Japan Peace Conference 2007
Executive Board Member, Japan Peace Committee
Before getting into the theme of the symposium, I would like to touch upon the hot issue of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's dispatch to Afghanistan.
War on Afghanistan and SDF dispatch
1. After the anti-terrorism special measures law was expired at midnight of November 2, the MSDF pulled out of the Indian Ocean where it had been providing oil for U.S. warships. It was the historic result achieved by public opinion and movements that forced the government to withdraw the SDF despite its intention. I was in Hanoi, Vietnam attending an international conference of peace movements until the day before yesterday. In the conference, some people made a comment on this achievement. A German delegate gave me congratulate words about the return of 3000 SDF troops from Afghanistan. I realized the weight of Japanese movement internationally.
The Japanese and U.S. governments have had a scenario of deploying the Ground SDF to Afghanistan following the dispatch of the MSDF. On January 12, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the North Atlantic Council, the NATO's decision-making body. He was the Japan's first prime minister to attend it. And he emphasized the need to cooperate with NATO in military operation in Afghanistan, saying that Japan would no longer hesitate to make the SDF conduct activities overseas for the sake of international peace and stability. On the other hand, former U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless hinted the SDF's participation in the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), the joint military-civilian body, as the way for Japan to make contributions. In this context, the MSDF's withdrawal derailed their scenario and gave the major blow to the attempt to develop the Japan-U.S. military alliance on a global scale.
Since then, the deception of the people by the government has been disclosed: a suspicion that the oil provided by the MSDF was used for the military operations in Iraq, and the government's cover-up of the mistakenly reported amount of the oil supply. This must be criticized severely as a breach of faith.
The way for Japan to contribute to the international task to eradicate terrorism is called into question. Terrorism should be brought to justice by the police force, not by the military which is purposed for destruction and killing. The use of force in Afghanistan has fueled the people's hatred. Due to the delay of livelihood assistance, its economy has been degenerated than the pre-war level, while the poppy production is rapidly growing in Afghanistan. Such a situation leads to an increase of their hatred.
The Afghan government is seeking a negotiation for peace with the parties concerned. What Japan is required to do is nothing but a non-military support to public welfare.
The current priority is to thoroughly uncover the cozy relations between Japanese politics and war industries. The scandals-tainted Defense Ministry and the SDF are not in a position to speak of Japan's "safety" or "international contributions." I would like to call on the movement to work hard to scrap the new anti-terrorism special measures bill, designed to enable the MSDF to be sent abroad, and a permanent law for the SDF overseas dispatch.
Relating to the theme of the symposium, I would like to speak about two problems, U.S. military personnelﾕs crimes and local economy.
For Solidarity to eradicate crimes by U.S. soldiers
1. Crimes committed by U.S. soldiers are a serious issue in Asian countries. Last month a marines stationed in the U.S. Iwakuni Base raped a woman in Hiroshima City. Repeated sex crimes by U.S. marines in Japan must not be tolerated.
From 1954 to 2004 in Japan, 201,481 crimes and accidents were caused by U.S. military personnel, involving the death of 1,076 people. More than 500 sex crimes have occurred in the country since the U.S. directly occupied Okinawa after the war, a period when crimes occurred most frequently. In South Korea, during the three years from 2001 to 2003, U.S. troops stationed there committed 232 cases of sex crimes (Stars and Stripes, Pacific Edition, June 26, 2004). On November 1, 2005, a 22-year-old woman was raped in Subic in the Philippines. In Subic and Clark from 1980 to 1988, 3,265 crimes by U.S. military personnel were reported, including 15 cases of sexual abuse of children and 82 such cases against women (Lana Linaban, deputy secretary general of GABRIELA, a Philippine-US women's solidarity mass organization).
Such atrocious crimes have hardly occurred in areas around bases in Europe. The situation of Asian countries must be described as colonial. Furthermore, the status of forces agreement concluded between the U.S. forces and Japan or other Asian nations is unfair, giving priority to the protection of U.S. criminals.
2. Whenever US soldiers committed crimes, the U.S. Forces promised to tighten discipline and to try to be "better neighbors." However, it is substantially impossible.
In last January a 23-year-old U.S. soldier stationed in South Korea hit a 63-year-old woman and assaulted her twice. The U.S. Forces command there stated that the military can't promise to prevent such crimes in the future. Actually, sex crimes are unavoidable in the military. In 2003, numerous sexual assault cases were revealed in the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. According to the authorities' investigation, 70 percent of servicewomen answered that they had been sexually harassed and 19 percent answered they had been sexually assaulted（CNN.com, August 29, 2003）.
Crimes by U.S. military personnel are not something to do with their personalities but arise from the nature of military. Especially, Marine Corps has made remarkable development in its "education on killing" since the end of WWII ("On Killing", David A. Grossman, 1995), which lowers the threshold of atrocious crimes. At the same time, stresses and traumas soldiers suffer in battlefields have worsened the situation. The U.S. Central Forces operating in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reported on 94 sexual-related crimes in 2003, rapidly increasing from 24 in 2002 (Stars and Stripes, European Edition, May 15, 2004）. Crimes committed by Iraqi veterans who are suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) are also serious.
In summer the last year, a former marine killed himself after raping a woman to death in Georgia. The criminal, Kendrick Ledet, was the one who was sentenced to the imprisonment of six and half years on the charge of raping a 12-year-old girl in Okinawa in 1995. His nature as a marine did not change at all even after being imprisoned for more than 10 years. Also, all four marines who were indicted for the assaults in Subic belonged to Okinawaﾕs Camp Hansen. Principal offender Daniel Wayne Smith was sentenced to 40 years in jail. (The case has been appealed to a higher court.) But the other three were found not guilty and returned to Camp Hansen. In addition, Smith had landed in the Philippines by the amphibious assault ship deployed to Sasebo in Nagasaki.
3. As these cases indicate, crimes committed by U.S. Marines stationed in Japan are the serious issues not only for Japan but also for other parts of Asia. Removal of foreign troops is essential for fully ensuring local people's safety and human rights. But even before their removal is achieved, certain measures must be taken: to reduce the size of and remove the U.S. Marines Corps in Japan, which is their only foreign host, to regulate entry of marines into residential areas; to revise the status of forces agreement in order to enable Japan to exercise sovereign rights and bring criminals to justice; and to establish a system and network to provide relief and support for crime victims.
This is a common task to tackle in the Philippines and other Asian countries, especially in areas around U.S. bases. It is necessary to develop international solidarity on this task, getting local governments and people involved.
Develop local economy by removing U.S. bases
I would like to move on to the issue of U.S. bases and regional economy.
1. The Japan and U.S. governments have used money as a tool to suppress public voices against U.S. bases.
The government has provided grants and subsidies to municipalities hosting U.S. bases with the purpose of "improving living environment in areas around bases". The rent of military sites in Okinawa, paid by the national government, has steadily increased and exceeded the revenue of Okinawa from agriculture and fisheries after 1994.
The U.S. forces published a report two years ago on U.S. bases' impacts on Okinawa's economy. It stressed that the economic effects of the U.S. forces in Okinawa are more than six percent of the gross domestic product of the prefecture, or even 10 percent if related income is included. It concluded that the presence of the U.S. forces had greatly contributed to the local economy. Two months later when Condoleezza Rice visited Japan as the Secretary of State to discuss the U.S. military realignment, she said that a large-scale reduction of the U.S. troops in Japan would cause major economic losses.
However, new contradictions have been emerging under the ongoing U.S. forces realignment.
Based on the law to promote the realignment of the U.S. forces, the government stated to provides subsidy to municipalities that cooperate with the reorganization plan. The municipalities cannot get subsidy only with hosting bases. In order to receive the subsidy, they have to accept the reorganization plans. The new law has changed the nature of government base-related subsidies from "compensation" to base burdens to the tools of appeasement and threatening of local governments. This has increased repellence of local people and governments.
In addition, since the realignment plans of Okinawa include the return of some U.S. military facilities, there is a change emerging in the consciousness of those who have depended on bases to make living.
An official of a union of workers at U.S. bases pointed out that the awareness of those who recognize bases as the stable workplace has changed, saying, "You canﾕt rely on your parents or bases forever." Opposition to the return of bases is strong among real estate businesses dealing with the U.S. forces. The economic risk of continuously relying on bases has become apparent, which has raised public concern for the future. Referring to measures to promote local economy mainly by constructing buildings, the Okinawa Times stated that they have made municipalities meet the shortage such as a maintenance cost for the buildings; the government subsidy which is called "advantageous" to local governments hosting US bases might be a ﾒdouble-edged swordﾓ which affects their financial situation.
There is an increasing doubt about the argument that U.S. bases will promote local economy, which is getting to be a significant factor to help develop public opinions for the removal of bases.
2. The Okinawa prefectural authority made a research on the possible effects of the return of U.S. military facilities under the ongoing realignment. It made public the results last March.
It estimated that the total loss in the revenue by the return of U.S. military facilities, including rent of the facility sites, base workersﾕ incomes, base-related sales, subsidies, etc. would be 191.1 billion yen a year; but the total sales by the activity of private sectors in the sites would yearly be 870.7 billion yen; in addition to that, it would generate economic effects amounting to 911 billion yen and bring about the tax revenue of 125.3 billion yen. Thus, conversion of the sites to the civil use is overwhelmingly advantageous to local communities.
This calculation is based on the past achievements. For instance, the economic effects of the Naha New Urban District, built in the site of housing for the U.S. military personnel, amounted to 197.3 billion yen in 2002, while the revenue loss by the return of the site was 12.9 billion yen. The cost for the conversion, covered by the state, prefectural and city authorities, was made up by the 10-year tax revenues after that. In case of Chatan Town, its loss from the return amounted to 750 million yen per year; but it got the yield of 59.7 billion yen from the conversion of the site. In every case, the conversation of military bases to civil use brought great benefit to local economy.
The research had a purpose of persuading land owners who worry about the loss of their rents and of promoting the realignment plan. But interestingly, it came to be a proof that the removal of US bases would produce positive economic effects.
3. It is the US military authority that knows very well that conversion of military bases for civil use will have good effects. It has systematically promoted the closure of military facilities in the U.S. mainland since the 1990s. At the beginning, there was strong concern for the closure from the people. A newspaper in the US real estate industry "Reality Time" described their worry in the issue of April 13, 2001, "Citizens and businesses across the country panicked."
The U.S. military has tried to emphasize that the civil use of base sites would be beneficial to local people. For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a pamphlet entitled, "Turning Bases into Great Places: New Life for Closed Military Facilities." The slides 24 and 25 show the benefit from the civil use of military facilities.
Those facts eloquently show that the argument that bases are essential for local prosperity is false. The exchange of information and experiences for the sustainable development of local economy by the removal of bases will help promote international solidarity based on the movement involving residents and municipalities.
・International solidarity against foreign military bases
Lastly, Let me touch upon international solidarity of the movement against foreign military bases.
The International Conference for the Removal of U.S. Bases was held in Ecuador in March this year with about 400 participants from 50 countries. We are proud that the Japan Peace Conference, which started 21 years ago, has contributed to the development of the international movement against US bases. Japanese anti-base movement is continuously expected to actively play the international role.
United effort of a wide range of local people involving local governments is a driving force for our struggle to prevail. This is a basis to encourage movements of each country and to develop useful exchange and solidarity.
With promoting economic globalization, the U.S. is pursuing its "national interests" with the preemptive attack capability that makes it possible to intervene anywhere in the world. The U.S. bases stationed outside the U.S. are essential footholds for the U.S. to make intervention. Therefore, the U.S. base issue is not only a local issue. The struggle against US bases is a part of worldwide fights that opposes the U.S. world strategy for the defense of international peace order and that resists the outrages of neoliberalism for creating a just world. Here lies possibility of wide-range of cooperation for the common goal as well as prospects for a better world.