Women say no to U.S. bases
By Minnie Bruce Pratt
The United States is stepping up threats against North Korea
and increasing its military presence in the Philippines. The
Navy has resumed using the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a
bombing range to prepare for military actions in other parts of
the world. Around the world, U.S. militarism is wreaking untold
havoc on people's lives.
But resistance is gathering against this U.S. onslaught.
This resistance includes an international coalition of
anti-imperialist women's groups that is organizing
The East Asia-U.S.-Puerto Rico Women's Network Against U.S.
Militar ism was formed after the rape of a 12-year-old girl in
Okinawa by a U.S. soldier in 1995. This event galvanized a
movement on that island to stop violence against women. The
movement made connections to other women's groups in Korea, the
Philippines and Japan, and later to women opposing the U.S.
occupation and bombing of Vieques.
The groups emphasize the links among violence against women,
economic exploit ation of women, and the presence of U.S. bases
in their countries.
The member organizations also emphatically oppose the
promotion of war through images and words that vilify gay
people as well as women. The network rejects the current wave
of militarism for its glorification of rigid gender roles and a
Joined by U.S. women dedicated to opposing Washington's
military policies, the network has held conferences in
Washington, D.C., Okinawa, and Seoul, South Korea, to
coordinate its work internationally.
Co-founder Margo Okazawa-Rey points out that the sexual
exploitation of women is an integral part of the U.S. military
presence in East Asia. In South Korea, for instance, young
women are brought in from the Philippines and the former USSR
to work as prostitutes at the U.S. bases. They supplement South
Korean women already being exploited.
The network supports grassroots women's groups like My
Sister's Place, which has offered counseling and vocational
training to women in a U.S.-base camp town in South Korea since
The network has also protested the current U.S. war drive
against Iraq in actions coordinated internationally among its
members. Okazawa-Rey, in a recent speech at Hamilton College in
Clinton, N.Y., pointed out that war disproportionately affects
women in catastrophic ways.
For instance, 80 percent of small-arms casualties are women
and children, far outnumbering other combatants. Some 75
percent of the 50 million people uprooted by war in the world
Of U.S. accusations that Iraq and North Korea present a
threat of "weapons of mass destruction," Okazawa-Rey said of
the United States, "What country actually has used weapons of
mass destruction in a way that has devastated generations of
Okazawa-Rey described militarism and capitalism as
inextricably linked. She quoted former U.S. Secretary of
Defense William Cohen, who said, "Corporations open markets,
and we'll keep them open."
This global capitalism has resulted in the displacement of
millions of women all over the world, as they migrate,
desperately looking for work. The women are also exploited in
export-processing zones, working relentlessly long hours at
"Our work is part of opposing the bigger war machinery,"
said Okazawa-Rey of the women's network. And she pointed out
that the United States has used defending women as an excuse
for its attacks, such as the war on Afghanistan.
She called on the larger anti-war movement to support the
network's goals by integrating an analysis of gender throughout
all anti-war work. Her message to the movement: "Stop the
deployment of women as justification for war."
Reprinted from the March 13, 2003, issue of
Workers World newspaper
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