Symposium INDEX

Japan Peace Conference 2003 International Symposium
Special Report


Allen Nelson



I'd like to start my presentation by thanking the Japan Peace Committee for inviting me to attend this symposium. The first time that I came to Okinawa was in 1966. I was a 19-year-old Marine. I was stationed at Camp Hansen. Camp Hansen is where I trained to develop the skills to be able to go to war, to develop the skills to be able to kill people. I think it's very important that we are honest about what happens on these military bases. The military bases exist to train soldiers in the art of war and murder. I realized now that when I went to Vietnam, I was not a freedom fighter. I was a terrorist. Because war is an act of terrorism. We had many wars in our centuries, and war has never brought us peace. I remember being stationed at Camp Hansen. But I don't remember Okinawan people. I remember walking the streets of Okinawa, but never looking in the faces of the people. I don't remember the Sanshin, I don't remember the food, I don't remember the voice of the Okinawan people. And I'm sure that the marines and soldiers who are stationed here have the same mentality.

I came to Okinawa shortly after 9.11. I returned to Japan and I gave 3 lectures at 3 high schools in Tokyo before I came to Okinawa. All three high schools had canceled their trips to Okinawa. The students wanted to come and teachers wanted to bring their students. But the mainland Japanese parents were afraid to let their children come to Okinawa after 9.11 because of the presence of the United States military bases. They were afraid that because of the presence of the United States bases, that there could be a chance of a terrorist attack. But I think that this was the best time for students of the mainland Japan to come and visit Okinawa. We are always told that United States military bases are here to protect Japanese people. But the students had come to Okinawa after 9.11., they will see who the bases are here to protect. As I visited the bases, I noticed how heavily secured the bases were. Maybe only one gate opened. Many trucks lined up, Okinawan drivers getting out, trucks been searched by Marines with guns. From every prefecture on the mainland Japan, there was Japanese security police circling the bases. But as I visited the Okinawan communities, there was no security there. There were no marines walking around Okinawan communities, protecting Okinawan people. There were no marines at hospitals, schools or government buildings. So it became very evident to me that these bases are not here to protect Japanese people. So the questions comes, why are the bases here? Certainly the propaganda tells us that the bases are here for the security reasons. And certainly we know that the bases are here so that the United States can strike in any areas that they can in the South Pacific. But really the bases are not here to protect you. The bases are here to protect the Americans from the Japanese.

Because of the dropping of the A-bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, America has a great paranoia against Japanese people. Because dropping of the nuclear bombs was terrible act of terrorism. Japanese people were not warned. And you have to remember that before World War II, no one had ever heard of nuclear bomb. No one had ever imagine such a weapon of mass destruction. And who were the victims of the A-bomb dropping? It was women and children. It was old people. My country America dropped nuclear bombs on hospitals and schools. This is the terrible act of terrorism. So in many ways America is the king of terrorism. We have taught the world how to be terrorists.

I was home in America on 9.11. I had just returned from Japan. It was an unreal scene to live in New York and see the World Trade Centers collapse. And I knew as these building were falling down that hundreds and thousands of innocent people were being killed right before my eyes. But as a Vietnam veteran I had a feeling that Vietnam had finally come home to the Americans.

I have traveled to many places and given many lectures on the mainland Japan and here on Okinawa. I have visited many schools and many communities. And one thing that is very obvious is the absence of American media covering these events. As I look around this room today, I wonder where is CNN. They are not here. And they certainly are aware of this important meeting. CNN and the American media have no desire to show the American people that Japanese people and Okinawan people are tired of these military bases. In America we do not get to see your protests. In America we do not get to hear the anger of Japanese and Okinawan people who have to raise their family surrounded these bases.

The only time that the Americans did get the change to see was during the G8 Summit when Bill Clinton came. And America had no choice not to cover this event because the world leaders were meeting here in Okinawa. And I remember returning home and having my wife said, "Oh yes, I saw the protest at Kadena Air Force Base."

The media has covered up so much. We continue to try to find out what is the truth. I thank Dr. Ali very much for his powerful, powerful speech last night. He showed as the realities of what's going in Iraq, his home. He showed us the photographs and pictures that we will never see in the news. He talked his own personal stories of trying to survive, trying to help these people without medicine and without food. There are the things that you will not hear in the media.

One thing is very obvious about these military bases on the mainland Japan, Okinawa, and Korea. What it means is that Japan is occupied. We have as many guns and missiles pointing at you as we do the North Koreans. This is an occupied country, and this occupation of Japan has gone on since the end of World War II.

And because of this occupation and because of the United States has so many guns and weapons here, we have to ask ourselves who are the intimidating. I cannot believe that anyone could believe that we have a government here. You really don't have a government. The prime minister of Japan is really the governor of Japan. Your president is the President Bush. So when you are angry, you want to protest, don't bother going to the Diet. You are going to have to come to Washington D.C. where the decisions are made for you.

As I look at the world situation, it is very dangerous now because of George Bush's address to the nation. He said Iran, Iraq, and North Korea are the axis of evil. But I don't think that is true. I think the prime minister of Japan, George Bush and Tony Blair are the real axis of evil. This was the war that we did not have to have. This was the war that could have been avoided. But George Bush was dead set on removing Hussein.

As Dr. Ali explained to us yesterday, when the Americans invaded Iraq, they didn't go and protect banks. They didn't protect hospitals. They didn't protect museums. They didn't protect the people. The only thing that they protected was the oil fields. And this brings us back to the reason for going to war.

George Bush's family is multi-millionaires. They are oil people. The oil of Iraq has always been George Bush's mind. He said it's for the freedom, to free the Iraqi people from dictatorship. But it's not really the freedom. George Bush could care less about the Iraqi people and their freedom. What George Bush does care about is securing those oil fields. We must remember that Iraq has the second largest oil reserve next to Saudi Arabia.

As we looked at the photographs yesterday of the children, of the women suffering from terrible cancer, we get the glimpse of what goes on in Iraq every single day. United States media has done very injustice in providing true information to the American people.

When the two children were killed in Korea by United States military vehicle, there were great protests in Korea. And they showed some of the protests especially if they were violent protests. For most Americans have no idea why the Korean people were protesting. They were protesting because of the anger of again people being killed by the United States military and no justice. And if it is one thing that we have learned is that we cannot have justice without peace. It goes in both ways.

I do not call the United States military bases here bases of security. It is the occupation. And we as anti-base people must start being real and start really looking at this idea of occupation. This country is occupied. We have guns, we have weapons of mass destruction here. One of the other big lies that George Bush said for going to war was that Iraq has the weapons of mass destruction. But as you know the U.N. inspectors could not find these weapons of mass destruction. As you know the United States has been in Iraq for many months now, and no one has been able to find these weapons because these weapons never existed.

But if you ask the Japanese government or the American government, "Are there weapons of mass destruction being kept on the military bases on the mainland Japan or Okinawa?," they will say, "No." If you ask them, "Are there A-bombs and nuclear weapons being kept?," they will say "No." But I think that we as the people, the Japanese people, Okinawan people, and the Americans, we should go to the U.N., get the U.N. inspectors to come and visit these bases on the mainland Japan and Okinawa. You will be shocked at the amount of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction that are being kept here.

This is one of the reasons why it is dangerous for these bases to exist. But one of my real concerns that I have, is concern of the Okinawan children. I have visited your schools, I have lived in your communities, I have watched children. The Okinawan children, when the tank goes down the street, they don't even look at the tank. They see these things every single day of their lives. When jet planes fly over their schools and their homes, they don't even stare at these things because for many of the Okinawan children, seeing a tank is like seeing a tree. They see these things everyday of their lives. And I'm sure as parents and grandparents and uncles and brothers, we can all agree that this is not a good environment for the children to have to grow up in. That is why it is very important that we set the example for the children that we continue to stand for and to protest against this occupation of this country.

Okinawans have suffered much during World War II. Hundreds and thousands of Okinawan people were killed as they were caught between two armies, the Japanese imperial army and the Americans. And once again the Okinawan people find themselves caught in between, terrorism and the United States military.

I started coming back to Okinawa in 1996. At this time I was not working on base issues. At this time I was working in one of the poorest cities in America, a city called Camden, New Jersey. But I remember coming home from work, putting on the TV, and hearing about a 12 year-old child being raped by 3 United States military men. My daughter was the same age, and I looked at her and I could not imagine her going and surviving such a brutal attack. It was at this time that I had decided that I wanted to return to Okinawa. I wanted to help, and work beside the Okinawans to raise my voice against these bases so that no more children are raped, so that no more women are raped. And I have such a great feeling for this young girl because I will not forget her. Shortly after the rape there was massive demonstration here on Okinawa. But since the rape people have gone back to work, they have gone back to their lives. But her life has been taken from her. But I think of her strength and her courage to come home and to report this terrible assault upon her body. I get my strength from her. And I will not forget her pain. And I pray that some day that she will be able to live on normal life. But I thank her for her courage of reporting because I think that more and more women are being raped here on Okinawa, but they are refusing to report it.

It is time, so many years after World War II, that the Americans pack up their guns, pack up their tanks, and go back to America where they belong. It is time now to bring in end to the occupation of the mainland Japan and Okinawa. It is time that we look at the reality of war. War will never bring us peace. George Bush is creating more and more terrorists. We the American and many of my friends and peace activists, we have come to conclusion that we don't want to just beat George Bush at the poll and remove him as president. But we feel that George Bush should stand before criminal court because this war was not necessary.

It is very very important that we start to realize that we have the power to change our future. We are the people of this planet and we have power. One of the things that I realized in the jungles of Vietnam is that people who suffer the worst in war are always the women and the children and the old people.

As I travel around the bases on Okinawa and the mainland Japan, my heart goes out to the families who have to live around these bases. There are areas on the mainland Japan where the United States does the "touch and go" drills. It is so noisy. The local people's houses shake from the noise. But yet we continue. As I travel around Okinawa, and I realize that there are many Okinawan people who have to work on these bases. We do not want to close these bases to cause harm to the Okinawan people or suffering.

So it is very important that the Americans do not leave here without paying the debt. One of the bad things about the United States bases being here is that Okinawans do not have world-class travelers. You don't have French families here, you don't have German families here, you don't have English families here, not even American facsimiles coming to visit Okinawa. Why? Because of the bases. When I talked to my American friends and they told me that they are coming to visit Japan, I asked them, "Oh will you visit Okinawa?" and they said, "Okinawa? Okinawa is a military base." That's the way Americans see Okinawa. And no one wants to spend big money to go to a country only to have jet planes flying over their hotels and swimming pools.

The minute that these bases are closed, the Okinawan people will have their freedom, and they will also have people that want to invest in Okinawa. There is a great future ahead of us, but we must work now. We must work to close these bases forever. One of the things that is very important to me is working for peace. When I was a marine, I was very violent. And I have killed many human beings in the war of Vietnam. For that, I am very sorry. As I look at these young marines stationed here on Okinawa, you have to ask yourselves who are these young men. Who are these young men and women why are they stationed? Well I will tell you. They are the poor. In America, we don't have the draft. But we have the "poor draft" which means that the only children who join the military are the poor. No one is dropping out of Harvard or Yale to join the military. It is always the poor. These young men and young women do not ask to be forced to be sent to Okinawa. They are soldiers and marines. They learned to follow orders.

I have protested at many military bases on the mainland Japan with local people, and I have protested here at the military bases on Okinawa. The reason why we protest at these beses is because we care about these soldiers. We are people of peace. We don't hate people. We don't hate soldiers. The reason why we go there is because we want them to go home and to live in peace. People who support war and violence never visit the bases. They never take rice bowls and green tea to the soldiers and thank them for serving. They could care less about their lives. But we, the peace movement, peace people, we do care about them. And my message to them is always the same message. "We would like for you to go home to your families and learn to live in peace." I've talked to many marines in Naha. As they walk down the street, I engage them and I speak to them. Many of them remember me from coming to their bases and giving the message to them. Many marines thank me. The marines once told me that when we were chanting outside of the gate, "Marines go home," they were very happy because they want to go home.

So our movement is based on love and compassion. We know that the troops in Iraq will suffer when they come home. They will suffer from unemployment, they will suffer from disease. As Dr. Ali pointed out, these nuclear shells that the soldiers have been using has caused much damage and much sickness. When I was in Vietnam, I was exposed to agent orange. But I was very lucky that it never affected to my body. But I never thought about the agent orange until my daughter was born. And I was standing there in an operating room when the doctor brought my daughter to me. And the first thing I did was to take those blanket off. I held her upside down, I counted her toes. I counted her fingers, I counted her ears, and looked at her face and her head. And I was so relieved because so many Vietnam veterans' children have been born deformed because of being exposed to agent orange.

One thing that we should always realize here in this symposium is that world peace does not start in America, so please do not look toward American for world peace. World peace does not start at the U.N. World peace does not start in Europe. World peace starts right here in this room with each and everyone of us. So once again I'd like to thank the Peace Committee for inviting me to come here, and I look forward to working with each and everyone of you to change our world and make it a peaceful place for us raise our families. Thank you.