Military protesters including Veterans for Peace's Dave Patterson (front, right) and Japanese Councillor Keiko Itokazu (turquoise blouse, center front)
A group of local anti-war protesters got a boost Thursday afternoon (August 17) when their freeway overpass picket in opposition to the annual Miramar Air Show received an approving visit from members of the Japanese national legislature.
"The air show sells war," says Veterans for Peace member Dave Patterson, whose group's protest of the annual event is entering its second year. "We're trying to get people to realize that this event is all about brainwashing people to buy into the militarism of the American government.
Disneyland of War
"Our children are being dazzled with weapons and air displays," Patterson says, pointing to the 2016 documentary Disneyland of War as commentary on the alluring nature of pro-military festivals.
As cars passing below offered honks and waves of support (or derision — the distance rendered the opinions of drivers below a bit murky), Patterson tied the protest to the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, where Veterans for Peace's San Diego chapter last year sent members to participate in a nonviolent opposition to expansion of U.S. military interests.
"Okinawa has basically been surrendered to the U.S. military by the Japanese government," Patterson continued. "They've lost their land, they're losing their culture, their reefs — they're losing everything as the military expands."
Though the southeastern islands of Okinawa comprise less than 1 percent of Japan's land mass, they're home to roughly 75 percent of U.S. forces stationed in the country.
Keiko Itokazu has been in politics since 1992, and for the past 13 years has served as an Okinawa representative to the House of Councillors in the Japanese Diet (roughly equivalent to the U.S. Senate). She joined other members of the Japanese legislature on Thursday for a tour of San Diego military installations before attending international labor meetings commencing in Los Angeles next week.
"In Okinawa, we feel very much that we would not like to allow any new base construction," Itokazu said in an interview, speaking with the assistance of a translator. "About 80 percent of Okinawa's residents are opposed to construction of the new base at Futenma. Despite that opposition, the governments of Japan and the U.S. want to push ahead….
"One of the main contentions is that if you build this new base, you will destroy the natural environment," Itokazu continued, noting threats to the region's more than 260 endangered species of flora and fauna.
Despite opposition to new bases and particularly to operation of the V-22 Osprey (a helicopter that has raised safety concerns following several crashes resulting in fatalities, including one last December in Nago City, Okinawa), Itokazu stressed a "desire to have a friendly relationship with Americans."
"Veterans for Peace have often come to Okinawa. We know that they are aware of the contradictions from such a military presence there. So, we wish to show solidarity for their work here, as they do our efforts in Okinawa."
Before departing to other points on a military-themed tour organized by the Peace Resource Center of San Diego, the Japanese delegation posed with Veterans for Peace members holding signs reading in Japanese, "We will not give up/No new base in Futenma."