Japan trip digest

15 December 2001

Bill Sulzman

I want to send out a summary of my recent trip to Japan on behalf of the War Resisters League.  The invitation came from two peace groups in Japan who were having meetings in Tokyo December 8 and 9 to discuss and decide on future actions related to the war in Afghanistan and to address other peace and constitutional issues.    On Saturday December 8, I gave the speech that is included below.  I had been advised to make it simple for the purpose of translation so it may seem a bit chopped up and sketchy. 

There were about 150-200 in attendance for the gathering sponsored by Linking Peace and Life a nationwide group but particularly strong in the Osaka area.  The panel that evening also included Paul Galang from the Philippines,  three speakers from Okinawa, and an activist from Pusan, South Korea.  Keeping all the names straight was impossible.  I have a stack of dozens of personal cards and many more names to add to my e-mail and mailing lists.  Throughout my visit I had excellent interpreters to help follow the proceedings.  Here are some of the issues:

  • Strong opposition of the deployment of Japanese naval forces to the war zone in violation of the peace provisions of the Japanese constitution.  The U.S. applied strong pressure and got the result they wanted.  The Japanese peace movement is stunned and wants desperately to reverse this precedent before it becomes a permanent change in their constitution.
  • Okinawans got strong support from both meetings in their call for the removal of the numerous U.S bases from their soil.  They especially emphasized how the current war made them vulnerable to the reactions of others to America's war in Afghanistan.  They made the strong case that their homeland is a virtual colony of the U.S. and Japan.
  • In mid January, Japan has agreed to host a meeting of the U.S. led Coalition to discuss the future of Afghanistan in the post war era.  Zenko and Linking Peace and Life will hold a parallel meeting to challenge the official agenda.  Among other things they will call for a full investigation of the conduct of the war: civilian casualties, combat casualties, treatment of prisoners,  refugee deaths due to denial of food and shelter etc.  A companion resolution will call for a war crimes tribunal if the investigation reveals the need for one. 
  • Both groups are also involved in the issue of Japanese war reparations as related to Korea and Manchuria.  The same Japanese groups who oppose reparations are very pleased about Japan's current policy to ignore its peace constitution.  A related issue is the teaching of WW II history in the schools. 

On December 9 I made a shorter presentation at the all day Zenko national assembly and took part in the workshop on disarmament issues.  There were reports from all across Japan and Okinawa by local activist groups,  collections of petition signatures against the war, bannering, street demonstrations etc.  The presenters included all ages included all age groups and several women who in general are underrepresented in the upper echelons of Japanese groups.  Perhaps that is about to change given  the diversity in local leadership.

On December 10, I along with the other foreign visitors, including the Okinawans, met with 4 members of the Japanese Diet(legislature).  It was a good forum and discussion.  They praised Congress woman Barbara Lee and the Berkeley city council for their opposition to the war.  Diet member Tomon Mitsuko had been recently to Berkeley and met Barbara Lee and members of the council.  No one at this meeting or during any other time soft pedaled the horror of the actions of September 11.  It is the unilateral violent response of the U.S. that is the issue.  Everyone in Japan's peace and justice community sees it in the context of other recent actions like the Kyoto accords, the ABM treaty,  the land mine treaty, etc. etc.  We talked often about the need for a coordinated, global challenge to current U.S. military and economic policy.

On December 11 I got to check out the huge U.S. spy base at Misawa about 300 miles north of Tokyo.  I was accompanied by Misao Inoue a staff member of Linking Peace and Life and we were hosted by retired Professor Yuji Sato an expert on the base.  We spent a couple of hours exchanging information and several more hours in a drive by tour of the widely dispersed U.S. Navy and Air Force facilities there.  The area was buried in a foot of recently fallen snow but prof Sato was fearless as we plowed through back roads sometimes with rice paddies on either side.  We never got stuck but it was quite an adventure.  We often caught the attention of nervous security forces, but they never intervened as we observed and took pictures.  In summary this a base very similar to Menwith Hill in Great Britain and Buckley in the U.S.  It is a ground station for several U.S. space systems.  Clearly the resources there are involved in the current war and will play a key role in future star wars systems.  And recently it has been learned that Misawa is involved in the civilian spy network, Echelon.  I hope that my visit there will help raise the profile of that base in the circles of the Japanese peace movement and that they will become a more active participants in the Global Network that opposes these matters.

My overall impression from all this is that of us must continue our work for peace and justice.  Along with the bad Globalization, there is a good Globalization.  Communication can keep us in touch with concerned brothers and sisters throughout the world as we do our local work for a just and peaceful world. 

The hospitality shown to me in Japan was extraordinary.  Without translators and personal guides to the subway system I would have been literally lost.  That never happened.  I want to mention especially Sachiko Mitsunaga my main contact and Seishi Hinada my personal interpreter Saturday and Sunday.  But there were many others and adding all their names is impossible.

This is only a summary so if you have questions please let me know.

Bill Sulzman
P.O. Box 915
Colorado Springs, CO 80901
Ph 719 389 0644

Friends, I am very pleased to be representing the War Resisters League here today. I speak for them in saying thank you to Zenko and Linking Peace and Life for this opportunity.

It has been my privilege over the years to have had many contacts with the Japanese peace movement and it is a pleasure to finally visit your country personally.

In Colorado we have hosted many visitors from Japan. I want to mention one man who has been very important to the peace movement in Colorado.

Sawada is a Japanese Buddhist monk who first came to Colorado 20 years ago and who still lives at a small monastery near Boulder.

During the 1980ís he and other monks attended every major protest at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons plant and often spoke a few words and lead everyone in a peace chant accompanied by

Once he came to a Star Wars protest at Schriever AFB in Colorado Springs. In a surprise move by the police, he was arrested along with 30 others who were having a silent vigil outside the gate of the base.

When the case came to trial Sawada and all the others were acquitted because it was determined that the police had acted improperly. We are pleased that Sawada and his companions are still with us, bringing their unique presence to many peace events.

We have also been honored to host visitors from the antibases campaign in Okinawa on 2 occasions in the past 10 years. On one occasion our group was able to show them Cheyenne
Mountain, the command center for nuclear war, and other U.S. Space Command bases.

I want to divide my main presentation into two parts: First I want to talk about peace movement efforts to stop the war and then I want to talk some about the war itself and future developments on Star Wars tests etc.

I am here today representing the War Resisters League which is a national and international peace group. My own group, Citizens for Peace in Space is a local chapter of WRL working especially on preventing and reversing the arms race in outer space.

I also represent the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. The first map behind me shows the global dimensions of the arms race in space. The second map lists the countries, including Japan, where there were demonstrations against this arms race in space on October 13, 2001.

Our organization is also part of the abolition 2000 campaign to abolish nuclear weapons. The Air Force Space Command located in Colorado Springs has command of the Minuteman III and MX missiles located in the U.S.  49 of these ICBM missiles are stationed in Colorado and remain on 24 hour alert.

For that reason I joined two others from our group in a civil disobedience action on August 9 of this year. I had to get a delay in the trial to come here for this conference.

I want to emphasize how difficult it has become to work on all these issues since September 11, but I also want to say that all peace organizations are continuing their work despite the difficulties. / We live in a country which has become fearful and motivated by revenge in its war in Afghanistan. The news media have become strong supporters of the war and do not report much about peace movement activities.

Efforts to stop the war are going on across the country. There have been large gatherings in Washington D.C  New York City and on the west coast.

Elsewhere the crowds are not large, but there is dedication to stopping the war and getting back to the real nonviolent work for justice and peace. / In Colorado Springs we have vigils with banners every Thursday and once a month we have a rally in a park at the center of the city. This is in a city which has 5 military bases!!

In Denver there have been two state wide rallies and many solidarity events with the Arab and Muslim communities.

On Tuesday evening December 11 I heard a wonderful lecture by a Global Justice Advocate, Kevin Danaher who inspired his audience by calling for renewed nonviolent activism in that cause. /  In recent years many students of college age have come forward to lead this cause.

By way of e-mail I hear about similar activities all across the United States. We all know how critical it is for us to speak out at this time.

I want to mention one example of a peace demonstration which happened on the east coast, a walk from New York to Washington, Nov 25 - Dec 2. In that walk behind a banner which read "Our Grief is not a Cry for War" marched 3 persons who had lost a loved one in the attacks of September 11. Amberís husband was killed at the Pentagon, Davidís brother and Colleenís brother were both killed at the World Trade Center. These folks have been a particular inspiration to us as we continue our work.

And now we turn to the war itself, where the U.S is dominating the battlefield and the loss of life is very one-sided. We will talk some about the structure of that battlefield and mention some of the ways that bases located in Japan already have a role in carrying out the destructive bombing. 

It is an aerospace battlefield that has several layers to it.

At 23,000 miles up there are a series of satellites which look down on the battlefield from a stationary position. Some of these space platforms play a key role in war communications. Others collect signals intelligence from enemy forces.

At 11,000 miles up we find the GPS satellites which are key to directing many of the bombs to
their targets. Cruise missiles and many of the bombs dropped from airplanes depend on these satellites to accomplish their missions. All land and sea based U.S. forces also rely on GPS for their daily functioning.

In the area 200 - 400 miles high we find satellites which take very detailed pictures and others which listen to the communications on the ground. Still others have heat sensors on board. This information is then analyzed with extensive use of computers and targets are selected for the next bombing missions.

According to Intelligence expert Jeffrey Richelson, the base at Misawa was heavily involved in collecting this type of data for the earlier war in Afghanistan/ It is assumed that once again those resources are used in this current campaign.

In the atmosphere itself there is another layer of important aircraft which use many of the same devices as space platforms.  The only difference is that they are closer to the battlefield. This layer includes planes like the U-2,  the RC 135 Rivet Joint, the Global Hawk, and the Predator. These last 2 are actually drones or UAVís, (un piloted aerial vehicles). This multi layered battlefield is the key to standoff weapons which kill and kill and do not expose the killers to any major threat. The AB at Kadena, Okinawa is one of the bases in the Rivet Joint network. The Rivet Joint system would also have a key role to play in plans for NMD and TMD aimed at China or North Korea. Another local war related facility is the naval base at Yokohama which sent an empty aircraft carrier to the war zone in the early stages of the war.

As we get to the ground level we see the effects of these weapons systems.

Bombs ranging in size from 500 pounds to 15,000 pounds blow everything to bits. Many bodies are never  found.  They become part of the debris of the battlefield. And when a bomb goes off course many innocent civilians are killed and maimed. Many Americans are quick to celebrate the overwhelming success of standoff weapons and the aerospace superiority that makes this "success" possible. They seem to forget that revenge is a two way street. One day revenge tastes sweet. The next day we face revenge in the form of events such as September 11. We have a clear example of this in the Arab - Israeli conflict.

Finally I want to talk briefly about the next stage of space warfare, the move to put battle platforms in space , a program which is sometimes called Star Wars.

I have brought some materials which help to illustrate what we are talking about.. People must unite from around the world if we are to prevent the deployment of Theater Missile Defense(TMD) and National Missile Defense (NMD). This development is not a defensive move but an attempt to make U.S. nuclear weapons secure for decades to come. The alternative is to work for real nuclear abolition and to work to keep space for peaceful purposes.

As you know the Japanese government is being pressured to become part of a deployment of these weapons against China. There are treaties in place which should prevent this development, the Outer Space Treaty and the ABM treaty. But the U.S. is ignoring these treaties in the same way that it ignores the Kyoto accords on Global Warming.

In closing I would like to say again how dangerous the U.S. has become. I live in a country which often acts like a global bully and glutton. During the Vietnam era, a U.S. Senator called this attitude an "arrogance of power". To stop this behavior we need the rest of the world to help those of us who work from within the belly of the monster. We need to work together for social justice and environmental sanity in the world at large. All of us who work for peace know that we must work for justice too.  In a world where 20% of the world's population consumes 86% of the resources there is a constant war against the poor. It is just plain wrong for the U.S. with 4% of the world's population to claim the right to dominate the world economy and political structure and yet that is precisely what the U.S. Space Command says in its own documents.

 I look forward to hearing what others have to say in the days ahead as we plan on better ways of working together for peace and justice.

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