Symposium INDEX

Japan Peace Conference 2003 International Symposium

Dr. Joseph Gerson

In Dark Times: The Struggle for Peace, Freedom and Security


I want to thank Kawata-san and the Japan Peace Committee for the opportunity to join you in this conference. It is truly a privilege to reengage with loving and steadfast Okinawan peace and democratic activists and with the dedicated members and leadership of the Japan Peace Committee. Sometimes Washingtonユs and Tokyoユs machinations, the relentlessness intrusiveness of U.S. and J.D.A. abuses and usurpations, and the very personal and often undramatic dailiness of reaffirming your dignity, rights and security may seem almost overwhelming. Yet every empire falls. In time even the greatest fortresses succumb to sunlight, rain and wind. As difficult as it may seem, your courageous and patient struggle to end military colonialism ミ especially here in Okinawa ミ is a model and inspiration for people across Asia and the world.
As we know, these are dark and difficult times. With the deepening U.S. consolidation and use of Okinawa for its foreign wars and conquests, and with the recent high court decision denying landowners the right to challenge the seizure of their land for U.S. bases, the challenges you face have grown.
These are also challenging days n the United States, after mobilizing the largest peace demonstrations in our history last year, we have been working hard to identify the openings and means to transform national doubts about and opposition to the continuing U.S. war, occupation, and colonization of Iraq. These are difficult economic times in the United States. With the Pentagon and the White House aggressively managing, if not censoring, the news that we see, few U.S. Americans know or understand the loss, suffering, fear, and insecurity that has become the daily bread of most Iraqis, In a departure from past practice, the press is now prevented from photographing caskets bearing the shattered remains of the U.S. war dead, the young men and women who are the cannon fodder of Bush and Cheneyユs war to re-consolidate U.S. Middle East hegemony and control of the jugular vein of global capitalism ミ Middle East oil. In years to come, we will learn about the massacres, torture, and humiliations that, like Mai Lai in Vietnam, have been essential to this war of conquest. It is no accident that Saddam Husseinユs French lawyer tells us that メIn the course of a trial, the fundamental element will be: ヤYou treat me like a pariah, but I was your friend. What we did, we did together. I fired the bullet, but youユre the one who gave me the gun ミ you even pointed out the enemy.ユモ
It is no secret that Washingtonユs wars are not limited to the Iraqi quagmire. The war goes on in Afghanistan, where Hamid Karzai remains the メMayor of Kabulモ, where war lords continue to rule, where the worldユs largest cash crop of opium poppies continues to be grown, where the on-going war continues its daily harvest of death and destruction, and which continues to threaten to metastasize into nuclear Pakistan. U. S. troops are again at war in the Philippines. And, in what may prove to be the worldユs most dangerous crisis, the Bush Administration continues to take メYesモ for an answer from Kim Jong Ilユs government in Pyongyang. In partial fulfillment of Bushユs Nuclear Posture Review which names seven nations as primary targets of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the U.S. Congress has approved funding for research and development of new nuclear weapons ミ one of which will be seventy times more powerful than the Hiroshima A-bomb. If President Bush is reelected, it is widely expected that the U.S. will resume nuclear weapons testing, which ミ in turn ミ will spur he global proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. And, as you know, Rumsfeldユs Pentagon is restructuring the U.S. global network of foreign military bases ミ including here in Okinawa ミ to reinforce Washingtonユs war fighting capabilities for decades to come.
U.S. troops trained and based here in Okinawa and across Japan are not the only people from these islands being sent to fight and die for empire, and Washington is not the only nation preparing for preemptive warfare.
As it tightens its alliance with the United States, the better to confront rather than engage China and North Korea, Japanese soldiers are now among the warriors dispatched to fight and die for Middle East oil. Tokyo is also joining Washington in the development and deployment of offensive. first strike, and arms race-initiating メmissile-defenses.モ Perhaps more disheartening and dangerous, the Koizumi government is mimicking Washingtonユs imperial arrogance with its threats of launching preemptive attacks. In Tokyoユs case, the nation being targeted in North Korea. With the reverse course in 1948, Washington brought the militarists responsible for the Fifteen Year War and the savaging of Okinawa back into the ruling elite as their vassals. Nurtured by the United States over the past six decades, encouraged by the passing of generations and the collective loss of memory, and under continuing pressure from Washington, the successors of late 19th and early 20th century Japanese imperialists are making major moves to savage the Peace Constitution and to reassert Japan as a regional military power with global reach. If these militarists are not resisted and contained, the Japanese people will again inflict and suffer the catastrophic meanings of war ミ something understood so well by older Okinawans.
Yet, the truth is that the U.S. struggling to prevent what Immanuel Wallerstein describes as メThe Decline of American Power.モ This is something that both the United States and Japan have in common.
This is a period of enormous transition, in which the outlines of the still gestating and contending possible new systems of global economic, political, military, and cultural order and disorder are but feint and incoherent outlines on the horizon. They difficult to discern. Yet, because the future is in such a formative period ミ a future that could bring a sharp decline of U.S. power and, with it, the abandonment or ouster of U.S. bases from Okinawa, Japan and other nations ミour individual and collective actions ミ over time ミ may have greater impact in determining whether future generation enjoy more or still less security than we do.
With the U.S. at war across the world, with the U.S. military budget at $500 billion and equaling the military spending of the rest of the worldユs nations ミ combined, and with the U.S. economy still the motor force and decisive market of the global economy, how can I speak of the United States in decline?
As our legendary folk singer and moral teacher Bob Dylan wrote in his youth, what looks so big from far away, is not so impressive when you get up close to see it and its fault lines. While Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, and Rumsfeld are teaching the worldユs nations to fear the United States, those of us who read the daily newspaper or who have the privilege to travel know that the U.S. is becoming a pariah nation. It is arrogantly over-reaching its power and capacities, not unlike the reckless militarists who controlled Japan from the early 1930s through 1945. At this moment President Bush appears likely to be re-elected in this yearユs presidential election, but we would do well to remember that the even the notorious I.M.F. has warned that the twin towers of U.S. deficits (the national budget and trade imbalances) are undermining U.S. and global economic security.
Things that look like that cannot last do not. Even if U.S. forces remain in Iraq through 2007, as British Foreign Minister Jack Straw has predicted, Washington will not be able to export its version of democracy and free-enterprise capitalism to Iraq. Even if the U.S. stock market reaches new election year heights, the structural weaknesses in the U.S. economy will wreak their inevitable havoc. Friends, an Okinawan economy based on the presence of U.S. military bases is little more secure than the economies of Eastern European and Central Asian communities that were dependent on the presence of Soviet military bases. Think about President Bushユs recent travels. When he traveled to Britain ミ Washingtonユs most important global ally ミ the White House advance team found it necessary to cancel plans for the traditional Presidential motorcade. To protect George Bush from the British people, he was essentially confined to the Queenユs residence at Buckingham Palace. When he traveled to Asia for the APEC conference, the most powerful man in the worldユs visit to the Philippines had to be limited to eight, safe, daylight hours. He felt secure enough to visit Indonesia for three hours. And Chinaユs President Hu was given equal time with President Bush in the Australian parliament!