2000.10.02 16:09 2000.10.02 16:09 | Green Society

Do not trust the US military



An activist from Green Korea United had the chance to visit Puerto Rico from August 12th to 20th thanks to the invitation from a peace organization called Fellowship of Reconciliation, which is actively participating in the peaceful resolution of US bases in the island of Vieques.  15 people from different countries and state such as Korea, Hawaii, Colombia, Panama and the US participated in this international gathering for the understanding, support and solidarity of the Vieques issue.  The US marine has been operating the bombing site in this petit state since 1938.  Because of the bombing drill and the stationed US bases, the people of Vieques had suffered from environmental catastrophe and military crime for the last 60 years.  On the other side of the earth in Puerto Rico there was another Maehyangri, said the Korean representative.


Another Maehyangri, in the Island of Vieques

With the population of 3.8 million the little island of Puerto Rico had been occupied by Spain and in 1917 it became a part of the US territory.  So even in 1938 when the first bombing drill started and when the land was forced into requisition over half of the residents had to move, in exchange for a mere $20 without any protest whatsoever, to Santa Clause Island and to the US.
The Viequez bombing site became famous on the 19th of April last year when a young man named David Sanez was killed by an activated bomb while guarding the east guard post of Viequez.  Enraged by the incident the residents of Vieques broke through the iron fence of the land that had been forbidden for 60 years and occupied the drilling site and went into rally.  200 residents raised 14 tents and named the place peace camp.  The rally went for a year; they built temporary churches, raised cattles and planted crops.  Some brave young couples would marry in the peace camp and many others would visit and encourage the people.  Thus the US military had to stop the bombing and Viequez were able to be free for some instance.
But peace did not last for long.  On may 4th of this year the US military proclaimed that they would reinitiate the bombing drill.  The federal government agents and US marine arrested the 200 people rallying inside the site.  But this instead brought world attention to the peace activist and brought solidarity among the Puerto Rican people.  Peace activist from all over the world visited the Vieques.  Religious people, politicians, students and intellectuals alike all gathered despite their diverse groups and ideologies.  As an act of civil disobedience the residents of Vasquez deliberately penetrated the US bases and were captured.  In the space of two months from April to June, 400 people have been captured.  Even at this moment there is a tug between the people trying to enter camp Garcia and the police trying to stop them.

Dr. George Fernandez and Lilio Marquez, both environmental experts from the independent party, stayed in the peace camp for a period of one year to make an environmental research in the bombing area.  Instead of the beautiful floras, forest and diverse creatures of the island there were craters with a diameter of 50~60 meters wide and unexploded bombs and rockets, also old military wastes such as tanks and helicopters surrounded the island.  To the astonishment of the residents of Vieques the results of detailed  investigation on the weapons detected showed inert bomb, neipam, Agent Orange and even the much criticized radioactive bomb depleted Uranium.
What is even more surprising is that not only is US testing its newest of weapons but it is also making profits by lending Vieques to others.  According to Dr. Lilio Marques Viequez is not only the bombing site for the US marines but also a military testing ground for new weapons for Venezuela, Great Britain, Guatemala and other NATO member states.  The US is exploiting $80 million a year for lending Vieques to other countries.


The disaster brought about by the bombing of US military

For the last 60 years the bombing has caused severe adverse effects on the people.  The cancer mortality has abruptly risen since the 1990s, and in a research made by the Medical School of Puerto Rico the death rate was 27% higher in the Vieques Island than in the mainland Puerto Rico from 1985 to 1989.  In 1999 Dr. Collin George from the Puerto Rico University did a research on the contamination of heavy metals on the 29 residents living in the Vieques Island.  Among those researched 34% were contaminated with mercury toxin, 55% with lead, 69% with arsenic, 69% with cadmium and 90% with aluminum.
From the analysis made by Dr. Carmen Otiz of the environmental society in the Medical University of Puerto Rico, the reason for such a high percentage of cancer among patients is because   It is due to the water pollution that contaminated the food chain in the ecological system caused by the military training that entered into the human body.  Toxic chemical matters that were bombed out during the military training are starting to erode and high explosives such as TNT and RDX were discovered.
After the research was announced the small Island of Vieques with a population of 9,300 were all ready to struggle for their rights.

At a public hearing for economic development plan in the city hall of Vieques, on August 15th, the place was filled with outburst of cries and slogans regarding the evacuation of US military bases.  Outside city hall there was a street demonstration with hundreds of people urging the US military to stop bombing.
After the original peace camp have been forced out, Robert Rabin rented a house in front of Camp Garcia and continues a new peace camp. The protest against US military base must develop into the identity movement of the Puerto Rican people says the staunch activist.
Since Puerto Rico is a US territory most people, as an American citizen, are accustomed to the pension and social security system.  Thus the majority silenced the Vieques issue while the minority suffered the consequences.  That is why the protest against US military bases should develop into the Puerto Rican identity issue.

The peace camp is now filled with peace movement activists from all over the world.  This place is seemed a lot similar to the Maehyangri Inhabitants Task Force Office.  On the walls there are messages of encouragement, folding beds for those who work here and the displayed materials for demonstrations.  An American named Iiolet Francis (19) who helps with the chores and the guide around, first participated after she came here as a tourist.
The Residents of Vieques spend most of their time on the anti-US base movement.  Even the young children participate actively in demonstrations and cry out Vieques Marinano (We dont need the US military in Vieques).  This shows us how much damage the bombing has caused against the people living here.
The very day we visited the office, we could see for sometime children from 6 to 8 years old drumming and jeering at the US military car in front of camp Garcia.  For them it was as natural as playing another game of toy soldiers.

Another activist in the peace camp was Emma Mievas who calls herself the manager of this camp and who is also an activist for womens rights.  Emma spent her childhood hiding inside a closet trembling with her elder sister while the US soldiers were searching for women prostitutes.  But the misfortune of being born in a small country close to the US did not end in her childhood.  Two of her sons and a cousin died of cancer and she herself, as she says with tears, had to go through painful medical treatment.
Whenever dark clouds start to form in the east coast of Viequez, I start becoming afraid.  I am very worried that my grandson and granddaughter will live their lives here.  For sure, the US military should not be in this land.
As the demonstrations became intense and international press were on the outlook, the Clinton Administration promised that if the public vote decides to close the site, then it will do so in 3 years time with $40 million for compensation.  But the inhabitants believe that the immediate closure of the site is the only sure thing and rejects the proposal made.  The overall public opinion is that they cannot trust the negotiation plan made by the US.


Do not trust the US military

Edward Makanani (47) who has been working 13 years to resolve the Kaholabi Island bombing problem, the eight biggest in Hawaii, has been chanting repeatedly to do not trust the US military, during the activities of the foreign representatives.  The Kaholabi Island was sold for just one dollar to the US marine for bombing drills.  The Hawaiians started a long struggle of 50 years and finally got the US to stop bombing in 1990.  And since 1993 the US government has been investing $400 million on an environmental purification project.  But the government project on the environment turned out to be a hoax says Mr. Makanini.
When the contract was made with the US military we did not know when it meant to spend $400 million for 10 years.  The US military after delaying 5 years started the purification project in 1998; even the trees that we planted were all dying.  50 years of bombing created a serious problem by causing soil and water pollution.  With 3 years left from the contract the chances of environmental recovery is very weak.  It requires immense amount of money and time.
Currently in South Korea there are 95 US military bases including the one in Maehyangri.  The Korean government cannot do anything legal to the crimes and environmental damage caused by the military bases.  In many cases such as dumping toxic fluid in Yongsan base, discharging of sewage in Gunsan base and oil leak in Osan, investigation was not possible because of the unfair Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
According to SOFA, Korea is not allowed to demand any compensation for environmental damages caused by the US military. The US has no obligations to build any environmental facilities within their bases.  In these circumstances, the US military in returning gradually the non-military bases we cannot but think who will be responsible for the recovery of the damages done.
If there arent any environmental articles in SOFA the tremendous amount of recovery cost will have to be relied on the Korean government, eventually the people will be burdened for the financial cost.  As it is seen in the Kaholabi case, the polluted land caused by military operations will take tremendous amount of money and time.  Maehyangri should not make the same mistakes as Viequez nor the Kaholabi.
There are some similarities between Maehyangri and Viequez.  For long periods of time the residents nearby the bases where the primary victims of noise, soil and water pollution.  But they are not alone anymore because many people from all over the world are with them.
Until the gun powdered lands of Maehyangri and Viequez return to their beautiful faces.  Everybody should do their best to understand and help them in everyway they can.  It is a fight between David and Goliath, and we still have hope.  

Peace in Vieques (Paz Para Viequez!), Peace in Maehyangri! (Paz Para Maehyang-ri!).
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Posted by GreenKorea
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  1. 2012.02.18 09:21 신고
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    내가 찾고 싶었던 두 주 ! 이 사이트를 읽을 !
  2. 2012.07.06 12:15 신고
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    동산 나는 후회 더 정말
  3. 2012.07.25 15:10 신고
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    또 다른 분에게 받은것인데 2010년 아송페라고 합니

               

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