Letter to the Editor: Okinawan people protesting construction of a new U.S. Marine airbase

Guest Contributor July 2, 2016 0
Japanese people protesting against the US Marine Corps base Futenma in Ginowan. •  Photo by Nathan Keirn.

Japanese people protesting against the US Marine Corps base Futenma in Ginowan. •  Photo by Nathan Keirn

The following is a letter to the editor from Jon Reinsch:

“Imagine that foreign military bases occupied almost a fifth of Seattle. What if those bases were the source of heinous crimes, toxic leaks, window-rattling noise, environmental damage, and the constant threat of aircraft accidents? What if the land for those bases had been taken from us at the point of a gun? What if the foreign power that used those bases admitted that one of them was “an accident waiting to happen,” but instead of closing it promptly, demanded that another base be built here first to replace it? What if our own national government was complicit in our plight? We’d probably respond much like the people of Okinawa who face that very situation: by engaging in massive protests and electing local leaders who fight for us. And we’d be frustrated when our voices don’t seem to reach many in the country whose bases afflict us.

Fortunately, Seattle is not crammed, as Okinawa is, with 32 foreign military bases. But when we put ourselves in other people’s shoes, issues that may have seemed someone else’s become our own. We can no longer shrug off the profound injustice of our country treating Okinawans like colonial subjects, depriving them of self-determination. In terms of area, Okinawa holds three fourths of our base presence in all of Japan. No purported military threat can justify forcing one island prefecture to bear such a grossly disproportionate share of the social costs of addressing it.

That’s why Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant will soon introduce a resolution standing with the Okinawan people against construction of a new U.S. Marine airbase in a place called Henoko. This moderate resolution, touching on just one base, would make Seattle the third American city to show its solidarity with Okinawa. Does solidarity make a difference? This comment left by one Okinawan who signed a petition for the resolution offers a clue: “Okinawa counts on you Seattle!”

If we want the resolution to pass, our City Council needs to hear from us. You can contact your district’s councilmember and the two citywide councilmembers. Here’s how to reach them:

District 1 / West Seattle, South Park: Lisa Herbold

District 2 / South Seattle, Georgetown: Bruce Harrell

District 3 / Central Seattle: Kshama Sawant

District 4 / Northeast Seattle: Rob Johnson

District 5 / North Seattle: Debora Juarez

District 6 / Northwest Seattle: Mike O’Brien

District 7 / Pioneer Square to Magnolia: Sally Bagshaw

Position 8 / Citywide: Tim Burgess

Position 9 / Citywide: Lorena González

Innumerable issues close to home require our attention, but sometimes we need to act on a broader scale. As Martin Luther King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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