This past weekend I attended a historic groundbreaking conference in Baltimore, organized by the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases. This conference adds a new element to the anti-war movement in the U.S. We aren’t just opposed to the wars, we are opposed to empire itself: the 800 military bases around the world in 80 countries that perpetuates endless war and the policies that follow.
We had panels speaking about different regions of the world: Africa, Asia, South America, Middle East, Europe, NATO, and Environmental Impacts of Military Bases. Each category focuses on the U.S. military impacts of bases in that region or country. You know one thing I didn’t hear during the entire conference? That the U.S. is protecting those countries and regions. In fact, quite the opposite.
Given that it has been said over and over that this conference was the best they have ever been to, I think the reason is because people gave up some of their power to empower the voices of those impacted. The conference could have been just the same ole veteran anti-war organizers giving the same talks, which is no problem because these people know their stuff. Many of them have been doing this for decades and they have so much to offer the younger generation of organizers. But these anti-war veteran activists gave up much of their spotlight and gave that time to people who have been impacted by U.S. military bases and militarism around the world.
People like Retired Col. Ann Wright and ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern mentioned my work in their talks. Ann even played a video (made by Hanayo Oya and myself) during her presentation. I saw people like Bruce Gagnon give up his speaking slot to me, someone who has only been in the movement a few years. I gave up some of my time to allow Okinawan-Americans to speak about their campaign, Justice For Hiroji Yamashiro (prominent anti-base leader in Okinawa). I saw Phil Wilayto give up his time for a Ukrainian activist to speak. I saw people who live in the empire empower those who are impacted by the empire. A beautiful sign of solidarity and an expansion of what it truly means to be anti-war.
To read further more in-depth reports on the conference, I highly recommend these three:
Mike Bryne: No U.S. Foreign Bases–a Call For Peace From a New Coalition.
Bruce Gagnon: Reflections on National No U.S. Foreign Military Bases.
Elliot Swain: Close The Military Bases! A Conference in Baltimore.
Watch videos from the conference here!
Here are some photos from news outlets in Okinawa, who covered much of the conference in Baltimore!