Target: United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
Goal: Support residents of Okinawa, Japan who are concerned about the environmental and social effects of the US military’s presence on their island
For over 15 years, residents of the Japanese island of Okinawa have protested the presence of US military bases on the island, in the wake of sexual assaults and environmental concerns related to the 34 US bases. Recently, the relocation of a military air station to the town of Nago on Okinawa has stirred up concerns and renewed protests, though demonstrations against the presence of the US military have occurred long before. A rape scandal in 1995—in which a 12-year-old girl reported a rape connected with the military presence—spurred an outcry against the military. It is estimated that sexual assaults and sexual violence against Okinawans are vastly underreported.
Also of concern is the environmental impact of US military presence. From biological weapons tests in the 1960s that affected rice crops, to the leaking of biochemical waste into the water supply from rusting barrels, Okinawa has undergone environmental damage. Recently, rusted barrels with traces of dioxin were unearthed during an excavation. The presence of these chemicals—not all of which appear to be properly accounted for—pose a risk to both the environment and the people of Okinawa.
Though a majority of Okinawans are opposed to the bases, and Okinawan governor Hirokazu Nakaima ran on a platform sympathetic to this view, the relocation and construction of the air station continues.
The Okinawan government maintains the bases, paying for utilities and base workers, but Okinawan citizens have little say in the presence of the American military despite the geopolitical importance of Okinawa. By signing this petition, you can support native Okinawans in making their voices heard, exerting greater influence and control over decisions regarding the presence of US military bases, and detecting and removing dangerous environmental contamination.
Dear Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel,
I wish to lend my support to the Okinawan people who want to exert more influence and control over the presence of US military bases and, should they wish, the gradual removing of these bases from Okinawa. Though Okinawa is geopolitically important to Japan and the United States, the residents of this island must be able to make their voices heard.
The building of a new base is opposed both by the governor of Okinawa and many Okinawans, and the historical presence of the US military has proven to be a contentious issue with the incidences of sexual violence and environmental damage. Therefore, I urge you to respect, acknowledge, and work to carry out the wishes of the Okinawan people regarding their home to the best of your ability.
[Your name here]
Photo credit: Photographer’s Mate 1st Class James G. McCarter via Wikimedia Commons