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The Battle of Okinawa: Redefining Security
As Clinton Heads to Okinawa, He Faces a Movement Demanding Alternative Security Measures

By Martha Matsuoka
Member, Okinawa Peace Network of Los Angeles

This week President Clinton will join the seven members of the G-8 nations in Okinawa, Japan. As the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military he will also be confronted with the latest wave of protest from Okinawans challenging the military presence of the U.S. as well as the political dominance of Tokyo. Squeezed within the political and economic policy grip of Washington D.C. and Tokyo, Okinawans have lived in the shadow of U.S. military bases and troops for the past 55 years. Their protests show that they have had enough of security strategies that have resulted in violence against women, children and the environment and that have retarded the development of a potentially viable local economy.

President Clinton's visit will be the first time a U.S. President has visited Okinawa since the islands were reverted back to Japan in 1972 after 27 years under direct U.S. control. In his first trip to Okinawa, one wonders how Commander in Chief Clinton will address the troops who are now again under curfew and where a ban on alcohol has been established on and off base because of recent crimes committed against Okinawan residents.

One wonders too how he will face outraged Okinawans who are engaged in protest against the U.S. military and the complicit Japanese government for the recent assault on a school girl on July 3rd and the hit and run on July 9th. Last week, more than 7,000 Okinawans demonstrated in Ginowan City outside of Futenma Marine Corp Air Station to demand reduction of troops and facilities, human rights, and revision to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement that defines the role and responsibility of the U.S. troops. This week 30,000 are expected to link arms and form a human chain around Kadena Air Force base.

More specifically, how will President Clinton explain and discuss issues of global peace and security when the 39 U.S. military bases and 26,000 troops in Okinawa along with the 20,000 police officers imported from Japan's mainland could not ensure the security of a single young girl sleeping in her own home.

If he were wise, President Clinton would, during his visit to attend the G-8 Summit, recognize the leadership of Okinawa women, namely the grassroots women of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, who demand that security in the current form of U.S. bases and troops be radically transformed into a system of real security that: 1) ensures a healthy and sustainable environment; 2) meets basic human needs such as food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education; 3) assures cultural self determination; and 4) guarantees protection from all avoidable harm.

Their demands for an alternative framework of security is grounded in more than a half century of battling U.S. military crimes and the presence of military toxics in Okinawa. Since 1972, more than 4,700 reported crimes have been committed by U.S. troops in Okinawa. Increasing numbers of low-birthweight babies, higher incidences of cancer and leukemia in adults and children are being documented and linked to military toxics.

President Clinton has a monumental task before him. In addition to the formal talks on technology and diamonds, he will also have to confront those who have lived with the violence created in order to protect U.S. economic interests around the globe. The latest military crimes against the Okinawans cannot be seen as isolated incidents but instead as patterns of violence that are present not only in Okinawa, but across all of Asia. The human face of this militarization illustrates clearly that military security is a contradiction in terms. The present militarized international security system is maintained at the expense of women, children and the environment, creating weak and vulnerable social and economic systems and the loss of human rights. For those of us in the U.S., it is a system of security that we cannot continue to pay.

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