Sunday, April 20, 2014

Military money pollutes Okinawan politics while bases pollute their island

Few cases of more staggering cognitive dissonance can be found than in the twisted relationships between the US military, Japanese citizens, Okinawans, and the competing values of all parties.

Three-quarters of the US military bases in the nearly seven decades of military occupation of Japan by US military forces impact just .6 percent of the landmass of Japan, that is the island of Okinawa.

This means that the famous Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution--the 'no war' mandate--is instead still the province of the US military.

Some would term it massive hypocrisy, others would scarcely arch an eyebrow as they waved it all off as realism.

Meanwhile, Okinawans bear the burden of the presence of a massive US occupation--foreigners with huge guns, military aircraft dominating "their" skies, military vessels hogging their littoral waters, and pollution from the base and all operations invading their air, waters, soil, food, and lives.

Yes, they 'benefit' from the base spending, fat crumbs from the masters' table, but the majority of Okinawans--even those who see material reward--have expressed opposition to this permanent foreigner rule, shown by their recent election of an anti-US base mayor. "An exit poll of 1,204 voters by Japan's Kyodo News service found 65 percent opposed to the base, and 13 percent in favor."--Fox News

They feel the first betrayal from the government of Japan and the second from the US.

Japan hosts more than 50,000 US troops, more than any other nation on Earth except the US itself. Germany is occupied by 40,000 US military personnel and there are far fewer--33,000--in the only official US combat theater, Afghanistan. South Korea has 28,000 US troops on its 'sovereign' soil and the remaining majority of the world's nations (more than 150 of the 193 UN member-states) have fewer each.

As in so many other places, the dispositive legal arrangements are badly morphed from sovereignty of the other nation and toward immunity enjoyed by the US military under the Status of Forces Agreement. This clouds all local and national control over their own lands, their own waters, and their own public safety. When a US military jet crashes into an Okinawan neighborhood, no Okinawan court determines much of anything. When US military personnel rape a 12-year-old Okinawan girl, those personnel enjoy the protection of a US military justice system, not the local courts for the local girl. In that 1995 case, however, Okinawan and Japanese public outrage was so understandably spectacular that the three rapists were eventually made to serve their time in a Japanese prison, seven years each. More recently, another US military gang of rapists attacked another Okinawan woman.

One of the ways that the US military and the government of Japan entice Okinawan elites to support the US bases in their prefecture is to locate those bases on private lands and craft long-term lease arrangements far above market value to those rich Okinawans (Hook, 2010). Suddenly, the US military occupiers have local prominent support. This has been too bluntly obvious, however, and does not sway the majority of Okinawans as expressed in polls and votes.

It all reminds me of the line in the old film Crimson Tide, when the commander of the nuclear submarine (Gene Hackman) scolds the Executive Officer (Denzel Washington), "We're here to preserve democracy, not practice it."

There are better ways. We are seeing them being tried by nonviolent resisters (some of whom have received long prison sentences than the rapists of the 12-year-old child), by nonviolent peace teams from Nonviolent Peaceforce, Peace Brigades International, Christian Peacemaker Teams and others. What we need is a US version of Article 9. No more war. Civilian-based defense only. That is the way to a far more robust democracy for us, for Japan, and for all those who can learn to stop relying on the barbarism of deadly force, wrecking stuff, and the threat to life in general. Grow up, humankind!

Hook, G. D. (2010). Intersecting risks and governing Okinawa: American bases and the unfinished war. Japan Forum,22(1/2), 195-217. doi:10.1080/09555803.2010.488954

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gearing up to diminish our effective protest

"Stop! You're being too effective!"
This was how my buddy Paul mocked the Sierra Club more than three decades ago when they tried to stop everyone from entering the hall in Minnesota where then-Secretary of the Interior James Watt was speaking. Paul and I and friends had loaded into my VW bus and trundled south and west from northwestern Wisconsin to protest Ronald Reagan's anti-environmental point person.

We crashed the party. We shut down the speech. The Sierra Club wanted to behave like negotiating partners with a regime that wanted to dismantle the Department of Interior's mandate to caretake the environment. We understood the Reagan regime as a non-negotiating predatory corporate extraction project. Did we know what we were doing? Not really. Did the Sierra Club? Not exactly, but we only knew about the Watt appearance because of them, so we owed them a bit of courtesy. But we just needed to see this nut for ourselves.

James Watt was a grotesque anomaly to us, someone who was given a brief to use his agency to destroy the mission of his agency. He was a cardboard character to us, a patently opportunistic fundamentalist Christian who claimed that it was our duty to exploit, extract, and use up all the natural resources that God gave us. His cynical misuse of the Bible was so blatant that we were astonished anyone could be even remotely fooled by any of his justifications for extreme polluting profiteering.

It was a clear worldview clash. How do you negotiate with someone who represents a worldview so antithetical to your own? Really, you don't, not at first. You turn to the Deciders, to the public, to civil society, and you deliver your message, which is your invitation to the real party, the real event, the Big Tent of Public Opinion.

That day in Minneapolis we had several members of the Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater with us. I recall holding the door open so the Buffalo could enter the hall to confront Watt. The puppets were larger than life and had to bend to get through the doorway. They were well known and well loved in my home town, and not viewed as a violent threat to anyone, not even to James Watt. No police in Minneapolis would knock down such beloved characters. No one else wore anything to disguise identities, nor were we threatening anyone in any way except we needed to tell Watt to go back home to Wyoming and stop bringing his Earthwrecking policies to the rest of the country.

Nowadays, however, protesters routinely hide identities with face coverings. From bizarre and evil-looking Guy Fawkes masks in Venezuela to Teutonic buckethead coverings worn to the Maidan in Ukraine, reminiscent of Stalin's Soviet filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein's depiction of invading Germans.
Eisenstein correctly assumed everyone in the young Soviet Union would fear those images. And of course everyone feared the same sorts of images in Kiev. Erica Chenoweth commented correctly that this sort of protester appearance is exactly the opposite of effective, since it drives away recruits by making everything look highly risky and scary.

Find me the Civil Rights workers who wore masks. You'd have to go to the riots in the late 1960s, when frustrated African Americans finally used violence, were crushed, and all progress ceased. Find me the Serb kids who covered their faces when they took to the streets for 10 months to overthrow Milosevic--none did. The most effective movements are the most transparent. The most effective movements work to build connections to police and soldiers rather than battle them. This is what we see again and again. This needs to be reviewed constantly as we learn to make campaigns work and make movements successful for the sustainable long haul.

No one was arrested that day in Minneapolis and James Watt barely made it halfway through Reagan's first term before resigning in disgrace. We drew in Americans to our side, Americans who love forests and sparkling clean water. We see the results of a different way--yes, Yanukovich had to leave, but now Putin has the everlasting excuse to seize more and more of Ukraine to 'protect Russians.' Creating fear through violent appearance and violent tactics is certainly working out--not. Can we learn from this?

Friday, April 18, 2014

RePortlandia: Don't drink the Air Force water

I've watched a few episodes of Portlandia--who hasn't? I admit, I love this town, and I find Portlandia insufferably snarky. We are just like the program, only more so and with heart, not the fruitball unctuousness that Fred and Carrie bring to it. They show how Portland is not like real America and they exaggerate in order to make fun of us, but we are actually balancing what they show as unbalanced, which is what bothers me so much about that program. They are inauthentic and Portland is for real.

So, this week a 19-year-old pees into an open reservoir on Mount Tabor and the city flushes 40,000 gallons of potable water.
Hey, that is overly cautious and instantly drew fire from scientists and empiricists who said, oh come on, that much urination in 40,000 gallons is irrelevant. Those scientists are right, but the water bureau folks are correct too. Imagine if they said, oh, not to worry, it's all natural and insignificant. Really. Imagine the storm of public outrage that those water officers would treat us that way. So while we are learning that a bit of whizz in our water isn't going to make any difference, we are also spared the litigious howling that might have resulted from no action.

At least we aren't receiving direct and massive chemical and toxic pollution from a military base and then told first not to worry, and then that the solution to pollution is dilution--such as the water bureau in Albuquerque had to deal with from Kirtland Air Force base, which spilled millions of gallons of jet fuel onto and into the Earth and thus migrating groundwater. Seriously. From the story by reporter John Fleck:
Air Force officials this week backed away from including a proposal that Albuquerque’s water utility simply dilute contaminated water and deliver it to customers as one of the options if toxic chemicals from a massive Kirtland Air Force Base fuel spill ever reach municipal drinking water wells.
That was an Air Force suggestion, met with citizen outrage, and subsequently withdrawn. You may not be able to fight city hall, but you can fight the most powerful military on Earth and win, if you are organized and outraged. We shut down a thermonuclear command facility that the Navy arrogantly said it would need for another 35 years despite near-unanimous opposition. Albuquerque citizens just shoved the Air Force back over an encroachment it was making into the public's health.

The world needs to learn nonviolence, conflict transformation, strategic nonviolent combat, and structural nonviolence. Then we could help military members get work helping instead of hurting. Then we could get war profiteers honest work. Then we wouldn't have massive pollution coming from an entity--the Pentagon--that is above the law.

Fleck, John (16 April 2014).

Monday, April 07, 2014

Native Earthlings v USA: Trail of Broken Treaties

Most US citizens and many other on Earth know something about the rotten history of the Europeans invading North America, of the terrible things done to the tribes in the US, and of the lies and violence and theft and broken promises and abrogated rights. Treaties were made to be broken with Native Americans.

We find the same history with the rest of the world. The US makes treaties and then violates them. Just a few examples include, but are not limited to:
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
In 1969 the US was one of the authors of this treaty that attempted to convince all the other nations not to seek to develop nuclear weapons because, it was promised, the US and the other NWS (nuclear weapons states) would dismantle theirs. As if.

The Nuremberg findings included a proscription against the "wanton destruction" of projectiles fired into cities or towns, exactly what the US has done in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and, potentially worst of all, what it has targeted with its nuclear arsenal ("city-busters").
This international law forbids attacks on civilians, exactly what the US has done with drones, with B52s, and with cruise missiles in the Balkans, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Korea, and Pakistan. If Homeland Security found a terrorist in Madison, Wisconsin, would they bomb the home of that person? If they killed a few kids and maybe a bride and groom at a wedding party where the terrorist was a guest, would that be accepted by the US citizenry? Well, what we are doing with drones is understandably not accepted by the world.
Poisonous weapons are outlawed. Nukes are as poisonous as they get.
  •  The Geneva Agreements
Torture is outlawed and the US practiced torture. This is not only well know worldwide, it is acknowledged by the US DOJ and the specific case of Guantanamo Bay is condemned by the UN as violative of international law. 
  • The UN Charter
The US invaded Iraq against the wishes of the UN and without reason violating key provisions of the UN Charter. Iraq had not attacked the US and posed no threat to the US. The lies used were blatant and obvious to most of the world when they were spoken.

The list of international law that the US has failed to sign is also daunting, but you can't break a treaty you didn't make. That doesn't detract from the poor opinion of our country that such failures engender--e.g. the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Landmine Ban, and more.

It is a long and tragic trail of broken treaties, from the original ones with Native Americans to the rest of them with all of the Earth. The US has some incredible temerity to pontificate about Russia, Iran, and other nations who join the US in breaking treaties. We need to mend much before we critique others.

Doebbler, Curtis (11 March 2014).Coming to Ukraine: The hypocrisy of the American Understanding of the International Law.

Friday, April 04, 2014

No study, no learning, no thought, no progress

"Lawmakers hostile to BRAC placed language in prior years' Defense authorization bills that banned DoD from even studying or planning for a potential infrastructure consolidation."
Jared Serbu, Army spends $500 million per year on vacant facilities, Army News, Federal News Radio, 31 March 2014

When it serves a worldview or a profiteering scheme to prey upon ignorance, shameless people in power will mandate that ignorance if they can. This has kept us behind in so many crucial areas of knowledge. You are forbidden from studying stem cells. You may not look at cures for disease that might annoy a religious fundamentalist. No multiculturalism in the classroom. No sex education beyond abstinence.The list goes on and includes corrupt politicians who have forbidden the Pentagon from examining ways to save money.

Even when there are the occasional fiscal hawks in DoD, then, the corruption in Congress can stop them from saving your taxpayer dollars. This patently relates to war profiteering, not to the defense of anything except corporate elites and their massive annual seizure of blood money. If the Pentagon cannot close unwanted bases without a Base Realignment and Closure process launched by Congress, and if Congress refuses to even allow data gathering (the most recent authorization finally allowed some), how can basic human services ever be funded? Pentagon waste is not so much a Pentagon problem as a contractor-Congress greed problem.

Nazis burned books and killed intellectuals. It seems the corporadoes and their Congressional lackeys can be relied on to stomp out the candles of illumination and knowledge creation when those candles shine a light on corruption in corporations and Congress. The only way to make this worse is exactly what the Roberts court has just done--remove all lids on corruption. Allow as much bribery as the rich can afford. No limits on how much the war profiteers can spend to buy venal politicians.

We are way past the appearance of impropriety. We are in a descent path to open, complete military industrial congressional corruption. Clearly the war system must be ended. Time to terminate forced foolishness. If your representative voted for the DoD authorization, perhaps you might consider voting for someone else next time.


Serbu, Jared (31 March 2014). Army spends $500 million per year on vacant facilities.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Living in the wilderness and paying the price for militarism

Ah, we say, maybe I'll just sell it all and move to the wildest place and live a life free of civilization's woes and ills and contamination. I'll live like a native and learn those skills and what a different, clean life that will be. Good luck, Hoss!

Ringed seals are especially vulnerable to elevated exposure of PCBs as a result of their high trophic level, low detoxification capacity, large lipid reserves, and long life span.

--Tanya M. Brown, Aaron T. Fisk, Caren C. Helbing, and Ken J. Reimer, Canadian toxicology researchers, reported in the March 2014 issue of the academic journal Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, p. 592
There is a military radar station inside the Arctic Circle on Saglek Fjord in Labrador, Canada, built in the 1950s, that has been polluting the soil and surrounding ocean with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). A team of researchers from several Canadian universities conducted a wide-ranging study of the food web from that base and found record levels of cancer-causing, immune-system destroying PCBs at all trophic (food pyramid) levels, from the benthic (ocean bottom) species to the top of the food chain. 

Those Canadians, eh? Just don't seem to care about the environment, eh?

Well, ahem, the base was a USAF early warning base, actually. Now, it seems, the Canadians are cleaning up our mess. Hey, only fair, right? We protect the world, they clean up our protection pollution. You don't hire the architect to push a broom, eh?

What if we focused on an ecology of peace? What if we didn't seek permission from most nations on Earth to give up some of their sovereignty, some control of the land and water and air and life, so that the US could come in, live very important lives of very important military enforcers for the very important US empire, and pollute not only the US base but other people's place? What if we would seek to build more collaborative projects with Canada that enhanced life rather than polluted it?

The ringed seals were only one of many species affected by these military pollutants. Seabirds, fish, and other species were contaminated. At least no humans were bothered, eh? Um, actually, the specimens tested were all taken from tissues of seals taken by Inuit hunters, the very top of the food chain there--highest trophic level, longest-lived, and so greatest bio-accumulants. As usual, the native peoples catch environmental hell as they simply live as they have for scores of thousands of years in the most wild-appearing areas. 

I recall hiking into various roadless area lakes in the Chequamegon National Forest when I lived in northern Wisconsin. There, where there were no pollutants except via the airshed, were posted signs on the trees by the lakes, warning of mercury contamination--primarily coal plants' pollution from far away. Hiking along wild stretches of the mighty Columbia River? Don't fish--stick with your bottom-of-the-food-chain trail mix. There is no more real wilderness. We need to clean up militarized civilization. It is profoundly uncivilized. This requires perpetual vigilance, eh.


Brown, T. M., Fisk, A. T., Helbing, C. C., & Reimer, K. J. (2014). Polychlorinated biphenyl profiles in ringed seals ( Pusa Hispida) reveal historical contamination by a military radar station in Labrador, Canada. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, 33(3), 592-601. doi:10.1002/etc.2468

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mortal Frienemies

"We've asked DOE what they're going to do with it, and we're waiting on a response."
--Shelly Wilson, federal facilities liaison for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on the indeterminate status of weapons-grade plutonium that had been scheduled for more processing at the Department of Energy Savannah River Site in South Carolina
How is it possible that the US is adamant that other nations--like Iran--absolutely cannot have a nuclear bomb while we continue to stagger forward and backward in what was a major promise made 45 years ago to the people of planet Earth, that we would dismantle all nuclear weapons? Of course Iran shouldn't have The Bomb. Neither should Israel--Iran's favorite Most Hated Nation in the Neighborhood. As long as Israel has hundreds of them, Iran will aspire to have them too.

Meanwhile, the US is dazed and confused about its own nukes, its massive amounts of radioactive exploding poison for bombs, and its path forward. Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize for a nice speech against nukes, a speech full of broken promises, and those promises will stay broken without citizen pressure to mend them and tend them and finally earn that positive peace we need so badly. Instead, we lurch along with the ultimate negative peace, the nuclear gun to the head of the rival, a gun that will kill most life on Earth if the trigger is ever pulled by intent or mistake.

We have a political ecosystem of war. We need a political ecosystem of peace.
What we have now is a series of bizarre co-dependent relationships of enemies dependent upon each other to justify abominable weapons and corrupt policies. We threaten global annihilation 24/7/365 and we plan to make it worse. We need Putin and his nukes to justify ours, just as Pakistan needs India with their nukes to justify theirs, and China needs Russia and possibly India and possibly the US to justify theirs. Fatal attractions. Lethal co-dependencies. Mortal frienemies.
Only one power will fix this. Civil society will rise up and end this insanely immoral activity or the "I'll wager the future of the human species as long as I make my riches" war profiteers will continue to twist the narratives until they are as broken as the promises. Up to us. Can we get to it?


Asberry, Derrek (2014). Health department: Waste, tank treatment a priority at SRS.