By Ann Wright
I have ended a 14 day speaking tour of Japan--from the very northern island of Hokkaido to the southern- most island of Okinawa, organized by a tremendous Codepink lady from Osaka, Japan, Hisae Ogawa. Hisae and two other Codepinkers from Osaka visited Washington, DC in September, 2007 and stayed at the Codepink house and then went to New York City for talks at the United Nations.
In 12 speaking events with from 100 to 10,000 persons in the audience, I’ve been honored to speak about our work for peace in our own country and for the world, the need for the US to end its military occupation through bases around the world 60 years after World War II and stopping violence against women inside the military as well as against women who live outside US military bases.
Here are some of the events of the second week in Japan:
Mother’s Day in Japan - Pink Paper carnations
Mother’s Day is not generally celebrated in Japan. But, after seeing photos of Codepink’s Mother’s Day events in front of the White House in 2006, several women’s groups in Tokyo and Niigata decided to use Julia Ward Howe’s 1870 Mother’s Declaration as a means of thanking mothers for their protection of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, renunciation of war.
Led by women in the Japanese Fellowship of Reconciliation, women’s groups handed out a paper folded like a flower holder with the carnation drawn at the top and colored pink, Inside was printed Howe’s Mother’s day poem—and Article 9, Renunciation of War. They handed out thousands of the “flowers” to women on the streets of Tokyo and the conservative city on the Sea of Japan, Niigata.
In a celebration of Mother’s Day, over 160 women and men gathered at the civic center in downtown Niigata, where Codepink Japan founder and 30 year women’s activist Hisae Ogawa and I spoke about the US war on Iraq and the need for the United States to have an article 9! The previous day we had spoken to the Tokyo chapter of Fellowship of Reconciliation at their weekend workshop on non-violence.
Article 9 states:
“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of forces as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
Mother's Day Proclamation - 1870
By Julia Ward Howe
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Women’s Symposium “Women’s Power of building Peace-Weaving Together Women’s Initiatives Worldwide”
During the Global Article 9 conference in Tokyo, I spoke on the Women’s Symposium panel, one of 4 major symposiums following the one-day plenary session. Over 500 women and men attended the 2.5 hour women’s conference.
Other panelists were:
Ellen Woodsworth, former Vancouver, Canada, City Council member and co-founder of the World Peace Forum (2006)
Takada Kimiko, (Japan), President of the New Japan Women’s Association
Jung Gyunglan, (Korea), Chair of the Women Making Peace International Committee
Florence Mpaayei (Kenya), Director of the Nairobi Peace Initiative
Takasato Suzuyo (Japan) Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence
Nishino Rumiko (Japan) Chair, Violence Against Women in War-Network Japan and Director of the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace
A great portion of the panel discussion centered on violence perpetrated on women during war, from the “comfort women” during World War II, to violence on women living around military bases, to violence on women in the military. I was asked to speak on sexual assault and rape of women in Japan by US military personnel and of women in the US military and was one of three panelists who spoke on these horrible actions by members of our military.
Beate Sirota Gordon
The Article 9 conference had many remarkable speakers, but to me one of the most memorable was 82 year old Beate Sirota Gordon, who as 22 year old Japanese linguist on General MacArthur’s staff in 1946, was secretly charged with writing the civil rights section of the new Japanese constitution. Having lived in Japan with her parents before WWII began, she was very familiar with the lack of rights for women in Japan. She set about to change that status and wrote into the Constitution that women should have rights equal to men—and remarkably, in the later hours of negotiations, it was grudgingly accepted by the conservative male Japanese constitutional committee.
The story of her involvement in writing the equal rights part of the Japanese constitution, and the role of other members of MacArthur’s staff in writing other parts of the Japanese constitution, was kept quiet until ten years ago. Her story is chronicled in her book “The Only Woman at the Table.” Although living in NYC, Gordon speaks frequently in Japan, in Japanese, to packed auditoriums of admiring women—and men for her role in establishing equal rights for women into their constitution.
I wish she had been at the table during the writing of our constitution!!!!
Japanese Women’s Association
In Tokyo, Hisae and I met with the 40 woman staff of the New Japanese Women’s Association, one of the largest women’s organizations in Japan. I told them about Codepink’s extraordinary growth with chapters all over America and the world. They were interested in the organizational structure of Codepink, the use of the internet to move actions nationally and globally and the lack of dues, but rather fundraising through sales of t-shirts, books. One of their newsletters from 2004 had a photo of the Codepink contingent in the August, 2005 huge march in New York City.
Did you know there are 120 peace museums in the world and over one-half are in Japan? Remarkably, there are only two peace museums in the United States but, not so remarkably, we have hundreds of museums about wars, the Revolutionary war, the Civil war, World Wars I and II, the Vietnam war, and military units that fought them (on virtually every military base).
We visited one of the big Peace Museums and research facilities for peace in the world, the Kyoto Museum for World Peace at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, the first peace museum to be established by a university. Its permanent exhibitions cover Japanese aggression and damage caused by Japan’s Fifteen Year war to modern world wars and conflicts. Its “Building Peace” section questions whether absence of war, or structured violence, is peace, or whether peace is a purposeful condition planned, orchestrated and funded by citizens and governments.
Check out these links:
And did you know that there is a boat that travels all over the world for peace?
It’s the Peace Boat and its first voyage was organized in 1983 and since then they have had over 50 regional and global voyages, carrying over 30,000 participants onboard to more than 100 ports of call.
Peace Boat is a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.
Peace Boat seeks to create awareness and action based on effecting positive social and political change in the world through the organization of global educational programs, responsible travel, cooperative projects and advocacy activities. These activities are carried out on a partnership basis with other civil society organizations and communities in Japan, Northeast Asia, and around the world.
Peace Boat carries out its main activities through a chartered passenger ship that travels the world on peace voyages. The ship creates a neutral, mobile space and enables people to engage across borders in dialogue and mutual cooperation at sea, and in the ports that we visit. Activities based on Japan and Northeast Asia are carried out from eight Peace Centers in Japan.
Check out the Peace Boat online at:
Okinawa—Land of Protests Against US Militarism
Save the Dugongs--Stop the New US Marine Air Base
The southern island of Okinawa is protest-central for Japanese discontent against the large continued US military presence for the last 63 years, since the end of World War II. 23,000 US military and 25,000 military families members live and work on 34 bases on the island of Okinawa. While the US has returned 30 bases to the Japanese Self Defense force, the remaining bases including two major airbases (with loud aircraft noises), and four large marine bases (with artillery and helicopters) are continuing sources of anger for the most of the Okinawan population. Those Okinawans who are making money from the presence of US military, are not so opposed to the occupation.
Okinawans have protested loudly about the US military presence for decades. As a result, the US Marines have been pressured to close one air base that is in an extremely congested urban area. But the location where they want to build a replacement airbase by dumping dirt into the ocean, is in the pristine, coral laden waters of f another Marine base where the endangered marine mammal, the dugong, lives. Okinawans’ protests have been critical in the postponement of construction of the new airbase for 10 years. Now a US federal district court have stepped in and ordered the Department of Defense to conduct an environmental impact study on the area proposed for the airbase.
Each day ten to twenty Okinawans take to the waters in the area called Henoko in kayaks and zodiac boats to watch and photograph what the Marines do. They took us out in one of the boats to see the waters, look for dugongs and observe the activities of the Marines.
Their activist camp provides a base and educational center for the groups, Japanese and international, that come to help. A second activist tent on the beach is filled all day with very politically astute senior citizens who chat with visitors about their refusal to allow their bay to be filled in for a marine air base, and who keep eagle eyes watching their bay.
The Marines have placed very sharp concertina wire on the beach to keep activists away from their activities. The activists have decorated the wire with colorful pieces of cloth with statements: close US bases, save the dugongs
Sexual Assault and Rape of Okinawan and Japanese Women and Girls
Since 1945 when US military stormed onto Okinawa, Okinawan women and girls have been sexually assaulted and raped by US military personnel. The Okinawans know the history of every assault. 30 women were raped in 1945, 40 in 1946, and 37 in 1947. The first conviction of a US military soldier for rape was in 1948. According to reports compiled from police records and other sources by the organization Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, hundreds of Okinawan and Japanese women have been sexually assaulted and raped by US military since 1945.
In the latest incidents, in April, 2008, the U.S. military in Japan charged a Marine with rape and other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the alleged sexual assault of 14-year old girl in Okinawa. Staff Sergeant Tyrone Luther Hadnott, 38, was charged with the rape of a child under 16, abusive sexual contact with a child, making a false official statement, adultery and kidnapping.
In February, Japanese authorities released Hadnott after the girl dropped the allegations against him, but the Marine Corps conducted its own investigation to see if Hadnott violated codes of military justice. The rape accusation against Hadnott stirred memories of a brutal rape more than a decade ago and triggered outrage across Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said that Hadnott’s actions were “unforgiveable.”
The incident also led to tight restrictions, for a time, for American troops and their families at the U.S. base on Okinawa. The U.S. military in Japan also formed a sexual assault prevention task force after the incident.
On May 15, 2008, a U.S. court-martial sentenced Hadnott to four years in prison after convicting him of abusive sexual conduct with a Japanese teenager in Okinawa. Four other charges, including rape of a child under 16, making a false official statement, adultery and "kidnapping through inveigling," or trickery, were dropped in a plea bargain.
On May 16, 2008, charges were dropped against a soldier accused of raping a 21year-old Filipino woman in February 18, 2008. The Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office said Friday his office did not have sufficient evidence to indict Sgt. Ronald Edward Hopstock Jr., 25, of the 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment. Three points at issue were the place where the alleged act took place, the relation of the two individuals and the circumstances before and after the alleged event. The Army will conduct its own investigation, said Maj. James Crawford, a U.S. Army spokesman at Camp Zama, Japan.
According to police, the woman was hospitalized for more than a week and received outpatient treatment for two weeks. At the time of the incident, the woman had been in Japan only three days, police reports said. Hopstock remains restricted to Kadena Air Base and is closely supervised by officials.
On May 9, 2008, a US Marine charged in the gang rape of a 19 year old woman in Hiroshima in October, 2007, was convicted of “wrongful sexual contact and indecent acts” and sentenced no more than one year in jail and a dishonorable discharge. He was also convicted of “fraternization and violating military orders about liberty and alcohol” but cleared him of rape and kidnapping charges. Three other Marines will be court-martialed later this month on charges of gang-raping the young woman.
In early May, 2008, another young 14 year old Japanese girl reportedly was “groped” by a US military service member.
In 1995, three American servicemen kidnapped and gang-raped a 12-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl. In August 2006, one of the perpetrators of the 1995 rape, strangled and raped a 22-year old female college student in Georgia, after which he killed himself.
In 2002, Marine Major Michael Brown was charged with attempting to rape a Filipina bartender at a club on a US military base. Following a 19-month trial, on July 8, 2004, Brown was convicted by the Japanese District Court of "attempting an indecent act" and "destruction of property" but was acquitted of the rape charge. The court gave Brown a one-year prison sentence, suspended for three years, and fined him US1,400. The Japanese Judge said Brown was given a light sentence because the 21-year Marine veteran had no prior criminal record. Brown appealed the verdict to Japan's Supreme Court which dismissed the appeal in July 2004. Brown was transferred by the U.S. military to Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia in August 2004.
In October, 2005, Brown was arrested and charged with kidnapping an 18-year old girl from a flea-market in Milton, West Virginia. Brown was subsequently indicted in January, 2006 on felony kidnapping and grand larceny charges and, as of May, 2008, currently awaits trial scheduled to take place in Huntington, West Virginia. In the meantime, the USMC demoted Brown to Captain and allowed him to retire at that rank on February 1, 2006.
In 2006, a U.S. civilian military employee was jailed for nine years for raping two women on Okinawa.
While the vast majority of US military personnel do not commit criminal acts while in Japan, the continued presence after 60 years of such a large number of US military, and the horrific crimes committed by a small minority of US military, mean that America’s military presence in Japan and Okinawa is deeply resented.
End of Trip Observations—Will America Ever Stand For Peace?
On my last evening in Japan, I spoke in Nago, Okinawa, Japan, the southernmost island of Japan and the most US militarized. After the talk, in contrast to most evening meals, Hisae Ogawa (the organizer of my visit) and I had dinner with five men, all my age, 61 or so, Vietnam veteran age—except they were not Vietnam veterans, nor veterans of any war.
After the disastrous World War II, Japanese men (and women) have been spared the obligation of serving in any wars. Because their constitution (written by Americans) says that war is not the Japanese national doctrine for resolving international disputes or for ensuring their national security, the Japanese people have been given 60 years of peace.
I was struck by the questions of the Japanese men—only one generation removed from their fathers who fought to expand economic resources for the Japanese emperor and empire in the late 1930s and 1940s.
These men questioned why young men and women of the United States would join the US military when it was fighting a war for economic resources (oil-their words) and a war based on lies (their words.) The Japanese men were amazed by the levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (80%) in Iraq war veterans and were astounded by the Veteran Administration’s cover up of the number of suicides by veterans (18 per month, or 216 per year, and 12,000 per year attempting suicide). They also questioned why any woman would join the military when statistics reveal that one in three women in the military will be raped by fellow service members during their enlistment.
I responded that, despite an unpopular war, some young men and women find the US military their only option for jobs and future education. Military recruiters flood high schools-there are few other options for many with marginal grades, much less a criminal record.
The Japanese society has moved from one of the most militaristic and warlike in the 1930s and 1940s to now, a nation at peace despite the Bush administration’s pressure on the Japanese government hard for military and financial contributions for the “war on terror.”
Some will say the reason the Japanese people have not had to go to war is because the United States has taken on the role of defending Japan from attack. Yet, most Japanese would ask pointedly: “Attack from whom? From those the United States threatens?” They say, “Let us live in peace and our example will hopefully make the entire world more peaceful.”
I wonder if it will take a series of disastrous events such as what the Japanese people endured when they were led by civilian and military leaders into successive invasions and brutal occupations (known for rape and torture of local citizens) of other countries, before Americans will decide that aggressive wars of choice, invasions and occupations known for rape and torture of local citizens are not the answer to world problems.
Japanese are very protective of their right to a peaceful country.
Will American ever strive for a different world-- one of peace, not violence?