Okinawan people’s mass rally to reject Osprey deployment Protect the sanctity of human life and become a cornerstone of peace

September 9, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo 

For the people of Okinawa, today is the day of an historic mass rally. In this rally the young and the old, men and women and people of all walks of like will participate to express their opposition to the deployment of the MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. People who value the spirit of democracy and the democratic process are filled with a sense of impending crisis. This thoroughly bipartisan rally will be the first motion that will culminate in a huge wave of opposition. The Okinawan people will not accept the “inherently defective aircraft” that threatens their lives, property, safety and security. Washington and Tokyo are advised to take this situation seriously, because people are standing up to take up action over the sanctity of life – the Government needs to understand that this rally is a committed cry of the people. Okinawans have applied themselves many times in various ways in an attempt to resolve base-related issues since the end of the war. Now, resentment towards the military-first policy that the governments of Japan and the United States have foist upon them has built up to a broader and deeper extent than ever before.

Military hides MV-22s accident report

The U.S. Marine Corps has confirmed that since 2006, among the aircraft it operates, a total of 31 accidents involving the Osprey have occurred. However, despite the House Committee demanding in 2009 that records be divulged, the Marine Corps has continually refused to provide details of the status of its MV-22 fleet, including aircraft damaged and destroyed in accidents. Some experts even speculate that the Marines are intentionally hiding the MV-22’s accident reports. If we count the accidents involving the CV-22 type Osprey aircraft belonging to the Air Force the number of accidents doubles.

On July 1, at his meeting with Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto who was on a visit to Okinawa, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima criticized the Status of Forces Agreement with its inequalities that allow the U.S. military to exercise extra-territorial rights when its personnel on active duty cause accidents or incidents. The governor also spoke of his concern about the deployment of the MV-22 squadrons, saying, “All U.S. bases will be closed immediately if the government quotes the Status of Forces Agreement in order to operate dangerous equipment in densely populated areas.”

In Okinawa, U.S. military bases are located very close to residential areas, so a crash could cause a catastrophe at any time. The MV-22 squadrons will operate in an area that includes at least 25 cities, towns and villages. The wrath of residents would know no bounds if a crash were to occur that results in the loss of life.

A former chief analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses who has in-depth knowledge on the performance of the Osprey, and experts belonging to an independent non-profit organization, the Project On Government Oversight, have pointed out the safety issues of the aircraft, and there is ongoing comment from people involved in Osprey crashes about organizational cover-ups and the downplaying of the crashes.

Tokyo continues to blindly emphasize the merits of deploying the Osprey to Japan despite ongoing problems with its safety. The Japanese Government follows the lead of the United States Government without question, as though it were a tributary nation of the United States, rather than an independent nation.

After the war, Okinawa faced many difficulties because the U.S. military forces seized Okinawan people’s land at the point of a bayonet and bulldozed everything in its path to construct military bases. To add insult to injury, U.S. military personnel further trampled on Okinawan people’s human rights by raping Okinawan women. In 1959, a military aircraft crashed into Miyamori Elementary School in Ishikawa, killing 18 pupils.

The deployment of the Osprey to Futenma essentially represents an “indiscriminate attack” on the Okinawan people among the many inhumane acts perpetrated in Okinawa by the U.S. military forces. If the Japanese and the U.S. government force the deployment of the Osprey aircraft on the prefecture, the Okinawan people will undoubtedly come to oppose not only the U.S. Marine
Corps but all four arms of the U.S. military.

Suicide of a Democracy

There are 20 airspaces and 28 water areas used for training under the U.S. military administration around the islands of Okinawa Prefecture. Local people are not allowed to freely use the land, sea and sky that belong to Okinawa. Taking advantage of the Status of Forces Agreement, which grants privileges to the U.S. forces in Japan, U.S. forces exert extra-territorial rights to an inordinate extent. Does the U.S. government think that Okinawa is an American colony?

After Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty, there have been 522 accidents, including U.S. military aircraft crashing, or making emergency landings. Up until the end of December 2011 those accidents had caused 34 casualties with another 24 people missing. The fiery explosion of a U.S. Marine helicopter that crashed onto the campus of Okinawa International University in the summer of 2004 is still fresh in our minds.

There has been nationwide protest against the plan for the MV-22 squadrons to be deployed to Futenma. It is safe to say that the Osprey would be nothing less than an “unwelcome guest.” If the U.S. government ignores the will of the Okinawan people, and protects the vested interests of U.S. Marine Corps, that stance would be tantamount to the suicide of national democracy.

Before the relationship between Japan and the United States falls apart at the seams, the Japanese and the U.S. governments should abandon the deployment of this flawed aircraft to Futenma, and the planned low-altitude Osprey flight-training over the main islands of Japan. The governments should return to the start line on the Futenma issue, which is to remove the dangers posed by the base, and seriously consider closing, removing and relocating the facilities at Futenma outside of Japan and Okinawa.

We cannot help but feel that the world is now asking us, the people of Okinawa, about our historical standpoint and our broader viewpoint. Japanese government leaders express rivalry with the emerging China. Should Okinawa play the role of the cornerstone of the Pacific from a military standpoint, or should we play the role of the cornerstone of the Pacific from a peaceful perspective in order to serve as a bridge between Asian nations. We would like the people of Okinawa to think of this rally as the starting point for action that shapes a future of their choice.

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