“Residents of Okinawa Island have recently been confronted with mounting evidence that their land used to be a major storage site for the toxic U.S. defoliant Agent Orange. generation Agent Orange survivors.
On her final day on the island, Bowser attended a screening of the documentary “Living the Silent Spring” at Okinawa University in Naha. As testament to the islanders’ worries over dioxin, the rainy weekday screening drew over 100 residents. Also in attendance was Seiryo Arakaki, chairman of the Special Committee of Base Issues, and four municipal assembly members whose constituencies host U.S. bases where Agent Orange had allegedly been sprayed.
Following the screening, Bowser told the audience that she felt an affinity with Okinawa people, whose prefecture had been devastated by fighting during World War II and continues to host the majority of U.S. bases in Japan. “My few days here in Okinawa have made a lasting impression on me. When it comes to the legacy of war, you have suffered so much, but I have been moved by your power to see through the ravages of loss and find strength in each other,” she said.
Following a plea for Washington to award compensation to U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange on Okinawa, Bowser ended her visit with reassurances to residents that they were not alone in their struggle.
“I urge you to start organizing with each other and reach out to international Agent Orange communities. Demand full disclosure from the Japanese government as to the storage and use of Agent Orange in Okinawa. Now is not a time to stay silent.”
Masami Kawamura, cofounder of Okinawa Outreach, the citizens’ group at the forefront of demands for a full inquest into Agent Orange usage on the island, believes Bowser’s trip paved the way for the struggle for justice that lies ahead. “By sharing her knowledge and experience, Heather has inspired many people. From now on, we will work together in solidarity with her. She has shown us that we need to not only look back at the past, but also work together for our future.”
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