Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Groups Intend to Sue Navy, Feds

Published by on Feb. 10, 2016

By Dennis B. Chan

Environmental groups from the Northern Marianas Islands and nation-wide intend to challenge the Department of Navy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over an alleged failure to comply with Endangered Species Act and for ongoing live-fire and sea training in the Marianas Islands range, according to a notice of intent to sue these agencies dated Feb. 5.

“The Navy and the Service have violated and remain in ongoing violation of the ESA,” said David Henkin, an Earthjustice attorney, in the letter.

“If these violations of law are not cured within 60 days, [the groups] intend to file suit for declaratory and injunctive relief.”

Henkin’s letter appears to pin the grounds of a lawsuit on the Navy’s and Service’s alleged failure to reconsider the expansive military project in light of newly declared and threatened species in the Marianas.

The Navy fails “to insure that their military project will not likely jeopardize the continued existence of newly listed threatened or endangered species,” Henkin said.

The argument appears to center on the Navy’s continued and authorized training within the Marianas despite a lack of consultation with the wildlife service, after the Service’s declared 23 plant and animal species as endangered or threatened last October.

This consultation with the Service is required pursuant to the Endangered Species Act.
Henkin quotes the Service’s own words in their final rule on the matter: “The [Marianas Islands Training and Testing area] opens up every island within the Mariana Archipelago as a potential training site…which subsequently may result in negative impacts to any number of the 23 species addressed.”

The Service said the proposed actions include increasing in “training activities in Guam, Rota, Saipan, Tinian, Farallon de Medinilla (increase in bombing), and Pagan. Likely negative impacts include, but are not limited to, direct damage to individuals from live-fire training and ordnance, wildlife resulting from life-fire and ordnance, direct physical damage (e.g. trampling by humans, helicopter landing, etc.) to individuals, and spread of nonnative species.”

“Additionally, water purification training is proposed for all these islands, exept for Farallon de Medinilla, which may be particularly damaging to the Rota blue damselfly,” the Service said.
The Service’s final decision, Henkin said, “makes clear” that the Navy training may affect the newly listed species, “triggering the obligation to reinitiate consultation.”

“This notice letter was prepared in good faith, after reasonably diligent investigation,” Henkin said. “If you believe that any of the foregoing is factually inaccurate or erroneous, please notify us promptly.”

Comments from the Department of Navy were not available as of press time, but a Navy spokesperson said a statement would be forthcoming today.

Large picture frustrations

The potential lawsuit taps into larger frustrations over military projects—like firing ranges, a divert airfield, the proposed leasing of the entire island of Pagan, and the relocation of thousands of Marines to Guam from Japan—that military planners have issued and approved within the Marianas Islands range in recent years.

“Look at what is happening here,” Peter J. Perez, co-founder of the advocate group Pagan Watch, said yesterday. “A department of the federal government, not the leadership of the United States, not the President and the Congress, but a department, somehow has the right to unilaterally decide to turn a state’s territory into the world’s largest live-fire training range.”

“This is a severe encroachment on the territory of Guam and the CNMI,” Perez said. Pagan Watch is one of the handful groups attached to the notice to sue the Navy.

For the Marianas Islands Training and Testing area, or MITT, the Navy expanded a training area encompassing some 500,000 square nautical miles of ocean into an expansive 980,000-some square miles—an area that advocates have lamented is larger than the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, and New Mexico combined.

In 2013, the late CNMI governor Eloy Songao Inos called on the Navy to conduct better baseline studies, grant more marine protection areas, and asked that undersea training not be done around certain island seamounts believed to be plentiful with marine life.

But in their formal response to Inos last May, the Navy said they could not impose these “geographic limitations on training and testing activities,” calling it an “impractical burden” to implement and an “unacceptable impact to the effectiveness” of their training.

The Navy approved the undersea ordnance training—inclusive of a reported roughly 300-percent increase of ordnance bombing on Farallon De Medinilla—last August.

Perez said the voices of the CNMI governor, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the mayors, the municipal council, or in other words, the entire local state-level government are all being “ignored.”

“The American citizens who live here—who have said “NO” in a strong and clear voice—are also being disregarded.”

“In fact, the only obstacle to the Department of Defense’s intention to take and bomb our islands and waters is the requirement under federal law that they follow the EIS process that was designed to ensure compliance with federal laws for the protection of the environment and historic assets.”

“Pagan Watch and the other signatories to the letter are determined to not allow the DoD to ignore the EIS process as well. It is all that is standing between us and what the late governor Inos characterized as the “existential threat” of the DoD turning our lands and waters into a giant live-fire range with all the destruction, contamination, and restrictions on the people’s freedoms that come with it,” Perez told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

The February notice of intent to sue lists a total of eight groups from the CNMI, Guam, and Hawaii in the notice to sue.

The attached groups include the Alternative Zero Coalition, Center for Biological Diversity, Fanacho Marianas, Guardians of Gani, Oceania Resistance, Pagan Watch, Tinian Premier Football Club, and Tinian Women’s Association.

The letter was sent to the Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, USFW Service Director Daniel M. Ashe, and Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewel.

Monday, February 08, 2016

‘Navy Interests Should Be Included in Future Leasing Discussions’

Published by on January 26, 2016

By Dennis B. Chan

A U.S. Department of the Navy spokesman re-echoed Friday their claim to military use rights at the Tinian port, but said they do need not see any current conflict between their these rights and leases granted by the Commonwealth Ports Authority to commercial development.

The Navy’s desire is that military interests are part of the future and existing planning for leases, according to Joint Region Marianas public affairs officer Tim Gorman in an email.

Gorman was responding to questions from Saipan Tribune on the extent of their rights at the Tinian port, after a letter from Department of the Navy lawyer John Aguon to CPA lawyer Robert Torres surfaced, in which the former notes the Navy’s concern that current and future development at the Tinian port—including Bridge Investment Group’s $120-million casino resort—“may compromise DoD’s various rights.”

Gorman said that while JRM has become aware that the CPA has recently leased certain real property at the Tinian port to a private enterprise, “JRM does not see any current conflict with any CPA lease.“

“JRM personnel communicate and work with their CNMI counterparts on a wide variety of issues on a regular basis,” Gorman said. “In this instance, as the United States has certain rights contained in long-standing agreements with CNMI, such as the 1983 lease (as amended), JRM merely communicated its desire to continue to collaboratively work with the appropriate CNMI offices to help ensure that applicable DoD interests are part of the planning process in existing and future leasing actions. JRM will continue to work with our CPA colleagues to have fruitful discussions, just as we have regular discussions with our CNMI counterparts on other topics,” added Gorman.

In his January letter to CPA, Aguon reminds of these “longstanding agreements between the CNMI and Defense” that “authorize and guarantee DoD various military uses at the Tinian port and airport.”
“We desire to ensure these DoD rights are protected,” Aguon said. His letter notes that that certain portions of the port are currently leased to Bridge Investment Group—an investor building a reported casino resort on the Tinian wharf—and that in the future, “other portions of the Tinian port may be physically or legally encumbered by either Bridge or other private entities.”

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Tinian Resident Emphatically Oppose Military Buildup

Tinian Residents Emphatically Oppose Military Exercises
Public hearings so support for ‘No Action Alternative’
By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor

TINIAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 4, 2015) – Citing broken promises relating to the Covenant negotiations, and significant impact on the environment and the local economy, the people of Tinian came out in droves and expressed their emphatic "No" to the military’s proposal to build live-fire ranges and training areas on Tinian.

At Thursday night’s public hearing on the draft CNMI Joint Military Training environmental impact statement at the Tinian Junior Senior High School, the island’s leaders and residents unanimously conveyed their opposition to the military plan and indicated they favored the "No Action Alternative."

Explaining that they are not anti-military, but are against the proposal, the residents led by Tinian Mayor Joey P. San Nicolas underscored the military action’s significant impact on their island’s environment and economy.

Prefacing his statement that he is not averse to the military, that he has a son who serves in the U.S. Air Force, that the island has many veteran residents, he said the meeting was not about their support for the military but rather about the proposed military action.

"For the record, I and the members of the Tinian leadership are against the manner in which the military proposes to use Tinian as described in the draft EIS," said San Nicolas which was applauded by the residents.

San Nicolas said Tinian is a pristine island — virtually untouched — and home to unique bird species, coral reefs and plants used by their "suruhånu" — healers.

"The construction of live-fire ranges and a training complex that uses artillery, mortar and rocket launchers, will have significant, devastating and permanent impacts on our reefs, our jungle and our soil," he said.

The planned construction of a landing area for amphibious assault vehicles will require the dredging of 800,000 cubic feet of marine habitat.

Citing the DEIS, San Nicolas said this will "permanently change the habitat of the near shore areas of the beach of Unai Chulu."

The plan will also destroy approximately 2,000 acres of jungle which serves as a habitat for many native birds.

Under the military’s preferred alternative, San Nicolas said 7,200 of Tinian Monarchs, or approximately 8 percent of the total population will suffer loss of nesting and foraging areas.
It will also have a significant impact on other bird species, he said, such as Bridled White Eye, Micronesian Starling and Rufous fantail.

He also said construction of live-fire ranges will permanently destroy 230 acres of prime farm land soil.

"That means 16 percent of the total prime farm soil available on Tinian will be lost forever," he said adding that the DEIS has no mitigation for this loss.

He said they will never get these back.

He said the millions of bullets, grenades, and rockets used every year will make their lands "essentially unusable."

He also said that cleaning up waste has never been a priority for the military, citing waste left on Tinian decades ago.

"We have a duty to protect our environment for future generations," he said.

He said that based on these significant impacts, the military should select the no action alternative.
Sen. Francisco M. Borja also cited these impacts, particularly on the cattle ranchers.

The plans will have a devastating impact on the cattle industry and Tinian’s economic growth, he said.

The DEIS, he said, is not clear about how much access to military leased lands will be available throughout the year.

He said the proposed action will impact tourism as it will limit access to to 10 out of 12 historical sites.

"Two of these sites, the Shinto Shrine and Hinode will be destroyed," he said.

He also cited the loss of access to major dive sites.

Municipal Council Chairman Reynaldo Cing said, "The plan as proposed will change every aspect of our life as we know it."

He also decried the loss of access to historical and cultural sites.

He said there will be 22 weeks of pre- and post-training preparation on top of the 20 weeks a year in training.

"The military must be honest and transparent with us," he said.

He said he supports the military, but he doesn’t support the plan.

Serafina Rosario King Nabors, said she did not vote for a live-fire range when they approved the Covenant decades ago.

"Forty years ago we were marching for the Covenant," she said, adding that it was promised that a base would be built on Tinian that would provide jobs for Tinian residents.

She said they did not vote for a training range.

"You were already given Farallon de Medinilla," she said addressing the military.

As she spoke in Chamorro and English, she mentioned the incidence of cancer on island.
She said she is herself a cancer survivor.

She asked for the training ranges to be constructed in California.

"Biba Marianas! Biba Chamorro," said Nabors to the crowd’s deafening applause.
For his part, Lino Lizama opposes the bombing of Tinian and Pagan.

Joseph Connelly, who has been living on Tinian since 1984, said, "This public access needs to be further explained to the Taotao Tinian."

He also asked questions relating to construction of the ranges for 8-10 years.
He raised concerns related to the proximity of munitions areas to the airport.

Vietnam War veteran Gil Borja opposes the action, saying he opposes any training exercise on Tinian and Pagan.

He said Hawaii is different: the firing range is far from the town.

14-year-old Chelsea Rosario said it will impact the peace and tranquility on island.
She said the proposed action will reduce the culture and heritage to a "memory."

Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission Chairman Matthew C. Masga said he is unequivocally opposed as it will have a significant impact on the casino industry and will heap burdens on a lot of people.

Masga said one week of training alone is too much of a burden.
He cited the noise that will make Tinian unattractive to tourists.

He said tourism will see a downward spiral due to limited activities on island.
"Our people and tourists will no longer be free to visit historical sites," he said.
For Eric San Nicolas, the U.S. military does not own two-thirds of Tinian, "they lease it."
He said, "We are the patrons of the land. Land is connected to us. Our land is connected to our soul."
John Barcinas said it is their right to say, "No."

For Kimberly Hinds, the DEIS is nothing more than a plan to destroy Tinian "and to kill our culture."
She said what the military calls restricted access to beaches, to coastal zones, alterations of the seafloor, and taking away corals, "is what we call our customary right and way of feeding our families. What you call your cattle grazing mitigation plan is a threat to our food supply and our ability to be self-sustaining. What you call restricted access to our cultural sites is really a denial of our ability to practice our traditional and customary rights…picking ‘donni,’ paying respect to our dead, going hunting." For Hinds, the 20-week training will be an economic shackle on Tinian that is struggling to be self-sustaining.

"No respect to the land and to the people of this community," she said.

Jose P. Kiyoshi, a former Marine, said the promise back then was for a military base; not a firing range.

"No to the firing range; yes to the base," he said.

He said this will change the lives of the people in the community.

Debra Fleming also said there were so many broken promises: the promise of a U.S. military base, a commissary, a theatre, and a school.

She said the dock was never fixed.

"Now they want to dredge Unai Chulu," she said pointing out that it is an ancient burial ground, where there are latte stones.

"All this EIS—is a waste of our time. What’s the point in all of this," she said.

She asked if the CNMI could renegotiate to take the land back "at the price they purchased it?"
The use of bombs was never in the picture when they negotiated the Covenant.
Juanita Mendiola told the military to build their own island.

She said the destruction of Tinian and Pagan is not exclusively local — it is global.

"This island is sacred to all of us. This entire island is sacred. Please do not desecrate it," she said.
Archaeologist Craig Weaver said the DEIS did not mention anything on preservation.
Lou Dela Cruz said Tinian is too beautiful to be destroyed.

Keith Nabors asked the people to say "no" to the proposed military action.

He said in past military exercises, with boots on the ground, "they landed on the wrong beach."
Even with modern technology, they landed on the wrong beach, he said.

He expressed his concern that with the firing-ranges, mistakes like this may happen.

Joseph Mendiola said they support the military yet the training on Tinian will impact their livelihood.
He cited the noise impact as evidenced from the Fury exercises.

Whelden clarifies: No live explosives on Tinian
Marine Forces Pacific Executive Director Craig B. Whelden dispelled the notion that they will be bombing Tinian.

"We are not planning to drop live explosive bombs on Tinian. We are not," he said.
He said the requirement is for them to train on how to provide air support and drop what they call ordnance — which is a generic term for bombs onto a target.

Having this skill can save thousands of lives.

"What we have planned is dropping inert bombs — essentially they have a puff of smoke when they hit the ground so we can see where they landed so we can practice that critical skill."

Inert bombs, according to online sources, "are aerial munitions filled with wet sand or cement."
According to, inert bombs are also called "dumb bombs."
The same website said that an inert bomb won’t explode, which means it can’t produce blast effects, and it can’t spray the area with lethal metal fragments.

The dropping of the inert bombs will only be done 10 percent of the time or for about two weeks.
Whelden also clarified that they are not sneaking behind the people’s backs as claimed by one person who spoke.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. I signed at least a dozen letters to the governors, to the mayors, to the directors of CPA, DPL, to other groups, governmental groups, identifying what we have in mind, why we have it in mind, when we would do it, who was coming, who we will coordinate with when we got here," he said.

He said in some cases they ask permission on property they don’t have control over outside the military lease area.

"We did it openly, with full notification of the government," he said.
Marianas Variety
Copyright © 2015 Marianas Variety. All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 14, 2016

More than 1,800 Arriving in Guam for Military Drill

Published by Pacific Daily News on January 13, 2016

Written by Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno


Guam will host more than 1,800 military personnel from the United States, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea for the annual massive military exercise Cope North.

Andersen Air Force Base is hosting Cope North on Feb. 10 through 26, the U.S. Air Force announced.

In a separate announcement, the Air Force’s Pacific Command confirmed that 12 F-16 Fighting Falcon jets and about 200 airmen are arriving for a temporary deployment in Guam this month as part of a rotational movement of U.S. forces.

The 200 airmen who are being deployed to Guam are from the 112th Fighter Squadron from Toledo Air National Guard Base in Ohio.

The Ohio airmen and their Expeditionary Fighter Squadron will move to Guam temporarily to assume a mission that the 125th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, whose base is Tulsa, Oklahoma, is currently serving out of Kadena Air Base, Japan.

The airmen from Oklahoma are scheduled to return to the Tulsa Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma, but 12 of their F-16 Fighting Falcons will move to Andersen for the airmen from Ohio to operate.

Open House

Andersen Air Force Base will open its doors to the general public to attend an open house featuring static displays and flyovers during Cope North, according to the Air Force Pacific Command.

The open house will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 20.

Aircraft static displays, such as the U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress and F-16 Fighting Falcon, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-2 Viper Zero and Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet will be featured.

The open house also will feature entertainment, vendors and concessions, according to the Air Force.
Updates will be posted on the event's Facebook page. the Air Force said.

Multinational exercise

More than 100 aircraft from the U.S. military and its allies also are expected to arrive for the exercise, which Andersen is hosting for the 16th year.

This year’s Cope North will include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training and air-to-ground practice airstrikes.

The 206-acre island of Farallon de Medinilla, in the Northern Marianas, which the U.S. military has leased for a bombing range, will be the target for the airstrikes.

The annual exercise comes in the wake of North Korea’s most recent and fourth underground nuclear bomb tests, and amid unresolved multi-country territorial disputes following China’s expansions in the South China Sea.

On Saturday, a U.S. B-52 bomber aircraft from Andersen was joined by South Korean F-15 and U.S. F-16 fighter jets in a low flyover over South Korea, near the North Korean border.

Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. military’s Pacific Command, said in a press release the flyover “was a demonstration of the ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan, and to the defense of the American homeland.”

Cope North began in 1978 as a quarterly bilateral exercise held at Misawa Air Base, Japan. Cope North was moved to Andersen in 1999, according to the Air Force.

“Today, the annual exercise serves as a keystone event to promote stability and security throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region by enabling regional forces to hone vital readiness skills critical to maintaining regional stability,” according to the Air Force.

More than 930 U.S. airmen and sailors will train alongside approximately 490 Japanese, 375 Australian, five Filipino, 20 South Korean and 35 New Zealand service members, according to the Air Force.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio Pays Tribute To Indigenous People In Golden Globe Speech

Posted: 01/11/2016 12:24 am by The Huffington Post Canada

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio got political in his Golden Globe acceptance speech on Sunday night.

DiCaprio, who won the Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama award for his role in "The Revenant," thanked indigenous peoples around the world and asked for them to receive more respect.

leo dicaprio quote

"I want to share this award with all the First Nations people represented in this film and all the 
indigenous communities around the world," the actor said at the award ceremony held in Los Angeles.

"It is time that we recognized your history and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and people that are out there to exploit them," added DiCaprio. "It is time that we heard your voice and protected them for future generations."

DiCaprio has been politically active around environmental causes. He made a heavily-publicized visit to Alberta's oilsands in 2014.

"The Revenant," which was shot in Alberta, cast hundreds of First Nations people from across that province as extras and in small roles.

Monday, January 04, 2016

If Top General Gets His Way, America's "Longest War" Will Become Even Longer

General John Campbell Says He Wants to Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan for as long as possible—and is considering asking for even more

Published on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 by Common Dreams

Written by Sarah Lazare

General John F. Campbell pictured in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, May 23, 2015. (Photo: Allauddin Khan/AP)
General John F. Campbell pictured in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, May 23, 2015. (Photo: Allauddin Khan/AP)

If the highest ranking U.S. and NATO military commander in Afghanistan gets his way, America's longest official war could become even more protracted.

Army General John Campbell said in a USA Today article published on Tuesday that he wants to keep the 9,800 American troops currently in Afghanistan there for as long as possible—and is considering asking for even more boots on the ground.

"My intent would be to keep as much as I could for as long as I could," Campbell told the paper from Kabul.

The general's comments follow President Barack Obama's October announcement that he plans to reverse his prior pledge to remove all but 1,000 U.S. troops from the country by the conclusion of 2016. Instead, Obama proclaimed that the 9,800 troops will be maintained through most of 2016 and then cut to 5,500 by the beginning of 2017.

Even then, Obama's statement came despite the official declaration a year ago that the war was "over."

But now Campbell plans to ask the president to put off troop withdrawals even further by delaying the reduction to 5,500 troops.

"If I don't believe that we can accomplish the train, advise and assist... the (counter-terrorism) missions, then I owe it to the senior leadership to come back and say, 'Here's what I need,'" Campbell said. "If that's more people, it's more people."

The general expressed confidence that he will get his way. "My job as commander on the ground is to continually make assessments," Campbell said. "Every time I've gone to the president and said, 'I need X,' I've been very, very fortunate that he’s provided that. So he’s been very flexible."

Campbell's comments come as the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan stretches well into its 15th year—and appears certain to extend into the next presidency. While many argue that the Afghanistan intervention is not, in reality, the longest war in U.S. history, it is widely recognized as the most protracted according to the official record.

What's more, the Bilateral Security Agreement signed in 2014 by the U.S. and Afghanistan locks in another decade of heavy American involvement in the country, including the training, funding, and arming of the Afghan military. The pact also secures immunity for U.S. service members under Afghan law—a highly controversial measure in a country that has suffered civilian massacres by U.S. troops.

The U.S. is planning a military role long into Afghanistan's future despite indications that its long-term intervention and occupation so far has worsened conflict and violence, with the Taliban now showing signs of increased strength.

Meanwhile, Afghan civilians continue to pay the greatest price. In the first half of 2015 alone, United Nations agencies documented 4,921 civilian casualties (1,592 deaths and 3,329 injured).

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Not-So-Comforting Apologies

“Not-So-Comforting Apologies”
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Guam Daily Post
December 30, 2015

After years of denials, Japan and South Korea appear close to making a deal over apologizing for the comfort women issue from World War II. Money is being promised, although to give a sense of how late this, estimates show that there might have been as many as 200,000 Korean comfort women (although these estimates vary due to records being lost or destroyed.) The Associated Press reports that there are only 46 left alive today.

This potential deal comes after a number of quiet, but embarrassing protests against Japanese denial of their history of sexual slavery. In 2011, a statue of a young Korean woman sitting next to an empty chair was erected across the street from the Japanese consulate in Seoul. Korean women comprised the majority of those used by the Japanese for sexual slavery. The statue was meant to symbolize the untold number of Korean women who wanted for apologies or reparations from Japan over their mistreatment. The Japanese government complained ferociously about how embarrassing this statue was. Earlier this year, prior to a visit to Seoul by Japanese Prime Minister Abe, two more statues appeared in a park, one symbolizing Korean comfort women, the other Chinese. Since the early 1990s, this issue has been prominent and sometimes strained relations between Japan and South Korea. In 1965, the two countries signed a treaty that was meant to put an end to any reparations claims related to World War II. For the past two decades, more and more women have come forward to share their stories of being sexual slaves for the Japanese military, refusing to allow the issue to disappear. The timing of the apology is intriguing, as Abe’s government seems more interested than ever in finding ways to revitalize the faded militaristic past of Japan.

But the issue of comfort women during World War II is far greater than just an issue between these two nations. It is a terrible history that brings together women from a number of countries and islands, the Philippines, Chuuk, Okinawa, Indonesia, Taiwan, Burma, and the Marianas.

Local history textbooks regularly mention the issue of comfort women on Guam during World War II, but scarcely provide any details. The Guam Legislature has approved a number of resolutions calling upon the Japanese government to apologize for their “vicious coercion of young women into sexual slavery and for their cruelty towards the people of Guam during its occupation.” The sexual violence that Chamorro women endured remains one of the most public secrets from that time period. It is something that all take for granted and know happened in various forms, but it remains a taboo subject, something better not spoken of or investigated.

But in the messy mire, what we commonly find is that the issue of comfort women in Guam is largely obscured by misconceptions or the larger specter of sexual violence during the Japanese occupation. The various ways in which women were victimized leads to some ways, which represent far complicated or difficult histories go unspoken and lost.

When I was conducting my research on World War II about 12 years ago, I interviewed more than 100 survivors of “I Tiempon Chapones.” As of today, the majority of those I interviewed have passed on, and I feel grateful to have spent time with so many. sitting at their kitchen tables, their outside kitchens, or meeting them for coffee at Hagatna McDonald’s to hear their stories.

When I would broach the topic of comfort women, it was clearly something that was very difficult to discuss. But even in this difficulty, there were problems of definition. When I asked one woman about her knowledge of comfort women on Guam, she said her mother had been one of them. Noting that this was a rarity, as people tended to speak generally about comfort women, knowing of their existence, but also careful never to be too specific, to name any names, I seized this chance to learn more about the life of Chamorro comfort women. But when she described her mother’s experience, she had been raped by a Japanese soldier at their ranch, I realized she had misunderstood what it meant to be a comfort woman.

Sexual attacks on Chamorro women were all too common during the occupation. Families took care to hide the young women in their family, or alter their appearance in ways to make them less “appetizing” to your average soldier turned rapist. In other instances, women felt compelled to be “friendly” to Japanese soldiers or officers in order to obtain favors or protection for their families. They became girlfriends or mistresses to the Japanese troops, something which made sense in the heat of war, but afterwards became an almost unmentionable act.

This everyday coercion and violence that Chamorro women felt obscures the ways in which Guam was incorporated into the comfort women system. The rapes or the abuse was horrific, but the comfort women represented a more naturalized form of sexual oppression, where women were recruited to be part of a system whereby they would regularly serve the “comfort” of soldiers. The random acts of sexual violence represent one traumatic aspect of war, the comfort women represent an entirely different form of trauma, which can’t be accounted for in random or calculated acts of sexual violence. The comfort women system used by the Japanese military in Asia and the Pacific, was a system of sexual slavery, a massive human trafficking operation. It speaks to something beyond the character of individuals soldiers or commanders, but to the Japanese nation and its treatment of human beings, especially those it deemed as inferior.

It remains to be seen how this apology and this reparation process for South Korea might affect the Chamorro struggle for apologies or restitution for their suffering during World War II.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Puerto Rico Population Drops 10% Over Past Decade

Press Release by the Jubilee USA Network on December 23, 2015.

Most People Left During Island's Economic Decline

WASHINGTON - The United States Census Bureau announced that Puerto Rico's population dropped nearly 10% over the past ten years. The island's population was at 3.8 million in 2004 but is now estimated at less than 3.5 million. Of the 330,000 people who left, the majority left in the past five years. The US territory is embroiled in financial crisis and according to the island's Governor, Puerto Rico could default on its $72 billion debt in January or May.

"The Census numbers reflect how deeply the crisis is hurting the millions of Americans who call Puerto Rico home," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. "Nobody should have to leave their family and community behind out of desperation."

According to the Census Bureau's report, the only US state to lose population over the past five years was West Virginia, which lost less than 20,000 residents compared to Puerto Rico's 251,975.
Congress is currently debating laws to address Puerto Rico's debt crisis. Speaker Paul Ryan promised the House of Representatives would address the crisis by March. Various observers note that the US Treasury and Federal Reserve ‎also have tools to intervene in the growing economic crisis.

"The US Government needs to act immediately," noted LeCompte. "With no action, Puerto Rico's crisis deepens every day."

Read the latest Census Bureau report.


Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 80 religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.