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Issue #1922      July 6, 2020

Report: “World Beyond War” webinar, 20th June 2020

Enforced isolation has not been such a bad thing. It’s allowed me to link up with like-minded people around the world via the internet, and I’d like to share the webinar discussion held by World Beyond War, which looked at the Rim of the Pacific Exercise’s (RIMPAC) impact on our region. World Beyond War is a global non-violent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.

It was uplifting to note that at least sixty-three people took part in the debate, no doubt many of whom live in regions affected by these military exercises. Kawena ‘ulaokala Kapathua from Hawaii showed a video of bombs dropped during a military naval exercise blowing up old ships and spoke about the effect this had on marine life. It was amazing to learn that the exercises were only 55 kms off the coast and close to fishing areas. Maria from Guam spoke about finding whales stranded on beaches after the war games, and the impact of militarisation. She felt that, because of Guam’s colonial status, the US military does as it likes: something it can’t do to the same extent in the Philippines or Japan. This upsets the local people who work actively to block some of the US military’s plans.

Currently, the military continues to do training, even as Guam remains in lockdown due to the pandemic. The latest examples: the USS Theodore Roosevelt brought in hundreds of COVID-19 cases, and the Rim of the Pacific exercises are still planned for Hawaii. This shows that the military isn’t concerned about the security of the people in the region. The double standard is blatant, as it would be unthinkable for the US to admit thousands of people during the ongoing pandemic, but it is happy to do so in the Pacific.

Environmental issues were raised but not in detail. It is, however, a known fact that there are still eighty contaminated military dump sites on Guam with the concomitant toxic chemical pollution they entail. Another issue was sovereignty: the US won’t grant political sovereignty to places it has control over, giving the excuse that the security of the Pacific Islands is protected.

Virginia Lacsa Suarez of the Philippines spoke about the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which she wanted to be scrapped, mentioning that live ammunition had been used on protestors. Speaking about women’s rights and the democracy movement, she remarked on the rapes, environmental degradation, and the 100 years of destruction and interference in political affairs by the US, pointing out that its people were suffering the same problems as black people world-wide. The VFA only survives because of the American military presence.

Margaret Beavis, the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) President from Melbourne, also spoke about the secrecy of the US military in South Korea during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that they were a law unto themselves. She queried whether US troops in Darwin were entering quarantine. In her view, the Australian military wasn’t keen on holding RIMPAC but are under the thumb of the US who are ramping up feelings against China.

Val from NZ, equated RIMPAC and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, saying that the principle of defunding the police should also apply to the military. It was money that should be spent on the people. She also spoke about marine depletion and institutionalised violence, and suggested the need for Pacific Regional Independence.

There’s a lot of resistance against the US in Hawaii, Philippines, and Guam who want more say in what the US does. Maria says their Governor doesn’t do much: her grandfather’s land had been repossessed by the US and although there’s now a re-colonisation movement which is working out options, it needs more power.

Annette Brownlie of the Independent Peace for Australia Network said IPAN is building awareness and amassing organisations for peace, mentioning that Denis Doherty was on the Hiroshima Day Committee. In reply to Margaret Beavis’s comment about how we challenge a dominant military, she thought that IPAN is a good start. Val recommended making connections and said we’re living on occupied lands and need to connect with BLM to challenge white supremacist domination, saying that “national security” needed deconstructing and the Constitution needed reform. The power of the corporations also needed challenging.

Leah Bolger, from the US, suggested building a world-wide organisation fighting against military propaganda and suggested that a Declaration of Peace needed to be signed.

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