eventually released after two years of detention. We now play during events…outside the jail of course.
By RALPH DOLAN
NORTHAMPTON — “Stay a while, stranger,” says the haggard old man from the shadows along Main Street.
The stranger who has been addressed pauses: “You look like you’ve come a long way, old man,” he says. “What’s on your mind?”
“I am one of those who gave their lives in service to America. Today you and others stop to remember the price I paid.”
“Yes ... yes,” says the stranger, looking about. “Over there the bands are beginning to assemble for the parade. I sense a strange sobriety in the air. And now there’s you!”
The old man looks away and begins: “Oh, how I hated to let go. I whimpered like a baby there in the mud where I lay alone, my life leaking away. Now I wander with a heavy heart.”
The stranger takes that in and briefly considers the impossibility of this encounter. But he feels drawn in and says: “Go on.”
“I was 19 when I died. What does a 19-year-old know? Nothing! My life was snatched away.
“I had been so proud to serve my country. I was young and naive. But one thing I knew: the terrible tyrannies that oppress and exploit many of the peoples of this Earth must be replaced by the more enlightened view of existence, as captured in the ideas of equality and justice for all.
“Yes. I was an idealist. I was hopelessly impractical and eager to align myself with a large and noble cause so that I myself might take on aspects of nobility. The images of innocent people suffering under the boot of tyranny in Vietnam came flying around the world, entering my consciousness and demanding my attention.
“America, the greatest democracy the world has ever known and defender of the downtrodden, was stirring. Her wrath would be supreme. Her justice would be glorious.
“I was a true believer. I signed up for the fight. This was God’s work.
“I lasted only three days in Vietnam. My group was helicoptered immediately into a raging firefight in the delta. I remember jumping off into a soggy field, looking around, paralyzed by the sight of such carnage and then hearing one of our infantry officers screaming orders at us. ‘Get down! Get down!’
“I never recovered from the shock of that killing field. I wandered around in a daze, being shuffled here and there, going through the motions of soldiering, until that flying projectile entered just below the ear and exited out the top of my head.
“I see more clearly now. War itself is the evil. I gave myself over to an evil with a belief that this was a way to counteract evil. Such is the foolishness of youth.
“Those who take us to war again and again feed voraciously on the foolishness of youth.”
The old soldier pauses.
“What can I do for you, old man?” asks the stranger.
“Stay! Stay a moment longer, please. I am in search of peace of mind,” he answers. “I must let the young people know that they must not go to war any more, no matter what incentives the warmongers lay before them. They must refuse.
“Look. Look what has happened to my country. Look at my beautiful America, the beacon of hope for all the oppressed people of the world. Look. She set out to conquer the tyrants. Now she has taken on the characteristics of the tyrant.
“Sweet nation, America, for whom I gave my life so that she might be a great defender of the poor and the oppressed, has declared to the world that it is necessary to torture people. This is not a debatable matter. This is unthinkable.
“My sweet nation invades other countries with impunity. She has been heavily implicated in toppling democratically elected governments and installing puppet governments that do her bidding. She upholds vile institutions such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. And, yes, the whole structure of American government has been taken over by a group of the very wealthiest people in the world. The words of democracy are spouted in empty repetition but the spirit of democracy is gone.
“You must tell them, sir. The old political structures are crumbling under the weight of their own corruption. Tell the people to rebuild! Tell them: Start at the very lowest, grassroots level, one’s personal relations. Create equality there. Create justice there. Then move on to the groups: family, community, nation.
“Demand equality. Demand a greater voice in the workplace. Demand economic justice. Experiment with new ways of governance. This is the medium in which true democracy will rise again.”
With that the old solider vanishes into the shadows.
Ralph J. Dolan of Haydenville, MA served in Vietnam and has had a career as a licensed psychotherapist. His column appears on the fourth Monday of the month.
By Dr Hakim
“Don’t you touch me!” declared Mi Ryang.
South Korean police were clamping down on a villager who was resisting the construction of a Korean/U.S. naval base at her village. Mi Ryang managed to turn the police away by taking off her blouse and, clad in her bra, walking toward them with her clear warning. Hands off! Mi Ryang is fondly referred to as “Gangjeong’s daughter” by villagers who highly regard her as the feisty descendant of legendary women sea divers. Her mother and grandmother were Haenyo divers who supported their families every day by diving for shellfish.
Since 2007, every day without fail, Mi Ryang has stood up to militarists destroying her land.
Mi Ryang, in white cap on the right, challenging a construction truck driver at the naval base gate
Mi Ryang, standing with Gangjeong Village Association members and Gangjeong’s mayor, outside the Jeju Courts, to refuse paying fines for protests against the U.S. naval base construction
In doing so, she confronts giants: the Korean military, Korean police authority, the U.S. military, and huge corporations, such as Samsung, allied with these armed forces.
Mi Ryang and her fellow protesters rely on love and on relationships which help them to continue seeking self-determination, freedom and dignity.
Jeju Island is the first place in the world to receive all three UNESCO natural science designations (Biosphere Reserve in 2002, World Natural Heritage in 2007 and Global Geopark in 2010). The military industrial complex, having no interest in securing the Island’s natural wonders, instead serves the U.S. government’s national interest in countering China’s rising economic influence.
The U.S. doesn’t want to be number two. The consequences of the U.S. government’s blueprint for ‘total spectrum dominance,’ globally, are violent, and frightening.
I recently attended a conference held at Jeju University, where young Korean men told participants about why they chose prison instead of enlisting for the two-year compulsory Korean military service. “I admire these conscientious objectors for their brave and responsible decisions,” I said, “and I confess that I’m worried. I fear that Jeju Island will become like Afghanistan, where I have worked as a humanitarian and social enterprise worker for the past 10 years.”
“Jeju Island will be a pawn harboring a U.S. naval base, just as Afghanistan will be a pad for at least nine U.S. military bases when the next Afghan President signs the U.S./Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement.”
When the Korean authorities collaborated with the U.S. military in 1947, at least 30,000 Jeju Islanders were massacred.
How many more ordinary people and soldiers will suffer, be utilized or be killed due to U.S. geopolitical interests to pivot against China?
As many as 20% of all tourists to Jeju Island are Chinese nationals. Clearly, ordinary Jeju citizens and ordinary Chinese can get along, just like ordinary Afghans and citizens from the U.S./NATO countries can get along. But when U.S. military bases are built outside the U.S., the next Osama Bin Ladens will have excuses to plan other September 11th s!
A few nights ago, I spoke with Dr Song, a Korean activist who used to swim every day to Gureombi Rock, a sacred, volcanic rock formation along Gangjeong’s coastline which was destroyed by the naval base construction. At one point, coast guard officials jailed him for trying to reach Gureombi by swimming. Dr. Song just returned from Okinawa, where he met with Japanese who have resisted the U.S. military base in Okinawa for decades.
The Okinawan and Korean activists understand the global challenge we face. The 99% must link to form a strong, united 99%. By acting together, we can build a better world, instead of burning out as tiny communities of change. The 1% is way too wealthy and well-resourced in an entrenched system to be stopped by any one village or group.
‘We are many, they are few’ applies more effectively when we stand together. Socially and emotionally, we need one another more than ever, as our existence is threatened by human-engineered climate change, nuclear annihilation and gross socioeconomic inequalities.
The governments of South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and even my home country Singapore, have dangerously partnered with the U.S. against China, in Obama’s Asia pivot, dividing human beings by using the threat of armed force, for profit.
The non-violent examples of the people of Gangjeong Village should lead people worldwide to make friendships, create conversations, build alternative education systems, promote communally beneficial, sustainable economies , and create peace parks where people can celebrate their art, music, and dancing. Visit Gangjeong Village and you’ll see how residents have created joyful ways to turn the Asia War Pivot into an Asia Peace Pivot, as you can watch in this video.
Alternatively, people can choose the “helpless bystander” role and become passive spectators as oppressive global militarism and corporate greed destroy us. People can stand still and watch destruction of beautiful coral reefs and marine life in Jeju, Australia and other seas; watch livelihoods, like those of Gangjeong and Gaza fishermen, disappear; and watch, mutely, as fellow human beings like Americans, Afghans, Syrians, Libyans, Egyptians, Palestinians. Israelis, Ukrainians, Nigerians, Malians, Mexicans, indigenous peoples and many others are killed.
The gorgeous Jeju Island coast at Gangjeong Village,
now being polluted and destroyed by the construction of a Korean/U.S. naval base
Or, we can be Like Mi Ryang. As free and equal human beings we can lay aside our individual concerns and lobbies to unite, cooperatively, making our struggles more attractive and less lonely. Together, we’re more than capable of persuading the world to seek genuine security and liberation.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers have begun playing their tiny part in promoting non-violence and serving fellow Afghans in Kabul. As they connect the dots of inequality, global warming and wars, they long to build relationships across all borders, under the same blue sky, in order to save themselves, the earth and humanity.
Gangjeong Village Mayor ( front row, second from left ), wearing the Borderfree Blue Scarf,
with Dr Hakim on his left. Mi Ryang is standing in the back row, third from the right
Through their Borderfree effort to build socioeconomic equality, take care of our blue planet, and abolish war, they wear their Borderfree Blue Scarvesand say, together with Mi Ryang and the resilient villagers of Gangjeong Village, “Don’t touch me!”
“Don’t touch us!”
Hakim, ( Dr. Teck Young, Wee ) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 9 years, including being a mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.
Source: MAG (Mines Advisory Group), Author: Mai Chi, Community Liaison Officer, MAG Vietnam
For seven years working for MAG in Quang Binh as a Community Liaison Officer, I have heard about so many accidents in the poor villages: two 14-year-old boys, one killed and one badly injured when they set off a cluster submunition in the schoolyard; a man who is still suffering from the ball bearings pinned in his body as a result of an explosion; three children, one killed and two injured when searching for scrap metal to sell in order to help their poor parents.
On each occasion, I could feel how terrible the accidents were through my conversations with the victims or their families.
Yesterday there was another.
It was a hot summer day and our teams were collecting information about the location of unexploded ordnance in Dong Giang village, Hung Trach Commune, when we received news that two brothers – aged five and nine – had been killed 2km away.
They had been tampering with a BLU-3 cluster submunition, left over from the Vietnam-American War, in front of their home.
We went there immediately. The rundown house was surrounded by hundreds of people.
I couldn’t tell who the mother of the two children was among the many crying women there, but someone pointed out the father, himself still bearing the pain from a recent traffic accident.
He couldn’t move, and was on his knees screaming: "Today is my sons' first day of summer holiday. Why didn't God let me die instead of my sons, why did he take my sons away? They were still so young." I couldn’t stop the tears streaming down on my face. My heart really hurt.
I saw the pliers and a pair of broken sunglasses that the children had used to tamper with the submunition, in an attempt to get scrap metal to sell for cash. I saw a pair of torn sandals, a hole on the floor and the ball bearings from the submuntion.
I walked closer to the bed in the centre of the house. Someone pulled the blanket up, revealing two dead bodies. Legs and hands were smashed and blown away.
What a terrifying scene. I closed my eyes, felling breathless and ran out. People were crying louder and louder.
Why did these innocent kids have to die? The older brother was a good pupil at school. He was just nine years old, but always tried to help his parents. Every day he walked far to bring back some clean water for the family, and he took care of his five-year-old brother while their parents were out.
A bright future was ahead of them. But the legacy of the war that ended 40 years ago has taken their lives away.
I informed a victim assistance organisation of the accident, so they could provide support to the family. I left MAG's telephone hotline number there in case they needed help. This village was on our current priority list for clearance next month.
I suddenly thought of my three-year-old son. This should never happen again. I have to do something. I will start teaching my son his first Risk Education* lesson today.
For more on MAG's work in Vietnam and worldwide please visit www.maginternational.org.
* Risk Education aims to prevent death and injury from landmines, unexploded ordnance, cluster bombs and other explosive remnants of war, by raising awareness of the problems and promoting safer behaviour. For more information go to www.maginternational.org/
By Dave Lindorff
I was shocked to find myself in almost perfect agreement today with a recent column by the neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer.
Usually Krauthammer has me groaning, but yesterday his column nailed it.
Masakazu Yasui, secretary general of Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo) issued a statement on Abe's remarks on the same day. Protesting against this dangerous attempt, we also carried out a signature campaign in support of the "Appeal for a Total Ban on Nuclear Weapons" on May 22 in front of Ochanomizu station in Tokyo. Passersby in front of the station showed interest in our campaign. Many People agreed to sign the petition, expressing great concern on what the Abe government was trying to do.
Stop Abe Cabinet’s Maneuvers to Allow the Exercise of the Right to Collective Self-Defense and Make Japan a War-Fighting Country by Turning Article 9 of the Constitution to a Dead Letter
February 15, 2014
Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 15 announced his clear intention to step forward for enabling Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and engage in war-fighting by changing the official interpretation of the Constitution of Japan. This announcement was made based on the report of his private advisory body “Advisory Pan l Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security”.
Exercising the right to collective self-defense means to use armed force for the sake of defending other countries even without military attacks on Japan. As Mr. Abe himself admitted in the press conference, it is an extremely dangerous act, trying to respond by use of force to all kinds of cases, including nuclear/missile development in North Korea, heightening tension with China in South China Sea, and further, to the protection of Japanese nationals in as distant as Indian Ocean or Africa.
Such international disputes should be resolved through peaceful means based on law and reason. The Japanese government should make an all-out effort to settle them by diplomacy based on the Constitution. The principle of the UN Charter also calls for peaceful settlement of disputes.
Prime Minister Abe has used North Korea's nuclear and missile development to justify the interpretational change of the Constitution. But the world is now significantly moving toward a total ban on nuclear weapons by focusing on humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. Japan should play a role of promoting this global trend by making effort to resume the Six-Party Talks to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The Abe Cabinet’s maneuvers for the exercise of the right to collective self-defense and creating the war-fighting system will not only destroy the Constitutional pacifism, which has ensured peace and safety of Japanese citizens, but lead to the escalation of the vicious cycle of tension in East Asia. We must stop this dangerous move in cooperation with all peace-loving people both in Japan and the rest of the world.
By Kathy Kelly
Jeju Island, South Korea – For the past two weeks, I’ve been in the Republic of Korea (ROK), as a guest of peace activists living in Gangjeong Villageon ROK’s Jeju Island. Gangjeong is one of the ROK’s smallest villages, yet activists here, in their struggle against the construction of a massive naval base, have inspired people around the world.
Since 2007, activists have risked arrests, imprisonment, heavy fines and wildly excessive use of police force to resist the desecration caused as mega-corporations like Samsung and Daelim build a base to accommodate U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines for their missions throughout Asia. The base fits the regional needs of the U.S. for a maritime military outpost that would enable it to continue developing its Asia Pivot strategy, gradually building towards and in the process provoking superpower conflict with China.
“We don’t need this base,” says Bishop Kang, a Catholic prelate who vigorously supports the opposition. He worries that if the base is completed, Jeju Island will become a focal point for Far Eastern military struggle, and that this would occur amid accelerating military tensions. “The strongest group in the whole world, the military, takes advantage of National Security ideology,” he continues. “Many people make money. Many governments are controlled by this militarism. The military generals, in their minds, may think they are doing this to protect their country, but in fact they’re controlled by the corporations.”
Jeju Islanders cannot ignore or forget that at least 30,000 of their grandparents and great grandparents were slaughtered by a U.S.-supported Korean government intent on crushing a tenacious democracy movement. The height of the assault in 1948 is referred to as the April 3 massacre, although the persecution and murderous suppression lasted many years. The national government now asking sacrifices of them has rarely been their friend.
But for the construction, Gangjeong seems a truly idyllic place to live. Lanes curving through the village are bordered by gardens and attractive small homes. Villagers prize hard work and honesty, in a town with apparently no need to lock up anything, where well-cultivated orange trees fill the eye with beauty and the air with inexpressible fragrance. Peaks rise in the distance, it’s a quick walk to the shore, and residents seem eager to guide their guests to nearby spots designated as especially sacred in the local religion as indicated by the quiet beauty to be found there.
One of these sacred sites, Gureombi Rock, is a single, massive 1.2 km lava rock which was home to a fresh water coastal wetland, pure fresh water springs and hundreds of plants and animal species. Now, it can only be accessed through the memories of villagers because the Gureombi Rock is the exact site chosen for construction of the naval base. My new friend, Tilcote, explained to me, through tears, that Gureombi has captured her heart and that now her heart aches for Gureombi.
Last night we gathered to watch and discuss a film by our activist film-maker and friend Cho Sung-Bong. Activists recalled living in a tent camp on Gureombi, successful for a time in blocking the construction companies. “Gureombi was our bed, our dinner table, our stage, and our prayer site,” said Jonghwan, who now works every day as a chef at the community kitchen. “Every morning we would wake and hear the waves and the birds.”
The film, set for release later this year, is called “Gureombi, the Wind is Blowing Cho, who had arrived in Gangjeong for a 2011 visit at the height of vigorous blockades aimed at halting construction, decided to stay and film what he saw. We see villagers use their bodies to defend Gureombi. They lie down beneath construction vehicles, challenge barges with kayaks, organize human chains, occupy cranes, and, bearing no arms, surround heavily armed riot police. The police use extreme force, the protesters regroup and repeat. Since 2007, over 700 arrests have been made with more than 26 people imprisoned, and hundreds of thousands in fines imposed on ordinary villagers. Gangjeong village now has the highest “crime” rate in South Korea!
Opposing the real crime of the base against such odds, the people here have managed to create all the “props” for a thriving community. The community kitchen serves food free of charge, 24 hours a day. The local peace center is also open most of the day and evening, as well as the Peaceful Café. Books abound, for lending, many of them donated by Korean authors who admire the villagers’ determination to resist the base construction. Food, and much wisdom, are available but so much more is needed.
After seven years of struggle many of the villagers simply can’t afford to incur additional fines, neglecting farms, and languishing, as too many have done, in prison. A creative holding pattern of resistance has developed which relies on community members from abroad and throughout the ROK to block the gate every morning in the context of a lengthy Catholic liturgy.
Priests and nuns, whose right to pray and celebrate the liturgy is protected by the Korean constitution, form a line in front of the gate. They sit in plastic chairs, for morning mass followed by recitation of the rosary. Police dutifully remove the priests, nuns and other activists about ten times over the course of the liturgy, allowing trucks to go through. The action slows down the construction process and sends a symbolic, daily message of resistance.
Returning to the U.S., I’ll carry memories not only of tenacious, creative, selfless struggle but also of the earnest questions posed by young Jeju Island students who themselves now face prospects of compulsory military service. Should they experiment with conscientious objection and face the harsh punishments imposed on those who oppose militarization by refusing military service?
Their questions help me pivot towards a clearer focus on how peace activists, worldwide, can oppose the U.S. pivot toward increasing militarization in Asia, increasing conflict with its global rivals, and a spread of weapons that it is everyone’s task to hinder as best they can.
Certainly one step is to consider the strength of Gangjeong Village, and to draw seriousness of purpose from their brave commitment and from the knowledge of what is at stake for them and for their region. It’s crucial to learn about their determination to be an island of peace. As we find ways to demand constructive cooperation between societies rather than relentless bullying and competition, their struggle should become ours.
By David Hartsough
I have recently returned from three weeks in Korea and Vietnam, countries which have in the past suffered and are still suffering from the ravages of war.
Korea -- North and South are caught in the tragic cold war mentality with a divided country imposed on them by the United States (and not opposed by the Soviet Union) back in 1945 and solidified in 1948. Ten million families were separated by the division of North and South. People in South Korea cannot phone, write or visit relatives or friends in North Korea and vice versa. One Catholic Priest from South Korea I met spent three and a half years in prison in South Korea for visiting North Korea on a peace mission. The border between North and South Korea is a battle zone where hot war could break out at any moment. The US and South Korean military regularly do full scale live fire war games invoking up to 300,000 troops simulating both defensive and offensive war including armed war planes right up to the border of North Korea. North Korea regularly makes threats of war as well. The Soviet Union is no more and it is time for the United States to ask forgiveness of the people of South and North Korea for imposing this state of war on the two countries, sign a peace agreement with North Korea to officially end the Korean war, recognize the government of North Korea and agree to negotiate all differences at the conference table, not on the battlefield.
I spent most of my time in Korea on Jeju Island, a beautiful island 50 miles south of the South Korean mainland where between 30,000 and 80,000 people were assassinated back in 1948 under orders from US military command. The people of Jeju island had strongly resisted the Japanese occupation during World War II and along with most people in Korea, were looking forward to a free and independent nation. However, instead of a unified country, the US imposed a strongly anti-communist government on South Korea and especially on Jeju Island. All who resisted a militarized and anti-communist South Korea were assassinated (more than 1/3 of the population at that time). Because of the anti-communist dictatorships for decades after 1948, the people of Jeju Island were not allowed to even talk about this past or they would be suspected of being communist sympathizers and severely punished. Only in 2003 President Roh Moo-hyun apologized on behalf of the Korean government for the massacre of the people on Jeju island in 1948. Jeju Island was then declared an “Island of Peace” and was also declared a “World Heritage Site” because of its coral reefs and natural beauty.
But now the US government has decided on the “pivot to Asia” and plans to move the focus of US military operations to Asia – presumably to encircle China with military bases and prepare for the next war. The village of Gangjeong has been chosen as the port for a massive military base which officially will be a Korean military base, but in reality is seen as a place for US military ships to help “contain” China. Thus, the fear is that Jeju Island could become a focal point for a new war – even a nuclear war between the US and China.
Since plans for the base were first announced seven years ago, the people of Gangjeong have been resisting the construction of the base and for the past four years have been nonviolently blocking bulldozers and cement trucks coming onto the base. Activists from South Korea (many in the Catholic church) have joined in this nonviolent resistance. Every day there is a Catholic Mass in which priests and nuns block the main entrance to the base and each day are carried off by the police when many cement trucks are lined up trying to get onto the base. When the police step aside after the trucks have entered the base, the priests and nuns carry their chairs back to continue blocking the entrance to the base – all the time in deep prayer. I joined them for the last two days I was on Jeju Island. After the mass each day which lasts about two hours, the activists come and do a dance blocking the main gate for another hour or so. Some of the people acting on their conscience blocking the entrance have spent over one year in prison. Others have had heavy fines imposed on them for their acts of conscience. But still the nonviolent resistance continues.
Some Koreans are working hard for reconciliation and peace between North and South Korea. But the governments of the US, South Korea and North Korea continue their military confrontation and now if this base is built, there will be another very large military base in South Korea. Concerned Americans need to support the nonviolent movement of the people on Jeju Island to stop the construction of the military base there.
I believe that the American people need to demand that our government stop the Pax Americana way of relating to the rest of the world. We need to settle our differences with China, North Korea and all nations by negotiations at the conference table, not through projecting our military power through threats and the building of more military bases.
And now on to Vietnam.
In April I spent two weeks in Vietnam as part of a Veterans for Peace delegation hosted by a group of American Vietnam Veterans living in Vietnam. The focus of our visit was to learn about how the people of Vietnam continue to suffer from the American war in Vietnam which ended 39 years ago.
Some of the impressions/highlights of my visit to Vietnam included:
· The friendliness of the Vietnamese people who welcomed us, invited us into their homes and have forgiven us for all the suffering, pain and death our country inflicted on them in the American war in Vietnam, with a hope that they and we can live in peace with one another.
· The horrendous suffering, pain and death caused by the war in Vietnam. If the United States had abided by the Geneva accords which ended the French war with Vietnam in 1954 and had allowed free elections in all of Vietnam in 1956, three million Vietnamese (two million of them, Vietnamese civilians) would not have had to die in the American war in Vietnam. The US military dropped over eight million tons of bombs (more bombs than were dropped by all sides in World War II) killing, maiming and forcing people to flee their homes and many of them to live in tunnels. In Quang Tri province four tons of bombs were dropped for every person in that province (the equivalent of eight Hiroshima –sized Atomic bombs).
· The people of Vietnam are still suffering and dying from the unexploded ordinance and Agent Orange dropped on Vietnam by the US during the war. Ten percent of the bombs dropped on Vietnam did not explode on impact and are still exploding in people’s back yards, in their fields and in their communities, causing people of all ages including many children to lose their limbs, eyesight or be killed or otherwise maimed. Eight hundred thousand tons of unexploded ordinance is still in the ground in Vietnam. Since the end of the war, at least 42,000 people have lost their lives and another 62,000 have been injured or permanently disabled due to unexploded ordinance. We witnessed one unexploded anti-personnel bomb found being safely detonated after being found about ten feet behind a home in a village when they were cutting weeds the day before we got there.
· Over 20 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed on the people and country of Vietnam, including fifteen million gallons of Agent Orange to defoliate the trees and crops. There are three million Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange with deformed bodies and minds three generations later who are still suffering from this very toxic chemical which gets into the genes and is passed from generation to generation so children are still being born deformed in mind and body. We visited orphanages of children tragically affected by Agent Orange who will never be able to live a normal life. We visited homes where children were lying on the bed or floor not able to control their bodies or even recognize there were people nearby. A Mother or Grandmother spends 24 hours a day with the child loving and comforting them. It was almost more than our hearts could bear.
· The (American) Veterans for Peace Chapter 160 in Vietnam is helping support projects like Project Renew in which Vietnamese are trained to safely remove or detonate bombs or ordinance which are found in the communities. They are also supporting the orphanages and families where one or more family members cannot work by buying them a cow or putting a roof on their home or helping start enterprises like growing mushrooms which can be sold on the market for income for the family. Or projects where blind people can make incense and toothpicks which can be sold and help support their families. Our delegation contributed $21,000 toward the orphanages and in support of families suffering from Agent Orange and unexploded ordinance- a drop in the bucket compared with the need, but it was deeply appreciated.
· The US government should take responsibility for alleviating the suffering and pain our war is still causing the people of Vietnam and contribute the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to clean up both the Agent Orange and unexploded ordinance and support the families and victims still suffering from the war. The Vietnamese are ready to do the work, but need financial assistance. We Americans have caused this tragedy. We have the moral responsibility to clean it up.
· It was powerful to experience Vietnam with US veterans, who had been part of the killing and destruction in Vietnam and who were now finding healing from the pain of their war experience 40 or more years ago, through reaching out to the people of Vietnam who are still suffering from the war. One US veteran told us that after the war he could not live with himself or with anyone else and lived as far away as he could from other people – about a hundred miles north of Anchorage, Alaska working on an oil pipeline by day and was drunk or high on drugs the rest of the time to escape from the pain of his war experience. He said there were hundreds of other Veterans also in the back woods of Alaska who were going through the same experience. Only after thirty years of hell did he finally decide to go back to Vietnam where he has gotten to know the people of Vietnam and has found profound healing from his experience in the war – trying to bring healing for the people of Vietnam as well as for himself. He said the worst decision of his life was to go to Vietnam as a soldier and the best decision was to come back to Vietnam as a friend of the people of Vietnam.
· There is a bill which has passed Congress allocating 66 million dollars for commemorating the war in Vietnam in 2015, the fortieth anniversary of the end of the war. Many in Washington hope to clean up the image of the war in Vietnam – that it was a “good war” and something for which Americans should be proud. After my recent trip to Vietnam I feel very strongly that we must NOT allow our government to clean up the image of the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war was a horrible war as are all wars. Hopefully we will learn from history as well as from our religious teachings that War is Not the Answer, that war does not solve conflicts, but instead sows the seeds of future wars. War is a moral disaster for everyone including those who do the killing. (There is a very high number of suicides by both active duty soldiers and veterans, and the souls of all the rest of us are also wounded.)
· The United States could be the most loved nation in the world if we moved from our Pax Americana way of relating to the world to a worldview of a global human family. We need to work for “Shared Security” for all people on earth and act on that belief by spending the hundreds of billions we currently spend on wars and preparations of wars for human and environmental needs in the United States and worldwide. We could help end world hunger, help build schools and medical clinics in communities around the world – help build a decent life for every person on the planet. That would be a much more effective means of fighting terrorism than our present effort to find security through ever more armaments, nuclear weapons and military bases circling our planet.
I invite you to join many of us who are building a Global Movement to End All War – www.worldbeyondwar.org , to sign the Declaration of Peace, look at the ten minute video – The Two Trillion dollar question - and become active in this movement to end the insanity and addiction to violence and war which is so endemic in this country and around the world. I believe that 99% of the world’s people could benefit and feel much safer and have a much better quality of life if we were to end our addiction to war as a means of resolving conflict and devote those funds to promoting a better life for all people on the planet.
My experiences in Korea and Vietnam have only strengthened my belief that this is the path we must take if we are to survive as a species and build a world of peace and justice for our children and grandchildren and for all generations to come.
For more information about the struggle on Jeju Island, Korea, see the www.savejejunow.org website and the film, Ghosts of Jeju.
For more information about the situation in Vietnam and what the Veterans for Peace are doing to help support those suffering from Agent Orange and unexploded ordinance, see http://vfp-vn.ning.com
To find out more about the Movement to End All War, see www.worldbeyondwar.org.
David Hartsough is a Quaker, Executive Director of PEACEWORKERS in San Francisco, a Co-Founder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce and a veteran of peacemaking work in the US and many other parts of the world. David’s book, WAGING PEACE: GLOBAL ADVENTURES OF A LIFELONG ACTIVIST will be published by PM Press in October 2014.
Look who’s calling voting ‘divisive’ and ‘illegal’: The Blood-soaked US Has No Business Opposing Sovereignty Plebiscites
By Dave Lindorff
The rot at the core of US international relations, domestic politics and the corporate media is evident in the American approach to the Ukraine crisis.
U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa and Japan-U.S. Relationship: A Discussion with Nago City Mayor Susumu Inamine, Member of the Japanese House of Representatives (Okinawa) Denny Tamaki and other experts, facilitated by journalist David Swanson.
When: May 20, 6pm - 8pm
Where: Busboys and Poets, (14th & V) 2021 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Sign up here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1440683952839158
Seventy years after WWII, Okinawa, one of the fiercest battlegrounds of the Pacific War (1941-45), continues to be occupied by U.S. military bases, mostly marine bases, posing threats to the safety, health, and life of people and the environment. Despite firm opposition by the majority of the people of Okinawa, U.S. and Japanese governments are forcing through their plan to build yet another marine airbase with a military port, with massive reclamation that is likely to cause damage to the endangered bio-diverse environment of the Northeastern shore of Okinawa. Mayor Susumu Inamine of Nago City, where the planned military base construction site is, was first elected in 2010 and re-elected this January, both on the platform of opposing the new base. Please join Mayor Inamine and a panel of experts think together about the U.S. citizens’ responsibility to bring justice and democracy back to Okinawa.
Sponsored by Busboys and Poets and the New Diplomacy Initiative.
Inquiry: Busboys and Poets, phone: 202-387-7638
New Diplomacy Initiative, email@example.com
Imagine if China were stationing large numbers of troops in the United States. Imagine that most of them were based in a small rural county in Mississippi. Imagine -- this shouldn't be hard -- that their presence was problematic, that nations they threatened in Latin America resented the United States' hospitality, and that the communities around the bases resented the noise and pollution and drinking and raping of local girls.
Now imagine a proposal by the Chinese government, with support from the federal government in Washington, to build another big new base in that same corner of Mississippi. Imagine the governor of Mississippi supported the base, but just before his reelection pretended to oppose it, and after being reelected went back to supporting it. Imagine that the mayor of the town where the base would be built made opposition to it the entire focus of his reelection campaign and won, with exit polls showing that voters overwhelmingly agreed with him. And imagine that the mayor meant it.
Where would your sympathies lie? Would you want anyone in China to hear what that mayor had to say?
Sometimes in the United States we forget that there are heavily armed employees of our government permanently stationed in most nations on earth. Sometimes when we remember, we imagine that the other nations must appreciate it. We turn away from the public uproar in the Philippines as the U.S. military tries to return troops to those islands from which they were driven by public pressure. We avoid knowing what anti-U.S. terrorists say motivates them, as if by merely knowing what they say we would be approving of their violence. We manage not to know of the heroic nonviolent struggle underway on Jeju Island, South Korea, as residents try to stop the construction of a new base for the U.S. Navy. We live on oblivious to the massive nonviolent resistance of the people of Vicenza, Italy, who for years voted and demonstrated and lobbied and protested a huge new U.S. Army base that has gone right ahead regardless.
Mayor Susumu Inamine of Nago City, Okinawa, (population 61,000) is headed to the United States, where he may have to do a bit of afflicting the comfortable as he tries to comfort the afflicted back home. Okinawa Prefecture has hosted major U.S. military bases for 68 years. Over 73% of the U.S. troop presence in Japan is concentrated in Okinawa, which makes up a mere 0.6% of the Japanese land area. As a result of public protest, one base is being closed -- the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The U.S. government wants a new Marine base in Nago City. The people of Nago City do not.
Inamine was first elected as mayor of Nago City in January 2010 promising to block the new base. He was reelected this past January 19th still promising to block the base. The Japanese government had worked hard to defeat him, but exit polls showed 68% of voters opposing the base, and 27% in favor of it. In February U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy visited Okinawa, where she met with the Governor but declined to meet with the mayor.
That's all right. The Mayor can meet with the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon, and the Congress. He'll be in Washington, D.C. in mid-May, where he hopes to appeal directly to the U.S. government and the U.S. public. He'll speak at an open, public event at Busboys and Poets restaurant at 14th and V Streets at 6:00 p.m. on May 20th.
A great summary of the situation in Okinawa can be found in this statement: "International Scholars, Peace Advocates and Artists Condemn Agreement To Build New U.S. Marine Base in Okinawa." An excerpt:
"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."
Here's an organization working to support the will of the public of Okinawa on this issue.
And here's a video worth watching:
The following is the statement issued by former senators Guingona, Saguisag and Tañada plus several lawyers and concerned citizens regarding the military agreement to be signed between PH and US officials this morning.
We express our grave concern over news that a new military agreement called the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC) will be signed between the Philippines and the United States during next week’s visit of US President Barack Obama.
The agreement apparently aims to increase and prolong the presence US troops in the country, and as government has already announced, allow the US access to Philippine bases, the prepositioning of US arms, military supplies and equipment as well as the construction and maintenance of US military facilities inside these Philippine bases.
Given these apparently new features, there is valid concern that the new pact may be going beyond the scope of previous military agreements. That contrary to the negotiators’ claims, this is not a mere implementing agreement of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement nor the periodic arrangements on mutual logistics and support. The AEDC as reported by media threatens to reverse the historic Senate vote that removed the US bases in 1991.
We are apprehensive that until now, no copy of the agreement has been provided to the public. Even Congress, particularly the Senate, has been kept in the dark. Only general statements and blanket assurances from Philippine and US officials that the AEDC will adhere to the Philippine Constitution have been issued. There is no official venue for public discussion and debate.
Just as we decry the lack of transparency in the crafting of the AEDC, so do we oppose the rush to have the deal signed in time for the Obama visit. We insist that such an agreement should undergo thorough and extensive deliberations by the Senate as well as wide-ranging public discussion
We call on our people to be vigilant, defend and uphold Philippine sovereignty, whether against China’s incursions or the United States of America’s increased military presence in Philippine territory.#
Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr.
Senator Rene Saguisag (MABINI)
Mother Mary John Mananzan, OSB
Dean Pacifico Agabin
Atty. Ricardo N. Fernandez
Atty. Hesiquio Mallilin
Atty. Fulgencio Factoran
Atty. Nelson Loyola
Atty. Harry Roque
Atty. Carlos Montemayor, Jr.
Prof. Roland Simbulan
Ms. Maria Socorro I. Diokno
Dr. Carol Araullo
Renato Constantino Jr.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
A legal controversy — critics would say scandal — has erupted in Alaska's statehouse over the future of its natural gas bounty.
It's not so much an issue of the gas itself, but who gets to decide how it gets to market and where he or she resides.
The question of who owns Alaska's natural gas and where they're from, at least for now, has been off the table. More on that later.
"Secretary Kerry? It's Ukraine on the phone asking about liberation again. Have you been able to get them a reference letter yet from Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan? How about Vietnam? Panama? Grenada? Kosovo maybe? Ukraine says Syria says you have a reference letter in the works from Kosovo. No? Huh. They said they'd accept one from Korea or the Dominican Republic or Iran. No? Guatemala? The Philippines? Cuba? Congo? How about Haiti? They say you promised them a glowing reference from Haiti. Oh. They did? No, I am not laughing, Sir. What about East Timor? Oh? Oh! Sir, you're going to liberate the what out of them? Yes sir, I think you'd better tell them yourself."
Some nations the United States should probably not liberate -- except perhaps the 175 nations which could be liberated from the presence of U.S. soldiers. But one nation I would make an exception for, and that is the nation of Hawai'i.
Jon Olsen's new book, Liberate Hawai'i: Renouncing and Defying the Continuing Fraudulent U.S. Claim to the sovereignty of Hawai'i, makes a compelling case -- a legal case as well as a moral one.
Olsen's case, in very condensed summary, looks like this: Hawai'i was an independent nation, recognized as such by the United States and numerous other nations, with treaties in effect between Hawai'i and other nations, including the United States, that have never been terminated. In 1893 U.S. profiteers and U.S. Marines, in a criminal act, overthrew Hawai'i's government and queen, setting up a new government that lacked any legal standing. President Grover Cleveland investigated what had been done, admitted to the facts, and declared the new government illegitimate, insisting that the Queen retain the rule she had never abdicated. But the fraudulent foreign government remained, and in 1898 once William McKinley was U.S. president, handed over Hawaii (thought it had no legal power to do so) to the United States, as the United States also picked up the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba in a bit of a global shopping spree. By 1959, these events were growing lost in the mists of time, and the demographics of Hawai'i were radically altered, as Hawai'i was offered a vote between two bad choices: statehood or continued status as a colony or "territory" (liberation wasn't on the ballot). Thus did Hawai'i seem to become a state without legally becoming any such thing. In 1993, the U.S. Congress passed and President Clinton signed U.S. Public Law 103-150, admitted to and apologizing for this history, without of course doing the one thing legally and morally required -- liberating Hawai'i.
The primary purpose of the U.S. grab for Hawai'i, even more than economic exploitation, was military expansion, as Olsen shows. The U.S. military wanted, and took, Pearl Harbor. Then it took a lot more land, occupied it, bombed it, poisoned it. Now the U.S. military holds 22% of O'ahu, 68% of Kaula, and chunks of all the major islands, with more planned, archaeological sites threatened, species threatened, air quality for telescopes threatened, and heightened tensions around the Pacific not just threatened but those heightened tensions being the actual purpose of this massive and disastrous investment by the foreign occupying nation claiming Hawai'i by force and fraud.
What can be done? And of, by, and for whom exactly? Who is a Hawaiian and who is not? Olsen does not advocate a Hawaii for the ethnically native Hawaiians alone. He recognizes that the term "Hawaiian" is used to refer to an ethnic group, and proposes the invention of the term "Hawaiian national" to refer to anyone who considers Hawaii home and supports its liberation. I think Olsen is on the right path but slipping slightly off it. Nationalism has not proved a wholly beneficial concept. Hawaii needs to be liberated from U.S. nationalism, but Hawaiians and the rest of us need to begin thinking of ourselves as citizens of the world, not of one nation over others. Nor do two wrongs, of whatever disparity, make a right (just ask Palestine). I'd like to see "Hawaiian" evolve to encompass all who consider Hawaii their home, without the addition of "national." Of course this unsolicited advice from me to Hawaiians may be unappreciated. But then, they are free to ignore it; I'm not using the Marine Corps as a delivery service, and my advice to the Marine Corps (unsolicited as well) is to disband and liberate the world from its existence.
There's an important point that I think Olsen's argument supports, although he does not develop it in his book, and it is this: If in 1941 Hawaii was not yet even purporting to be a U.S. state, but was rather an illegally and illegitimately seized territory, Pearl Harbor having been stolen from the Hawaiian people, then whatever else you might think of the second major crime committed at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese did not attack the United States. The Japanese attacked an imperial outpost in the middle of the Pacific that they viewed as a threat -- and what else was it if not that?
Were Hawaii to liberate itself from the United States (for the United States is not actually going to liberate it voluntarily), would the point be moot as the practices of the United States and China and other nations drive the world's islands underwater? Actually, projections show Hawaii surviving the flood. The question for Hawaiians may be this: Who do you want managing the influx of millions of Floridians looking for a new paradise to pave, your own manageable self-governed society or the tender mercies of the United States Congress?
By International Peace Bureau
March 11, 2014. The events of the last few days and weeks only serve to confirm what the IPB and others in the disarmament wing of the international peace movement have been asserting for years: that in times of political tension, military force solves nothing. It provokes only more military force from the other side, and risks pushing both parties up and around an infernal spiral of violence. This is an especially dangerous course when there are nuclear weapons in the background.
But even if there were no nuclear weapons, this would be a thoroughly alarming situation, given the violation of international law perpetuated by Russia on the Crimean peninsula.
The dramatic events in Ukraine are playing out against the background of a harvest of resentment within the Russian Federation as a result of repeated Western unilateralism and lack of restraint, including:
- the expansion of NATO up to Russia's borders; and
- the encouragement and funding of the 'colour revolutions', which has been perceived as interference in its neighbourhood. This makes Russia doubt whether the agreement they have had with Ukraine over the military bases in Crimea will be kept to in the future.
Let us be quite clear: to criticise the West for reckless and domineering behaviour is not to condone or defend Russia; conversely, to criticise Russia for its own reckless and domineering behaviour is not to let the West off the hook. Both sides bear responsibility for the deep-rooted tragedy that is unfolding and that promises to both ruin and split Ukraine and plunge Europe, and indeed the wider world, back into some new form of East-West conflict. The talk on the Western news channels is all of how fast to climb the ladder of anti-Russian economic sanctions, while Russian mass demonstrations of post-Sochi pride risk tempting Putin to overreach in his zeal to build a counterweight to the arrogant West via his Eurasian Union.
The task of a peace movement is not only to analyse causes and denounce oppression, imperialism and militarism wherever they manifest. It is also to propose ways forward, paths out of the mess. It should be obvious to all but the most hawkish politicians that the number one priority in the coming days and weeks must not be point-scoring and lecturing one's opponents but dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. While we recognise that the UNSC has recently passed resolutions calling for "an inclusive dialogue recognizing the diversity of the Ukrainian society", the best bet right now for a real resolution of this difficult conflict would seem to be the Swiss-led OSCE (of which Russia a member state). Indeed, it is clear that some discussion between the leaders of East and West is occurring, but it is obvious that their views of the whole situation are far apart. Yet there is no alternative; Russia and the West have to learn to live and talk with each other and indeed work together for mutual benefit, as well as resolving the fate of Ukraine.
Meanwhile there is much to be done at the citizen level. IPB supports the recent call made by Pax Christi International <http://www.paxchristi.net/> to religious leaders and all the faithful in Ukraine, as well as in the Russian Federation and in other countries involved in the political tensions, "to act as mediators and bridge-builders, bringing people together instead of dividing them, and to support nonviolent ways to find peaceful and just solutions to the crisis." Women should be given a much more prominent voice.
Among the top priorities for action in both short and long term must be to overcome the poverty in the country and the unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities. We recall reports showing that unequal societies produce much more violence than equal societies. Ukraine - like many other conflict-ridden countries - must be helped to provide education and jobs, and not least for the angry young men who let themselves be recruited into diverse forms of fundamentalism. A minimum of security is necessary in order to encourage investment and job creation; hence the importance of political interventions to bring the sides together and to demilitarize the region.
There are several additional steps that should be promoted:
* withdrawal of Russian troops to their bases in Crimea or to Russia, and of Ukrainian troops to their barracks;
* an investigation by UN / OSCE observers of complaints of human rights violations among all communities in Ukraine;
* no military intervention by any outside forces;
* convening of high level talks under the auspices of the OSCE and international peace organisations with participation from all parties, including Russia, US and EU as well as Ukrainians from all sides, men and women. The OSCE should be given an expanded mandate and responsibility, and its representatives allowed access to all sites. The Council of Europe can also be a useful forum for dialogue between the different sides.
 Summarised in the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
Here are this week’s articles. We are nearing our goal of 10,000 petition signatures in support of Okinawans opposing the construction of the Henoko base and calling for the closure of the Futenma base. If you have not already signed the statement and shared it with friends, please do so. We need to give them support.
For peace and justice,
The Pentagon’s Latest “Mission Accomplished” Moment
By Nick Turse, TomDispatch
It’s 2053 -- 20 years since you needed a computer, tablet, or smart phone to go online. At least, that’s true in the developed world: you know, China, India, Brazil, and even some parts of the United States. Cybernetic eye implants allow you to see everything with a digital overlay. And once facial recognition software was linked to high-speed records searches, you had the lowdown on every person standing around you. Of course, in polite society you still introduce yourself as if you don’t instantly know another person’s net worth, arrest record, and Amazooglebook search history. (Yes, the fading old-tech firms Amazon, Google, and Facebook merged in 2033.) You also get a tax break these days if you log into one of the government’s immersive propaganda portals. (Nope, “propaganda” doesn’t have negative connotations anymore.) So you choose the Iraq War 50th Anniversary Commemoration Experience and take a stroll through the virtual interactive timeline.
Look to your right, and you see happy Iraqis pulling down Saddam’s statue and showering U.S. Marines with flowers and candy. Was that exactly how it happened? Who really remembers? Now, you’re walking on the flight deck of what they used to call an aircraft carrier behind a flight-suit-clad President George W. Bush. He turns and shoots you a thumbs-up under a “mission accomplished” banner. A voice beamed into your head says that Bush proclaimed victory that day, but that for years afterward, valiant U.S. troops would have to re-win the war again and again. Sounds a little strange, but okay.
A few more paces down the digital road and you encounter a sullen looking woman holding a dog leash, the collar attached to a man lying nude on the floor of a prison. Your digital tour guide explains: “An unfortunate picture was taken. Luckily, the bad apple was punished and military honor was restored.” Fair enough. Soon, a digital General David Petraeus strides forward and shoots you another thumbs-up. (It looks as if they just put a new cyber-skin over the President Bush avatar to save money.) “He surged his way to victory and the mission was accomplished again,” you hear over strains of the National Anthem and a chorus of “hooahs.”
If we needed any incentives to focus more of our efforts to preventing a catastrophic great power war growing out of tensions in East Asia, this week’s reflections by Joseph Nye and Shinzo Abe (see below) – each of whom has made more than his share of contributions to the dangers we face – should more than suffice. Take a look at the first two articles in this week’s posting.
With this year being the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, an increasing number of analysts are raising alarms about the parallels between the current situation across Asia and the Pacific and the years immediately preceding the gunshot in Sarajevo that triggered the First World War. They include the inevitable tensions between rising and declining powers, with the dominant powers (then Britain and France, now U.S. and Japan) committed to enforcing the status quo while the rising power (then Germany, now China) presses to modify the prevailing to expand and protect its perceived interests and to exercise the influence it believes is its due. There are territorial disputes, intense arms races, interlocking alliance systems, and nations dependent on naval power being challenged by a continental power asserting itself on the high seas. As in the early 1900s, international trade and economic globalization surging. There are new technologies increasing communication and new and cataclysmically destructive weapons. Again there is widespread belief that great power war is unimaginable. And, as in Europe in 1914, there are numerous wild cards including potentially failing states and rising nationalism.
Of course, as in 1914 war is not inevitable. Much depends on what we do.
And, meanwhile, voters in Nago voted overwhelmingly to block the construction of a new U.S. Marine air base, and the Abe and U.S. governments are hypocritically assaulting this exercise of democracy doing their best to crush Okinawan resistance. Look for a petition next week to communicate your support for peace, democracy and human dignity.
So, read, work for peace, and share these articles as you think best.
Dangers of Sino-Japanse War:
1914 Revisited – Joseph Nye
Will Japan and China Go to War? – Time Magazine
US Pacific fleet chief says North Korea is top security concern in Asia
Chinese patrol ship to be based at disputed islands in South China Sea
Regional security tops Sino-US talks in Beijing
China's nuclear missile drill seen as warning to US not to meddle in region
Work under way on China's second aircraft carrier at Dalian yard
China stands for 5 principles in a political settlement of the Syrian issue
Nago mayor wins re-election in blow to Abe, U.S.
Base setback denied after Nago poll
Bidding starts on Futenma base relocation work
Kadena (Okinawa) moms demand truth
Shinzo Abe seeks 'frank discussion' with China and South Korea
Abe’s Version of History Doesn’t Sit Well With Chinese
Ex-teacher sues over ‘Kimigayo’ rule