Friday, August 22, 2014

The Machete That Never Needed Sharpening

When I have my students do oral history projects with elder Chamorros, they often times groan and moan. They knew that Chamorros suffered in World War II and don't need to interview an old person to know it. They know they speak Chamorro fluently and don't need to ask them about it. I generally have my students focus their questions on certain things that elders may have heard or been exposed to when they were very young, which wouldn't necessarily be the things an ethnographer or anthropologist or historian would ask them.

For example, one topic I am always interested in hearing about are legends or children's stories. What were the stories that the elders of today were told when they were kids? My students often groan about this because they assume that the stories that were told then were probably the same stories we tell today. So kids today can hear stories about Sirena, Gadao, Fu'una and Puntan and Duendes, these must be the same stories that people told their kids 100 years ago?

One of the reasons I have my students do this is because this is hardly true. Many of the stories that we take for granted today as being a central part of how Chamorros tell creative or mythical stories are not tales that Chamorros have been telling continuously for centuries. Some of these stories survived in fragments, but not in the comprehensive ways we understand them today. Some remained in the culture only in particular words, or in particular villages. Many legends that we accept as "Chamorro" today, were really only told by a certain Chamorro, usually from a certain part of the island. Or different parts of the island tell the same story in radically different ways. The White Lady from Ma'ina is the most infamous of all the potential white lady stories on island, and tends to hegemonize the possibilities, but the white lady of Tumon, the white lady of Malesso, the white lady of Umatac are all very different. Some of them have no back story. Some of them are more like omens than anything else. Some of them are nastier than others. Some of them are simply looking for someone to hear their stories.

What is very interesting about the stories that some of my students have been able to collect is the harshness of them. Some of them are very violent and very casually violent in the way some old fairy tales are. They are also at times very patriarchal and misogynistic. This meaning that women do not fare well in them and this means that the tales probably aren't from ancient times, or were at least drastically altered during the Spanish colonial period. Some of these tales were adaptations from legends brought in from Europe, such as Sirena or Cinderalla. Interestingly enough each of these stories differs wildly from the way the legends are generally conceived elsewhere. Sirenas in other parts of the world are Sirens who tempt sailors, and are not to be messed with. They are a metaphor for so many of the dangerous things (human, natural, animal, chemical) while traveling that can lure men into situations they can't escape from. Guam's story of Sirena is very different, focusing on family drama and how children should obey their parents or parents should be nicer to their kids. I should note that there are local versions of the Sirena story that do focus on them as being a race of mythical creatures that sing and tempt people, but this isn't the one that is most told or well known.

Cinderella holds a similar difference. The Disney version that so many people are accustomed to features meanness from the step-family of the protagonist, but is not particularly violent. The Chamorro version of Cinderella is quite violent. One that was recorded in the CNMI decades ago included the step-family of Cinderella being boiled alive in tar.

On his blog Pale' Eric Forbes featured one tale he titled "I Kadidok na Machete," which I've included below. I was very excited to see this because it was a story that one of my students have collected in their oral history research. Most of the stories that I've come across are unique, meaning it was most likely something invented from the storyteller or particular to that family. It is always exciting when you find more than one elder who shares the same tale. It means there may be some larger significance to it. The one my student recorded however was a bit longer, and went into the machete being magical, and able to cut through anything. Both tales however have the same anti-women theme unfortunately.


An old Chamorro tale.

Un taotao matåtå'chong gi pettan iya siha,
(A man was sitting at the door of their place,)

ya ha li'e mågi i asaguå-ña na ginen umo'mak.
(and he saw his wife coming who had bathed.)

Ya ma sosotta i gapunilu-ña* ya ma såsådda' i lipes-ña.
(And her hair was hanging down and her skirt lifted up.)

Nina' bubu i taotao ya ilek-ña :
(The man got angry and said :)

"Tai mamahlao!  Håfa na un bebende hao!"
("Shameless! Why are you selling yourself!")

Ya ha hakot i gapunilu-ña ya ha utot todo ni macheti-ña,
(and he grabbed her hair and cut it all off with his machete,)

ya ayo na machette tåt nai ha nesesita ma guåssa' desde ayo.
(and that machete never had to be sharpened since then.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Insular Empire Screening

Come this Thursday for a screening of the Insular Empire organized by the Hope for Guam Committee. Check out the flyer below for details:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Echoes in Okinawa

From "Ten Thousand Things"

An informative and touching article on Okinawa and the way the traumatic past weaves its way into the present. This is one of the dynamics that Avery Gordon refers to so poetically and so aptly as "ghostly matters." The way in which boats off the coast of Okinawa today don't simply remind people of the horrors of the past, but keep that past and all the injustice that comes with it, alive. Protestors of the past and those of today can have the same ghostly threads about them. They represent stories, memories and dreams that refuse to die, even if governments do their best through force, through coercion, through tokens, to make sure they are forgotten.

The article is below:


Henoko on August 14, 2014. (Photo: Chie Mikami on FB)

Film director Chie Mikami on August 14, 2014, on location at Henoko : "I saw so many boats in the sea around 7a.m. It reminds me of the history of Okinawa, year: 1945."

Today the Japanese government sent a military flotilla to Henoko, Okinawa, to put up buoys and patrol an "exclusion zone" in their plan to force drilling, dredging, landfill, and construction of another US military base at the beautiful Okinawa dugong and coral reef habitat.  Observers say there were so many vessels, they were uncountable.

Local residents have been protested and staved off repeated attempts at drilling for 18 years.

They are led by the Henoko elders, child survivors of the Battle of Okinawa, the Pacific War's worst battle, and the only battle fought on Japanese territory. The Japanese government used Okinawa as a sacrificial pawn in a battle of attrition, in an attempt to garner better surrender terms. The fighting destroyed all the material culture on Okinawa Island and killed around 140,000 Okinawans, one third of the Okinawan population.

The islands have been a part of Japan only since the late 1800s, when the Meiji government seized the Ryukyu Kingdom and renamed it Okinawa Prefecture. After the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty were signed in 1951, Okinawa Prefecture was under U.S. military rule until 1972.  Even after reversion to Japanese rule, the military bases remained.  While Okinawa constitutes only 0.6 percent of Japan's land area, more than 70 percent of U.S. military bases in Japan were built there.

Okinawans are comparing the forced expansion at Henoko to the traumatic "Bayonets and Bulldozers" period of the 1950's, when the US military used coercion and violence to seize  entire villages, the best farmland, the best coastland, utaki (sacred sites), and cemeteries throughout Okinawa prefecture to make way for base expansion and new bases. Both Futenma in the middle of Ginowan City and Camp Schwab next to Henoko were built on forcibly acquired Okinawan private property. This was also the period that the all-Okinawan nonviolent movement began. The ongoing struggles are not new "anti-base" protests, but, instead, part of the latest chapter in a seventy-year struggle for property rights, human rights, environmental protection, democracy and peace in the islands of Okinawa.

Between 1954 and 1955, US military forced owners from homes and rice farms in 
the former village of Isahama, to make way for the construction of Futenma, a weapons training base. 
(Photo: Okinawan Prefectural Government)

Okinawan author Tatsuhiro Oshiro has written about Okinawa as a "sacrifice zone" where state power imposes sacrifice upon the weak.  In 2011, Oshiro published Futenma yo (To Futenma), a book of short stories. In the first story, Oshiro addresses the history of Futenma through a family whose home and land was taken to expand the training base. The story ends when the musical accompaniment to a traditional Ryukyu dance is drowned out by the noise from U.S. aircraft training, but the heroine continues to perform. Her determination symbolizes the local culture that refuses to be defeated by the heavy burdens of military bases. At the same time, the heroine's grandmother's plan to find a family heirloom buried on ancestral lands taken by the U.S. military ends in failure. Oshiro explains. "My intention was to write about the identity of the Okinawan people who want to weave our history together and regain the land that's steeped with memories."

Okinawan women protest US military seizure of their homes and land in Isahama (Ginowan) in July 1955.
(Photo: Okinawa Prefectural Government)
Oshiro's story reflects the roots of the fierce struggle over Henoko, which may be viewed as a continuation of the post-1945 battle against the civilian Okinawans, a traditionally pacifist culture, over land and local determination.  Postwar U.S. military rule followed the Imperial Japanese pattern of using force to impose a militarist culture upon the islands.  After the Pacific War's destruction of almost all material culture, all that was left was the natural environment and intangible culture.

Okinawans are fighting for their soul at Henoko, a place steeped in what little of traditional Okinawan culture survived: the living sea and the living Okinawa dugong, a cherished, sacred icon. The Henoko sea fed the elders during the Battle of Okinawa, when there were no other food sources. The dugong and the sea both reflect and symbolize the Okinawan core value of Nuchi du Takara: the sanctity of life and the right to life for nature that nurtures life, and human right to live in peace.  This has been the Okinawan message to the world for 70 years, their unstoppable witness for Nuchi du Takara was borne out of the devastation they suffered.

Like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Okinawa has become a focus for the study of peace because of the Battle of Okinawa, and  because Okinawans continue to appeal for relief from U.S. military bases and US military expansion in their prefecture. Former Governor (1990-1998) Masahide Ota, a child survivor of the battle, created  Okinawa International Peace Research Institute to study war and peace,  to introduce traditional Okinawa peace culture to the world, to lead Okinawa's transformation to "islands of peace" and build a global peace network, and to promote positive peace, peace education, and a peace economy.

Upper House Member of Parliament, Ms. Keiko Itokazu, 
protesting the Japanese government's installation of buoys to create an exclusion zone 
for drilling into and landfilling over live coral and dugong habitat at the Sea of Henoko.

Henoko residents had been supported by an all-Okinawa political coalition until late last year, when under claimed duress by the Japanese government, the governor broke his 2010 campaign promise to protect Henoko, and signed an approval for landfill that was predicated on environmental protection information certified by engineers, not marine biologists or ecologists.  The engineers admitted their lack of expertise.  This is one example of the long, corrupt road to today's flotilla invasion of Henoko.

Henoko residents have been supported by global peace, democracy, faith-based, and especially environmental advocates who repeatedly praise the wetlands, mangrove forests, rivers, unique and delicate biodiversity of the Sea of Henoko's ecoregion. Its coral reef, the best in Okinawa, is renowned among marine biologists for its vitality and unique species. Most of the coral reefs on Okinawa are dead from landfill, pollution, and disease. The Sea of Henoko also has the largest and best sea grass beds, thus habitat, for the Okinawan dugong.
The dugong, a sacred icon, is of great cultural and historical significance in Okinawa.
(Image: Ryukyu Postal’s stamp to commemorate the Okinawa dugong's designation 
as a natural monument in 1966 (Via Save the Dugong Campaign Center)

In 2004, the American environmental law firm, Earthjustice, on behalf of Okinawan, Japanese, U.S. environment protection groups, and Okinawan residents filed a federal lawsuit , the "Okinawa Dugong versus Rumsfeld," in San Francisco, asking for protections for the dugong. The case  is still open; after a 2008 ruling that the defendants must negotiate with the plaintiffs regarding environmental issues and protection of dugong habitat. The plaintiffs are still waiting for this discussion. Therefore on August 1, Earthjustice filed a new lawsuit in the same court,  asking the US government to halt construction plans.  The critically endangered Okinawa dugong is a protected natural monument under the National Historic Preservation Act.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Salaita Case

The Salaita case and Cary Nelson’s use of “academic freedom” to silence dissent

14 August 2014
Books and papers lie amid rubble at the Islamic University of Gaza on 2 August, after it was hit by an overnight Israeli air raid.
(Ashraf Amra / APA images)
Cary Nelson, retired University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) English professor and past president of the American Association of University Professors, has been busy.

From the moment that the story broke of Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s underhanded nixing of Steven Salaita’s de facto hiring in my department, Nelson has rushed forward as the administration’s biggest cheerleader and defender against condemnations, protests and what amounts to a growing boycott of UIUC from scholars and academic associations.

In the interest of disclosure, I co-chaired the search committee that recommended Salaita’s hiring.
In live media and in an 8 August essay for Inside Higher Ed, Nelson has argued that Salaita’s case is not about academic freedom after all, but about bad scholarship and poor qualifications. This, I should stress, by an individual who is not himself credentialed in comparative indigenous studies, the area in which Salaita was hired.

But the unqualified Nelson is not merely overreaching, as we might say of certain external letter writers on a candidate’s dossier, but is stretching to the point of perverting and undermining the very meaning of academic freedom. Sloppy and contorted to the point of nonsense, Nelson’s thinking would also be comical were it not predicated on racist, calloused and morally reprehensible views toward Palestinians and toward other indigenous peoples and the political and analytic claims on which they stake their existence and survival.

Certainly when it comes to the issue of criticism of Israel, Nelson cannot be trusted to furnish neutral, dispassionate analyses. If anything, his pretense to objectivity, especially through a forced argument about the “exceptionality” of Salaita’s case, to which I will return shortly, barely conceals his political motives or his zeal to take center stage in this huge story.

A weapon to silence dissent

Ultimately, Nelson’s involvement in this case shows more than an assault on Salaita; when it comes to Palestine and Israel, he is selective and hypocritical in his views about academic freedom, transforming it instead into a weapon to silence dissent.

While Nelson may have refined it, this is a tactic that has been widely deployed before. We have seen it, for instance, from university presidents who rushed to issue condemnations of calls to boycott Israeli academic institutions while remaining silent about the systematic violations by the Israeli occupation of the academic and other freedoms of Palestinians.

Hence, I say, let’s do what we academics are supposed to do with letter writers who either have an axe to grind, or who lack standing on the subject matter, or who are less than forthright and honest in their evaluations; in short, I say we disqualify — set aside, to be more civil — Cary Nelson’s assessments of this case.

I did not know Steven Salaita personally (nor do I know Cary Nelson beyond familiarity with his scholarship of the late 1980s and his more recent record of activism against the call to boycott Israeli universities). I had heard Salaita present at academic conferences, and had read a handful of his academic articles prior to the search process. I also followed him on social media. Like many scholars inside and outside our respective areas of expertise — his in comparative American Indian and Palestinian indigeneity, mine in the Pacific Islands — Salaita and I share a somewhat unpopular analysis of Israel as a modern occupying settler and military state, seeing it in large part as an expression of Zionist ideology that does not represent all Jewish people outside or inside Israel.
I should stress that such a view is also widespread in critical studies outside Native Studies proper. In our case, this shared critical analytic owes to our overlapping research interests in topics like linkages between colonial and religious discourses, and US colonial discourse on indigeneity in particular.

Hiring process duly followed

Upon reading Salaita’s dossier, we (the search committee, and the American Indian Studies Program) were convinced that his research interests not only complemented but also strengthened our unit’s profile in the area of comparative global indigenous studies and in a growing movement that treats indigeneity as an analytic category itself. Indeed, we were convinced and excited that his hiring would strengthen any claim we might have to program leadership in these two areas.
On Salaita’s “extramural utterances” — those tweets, blogs and other public opinion statements that are explicitly protected by specific conventions of academic freedom — the committee was fully aware of their controversial nature and regarded them appropriately: not as part of his record of academic productivity but in relation to questions of collegiality and teaching.

On this point I should add that we sought guidance and approval from our college. But my principal purpose here is not to defend Salaita’s scholarship and academic credentials, or his fitness as a colleague, or the excellence of his teaching record, or to justify our decision. That process was duly followed and completed. It was approved and “confirmed,” meaning all it lacked was the “technicality” of the UIUC Board of Trustees rubber-stamping that the chancellor preempted with her decision.

Sloppy and self-serving

Instead, my aim is on the tenuousness, suspiciousness and tellingness of Nelson’s argument and assertions. Here’s how I see them:

Axes to Grind. Nelson had a history and reputation for defending the rights of faculty that have been violated, but it is not consistent. This sketchy record is especially evident when the issue at hand concerns Israel, particularly in the context of the global call to divest, boycott and sanction Israeli universities and other institutions.

Where he once defended the underdog, Nelson now defends the corporate entity. Even if one doesn’t endorse academic boycotts, one can readily see how Nelson’s vociferous opposition in the name of academic freedom cannot so easily be detached from his apparent defense of Israel.

Of course, Nelson is entitled to his own political views; the trouble is that his argument is both predicated on and motivated by protecting them in a thinly veiled attempt to objectively evaluate the case before us. In fact, his is a twisting and contorting logic of invoking academic freedom and academic excellence to exercise censorship and legitimize punishment of dissent and difference.
Sloppy, Self-Serving and Disingenuous Thinking. In summary, Nelson’s argument goes like this: the University of Illinois is correct in its actions because at the end of the day, Salaita’s case is about scholarship and qualifications, not about academic freedom. More specifically, Nelson asserts that Salaita’s tweets and blogs — the “extramural utterances” — are not only repulsive and hateful in tone, but cross over to incite violence, thereby justifying the university’s action.

Moreover, Nelson argues that Salaita’s is an “exceptional” case in this regard: when read alongside his academic record, the tweets help demonstrate that Salaita’s scholarship doesn’t rise and actually casts doubt on his qualification for the job. This is why he is calling to include the tweets as part of the academic record.

But really, just what is it that impels Nelson to declare that this case is exceptional, an anomaly? What is it, other than a rhetorical move to posture total command over the topic, or underscore the exclusivity of his interpretation over and against those of his opponents or detractors? The force, clearly, is criticism of Israel. To put it another way, the threshold of his logic on academic freedom is Palestinian and Palestinian-supported criticism of Israel, which for him, as for Zionism, equates to anti-Semitism.

This faux neutrality betrays itself in some sloppy and nonsensical thinking that is no less insidious. For example, and again, as if to be faithful to the principle of academic freedom, Nelson insists that, while this is not a case of academic freedom, he would without reservation defend Salaita’s academic freedom had he in fact been hired.

For Nelson, Salaita is not deserving of such protection because he was not yet hired, technically speaking. Technically speaking? We know how lawyers and politicians spin technicalities to their favor. We know that it is “technicality” that permits the chancellor to operate so secretively and why she did not furnish specific reasons for her action. We know that the case will turn on technicality — Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf has argued that the university’s termination of Salaita is in all likelihood illegal under state and federal law.

Nelson himself may end up a paid consultant, if he hasn’t already been advising the university on how to build an academic case against Salaita. We need to stay tuned on this count, because in fact Nelson is on record as saying he has not been in conversation with the administration.
At the level of process, then, Nelson hides disingenuously behind hiring technicalities to skirt the real spirit and intent of measures to safeguard academic freedom. The upshot of this logic is the nonsensical idea that academic freedom can only obtain through its violation, in this case, after Salaita is rubber-stamped.

Only then would Nelson defend Salaita, but defend him from what? From Chancellor Wise’s refusal to send Salaita’s case up for board approval? But academics aren’t supposed to spin technicalities; we are supposed to be precise and honest, not willfully circular in our thinking, or do logical acrobatics with technicalities when it suits us.

We are in fact held to higher, more rigorous standards. Salaita’s case was duly vetted; for all intents and purposes, meaning, with regard to the scholarship on hand, it was done. Period. In clear disregard for the process, Nelson seizes on the university’s gross violations to insert himself into the fray, call attention to his own idiosyncratic viewpoints for his own purposes and politics, to legitimize taking pot-shots at Salaita and at our vetting process.

For instance, Nelson opines that American Indian Studies was not sufficiently “equipped” to assess the lines around scholarship and politics, and has since gone on to question the process itself.
In fact, the evidence of Nelson’s disingenuous, self-serving antics are present from the get go, when the story first broke, that concerns timing and deception rather than truth. In a remarkable instance of sloppy and careless thinking that also raises the question of academic fit and scholarly sensibility (if judging scholarly fitness is the game he wants to play), Nelson rushed to the defense, the “correctness,” of the administration’s actions when the administration had not even, and still has not, furnished its reasons for why it did what it did.

How can someone defend another’s actions as correct in the absence of the reasons for that action? Ulterior motives pop up again. An opportunity presented itself for Nelson to take center stage and to legitimize his own agenda. Salaita clearly has his politics, but he’s not mobilizing it to police academia. Nelson has his politics, and uses academia to lock out the likes of Salaita.

Let’s play ball

If in fact Nelson is serious about protecting academic excellence and the processes and conventions that safeguard them, then let’s play ball: Nelson has no qualifications in this case; he has no research or teaching or published record in comparative native studies, of indigenous cultural and historical studies. I know of no colleague or scholar in my field who cites his work for how it helps us better understand the complex and fraught histories, struggles, perspectives, expressions of indigenousness as a category of existence and category for analyses, or as a category for analyzing the fraught line between power, politics and academic inquiry.

Nelson is not credentialed to be evaluating Salaita’s qualifications. Ultimately, Nelson’s zeal to delegitimize Salaita, and in the process salvage his own radical reputation or one-up his contenders or detractors, ends up itself doing the work of disqualifying Cary Nelson altogether.

Besides not being trained in American Indian Studies or comparative Native studies, and therefore not qualified to evaluate Salaita’s scholarship, Nelson’s own insistence that the case is not about academic freedom but about Salaita’s scholarly credentials unwittingly removes him from commenting on matters he would typically be qualified to discuss and evaluate, and plops him squarely into a domain over which he has no proven standing.

At the end of the day, it is not surprising that Nelson chooses to aid and abet the administration, joining it in a very dangerous disregard for academic freedom and integrity and continued erosion of academic governance. In fact, academia guards against such gross and brazen violations and there’s nothing exceptional or special about the Salaita case, at least not in the sense that Nelson argues.
What we have in Nelson’s sloppy, contorted, disingenuous and self-serving argument are plenty of red flags, too many, in fact, for us to not do the appropriate thing, which would be to set aside, once and for all, anything Cary Nelson has to say on this, or any other case involving academic freedom and faculty governance.

Vicente M. Diaz is Associate Professor of American Indian Studies and Anthropology, Affiliate Faculty, History and Asian American Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ginen Guaha Ga'-na Kabayu Siha

Someone special to me got me a book of poetry by Joy Harjo, a Native American poet. I've been going through them and some of them are really profound. Fehman hafa ma na'sieisiete yu'. The collection spans over 30 years of her work and so there are incredible shifts in her tone and her content. Though after going through them all, I still find the ones towards the beginning were deeper, or touched something greater. A case in point is this poem "She Had Horses." Kalang ti nahong i palabras-hu para bai hu eksplika este. Si eksplikayon taimanu ha pacha' yu' yan hafa gi hinasso-ku ha deka'. Ti dumangkolu yu' gi un kuttura ni' mismo gaikabayu. Ayu na klasin metaphor taigue gi minagahet gi lina'la'-hu. Hu tungo' put taimanu na gof gaige ayu gi i irensian otro kuttura yan i hinasso siha gi haga' (put hemplo i Natibu Amerikanu siha pat kontodu i manapa'ka na taotaogues gi i "wild west), lao taya' nai ma'u'dai yu' gi kabayu.

Lao achokka' estrana este na metaphors siha nu Guahu, ma sen afekta yu'. I palabras ha ayek, ma chuda' i meaning-na i po'ema gi huyong i chi-na i kuttura-na. Makilili i betsu-na esta ki i isla-ku gi i Tasin Pasifiku.

Kao un tungo' i poetry Joy Harjo? Estague un tinana':


She Had Some Horses

She had horses who were bodies of sand.
She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.
She had horses who were skins of ocean water.
She had horses who were the blue air of sky.
She had horses who were fur and teeth.
She had horses who were clay and would break.
She had horses who were splintered red cliff.

She had some horses.

She had horses with long, pointed breasts.
She had horses with full, brown thighs.
She had horses who laughed too much.
She had horses who threw rocks at glass houses.
She had horses who licked razor blades.

She had some horses.

She had horses who danced in their mothers' arms.
She had horses who thought they were the sun and their bodies shone and burned
like stars.
She had horses who waltzed nightly on the moon.
She had horses who were much too shy, and kept quiet in stalls of their own

She had some horses.

She had horses who liked Creek Stomp Dance songs.
She had horses who cried in their beer.
She had horses who spit at male queens who made them afraid of themselves.
She had horses who said they weren't afraid.
She had horses who lied.
She had horses who told the truth, who were stripped bare of their tongues.

She had some horses.

She had horses who called themselves, "horse."
She had horses who called themselves, "spirit." and kept their voices secret and to
She had horses who had no names.
She had horses who had books of names.

She had some horses.

She had horses who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.
She had horses who screamed out of fear of the silence, who carried knives to
protect themselves from ghosts.
She had horses who waited for destruction.
She had horses who waited for resurrection.

She had some horses.

She had horses who got down on their knees for any savior.
She had horses who thought their high price had saved them.
She had horses who tried to save her, who climbed in her bed at night and prayed
as they raped her.

She had some horses.

She had some horses she loved.
She had some horses she hated.

These were the same horses.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Infamous Watch Story gi Fino' Chamoru

For my CM 102 class or Beginners Chamorro Language 2, I've been experimenting with different assignments. I heard last year about a Navajo Star Wars, or the project to translate Star Wars into the Navajo language. For me, somehow who thinks that everything should be translated into Chamorro and is hoping to create a lexicon for playing 'Magic: The Gathering" in Chamorro, taking such an iconic nerdy movie and translating it into a native language is the height of awesome. I decided to incorporate something on a much smaller scale into my class. 
Each student had to pick five minutes from a different movie and translate that portion into Chamorro. I told them to make sure that the segment wouldn't be too difficult for them to translate, because certain genres like sci-fi for example, might be a bit difficult for a lowly 102 student to translate effectively. They had to then record themselves or others reading the scene in Chamorro and then dub it into the film itself. Lastly, these scenes were shown to the class. Students picked all sorts of scenes, such as the famous blue and red pill scene from the Matrix, the "Fish are Friends" scene from Finding Nemo, the scene where the girl is first taken in the movie Taken and even Batman's interrogation of The Joke in the Dark Knight. One of my favorite scenes that a student presented, caught me totally off guard, but it was the infamous watch story from the film "Pulp Fiction." Is it the story of how a certain watch survived multiple generations of war and even the not too pleasant way it was kept safe in a prisoner of war camp. 

Here is my student's translation below:

Buenas boi, hu hungok bula put Hagu. Gof ga’chong yu’ yan i tata-mu.
Singko anos ham giya Hanoi giya Vietnam gi duranten i Geran Vietnam.

Puede ti un chagi este na eksperensia. Este dos na taotao yanggen ma chagi i pinadesin-mami!

Anggen Guahu matai, siempre Si Major Coolidge kumuekuentos yan i patgon-hu.

Lao matai i tata-mu ya gaige yu’ guini pa’go nah u kuentutusi hao pa’go ha’ na ora.

Este na relos finahan ni tatan tatan bihu-mu. Ha fahan i relos gi i fine’nina na geran mundo giya Knoxville, Tennessee. Finahan Private Doughboy Ryan Coolidge antes ha dingu Tennessee para Paris. I relos i tatan tata bihu-mu ginen i kompania ni fuma’tinas i primet ilos para i kannai. Antes ma kakatga i relos gi botsa. Lao i bisaguello-mu ha katga este kada diha gi gera.

Esta monhayan i tiempo-na gi gera ya ha bira gui’ tatte para u asagua i bisaguella-mu. Ha laknos i relos ya ha po’lo gi un guntan kafe’. Sumaga’ i relos guihi esta ki ma agang si tatan bihu-mu para i geran Aleman, pa’go ma a’agang i geran mundo mina’dos. I bisaguello-mu ha na’i I tatan bihu-mu ni relos para suette gi karera-na.

Lao ti suette i tatan bihu-mu taiguihi si tata-na. Marine i tatan bihu-mu, lao matai gui’ yan i pumalu na Marines giya Wake Island. I tatan bihu-mu ha tungo’ na po matai. Ma tungo’ todu i sindalu na ti u ma dingu i isla la’la’la’. Tres dihas antes di ma konne’ i isla i Chapones, ha faisen un taotao paki gi un batkon aire i na’an-na Winocki. Taya’ nai umasodda’ este na dos. Lao i tatan bihu-mu ha gagao gui’ na u na’i i gof hoben yan nuebu na patgon lahi, este na ora na relos. Tres dihas maloffan yan matai ha’ i tatan bihu-mu, lao Si Winocki ha cho’gue i malago’-na i tatan bihu-mu. Anai makpo’ i gera ha bisita i nana-mu biha, ya ha na’i i relos.

Este na relos i tata-mu ha usa gi kannai-na anai ma paki gui’ gi aire gi hilo’ Hanoi giya Vietnam. Ginacha’ ni Vietnamese ya ma pega halom gi un tribunat gera. Lao anggen ma li’e i relos ni Vietnamese, siguru na ma chule’. Gi hinasson tata-mu, ilek-na na este na relos hagas ha’ iyoyo-mu na relos, i irensia-mu. Lanya siha este na Vietnamese anggen para u ma pacha’ i relos i lahi-na!

Ha pega i relos gi un lugat na ha tungo’ na taya’ sina ma sodda’…i galabok-na. Singko anos na gaige i relos gi daggan-na. Ha na’i yu’ i relos antes di matai-na ni dysentery. Dos anos hu na’atok este na relos gi galabok-hu. Siette anos maloffan ya ma sotta yu’, ya ma bira yu’ tatte para i familia-ku.

Pa’go na ora lahi, hu na’na’i hao este na relos.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Chamorro Hath Ten Thousand Several Doors

People take different approaches the language revitalization and preservation. You can often divide these interventions into either which segment of society they are focusing on, and whether their efforts deal with past, present or future forms of the language. For instance, when designing a language curriculum, which audience are you focusing the structure of your curriculum to satisfy or to appeal to? This is one thing that I have regularly been critical of in terms of how curriculum or language learning materials are created on Guam. As most people creating the curriculum are native speakers for whom Chamorro is their first language, they may struggle in understanding what it is like to learn Chamorro as a second language. Their interests in the language will be very different than someone who does not speak it but wants to learn. Their feel of the language will be drastically different than someone who is very unfamiliar with it. What will appeal to them or make them happy is not necessarily what would appeal to or interest a younger non-speaker. 

A case in point deals with words or sayings that have been recently conceived in order to capture the identity and cultural politics of today. Languages are always changing, although in some contexts the changes are more readily apparent than others. Language change because of "outside" influences, meaning a language may incorporate new vocabulary, new ways of saying things, new grammar in order to accommodate pressures from another language that is entering into a speech community. This is usually the way people see language shifts. For example, someone who speaks Chamorro today and someone who spoke Chamorro 100 years ago, will most likely be able to understand each other, but there were will various differences that may make things interesting to analyze. A Chamorro who speaks today will most likely use grammar that has been influenced by English and may not be immediately obvious to someone 100 years ago. The word choices may change as well. Someone today may use words someone 100 years ago might not. For instance, a Chamorro today might say very casaully "gof mata'pang hao!" but to someone 100 years ago this might be very offensive, since the word might have had a greater and more serious social stigma, than simply meaning "silly."

But languages also change, to a limited extent because people want them to change. Although in a general way you can point to languages being a structure, a system where changes take place at a level above human intervention. "Si Yu'us, Yu'us. I taotao, taotao ha'." is one way of communicating this conception of language. Languages shift at the "Yu'us" level, meaning we don't control it, it all takes place in some structural nexus, where you can see and understand things in a macro way, from a longview, but not really when you are in the thick of it. In other words, one can see the changes in a language when one looks back over time, but you cannot really detect them as they are happening. And furthermore, you can't really use any knowledge you would gain from analyzing language in the moment in order to change or shape things. 

This is only partially true however, as language shifts can be felt and detected all the time. In fact, if you speak to any Chamorro, you'll find plenty of theories about how the language is changing. Even people who don't speak Chamorro at all have plenty of theories. Many of these lamentations are tied to the external influencing the internal, or how people are using English influenced Chamorro or Chaminglish. But some of them are tied to the ways Chamorro is changing in order to conform to the changing of Chamorro identity and politics. For example, on Facebook there is a group called "Hinasso" which is a huge proponent of the Fino' Haya' movement, or an effort to return Chamorro to its Austronesian roots and use as little as Spanish as possible. People who are part of the Fino' Haya' movement propose that instead of using certain Spanish-derived words, we should use older, sometimes recovered or archaic terms. For example, "familia" is used by most Chamorros today, but an older term was recorded but lost long ago, and that is "mangafa." Mangafa is used by some nowadays, but has not received wide acceptance. Other reformulations are receiving more attention though, such as "Saina Ma'ase" which is used by very few older people, but is very very common amongst cultural artists and dance groups. 

Many people, as a structural understanding would dictate, resist these changes as being "invented" or "fake" and not part of the real natural flow of language. There is some truth to this, but the larger truth is that language, in its natural form always contains elements of invention. A language is a structure, it is a building, but it is a building which, to borrow a metaphor from Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, hath ten thousand several doors, through which people can use their language, and each door goes on such strange geometrical hinges, you can open them both ways. In other words, a language is a structure in which people have choices, regular, everyday choices. Doors to open, and choices over which way the doors will swing. 

The issue however is that spending too much time doing your own exploration can get you lost. People will have trouble understanding you, your pathways through the building will confusing, and in fact irritate others. You are still using the same doors, the same routes that others do, but the differences may be enough to make people doubt you are in the same building as they are. But, before we get too mired in this metaphor, the inverse of this is that sometimes you can create new pathways, open the doors in new ways, that eventually become the norm for everyone, even if within a generation no one realizes it. A case in point is two terms which were introduced just a generation or two ago, but have become so normalized in Chamorro culture that people both old and young use them, "inafa'maolek" and "taotao tano'." It is possible in both instances that these terms were used by Chamorros before, but we can actually trace their genesis and see how they were recently invented and introduced. You can saw this makes them not real, but the lack of invention and human intervention of language, the naturalness of it, is frankly not natural and not truth, there is plenty of invention and manipulation, the naturalness exists because of a lack of knowledge, not because of it reflecting reality.

Language is a tapestry of tradition, but every generation takes different breaths than the one before. Some things are lost, some things are not, there will always be change. In terms of designing curriculum, this question comes up because of the difference in conceptions and politics over the Chamorro language. For older people, for whom notions of tradition often seems to fuel them with authority and power, there are often feelings that language must be comfortable to them, what is normal to them, what they grew up with and what they expect. Even if throughout their life, they had participated in language shifts, created their own variations and adore the inventions that they accept, there is still an aura of appropriateness and naturalness which has to be defended. It is different for those who are younger and may not speak the language, for them, the politics of invention may be more important because the language is not something they are receiving "naturally" but rather through an "artificial" and "second hand" intervention. For them, the facets of tradition and appropriateness don't mean as much because they get very little identity from them. Of course very few people want to learn a language that they feel is "invented" or "fake" but at the same time, there can be more flexibility with new learners, because they are not looking back at a long list of choices they have made, but confronted with a new frontier that they are about to traverse and discover for themselves.

Monday, August 11, 2014

We Still Have the Same Soil

Guam’s relationship to the United States begins in 1898 when the island is take as part of the Spanish American War. The Spanish had ruled for 230 years and during that time economic development had been nil. The Spanish governor of the island controlled the economy, severely restricting private enterprise, and many used their power to ensure what little money on the island ended up in their hands through their personal ventures.

The arrival of the United States represented the chance for new economic openness and so many Chamorros applauded their new colonizers. Although the United States represented itself as a nation of liberty, freedom and democracy, none of these things were allowed to exist on Guam for the first 50 years of American rule. In 1899 a Naval government was established. A single Naval governor held control over both civilians and military on the island, and was tasked with benevolently civilizing the Chamorro population.

Chamorros at this point in history lived in subsistence lifestyle, primarily bartering for things that they needed but did not grow or produce on their own. Money was primarily ceremonial and used for interactions governments and the church. 

Although economically little changed structurally from the Spanish to the United States, a single man still had total control over the island, the rhetoric was markedly different. The Naval Government advocated for Chamorros to embrace new ideals of free markets and capitalism. Through speeches, through education and through public programs they encouraged Chamorros to stop growing food to feed themselves and instead grow crops, such as kapok or copra that they could sell to export merchants. They also encouraged Chamorros to stop farming, but work for wages and instead growing food, buy it from the store.

Chamorros to varying extent accepted these new possibilities. Elite Chamorros who were already land-rich, were able to invest their resources into making small commercial kingdoms, such as the Martinez family, the Calvos, the Butlers, the Bordallos and others. These families took advantage of Navy contracts and the money that was making its way into the hands of more and more Chamorros, by creating construction companies, commercial farming, entertainment venues, restaurants, general stores and taxi services. Even lower class Chamorros, were able to leverage their families’ participation in the employment the US Navy offered and use the money to invest in small businesses, such as mom and pop stores. Many of these smaller business failed however due to the fact that Chamorros did not invest everything in these business, but continued to live according to their subsistence lifestyle. Imported goods slowly trickled in and began to replace locally made goods, but this nonetheless helped to support the numerous small general stores Chamorros were opening.

By 1941, Chamorros had created an interesting hybrid of their own beliefs on economic sustainability and the models proposed by the United States. They began to invest more and more and become an island full of entrepreneurs, but always anchored by the fact that their extended families still farmed for a living, feeding and providing goods to barter. 

One perfect example of this can be found during the famous trip of BJ Bordallo and FB Leon Guerrero to Washington DC in 1936-1937 in order to secure increased political rights for Chamorros. Both of these men were critical for their days, even if their critiques might seem tame compared to those that Chamorro activists take today. They represented not a rejection of the United States but both a demand that the United States set a better example for Chamorros than the hypocrisy that it exhibited on Guam, but also that the Chamorro was capable of more and could be more than just the pathetic colonial caricature the US Navy liked to propose. 

Take for instance this exchange during Senate hearings on political status change bill for Guam:
Senator Reynolds: Is your island self-supporting?

Bordallo: It has not been self-supporting during the Naval Administration and never will be self-supporting under the Naval Administration.

Senator Clark: Was it ever self-supporting?

Bordallo: Yes, sir. During the Spanish time we have more exports going out of Guam, and we only have to refer back to the history of Guam to find definite information in that respect…

Senator Reynolds: Do you think that the people of Guam will ever become self-supporting?

Bordallo: I believe so, yes, if given the proper cooperation from the Federal Government.

Senator Reynolds: Why do you believe that?

Brodallo: Because, we have been self-supporting during the Spanish time.

Senator Reynolds: That has been 30 years ago?

Bordallo: We still have the same soil.

This would change however, and this balanced perspective would be shattered during World War II, and the Chamorro who emerges from the rubble of a bombed out Hagatna, seemed all too ready to abandon or sell off the land instead of seeing themselves as connected to it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Deception and Diplomacy

Deception and Diplomacy: The US, Japan, and Okinawa 
The following text makes extensive use of the treasure trove of documents on the US-Japan-Okinawa relationship released by Wikileaks and published in The Asahi Shimbun and Ryukyu Shimpo in May 2001, setting them in the frame of four decades of chicanery. It also discusses the so-called “mitsuyaku” or secret diplomacy between the two countries that has gradually come to light in the past two years without any help from Wiki, the “confession” of former Prime Minister Hatoyama, the strange case of the “Maher affair, and the shock waves of recent shifts in thinking about the Okinawa problem in Washington. APJ

1. Zokkoku Blues

For the student of contemporary Japan, these are sad times, and it is not just because of the catastrophe that struck the country in March and the Chernobyl-like horrors that have continued since then to spread across the Northeast, though it has been impossible to observe these without shock and grief. But it is sad above all because of the growing sense that Japan lacks a truly responsible democratic government to address these issues, and because its people deserve better.

It seems only yesterday that the Japanese people, tired and disgusted with a half century of corrupt and collusive LDP rule, voted to end it. How quickly since September 2009 their efforts were reversed, renewal and reform blocked, and a compliant US-oriented regime reinstated whose irresponsibility is matched only by its incompetence. This is true whether considering the response to the nuclear crisis, marked by evasion, manipulation and collusion (of bureaucrats, politicians, the media, and the nuclear industry), or of the handling of the Okinawa base issue, which is central to the country’s most important relationship, that with the United States. The argument of my book published in 2006 was that Japan is a US “Client State,” or zokkoku, structurally designed to attach priority to US over Japanese interests.1Much fresh evidence to support that thesis has come to light since I wrote, exposing the relationship as marked by the sort of humiliation that used to be characteristic of relations between centre and periphery in the old Soviet empire. Between the world’s two most powerful capitalist economies and supposed flag-bearers of democracy it is deeply incongruous.

Especially since the September 2009 advent of the Hatoyama government, which came to office promising a new regional order in the Asia-Pacific, there have been successive revelations of the truncated character of the Japanese state. Created and cultivated under US auspices in the wake of war nearly seven decades ago, that state maintains to this day a submissive orientation towards its distant founding fathers. Here I focus on five recent events or sets of materials that between 2009 and 2011 help illuminate it: the mitsuyaku or secret agreements, the “confession” of Prime Minister Hatoyama, the Wiki-leaks revelations, the “Maher affair,” and something still in train as these words are being written (May 2011) that may, provisionally, be called the “Levin-Webb-McCain shock.” Seen as a whole, they compel the sad conclusion that the notion of democratic responsibility on the part of the Japanese state is illusory. Independence for Japan is not something to be protected, but something still to be won.

2. Mitsuyaku: Okinawan “Reversion” and Secret Diplomacy, 1969-2009

The frame of US-Japan relations of the late 20th and early 21st century was set in a series of secret agreements negotiated in the late 1960s and early 1970s and known by the Japanese word mitsuyaku. The mitsuyaku were subject to an investigation by a formal inquiry set up under the DPJ government in 2009-10, and continued by further revelations from Japanese archival sources under freedom of information, in part pursuant to a Japanese court order. The key secret agreements covered Japanese covert cooperation in US nuclear war strategy on the one hand and the reversion of Okinawa to Japan that took place in 1972 on the other. Deviousness and deception were the keynotes.

The Okinawan “reversion,” trumpeted as kakunuki hondonami (no nuclear weapons and equality in terms of base burden between Okinawa and mainland) and therefore a triumph of Japanese diplomacy and an end to the postwar, was in fact enmeshed in secret agreements that essentially negated it.2 By including a provision that the US could reintroduce nuclear weapons without prior consultation if or whenever it deemed it necessary,3 the parties negated both the publicly proclaimed kakunuki and the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles” Prime Minister Sato had announced in 1967 and for which he was awarded the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize. In other words, the Japanese (and US) governments lied to the Japanese and Okinawan people, setting the stage for the reversion, and till 2009 successive Prime Ministers and governments repeated the lie, denying even directly contradictory documents from the US archives acknowledging the nuclear deal. Only when four successive former Vice-Ministers confessed, and the government changed, in 2009, was the truth admitted.

The fresh light that recently opened materials cast on the secret protocols surrounding the Okinawa Reversion agreement reached between Sato and Richard Nixon in November 1969 allows us to see much more clearly the nature of the deal.

Firstly, from the commencement of the negotiations, the Government of Japan insisted that, although it sought “reversion,” it actually meant retention; i.e., that the US must not think of closing down its bases following administrative reversion of the islands to Japan. To the Sato government, the bases were an essential deterrent, even though their principal function at the time was as instrument of aggression in the daily bombing of Vietnam.

Secondly, the US side insisted that for this peculiar deal, Japan should pay; setting the terms for future base arrangements; in other words, the “reversion” was a buy-back. The US government insisted on the enormous sum of $650 million, used the term “price-tag” to apply to it, and insisted that most be in the form of a “lump sum” payment. In the event, $650 million was more than double the officially announced $320 million, nominally for return of US assets, and even that $320 million was deceptive. It included the item of $70 million, supposedly to remove nuclear weapons, but 40 years later the then chief Japanese negotiator revealed that they had decided on that figure “in order to be able to say ‘Since Japan paid so much, the nuclear weapons were removed.’ We did it to cope with opposition parties in the Diet.”4 The Okinawan “reversion” was a “buyback” in which Japan insisted the asset it was buying remain in US hands, an arrangement that doubly violated the Japanese constitution both because it was premised on a lie and because it violated Article 9 in the most blatant way possible. Japan paid the US while insisting the US not return what it was paying for. It created two separate accounts, a secret one with the real figure entered and a public one, which referred to about half the real sum, and even that public figure was substantially false.

By insisting the US retain its military assets, with full freedom in their use, returning only the unnecessary responsibility for local Okinawan administration, and paying a huge sum to sweeten the deal, Japan ensured that the island’s principle raison d’être would continue to be war, making a mockery of the Okinawan people’s revulsion for war and their desire for the peace principle at the centre of the constitution.

Two decades later, the Cold War ended. Okinawans anticipated that, after long delay, at last the peace constitution would be extended to them and the burden of the US bases reduced, but again, however, that did not happen. A Governor who declared his determination to work towards return of the bases and demilitarization of the islands was arraigned before the Supreme Court and ordered to sign compulsory orders renewing the lease of Okinawan land to the US forces.

In 1995, the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by three American servicemen stirred the prefecture to waves of protest that profoundly threatened the base presence (and therefore the “alliance.” The two state parties felt obliged to make concessions designed to restore their interests and characteristically they did so in the form of a deception. They agreed that Futenma Marine Air Station, in the middle of densely populated Ginowan city and dubbed by Donald Rumsfeld the world’s most dangerous base, would be returned to Japan. It is impossible to forget being astonished at this announcement. The deception of this “reversion” was in the small print. Where in 1972 “reversion” (of Okinawa) had meant “retention,” in 1996 “reversion” (of Futenma) meant substitution: the construction of a new, enlarged, technically sophisticated multi-service facility to replace the inconvenient, dangerous and obsolescent Futenma. Fifteen years on, that agreement remains unfulfilled.

Okinawans rejected the deal from the start. The history of the subsequent 15 years has been the history of that Okinawan refusal to allow the Futenma replacement to proceed in the face of US and Japanese pressures to consummate the deal. When Governor Ota Masahide declared in February 1998 that he would not allow the project to go ahead, Tokyo froze all dealings with him and mobilized (illegally and unconstitutionally), spending large sums of secret funds in the campaign and successfully unseating him later in the year. The details of that intervention too, were revealed only in 2010.5

With a compliant governor installed, and with substantial national funds poured in to buy off the opposition in the north to the Henoko project, Prime Minister Koizumi from 2001 attempted to push the construction of the Futenma replacement facility (FRF) at Henoko. In 2004, when survey work commenced in the adjacent sea, the opposition began a protest sit-in (seven years on, that too continues). The movement gathered broad prefecture-wide sympathy and support and became so effective that in 2005 Koizumi conceded defeat and canceled that (offshore) plan. A year later he revived it, in a different, land-based, design. The intent, as always, was to evade popular will, since shifting the project within the bounds of the existing camp Schwab meant it would be more difficult for opponents to block construction. The opposition held firm, however, and by late 2008 nation-wide anger at the corruption and incompetence of the Liberal Democratic Party’s five decade long one party rule threatened the relocation plan. The opposition Democratic Party gathered national and particularly Okinawan support around the proposition that there would be no Futenma replacement in Okinawa.

In the first days of the Obama government and the last days of LDP government in Japan (early 2009), therefore, the managers of the “alliance” in Tokyo and Washington again sought a way to avoid the outcome sought by the Okinawan public and their representatives. The US embassy in Tokyo reported to Washington that the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs wanted the 2006 “Reorganization” agreement to be endorsed and reinforced as a treaty, i.e., to elevate the agreement into a “Treaty-level (on the Japanese side)” agreement that would be “legally binding on the current and future Japanese cabinets.”6

The Guam International Agreement that followed was a remarkable diplomatic agreement both as to its content and its form. Japan was to pay both an unspecified sum (common estimates in the $10 billion range) for construction of a new base to substitute for Futenma at Henoko and $6.1 billion for the construction of US military residential and other facilities in Guam, so that “8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents” could be transferred from Okinawa to Guam by 2014 (leaving a smaller Marine contingent on Okinawa). As a treaty, the agreement had binding legal status. The Japanese (LDP) government, its credibility rapidly collapsing, pulled out all stops to make sure it could pay $336 million dollars to the US Treasury by May 2009, with $2.8 billion in cash and the rest in credits toward the total of $6.1 billion. The core concern was not national security – which does not appear even to have been discussed – but the determination to prolong the US occupation of Okinawa (and provide whatever service might be possible for the US’s Afghan and Iraq wars), regardless of cost.
Signed in Tokyo by Hillary Clinton in February 2009, and ratified in the Diet in May, this first initiative of the new Obama government towards Japan was plainly an unequal treaty in the sense that it imposed binding obligation on one side only. It was a design by the two governments to circumvent the democratic will of the Japanese people. The rush to sign the deal reflected the fact that the LDP was on the verge of collapsing at the polls. As I wrote then, the Guam International Agreement (Treaty)

“is likely to be studied by future generations as something crystallizing the defining moment of a relationship, when both parties went too far, the US in demanding (hastily, well aware that time was running out to cut a deal with the LDP) and Japan in submitting to something not only unequal but also unconstitutional, illegal, colonial, and deceitful. Excess on both sides was likely to generate resentment and in the long run to make the relationship more difficult to sustain.”7

That is indeed what happened. For the distinguished Tokyo University political scientist, Shinohara Hajime, the 28 May agreement was Japan’s “second defeat,” i.e. tantamount to August 1945.8

3. DPJ: From Hatoyama to Kan (2009- )

In 2009, Japan elected a new government, ending a half-century of one party, heavily US-supported rule. Hatoyama, like Obama in the US the previous year, was elected because he had a vision for Japan and tapped a mood of desire for change. Among the components of his grand design was his pledge to take back government from the bureaucrats and open it to the people through their elected representatives; to re-orient Japan away from US-centered unipolarism towards a multi-polar world in which Japan would re-negotiate its relationship with the US on the basis of equality and become a central member of an East Asian community. The most concrete pledge was to close the Futenma base, at the very least to move it somewhere outside Okinawa.

The US was deeply suspicious of Hatoyama’s Asian community agenda. Moreover, never contemplating the possibility of an “equal” relationship with any state, it found particularly absurd that a compliant Japan should propose one. Above all, Washington resolved to block Hatoyama on the Futenma issue. Because Hatoyama challenged the deeply embedded structures of the “Client State” system, projecting a democratic and an independent and Asia-centered vision, Washington saw him as a threat, to be neutralized or crushed.

President Obama refused to meet Hatoyama or discuss his agenda or his vision. The Departments of State and Defense delivered ultimatum after ultimatum, beating out a crescendo of warnings and intimidation demanding he obey and build the new (“Futenma substitute”) Marine base at Henoko.9 No other major ally – and perhaps no enemy either – had ever been subjected to the sort of abuse and intimidation that Hatoyama faced during those late 2009 months.

But that was not all. The documents released courtesy of Wikileaks in May 2011 reveal the extent to which Hatoyama was betrayed by his own government. If ever there was a trahison des clercs, this was it. From the earliest days of the Hatoyama government, his senior officials had clandestine, one can fairly say conspiratorial, links with US officials, advising the Obama administration to stand firm, to understand that Hatoyama was a Prime Minister “with personality shortcomings,” he was “weak when speaking with strong individuals” and “usually voiced his opinion based on the last strong comments he had heard;” his government was “still in the process of organizing itself,”10 it was “inexperienced” and “stupid,”11 and its policy process “chaotic.”12 Hatoyama’s senior state officials, both politicians and bureaucrats, like their predecessors in the LDP for over half a century, were loyal to Washington rather than to him or to the Japanese electorate.

The constant refrain from these Tokyo officials was to reassure Washington that provided it stand firm, and “refrain from demonstrating flexibility,”13 they could turn the government around and see to it that the base agreement be implemented. The head of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke of his Department’s focus as being “finding a quick way to back away from the DPJ’s campaign pledge to reopen the realignment pledge,” i.e. to subvert his government.14 Okinawans could basically be ignored, because, as DPJ Diet Affairs chief Yamaoka Kenji put it, “in Okinawa “it’s all about opposing for its own sake … If Okinawa’s will is respected, nothing will ever happen.”15 For that matter the Japanese people were not much better because, according to Yamaoka, they were “spoiled” and took US protection for granted.16 Not only that, but as Fukahori Ryo (a former division deputy director at Ministry of Foreign Affairs) put it, “the vast majority of the Japanese public did not understand security issues.”17 And indeed the Prime Minister too seemed to fit into this category of hopeless ignorance, such that Vice-Foreign Minister Yabunaka Mitoji, over lunch with American ambassador Roos, helpfully suggested that “it would be beneficial for the US to go through the basic fundamentals of security issues with the Prime Minister,” i.e., explain to him the (political) facts of life.18

To better pull the wool over the eyes of the Japanese and especially the Okinawan people and enforce the base deal, the bureaucrats on both sides manipulated the figures on the Guam troop transfer and on the proportion of costs that would be met by Japan.19 The Roadmap (2006) and Guam and Tokyo agreements of 2009 and 2010 on relocation of US forces in Japan included provision for 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents to be relocated from Okinawa to facilities which Japan would pay $6.1 billion to construct on Guam, thereby “reducing the burden” on Okinawa. For Japan to pay such a huge sum for construction of facilities (including medical clinic, bachelor enlisted quarters, fire station, etc) on American soil was unprecedented, although “omoiyari” or “sympathy” payments to help the US maintain its forces in Japan had become an established budgetary item, commencing in 1978. However, as the Embassy despatch put it, “both the 8,000 and the 9,000 numbers were deliberately maximized to optimize political value in Japan.”20 There were at the time only “on the order of 13,000″ Marines, and the total number of dependents was “less than 9,000.” The US side “regularly briefed” the Japanese government on these numbers, so when government ministers repeatedly used the figures of an Okinawa Marine force of 18,000 to be reduced to 10,000 following the transfer of 8,000 to the newly built facilities in Guam, there is no doubt that they did so in bad faith; i.e., they lied. The cost too was inflated by inclusion of an item of $1 billion for construction of a military road on Guam. This item was nominally to be met by the US but the “billion dollar road” was simply “a way to increase the overall cost estimate and thereby reduce the share of total costs borne by Japan.”21 Its inclusion reduced the Japanese proportion of the $10.1 billion overall cost from 66 per cent to 59 per cent, making it seem slightly less unequal. The road was neither necessary nor likely ever to be built.

Surrounded by such faithless – if not treasonous – bureaucrats, torn between the pressures of Washington on the one hand and Okinawa on the other, and lacking the courage or clarity of purpose to confront them, Hatoyama’s resolve and his political position crumbled. The pressure peaked in October with an overtly intimidatory visit to Tokyo by Defense secretary Gates and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell’s blunt warning to Hatoyama that “U.S. patience would wear thin if the DPJ government continued to make multiple suggestions to review and adjust extant alliance arrangements.”22 On 8 December 2009, the government, through DPJ Diet Affairs Chief Yamaoka Kenji, assured the US embassy that, although it would have to be patient, “a decision had already been made” and “the government would implement the deal,” though “managing the Diet” made it difficult to do so immediately and it might take until the summer of 2010.23 The following day, Maehara Seiji, who among other things was then State Minister for Okinawa, delivered the same message to Ambassador Roos: The GOJ [Government of Japan] would explore “alternative options” but “if no alternative options are accepted, then SDP and PNP coalition minority parties Social Democratic Party and People’s New Party would agree to accept the Henoko option.” In other words, “if the US did not agree to any alternative” (the likelihood of finding any being “virtually zero”) then the existing plan would go ahead.24 With these secret understandings in place, Hatoyama and his government maintained the public façade of searching for a relocation site outside Okinawa (in accordance with his and the Party’s electoral pledge) for six more months. What was enacted on the Tokyo political and media stage over those months was essentially an elaborate charade.
In May 2010, Hatoyama declared that at last he had come to understand the importance of the Marine presence in Okinawa for “deterrence” purposes, and on that ground he had decided to accept that the Henoko relocation plan should go ahead. Having signed a deal to that effect on 28 May, he immediately resigned.

Half a year later, Hatoyama confessed that he had simply made that up. Deterrence was just a pretext, hoben, to justify submission to irresistible bureaucratic and diplomatic pressure.25 Officials in the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defense had “scornfully dismissed” (he said) his ideas till, eventually, he reached the point where “… anything else was futile, I could go no further and I came to doubt my own strength.”26 There is a clear contradiction between this recollection and the documentary evidence that his government made its decision at latest by early December the preceding year. Whichever be the case, the government was deeply engaged in the politics of deception.

The parties quibbled,27 but they lent themselves without qualm to a massive confidence trick on the Japanese public. The process by which “numbers were deliberately maximized to optimize political value in Japan” was, as the Asahi put it, “an unpardonable betrayal of the people.”28 To the Okinawa taimusu, it was another mitsuyaku or secret treaty,29 and to the Ryukyu shimpo the Wiki revelations showed that, “although Japan was supposedly a democratic country, its officials, bowing and scraping before a foreign country and making no effort to carry out the will of the people, lacked any qualification for diplomatic negotiation” and Japan was destined “to go down in history as in practice America’s client state.”30

Such sources as the Hatoyama confession and the Wikileaks documents, however unorthodox and even if in part contradictory, help fill out the picture of this tragic Hatoyama government. In the 50th year of the Ampo relationship, it became clear that in a “mature” alliance a Japanese government could not survive loss of Washington’s confidence, and that bureaucrats in Tokyo gave absolute priority to serving the US, taking it as beyond question that Okinawa should continue to serve US military purposes above all else and at whatever cost. When Hatoyama handed the reins of government to Kan Naoto, Kan’s task was described throughout the national media as to heal the “wounds” that Hatoyama had caused to the alliance, restore Washington’s trust and confidence in Japan, and resolve the Okinawa problem by “persuading” Okinawa to accept the new base.
If the Hatoyama government thus abandoned a core policy objective after nine (or, as now seems more likely, just three) months, it did, nevertheless, leave one positive – if unintended – accomplishment: it stirred the Okinawan people from the widespread but often fragmented opposition into a prefecture-wide mass movement of resistance, without precedent in modern Japanese history. Through 2010, by every conceivable democratic means, Okinawans made their views known:

January: the election of a Nago City mayor who was determinedly anti-base;
February: the adoption of a unanimous resolution opposing construction of any new base in the prefecture by the regional parliament, the Prefectural Assembly;
April: “All-Okinawa” mass meeting to oppose base construction;
July: a second unanimous Prefectural Assembly resolution, this time also declaring the US-Japan Agreement of 28 May (Hatoyama’s “surrender”) a “violent, democracy-trampling act” that “treated Okinawans as stupid;”
September: election of a majority of anti-base candidates to the Nago City Assembly;
November: the election of a Governor who said he would demand the base be relocated elsewhere than in Okinawa.

Despite the clarity of the message, and the democratic and non-violent ways in which it was articulated at the polls and in direct action, neither Tokyo nor Washington was moved.

By May 2011, Kan Naoto had been in office for 11 months, just a little longer than Hatoyama. He and his government use honeyed words, apologize, express deep regret to Okinawa; but they continue to strive to coopt, divide, persuade or crush the resistance and they insist that the many bilateral agreements all centering on the Futenma replacement facility (Henoko) be fulfilled.

Kan has reassured the US government of his determination to press ahead with the base construction at Henoko (and the helipads for the marines at Takae and in the surrounding Yambaru forest). Late in 2010, he launched steps to compel Nago City’s mayor to allow survey work to commence in the Henoko area and at about the same time, far from public or media scrutiny, he moved to crush the resistance to construction of the heliports. Foreign Minister Maehara even suggested that if the schools and hospitals of Ginowan City were troubled by the Marine base next door, they could all be moved out of the base’s way.”31 Visiting Okinawa in December 2010, Kan expressed his “unbearable shame as a Japanese” over the way it had been treated by successive governments. But he went on to say that, while relocating Futenma to Henoko “may not be the best choice for the people of Okinawa, in practical terms it is the better choice.” Okinawans were outraged and the Governor responded sharply that any relocation within the prefecture would be “bad.” Cabinet Secretary Sengoku told Okinawans they would have to “grin and bear” (kanju) their burden.32 Months later, in April 2011 the Kan government informed Washington that it had yielded on what seemed the last point of dispute: it would accept the “V”-shaped dual runway design at Henoko that the Marine Corps preferred. Ironically, however, even as Kan and his government moved towards implementation, Washington (as discussed below) was inclining towards abandonment and re-negotiation.

4. The Department of State

Early in December 2010 came an event that was unexpected but pregnant with significance. The Department of State’s senior Japan specialist and therefore adviser to Hillary Clinton, Kevin Maher, met to brief a group of American University students on the eve of their visit to Japan. In relaxed mood, Maher set aside diplomatic niceties and spoke his mind. He described Okinawans as lazy (too lazy even to grow goya, the Okinawan staple bitter melon), immoral (there were too many out-of-wedlock children and they drank too much strong liquor), and as “masters of manipulation and deception” who had irresponsibly allowed schools and housing to be built to the perimeter of Futenma.33 They also had “darker skin,” were “shorter” and had an “accent” like Puerto Ricans.34 Because Okinawans were extortionists, the base relocation could easily be accomplished, he said, if only the national government would tell the Governor of Okinawa, “if you want money, sign it.”
These insults pointed to the frustration that must have been felt in Washington that Okinawa, the insignificant client state of their Japanese client state, should have the temerity to resist them both with such extraordinary tenacity. Okinawa saw his words as ignorant, abusive, and racist, and exploded in indignation. The Okinawa Times commented editorially that “those responsible for the Futenma base transfers seem, deep in their hearts to despise Okinawa and make light of the base problem.”35 It added two days later,

“The more one understands Okinawa’s post-war history and the circumstances surrounding the base problem, the more one understands that the Henoko base construction plan is impossible and outrageous. The Japanese and US governments have exhausted all and every means to get an impossible project endorsed locally by dangling money in front of people.”36
Okinawan anger at the insult would not be assuaged by perfunctory expressions from Washington of “Sorry.”37

Ryukyu shimpo agreed. Maher had given, “unintentionally, a revelation of real US thinking,”38 adding, days later,

“At the heart of the Okinawa base problem is the structure of confrontation between the Okinawan people who are always protesting over the US-Japan security treaty and the US bases, and the governments of Japan and the US that are always striving to maintain and reinforce them. Throughout the post-war era the two governments have cleverly used policies of carrot and stick to divide Okinawan society and people and accomplish ‘free use of the bases’ whatever the cost.”39

Maher was removed from his post, but the apologies (by Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell in Tokyo and by Ambassador Roos in Okinawa) did indeed seem perfunctory. Maher’s defense, not mounted till some weeks later, was blanket denial. He simply accused the students of lying, and in an interview, (in Japanese with the Wall St. Journal on 14 April) of fabricating their evidence “in an attempt to damage the bilateral relationship.”40

Maher was not dismissed, however, but merely retired, apparently with full honours. His retirement was postponed from the day after it was submitted to allow him to accept appointment, immediately following the Fukushima earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis, to coordinate US government disaster relief operations with Japanese and other governments and agencies. Maher’s appointment to head the US end of the biggest joint US-Japan operation in history (commonly known through the Pentagon’s role as “Operation Tomodachi,” Tomodachi meaning friend) made clear that official Washington found nothing untoward in his remarks. Maher’s colleague, Michael Green, former special assistant to the president for national security affairs and senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council during the Bush administration, defended him, saying “Maher is a veteran Japan hand who knows the politics of Okinawa better than just about anyone.”41

Upon his eventual, delayed retirement (6 April) from government, Maher immediately transferred, in the fashion that Japanese would describe as amakudari – floating down on a silken parachute from the public sector to a lucrative post in the private sector- becoming a senior adviser and consultant (specialist on Japan) to a high-powered international consortium, with responsibility in particular for resolving the problem of disposal of the radioactive wastes from the Fukushima reactors.42 One month into his new job, in this capacity he was welcomed at the Prime Minister’s residence for a 90 minute meeting, a rare event for any private business person, particularly for one who had been declared persona non grata just two months earlier, and for whose behavior the US government has issued high level apologies, surely unprecedented.43 For the governments of the US and Japan to pass over the abuse Maher had heaped on Japan, especially Okinawa, and the apologies that had been proffered and accepted for them in this way, was to expose the depths of contempt for Japan in official Washington and the corresponding depths of self-abnegation in official Tokyo.

5. The Levin-Webb-McCain shock

But while the Kan government girded its loins for a renewed assault on Henoko and Takae (the base complex and the helipads), official Washington confronted a soaring deficit, two (by some counts three or even four) failed, deadlocked, and prodigiously expensive wars, a rising China, and spreading social and economic crisis and political gridlock over the budget and social programs. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, stated that “the biggest threat we have to our national security is our debt.” A non-partisan Congressional committee was set up in May 2010 to identify defense sending cuts. It was headed by Democrat Barney Frank and Republican Ron Paul. Frank had unambiguously stated, “We don’t need marines in Okinawa. They’re a hangover from a war that ended 65 years ago,” and he and Paul agreed that military spending had to be drastically cut and one way to do it was by reducing US forces based overseas.44 In these circumstances, a high-level Congressional “razor gang” examined commitments and sought areas in which to rein in expenditure, paying special attention to the overseas basing structure, and within that to the Futenma return/replacement pledge that had been made no advance since 1996, and to the Guam International Agreement.

In April 2011, the senate team of Karl Levin (Chair of the Armed Services Committee) and Jim Webb (former secretary of the Navy and current chair of the Foreign Relations sub-committee on East Asia and the Pacific) visited Tokyo and Okinawa (and Korea) to study the situation. In Tokyo, Kan’s government assured them that the project, despite delays, would go ahead. In Okinawa, however, the message they received was very different. The Governor told them it would be “extremely difficult” (read: impossible) to proceed, and the Okinawan daily Ryukyu shimpo addressed them (and through them the US Senate) with an “Open Letter” asking that the facilities at Futenma be removed “altogether” from Okinawa and expressing hope and anxiety as to how “American democracy handles this test.”45

“Do we want a situation in which every time the United States sneezes, Japan follows; in which if the United States orders Japan to turn to the right that is exactly what happens? Or do we want a situation in which both parties respect each other’s opinions and do not hesitate to state their position on matters, however difficult that may be. Which kind of U.S.-Japan relations would you prefer?
… Okinawa faced many trials and tribulations during the reign of the U.S. military government, which took control of Okinawan people’s land at the point of a bayonet and used bulldozers to build military bases. They blatantly violated the basic human rights of the local people with outrageous behavior and placed limitations on Okinawa’s autonomy.

… In April 1996, the Japanese and U.S. governments agreed that the United States would return the land used by Futenma Air Station, which is located in a densely populated area, to Okinawa on the basis that the facilities would be moved to an alternative location within the prefecture. However, local Okinawans have consistently opposed the construction of such replacement facilities.
The Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima and all the heads of the various municipalities of Okinawa are opposed to the agreement reached by the Japanese and U.S. governments by which the U.S. military would relocate the Futenma Air Station facilities to a coastal area of Nago City. Okinawa’s prefectural assembly passed a resolution calling for the Futenma Air Station to be relocated out of the prefecture or out of Japan altogether, and in the national election, all politicians who accepted the option of relocation of the air station within the prefecture lost their seats.
… The U.S. government … should feel guilty for neglecting what is clearly a dangerous situation. … Okinawan people feel that they were sacrificed in the name of defense of the main islands of Japan during the Battle of Okinawa and that the same occurred after the war in the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. …

… We consider that the closure and removal of the facilities at Futenma is necessary to rebuild good neighborly relations between the U.S. and Okinawa and we hope that you sense and accept the sincerity of the “spirit of Okinawa.” To respect the will of the people of Okinawa, please show us the true worth of American democracy…”

The Asia-Pacific Journal (so far as we know) was the sole place outside Okinawa that reproduced this document. But Senators Levin and Webb undoubtedly read it, and when, weeks later, they issued their report, it was a bombshell. Senators Levin and Webb, joined for the occasion by former Republican presidential candidate and ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, John McCain, issued a joint statement declaring the realignment plans “unrealistic, unworkable, and unaffordable.”46

It was, as Webb put it in his longer statement of their thinking, “a massive, multi-billion dollar undertaking, requiring extensive landfill, destruction and relocation of many existing facilities, and in a best-case scenario, several years of effort – some estimate that the process could take as long as ten years.” 47

Collectively, the three proposed that the Pentagon set about

“Revising the Marine Corps force realignment implementation plan for Guam to consist of a presence with a permanently-assigned headquarters element bolstered by deployed, rotating combat units that are home-based elsewhere, and consideration of off-island training sites.

Examining the feasibility of moving Marine Corps assets at MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, rather than building an expensive replacement facility at Camp Schwab – while dispersing a part of Air Force assets now at Kadena to Andersen Air Base in Guam and/or other locations in Japan.”48

The proposals, they insisted, would save billions in taxpayer dollars, keep U.S. military forces in the region, reduce the timing of sensitive political issues surrounding Futemna, and reduce the American footprint on Okinawa.

These views were supported in broad outline by other high-level Washington insiders, most prominently Marine Corps General James Jones, who, till October 2010 had been Obama’s national security adviser. In one respect, Jones went even further, saying that “it really did not matter where the Marines were,”49 thus utterly negating the widely repeated view that Okinawa was crucial to their functioning in the regional and global frame of deterrence.

The Kan government was profoundly shocked that such views should be adopted by some at the highest levels of power in Washington. Prime Minister Kan and cabinet secretary Edano insisted, rather forlornly, that Levin and his colleagues were not the American government and that what counted were government to government agreements. The fact was, however, that the Levin group concentrated enormous power and its recommendations will be hard to resist given constrained budget circumstances. The government of Japan will simply have to wait on Washington to decide what it would do. The trump card Japan has played from time to time over four decades to ensure that the Marines not leave Okinawa – the payment of substantial sums of money – is more difficult to play now because Japan itself is broke, bowed under the heaviest debt burden of all OECD countries, and facing huge reconstruction costs for its devastated northeast. All that can be said for sure is that its bureaucrats, following their past record, will pull out all stops to try to put together a sufficiently attractive package to entice Senators Webb, Levin and McCain (and General Jones) back to the Henoko proposal. And that the Webb-Levin-McCain vision cannot but strengthen Okinawan resistance to moving ahead to block the Henoko base plan.

6. Conclusion

The US-Japan relationship appears strong. Academic and public figures constantly affirm it to be so. Most would agree with the influential scholar Gerald Curtis, who said early in 2011 “The Obama administration has learned from its mistakes and in my view has gotten its Japan policy just about right.”50Pundits generally agree that adjustments that have to be made are to be made essentially by Japan, to make the alliance “mature” in line with the recommendations of the various reports that have been issued from Washington over the years. It is Japan that needs to make legislative and if necessary constitutional changes to better serve US strategic ends.51 There is an alternative view, but it is very much a minority one:

“For the more that Japan defaults to ready dependence on the United States in security and foreign policy, the more it will simply compound Japanese concerns over the risks of entrapment and abandonment by its ally over issues such as North Korea and the East China Sea, and the more that this will frustrate Japanese ambitions as a major power and engender mutual suspicions within the alliance and thus weaken its basis.”52

This most peculiar of state relationships is shown by evidence such as that discussed in this paper to be characterized by the match between servility on one side and condescension and contempt on the other. For want of a better word, I have called it a “Client State” one. On the American side, the conviction that Japan is, after all, an American creation and its government a kind of branch office, rooted in the experiences of war and occupation, combines with the pragmatic attraction of the billions of dollars that can be extracted each year in subsidies from the Japanese government. Kevin Maher alluded to this when he concluded his remarks to the American students by saying, “We’ve got a very good deal with Japan.” But on the Japanese side it is more difficult to understand how servility should be the unquestioned choice of men and women of intelligence and presumed personal integrity. Those in its grip appear to be convinced that Japan’s national interest is best served by it. The best outcome of the recent spate of revelations would be if it were to awaken the Japanese people in general to the harsh and unequal reality of the relationship.

The gradual exposure of the secret deals that surrounded Okinawan reversion and US nuclear strategy and more recently of the multiple layers of deception and deceit shown by the secret and confidential dispatches released in May 2011 have thus far had no apparent effect on general public and media perceptions. Of the overall Wiki cache of 251,000 diplomatic documents, by mid-May 2011 only 12,648, less than 5 per cent had been released. Their authenticity has thus far not been seriously challenged. The Asahi shimbun says that it gained access to “nearly 7,000″ documents related to US-Japan negotiations in January 2011, of which in May it released a mere 54.53 What it released, though a tiny fraction of the whole cache, opened a devastating window on the inner workings of the relationship. When, or if, it will see fit to release the remainder is unknown.

The Government of Japan has studiously avoided comment on the authenticity or significance of the materials and the national media, including the Asahi that initially published them, has paid little serious attention to them. No public figure has yet demanded a public or parliamentary inquiry. To date, the most serious analysis has been that published in the Okinawan daily, Ryukyu shimpo.54 To take just three of those who contributed essays to it:

Magosaki Ukeru, former Director General of the Intelligence and Analysis Bureau of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“The Democratic Party government elected in 2009 planned to revise relations with the US, including concerning the Futenma problem. When the US issued warnings, leading figures in the departments of Foreign Affairs and Defense acted contrary to the intent of the Prime Minister. What they did was contrary to the principles of democracy. What has become of the country, Japan? It has lapsed into a chronic ailment of lack of self-hood.”

Amaki Naoto, former Japanese ambassador to Lebanon:

“The crime of the authorities is so serious that, if the US has tricked the Government of Japan then the Japanese people must accuse it of deception, and if the Government of Japan has lent a helping hand to the US to deceive the people of Japan and has improperly and unnecessarily handed over the Japanese people’s hard-earned tax monies, then the Japanese people must likewise accuse it of betrayal.”

Arasaki Moriteru, Okinawa University emeritus professor and distinguished historian of Okinawa:
“What is exposed, all too vividly and in concrete detail, in the Wiki diplomatic cables is just how pathetic and decadent are Japan’s political and elite bureaucratic circles. We have seen what we did not want to see: the behavior of politicians and elite bureaucrats who, while talking all the time of ‘national interest’ and spouting chauvinistic nationalism, were serving the United States and had assimilated to the American ‘national interest’.”

The sensitivity to the Wiki revelations, as before that to the mitsuyaku, the Hatoyama “confession,” the Maher affair and the Levin-Webb-McCain shock, is naturally strongest in Okinawa, since the fault lines of the national and regional system run beneath its islands. For the past 15 years, the Okinawan people and their elected representatives have committed themselves to resist a system that prefers US military and strategic ends to democratic and constitutional principle, and that subjects Okinawa to permanently bearing the disproportionate burden of the US military presence. Despite the inequality of the contest, the astonishing outcome is that Okinawa has, in effect, seized the advantage over Tokyo and Washington in defying plans for the new base at Henoko.

By its mass, non-violent resistance, Okinawa’s citizenry has for 15 years held at bay the combined forces of the two most powerful countries on earth. They have yet to overthrow a government, but they successfully blocked one Prime Minister (Koizumi) between 2001 and 2005, forced the resignation of another (Hatoyama) in 2010, and now stand firm against another, and against US-Japan plans for a new Okinawan base. Although 2010 was the “50th Anniversary” of the 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty, the long-awaited bilateral statement to signify the “deepening” of the relationship has had to be repeatedly postponed. Both the planned June meeting of US and Japanese Foreign and Defense Ministers (the “2+2″) and the Kan visit to Washington that was to follow it have been put on hold. With no sign of implementation of the agreements of 1996, 2006, 2009, or 2010, the prospect of the US and Japan agreeing on a statement of vision for the future is not high.

In a dictatorship, the Henoko “replacement” project could still proceed, with citizens who stood in the way being arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. What the Kan government seems still unable to recognize, but Washington (or at least Senators Levin, Webb, and McCain and General Jones) has begun to concede, is that, at least so long as democratic institutions survive, there is no way to persuade or even to compel the submission of determined opponents, and therefore no way the Henoko project will proceed. After 15 years of struggle, the Okinawa movement has accomplished a signal victory. It has saved Oura Bay. It may be only one step in a struggle that seems to know no end, but it is a hugely significant one.

In December 2010, the State Department’s Kevin Maher referred contemptuously to Okinawa and Okinawans as mendacious and duplicitous: “masters of deception.” Those, however, are precisely the terms that have to be applied, strictly speaking, to describe the treatment that the governments of Japan and the US have meted out to the Okinawan people for four decades.


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