Saturday, October 01, 2011

Forum Tackles Militarization


PRESENTATIONS and a public forum were held Wednesday evening at the University of Guam CLASS Lecture Hall, where experts discussed the impact of militarization as well as the current and intended acquisition of military land on Guam.

The forum, entitled “Islands of Shame: Base Displacement from Diego Garcia and Guåhan,” discussed the Pågat lawsuit and the impact military bases have on the island communities of Diego Garcia and Guam.

The speakers were Attorney Leevin Camacho, member of We Are Guåhan, and Dr. David Vine, assistant professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington D.C. Introducing the speakers and moderating the following forum was Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua.

“People tend to view the military bases through the more positive symbols of military service, of what the military does for the world, its mission,” said Bevacqua as he introduced the presentations. “But for every military base that you see, there's always some lesser ... aspects to it. There's always high levels of disease, there's always a sort of displacement, dispossession. And so throughout the world, the U.S military has worked on a thousand facilities and so almost all of those facilities – Guam, Diego Garcia, Okinawa, South Korea included – all of them have a shameful history, a history where people were dispossessed, displaced.”

Camacho's presentation detailed the Department of Defense's current footprint on the island; the expansion of DOD lands; and updates on the lawsuit to save Pågat village.

“There are 36,000 acres that DOD officially has control over – that's about 26 percent of Guam,” said Camacho, showcasing maps of Guam that manifest areas throughout the island belonging to DOD or are areas desired for acquisition.

According to Camacho, with DOD's current footprint, Andersen Air Force Base takes up 17,430 acres, while Naval Magazine takes up 8,600 acres; they are the third and seventh largest land areas, respectively.

Meanwhile, Vine spoke about research from his book, “Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia,” drawing parallels between the history of Diego Garcia and that of Guam's. Diego Garcia is a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean whose indigenous people were displaced during the development of a U.S. military base.

“Part of the reason I'm here is because I'm working on a new book about the whole network of U.S. military bases overseas,” said Vine. “It's taken me to Europe, Asia, Latin America, and now I'm lucky enough to visit Guam and continue that research.”

Vine's research for his new book explores the impacts – on cultural, health, environmental and sovereign representation – military bases have in areas outside of the U.S.

Vine noted similarities between Diego Garcia and Guam, with regard to the impacts of island militarization.

“One is the military use of strategic islands; second, displacement and dispossession; third, racism; [and] fourth, the struggle of people against the military.”

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