In 1945, during the last days of WWII, the U.S. and the former Japanese Imperial forces fought an intense ground battle in Okinawa, the small island in southwest Japan. The battle claimed 200,000 lives, including many American and Japanese soldiers but also a much larger number of unarmed Okinawan civilians. Ever since, U.S. military forces have occupied Okinawa, using land which was seized from families at gunpoint. Even today, 34 U.S. Military bases and facilities, including 8 Marine Corps bases and 1 Air Force base, still remain in Okinawa. The U.S. closed many bases at home and abroad after the Berlin Wall fell. Although the risks from the Cold War are long gone, U.S. Military bases in Okinawa have remained the same or grown.

The U.S. Military establishes “Clear Zones” around bases where it is too dangerous for people to live. While the U.S. Military would never put families in dangerous “Clear Zones,” over 800 families to live in danger next to Marine Air Station Futenma in Okinawa. The Chief of Naval Operations Commandant of the Marine Corps has issued instructions protecting Americans from the danger of crashes and accidents, but 18 institutions such as hospitals, community centers and nursery schools and over 3,600 civilians receive no protection from aircraft at Futenma. Military rules that should apply to every military base are ignored in Okinawa. Accidents have already happened. On August 13, 2004, a large U.S. Marine assault transport helicopter crashed into Okinawa International University while taking off from the nearby Futenma U.S. military base. Seven years later, U.S. military aircraft still frequently fly above schools and homes on training runs that last close to midnight. When will the next big accident befall our community? This is why the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called Futenma Marine Base “the world’s most dangerous base.” The government says Futenma exists to protect Japan, yet it only puts families in danger. Futenma is one of many U.S. Military bases that remain in Okinawa, but it is the most dangerous for Okinawan families. The people of Okinawa ask for the immediate closure of this dangerous military base and the rightful return of land.

The Okinawan people strongly hope for a life in peace without bases, but the U.S. and Japanese government have announced new construction to move the dangerous Futenma to the middle of pristine natural habitat a few miles away in Henoko, Okinawa.

The sea in Henoko is a treasure trove for marine life, where many rare species, including the Okinawan Dugong, live. Dugong, a large marine mammal similar to the manatee, is endangered species and protected by international environmental conventions. It is said that mermaid legend was made based on this lovely animal, which is now in danger of extinction because of the construction plan of the gigantic air base on their ocean.

Okinawan people reject any kind of new base construction which destroys the sea of Dugong and the safety of local families. Every small town and big city mayor in Okinawa oppose this reckless construction plan, and the Okinawan Governor has rejected it. The Okinawan legislature and many municipal councils have adopted resolutions against the plan.

No place in Japan accepts the U.S. Marine bases as the replacement of Futenma Air Station. Please bring the Marines in Okinawa to the U.S. The U.S. respects human rights and democracy. Please hear the Okinawan people’s democratic voice. We hope for peace by dialogue, not by dependence on military power.

Today, 75% of all U.S. Military bases in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa and the majority of bases in Okinawa are Marine bases. Americans from all walks of life,

including politicians, retired military personnel, regional elected officials, religious leaders, and members of think tanks, are calling for the removal of U.S. Marines from Okinawa. Such voices include the former Commander of Marines in the Pacific (1964 – 68), Lt. General Victor H. Krulak, Senator Tom Coburn (R, OK), Congressman Barney Frank (D, MA) and Congressman Ron Paul (R, TX). They are calling for the withdrawal of Marines from Okinawa to reduce the defense budget.

In May, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator Carl Levin (D, MI) and Ranking Member Senator John McCain (R, AZ), as well as Senate Foreign Relations East Asian Subcommittee Chairman Senator Jim Webb (D, VA) called the present multi-billion dollar Okinawan buildup plan “unrealistic, unworkable and unaffordable.” They called for a simple plan to close the dangerous Futenma Air Station without any new construction by spreading and rotating Marine combat units. Retired Marine Corps General James Jones, the former National Security Advisor, agreed with this proposal and stated. “The Marines can move anywhere and the location change of the Marines in Okinawa does not affect the U.S. military universal operation.” Many veterans who served in Okinawa during 1950s-1960s are shocked by the fact U.S. bases in Okinawa have not changed while many military bases in the U.S. are closed or combined.

Congress has decided to cut $350billion from the military to reduce the deficit. If more cuts are not found, another $600billion might be slashed and precious jobs will be lost in the United States. Instead of pouring billions of dollars into Okinawa, let’s bring the Marines home and create American jobs in the United States.

Regrettably, it is true that people are still fighting each other and enmity exists among people in the world. However, dialogue and mutual understanding among people is the only guarantee for a path to peace. After ten years of war, the end of fighting is nowhere in sight. America has lost the support of friends around the world. Japan remains the United States’ best friend in Asia, yet bases like Futenma has only diminished the American image here.

Bases like Futenma create jobs in Okinawa and service members spend their dollars in Japan. A 10-year war has cost $1.2 trillion and drained the U.S. Treasury. Admiral Mike Mullen, the 17th Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff, said the greatest threat to the United States was the national debt. Futenma Air Station is putting America’s friends in danger. Closing Futenma save Americans money and it will create American jobs when the Marines come home.

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