Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Trust, But Verify

Trust, but verify
By Ben Pangelinan
For Variety
August 28, 2007

You may recall that in 1987, former President Ronald Reagan, citing an old Russian proverb, told Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev that the foundation for the new U.S.-Soviet relationship surrounding arms control would be “trust, but verify” (doveryay, no proveryay).

IN ending the cold war between the United States and Russia and the implementation of the agreements to end the war, President Reagan uttered these unforgettable words. The words were used to encapsulate the simple doctrine for the disarmament of the weapons of mass destruction in the arsenal of each country.

This is exactly why it is important that we attend every meeting and briefing that is being conducted with regards to the impending military buildup on Guam. It gives us the opportunity to establish trust between each other and begin to verify the information.

I must say that there is a long road yet to be traveled before I can trust that the process will in fact protect the people as well as the island. To illustrate my point, I attended the earliest of town hall meetings on the plans for military buildup even before I was elected to my current term. In one meeting, the general conducting the meeting stated that there would be no live ammunition training done on Guam. I attended a second meeting and the same general, upon closer questioning, stated that there will be limited live small arms training and that they may have to close off or restrict fishing in certain northern coastal areas due to live ammunition training.

Later, in a report I found detailing the buildup plans, it stated live ammunition training is being planned not only for the northern area, but is being considered for Naval Magazine. It doesn’t sound right to me, but then again I am not an expert. I fully intend to verify with those in the know.

Another interesting comment I heard was from Undersecretary of Defense BJ Penn at the industry forum. In a moment of levity, Mr. Penn, when discussing the military’s commitment to environmental integrity of the whole buildup, stated that he really is sincere to doing things the right way because he does not want to be sued. As a matter of fact, he was sued three times even before he was sworn in to his current job. I trust that he is sincere in his statements and that they will follow all environmental laws, rules and regulations.

But feeling the need to verify this statement, I find that, in fact, lawsuits have been filed against the military in their expansion activities in other locations. The courts have found the military short in their adherence to environmental laws and regulations. Some lawsuits are still in the courts because of the insistence that the military must have it their way.

The military planners continue to assure us that the buildup will result in partnerships between the local government and the military. They ask us to trust them and that it is their intention to help us make these partnerships work. Then, we find more information that verify the existence of the “special purpose entities” that will be formed to ensure the Japanese government takes care of its own companies and the military will get what it needs.

Curiously, there is one infrastructure project that the military is absolutely clear on. They want to partner with the local government on the landfill. They want the people of Guam to build a landfill on our side of the fence. They will happily truck their trash from their side of the fence to our side of the fence. And dump it in our backyard.

Trusted, busted and verified.

Way to go partner.


Ben Pangelinan is a senator in the 29th Guam Legislature and a former
speaker now serving his seventh term in the Guam Legislature.
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