Friday, July 28, 2006

The Marines Will Use Tinian

The Saipan Tribune
Ma7 12, 2006

'Marines will use Tinian for its training'

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial disclosed yesterday that the U.S. military has assured him that the 8,000 U.S. Marine troops from Okinawa, Japan, will definitely use Tinian as a site for training exercises.

In an interview, Fitial related that during his Wednesday's meeting in Guam with U.S. Pacific Command deputy commander Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf and U.S. Naval Forces Marianas commander Rear Admiral Charles J. Leidig, he was briefed on the progress of the relocation of U.S. troops from Okinawa to Guam.

Fitial said reports have it that the Japanese government has already agreed to pay a certain amount for the relocation.

The governor said the actual relocation would take place anytime within the next three years.

"We welcome the military in the CNMI. The general made it very clear that they will come to Tinian for military exercises. The military troops will be training on Tinian. Tinian will be used as a training site for exercises," he said.

Leaf had reportedly told him that facilities would be constructed on Tinian to support the training exercises.

The chief executive said the coming of the Marines would not only have an economic impact, but environmental impact as well."

Those are the concerns. The general is very much concerned about the environmental impact. So those will be addressed in the plans that are now being put together," he said.

The presence of the troops, Fitial said, would have a very significant economic impact on the CNMI because the troops would definitely produce revenue not only on Tinian but also on Saipan, where they are expected to visit.

Fitial said that Leidig had informed him that by middle part of June this year they will have more detailed plans.

"Right now they have been working on this relocation project," he said.The governor said the military has chosen Tinian as a training site because there is no space for such exercises in Guam.Besides, Fitial added, the military owns two-thirds of Tinian by virtue of leasehold interest. The military controls 17,799 square meters of public land on Tinian, which it leased from the CNMI government.

Japan and the U.S. reportedly struck a deal on sharing the cost of relocating the U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, with Tokyo paying 59 percent, or $6.9 billion, of the estimated $10.27 billion total cost through grants, investment and loans.

Story by Ferdie de la Torre

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Guam Officials Need to Be Careful

Guam Officials Need to Be Careful

By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, July 15, 2006

NAHA, Okinawa. The chief thing Guam officials are taking home with them after a four-day trip to Okinawa is a need to ensure they have a say in the process of moving some 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to their island over the next eight years.

B.J. Cruz, a senator in Guam's legislature, said at a news conference Thursday that he learned Okinawa leaders have managed to get concessions from the Japanese government "for certain infrastructures."

"Guam is not in a similar position," he said, explaining that the master plan for the use of Guam, to be sent to Pacific Command Adm. William J. Fallon, was prepared without local input.

PACOM officials have acknowledged the initial plan did not include local input but say that will come in the next phase of planning.

Cruz, however, said that "there is no assurance that our concerns and our recommendations are going to be implemented."

He was one of nine Guam officials Japanese Diet member Mikio Shimoji of Naha invited to Okinawa. They visited communities that host U.S. military bases and industries, Battle of Okinawa museums and peace memorials, schools and business districts developed on former base land.

They also got a look at how local communities cope with the large U.S. military presence.
Cruz said Guam officials needed to be careful Marines do not come to their island to the detriment of Guam residents.

"There is only one freshwater lake and the military owns that lake, they sell that water to the local community," he said. "Since they sell that water to the local community, they can also turn it off. Three of us live in villages where over the last two months we've been without water for almost 30 days."

Cruz said he will press the U.S. government to provide adequate infrastructure for the island's civilians as well as the military.

Lt. Gov. Kaleo Moylan, who led the Guam delegation, said the trip was to ensure a smooth transition of Marines to Guam. Moylan, who is running against Gov. Felix Camacho for this fall's Republican gubernatorial nomination, said Okinawa and Guam had parallel post-World War II histories.

"You had military bases placed here without the consent of the local population," he said. "Guam had a similar experience. Now that we are in the process of realignment, the voices of the people of Guam need to be heard."

Guam Legislature Vice Speaker Joanne Brown said she "hoped that Guam can minimize the adverse experiences that people of Okinawa encountered" with such a large military presence.

"We're very concerned about the social impact this will have on our people," she said. "It's going to be very, very critical in the next few months and certainly in the next few years for us to ensure that the leadership of Guam c be very, very aggressive."

She said Guam officials need to be just as aggressive with the U.S. government as Okinawa officials are with Tokyo.

"The federal government has a responsibility to make sure the military buildup does not adversely affect our people," she said.

Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

© 2006 Stars and Stripes. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What Can Be Saved?

What Can Be Saved

talk given at the International Gathering of Human Rights Workers in the Asia-Pacific Region

Okinawa, Japan

Julian Aguon; June 22, 2006

I have been asked to speak on the current situation of the Chamoru people of Guam, in light of US military realignment schemes now underway in our region. I am here to report: not good.

Last month, US Department of Defense Undersecretary Richard Lawless paid Guam politicians a visit but shared no specifics about how the transfer of more than 8,000 marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam will impact our island. To date, defense officials state nothing definite except that Guam is to be a faster response hub to the loose and alleged threats that are China and North Korea. In addition to the marines, we have been informed that the Navy and the Air Force are also making plans to beef up their presence here. The latest is that the Navy may add as many as six additional nuclear submarines on Guam to the three we already house, expand and upgrade naval berthing barges as well as the wharf to accommodate more and bigger vessels. It plans to add a sixth aircraft carrier and to home port sixty percent of its Pacific Fleet in the region.

The Air Force is working to establish a Global Strike Force on Guam, which will include Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, deployed bombers, tankers, F/A-22 fighter jets and other aircraft. Deputy Commander of the US Pacific Command Daniel Leaf informed us of programs in work to establish a strike and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance hub at Andersen Air Force Base on the northern end of our island. Though this buildup is massive, it is only a complement to the already impressive Air Force and Navy show of force on 1/3 of the island, which now threatens to make Guam a first-strike target in any altercation with China and/or North Korea.

The recent announcement that the US and Japan finalized negotiations on the relocation of the marines that you here in Okinawa are kicking out, was greeted by the Guam elite with fanfare. They want them. Actually, they have been flagging them down. Our governor and his republican-led administration, the local Chamber of Commerce (consisting primarily of US statesiders), and the press have been up to their elbows in excitement ever since the announcement was made. The elite have launched a propaganda campaign to trick us into believing that the corporatization and militarization of Guam is in our community's best interest. Back home, editorials telling half-truths and little-to-none truths sound like trumpets in the territory. Articles that passionately support the privatization of virtually every public agency and that lay bare a blind faith in the benefits of military buildup rain down on the readership, as our little piece of Gannet, the Pacific Daily News, is up to its old habit: down on its knees in its endless genuflection toward corporate America.

Its reporters still pretend to report the news and the line, with little variation, remains: privatize everything – our one and only water provider, only power provider, only local telephone provider, and only port - on an island that imports 85-90% of its food and where private monopolies of public goods would truly make it captive to the forces of the market. To bring you up to speed, telecommunications were sold in full, our power distributor in part, and our water agency is still under attack. After an incompetent piece of legislation that would have had an American-based company profit off our water systems was defeated last year, the elite pushed an alternative mode of privatization. Recently, a private management contract was authorized to outsource the management of the agency's wastewater division. Meanwhile, the Port Authority of Guam has been taken to court by a private, foreign company for allegedly acting in bad faith with regard to its Request for Proposal. All this painted as part and parcel of readying Guam for an increased US military presence. A classic story of corporate globalization: the integrity of an ancient civilization on sale to the lowest bidder.

But the story of the 212 square mile island affectionately called the 'tip of the spear' in the US line of defense begs a bit more history.

Situated just north of the equator in the Western Pacific Ocean, Guam is the southernmost island of the Mariana Island Chain, in Micronesia. The native people of Guam call ourselves and our language Chamoru. We are descendents of the first group of Austronesians to move eastward into Oceania, populating our island archipelago long before others would reach island groups east of Micronesia. We were master navigators, matrilineal and, in 1521, Magellan's first Pacific contact. The plot, tragically, does not change much from here. Colonized by Spain for more than three hundred years, awarded to the US after Spain's defeat in 1898 as one of its Treaty of Paris prizes (its others being Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippine Islands), taken by Japan in the second world war only to be re-taken by the US at its close, Guam has since been subject to administration by the Office of Insular Affairs in the US Department of Interior.

As one of the few remaining non-self-governing territories (colonies) of the world, Guam today waits on a miracle - on US compliance with international law. Current US military operations in our region are a continuation of a long disregard for international law, which holds the US, as our Administering Power, legally responsible to protect the Chamoru people until the right to self-determination is exercised. As a signatory of the United Nations Charter, the US accepted as "a sacred trust" the obligation to see that the native inhabitants of Guam attain a full measure of self-government. More than forty years ago, UN Resolution 1514 was passed, declaring that 'all peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.' It declared further that "immediate steps shall be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire."

The last forty six years have slowly stripped the words of their weight.

Back home, war games are afoot. As I speak, three US aircraft carriers - the USS Abraham Lincoln, the USS Kitty Hawk, and the USS Ronald Reagan – are playing what have been casually called war games. To date, no information has been released to the government of Guam on the contents of these games. As these ships engage in military exercise Valiant Shield, doing only God knows what, local leaders are simply waiting on word as to whether or not one of the three flattops will make a port call. Pump dollars into the local economy. The only thing we know about the exercise is that it is not the only one. The latest estimate released by defense officials is that 22,000 U.S. military personnel, 30 ships and 280 aircraft will partake in related exercises off our waters.

In all this, our leaders are nowhere to be found, except maybe in the private homes of the Guam elite, making toasts to the triumph of the free market. Shamelessly usurping the patriotism of a war-worn people. Or maybe they are busy missing meetings. Our governor is notorious for this. Last month, after snubbing a politician from Okinawa who visited Guam to discuss the transfer of the marines, Governor Camacho canceled two meetings with the Japanese government. Mikio Shimoji, member of both Japan Diet's Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Security, tried in vain to meet with him. When pressed for an answer, he said that he was taking a "conservative approach." He publicly admitted that he was waiting on a response from US federal officials, who he asked to establish a protocol for visits by foreign officials, so that he doesn't "step over any lines."

Earlier in his term, our governor missed the UN regional seminar on decolonization. In a letter to the UN Special Committee on Decolonization Chairman Julian Hunte, he implied that Guam was working with the US on its self-determination at the domestic level and that there was no pressing need to work with the international community on this matter.

He is not the only one who dodged meetings with Japan last month. He and our non-voting representative to Congress, Madeleine Bordallo, agreed not to meet with any foreign officials until after they had met with Undersecretary of Defense Lawless. Bordallo told reporters that the rationale behind the decision not to entertain foreign guests was that "this is the time when we're working on details." She must know something no one else does. The same day, US defense officials made it clear that no details could be shared with the people of Guam because no details were yet known.

So, what do we know?

That the Navy now playing war games off our waters is the same one that contaminated our waters, our lands and our livers with an older version of the same game.

Almost immediately after the last world war, the US conducted a series of nuclear experiments in Micronesia. A report released by the committee commissioned by the 26th Guam Legislature to investigate how Guam was affected by the US bombing of the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958, detailed strong evidence of potential radioactive contaminations of our home. Guam, 1200 miles west of the Marshalls, received nuclear fallout from more than ten of the sixty-six bombs dropped on Enewetak alone. US military vessels flown above the plumes of Enewetak to measure radioactivity were flown to Guam and flushed out. To date, the toxics at Apra Habor and Cocos Lagoon on Guam have yet to be cleaned. The Guam Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a public warning to refrain from eating fish in that area due to dangerous levels of cancer-causing dioxins in the water. Just last year, east of us, four Marshallese babies born without eyeballs reminded the world of these transgressions.

Reports of related contamination are coming in from all over. Recently in Harris County, Texas, a retired US-Navy Lieutenant - riddled with a fifty-year-old guilt – declared before a Notary Public that Guam received radioactive fallout from the first hydrogen bomb test done in the Marshall Islands. Bert Schreiber, the Atomic, Biological, and Chemical Warfare Defense Officer stationed in Guam at the time of the first series of bombings, gave written testimony that on the morning of November 3, 1952, after discovering radioactive material from an H-bomb dropped on Enewetak atoll two days prior, his superior ordered him to keep his mouth shut. The deadly dust fell on a people who could have taken at least some precautionary measures. Only last month, another defense official informed us of how the US kept about 5,000 drums of Agent Purple in Guam in an undisclosed area in 1952 in anticipation of use on the Korean peninsula. According to a researcher who participated in a military experiment in Guam in the sixties, the amount of dioxin at Andersen Air Force Base alone (19,000 ppm) indicates a disturbing degree of US military irresponsibility (or is it indifference?) Further investigation awaits commission.

But the bands play on and we are expected to believe that the danger is China, North Korea. Iran too. I almost forgot: we should forget the fact that every single reason the US used to justify it's going to war with Iraq has turned out a lie. While we're at it, we might as well hate Cuba and downplay the acts of political bravery rippling across leftist Latin America, lest we see them for what they are: shining acts of self-determination hurled at the myth of free market inevitability. But I am getting a little ahead of myself. Contemporary politics back home doesn't have that wide a reach. In the Guam of today, political science is more a story of mirrors and a people's facelessness in them.

But what we really came to say is simple. The Chamoru Nation is here because we intend to survive. We are also here to renew our pact with you to actively encourage the withdrawal of the exaggerated US military presence from all – not some – of our communities. To declare to the world what we know: that the aggressive militarization of our region is laying humanity a premature grave. And we find that unacceptable.

Solidarity is not our best bet. It is our only one. As an international gathering of peace and justice activists, we are building momentum for the global demilitarization movement. In the process, I hope we are building a better bridge across the world we are working toward and the weed of cynicism gaining too much ground in human hearts.

I pray for the builders. That we keep our courage close. This world we are building from the bones of ideas that have failed humanity has set us out on an unkind wind. Our sisters and brothers here from the Philippines know this better than most. All across that country, democracy is under attack, civil liberties are being curtailed, death squads kill freely and the administration of President Arroyo practically sanctions them. Since 2001, more than six hundred people – human rights workers, journalists, priests, lawyers, teachers, labor leaders, students – have been murdered. More than a hundred and fifty disappeared. Their crime?Thinking. And having the courage to align a life with their hunger for justice. Doing its part in the vague 'global war on terror', the Arroyo administration has Oplan Bantay Laya, a program aimed at neutralizing (destroying) what is really the people's progressive movement. For its counterinsurgency efforts, the US gave that government $30 million dollars in one year alone.
You folks in Okinawa have shouldered your share of suffering. As Washington's top ally (alley) cat in East Asia, Japan continues to negotiate away your freedom from harm, bodily and otherwise. Japan leadership has yet to listen to the logic living in your rage. Playing host to 75% of the total US troops stationed in Japan has pushed your patience – and your nonviolence – to its limits.

As you scream about the noise and the rape and the alcoholism and the violence of the US military presence in your cramped home, US defense officials tell senators back home that the marines being moved to Guam are family-oriented. That the feds will work with us to ensure the transfer is a "win-win" situation. The Boston Herald reports that even after the 8,000 troops are transferred, about 15,500 will remain here.

But in the end this is not our end. The proponents of justice will outlast the proponents of privatization, militarization, and death. Because all empires fall. Because enough of us realize or will realize that a choice must be made. Either we pursue justice or we perish.

And because we know the truth: what we love we can save, including each other, even when we are afraid.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Different Type of Invasion

Guam kids to study U.S. military ahead of Marines move to island
By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, July 5, 2006

HAGATNA, Guam — The public school system here plans to incorporate lessons about U.S. military history, culture and society into their classrooms in the coming years, an initiative meant to prepare the island’s young people for the expected doubling of active-duty servicemembers here, according to a public school administrator.

The idea is to teach Guam’s future adults about the military — past and present — to help erase stereotypes, reduce apprehension and prevent conflicts as 8,000 U.S. Marines move here from Okinawa, said Nerissa Bretania-Shafer, the district’s administrator of research, planning and evaluation.

Specifically, the new lessons would help students better understand the role of the Marines, both internationally and on Guam.

“They need to be prepared with how to deal with change,” Bretania-Shafer said.

“We are going to look at our curriculum and see how we can complement it to [educate about] the military and give them more information about the armed forces and their dependents,” she said. “And we want them to learn about diffusing conflicts that may arise.”

Many locals have the impression Marines are moving here because they wore out their welcome in Okinawa, Bretania-Shafer said. While acknowledging instances of violent crimes, military officials have said the move is part of an overall Pentagon strategy in the Pacific.

Recent statistics from Okinawa officials show Marines there are proportionately less likely than local residents to be arrested. Still, local headlines and prosecutions of a few brutal crimes have resonated across the sea to Guam.

“That can create fear and confrontations,” Bretania-Shafer said. “We need to balance that, expose them to the training that Marines get, what they have done for Guam.” The Marine Corps during World War II liberated the island from an entrenched Japanese force in July 1944.
A spokesman for the military school system said officials there were supportive of the plans.
“We applaud any efforts to increase the knowledge of all students, especially when they can learn more about their own history, cultural diversity and the geographical significance of their home,” Charles Steitz, a spokesman for the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Pacific office, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

The idea is in the beginning stages. But Bretania-Shafer said she hopes to have pilot lesson plans in various grades next school year.

Guam’s 31,000 students already get some exposure to military personnel, families and lifestyle, she said. Students play each other in sports, military representatives participate in career days and some Navy and Air Force members “adopt” the 37 schools across the island to help with minor repairs and cleanup days, she said.

The initiative will cost money, at least for printing materials and teacher stipends to develop the curriculum, she said. That will prove a challenge to the district’s proposed $200 million budget, which Guam’s legislature has yet to approve. This year, the district spent far more than the $160 million budgeted, and it has struggled in recent weeks to meet its payroll and pay utility bills.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Guam Delegation to Do Research in Okinawa


Lt. Governor organizing trip to Okinawa including senators, mayors
by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM NewsTuesday, July 04, 2006

Preparations continue for the relocation of thousands of U.S. Marines and their dependents to Guam, as KUAM News has confirmed the Lieutenant Governor's Office is spearheading and coordinating plans for a delegation of island leaders to tour Okinawa, Japan. The visit is a result of last month's visit from members from the Okinawan prefecture assembly to the territory.

Lieutenant Governor Kaleo Moylan originally took a trip to Okinawa to learn more about the long-term economic impacts to Guam and how the island can maintain long-term economic viability after the construction boom has come and gone. The delegation heading to Okinawa includes local senators and village mayors.

According Phil Roberto, spokesman for Lt. Governor Moylan, a date for the trip yet to be finalized.

Monday, July 03, 2006

North Korea Missile Tests

U.S. officials: North Korea tests long-range missile
Tuesday, July 4, 2006; Posted: 8:08 p.m. EDT (00:08 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- North Korea test-launched a Taepodong-2 missile early Wednesday along with several short-range rockets, but the long-range missile apparently failed, U.S. officials said.

The White House said there was no immediate threat to the United States, but called the North Korean tests "a provocation."

U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said there were five missile launches in all. One was the Taepodong-2 missile, and the other four were short-range.

A short time after Hadley spoke, North Korea launched a sixth missile, U.S. military sources said.

A senior official confirmed the first three launches were at 2:33 p.m. ET Tuesday (3:33 a.m. Wednesday in North Korea), 3:04 p.m. ET and 4.:01 p.m. ET. The official said the third launch, of the long-range rocket, failed after 42 seconds.

North Korea's preparations for a long-range missile test have been closely monitored for weeks. A senior State Department official told CNN the Taepodong-2, which some U.S. analysts fear could hit the western United States, appears to have failed in flight.

Two smaller North Korean missiles were fired from a different site shortly before the larger missile was tested, U.S. intelligence and State Department officials said.

U.S. military sources said those two missiles landed in the Sea of Japan, one closer to Russia and the other closer to Japan.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said that after President George W. Bush was informed of the tests, he spoke to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Hadley.

Hadley described the tests as "provocative behavior."

"We can now examine what the launches tell us about the intentions of North Korea," he said.
Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state, was to travel to North Asia on Wednesday to consult with countries there on the latest series of tests, Snow said.

In Tokyo Wednesday, a government spokesman said Japan will consider sanctions against North Korea over the missile launches, Kyodo news agency reported.

In Seoul, Yonhap news agency said the South Korean government had called a ministerial meeting early Wednesday morning in reaction to the tests.

In Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said China was awaiting further information before responding.

Launch timing

A senior U.S. State Department official said the launches were timed to coincide with the launch of the space shuttle Discovery from Florida, calling it "a provocative act designed to get attention."

Analysts said the tests appeared to have been intended to draw international attention back to North Korea -- and to the stalled talks aimed at convincing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea is believed to have the capability to produce several nuclear weapons but has never tested one.

"They are trying to send quite a signal not only to the United States but to the rest of the world that they should be taken quite seriously," said Wendy Sherman, a former State Department official who held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during the Clinton administration.

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said he was "urgently consulting" with other members of the 15-nation Security Council.

Washington and North Korea's Asian neighbors -- South Korea, China, Russia and Japan -- have been trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program since 2002, but those talks have stalled in recent months.

Jim Walsh, a national security analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the intent of the test appeared to be aimed at drawing attention back to North Korean demands in the six-party talks. But Walsh said the tests "do not represent an immediate military threat to the United States."

"It's very difficult technology. They very clearly have not mastered it," he said. "Most estimates are they will not master it for another 10 years."

The United States, Japan and other countries have warned North Korea against a long-range missile test. The North Koreans fired a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan in 1998, but declared a moratorium on future tests in 1999.

"One would expect from any administration for there to be sanctions, for there to be a tough response to this," Sherman said.

'Harassment' accusation

On Monday, North Korea's state-run media accused the United States of harassing it and vowed to respond to any pre-emptive attack "with a relentless annihilating strike and a nuclear war with a mighty nuclear deterrent." (Watch why North Korea is talking about annihilating the U.S. -- 2:04)

The White House has dismissed that threat as "hypothetical." (Full story)

But the U.S. Northern Command increased security measures at its Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a few weeks ago, a military official confirmed Tuesday.

The base is the seat of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and some of its command-and-control operations might be used if the United States attempted to use its ballistic missile interceptors to shoot down a Taepodong-2 test.

But a Pentagon official said the missile appears to have failed on its own, without any American effort to knock it down.

In other planning measures instituted in the past several days, Northern Command, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, has put standby commercial flight restrictions into place over Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Fort Greely, Alaska, where U.S. interceptor missiles are based.

President Bush warned last week that the isolated Stalinist state would face even further isolation if it launched the Taepodong-2, which U.S. analysts fear is capable of reaching the western United States. (Full story)

"The North Koreans have made agreements with us in the past, and we expect them to keep their agreements," Bush said last month at the end of a European Union summit.

"It should make people nervous when nontransparent regimes, that have announced that they've got nuclear warheads, fire missiles," Bush said. "This is not the way you conduct business in the world. This is not the way that peaceful nations conduct their affairs."

CNN's David Ensor, Kyra Phillips, Elise Labott, Justine Redman, Atika Shubert and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Field Notes from Okinawa

The fire this time
Field Notes: 1 of 3 or 5
Julian Aguon
Marianans Variety
Monday, June 26, 2006

I have just returned from a war zone.

Though Okinawa makes up only 0.6% of all Japanese territory, it is home to 75% of the total US armed forces stationed in Japan. With US military bases occupying 20% of the island, the people of Okinawa are at every side reminded that they are prisoners of a war that has not ended. Despite the hype, the scheduled transfer of 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam will not relieve their burden. Instead, it marks only another bump in the road of the US-Japan relationship that has oppressed the people of Okinawa for more than half a century.

Because people in positions of power here favor only the stories told in numbers, let's start with some:

More than 4,790 criminal charges have been brought against US military personnel during the 34 years since Okinawa reverted to Japan in 1972. Among these are more than 12 murders, 355 thefts, and 111 rapes (this last number is known to be very conservative). There are more, but for years when Okinawa was under explicit US military occupation, Okinawans did not have any rights to sue or arrest suspects if they were US soldiers. After Okinawa was returned to Japan, Okinawans were subject to the judicial whims of both the US and Japan. Further, as Okinawan civil groups report, Japanese officials do not have the right to investigate within the area of US bases and therefore cannot arrest US soldiers for their crimes if they stay inside the base.

A compilation of documented postwar US military crimes against women in Okinawa, produced by the Okinawa Women Act against Military Violence group, lists in detail acts of US military aggression, violence, rape and gang rape since 1945 against the women of Okinawa. These crimes, in the hundreds, are documented by year, date, description of crime committed, settlement (in any), and the number of information sources to confirm the incident. After raping and/or gang-raping these women, some soldiers (many of them marines), do different things with the bodies of the raped women they eventually murder. Some dump them in the rivers, some burn them alive in their cars. Women lucky (or unlucky) enough to survive these attacks, are haunted by a terror they cannot name.

Yet when women here gather to talk about how the influx of these same soldiers may affect our home, some men had nerve enough to get agitated with their gathering. One man displayed openly where he laid his allegiance - to the marines - whom he felt the women of Guam, in their concern for the wellbeing of our community, were unfairly disrespecting.

This is how the local elite block the truth. They control the conversation, fail to report information so immediately important, and paint - for the general population – local activists as a group of irrational, angry people without a point to make. Our point is this: we are being sung to sleep by politicians too afraid to be political (in the better sense of the word, meaning to act with intention to protect civil society, even and especially when it is difficult). I exclude media here because I have accepted the truth that dominant media in Guam is just a business in the business of making noise, not sense.

What do we really know about these marines? About the whole realignment? Not much. As Okinawan delegations come to Guam on fact-finding missions, what exactly are our leaders doing, besides waiting on a master plan to be handed down by the US defense department? Our senators, many of which openly admitted that their meeting with Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless was empty of any real information, should take their cue from Okinawan statesmen and pay that occupied territory a visit. Go on a fact-finding mission of their own. Find out more about these alleged "family-oriented" marines that are coming.

I hate to think that in our blind welcoming of these marines, we are offering up our women to the privates of these privates. The list of their crimes against women is too long already. Let's not add ours to theirs.

Julian Aguon is an author and resident of Tamuning