Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Sunday, February 06, 2011
* ‘But money pending because PA unsigned’
JOINT Guam Program Office Forward Director John Jackson said yesterday that the military is in fact listening to the “top concerns and issues” of the people of Guam, but that some of the projects associated with the military buildup can’t move forward without the signing of the Programmatic Agreement.
During a presentation at the Rotary Club of Guam yesterday, Jackson discussed why the military realignment is important for Guam and “half of the population of the world” in maintaining security.
He also touched on the top concerns of the island that the Department of Defense is addressing, and the myths circulating in the community about DoD’s plans to improve Guam.
In his presentation, Jackson identified 15 key issues and concerns the local community has been voicing since the introduction of the military buildup. Of those 15 issues, seven were identified as the “top concerns” that the DoD has addressed and is working to improve not just for the federal government, but for the people of Guam, Jackson said.
The seven include addressing wildlife refuge and threatened and endangered species; $160 million in funding for sufficient and sanitary drinking water through the aquifer; improving Guam’s roadways with $49 million allocated this year for roadways and $67 million possibly next year; improving wastewater treatment plants; returning part of the federal footprint back to the people of Guam; ensuring that brown tree snakes do not spread to other island through cargo ships; and modernizing the port.
The other eight issues that the military failed to or has yet to address include culturally sensitive resources throughout the island; legacy issues like war reparation, compact aid, Jones Act Exemption and voting rights; Guam Public School System; stressed socio-economic support structures; the closure of the Ordot landfill and opening a new landfill; private development; power plants; and the public health system.
Jackson said about $960 million is required for infrastructure improvements. This includes $740 million from the government of Japan for water, wastewater and power; $104 million for the Port Authority of Guam, which was already awarded; and $116 million for roadways over the next two years.
Additionally, he identified about $321 million that’s still pending from the government of Japan.
“Why are they pending? They’re pending because the Programmatic Agreement has not been signed,” he said.MisconceptionsOther issues Jackson discussed were common misconceptions about the military buildup. Jackson said the military will not be shooting into Pagat or in the water near Pagat from the firing ranges they are proposing to build along Route 15. Thus, pristine and culturally sensitive areas will not be destroyed.
Also, the military is going to spend money to ensure all citizens of Guam benefit from the military buildup and are not burdened.DOD is also looking to shrink its federal footprint, from 27 percent to about 24 percent, he said.
Jackson also stressed that the military realignment is strategically and vitally important to “half the population of the world.”
Further, Jackson said the military buildup is important for Guam because of what its senior citizens had experienced during World War II.
“I think the best example of that is for our senior citizens here on Guam who have experienced what it’s like to live under the domination of a foreign power,” Jackson said. “We don’t want to see that repeated. It’s very important economically; it’s important to the people of Guam to have that security, to ensure the citizens of all our islands can go to bed at night knowing that tomorrow morning they still can live under the flag they choose to live in.”Very upsetBut Speaker Judi Won Pat, who was at the meeting, said she was “very upset” with Jackson’s statements, particularly referencing his statements regarding senior citizens, and the key issues and concerns that were left out of what the military is addressing.
“How dare he say why it is important strategically and to use our senior citizens and what they had to go through, and what they did for us, our generation, so we don’t go through it again. How dare he say that. Those are my parents; my grandparents. He cannot talk about them like that, he cannot relate to any one of us who know what our parents went through,” Won Pat lamented.
While the military addresses the facts in black and white, Won Pat said they failed to address the emotional issues tied to the military buildup.
“This buildup isn’t just about money. It’s not just about the military’s goals, or their perception that Guam is a ‘strategic location.’ This is about our hospital already brimming with patients.
This is about our already stressed school system. This is about the further environmental degradation of our island. This is about the cultural survival of our island. These are critically emotional issues. More than that, they are the issues that will affect our people the most. And they are the issues that should be the focal point of these conversations,” Won Pat said.
Sen. Rory Respicio, who was also at the meeting, said DoD should consider Sen. Ben Pangelinan’s suggestion to have a supplemental draft and final EIS and Record of Decision inclusive of all the military’s promises excluded from the ROD.
“I certainly share the Speaker’s sentiments … his response regarding senior citizens knowing what it’s like to suffer under enemy hands and foreign control, but it’s no different from the last 66 years in which we had to suffer under the hands of the American system where we haven’t been truly liberated,” Respicio said.
“If they really believe that their superpower can be all things to everyone, then how do they explain war reparations being defeated? How do they explain the unresolved status and the fact that we’re an unincorporated territory? Jackson implied that we have to understand that they’re here to serve us but at what cost to our environment and our island way of life?” Rory stated.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
by Amy Goodman
“People holding a sign ‘To: America. From: the Egyptian People. Stop supporting Mubarak. It’s over!” so tweeted my brave colleague, “Democracy Now!” senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous, from the streets of Cairo.
More than 2 million people rallied throughout Egypt on Tuesday, most of them crowded into Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Tahrir, which means liberation in Arabic, has become the epicenter of what appears to be a largely spontaneous, leaderless and peaceful revolution in this, the most populous nation in the Middle East. Defying a military curfew, this incredible uprising has been driven by young Egyptians, who compose a majority of the 80 million citizens. Twitter and Facebook, and SMS text messaging on cell phones, have helped this new generation to link up and organize, despite living under a U.S.-supported dictatorship for the past three decades. In response, the Mubarak regime, with the help of U.S. and European corporations, has shut down the Internet and curtailed cellular service, plunging Egypt into digital darkness. Despite the shutdown, as media activist and professor of communications C.W. Anderson told me, “people make revolutions, not technology.”
The demands are chanted through the streets for democracy, for self-determination. Sharif headed to Egypt Friday night, into uncertain terrain. The hated Interior Ministry security forces, the black-shirted police loyal to President Hosni Mubarak, were beating and killing people, arresting journalists, and smashing and confiscating cameras.
On Saturday morning, Sharif went to Tahrir Square. Despite the SMS and Internet blackout, Sharif, a talented journalist and technical whiz, figured out a workaround, and was soon tweeting out of Tahrir: “Amazing scene: three tanks roll by with a crowd of people riding atop each one. Chanting ‘Hosni Mubarak out!’ ”
Egypt has been the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid for decades, after Israel (not counting the funds expended on the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan). Mubarak’s regime has received roughly $2 billion per year since coming to power, overwhelmingly for the military.
Where has the money gone? Mostly to U.S. corporations. I asked William Hartung of the New America Foundation to explain:
“It’s a form of corporate welfare for companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, because it goes to Egypt, then it comes back for F-16 aircraft, for M-1 tanks, for aircraft engines, for all kinds of missiles, for guns, for tear-gas canisters [from] a company called Combined Systems International, which actually has its name on the side of the canisters that have been found on the streets there.”
Hartung just published a book, “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.” He went on: “Lockheed Martin has been the leader in deals worth $3.8 billion over that period of the last 10 years; General Dynamics, $2.5 billion for tanks; Boeing, $1.7 billion for missiles, for helicopters; Raytheon for all manner of missiles for the armed forces. So, basically, this is a key element in propping up the regime, but a lot of the money is basically recycled. Taxpayers could just as easily be giving it directly to Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics.”
Likewise, Egypt’s Internet and cell phone “kill switch” was enabled only through collaboration with corporations. U.K.-based Vodafone, a global cellular-phone giant (which owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless in the U.S.) attempted to justify its actions in a press release: “It has been clear to us that there were no legal or practical options open to Vodafone ... but to comply with the demands of the authorities.”
Narus, a U.S. subsidiary of Boeing Corp., sold Egypt equipment to allow “deep packet inspection,” according to Tim Karr of the media policy group Free Press. Karr said the Narus technology “allows the Egyptian telecommunications companies ... to look at texting via cell phones, and to identify the sort of dissident voices that are out there. ... It also gives them the technology to geographically locate them and track them down.”
Mubarak has pledged not to run for re-election come September. But the people of Egypt demand he leave now. How has he lasted 30 years? Maybe that’s best explained by a warning from a U.S. Army general 50 years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He said, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
That deadly complex is not only a danger to democracy at home, but when shoring up despots abroad.
© 2011 Amy Goodman
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
by Jeremy Scahill
If it weren't for Al Jazeera, much of the unfolding Egyptian revolution would never have been televised. Its Arabic and English language channels have provided the most comprehensive coverage of any network in any language hands-down. Despite the Mubarak regime's attempts to shut it down, Al Jazeera's brave reporters and camera crews have persevered. Six Al Jazeera journalists were detained briefly on Monday, their equipment seized. The US responded swiftly to their detention with the State Department calling for their release. "We are concerned by the shutdown of Al Jazeera in Egypt and arrest of its correspondents," State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley tweeted. "Egypt must be open and the reporters released."
The Obama White House has been intently monitoring al Jazeera's coverage of the Egyptian revolt. The network, already famous worldwide, is now a household name in the US. Thousands of Americans—many of whom likely had never watched the network before—are livestreaming Al Jazeera on the internet and over their phones. With a handful of exceptions, most US cities and states have no channel that broadcasts Al Jazeera. That's because cowardly US cable providers refuse to grant the channel a distribution platform, largely for fear of being perceived as supporting or enabling a network that for years has been portrayed negatively by US officials.
For people who have followed Al Jazeera's history with the US, the fact that it is now perceived by the White House and the American public as a force for democracy and freedom is an ironic, some would say hypocritical, development. The contrast between Washington's posture toward Al Jazeera from the Bush era to the Obama presidency could not be more stark.
During the Bush administration, nothing contradicted the absurd claim that the US invaded Iraq to spread democracy throughout the Middle East more decisively than Washington's ceaseless attacks on Al Jazeera, the institution that did more than any other to break the stranglehold over information previously held by authoritarian forces, whether monarchs, military strongmen, occupiers or ayatollahs. Yet, far from calling for its journalists to be respected and freed from imprisonment and unlawful detention, the Bush administration waged war against Al Jazeera and its journalists.
The US bombed its offices in Afghanistan in 2001. In March 2003, two of its financial correspondents were kicked off the trading floor of NASDAQ and the NY Stock Exchange. "In light of Al-Jazeera's recent conduct during the war, in which they have broadcast footage of US POWs in alleged violation of the Geneva Convention, they are not welcome to broadcast from our facility at this time," said NASDAQ's spokesperson. Later NASDAQ backed off that claim and said the networks accreditation had been revoked for "security reasons."
In April 2003, US forces shelled the Basra hotel where Al Jazeera journalists were the only guests and killed Jazeera's Iraq correspondent Tareq Ayoub a few days later in Baghdad. The US also imprisoned several Al Jazeera reporters (including at Guantánamo), some of whom say they were tortured. Among these was Sami al-Haj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who spent seven years at Guantanamo and was repeatedly interrogated by US operatives attempting to falsely link Al Jazeera to al Qaeda. In addition to the military attacks, the US-backed Iraqi government periodically banned Al Jazeera from reporting in Iraq. Indeed Al Jazeera was shut down in Iraq under both Saddam Hussein and the US-backed government.
Then in late November 2005 Britain's Daily Mirror reported that during an April 2004 White House meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, George W. Bush floated the idea of bombing Al Jazeera's international headquarters in Qatar. This allegation was based on leaked "Top Secret" minutes of the Bush-Blair summit. At the time of Bush's meeting with Blair, the Administration was in the throes of a very public, high-level temper tantrum directed against Al Jazeera. The meeting took place on April 16, at the peak of the first US siege of Falluja, and Al Jazeera was one of the few news outlets broadcasting from inside the city. Its exclusive footage was being broadcast by every network from CNN to the BBC.
The Falluja offensive, one of the bloodiest assaults of the US occupation, was a turning point. In two weeks that April, thirty marines were killed as local guerrillas resisted US attempts to capture the city. Some 600 Iraqis died, many of them women and children. Al Jazeera broadcast from inside the besieged city, beaming images to the world. On live TV the network gave graphic documentary evidence disproving US denials that it was killing civilians. It was a public relations disaster, and the United States responded by attacking the messenger.
Just a few days before Bush allegedly proposed bombing the network, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Falluja, Ahmed Mansour, reported live on the air, "Last night we were targeted by some tanks, twice... but we escaped. The US wants us out of Falluja, but we will stay." On April 9 Washington demanded that Al Jazeera leave the city as a condition for a cease-fire. The network refused. Mansour wrote that the next day "American fighter jets fired around our new location, and they bombed the house where we had spent the night before, causing the death of the house owner Mr. Hussein Samir. Due to the serious threats we had to stop broadcasting for few days because every time we tried to broadcast the fighter jets spotted us we became under their fire."
On April 11 senior military spokesperson Mark Kimmitt declared, "The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources. That is propaganda, and that is lies." On April 15 Donald Rumsfeld echoed those remarks in distinctly undiplomatic terms, calling Al Jazeera's reporting "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.... It's disgraceful what that station is doing." It was the very next day, according to the Daily Mirror, that Bush told Blair of his plan. "He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere," a source told the Mirror. "There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do--and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."
Al Jazeera's real transgression during the "war on terror" was a simple one: being there. That is what Al Jazeera is doing today in Egypt and why it is so dangerous to the Mubarak regime. While critical of US policy, Al Jazeera is not anti-American—it is independent. In fact, it has angered almost every Arab government at one point or another and has been kicked out of or sanctioned by many Arab countries (the one country which Al Jazeera arguably does not cover independently is its host nation of Qatar). It was the first Arab station to broadcast interviews with Israeli officials and is hardly the Al Qaeda mouthpiece the Bush Administration wanted us to believe it was. Now that is abundantly clear to Americans who over the past week have come to depend on Al Jazeera for accurate news on the developments in Egypt.
The real threat Al Jazeera poses to authoritarian regimes is in its unembedded journalism. That is why the Bush Administration viewed Al Jazeera as a threat, it is why Mubarak's regime is trying to shut it down and that is why the network is so important to the unfolding revolutions in the Middle East. It is the same role the network plays in reporting on the disastrous US war in Afghanistan.
Part of why Al Jazeera has become acceptable is that, unlike throughout much of the Bush era, it now has a full 24-hour English language news channel filled with veteran reporters who came to the network from CNN, the BBC and other Western news outlets. When it was an Arabic language only network, it was a lot easier to demonize and malign because fact-checking US officials' fabrications and pronouncements required a real effort.
At the end of the day, the real test of whether there is a substantive change in Washington's stance toward independent, unembedded journalists and journalism will likely not involve Al Jazeera, but some other news outlet or journalist. And that test will be real only when that journalist or media outlets' rights are in direct conflict with Washington's agenda.
Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.