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Jeffrey j. Weiss
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President Clinton, A Corporate Offensive, and Okinawan Bases
The Pentagon has important bases in Japan. But the highest concentration of U.S. troops remains in Okinawa
For about a decade the United States has been the world's sole superpower. It has had global supremacy, both economic and military. Today there is evidence that members of the U.S. corporate elite, the dominant influence in Washington, have been engaged in a global offensive to maintain and strengthen U.S. hegemony. The Clinton administration has sought to give neo-liberal leadership to this offensive, which takes economic and military form. Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times authority on foreign affairs, throws light on this twin thrust of current U.S. foreign policy when he comments on the relationship between U.S. strength in the global market place and its strength in the world's military arena: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist—McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the first designer of the F15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.” Thomas Friedman is a well respected, well-connected journalist, and a supporter of current U.S. foreign policy in its broadest outlines. His views on this matter are evidently close to those of the Washington establishment, Republican and Democrats. The preeminent official spokesperson for this policy seems to be William Cohen, Clinton's Secretary of Defense. Addressing the executives of Fortune's 500 leading U.S. corporations, meeting in Philadelphia in October 1998, Secretary Cohen told them, “Business follows the flag...We provide the security. You provide the investment.”
During the Cold War a concern for the foreign interests of the major U.S. corporations was always a sub-text of the military imperative. Today it is the main text. “Free markets and democracy” (with free markets given priority) have now replaced “the Evil Empire” as the catchwords of U.S. foreign military policy.
Clinton and U.S. Nuclear Weapons
The military side of the current offensive is to be seen particularly in Washington's effort to maintain and extend the Cold War policies and positions that the United States developed to compete with its rival superpower, the Soviet Union. One of these was a large nuclear weapons arsenal. President Clinton, despite the growing current of anti-nuclear weapons sentiment at home and abroad, has insisted on maintaining this arsenal indefinitely, with both Republican and Democratic parties in major agreement. Republican conservatives in the Senate, however, recently defeated the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to which President Clinton had given weak support. They want the United States to keep nuclear weapons but without international restrictions. Thus their defeat of the Treaty can be seen as the right-wing Republicans' contribution to U.S. military hegemony, achieved unilaterally, as they prefer.
The Republican vote opened the door to a new nuclear arms race, making the world a more dangerous place for Okinawans and all other inhabitants of this planet. At almost the same time, the U.S. press carried the news of declassified national security documents showing the Pentagon had secretly stored hundreds of nuclear weapons in Okinawa during the Cold War. Okinawans are citizens of Japan, the world's only atom-bombed nation. News of the Treaty's defeat shocked public opinion internationally. For Okinawans it must have been especially disturbing.
This past fall a member of the Clinton administration indicated a desire to strengthen the position of U.S. nuclear weapons in Asia, by pushing back an advance previously made by their opponents. On November 11, Thomas Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, addressing a group of Japanese municipal officials, declared he wanted U.S. warships to visit the Japanese city of Kobe while he was in office. Kobe is a flourishing port city, and in 1975 grassroots pressure caused the Kobe City Assembly to pass an ordinance requiring all foreign warships requesting to visit Kobe to sign a certificate that they carried no nuclear weapons. Because it is U.S. naval policy neither to confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on U.S. warships, none have visited Kobe since that date. In recent months other Japanese port cities have indicated an interest in following Kobe's example.
Many leaders of the Japanese peace movement denounced Foley's pronouncement as a blatant intervention in Japanese affairs, and fair-minded U.S. citizens can only agree. It signifies the Clinton administration's push to strengthen the supreme authority of the U.S. military in Asia by removing a check on the U.S. disposition of nuclear weapons.
In the past U.S. nuclear-capable warships have made port calls in Hiroshima prefecture but never in the port of Hiroshima. Shortly after Ambassador Foley's declaration about Kobe the U.S. consul in Osaka publicly stated he wished to see U.S. warships visit atom-bombed Hiroshima...indicating that whatever compunctions U.S. officialdom previously had in this regard now may be cast aside, given Washington's heightened imperial mood.
To Bolster U.S. Domination of Europe
The Clinton administration has been energetically attempting to maintain and extend two other policies previously adopted to check the perceived threat of Soviet global expansion: a wide system of military alliances, and a capability to intervene rapidly with decisive force at different points in the globe. This last was accomplished by the deployment of U.S. troops and bases in many countries in Asia and Europe.
During the last years of the Cold War and the first years after it (i.e., the Reagan and Bush years), Washington expanded U.S. forward deployment mainly in the form of agreements giving the U.S. military access to the ports, airfields, and military installations of foreign countries (“places, not bases”). These access agreements were principally with countries of the Third World—and especially with those of the Mideast after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, Washington's regional proconsul. Access policy has continued in effect during the Clinton years. What distinguishes its foreign military policy, however, is the Clinton administration's aggressive efforts to resuscitate, maintain, and extend the key dispositions of U.S. troops and bases, the crucial military alliances that were designed to counter the superpower rival of the Cold War period. It is this feature that gives U.S. foreign policy under Clinton its markedly hegemonic character.
In Europe during the Cold War, in addition to U.S. troops and bases in West Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and elsewhere, the U.S. domination of the NATO alliance contributed heavily to U.S. military weight on that continent. Today, while maintaining U.S. troops and bases in Europe at reduced strength, the Clinton administration has pushed for the eastward expansion of NATO to include Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, bringing NATO to the border of the former Soviet Union. This expansion has strengthened the U.S. post-Cold War military domination of Europe and provided a profitable new market for U.S. arms manufacturers.
The Clinton administration recently led the NATO war in Kosovo, an air war, a bombing war, supported by U.S. bases in Italy. This war served to heighten U.S. military supremacy in Europe as well, bringing it forward in an absolute and unprecedented fashion. President Clinton evidently believed it also gave a boost to the U.S. in the global marketplace, as a comment he made at the time suggests: “If we're going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world Europe has got to be a key.... That's what this Kosovo thing is all about.”
Further evidence of the symbiotic relationship between the U.S. corporate elite and the U.S. military elite is the convergence of their political views. A public opinion poll conducted among high-ranking U.S. military officers, cited in the New York Times of September 9, 1999, found 64 percent of these officers described themselves as Republicans, 67 percent as conservative, 13 percent as very conservative. U.S. General Wesley Clark, commander of the NATO forces in Kosovo, appears to be of the very conservative category. In June 1999 General Clark ordered a NATO air-bombing of Russian troops unexpectedly occupying the Pristina airport in Kosovo before the arrival of NATO forces. A British Lieutenant General Jackson refused, saying he would not be a party to starting World War III. When the disputed issue moved up to President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair, they supported Jackson and overruled Clark. In May 1999, a month earlier, also under Clark's leadership, the U.S. air force bombed the Beijing embassy in Belgrade, killing 3 Chinese citizens, injuring 27. According to Washington authorities the bombing was accidental.
The military and economic aspects of the current U.S. foreign policy offensive often appear to run side by side. The Kosovo war's assertion of U.S. military supremacy paralleled the European pre-eminence U.S. bankers won in facilitating corporate takeovers, an important field of operation for finance capital. Time magazine of April 19, 1999 reported: “...two banks based in New York City, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs overtook their European rivals for the first time in 1998 and became the top two advisers for take-overs in Europe in terms of values of deals they helped bring about.” Kosovo gave military confirmation to this form of U.S. financial predominance in Europe.
From the beginning, the Clinton administration has enthusiastically supported the unrestricted foreign operations of U.S. finance capital and the expansion of U.S. export markets, in Europe and Asia. In Clinton's first term, when Ron Brown was its Secretary, “...the Commerce Department even built what it called a war room, where computers tracked big contracts, and everyone from the C.I.A. to ambassadors to the President himself was called upon to help land deals.”
Okinawa and Mainland Japan
Since the end of the Cold War U.S. military strength in Europe has seen sizeable reduction, while in Asia it has been kept at near-Cold War strength. In December 1993, Admiral Charles R. Larson, then head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said this was because U.S. trade with the Pacific was currently greater than that with Europe or Latin America. The Admiral's explanation offers an early example of what seems to be current Washington policy that relates U.S. military strength abroad to the dominant interests of U.S. corporations abroad. However that may be, the Clinton administration has been energetic in its efforts to maintain, resuscitate, and extend the Cold War alliances, troops and bases that gave the U.S. superpower strength in Asia. At present, Washington maintains 100,000 troops and 18 major bases in the Asia-Pacific region, most of both in Okinawa and mainland Japan. During the Cold War U.S. bases and troops in mainland Japan and Okinawa provided essential support to U.S. wars of intervention in Korea and Vietnam, and in the post-Cold War period to U.S. intervention in the Gulf. The Pentagon has important bases in mainland Japan. But, as was the case during the Cold War, the highest concentration of U.S. troops remains in Okinawa (which, in land area, comprises only 1 percent of the whole of Japan). Its geographical position puts it near what the Pentagon sees as potential “trouble spots”—China, the Korean peninsula, and Southeast Asia. The U.S. Marine Corps is Washington's premier interventionist force; the only Marine division located outside the United States is in Okinawa. In the post-Cold War era, Japan, as a nation, is the strategic base for possible U.S. military intervention in the Asia-Pacific, Okinawa, a key operational center.
During the Cold War Japan and the United States had a military alliance, the main purpose of which was to assure Japan of U.S. support in case of Soviet attack. The Clinton administration, however, has changed the purpose of the alliance with what are called the new Japan-U.S. Defense Guidelines. These commit the Japanese military to give active and automatic support to the U.S. military in peace and war. In addition the Japanese government is expected to mobilize civilians and local governments in the same cause. With the new Guidelines the Pentagon secures the Japanese military as a junior partner in U.S. wars of intervention. And the area covered by these Guidelines is not only that around Japan but the entire Asia-Pacific region and the Mideast, wherever Washington decides to intervene.
The Clinton administration has moved to extend the scope of the NATO alliance in the same way. The 50th anniversary summit meeting of NATO took place in April, during the war in Kosovo. At this meeting, under the direction of the Clinton administration, NATO adopted a new “strategic concept.” In effect it provides that NATO activity shall not be limited to Europe, as originally projected, but shall be extended to surrounding areas. These extensions of the main U.S. alliances in Europe and Asia can be seen as integral to the Clinton administration's drive to aggrandize U.S. global military hegemony.
Closely associated with the new Defense Guidelines is an Acquisition and Cross-Serving Agreement (ACSA) the United States has recently made with Japan. Though tailored to Japanese specifics, this agreement is similar to Cold War agreements the United States made with United Kingdom and West Germany in preparation for possible war with the Soviet Union. In line with the new Defense Guidelines, ACSA spells out in detail the support Japan is to give the U.S. military, in peace and war. This includes minesweeping, transport, supplies, intelligence, medical services, rear area support, and more. (Japanese combat troops are not included in this list at present.)
It is obvious that the new Defense Guidelines give additional post-Cold War strength to U.S. military supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. They are also in flagrant violation of the Japanese constitution which prohibits the Japanese government from taking part in acts of war. For the people of Okinawa and mainland Japan, more tangibly perhaps, these Guidelines serve to tighten the hold of the U.S. military over their lives. They bring an even greater threat that Okinawans and mainland Japanese will be dragged, as during the Cold War, into wars not of their own choosing.
A striking example of the corporate drive to strengthen U.S. economic dominance in both Europe and Asia during the Clinton years is given by a giant financial services organization (the world's largest non-banking financial organization) called GE Capital. This is a unit of General Electric, one of the United States largest and most profitable corporations. An article entitled “King of the Crisis” in the May 6, 1999 issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review, an investors' weekly, describes how GE Capital, has taken advantage first of European economic distress, then of Japanese, to expand its holdings in both areas. “In 1991, continental Europe represented $26 million, or 3 percent of the company's net income. By the end of 1998—over 100 European acquisitions later—that number had grown to $755 million, or 20 percent . . . To date GE Capital has spent more than $23 billion acquiring assets in Europe.” While GE Capital has, in the past five years, accumulated $5 billion in assets elsewhere in Asia, Japan has been the main arena of action, where its assets now total around $15 billion. It has been buying up Japanese financial services corporations. In this way it has very quickly become a major financial services player in Japan, the world's second ranking economic power. Not long after the story in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the New York Times of September 19 and 24 reported GE Capital was a member of a powerful U.S.-led international consortium that was buying the Long Term Credit Bank of Japan for $1.5 billion. This was one of Japan's largest and most prestigious banks. Hobbled by bad loans, it was the first Japanese bank to be sold to foreign investors.
As this last transaction was being completed, conservative members of the Japanese parliament were hammering into law provisions of the new Japan-U.S. Defense Guidelines, giving the Pentagon a strong hand in the control of the Japanese military, Japanese hospitals, public highways, ports, and airfields.
The Philippines and South Korea
The Philippines and South Korea were pillars of support to the Pentagon's domination of the Asia-Pacific region during the Cold War. Today Washington's hegemonic offensive of foreign military policy has affected both, and there is evidence of increased U.S. economic penetration as well. Like those in Okinawa and Japan, U.S. bases in the Philippines gave important logistical support to U.S. wars in Korea and Vietnam, and later in the Gulf. But in 1991 members of the Philippine Senate canceled the U.S. bases in their country. This might be considered the last act of the People Power revolution that overthrew Marcos, for the bases had been closely identified with the support Washington gave the dictatorship. U.S. forces vacated the bases in 1992, and the Clinton administration soon was putting pressure on the Philippine government to change the situation and allow the restoration of a U.S. military presence in that country. For this purpose Secretary of Defense Cohen and Secretary of State Albright made visits to Manila, and the U.S. Ambassador engaged in constant lobbying. Consequently, despite considerable popular opposition, the Philippine Senate reversed itself in May 1999 and voted for a Philippine-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). An access agreement, this would allow the United States military to visit Philippine ports and airfields and to hold large-scale military exercises in that country once more.
It is the Pentagon's first step towards achieving in the Philippines the kind of control it now has in Japan. Two years before this U.S. AID money had funded the construction of an airfield in southern Mindanao near General Santos City and the expansion of that city's port facilities. These improvements were such as to make the airfield and the port capable of serving U.S. warplanes and warships. The construction at General Santos City, like the VFA, illustrates Washington's intentions to revive and augment its Cold War military influence in the Philippines. As in Okinawa and mainland Japan, however, the Philippine struggle for peace is unrelenting, despite all setbacks. The developments in General Santos occasioned much protest, and early in December 1999 representatives of a broad popular coalition went to the Philippine Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the VFA.
In 1998 while the Clinton administration was pressing for a renewed U.S. military presence in the Philippines, GE Capital took over the Philippine Asia Life Assurance Company of Manila.
The U.S. troops and bases of the Cold War are still in South Korea, confronting the much-weakened Stalinist dictatorship of the North. In July 1998, however, Secretary of Defense Cohen declared that even if Korea became unified U.S. troops and bases would remain. In effect Secretary Cohen established the U.S. military presence in South Korea as a fixture of the post-Cold War era, their use for posible intervention to be expanded from Korea to the entire Asia-Pacific region.
In August 1999, General Motors, the world's biggest automaker, signed an agreement to buy Daewoo Motors for $3.5 billion. Daewoo Motors is a debt-ridden affiliate of the important South Korean conglomerate, the Daewoo Group. This agreement would give General Motors management control of Daewoo's auto business.
The Clinton administration has succeeded in strengthening Washington's military hegemony in the Asia-Pacific by reasserting and invigorating the Pentagon's Cold War positions of regional strength. But here there is one serious difficulty: unflagging popular opposition to the U.S. military presence. This is true in South Korea and the Philippines (where U.S. bases have only recently been thrown out). It is particularly the case in Okinawa and mainland Japan. Thus Clinton's top-heavy military achievement in Asia rests on an unstable political foundation.
The Japanese peace movement is one of the strongest in the world. Composed of a number of organizations, it has two main concerns, opposition to nuclear weapons and foreign military bases. Thus it directly challenges the Pentagon's program to use Okinawa and mainland Japan as a base for global military dominance and wars of imperial intervention. Giving support to the Japanese peace movement is the Japanese Left, an effective political force. Here the Japanese Communists are influential. Today the Japanese Social Democratic Party is working with the Communists in opposition to the new Defense Guidelines. In Okinawa all parties of the left, Communist, Social Democratic, and Social Mass, work together against the bases. Okinawa became part of Japan in the last half of the 19th century, and has its own history and cultural tradition, but the peace movements of both Okinawa and mainland Japan support each other, and this contributes to the strength of the national movement as a whole. The strong public sentiment for peace in both areas is partially explained by the heavy traumas they experienced in World War II: the battle for Okinawa which killed 150,000 Okinawan civilians—in mainland Japan, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the fire-bombing of Tokyo.
U.S. Base Relocation
In March 1998 the U.S. General Accounting Office published a review of the status of U.S. bases in Okinawa; this reported: “Discontent among the people of Okinawa about the impact of the U.S. military presence on their land has been rising for years.... Among the chief complaints...is that their prefecture hosts over half of the U.S. force presence in Japan and...about 75 per cent of the total land used by U.S. Some Okinawans feel the U.S. military presence has hampered economic development.” The rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl in 1995 by U.S. military personnel brought this discontent to a new level of intensity, and resulted in the 1996 election of an anti-bases prefectural assembly, which joined a previously elected anti-bases prefectural governor, Masahide Ota. Later the same year in a prefectural-wide referendum 53 percent of Okinawa's registered voters endorsed the reduction and realignment of the bases.
Attempting to calm the anti-bases opposition Washington and Tokyo in 1996 proposed to relocate the Futenma Marine Air Base situated in the center of Ginowan City. This huge base had been the object of vigorous opposition for years. The proposal was to relocate it near Nago City in northern Okinawa, a less densely populated area. But political appeasement was not the only reason for the relocation of Futenma. Its decades-old facilities were to be replaced with a sea-borne state-of-the-art helicopter base capable of serving as the home of the Osprey, the most advanced vertical take off and landing aircraft, which the Pentagon plans to deploy in the first years of the new millennium. It is a warplane with long flying range and great speed. So the Osprey, without the need for a transport ship to bring it near the battlefields, would be able to carry U.S. Marines from Okinawa directly to Taiwan and the Korean peninsula. It would take only 20 hours to reach the Gulf. The plans for this new base therefore carried forward the Clinton administration's drive to strengthen the U.S. military position in Asia in the post-Cold War, heightening its interventionist capability. Again there was the one persistent problem. The people of Nago City did not want the new base. In a city-wide referendum of December 1997 over half its population rejected it, effectively confronting not only their own government, but the U.S. superpower as well.
The Nago City referendum was a victory for the anti-bases movement in Okinawa. This expression of opposition on the part of the citizens of Nago coupled with the anti-bases composition of the prefectural government (both in the office of the governor and in the prefectural assembly) created a temporary deadlock, a temporary pause, in the matter of base relocation.
In the face of these difficulties, Washington and its allies in the leadership of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party sought redress in the prefectural elections of 1998. Then Tokyo let it be known that if the anti-bases candidates for governor and the prefectural assembly were re-elected, Okinawa, Japan's poorest prefecture, would not receive economic aid from the central government. The local Liberal Democratic Party backed this up with an aggressive campaign. The result was the defeat of Governor Ota who ran for reelection and had called for the removal of all U.S. bases by 2015. Victory went to Keiichi Inamine, the pro-bases candidate for governor, and to a pro-bases prefectural assembly. His campaign platform, however, reflected the strength of the anti-bases sentiment in Okinawa. While Inamine pledged support of the new base at Nago, he did so with an important proviso: that its use by the Pentagon be limited to the year 2015. This, however, is not the view of the U.S. Department of Defense; it says the new facility will be used for 40 years and last for 200.
After the victory of the pro-bases forces in the Okinawan prefectural elections of 1998, the prefectural government joined Tokyo and Washington in declaring for the new base in the Nago City region. This of course was in violation of the will of most of Nago's residents, as expressed in the referendum of 1997. Perhaps in the case of Washington, this should come as no surprise. The March 1998 U.S. General Accounting Office review of the U.S. military presence in Okinawa declared: “...at the time of our review some residents living near the proposed site had opposed having the sea-based facility near their community, but U.S. officials are proceeding on the basis that the facility will be built.” And so the plan is to build the base with a long runway into the sea, on land connected with Camp Schwab, a Marine Corps ammunition dump and base in the Heneko District of Nago City. The present base at Camp Schwab has 3,500 Marines and occasional helicopter landings; the new base will have 7,200 Marines and 45,000 take-offs and landings each year.
“How can I continue to live here? They will destroy the peace and quiet I had expected for my life,” said Taeko Shimabukuro, a 72-year-old grandmother of Henoko, as she was interviewed by Doug Struck, a correspondent for the Washington Post. Thus she expressed her dismay at the noise and disruption the proposed new base and its many U.S. troops and war-planes would bring to the tiny fishing village that is her home. When interviewed by Struck, Taeko Shimabukuro was working her daily shift in a beach shelter that serves as headquarters for Henoko's protest movement against the new base.
In September 1999, even after the pro-bases victory of the 1998 prefectural elections, the Nago City Assembly, by a sizeable vote, rejected a proposal for base relocation to their region, introduced by members of the Liberal Democratic Party. At the same time the administrative committees of three city districts, including Heneko, also expressed opposition. The September vote of the Nago City Assembly was 8 for base relocation, and 20 against, and this included a good number of conservative members voting for rejection. The American Friends Service Committee has a saying, “Speak truth to power.” Certainly no deed brings these words more eloquently to life than the anti-base vote of these 20 Nago citizens. With this vote they spoke the truth of the humane anti-war spirit that is strong today in the culture of Okinawa and mainland Japan. And to what power...the U.S. and Japanese governments—in military strength, the global superpower and its chief ally—in economic strength, the first and second nations of the world.
With its September vote against base relocation the Nago City Assembly, for the second time, openly defied the Pentagon. But this time its position was weakened by the Liberal Democratic Party's control of the prefectural government, won in the 1998 election. Japan's Liberal Democratic regime, when it signed on to the new Defense Guidelines, agreed to mobilize local government and civilian support for U.S. military objectives. From the standpoint of this commitment, and with the Okinawan political situation currently propitious, it seems obvious that Tokyo would now take steps to quell the resistance of the Nago City Assembly to the new base . . . obvious that the Okinawan prefectural government would now go along with this. Clearly the conservative members of the Nago City Assembly, who had given the opposition its majority in September, had to be brought in line. This is evidently what happened after the wheels of government authority and party discipline were set in motion. On December 23, the Nago City Assembly voted to accept Futenma base relocation to a site in Nago's Henoko district. The vote was 17 to 10. The U.S. Defense Department had expressed the wish that the matter of the Nago site be settled by the end of the year. As result of pressure, emanating in the first place from Washington, the vote of the City Assembly had been changed on time. Meanwhile Tokyo promised Nago an aid budget of $1 billion over ten years to help remedy the city's underdevelopment and persuade the city's voters to accept the new base.
On January 5 Japan's Defense Agency Director General Tsutomo Kawara met in Washington with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen and discussed plans for the new base at Nago City. Kawara, however, did not raise the question of the 15-year limit on the U.S. use of the new base the majority of Okinawans had voted for when they elected Inamine. The Pentagon was accommodated, Okinawan democracy, betrayed.
Clinton's Intervenes Against Nago City
But the U.S.-stimulated intervention to change the Nago City Assembly vote is altogether dwarfed by an extraordinary measure set in motion under the same auspices. The meetings of the Group of Eight (the seven major industrialized nations plus Russia) in the year 2000 are scheduled for Japan. In the summer of 1999 President Clinton and Japan's Liberal Democratic Prime Minister Obuchi decided that the July summit meeting of this group (often held in the capital city of the host nation) should be held in Okinawa, not in Naha, the capital of the prefecture, but in Nago City. By this location, therefore, the summit meeting of the Group of Eight becomes associated with the Pentagon's choice for the new base. As if to make this connection perfectly clear President Clinton and Secretary of Defense Cohen have each publicly declared the question of base relocation had to be settled before the Group of Eight summit meeting takes place.
Presumably the people of Nago City and Okinawa don't have to be reminded of possible investment funds the Group of Eight might or might not be inclined to make available for local economic development. Washington, with Tokyo in support, has placed 7 of the world's wealthy, industrialized nations in a position of bearing down very heavily on the 54,000 citizens of Nago City and other Okinawans.
This gross intervention by President Clinton in Okinawan affairs has caused indignation since it was first announced. On July 29, 1999, for example, a group of 52 Okinawan intellectuals, including scholars, artists, religious leaders and lawyers put their names to a statement declaring their opposition to the use of the 2000 meeting of the major industrialized powers as a means of imposing U.S. base relocation on the soil of Okinawa. The signers drew attention to an intimation President Clinton had recently made that he would not come to the Okinawa summit unless the question of U.S. base relocation was settled beforehand. In response they declared, “Clinton's position is tantamount to blackmailing Okinawa, and citizens of Okinawa are angry about it.” The indignation continues. Early in December 1999 a leader of a Nago citizen's group, Hiroshi Ashitomi, was also interviewed by Doug Struck of the Washington Post. Referring to the decision to bring the prestigious and economically lucrative meeting to Nago City, Ashitomi said, “It's a bribe. It's very clear that the reason they brought the summit to Nago was to buy support for the moving of the base.”
The very presence of representatives of the seven major industrialized nations in Nago City at the July summit will have the effect of an endorsement of Washington's proposed new base, and of the heightened military supremacy in Asia it represents. The July summit, in this way, will serve to crown Clinton's efforts to strengthen the U.S. military, the better to make the world safe for the corporate wealth the Group of Eight represents. (Just as the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization might have attested to Clinton's exertions to further a world of free markets and U.S. corporate primacy therein.)
In its efforts to aggrandize the position of the U.S. military in Japan the Clinton administration has struck at the very roots of Japanese democracy. Ambassador Foley has urged the overturn of the decision of the Kobe City Assembly restricting the visits of U.S. warships to Kobe harbor; President Clinton, in effect, has urged the same of the Nago City Assembly's decision opposing relocation of the U.S. Futenma base. The chief executive of the global superpower and his ambassador, if only by these public admonitions, have been intervening in the affairs of Japanese democracy at its municipal level, the level of the democratic process nearest the people, the basic level. On the other hand the grass roots anti-war positions taken by the local assembly of Kobe and of Nago City (until being subjected to heavy pressure) unmistakably represent the questionable underpinning of the Pentagon's present military domination of Japan. (In the same context the Communist Party of Japan, which takes a pronounced stand for peace and against foreign military domination, now has more local assembly members nationally than the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.)
On December 16 and 17 before the vote of the Nago City Assembly to accept the new base, the Asahi Shimbun of Tokyo and the Okinawa Times conducted a public opinion poll in Nago; 59 percent of the respondents said they opposed the relocation of the Futenma base to the Nago district, while 23 percent supported it. Also before the vote Nago oppositionists held a well attended rally. When it opened with the declaration, “Here in Nago we'll never allow any foothold for sorties in U.S. wars!” there was great applause. After the vote, residents of Nago began a recall initiative to unseat the city's Mayor, who, under pressure from Tokyo, had come out for the new base. At this time Howard W. French, a reporter for the New York Times, visited Nago City. He interviewed Yasuhiro Miyagi, a member of the City Assembly who opposed the base, and Zenko Nakamura, head of an umbrella opposition group. Both spoke with the unyielding confidence of those who know their cause is just. Miyagi told him, “The people of Nago are going to make it very difficult, perhaps impossible for that base to be built.” French reported Japanese government officials are beginning to talk about a shift in the location of the summit meeting of the Group of Eight because of the possibility of typhoon weather in the Nago region in July. Nago residents believe it is public demonstrations against the base, rather than typhoons they are worried about. Referring to this, Nakamura said, “Democracy means to Okinawans that even if the governments of Japan and America decide something, the people can make them take a step back . . . In any case we can never live with this project.”
Popular Support for Peace in the U.S.
Like the peace movements of Okinawa and mainland Japan there are many U.S. citizens who oppose the Pentagon in its role as global policeman. With the Soviet Union dead and gone, they see no need for the United States to hold onto, even bolster as under Clinton, a huge, enormously expensive military machine. Not long ago the Center for Defense Information, in which retired U.S. military officials play a leading role, sent out a letter stating in plainest terms: “The massive spending on the military has no rationale whatsoever. No threat, no foreseen threat. We believe the expenditures planned for attack submarines ($63 billion), for 3,800 new fighter planes ($350-450 billion), for 600 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft” (the showpiece of the proposed new base in Okinawa) “and other weapons are excessively costly and totally unnecessary.” Contributing also to this massive military expenditure is the $40 billion it costs annually to keep 100,000 U.S. troops in the Asia-Pacific area; though the government of Japan pays more towards the expenses of the U.S. bases than any other host country.
Right-wing Republicans do not agree with the Center for Defense Information. They regard China as a threat and push for a policy of isolation and confrontation. Richard L. Armitage, a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan Administration, is presently a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush, the leading Republican presidential candidate. Last summer, at a time of tensions occasioned by Taiwan's call for “state-to-state” relations with China, Armitage caused a stir when he told an Australian paper that Australia “must stand ready to give military support to the U.S. if Washington goes to war with China” over Taiwan. Then, as if he had spoken too loosely, Armitage backed away from this call to arms, saying there was low risk of such a conflict. For its part, the Clinton administration seems to have two differing but interconnected views of China. One sees China as a threat to be confronted with overwhelming military superiority, the other, as a huge market that requires a policy of “engagement.”
If, as common sense suggests, there is no present or foreseen threat to the United States, why does Washington maintain this massive military machine in the post-Cold War era? The major war that the United States has waged since the Cold War is the Gulf War (to which U.S. bases in Okinawa, mainland Japan, and the Philippines gave support). At bottom this was a war to protect U.S. corporate control of the oil resources of the Mideast; a war the Clinton administration still carries on with the economic embargo and bombing of Iraq. The Gulf War therefore gives credibility to Thomas Friedman's explanation of the post-Cold war purpose of Washington's outsize military machine: it exists to make the world safe for U.S. transnational corporations.
The New Millennium
The proposed meeting of the world's preeminent industrialized powers in Nago City, in effect an endorsement of U.S. military supremacy in Asia, brings to mind the vision of the future projected by Jacques Attali in his book Millennium. Attali authored this book about ten years ago when he was special advisor to the French President Mitterand, and president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In Millennium Attali foresees three centers of power for the wealthy nations of the globe: the United States, Europe, and Japan. He emphasizes the growing income gap between the rich nations of the world and the poor (and between the rich and poor of both rich and poor nations). He predicts the new millennium will see rebellions and wars by the peoples of the poor nations against the rich to overcome this imbalance and alleviate their misery. In these conditions he assumes the United States will take on the function of defense, not only its own but also that of the two other centers of power and wealth, Europe and Japan. Attali therefore brings in view an endless vista of U.S. wars of intervention and suppression to defend the wealthy elite of the rich nations against the rebellions of the poor.
The future of U.S. military leadership with respect to Europe and Japan now appears to be somewhat uncertain. At a recent meeting held in Helsinki, the European Union moved to form its own military force independent of NATO. And Robert Manning, a former State Department adviser for policy, notes the same alienation from U.S. military preponderance appears to be developing generally in Asia as in Europe. In the Boston Globe of December 27, 1999, Manning writes of an event held before the Helsinki meeting, “...13 Asian nations gathered in Manila to conceive a pan-Asian economic and security future modeled after the European Union. Although the meeting was held in the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, and key U.S. allies Japan and South Korea participated, no Americans were invited.” Certainly Japan itself has a strong current of popular opinion that grows restive under U.S. military domination. This has been expressed by at least two prominent members of the conservative ruling elite, both of whom oppose the present government's unlimited support of U.S. troops and bases in Japan. Shintaro Ishiharo, current governor of Tokyo, has called for the withdrawal of a large U.S. Air Force installation, Yokota Air Base (the object of impressive grassroots opposition), located in Tokyo. In the July/August, 1998, issue of Foreign Affairs, a magazine of the U.S. establishment, Morihiro Hosokawa, Prime Minister of Japan from 1992 to 1993, recommended the elimination of all U.S. troops and bases from Japan, to be replaced by granting U.S. warships access to Japanese ports and harbors. Here he wrote, “The U.S. military presence in Japan should fade with the century's end.”
Perhaps President Clinton and the Pentagon share Attali's vision of the future. At any rate Clinton's over-all foreign military policy, in which he was doubtless amply advised by the Pentagon, seems to have been one of preparation for just such wars of intervention in the years of the new millennium. And this preparation evidently continues in the last days of his Administration. On the other side of the globe Washington is presently increasing its involvement in Colombia, the country with a 40-year counter-insurgency war and the highest record of human rights violations in the Americas. On January 11, 2000, President Clinton announced a $1.3 billion aid package to Colombia, (currently the third largest recipient of U.S. aid after Egypt and Israel), saying it was “urgently needed” to keep “illegal drugs off our shores.” His plan for increased aid “is meant to illustrate that Mr. Clinton has made Colombia a foreign policy priority in his last year in office,” according to Elizabeth Becker of the New York Times. Congressional Republicans immediately praised Clinton's proposal for being more than they had called for. But Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat like Clinton, was critical. “What we are seeing,” he said, “is a dramatic racheting up of a counterinsurgency policy in the name of a counterdrug policy.” There are already some 200 U.S. military personnel in Colombia as trainers and advisors to the Colombian armed forces, and the bulk of the $1.3 billion Clinton proposes would be military aid. Meanwhile the Colombian army is busy removing members of the U'wa tribe of Colombian Indians from ancestral lands on which a U.S. transnational corporation, Occidental Petroleum, plans to drill for oil. U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore is executor of his father's estate, which includes stock of Occidental valued at $250,000 to $500,000, according to the vice-president's most recent financial disclosure report.
While Washington heightens its intervention in Colombia, the Pentagon, despite massive Puerto Rican opposition, strives to maintain its bombing base on the island of Viequez, thus reasserting its military domination of the Caribbean and Latin Amerca.
The Struggle Continues
President Clinton leaves office in little less than a year. Whichever of the two major parties, Republican or Democratic, wins in November, its presidential candidate can be expected to pursue big-military, nuclear-armed, interventionist policies—the policies Clinton has promoted, and the Pentagon has carried out, on behalf of the top U.S. corporations. Of course these policies did not begin with Clinton, and apparently will outlast his presidency, for however long.
To curb the Pentagon the people of Okinawa, mainland Japan, and the United States will have to wage a constant and ever-growing struggle. Only after such struggle will the U.S. government spend taxpayers' money on health care, education, and housing, to improve the lives of the people—rather than on a big military machine, to guard the global interests of the corporate elite.
Only after such struggle will Japan be free of the U.S. military presence, designed to make Asia and the Mideast safe for U.S. transnational corporations —while bringing to the lives and politics of the Japanese people, especially the Okinawans, an unbearable disruption, a persistent intrusion, and the indignity of their homeland's involvement in the preparation of interventionist war.
This will not last. How can it be otherwise? In Japan today the love of peace is very strong, very deep. Okinawans call it “the heart of Okinawa.” Z
Many thanks to Joseph Gerson, Program Director, New England Region, American Friends Service Committee, and to Madge Kho, co-chair, Boston Friends of the Filipino People, Margo Okazawa-Rey, Madge Kho, and Stephen R. Shalom for making available important reference materials and editorial advice.