November 8, 2009

The audience of about 100 people was welcomed by Carmelina Cartei, Women and Gender Studies Department of Hunter College.

Vinie Burrows, actress, poet and our moderator, described the background of the teach-ins and the formation of the “No-Bases” committee of the Granny Peace Brigade. The committee was founded to stand up against the “New World Disorder” that US bases have created.

Pete Bronson of Korean War Veterans for Peace emphasized that the Korean War has not formally ended, even after 1.5 million Koreans have died. He directed us to the website for information and ways to become involved.

Pete emphasized that all are welcome to join with Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against War and Viet Nam Vets against the war in advocating for the rights of active duty soldiers, and in continuing to lobby for an end to the engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(7-minute YouTube video summary)

Here are highlights from each of the three presenters:

Joseph Gerson, Director of Programs for American Friends Service Committee.

A photo sent to Gerson from Okinawa on the day of the teach-in showed hundreds of thousands of demonstrators protesting the US presence in Okinawa, on that day, and demanding the return of their airfield from the U.S. military.

The people of Okinawa clearly want us to know how actively they themselves are protesting the bases and the destruction they have wrought on their island. Okinawans are particularly outraged that a US base is planned on landfill over a coral reef. This base will destroy the ecology and beauty of the place forever.

The US has over 100 military bases in Japan, and through secret treaties has also a nuclear weapons presence there which is political anathema to the Japanese people. The history of Okinawa is one of loss of dignity and sovereignty. The country was an independent kingdom for 200 years, then invaded and conquered by Japan, finally losing ¼ of its population in 1944 in WW II. Because of the mixed racial nature of Okinawans they have been treated as a dumping ground by Japan. Most of the 40,000 US troops in Japan are in Okinawa. 28 percent of Okinawa is occupied by US bases. In the center of a large city in Okinawa is a helicopter strip creating terrible noise and bad air.

Virginia Rodino, Asia Pacific Freeze Campaign and Veterans for Peace-Korea Peace Campaign.

The Korean War has not formally ended.  3,000,000 Koreans having died during the period of active combat, there is a strong wish for peace and unification of the country among Korean people. The Asia Pacific Freeze Campaign led to a candlelight vigil movement involving huge numbers of Korean people. In 2005,six nations agreed to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula ( U.S., Japan, China, Russia and North and South Korea ). Nonetheless, the U.S. continued to demonize N. Korea as a stand-in for China because that important trading partner can’t be targeted. As long as N. Korea can be accused of an interest in nuclear warfare, the excuse for maintaining strong U.S. base presence in S. Korea continues. Both China and S. Korea import large quantities of U.S. manufactured arms. In May 2008 Korean people, concerned about contamination by mad cow disease, staged mass protests against the importation of U.S. beef. The protests were violently put down by the government. The Korean people want to go on with their lives and pursue their common destiny apart from U.S. domination and military base presence.

Ninotchka Roska, Philippine-born activist, novelist, former political prisoner, founder of Gabriela Network/USA, a multiracial women’s solidarity movement.

There have been U.S. bases in the Philippines since 1898. Manila was terribly devastated during W.W. II. The Philippines are very familiar with the way military culture leads to violence and the oppression and exploitation of women. For example, in the Philippines an estimated 50,000 children were fathered by U.S. soldiers since 1945. None of these children receive the healthcare, housing and education which are benefits of U.S. military families. The story of Nicole, a 22 year-old student who has fought for justice in the prosecution of her rape by a US officer points out the way U.S. Service personnel are exempt from prosecution by the judiciary systems of the home nations of Asian bases.

– Caroline Chinlund
for the Granny Peace Brigade

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