OPINIONS

Sun 16 Jun 2024 1:22 pm - Jerusalem Time

From Okinawa to Palestine: How the US military machine connects occupied territories

Adam Miyashiro & Nozomi Nakaganeku-Saito

 

The shared experience of settler-colonial dispossession and western military aggression helps explain why Okinawans see themselves in Palestinians

 

In the past two weeks alone, Israel has perpetrated three massacres in Gaza that managed to shock the world and trigger widespread condemnation.

Flooding social media were scenes that the head of Unrwa called "hell on earth" and Doctors Without Borders described as "apocalyptic".

A raging inferno engulfing a camp for displaced Palestinians, a headless child, dismembered limbs, and scores of maimed and burnt bodies appeared against a soundtrack of explosions and the piercing screams of terrified women and children.

Even those who have closely followed the daily horror show in Gaza over the last eight months - the mass civilian casualties and total destruction of its infrastructure - could not fathom the savagery of dropping a 110kg bomb on plastic tents.

Yet for US officials, the 26 May Rafah tent massacre, which killed 45 people and injured more than 200 others, did not cross President Joe Biden's "red line" for halting weapons shipments.


With no accountability, Israel has continued its genocidal campaign in Gaza unabated - as part of a settler colonial project to eliminate native Palestinians that began seven decades ago.

The following week, on 6 June, an Israeli air strike on al-Sardi Unrwa school killed around 40 displaced Palestinian civilians, including children. Two days later, on 8 June, the Nuseirat camp was brutally assaulted by land and air, killing 274 Palestinians.

The harrowing attacks have placed a spotlight on the role of US-supplied weapons and munitions in perpetrating a war that has killed at least 37,296 Palestinians and injured more than 85,000 others since 7 October 2023.

Indeed, US weapons shipments are key to Israel's genocidal violence - and they reveal the sprawling network of the US military war machine that connects settler colonial and militarist violence on two occupied lands, Okinawa and Palestine.

Shared weapons systems

All three recent strikes on Palestinian civilians in Gaza were carried out using US-manufactured weapons.

Both weapons experts and images captured revealed that the explosives used in Rafah and the UN school were US-made GBU-39 small-diameter bombs (SDB). The GBU-39 is a 110kg guided air-to-surface munition manufactured by defence contractor Boeing since 2005.

Since 7 October, the US and Israel have worked on various deals to manage the exchange of weapons and the aircraft systems to carry them

According to the US Air Force's fact sheet, the F-15E Strike Eagle is the only aircraft outfitted with the SDB weapons system. Future platforms designated for SDBs include the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-117, B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, F-22 Raptor, and the F-35 Lightning II.

The SDB is one of several weapons used in the Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) Golden Horde programme, which was launched in 2021.

Intended to advance Networked, Collaborative and Autonomous (NCA) weapons capabilities, the programme uses two weapons systems: the Collaborative Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (CMALD) and the Collaborative Small Diameter Bomb I (CDSB-I), the latter being a modified version of the GBU-39 SDB.

Since 7 October, the US and Israel have worked on various deals to manage the exchange of weapons like the SDB and the aircraft systems to carry them.

In January, the two nations signed a massive arms deal that included the supply of F-35 and F-15 fighter jets, the two systems equipped or designated for the SDB weapons system. In April, the US Congress approved an additional $26bn in aid to Israel, including $5bn to bolster air defences and bundle weapons shipments.

'Arsenal of democracy'

One weapon that has been frequently mentioned since Israel declared war on Gaza has been the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM for short.

Manufactured by Boeing, JDAM was developed in 1993 after the Gulf War and uses GPS locators to counter the effects of dust clouds in targeting systems. It can convert unguided "dumb bombs" to guided "smart bombs", meaning that the bombs can be remotely controlled and navigated.

The Israeli military has relied on it in Gaza since October and has killed hundreds of Palestinians in densely populated areas.

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From Okinawa to Palestine: How the US military machine connects occupied territories

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