President Clinton, A Corporate Offensive, and Okinawan Bases


Daniel Schirmer

For
about a decade the United States has been the world’s sole superpower. It
has had global supremacy, both economic and military. Today there is evidence
that members of the U.S. corporate elite, the dominant influence in
Washington, have been engaged in a global offensive to maintain and strengthen
U.S. hegemony. The Clinton administration has sought to give neo-liberal
leadership to this offensive, which takes economic and military form. Thomas
L. Friedman, New York Times authority on foreign affairs, throws light
on this twin thrust of current U.S. foreign policy when he comments on the
relationship between U.S. strength in the global market place and its strength
in the world’s military arena: “The hidden hand of the market will never
work without the hidden fist—McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell
Douglas, the first designer of the F15. And the hidden fist that keeps
the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States
Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.” Thomas Friedman is a well
respected, well-connected journalist, and a supporter of current U.S. foreign
policy in its broadest outlines. His views on this matter are evidently close
to those of the Washington establishment, Republican and Democrats. The
preeminent official spokesperson for this policy seems to be William Cohen,
Clinton’s Secretary of Defense. Addressing the executives of Fortune’s
500 leading U.S. corporations, meeting in Philadelphia in October 1998,
Secretary Cohen told them, “Business follows the flag…We provide the
security. You provide the investment.”

During the Cold
War a concern for the foreign interests of the major U.S. corporations was
always a sub-text of the military imperative. Today it is the main text.
“Free markets and democracy” (with free markets given priority) have now
replaced “the Evil Empire” as the catchwords of U.S. foreign military
policy.

Clinton and
U.S. Nuclear Weapons

The
military side of the current offensive is to be seen particularly in
Washington’s effort to maintain and extend the Cold War policies and
positions that the United States developed to compete with its rival
superpower, the Soviet Union. One of these was a large nuclear weapons
arsenal. President Clinton, despite the growing current of anti-nuclear
weapons sentiment at home and abroad, has insisted on maintaining this arsenal
indefinitely, with both Republican and Democratic parties in major agreement.
Republican conservatives in the Senate, however, recently defeated the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to which President Clinton had given weak
support. They want the United States to keep nuclear weapons but without
international restrictions. Thus their defeat of the Treaty can be seen as the
right-wing Republicans’ contribution to U.S. military hegemony, achieved
unilaterally, as they prefer.

The Republican
vote opened the door to a new nuclear arms race, making the world a more
dangerous place for Okinawans and all other inhabitants of this planet. At
almost the same time, the U.S. press carried the news of declassified national
security documents showing the Pentagon had secretly stored hundreds of
nuclear weapons in Okinawa during the Cold War. Okinawans are citizens of
Japan, the world’s only atom-bombed nation. News of the Treaty’s defeat
shocked public opinion internationally. For Okinawans it must have been
especially disturbing.

This past fall
a member of the Clinton administration indicated a desire to strengthen the
position of U.S. nuclear weapons in Asia, by pushing back an advance
previously made by their opponents. On November 11, Thomas Foley, U.S.
Ambassador to Japan, addressing a group of Japanese municipal officials,
declared he wanted U.S. warships to visit the Japanese city of Kobe while he
was in office. Kobe is a flourishing port city, and in 1975 grassroots
pressure caused the Kobe City Assembly to pass an ordinance requiring all
foreign warships requesting to visit Kobe to sign a certificate that they
carried no nuclear weapons. Because it is U.S. naval policy neither to confirm
nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on U.S. warships, none have visited
Kobe since that date. In recent months other Japanese port cities have
indicated an interest in following Kobe’s example.

Many leaders of
the Japanese peace movement denounced Foley’s pronouncement as a blatant
intervention in Japanese affairs, and fair-minded U.S. citizens can only
agree. It signifies the Clinton administration’s push to strengthen the
supreme authority of the U.S. military in Asia by removing a check on the U.S.
disposition of nuclear weapons.

In the past
U.S. nuclear-capable warships have made port calls in Hiroshima prefecture but
never in the port of Hiroshima. Shortly after Ambassador Foley’s declaration
about Kobe the U.S. consul in Osaka publicly stated he wished to see U.S.
warships visit atom-bombed Hiroshima…indicating that whatever compunctions
U.S. officialdom previously had in this regard now may be cast aside, given
Washington’s heightened imperial mood.

To Bolster
U.S. Domination of Europe

The
Clinton administration has been energetically attempting to maintain and
extend two other policies previously adopted to check the perceived threat of
Soviet global expansion: a wide system of military alliances, and a capability
to intervene rapidly with decisive force at different points in the globe.
This last was accomplished by the deployment of U.S. troops and bases in many
countries in Asia and Europe.

During the last
years of the Cold War and the first years after it (i.e., the Reagan and Bush
years), Washington expanded U.S. forward deployment mainly in the form of
agreements giving the U.S. military access to the ports, airfields, and
military installations of foreign countries (“places, not bases”). These
access agreements were principally with countries of the Third World—and
especially with those of the Mideast after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran,
Washington’s regional proconsul. Access policy has continued in effect
during the Clinton years. What distinguishes its foreign military policy,
however, is the Clinton administration’s aggressive efforts to resuscitate,
maintain, and extend the key dispositions of U.S. troops and bases, the
crucial military alliances that were designed to counter the superpower rival
of the Cold War period. It is this feature that gives U.S. foreign policy
under Clinton its markedly hegemonic character.

In Europe
during the Cold War, in addition to U.S. troops and bases in West Germany,
Great Britain, Italy, and elsewhere, the U.S. domination of the NATO alliance
contributed heavily to U.S. military weight on that continent. Today, while
maintaining U.S. troops and bases in Europe at reduced strength, the Clinton
administration has pushed for the eastward expansion of NATO to include
Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, bringing NATO to the border of the
former Soviet Union. This expansion has strengthened the U.S. post-Cold War
military domination of Europe and provided a profitable new market for U.S.
arms manufacturers.

The Clinton
administration recently led the NATO war in Kosovo, an air war, a bombing war,
supported by U.S. bases in Italy. This war served to heighten U.S. military
supremacy in Europe as well, bringing it forward in an absolute and
unprecedented fashion. President Clinton evidently believed it also gave a
boost to the U.S. in the global marketplace, as a comment he made at the time
suggests: “If we’re going to have a strong economic relationship that
includes our ability to sell around the world Europe has got to be a key….
That’s what this Kosovo thing is all about.”

Further
evidence of the symbiotic relationship between the U.S. corporate elite and
the U.S. military elite is the convergence of their political views. A public
opinion poll conducted among high-ranking U.S. military officers, cited in the
New York Times of September 9, 1999, found 64 percent of these officers
described themselves as Republicans, 67 percent as conservative, 13 percent as
very conservative. U.S. General Wesley Clark, commander of the NATO forces in
Kosovo, appears to be of the very conservative category. In June 1999 General
Clark ordered a NATO air-bombing of Russian troops unexpectedly occupying the
Pristina airport in Kosovo before the arrival of NATO forces. A British
Lieutenant General Jackson refused, saying he would not be a party to starting
World War III. When the disputed issue moved up to President Clinton and Prime
Minister Blair, they supported Jackson and overruled Clark. In May 1999, a
month earlier, also under Clark’s leadership, the U.S. air force bombed the
Beijing embassy in Belgrade, killing 3 Chinese citizens, injuring 27.
According to Washington authorities the bombing was accidental.
 

The military
and economic aspects of the current U.S. foreign policy offensive often appear
to run side by side. The Kosovo war’s assertion of U.S. military supremacy
paralleled the European pre-eminence U.S. bankers won in facilitating
corporate takeovers, an important field of operation for finance capital. Time
magazine of April 19, 1999 reported: “…two banks based in New York City,
Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs overtook their European rivals for the first
time in 1998 and became the top two advisers for take-overs in Europe in terms
of values of deals they helped bring about.”
Kosovo gave military confirmation to this form of U.S. financial
predominance in Europe.

From the
beginning, the Clinton administration has enthusiastically supported the
unrestricted foreign operations of U.S. finance capital and the expansion of
U.S. export markets, in Europe and Asia. In Clinton’s first term, when Ron
Brown was its Secretary, “…the Commerce Department even built what it
called a war room, where computers tracked big contracts, and everyone from
the C.I.A. to ambassadors to the President himself was called upon to help
land deals.”

Okinawa and
Mainland Japan

Since
the end of the Cold War U.S. military strength in Europe has seen sizeable
reduction, while in Asia it has been kept at near-Cold War strength. In
December 1993, Admiral Charles R. Larson, then head of the U.S. Pacific
Command, said this was because U.S. trade with the Pacific was currently
greater than that with Europe or Latin America.
The Admiral’s explanation offers an early example of what seems
to be current Washington policy that relates U.S. military strength abroad to
the dominant interests of U.S. corporations abroad. However that may be, the
Clinton administration has been energetic in its efforts to maintain,
resuscitate, and extend the Cold War alliances, troops and bases that gave the
U.S. superpower strength in Asia. At present, Washington maintains 100,000
troops and 18 major bases in the Asia-Pacific region, most of both in Okinawa
and mainland Japan. During the Cold War U.S. bases and troops in mainland
Japan and Okinawa provided essential support to U.S. wars of intervention in
Korea and Vietnam, and in the post-Cold War period to U.S. intervention in the
Gulf. The Pentagon has important bases in mainland Japan. But, as was the case
during the Cold War, the highest concentration of U.S. troops remains in
Okinawa (which, in land area, comprises only 1 percent of the whole of Japan).
Its geographical position puts it near what the Pentagon sees as potential
“trouble spots”—China, the Korean peninsula, and Southeast Asia.
 
The U.S.
Marine Corps is Washington’s premier interventionist force; the only Marine
division located outside the United States is in Okinawa. In the post-Cold War
era, Japan, as a nation, is the strategic base for possible U.S. military
intervention in the Asia-Pacific, Okinawa, a key operational center.

During the Cold
War Japan and the United States had a military alliance, the main purpose of
which was to assure Japan of U.S. support in case of Soviet attack. The
Clinton administration, however, has changed the purpose of the alliance with
what are called the new Japan-U.S. Defense Guidelines. These commit the
Japanese military to give active and automatic support to the U.S. military in
peace and war. In addition the Japanese government is expected to mobilize
civilians and local governments in the same cause. With the new Guidelines the
Pentagon secures the Japanese military as a junior partner in U.S. wars of
intervention. And the area covered by these Guidelines is not only that around
Japan but the entire Asia-Pacific region and the Mideast, wherever Washington
decides to intervene.

The Clinton
administration has moved to extend the scope of the NATO alliance in the same
way. The 50th anniversary summit meeting of NATO took place in April, during
the war in Kosovo. At this meeting, under the direction of the Clinton
administration, NATO adopted a new “strategic concept.” In effect it
provides that NATO activity shall not be limited to Europe, as originally
projected, but shall be extended to surrounding areas. These extensions of the
main U.S. alliances in Europe and Asia can be seen as integral to the Clinton
administration’s drive to aggrandize U.S. global military hegemony.

Closely
associated with the new Defense Guidelines is an Acquisition and Cross-Serving
Agreement (ACSA) the United States has recently made with Japan. Though
tailored to Japanese specifics, this agreement is similar to Cold War
agreements the United States made with United Kingdom and West Germany in
preparation for possible war with the Soviet Union. In line with the new
Defense Guidelines, ACSA spells out in detail the support Japan is to give the
U.S. military, in peace and war. This includes minesweeping, transport,
supplies, intelligence, medical services, rear area support, and more.
(Japanese combat troops are not included in this list at present.)

It is obvious
that the new Defense Guidelines give additional post-Cold War strength to U.S.
military supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. They are also in
flagrant violation of the Japanese constitution which prohibits the Japanese
government from taking part in acts of war. For the people of Okinawa and
mainland Japan, more tangibly perhaps, these Guidelines serve to tighten the
hold of the U.S. military over their lives. They bring an even greater threat
that Okinawans and mainland Japanese will be dragged, as during the Cold War,
into wars not of their own choosing.

A striking
example of the corporate drive to strengthen U.S. economic dominance in both
Europe and Asia during the Clinton years is given by a giant financial
services organization (the world’s largest non-banking financial
organization) called GE Capital. This is a unit of General Electric, one of
the United States largest and most profitable corporations. An article
entitled “King of the Crisis” in the May 6, 1999 issue of the Far
Eastern Economic Review
, an investors’ weekly, describes how GE Capital,
has taken advantage first of European economic distress, then of Japanese, to
expand its holdings in both areas. “In 1991, continental Europe represented
$26 million, or 3 percent of the company’s net income. By the end of
1998—over 100 European acquisitions later—that number had grown to $755
million, or 20 percent . . . To date GE Capital has spent more than $23
billion acquiring assets in Europe.” While GE Capital has, in the past five
years, accumulated $5 billion in assets elsewhere in Asia, Japan has
been the main arena of action, where its assets now total around $15 billion.
It has been buying up Japanese financial services corporations. In this way it
has very quickly become a major financial services player in Japan, the
world’s second ranking economic power.
Not long after the story in the Far Eastern Economic
Review
, the New York Times of September 19 and 24 reported GE
Capital was a member of a powerful U.S.-led international consortium that was
buying the Long Term Credit Bank of Japan for $1.5 billion. This was one of
Japan’s largest and most prestigious banks. Hobbled by bad loans, it was the
first Japanese bank to be sold to foreign investors.

As this last
transaction was being completed, conservative members of the Japanese
parliament were hammering into law provisions of the new Japan-U.S. Defense
Guidelines, giving the Pentagon a strong hand in the control of the Japanese
military, Japanese hospitals, public highways, ports, and airfields.

The
Philippines and South Korea

The
Philippines and South Korea were pillars of support to the Pentagon’s
domination of the Asia-Pacific region during the Cold War. Today
Washington’s hegemonic offensive of foreign military policy has affected
both, and there is evidence of increased U.S. economic penetration as well.
Like those in Okinawa and Japan, U.S. bases in the Philippines gave important
logistical support to U.S. wars in Korea and Vietnam, and later in the Gulf.
But in 1991 members of the Philippine Senate canceled the U.S. bases in their
country. This might be considered the last act of the People Power revolution
that overthrew Marcos, for the bases had been closely identified with the
support Washington gave the dictatorship. U.S. forces vacated the bases in
1992, and the Clinton administration soon was putting pressure on the
Philippine government to change the situation and allow the restoration of a
U.S. military presence in that country. For this purpose Secretary of Defense
Cohen and Secretary of State Albright made visits to Manila, and the U.S.
Ambassador engaged in constant lobbying. Consequently, despite considerable
popular opposition, the Philippine Senate reversed itself in May 1999 and
voted for a Philippine-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). An access
agreement, this would allow the United States military to visit Philippine
ports and airfields and to hold large-scale military exercises in that country
once more.

It is the
Pentagon’s first step towards achieving in the Philippines the kind of
control it now has in Japan. Two years before this U.S. AID money had funded
the construction of an airfield in southern Mindanao near General Santos City
and the expansion of that city’s port facilities. These improvements were
such as to make the airfield and the port capable of serving U.S. warplanes
and warships. The construction at General Santos City, like the VFA,
illustrates Washington’s intentions to revive and augment its Cold War
military influence in the Philippines. As in Okinawa and mainland Japan,
however, the Philippine struggle for peace is unrelenting, despite all
setbacks. The developments in General Santos occasioned much protest, and
early in December 1999 representatives of a broad popular coalition went to
the Philippine Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the VFA.

In 1998 while
the Clinton administration was pressing for a renewed U.S. military presence
in the Philippines, GE Capital took over the Philippine Asia Life Assurance
Company of Manila.

The U.S. troops
and bases of the Cold War are still in South Korea, confronting the
much-weakened Stalinist dictatorship of the North. In July 1998, however,
Secretary of Defense Cohen declared that even if Korea became unified U.S.
troops and bases would remain. In effect Secretary Cohen established the U.S.
military presence in South Korea as a fixture of the post-Cold War era, their
use for posible intervention to be expanded from Korea to the entire
Asia-Pacific region.

In August 1999,
General Motors, the world’s biggest automaker, signed an agreement to buy
Daewoo Motors for $3.5 billion. Daewoo Motors is a debt-ridden affiliate of
the important South Korean conglomerate, the Daewoo Group. This agreement
would give General Motors management control of Daewoo’s auto business.

The Clinton
administration has succeeded in strengthening Washington’s military hegemony
in the Asia-Pacific by reasserting and invigorating the Pentagon’s Cold War
positions of regional strength. But here there is one serious difficulty:
unflagging popular opposition to the U.S. military presence. This is true in
South Korea and the Philippines (where U.S. bases have only recently been
thrown out). It is particularly the case in Okinawa and mainland Japan. Thus
Clinton’s top-heavy military achievement in Asia rests on an unstable
political foundation.

The Japanese
peace movement is one of the strongest in the world. Composed of a number of
organizations, it has two main concerns, opposition to nuclear weapons and
foreign military bases. Thus it directly challenges the Pentagon’s program
to use Okinawa and mainland Japan as a base for global military dominance and
wars of imperial intervention. Giving support to the Japanese peace movement
is the Japanese Left, an effective political force. Here the Japanese
Communists are influential. Today the Japanese Social Democratic Party is
working with the Communists in opposition to the new Defense Guidelines. In
Okinawa all parties of the left, Communist, Social Democratic, and Social
Mass, work together against the bases. Okinawa became part of Japan in the
last half of the 19th century, and has its own history and cultural tradition,
but the peace movements of both Okinawa and mainland Japan support each other,
and this contributes to the strength of the national movement as a whole. The
strong public sentiment for peace in both areas is partially explained by the
heavy traumas they experienced in World War II: the battle for Okinawa which
killed 150,000 Okinawan civilians—in mainland Japan, Hiroshima, Nagasaki,
and the fire-bombing of Tokyo.

U.S. Base
Relocation

In
March 1998 the U.S. General Accounting Office published a review of the status
of U.S. bases in Okinawa; this reported: “Discontent among the people of
Okinawa about the impact of the U.S. military presence on their land has been
rising for years…. Among the chief complaints…is that their prefecture
hosts over half of the U.S. force presence in Japan and…about 75 per cent of
the total land used by U.S. Some Okinawans feel the U.S. military presence has
hampered economic development.” The rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan
schoolgirl in 1995 by U.S. military personnel brought this discontent to a new
level of intensity, and resulted in the 1996 election of an anti-bases
prefectural assembly, which joined a previously elected anti-bases prefectural
governor, Masahide Ota. Later the same year in a prefectural-wide referendum
53 percent of Okinawa’s registered voters endorsed the reduction and
realignment of the bases.

Attempting to
calm the anti-bases opposition Washington and Tokyo in 1996 proposed to
relocate the Futenma Marine Air Base situated in the center of Ginowan City.
This huge base had been the object of vigorous opposition for years. The
proposal was to relocate it near Nago City in northern Okinawa, a less densely
populated area. But political appeasement was not the only reason for the
relocation of Futenma. Its decades-old facilities were to be replaced with a
sea-borne state-of-the-art helicopter base capable of serving as the home of
the Osprey, the most advanced vertical take off and landing aircraft, which
the Pentagon plans to deploy in the first years of the new millennium. It is a
warplane with long flying range and great speed. So the Osprey, without the
need for a transport ship to bring it near the battlefields, would be able to
carry U.S. Marines from Okinawa directly to Taiwan and the Korean peninsula.
 It would take only 20 hours to reach the Gulf. The plans for this new
base therefore carried forward the Clinton administration’s drive to
strengthen the U.S. military position in Asia in the post-Cold War,
heightening its interventionist capability. Again there was the one persistent
problem. The people of Nago City did not want the new base. In a city-wide
referendum of December 1997 over half its population rejected it, effectively
confronting not only their own government, but the U.S. superpower as well.

The Nago City
referendum was a victory for the anti-bases movement in Okinawa. This
expression of opposition on the part of the citizens of Nago coupled with the
anti-bases composition of the prefectural government (both in the office of
the governor and in the prefectural assembly) created a temporary deadlock, a
temporary pause, in the matter of base relocation.

In the face of
these difficulties, Washington and its allies in the leadership of Japan’s
ruling Liberal Democratic Party sought redress in the prefectural elections of
1998. Then Tokyo let it be known that if the anti-bases candidates for
governor and the prefectural assembly were re-elected, Okinawa, Japan’s
poorest prefecture, would not receive economic aid from the central
government. The local Liberal Democratic Party backed this up with an
aggressive campaign. The result was the defeat of Governor Ota who ran for
reelection and had called for the removal of all U.S. bases by 2015. Victory
went to Keiichi Inamine, the pro-bases candidate for governor, and to a
pro-bases prefectural assembly. His campaign platform, however, reflected the
strength of the anti-bases sentiment in Okinawa. While Inamine pledged support
of the new base at Nago, he did so with an important proviso: that its use by
the Pentagon be limited to the year 2015. This, however, is not the view of
the U.S. Department of Defense; it says the new facility will be used for 40
years and last for 200.

After the
victory of the pro-bases forces in the Okinawan prefectural elections of 1998,
the prefectural government joined Tokyo and Washington in declaring for the
new base in the Nago City region. This of course was in violation of the will
of most of Nago’s residents, as expressed in the referendum of 1997. Perhaps
in the case of Washington, this should come as no surprise. The March 1998
U.S. General Accounting Office review of the U.S. military presence in Okinawa
declared: “…at the time of our review some residents living near the
proposed site had opposed having the sea-based facility near their community,
but U.S. officials are proceeding on the basis that the facility will be
built.” And so the plan is to build the base with a long runway into the
sea, on land connected with Camp Schwab, a Marine Corps ammunition dump and
base in the Heneko District of Nago City. The present base at Camp Schwab has
3,500 Marines and occasional helicopter landings; the new base will have 7,200
Marines and 45,000 take-offs and landings each year.

“How can I
continue to live here? They will destroy the peace and quiet I had expected
for my life,” said Taeko Shimabukuro, a 72-year-old grandmother of Henoko,
as she was interviewed by Doug Struck, a correspondent for the Washington
Post
. Thus she expressed her dismay at the noise and disruption the
proposed new base and its many U.S. troops and war-planes would bring to the
tiny fishing village that is her home. When interviewed by Struck, Taeko
Shimabukuro was working her daily shift in a beach shelter that serves as
headquarters for Henoko’s protest movement against the new base.

In September
1999, even after the pro-bases victory of the 1998 prefectural elections, the
Nago City Assembly, by a sizeable vote, rejected a proposal for base
relocation to their region, introduced by members of the Liberal Democratic
Party. At the same time the administrative committees of three city districts,
including Heneko, also expressed opposition. The September vote of the Nago
City Assembly was 8 for base relocation, and 20 against, and this included a
good number of conservative members voting for rejection.
The American Friends Service Committee has a saying, “Speak
truth to power.” Certainly no deed brings these words more eloquently to
life than the anti-base vote of these 20 Nago citizens. With this vote they
spoke the truth of the humane anti-war spirit that is strong today in the
culture of Okinawa and mainland Japan. And to what power…the U.S. and
Japanese governments—in military strength, the global superpower and its
chief ally—in economic strength, the first and second nations of the world.

With its
September vote against base relocation the Nago City Assembly, for the second
time, openly defied the Pentagon. But this time its position was weakened by
the Liberal Democratic Party’s control of the prefectural government, won in
the 1998 election. Japan’s Liberal Democratic regime, when it signed on to
the new Defense Guidelines, agreed to mobilize local government and civilian
support for U.S. military objectives. From the standpoint of this commitment,
and with the Okinawan political situation currently propitious, it seems
obvious that Tokyo would now take steps to quell the resistance of the Nago
City Assembly to the new base . . . obvious that the Okinawan prefectural
government would now go along with this. Clearly the conservative members of
the Nago City Assembly, who had given the opposition its majority in
September, had to be brought in line. This is evidently what happened after
the wheels of government authority and party discipline were set in motion. On
December 23, the Nago City Assembly voted to accept Futenma base relocation to
a site in Nago’s Henoko district.  The vote was 17 to 10. The U.S.
Defense Department had expressed the wish that the matter of the Nago site be
settled by the end of the year. As result of pressure, emanating in the first
place from Washington, the vote of the City Assembly had been changed on time.
Meanwhile Tokyo promised Nago an aid budget of $1 billion over ten years to
help remedy the city’s underdevelopment and persuade the city’s voters to
accept the new base.     

On January 5
Japan’s Defense Agency Director General Tsutomo Kawara met in Washington
with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen and discussed plans for the new
base at Nago City. Kawara, however, did not raise the question of the 15-year
limit on the U.S. use of the new base the majority of Okinawans had voted for
when they elected Inamine. The Pentagon was accommodated, Okinawan democracy,
betrayed.

Clinton’s
Intervenes Against Nago City

But
the U.S.-stimulated intervention to change the Nago City Assembly vote is
altogether dwarfed by an extraordinary measure set in motion under the same
auspices. The meetings of the Group of Eight (the seven major industrialized
nations plus Russia) in the year 2000 are scheduled for Japan. In the summer
of 1999 President Clinton and Japan’s Liberal Democratic Prime Minister
Obuchi decided that the July summit meeting of this group (often held in the
capital city of the host nation) should be held in Okinawa, not in Naha, the
capital of the prefecture, but in Nago City. By this location, therefore, the
summit meeting of the Group of Eight becomes associated with the Pentagon’s
choice for the new base. As if to make this connection perfectly clear
President Clinton and Secretary of Defense Cohen have each publicly declared
the question of base relocation had to be settled before the Group of Eight
summit meeting takes place.

Presumably the
people of Nago City and Okinawa don’t have to be reminded of possible
investment funds the Group of Eight might or might not be inclined to make
available for local economic development. Washington, with Tokyo in support,
has placed 7 of the world’s wealthy, industrialized nations in a position of
bearing down very heavily on the 54,000 citizens of Nago City and other
Okinawans.

This gross
intervention by President Clinton in Okinawan affairs has caused indignation
since it was first announced. On July 29, 1999, for example, a group of 52
Okinawan intellectuals, including scholars, artists, religious leaders and
lawyers put their names to a statement declaring their opposition to the use
of the 2000 meeting of the major industrialized powers as a means of imposing
U.S. base relocation on the soil of Okinawa. The signers drew attention to an
intimation President Clinton had recently made that he would not come to the
Okinawa summit unless the question of U.S. base relocation was settled
beforehand. In response they declared, “Clinton’s position is tantamount
to blackmailing Okinawa, and citizens of Okinawa are angry about it.” The
indignation continues. Early in December 1999 a leader of a Nago citizen’s
group, Hiroshi Ashitomi, was also interviewed by Doug Struck of the Washington
Post
. Referring to the decision to bring the prestigious and economically
lucrative meeting to Nago City, Ashitomi said, “It’s a bribe. It’s very
clear that the reason they brought the summit to Nago was to buy support for
the moving of the base.”

The very
presence of representatives of the seven major industrialized nations in Nago
City at the July summit will have the effect of an endorsement of
Washington’s proposed new base, and of the heightened military supremacy in
Asia it represents. The July summit, in this way, will serve to crown
Clinton’s efforts to strengthen the U.S. military, the better to make the
world safe for the corporate wealth the Group of Eight represents. (Just as
the Seattle meeting of the World Trade Organization might have attested to
Clinton’s exertions to further a world of free markets and U.S. corporate
primacy therein.)

In its efforts
to aggrandize the position of the U.S. military in Japan the Clinton
administration has struck at the very roots of Japanese democracy. Ambassador
Foley has urged the overturn of the decision of the Kobe City Assembly
restricting the visits of U.S. warships to Kobe harbor; President Clinton, in
effect, has urged the same of the Nago City Assembly’s decision opposing
relocation of the U.S. Futenma base.  The chief executive of the global
superpower and his ambassador, if only by these public admonitions, have been
intervening in the affairs of Japanese democracy at its municipal level, the
level of the democratic process nearest the people, the basic level. On the
other hand the grass roots anti-war positions taken by the local assembly of
Kobe and of Nago City (until being subjected to heavy pressure) unmistakably
represent the questionable underpinning of the Pentagon’s present military
domination of Japan. (In the same context the Communist Party of Japan, which
takes a pronounced stand for peace and against foreign military domination,
now has more local assembly members nationally than the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party.)

On December 16
and 17 before the vote of the Nago City Assembly to accept the new base, the Asahi
Shimbun
of Tokyo and the Okinawa Times conducted a public opinion
poll in Nago; 59 percent of the respondents said they opposed the relocation
of the Futenma base to the Nago district, while 23 percent supported it. Also
before the vote Nago oppositionists held a well attended rally. When it opened
with the declaration, “Here in Nago we’ll never allow any foothold for
sorties in U.S. wars!” there was great applause. After the vote, residents
of Nago began a recall initiative to unseat the city’s Mayor, who, under
pressure from Tokyo, had come out for the new base. At this time Howard W.
French, a reporter for the New York Times, visited Nago City. He
interviewed Yasuhiro Miyagi, a member of the City Assembly who opposed the
base, and Zenko Nakamura, head of an umbrella opposition group. Both spoke
with the unyielding confidence of those who know their cause is just. Miyagi
told him, “The people of Nago are going to make it very difficult, perhaps
impossible for that base to be built.” French reported Japanese government
officials are beginning to talk about a shift in the location of the summit
meeting of the Group of Eight because of the possibility of typhoon weather in
the Nago region in July. Nago residents believe it is public demonstrations
against the base, rather than typhoons they are worried about. Referring to
this, Nakamura said, “Democracy means to Okinawans that even if the
governments of Japan and America decide something, the people can make them
take a step back . . . In any case we can never live with this project.”

Popular
Support for Peace in the U.S.

Like
the peace movements of Okinawa and mainland Japan there are many U.S. citizens
who oppose the Pentagon in its role as global policeman. With the Soviet Union
dead and gone, they see no need for the United States to hold onto, even
bolster as under Clinton, a huge, enormously expensive military machine. Not
long ago the Center for Defense Information, in which retired U.S. military
officials play a leading role, sent out a letter stating in plainest terms:
“The massive spending on the military has no rationale whatsoever. No
threat, no foreseen threat. We believe the expenditures planned for attack
submarines ($63 billion), for 3,800 new fighter planes ($350-450 billion), for
600 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft” (the showpiece of the proposed new base in
Okinawa) “and other weapons are excessively costly and totally
unnecessary.” Contributing also to this massive military expenditure is the
$40 billion it costs annually to keep 100,000 U.S. troops in the Asia-Pacific
area; though the government of Japan pays more towards the expenses of the
U.S. bases than any other host country.

Right-wing
Republicans do not agree with the Center for Defense Information. They regard
China as a threat and push for a policy of isolation and confrontation.  Richard
L. Armitage, a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan Administration, is
presently a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush, the leading Republican
presidential candidate. Last summer, at a time of tensions occasioned by
Taiwan’s call for “state-to-state” relations with China, Armitage caused
a stir when he told an Australian paper that Australia “must stand ready to
give military support to the U.S. if Washington goes to war with China” over
Taiwan. Then, as if he had spoken too loosely, Armitage backed away from this
call to arms, saying there was low risk of such a conflict. For its part, the
Clinton administration seems to have two differing but interconnected views of
China. One sees China as a threat to be confronted with overwhelming military
superiority, the other, as a huge market that requires a policy of
“engagement.”

If, as common
sense suggests, there is no present or foreseen threat to the United States,
why does Washington maintain this massive military machine in the post-Cold
War era? The major war that the United States has waged since the Cold War is
the Gulf War (to which U.S. bases in Okinawa, mainland Japan, and the
Philippines gave support). At bottom this was a war to protect U.S. corporate
control of the oil resources of the Mideast; a war the Clinton administration
still carries on with the economic embargo and bombing of Iraq. The Gulf War
therefore gives credibility to Thomas Friedman’s explanation of the
post-Cold war purpose of Washington’s outsize military machine: it exists to
make the world safe for U.S. transnational corporations.

The New
Millennium

The
proposed meeting of the world’s preeminent industrialized powers in Nago
City, in effect an endorsement of U.S. military supremacy in Asia, brings to
mind the vision of the future projected by Jacques Attali in his book Millennium.
Attali authored this book about ten years ago when he was special advisor to
the French President Mitterand, and president of the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development. In Millennium Attali foresees three
centers of power for the wealthy nations of the globe: the United States,
Europe, and Japan. He emphasizes the growing income gap between the rich
nations of the world and the poor (and between the rich and poor of both rich
and poor nations). He predicts the new millennium will see rebellions and wars
by the peoples of the poor nations against the rich to overcome this imbalance
and alleviate their misery. In these conditions he assumes the United States
will take on the function of defense, not only its own but also that of the
two other centers of power and wealth, Europe and Japan. Attali therefore
brings in view an endless vista of U.S. wars of intervention and suppression
to defend the wealthy elite of the rich nations against the rebellions of the
poor.

The future of
U.S. military leadership with respect to Europe and Japan now appears to be
somewhat uncertain. At a recent meeting held in Helsinki, the European Union
moved to form its own military force independent of NATO. And Robert Manning,
a former State Department adviser for policy, notes the same alienation from
U.S. military preponderance appears to be developing generally in Asia as in
Europe. In the Boston Globe of December 27, 1999, Manning writes of an
event held before the Helsinki meeting, “…13 Asian nations gathered in
Manila to conceive a pan-Asian economic and security future modeled after the
European Union. Although the meeting was held in the Philippines, a U.S.
treaty ally, and key U.S. allies Japan and South Korea participated, no
Americans were invited.” Certainly Japan itself has a strong current of
popular opinion that grows restive under U.S. military domination. This has
been expressed by at least two prominent members of the conservative ruling
elite, both of whom oppose the present government’s unlimited support of
U.S. troops and bases in Japan. Shintaro Ishiharo, current governor of Tokyo,
has called for the withdrawal of a large U.S. Air Force installation, Yokota
Air Base (the object of impressive grassroots opposition), located in Tokyo.
In the July/August, 1998, issue of Foreign Affairs, a magazine of the
U.S. establishment, Morihiro Hosokawa, Prime Minister of Japan from 1992 to
1993, recommended the elimination of all U.S. troops and bases from Japan, to
be replaced by granting U.S. warships access to Japanese ports and harbors.
Here he wrote, “The U.S. military presence in Japan should fade with the
century’s end.”

Perhaps
President Clinton and the Pentagon share Attali’s vision of the future. At
any rate Clinton’s over-all foreign military policy, in which he was
doubtless amply advised by the Pentagon, seems to have been one of preparation
for just such wars of intervention in the years of the new millennium. And
this preparation evidently continues in the last days of his Administration.
On the other side of the globe Washington is presently increasing its
involvement in Colombia, the country with a 40-year counter-insurgency war and
the highest record of human rights violations in the Americas. On January 11,
2000, President Clinton announced a $1.3 billion aid package to Colombia,
(currently the third largest recipient of U.S. aid after Egypt and Israel),
saying it was “urgently needed” to keep “illegal drugs off our
shores.” His plan for increased aid “is meant to illustrate that Mr.
Clinton has made Colombia a foreign policy priority in his last year in
office,” according to Elizabeth Becker of the New York Times.
Congressional Republicans immediately praised Clinton’s proposal for being
more than they had called for. But Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a
Democrat like Clinton, was critical. “What we are seeing,” he said, “is
a dramatic racheting up of a counterinsurgency policy in the name of a
counterdrug policy.” There are already some 200 U.S. military personnel in
Colombia as trainers and advisors to the Colombian armed forces, and the bulk
of the $1.3 billion Clinton proposes would be military aid. Meanwhile the
Colombian army is busy removing members of the U’wa tribe of Colombian
Indians from ancestral lands on which a U.S. transnational corporation,
Occidental Petroleum, plans to drill for oil. U.S. Democratic presidential
candidate Al Gore is executor of his father’s estate, which includes stock
of Occidental valued at $250,000 to $500,000, according to the
vice-president’s most recent financial disclosure report.

While
Washington heightens its intervention in Colombia, the Pentagon, despite
massive Puerto Rican opposition, strives to maintain its bombing base on the
island of Viequez, thus reasserting its military domination of the Caribbean
and Latin Amerca.

The Struggle
Continues

President
Clinton leaves office in little less than a year. Whichever of the two major
parties, Republican or Democratic, wins in November, its presidential
candidate can be expected to pursue big-military, nuclear-armed,
interventionist policies—the policies Clinton has promoted, and the Pentagon
has carried out, on behalf of the top U.S. corporations. Of course these
policies did not begin with Clinton, and apparently will outlast his
presidency, for however long.

To curb the
Pentagon the people of Okinawa, mainland Japan, and the United States will
have to wage a constant and ever-growing struggle. Only after such struggle
will the U.S. government spend taxpayers’ money on health care, education,
and housing, to improve the lives of the people—rather than on a big
military machine, to guard the global interests of the corporate elite.

Only after such
struggle will Japan be free of the U.S. military presence, designed to make
Asia and the Mideast safe for U.S. transnational corporations —while
bringing to the lives and politics of the Japanese people, especially the
Okinawans, an unbearable disruption, a persistent intrusion, and the indignity
of their homeland’s involvement in the preparation of interventionist war.

This will not
last. How can it be otherwise? In Japan today the love of peace is very
strong, very deep. Okinawans call it “the heart of Okinawa.”
   Z

Many
thanks to Joseph Gerson, Program Director, New England Region, American
Friends Service Committee, and to Madge Kho, co-chair, Boston Friends of the
Filipino People, Margo Okazawa-Rey, Madge Kho, and Stephen R. Shalom for
making available important reference materials and editorial advice.