Sunday, November 26, 2006

Civilians Left Out of Task Force

Mayor feels civilians neglected on civilian/military task force

by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Sunday, November 26, 2006

The task force created to accommodate the anticipated military expansion on Guam in the opinion of one sitting member exists just for show, as one particular village mayor says when he attends meetings, decision are already made. And evidently, Guam's chief executive rejected the request of each village mayor having a voice in the task force.

Several months ago Governor Felix Camacho created a civilian/military task force to develop a comprehensive master plan that would not only identify opportunities to benefit island residents, but one that would accommodate military expansion and operations in the territory. The idea was to have members of both the uniformed and non-uniformed communities come together to make this organization. The problem is that not all the members feel that their voices are being heard.

Agana Heights mayor Paul McDonald is the only mayoral representative on the task force and said, "I've attended a couple of those meetings and I think the meetings that we've had were meetings that have already been decided upon on." According to the municipal leader, when he attends meetings most of the decisions that are supposed to be made by some form of consensus have already been made. This is why McDonald says that he feels as if the task force is more for show than for actual function.

"I've felt that the community was not properly being represented on issues that I don't think have been addressed down to the community level, which is I feel our level - my level," he stated. Mayor McDonald says that he wrote to the Governor requesting that all the mayors be included on the task force, but he says that request was summarily put down. McDonald adds that he's concerned that the head of the civilian/military task force is a member of the military community.

The mayor continued, "I really think that a civilian should take the lead of this task force and nothing personal to General [Donald] Goldhorn, but he's a military personnel and he should, of course, respect the higher military authorities in D.C., and I'm sure that if it was a civilian person in his place that we will get more voice. [sic]"

McDonald's main concern is that the civilian voice is heard, as it is by its nature the civilian/military task force. But as for right now, he says that's sorely not the case.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Women's Magazine on Guam Militarization

About this program:
Preeti Shekar of KPFA radio's Women's Magazine talks to Noble peace prize winner and author Wangari Maathai about her new memoir, her struggle for human rights, the rights of women and the environmental movement in Kenya. And Catalina Vazquez talks to two women from Guam, one of the last colonies in the world, about the U.S. military occupation and militarization of Guam and their recent visit to the United Nations to get support for the independence of Guam and to stop the military's plans to increase that occupation.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Anderson Growth to Continue

Owens: Anderson Growth to Continue

By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff

THE projected growth at Andersen Air Force base will continue despite the replacement of Department of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Democrats’ takeover of Congress.

This was the assurance given yesterday by the 36th Wing’s new commander Brig. Gen. Doug Owens during a media briefing.

Rumsfeld and the previous Republican Congress had been very vocal about their support for Guam as a forward base for the U.S.

But despite the change in the U.S. political landscape, Owens said Guam’s strategic location assures that the island will continue to play a significant part in the military’s strategic posture.

He added that this was one of the reasons why a general has been assigned at Andersen for the first time.

“General Hester decided that we needed someone more senior to facilitate the growth at Andersen,” Owens said.

Military construction is set to boom inside Andersen Air Force Base as the military installation prepares for 3,100 additional active duty personnel and their dependents to be deployed in the next few years.

This is in addition to the 8,500 active duty personnel and their dependents already residing inside the base and the impending relocation of some 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa.

“I’m sure military construction appropriations for Guam will continue. Besides, you have a good representative in Congresswoman Bordallo,” Owens said.

He pointed out that construction on the new complex that will house the Global Hawk surveillance has already started, as well as work on the Northwest Field.

Owens, who spent time on duty in Korea, said Andersen is always prepared in case a crisis erupts with North Korea.

“In my personal opinion, our actions will be consistent with whatever actions North Korea initiates,” Owens said.

On a personal note, Owens said he and his wife are “extraordinarily happy” to be on Guam.

He added that he was very impressed with the warmth, friendship, and patriotism of the people of Guam and that he would like to stay on island “for a very long time.”

Owens promised to adopt a policy of “openness” to the media, except during times when this is not operationally expedient.

He also vowed to work closely with the local community and foster better civilian-military ties.

November 15, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

More CNMI Students want to Join the Military

Due to Worsening Economy, More Students Want to Join the Military

By Gemma Q. Casas November 15, 2006
Variety News Staff

AS the islands’ eight-year economic crisis continues to worsen, more public school students on Saipan are enlisting with the world’s most powerful armed forces in hopes of financing their college education.

But the students must first pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a multiple choice aptitude tests on general science, arithmetic, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mathematics, electronic information and auto shop knowledge.

For many of these students, one way of preparing for the ASVAB is entering the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.

JROTC is a program envisioned to instill discipline and nationalism among American high school students — and it is becoming more popular now among Northern Marianas students.

JROTC offers a regular review of ASVAB, which increases the students’ chances of passing the test.

At Saipan Southern High School, 748 of close to a thousand students are JROTC cadets.

Kelvin Babauta, a junior at SSHS, said joining the military will enable him to study in college, serve his country and see the rest of the world.

“I would die for my country. I also see the military as a way to travel. See better things besides Saipan,” said Babauta, who is a cadet 2nd lieutenant.

He said he feels he has to pass the ASVAB now more than ever due to the CNMI’s deteriorating economic condition.

His friends feel the same way.

“We must pass ASVAB,” he said. “It’s a difficult test.”

Henry Camacho, a sophomore at SSHS, also sees his future in the military.

“I want to serve my country,” he said, adding that some of his cousins are already deployed in Iraq.

He said his cousins’ stories about combat and “living on the edge” have inspired him to pass the ASVAB.
For 15-year-old Michelle Ramon, the JROTC program is crucial to her future.

She and Kayla Naboliv Jr. see a brighter future ahead of them if they sign up with the military.
Ramon said the JROTC can help prepare her for life’s challenges.

“The military is one of my options,” she said.

Naboliv, for her part, said the military would help finance her college education.

“I want to be independent and I see the military helping me get a degree in history and education. It will open a new world for me,” she said.

Sgt. Major Shawn Goins, adviser to Col. Stephen Smith, commander of the 13th Brigade, which oversees the U.S. JROTC in the Pacific region, said the program is not aimed at recruiting military personnel but it does help cadets have a better chance of entering the armed forces.

“We just want to give them a map that shows if you work hard it pays in the end. The JROTC is not a recruitment operation nor is the senior ROTC program. It is just a program in high school to help young adults become better citizens no matter what they want to do after they leave high school,” said Goins.

He said the 13th Brigade oversees 55 JROTC and SROTC programs in Montana, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa.

The visiting military official said the Pacific region has one of the best JROTC programs in the U.S.
“JROTC programs stretching from here to Guam, all the way to the American Samoa and Hawaii, are, in my eyes, some of the best that we have. The kids are very disciplined. They understand that someone wants to show you a better way of life and they get it in this part of the country,” the North Carolina-based Goins said.
Goins and Smith are scheduled to talk with various public school principals and Northern Marianas College officials during their stay on island.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Solidarity with South Korea


U.S. Activists Join South Koreans to Protest US Military Base Expansion and US-Korea Free Trade Agreement

New York, NY (Nov. 16, 2006) – American peace activists Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin are leading a delegation of U.S. peace and social justice activists to South Korea to oppose the expansion of Camp Humphrey, the US military base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea and to protest the proposed Korea-US Free Trade Agreement.

The delegation of 18, who will be in
Korea from November 20 to November 24, includes members of Working Families Party, Veterans for Peace, Service Employees International Union, CodePink, Global Exchange, and Gold Star Families for Peace. This will be the first trip to Korea for Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, and Benjamin, founder of Global Exchange and CodePink.

They will meet with elderly Korean farmers of Pyongtaek, whose farmland and homes were violently seized by the Korean military to accommodate the expansion of the
U.S. military base. For over two years, Korean farmers have exhausted every legal channel and resisted relocation, holding candlelight vigils for 800 nights.

U.S. government spends $9 billion dollars a month on overseas military operations," said Cindy Sheehan, "We are traveling to Korea to witness first-hand how U.S. tax dollars are being spent to destroy Korean farm lands, homes, schools and lives."

According to Kisuk Yom, head of the Korean-American coalition leading the
U.S. delegation, "There is no democracy for elderly villagers whose farmlands were stolen. The South Korean public, too, has been silenced, yet they are the ones who will suffer the consequences of a future military conflict."

On November 22, the delegation will join the nationwide mobilization against the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. One million Koreans are expected to take to the streets in
Seoul. "The proposed FTA will dramatically expand the failed model of NAFTA," says Christine Ahn, policy analyst with the Korea Policy Institute. "We will let the Korean people know what NAFTA has meant for
working Americans: factories shutting down and farms falling into foreclosure."

Korean Americans against War and Neoliberalism, (KAWAN), a coalition of US based Korean organizations working to stop the passage of the FTA and the expansion of the
U.S. military base, is the sponsor and organizer of the trip. "We hope this delegation will return to the U.S. to tell the American people about the true human cost of the U.S. military expansion in Korea," said Hyukkyo Suh, Executive Director of National Association of Korean Americans. "Korea is a democratic and sovereign nation, and the Korean people want—as they deserve-- to make decisions that will affect their lives for years to come."

For more information about the delegation and KAWAN, please visit

Monday, November 13, 2006

Remembering Japan's War of Aggression

Center a testimony to Japan's war of aggression

KAWAGOE, Saitama Pref. (Kyodo) A resource center focusing on Japan's wartime aggression in China and other parts of Asia has opened in Saitama Prefecture, exhibiting documents in which some 300 Japanese veterans confess to atrocities.

Most of the confessions, to crimes such as murdering and raping civilians, were made under the auspices of the peace group Chukiren, formed in 1957 by about 1,100 repatriated Japanese who had been imprisoned in China after the end of World War II as war criminals.

"This center will be the most powerful weapon to show the truth of the war," said Fumiko Niki, 80, head of the Chukiren peace memorial museum in the city of Kawagoe and a longtime supporter of the group.

Chukiren, a Japanese abbreviation for a phrase meaning network of repatriates from China, was dissolved in 2002 because its members were aging. But its activities were taken over by a new, younger group headed by Niki, which launched the center. People in their 20s and 30s have joined her.

The center, in a 180-sq.-meter space converted from a warehouse, houses about 23,000 books along with video footage and photos related to war, peace and other issues, according to center officials.

The books were mainly donated from Chukiren members and the late Masami Yamazumi, a former president of Tokyo Metropolitan University and critic of Japan's education system.

The launch of the center comes at a time when Chukiren members are increasingly concerned over Japan's current situation, including moves to revise the pacifist Constitution and the basic postwar education law with the aim of teaching patriotism in the classroom.

"Primarily, 1,000 Chukiren members were talking in public about the reality of the aggression. And we have to admit that raising the Japanese people's awareness as victimizers more than 60 years after the war has not been enough," said Tetsuro Takahashi, 85, former Chukiren secretary general.

Chukiren's unique activity of "testifying to the acts of aggression" can be traced back to the members' experience of being detained in China's Fushun and Taiyuan prisons, the former from 1950.

Surprisingly treated with leniency by Chinese prison staff, including being provided with medical treatment and Japanese meals, about 1,100 former Japanese Imperial Army soldiers and officers of the puppet regime in Manchuria underwent a re-education process, confessing to their "sinful acts" and reflecting on them.

Only 45 were indicted and convicted in 1956 at military tribunals held in China. None were sentenced to death. All, including those convicted, were able to return to Japan by 1964.

More than 5,000 pages of copies of handwritten testimony by the prisoners are also presented at the newly opened center, provided through the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, Niki said.

Tsuyoshi Ebato, a former soldier held in Fushun, said the confession process he underwent in the prison was "a miracle" that made him realize the graveness of his crime. He recalled how he had ordered new recruits to bayonet captured Chinese tied to stakes as part of training, including a boy who clutched his knees and begged for life.

Ebato, 93, has talked about his experiences on about 10 occasions this year at the invitation of college students, citizens' groups and teacher unions. This is double the number of such opportunities he had the previous year. They "probably thought I don't have much time left," he said.

As the number of Chukiren members still alive, believed to be about 100, is rapidly decreasing, the group headed by Niki has stepped up efforts to find war veterans who will cooperate in talking about their experiences to preserve the memories of war.

Hisao Kubotera, 86, from Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture, a Chukiren member who responded to the group's call, gave a lecture in October.

Health problems, including an ulcer, had made him reluctant to go out to speak, but recent moves by the government that he fears are leading Japan to make the same mistakes as it did in the prewar days have spurred him to talk about his experiences in detail.

"I thought a terrible thing is going to happen when I saw the government moving toward revising the Constitution and eyeing passing an amendment to the Fundamental Law of Education in the ongoing Diet session," Kubotera said.

"I believe these moves will be a large obstacle in facing Asian countries that suffered greatly (in the war)."

Kubotera was born the first of 10 children in a farming family and joined the war in China in 1942. He said he is still haunted by the memory of shooting a boy, around 14 or 15, who was hiding with his mother in a hollow, at the order of his squad leader in Shandong Province.

"I pulled the trigger immediately, like a machine. . . . We were taught that the superior's order was the same as that of the Emperor. I didn't even hesitate." he said. "But I felt as if I was killing my little brother. My heart was thumping, and I was surprised that I even had to do such a thing in war.

"Other soldiers kind of sneered at me and said, 'Oh, my, Kubotera killed a child!' But they also killed others, even though it may not have been a child," he said.

As the days passed, the memories of killing the boy faded, until he was imprisoned in Fushun. Kubotera said it still took a few years until he was able to confess in prison.

"All people who went to the war, directly or indirectly, took part in a massacre," he said.

"Japanese people talk about the sufferings of atomic bomb attacks and air raids, but we need to understand them from the context of Japan's war of aggression."

Welcoming the opening of the center, Kubotera expressed willingness to keep on relating his experiences of war.

"In my local area, there are few people willing to listen to what I say, labeling me a communist. I'm also sad that many who have been to the war remain silent," he said. "But I should keep on talking. . . . I think this will be our long, long fight to preserve peace."

The Japan Times: Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Military Chemical Dumping

Law takes aim at Army for dumping
Congress to military: Inspect, test and clean up the chemical weapons dumped into the sea.
October 18, 2006

The military must inspect the chemical weapons it dumped into the ocean decades ago to determine the danger they now pose to people or marine life, under a bill signed into law on Tuesday.

Then the Army will have to figure out how to clean up or contain - if possible - the mess it secretly made in more than two dozen offshore locations.

"We're elated," said Dave Helfert, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, who pushed for the new law. "This is the first concrete step that addresses a serious threat to the public. It's very important."

A Daily Press investigation last October revealed that the Army dumped at least 64 million pounds of deadly mustard and nerve gas - included in artillery shells, bombs and rockets - off the U.S. coastline, kept it secret and stopped checking 30 years ago to see whether the weapons were leaking. Some evidence suggests the munitions may now be leaking and pose a danger to marine life and people who eat some types of seafood.

The weapons are off the coast of at least 11 states, including Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Hawaii, Alaska and Florida. But more dumpsites may exist because the Army's records are sketchy and were destroyed long ago.

If not cleaned up, the weapons likely pose a threat for generations to come. Metal deteriorates at different rates in the ocean, depending on the depth, temperature and prevailing currents. This causes the weapons to potentially leak at different times and at different rates.

The Daily Press investigation prompted the Army to conduct an extensive search of all surviving ocean-dumping records. A report on that research is finished but has sat unreleased in the hands of top Pentagon officials for more than a month.

After reading the newspaper's findings, several lawmakers demanded the military do more than just check records for unrevealed dumpsites.

A provision in the defense authorization act - signed into law Tuesday by President Bush - requires that the military inspect its known chemical weapons dumps and record the locations on nautical charts so mariners knowthe potential dangers.

The inspections must include water and seabed environmental testing to see whether the weapons are leaking, or have leaked, and determine thecurrent and potential future threat to sea life. The military also must assess the risks to humans.

Mustard gas survives in seawater in a concentrated gel that can last for years, pushed around by ocean currents. Other chemicals can accumulate in seafood and be passed up the food chain to humans.

"This requirement is absolutely necessary to protect the public health of everyone who lives, works or visits the oceans near these munitions dumps as well as the condition of the oceans and marine life," said U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-New Jersey, one of the first lawmakers to raise a fuss.

The bill requires the military to monitor each site - most, but not all, are located in deep water - and determine how to clean them up if that is possible.

The weapons are likely to be unstable and extremely hazardous to disturb after decades in the ocean. They were dumped between 1940 and 1972.

The bill went a step further than experts expected because it applies to all ocean-dumped munitions, not just chemical weapons. "That really is quite amazing," said Craig Williams, director of the Kentucky-based Chemical Weapons Working Group, a citizen advocacy operation that monitors the Army's disposal of land-based chemical weapons. "I'll be in the ground 100 years before they get around to all of that. This isn't going to be cheap."

The Army and Navy extensively dumped surplus conventional weapons off the side of ships for decades and in the late 1960s and early 1970s loaded old ships with old weapons and blew them up, scattering unexploded ordnance inall directions.

The military will abide by the new law "in an effort to ensure the continued protection of the environment and safety of the American public," said Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin.

There is no estimate on what the new law's requirements will cost, and this year's defense-funding bill doesn't include any money for the military to begin complying with the new law's provisions. Congress makes such appropriations annually.

The law does not apply to U.S.-created chemical weapon dumpsites off the coasts of at least 11 other countries. At the end of World War II, the Army dumped its overseas chemical weapon stockpiles where they were located, killing or injuring hundreds in the ensuing decades.

Bush and the Military

Published on Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Bush Losing Support of Military
by Bob Burnett

One of the most memorable Iraq war images was President Bush's May 1, 2003, speech from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. As Bush announced, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," framed by the banner, "Mission Accomplished," he was surrounded by hundreds of cheering troops. At the time, it would have been hard to predict that three years later major combat operations would not have ended, the mission would not be accomplished, and Bush would be losing the support of the military.

How did George Bush manage to lose the backing of our armed forces, which at one time was highly supportive of his Administration?

Four factors contributed to this change: First, the occupation of Iraq was botched. Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor's recent book, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq argues the Administration "committed five grievous errors" during the planning and execution of the invasion: "They underestimated their opponent and failed to understand the welter of ethnic groups and tribes that is Iraq." "They did not bring the right tools to the fight and put too much confidence in technology." "They failed to adapt to developments on the ground;" did not recognize the rise of the insurgency. "They presided over a system in which differing military and political perspectives were discouraged." Finally, "they turned their backs onŠ nation-building."

Second, the Bush Administration's failure to "bring the right tools to the fight" directly impacted rank-and-file troops. Particularly in the early days of the occupation, most had inadequate equipment. A recent poll indicated that 42 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans "said their equipment was below the military standard of being 90 percent operational."

Third, the longer our troops stayed in Iraq the more they became aware that most Iraqis didn't want them there. A recent poll indicated that 71 percent of Iraqis want occupation forces to leave within a year. Further, 60 percent supported attacks on US-led forces.

And fourth, increasing numbers of retired Army and Marine generals began to express opposition to the war. (It's a violation of the Uniform code of Military Justice for an active-duty officer to criticize the President or anyone in the chain of military command.)

The Administration attempted to keep a lid on this discontent. As a result, there have been very few surveys that asked active-duty troops how they felt about the war. The most recent poll indicated that 72 percent of active-duty personnel believed the war should end in 2006. A more recent survey indicated that 53 percent "did not always know who the enemy was."

Increasing numbers of soldiers have gone AWOL or asked for Conscientious Objector status. In October, military personnel began adding their names to a web-based petition calling for withdrawal from Iraq. Active duty troops have begun to speak against the war.

The most notable recent comment came from Kevin Tillman on October 19th. Kevin is the brother of former pro football star, Pat Tillman, who killed in Afghanistan on April 22. 2004. Both brothers enlisted after September 11, 2001, and initially served in Iraq; then they were trained as Army Rangers and sent to Afghanistan. Kevin said, "Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground."

One of the reasons the military has turned on the Bush Administration is the increasing number of wounded troops. There have been more than 21,000 such casualties, in addition to the more than 2800 deaths. The Bush Administration prohibits pictures of coffins returning from Iraq.

They've also told the Department of Veteran's Affairs to not give out the names of the wounded. Democratic Congressman John Murtha noted that in addition to the soldiers' grievous physical injuries,"50,000 will suffer from what I call battle fatigue." In July 2004, the PBS News Hour reported, "about one-sixth of troops returning from Iraq showed symptoms of mental health problems but many are not receiving treatment." ( A recent study indicated these injuries will cost the US more than $1 trillion.)

Of course, Active-duty troops are being required to spend multiple tours of duty in Iraq. This has increased their financial and psychological problems. Recently, Stars and Stripes reported the divorce rate for Iraqi veterans jumped from 9 to 15 percent and alcohol abuse rose from 13 percent to 21 percent.

Last year, decorated combat veteran John Murtha came out against the war in Iraq. One of his reasons was the damage the occupation is doing to the military. Murtha spoke movingly of his visits with returning veterans. He concluded, "Our military is suffering."

It is this suffering, the consequences of an ill conceived and tragically mishandled war, that cost the Bush Administration the support of our troops.

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at