US military expansion is aggressive not defensive, warn Pacific peace activists

August 10, 2023
Monaeka Flores and Shinako Oyakawa
Monaeka Flores (left) and Shinako Oyakawa (right). Photo: Peter Boyle

There was one clear message from visiting Indigenous Pacific peace activists Monaeka Flores (from Guahan/Guam) and Shinako Oyakawa (from Okinawa): the massive United States military expansion of its bases all around the Pacific is aggressive and has the dystopian objective of “winning” a nuclear war at the expense of the people on whose land these military bases are sited.

Flores and Oyakawa came to Australia to address local peace activists during the recent US-led Talisman Sabre war exercises centred in Queensland. These military exercises primarily involve the US and Australia, but included contingents from Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, France, Britain, Canada and Germany. The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand attended as observers.

Talisman Sabre’s main objective is to develop “interoperability” between the US and its military allies in what Australian defence minister Richard Marles described as “high-end, multi-domain warfare capabilities”.

Flores and Oyakawa warned that this could include fighting a nuclear war. To develop these “warfare capabilities” US military bases are being expanded in Okinawa, Guahan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia.

While these new base expansions “are being presented as an opportunity to defend our islands, they are really an opportunity for the US to project force”, said Flores.

They will allow the US to “provoke conflict in the region without our consent”.

Oyakawa said that the people in Okinawa were being told that building these new bases “will reduce the burden on Okinawa”.

“We are being told ‘we can reduce your burden and send the military to Guam’ but our situation doesn’t change while the burden is now put on other Indigenous communities”.

The Japanese government told the people of Okinawa that their burden would be eased by shifting some military training to Darwin, she added.

Flores said the lies justifying the spread and rearrangement of US bases and installations around the Pacific are cover for a very dangerous prospect in battlefield logic.

“Guahan, Okinawa and the Philippines are being set up to be first strike communities. That is part of the rationale for what is happening here with Talisman Sabre and AUKUS [the Australia-US-Britain defence pact].

“The US demand for Australia to spend all this money on nuclear submarines is in anticipation of our annihilation.”

“When the US military outposts in our islands are destroyed, then the forces based in Australia will come to the rescue of the US.”

“Instead of using all this money for warfare, this money could be used for housing, for education, for healthcare, for food security and water security. All these are genuine security issues. Instead, trillions of dollars are being used by the US to cause more harm to the environment and guarantee the total destruction of many endangered species, the contamination of our water sources, the desecration of our sacred sites and keeping us as colonised people under colonial violence.

“Of course this is all connected to capitalism. Some people are getting very wealthy making a lot of money from these war industries.

“Capitalism supports white supremacy. These are all interconnected issues.

“We really have to challenge ourselves to think of the ways we can combat economic colonialism, educational colonialism and the colonial media. We have to break down this massive leviathan, this monster that is the US military industrial complex.”

Flores said that these developments were horrific and “can feel quite overwhelming but we have to draw strength from our solidarity”.

“As Pacific peoples we must demand peace not just for the Pacific but for the world.

“Australia has a tremendous opportunity to be a voice for the global community; to say we refuse to be part of war, we want to be a country for peace.”


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