Bruce Gagnon / The Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space – 2016-03-16 01:32:13
Special to Environmentalist Against War
(Spring 2016) — In November of 2015, I joined Global Network board member Dave Webb on a speaking tour to Sicily where the US Navy has constructed a space warfare communications base inside a protected oak nature preserve.
Called MUOS (Mobile User Objective System) the satellite ground station is located just outside the town of Niscemi and will be used to beam communications to unmanned drones and US soldiers in real time while simultaneously linked to similar ground stations in Australia, Hawaii, and Virginia.
Activists from all over Sicily have been protesting against the base for six years. In addition to their refusal to have their community used as a base for war making they also have grave concern over the health effects of the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the three massive satellite dishes.
Dave and I were joined in Sicily by long-time GN member Yosi McIntire (Florida) who served as our translator during our two presentations in Ragusa and Niscemi. On the day we arrived in Sicily, we learned that a well-known activist had climbed to the top of one of the huge satellite dishes armed with only a carpenter hammer.
The US is claiming that Turi Vaccaro did 800,000 Euros worth of damage to the dish during his 30-hours of striking it with his hammer. After he voluntarily climbed down from the dish he was taken to court and given a February trial date.
Dave and I next flew to England where over the coming week we visited three US space warfare bases spread throughout the country. (In addition Dave organized three talks for me at universities in Bradford, Leeds, and London.)
Our first visit was to the US NSA spy base at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire that has been upgraded for participation in ‘missile defense’. We joined GN board member Lindis Percy and others at the weekly vigil at the base during a cold windy rainstorm.
Next, we joined a protest vigil at the US early warning radar and missile defense targeting base called Fylingdales way up in the Yorkshire Moors. The half-moon lit sky, and a rare view of the stars, was a welcome sight as rain did not fall on us on an otherwise bitterly cold and windy evening. And then finally we travelled south to yet another base called Croughton near Oxford where US space warfare communications operations are undergoing a major expansion program.
On to Asia
In early December, I co-led a national Veterans For Peace (VFP) delegation to Jeju Island, South Korea where the almost completed Navy base there will port US war- ships — including the Aegis destroyers built at my home- town in Bath, Maine. Thirteen members of VFP went on the trip — three of us from Maine.
For the first week, we sat with Gangjeong villagers on Jeju Island blocking the construction gate only to be picked up and carried out of the way by police several times each day.
While some wonder if the eight-year protest on Jeju would continue now that the base is nearly complete — we repeatedly heard that the protests are more important than ever as the base becomes operational and the visiting warships are aimed at China.
During the second week of the trip, our VFP delegation traveled to Okinawa where the US today has 30 bases on the 70-mile-long island. One out of every four Okinawans were killed during the American “liberation” of the island from the Japanese in 1945.
The Pentagon has had bases there ever since. At two museums we visited, I was astonished to see that since 1953 there have been regular protests against US military bases on Okinawa.
Imagine building twin military runways out into a pristine bay among the beautiful coral reefs and endangered sea mammals (dugong) feeding grounds. Imagine 3.5 million 10-ton dump-truck loads of landfill being dumped into the bay to build the runways.
This story is real, and the plan is to do this on Okinawa at Oura Bay in order to build a new US Marine airfield. Few have heard about this calamity, but for more than 500 days, people in Okinawa have been protesting by blocking the gates of the US Marine base called Camp Schwab.
On three occasions, our VFP delegation went to the gates of Camp Schwab in order to join the daily human blockades. Most of the people being dragged off by Japanese police for sitting in the road were senior citizens. The women were particularly amazing as they held on to one another and cried aloud demanding that this environmental catastrophe be stopped.
The VFP delegation met with the mayors of two Okinawan cities that will be directly impacted by the new Marine airfield. One evening we were invited to attend an event inside a huge auditorium that drew 1,300 people. At this convocation Okinawan Governor Takeshi Onaga and other leading politicians spoke out in opposition to the construction of the controversial runway.
Gov. Onaga has pulled the airfield construction permit, but the right-wing government in Tokyo, which controls Okinawa, overruled him under the clear direction of US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy (she has repeatedly told the Okinawan people to get over it).
Gov. Onaga has gone to the Japanese Supreme Court seeking a ruling that respects their local autonomy. In fact, 80% of the people of Okinawa oppose the new Marine airfield.
Not only is a looming war with Russia and China causing active resistance around the globe today, it is the US’s utter disregard for local sovereignty and democracy that inflames people against Washington.
The bases being built on Jeju Island and in Okinawa are environmental nightmares. The people are watching their life source — the ocean where their food and livelihood comes from — being torn apart to satisfy the Pentagon’s demand for ‘one more base.’
The similarities between the resistance campaigns in Sicily, England, Jeju Island and Okinawa are striking. In each case the people are deeply upset that their lands are being used by the US military to support its corporate dominated empire of more than 800 bases. They see their own national governments being compromised by Washington’s demand for ultimate ‘control and domination.’
In the end, I repeatedly heard local people ask the questions: What are you going to do when you go home? Will the American people ever begin to stand up and stop their government from taking our lands for its endless war program?
Bruce K. Gagnon is Coordinator of the Global Network and lives in Bath, Maine.
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