Dream of the Water Children: The Black Pacific

Okinawa, Guam, the Pacific and the U.S. Military- 4,700 marines to go to Guam

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In the first week of February, there were decisions made by the U.S. government, the U.S. military and the government of Japan, with the governing body of Okinawa, to relocate 4,700 U.S. troops from the Okinawan bases to Guam. This number is about half of what was originally planned.

Both on Okinawa and Guam, there have been large protests.  Protests over these and other decisions have been challenging most military decisions in Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii, and South Korea.  In any case, decisions are made without local people’s concerns prioritized.  Although so-called “grievances” may be heard, the process is meant to appease but usually not to care that much, especially in smaller areas.  Indigeneity is seen as an impediment to modernity.  There is a time warp in military and mainstream national consciousness.  This time warp includes  normalized hypodescent as well as age-ism and U.S. military privileging in the international arena.  The Black Pacific is rendered predetermined, in this scenario.

Last month, there were violent protests in South Korea, due to the renewed U.S.-South Korea Security Pact which ensures the military bases, nuclear weapons business and other activities that provide the elites with their “security” and provide for their wealth, while citizens concerned with self-determination and peace, are marginalized.  However, as you may recall, did you see any of these protests in your news media?  If so, did you even read?

Guam and Okinawa are tiny islands.  So are the Marshall Islands and others that the U.S. has built military bases on.  These are largely continuities from the Post-World War II era, when the U.S. began its heavy campaign to control the Pacific against its counter-juggernaut: the then Soviet Union.  This was one of the theater-stages of the “Cold War.”

Okinawa is often thought of as a district of Japan and that the Okinawans are Japanese.  Okinawa is not Japan. Locals understand and live with these kinds of all-encompassing and thoughtless prejudices that allow for Okinawans to be controlled by both Japan and the U.S.  In understanding history, we must know that Okinawans have been colonized by the Chinese and Japanese for centuries.  In the present, it is controlled by both the U.S. and Japan, caught in the middle, mainly because of the Securities Pacts signed in post-WWII, which elongates and complexifies Japan’s role as both colonizer, former imperial nation and colonized by its own position in relation to having lost the war to the U.S in that war.  For this idea, the Japanese government also views itself as “caught in the  middle.”  This is problematic.  It would be easy for both the U.S. and Japan to relinquish its controls and geopolitical manueverings concerning the Asia-Pacific and Okinawa, giving Okinawans a chance to determine its own present and future.

However, Okinawan thought is largely not monolithic either, due to assimilation and ignorance on the part of those who “don’t care” if the military is there, or perhaps benefit from U.S. presence.  Businesses are surviving and/or thriving due to the “business” of American soldiers there.  This is how colonization and capitalism work hand-in-hand.  It is not sudden.  It is crafted.  Okinawa is a group of islands who are not caught in this cultural selfness wrapped up in the continuities and ruptures of World War II, postwar military-nationalisms, Asian identity in relation to the West, and Asian identities in relation to each other.  Death and annihilation is at the core of this.  Racism, Sexism, Age-ism–all a part of this: Across bodies, nations, cultures, priorities, privileges, manipulations, silences, intensities.

There are many views that contradict and juxtapose and are conflicted, regarding the U.S. role in the Pacific.  Locals are often conflicted depending upon levels of privilege, ignorance, and relations in their lives. For many young people, the U.S. bases in Okinawa represent:

Daily noise and wind from helicopters and jets

Illegal Nuclear testing and short-term/long-term effects

barbwire fences

pollution and ecological issues including agent orange and secret nuclear dumping

drunken 20-year-old servicemen that sleep on people’s yards

crimes and deaths that occur to the local population and the impunity of the U.S. servicemen (there are extra-juridical laws committed by U.S. servicemen in Japan–where local authorities cannot try or punish, only the U.S. military)

Transporting and storing nuclear waste that is in direct violation of U.S.-Japan treaties but ignored by the Japanese officials.

Now, we must also realize that the amount of landmass taken up by bases and air stations and research facilities and the like, by the U.S. military, is not the only concern.  The U.S. also owns the air space above the land and water rights, etc.  So there is a growing dependency and subjugation of the locals in favor of U.S. military desires, whatever they may be.   Although the Securities Pact with Japan/Okinawa outlines it as protection and use in Pacific military concerns, the Okinawans know that the bases there, were used by the U.S. warplanes and cargo planes, for the War in Iraq. However, it goes on with impunity. This and the cultures that develop in relationship between locals and servicemen and American civilians, tourists, etc. make it a precarious and colonial relationship.

These are, sometimes, not special concerns for those who are used to it and have been born into it, much like younger Americans who remain oblivious to American violences and tactics of displacing and making ill that are normalized.  Those who see, know, or have lived through it, especially from the war and postwar periods through the 1970s, feel especially enraged and/or are in mourning. The culture of the bases and base-life, and the relationships of power that have been created, present normalized and invisiblized notions of U.S. superiority and “security” in the present global-cultural climate.  I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.  There are no active protests of any sizable manner that impact the government to change the military and corporate joint efforts to maintain their efforts while making the rest of us apathetic, callous, isolating, pleasure-oriented, and insecure (and calling it “security”).  In fact, protests are expected and are merely events to the government.  Protests, unless they are massive and disruptive, never really effect those in dominant power positions.  Their strategies live on.

There are many in Okinawa, like many other places where U.S. military bases operate, want the U.S. bases gone.  In Okinawa, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Hawaii and other locations in the Pacific, there are demonstrations and protests, sometimes violent, that pit locals against the U.S.  These are purposely kept out of mainstream media.  Or they are made to be “local” issues and are discoursed and told as local petty relations, not reporting on the historical and geopolitical issues that impact these efforts.

An argument that is powerful and which must be examined, as well, is the notion of both the rise of Japanese hegemonic nationalism/imperialism and the possible retaliation of these former colonized and brutalized nations by Japan.  Japanese, like the Americans, are afraid of “the other” because nations know and remember all too well, what it has done to others.  Those others, now, must be kept in control and either assimilated or defended against. Conversely, the U.S. must keep control of Japan for its fear of Japanese nationalism, and Japan must create opportunities to come out from the big boot of U.S. American technological-military dominance since  before World War II.

We can see, then, that this essentially links to the present-day notion of  “national security.”  It is based on fear and the remembrance of pasts as always present.  It is a militarized memory, a brutalized memory.  Yes,  I know and have met people who want certain people and nations gone.  There is lots of trauma.  But there are also very creative and wonderful ways and thoughts that people globally have, that will change and can change these dynamics.  But the continual return to fear-as-security and justice-as-revenge tropes and discourses, are the dominant notion of the global security hegemony that is now creeping around the world, since the Second World War.

Okinawans knows all too well, its position. The fragmentation of what shall be done, is, I feel, the postcolonial condition.  And for those readers who need reminding for whatever purpose, I want to say that the ‘Post” in “postcolonial” is not that colonialism and colonizing is finished and “post.”  The “post” implies the inclusion of those experiences of subjugation and interventions and dislocations in the present, after a “master” has gone.  Now the ruling elites, must play some of its games in order to survive.  Thus lies the complex problem of the postcolonial.

China and India are a growing source of fear for many.  Memory of Japanese imperialism is also a fear.  For Japan and Korea, China has always been a fear.  Fear Fear Fear.  Fear is not just imagined.  There are realities to the geopolitics of nuclear weapons, ecological devastation that leads to depending on technologies that may save one from total pollution and death, and the annihilation of cultures of the indigenous and traditional in the favor of a global power that normalizes everything into itself and where dissent can be named enemy.

Questioning the people of color who have been impoverished and who find themselves participating in the U.S. military abroad.  It is a job as well as complicity. What ways can this be shifted?  Questioning our apathy in the control of women’s bodies and mixed-race children that are over 2 million-strong, abandoned by U.S. servicemen and where local laws do not include them as one of their own.  What do we do?  Militarism is not just about guns and uniforms.  What are we co-creating?  What must be intervened upon? How?

I love Okinawans and others globally, and whom I join in solidarity with, who are not fighting to let the world know that we must join together in solidarity across difference, to let diversity flourish and to create new ways of encountering differences other than fear and violence.

Please read these fairly good articles BELOW concerning the recent U.S.-Japan-Okinawa decisions regarding the relocation of troops from Okinawa to Guam

Peaceful Protests in Okinawa, May 2010 (from Kurashi Blog)

4,700 Marines to Leave Okinawa (from BlackTokyo)

Article on Guam

For an excellent overview of the U.S. military in the Asia-Pacific, go to Catherine Lutz‘s post HERE.

There are those who are PAYING WITH THEIR LIVES as dissenters to dominance and forgetting, being held in prisons for long period of time. One person of many many many, is Fumiaki Hoshino. He has, as of now, spent 38 years in detention for protesting against the U.S. military bases in Okinawa.

VIDEO LINK HERE – a demonstration held in San Francisco to demand his release and/or fair trial.

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