Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Two Islands

Two Island Tales, The Use and Abuse of Power
By Brian McAfee
August 1, 2007

The idyllic lives of two island based populations were inexorably changed and came close to annihilation just to accommodate U.S. supposed protection of democracy. Both Bikini Atoll in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean's Diego Garcia island were populated by thriving, self sufficient, fishing based population until coming under the radar screen of British and U.S. hegemonic interests. The disregard and callus indifference towards the effected populations show the true nature of U.S. "values."

Both Bikini and Diego Garcia resurfaced as issues earlier this year when survivors of the hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific and Chagos islanders (Diego Garcia) won court cases recognizing the injustices forced upon them by the U.S. in the case of Bikinians and by the British in the case of the Chagos islanders. The Bikinians were awarded $1 billion in damages for the impact and effect of U.S. nuclear and hydrogen tests. They will likely never see a cent of it as the bank reserve designated for awarding payment is said to have no funds to accommodate the ruling. The obvious irony here is that the funding to continue the Iraq war is seemingly boundless and unending but to rectify an earlier injustice is economically unfeasible. From 1946 through 1958 the U.S. had carried out 23 atomic and hydrogen bomb tests with the 1954 Bravo test the most significant one. The Bikinians were first moved to Rongeric, where they nearly starved to death, then they were shipped to Kwajalein and finally to tiny Kili where now their population is more then fifteen times bigger than the original 167 that were forcibly removed in 1946. The health effect of being down wind and contamination of the food supply of the resettled Bikini Islanders continue to be a factor in the health and food supply of Pacific islands of the Marshall Island Region.

The Chagos islanders won a hollow victory that they would be allowed to return to their islands, with the exception of Diego Garcia, the largest and main island in the archipelago, and the primary home of the exiled islanders. The U.S. which has a naval and air base on the island remains unwilling to give back the stolen island. In the case of Diego Garcia, Britain and the U.S. both were culprits in the theft of the island. While the U.S. media has, for the most part, not covered the issue of Diego Garcia two journalists have made a point of keeping it alive as an issue. Both William Blum and John Pilger have kept the story and issue alive over the years. Diego Garcia is an example of an ongoing injustice with elements of imperialism, racism and ongoing abuse of power in the name of "democracy." Blum in his recent book "Rogue State" described what happened in the Chagos Islands, "A few thousand inhabitants of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean were summarily uprooted by Great Britain and shipped against their will to Mauritius and the Seychelles, each more than a thousand miles away. No one helped them resettle or paid for the homes they lost. They simply were forced to become squatters in foreign lands. The reason for this was to make room for a U.S. military base on the biggest of the Chagos Islands, Diego Garcis." John Piler's new book "Freedom Nest Time" goes in to more details of what happened with the Chagos Islands and Diego Garcia with updated details.

In both cases the apparent writing of wrongs were deceptive. In the case of the Bikinian legal victory of $1 billion the funds, according to the U.S., no longer exists to pay them despite the current ruling, how convenient. In the case of Diego Garcia the main goal in the native pursuit of justice, the Island of Diego Garcia itself, remains off limits to its rightful owners, the Chagossian people. The U.S. continues to scoff at the legal and moral basis for justice, for simply doing the right things.

Monday, July 30, 2007

First Global Hawk Arrives on Guam

Global Hawk makes first Guam landing
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff

THE high-tech Global Hawk surveillance aircraft was deployed to Guam recently as part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing’s RQ-4 Global Hawk operations deployment from Beale Air Force Base in California.

According to 2nd Lt. Ashley Peltier of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs Office, the Global Hawk aircraft, personnel and support equipment was deployed to Guam on July 19 directly from Beale Air Force Base in support of “a combatant commander tasking.”

The flight marks the first Global Hawk landing at Andersen Air Force Base where the Global Hawk is scheduled to be stationed permanently starting in 2009.

According to Lt. Col. J. Scott Winstead, the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, they have stabilized training operations at Beale and are now stepping out to show that the Global Hawk can safely be deployed around the world.

He said the Global Hawk would have arrived on Guam sooner but the flight had to be delayed due to Typhoon Man-Yi.

At Andersen, a team from Beale set up the Global Hawk’s launch and recovery element, initiating satellite connectivity, performing link checks and trouble-shooting all possible risks.

According to the Air Force, the flight to Guam demonstrated the tremendous range and capabilities of the Global Hawk, which had to fly 16 hours from Beale Air Force Base to Andersen.

The Global Hawk, which has a 30-hour flight capability, will be based permanently on Guam starting in 2009 when $42 million worth of facilities at Andersen would have been completed.

Since its initial deployment immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, the Global Hawk program has maintained 95 percent or better mission-effectiveness, the Air Force said.

Out of the 277 combat missions flown since January 2006, only 11 have been canceled due to maintenance, weather or mission reasons.

According to Variety sources, the arrival of the Global Hawk on Guam was deliberately kept low key because Andersen and Pacific Air Forces still don’t have their own Global Hawk squadron and the publicity for the Global Hawk’s Guam deployment was left up to Beale Air Force Base in California.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Stop the Desecration of Ancient Chamorro Remains

July 30, 2007



Representatives of Chamorro organizations have sent an appeal to Guam Resorts, Inc. (dba Guam Hotel Okura) to save what’s left of the ancient Chamorro cemetery being excavated at the hotel’s renovation construction site. The groups are outraged that more than 280 ancestral remains have already been excavated without public notice and that the archaeological contractor, PHRI, has plans to mail these remains off-island via parcel post.
In a letter sent today, Chamoru representatives have also requested to meet with Okura Hotel officials to discuss:
1. Preservation plans for the cemetery.
2. Exact number of remains that have been removed (when they were found and where the remains are being stored.
3. The effects of renovation construction on the existing cemetery.
4. And, the hotel’s re-interment plans.

“We feel that the whole scale removal of this Chamorro cemetery is unnecessary and disrespectful,” said former senator Hope Cristobal, resident of Tamuning. “We want people to respect the dead in our ancestral cemeteries.”

For more information, please contact Hope Cristobal ---- or Victoria Leon Guerrero ------.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Japan Sheds Military Restraints

Bomb by Bomb, Japan Sheds Military Restraints
New York Times
Published: July 23, 2007

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam - To take part in its annual exercises with the United States Air Force here last month, Japan practiced dropping 500-pound live bombs on Farallon de Medinilla, a tiny island in the western Pacific's turquoise waters more than 150 miles north of here.

The pilots described dropping a live bomb for the first time - shouting "shack!" to signal a direct hit - and seeing the fireball from aloft.

"The level of tension was just different," said Capt. Tetsuya Nagata, 35, stepping down from his cockpit onto the sunbaked tarmac.

The exercise would have been unremarkable for almost any other military, but it was highly significant for Japan, a country still restrained by a Constitution that renounces war and allows forces only for its defense. Dropping live bombs on land had long been considered too offensive, so much so that Japan does not have a single live-bombing range.

Flying directly from Japan and practicing live-bombing runs on distant foreign soil would have been regarded as unacceptably provocative because the implicit message was clear: these fighter jets could perhaps fly to North Korea and take out some targets before returning home safely.

But from here in Micronesia to Iraq, Japan's military has been rapidly crossing out items from its list of can't-dos. The incremental changes, especially since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, amount to the most significant transformation in Japan's military since World War II, one that has brought it ever closer operationally to America's military while rattling nerves throughout northeast Asia.

In a little over half a decade, Japan's military has carried out changes considered unthinkable a few years back. In the Indian Ocean, Japanese destroyers and refueling ships are helping American and other militaries fight in Afghanistan. In Iraq, Japanese planes are transporting cargo and American troops to Baghdad from Kuwait.

Japan is acquiring weapons that blur the lines between defensive and offensive. For the Guam bombing run, Japan deployed its newest fighter jets, the F-2's, the first developed jointly by Japan and the United States, on their maiden trip here. Unlike its older jets, the F-2's were able to fly the 1,700 miles from northern Japan to Guam without refueling - a "straight shot," as the Japanese said with unconcealed pride.

Japan recently indicated strongly its desire to buy the F-22 Raptor, a stealth fighter known mainly for its offensive abilities such as penetrating contested airspace and destroying enemy targets, whose export is prohibited by United States law.

At home, the Defense Agency, whose profile had been intentionally kept low, became a full ministry this year. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used the parliamentary majority he inherited from his wildly popular predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, to ram through a law that could lead to a revision of the pacifist Constitution.

Japan's 241,000-member military, though smaller than those of its neighbors, is considered Asia's most sophisticated. Though flat, its $40 billion military budget has ranked among the world's top five in recent years. Japan has also tapped nonmilitary budgets to launch spy satellites and strengthen its coast guard recently.

Japanese politicians like Mr. Abe have justified the military's transformation by seizing on the threat from North Korea; the rise of China, whose annual military budget has been growing by double digits; and the Sept. 11 attacks - even fanning those threats, critics say. At the same time, Mr. Abe has tried to rehabilitate the reputation of Japan's imperial forces by whitewashing their crimes, including wartime sexual slavery.

Japanese critics say the changes under way - whose details the government has tried to hide from public view, especially the missions in Iraq - have already violated the Constitution and other defense restrictions.

"The reality has already moved ahead, so they will now talk about the need to catch up and revise the Constitution," said Yukio Hatoyama, the secretary general of the main opposition Democratic Party.

Richard J. Samuels, a Japan expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that revisionist politicians like Mr. Abe and Mr. Koizumi, once on the fringes of Japan's political world, succeeded in grabbing the mainstream in a time of uncertainty. They shared the view "that the statute of limitations on Japan's misbehavior during the Pacific War had expired" and that Japan, like any normal country, should have a military.

Their predecessors feared getting entangled in an American-led war. But the new leaders feared that Japan would be abandoned by the United States unless it contributed to its wars, said Mr. Samuels, whose book on Japan's changing military, "Securing Japan," will be published in August.

"So what do you do?" he said. "You step up. And that is consistent with what they've long wanted to do anyway. So there was a convergence of preferences."

Today, Japan is America's biggest partner in developing and financing a missile defense shield in Asia. Some Japanese ground and air force commands are also moving inside American bases in Japan so that the two forces will become, in military jargon, "interoperable."

"I think the Japan-U.S. security relationship should be as unified as possible, and our different roles need to be made clear," said Shigeru Ishiba, a defense chief under Mr. Koizumi and now a leader in a Liberal Democratic Party committee looking at loosening defense restrictions.

In Iraq, in accordance with a special law to aid in reconstruction, a symbolic ground force was first deployed to a relatively peaceful, noncombat area in southern Iraq to engage in relief activities. After the troops left last year, though, three Japanese planes began regularly transporting American troops and cargo from Kuwait to Baghdad.

The Japanese authorities refuse to say whether the planes have transported weapons besides those carried by soldiers. Concerned about public opposition, defense officers have spied on antiwar activists and journalists perceived as critical, the Defense Ministry acknowledged after incriminating documents were recently obtained by the Communist Party in Japan.

Mr. Hatoyama of the Democratic Party said that transporting armed American troops contravened Japan's pacifist Constitution.
"Instead of engaging in humanitarian assistance, they are basically assisting American troops," he said. "American troops and the Air Self-Defense Forces are working as one, just as they are training as one in Guam."

In Parliament, Mr. Abe denied that the activities violated the Constitution, saying Japanese troops were restricted to noncombat zones and did not operate under a joint command with any other force.

Here in Guam, American and Japanese pilots simulated intercepts and air-to-air combat for two weeks. In the final days, each side took turns pummeling the tiny island with bombs.

Col. Tatsuya Arima, the commander of the Japanese squadron, said such bombing could protect Japanese grounds troops or vessels from encroaching enemies.
"Bombing does not always mean offensive weapons," Colonel Arima said. "They can also be used for defense, which, put another way, is what we mostly train for."
Lt. Col. Tod Fingal, the commander of the American squadron, said the exercise helped build confidence among pilots by exposing them to a new environment.
"I would equate it to an away game in sports," Colonel Fingal said.

Japan's military has become less shy in projecting its power away from home. Japan lacks the nuclear submarines, long-range missiles or large aircraft carriers that amount to real power projection.

But it is acquiring four Boeing 767 air tankers that will allow its planes to refuel in midair and travel farther, as well as two aircraft carriers that will transport helicopters and, with some adjustments, planes capable of taking off vertically. The United States has welcomed the changes while pressing for more.

"The restrictions that Japan has lived under, which I would say Japan has maintained on its own or imposed on itself, are quite unique," said a Pentagon official who requested anonymity so that he could speak candidly. "The changes that you're seeing in Japan are very unique changes in the context of those restrictions. In the context of everything else that is going on around the world, or in the context of Japan's potential to contribute to the region and the world in security areas, the changes are fairly small."

Small or not, they are causing anxieties in a region where distrust of Japan has deepened in direct proportion to Japanese tendencies to revise the past. South Korea reacted sharply to Japan's desire to buy the F-22 Raptor. Also, in a recent ceremony unveiling South Korea's first destroyer equipped with the advanced Aegis weapons system, President Roh Moo-hyun said, "Northeast Asia is still in an arms race, and we cannot just sit back and watch."

Mr. Ishiba, the former defense chief, said the region's distrust was softened by Japan's alliance with the United States. But he acknowledged that Japan's inability to come to terms with its wartime past restricted its ability to project power positively.

"Unless everyone understands why we weren't able to avoid that war," Mr. Ishiba said, referring to World War II, "and what Japan did to Asia, it could be dangerous if we get power-projection capability."


Feds want Guam to foot the bill for TopOFF 4 exercise
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
July 26, 2007

EXPENSES for the TOPOFF 4 Full-Scale Exercise slated in October is likely to reach about $10 million and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security hints that the government of Guam might have to foot the bill, Sen. Frank Blas Jr., R-Barrigada, said yesterday.

"But where will GovGuam pull the money?" Blas asked, noting that Guam received only a $2.2 million grant from DHS for homeland security management this year.

"Whatever amount that we take out of the grant to pay for the exercise would mean less money that we can use for the actual purpose of the grant," Blas said in a long-distance phone interview.

Blas, a former homeland security advisor, and his successor Dennis Santo Tomas, are in Washington., D.C. meeting with DHS officials to discuss the TopOff 4 Exercise, which will be held on Guam from Oct. 15 to 24.

TOPOFF 4 is the nation's premier terrorism preparedness training that will involve more than 15,000 participants representing federal, state, territorial, local entities and international observers.

Among the incidental expenses for the exercise are personnel cost, security, props, power, transportation, lodging and food.

"Initially, they said they would take care of these. Now they are saying they won't be able to take care of these," Blas said. "Unfortunately since then, DHS has pulled back saying they had procurement problems on their end."

When he was the governor's homeland security advisor, Blas met with his federal counterparts in November last year to work on a memorandum of understanding pertaining to the federal government's financial responsibility.

"Although there has been continued discussion over the last two and a half years as to who would be financially responsible for what, DHS has yet to come to any decision on their end as to what they will be able to pay for," Blas said.

Blas's and Santo Tomas's meeting with DHS will continue over the next two days.
"Guam has continually pushed this issue and with the exercise just three months away, we would like for DHS to resolve this issue so that it does not continue to be a major point of contention," he added.

TOPOFF 4 participants will engage in various activities as part of a robust, full-scale simulated response to a multi-faceted threat. The exercise will address policy and strategic issues that mobilize prevention and response systems, require participants to make difficult decisions, carry out essential functions, and challenge their ability to maintain a common operating picture during an incident of national significance.

The exercise is based on National Planning Scenario 11, which begins with terrorists, who have been planning attacks in Oregon, Arizona, and Guam, successfully bringing in radioactive material into the United States.

Buffalo Arrives on Guam

USS Buffalo arrives on Guam
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff
friday, 27 july 07
THE USS Buffalo, which has been reassigned from Pearl Harbor to Guam, has arrived on island and is set to hold a formal change of command ceremony today.

The fast-attack, Los Angeles-class submarine arrived on Guam July 19 and joins two other submarines homeported on Guam — the USS City of Corpus Christi and the USS Houston.

According to the COMNAVMAR public affairs office, the USS Buffalo’s crew will hold its change-of-command ceremony on U.S. Naval Base Guam today. During the ceremony, Cmdr. Brian Humm will be relieved by Cmdr. Scott Pappano, who recently served at the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The guest speaker will be Rear Adm. Bill French, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Marianas.

Humm will report to Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The USS Buffalo, which now reports to Submarine Squadron 15, is an integral part of the Navy’s ability to provide forward presence and project power around the world.

According to the Navy, the mainstays of her abilities are stealth, speed, endurance, and flexibility and with her state-of-the-art combat systems, she can perform traditional sea control operations as well as stride targets on shore.

The USS Buffalo, the Navy’s 25th Los Angeles-class submarine, has a crew of approximately 130 sailors.

Like other submarines in her class, the USS Buffalo is capable of carrying the most advanced weapons available to the submarine force.

Included in her arsenal are the MK-48 advanced capability torpedo and the Tomahawk land attack cruise missile.

According to the U.S. Naval Forces Public Affairs Office, the relocation of the USS Buffalo maintains the U.S. Navy’s commitment to preserve a forward-deployed presence of three submarines in Guam after the USS San Francisco met an accident in 2005.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Agent Orange in Guam Again

Feds acknowledge claim by Vietnam veteran
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged the benefits claim filed by a Vietnam war veteran who developed a cancer of the larynx, eventually causing his speech disability, as a result of his direct exposure to Agent Orange when he was stationed on Guam between 1968 and 1969.

DVA has agreed to provide Robert L. Burgett a full grant of benefits effective May 17 of this year.

In its March 27 decision, DVA agreed to grant Burgett a special monthly compensation "based on complete organic aphonia with constant inability to communicate by speech."

Burgett was stationed on Andersen Air Force Base from March 5, 1968 to Sept. 4, 1968 and June 1969 to Sept, 18, 1969. As a material facility specialist, Burgett was tasked to haul drums of toxic chemicals from one storage area to another.

"It is also noted that while serving in Guam chemical around the bases was used to control the weeds," DVA stated in its decision.

Agent Orange was a type of defoliant used by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971, in its chemical warfare program during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange and similar herbicides were sprayed extensively in Vietnam to thin the jungles and make it easier for U.S. troops to advance.

Degradation of these herbicides released dioxins, which have caused harm to the health of those exposed during the Vietnam war. The chemicals have been linked to cancer, lymphoma, and birth defects prevalent in Vietnam.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bracing For the Next Wave

Bracing for next wave
By Kirsten Scharnberg Chicago Tribune national correspondent
June 18, 2007

Residents of Guam nervously await a planned influx of thousands of American troops, unsure if it bodes well or ill for this tiny, strategically located U.S. territory in the Pacific

AGANA, Guam—There is no better view in Guam than the one from atop the air traffic control tower at Andersen Air Force Base on this island's northern shore. The Pacific Ocean stretches endlessly. The mountains with their lush foliage jut into the turquoise sky. When bad weather rolls in, it often can be spotted from here before anywhere else.

There is a storm, of sorts, coming to this speck of an island in the West Pacific.

Over the next decade, the Pentagon plans to shift at least 8,000 Marines here from Okinawa, Japan, boosting the permanent U.S. ilitary presence on Guam to levels unseen since World War II.

The Air Force will expand its base by some 2,500 personnel and host a constant rotation of long-range bomber squadrons to help the U.S. deal with threats posed by a nuclear North Korea, a fast-expanding Chinese military and Islamic terrorist cells in such places as Indonesia and the Philippines.

And the Navy will continue to add sailors and some of its most advanced weapons, including Trident missiles and nuclear submarines.

In all, a remote U.S. territory once nicknamed "Operation Sleepy Hollow" within military circles will go from hosting only a few thousand U.S. troops to having up to 20,000, earning it a couple of new nicknames: "Fortress Pacific" and "America's unsinkable aircraft carrier."

"I don't think anyone can say exactly how good or bad this change will be," said Melissa Savares, mayor of Dededo, the island village expected to be most affected by the Marine expansion. "But everyone can safely say it will be profound."

Looking closely at the tropical vistas of Guam, an island only 30 miles long, one can already see the early signs of change and potential conflict.

Bulldozers tear through palm trees to clear previously undeveloped acres for buildings and training areas on land that families in Guam claim was unfairly seized from them by the U.S. military, which currently owns nearly one-third of the island.

And on the bluffs overlooking the island's most beautiful stretch of shoreline, dozens of families are creating a makeshift town by occupying rows of crumbling buildings on abandoned federal property, vowing to face off against the wrecking balls if plans for a superhighway through their ancestral property go forward.

"I respect the military because they serve our country," said Princess Rupley, 29, a mother living in condemned Federal Aviation Administration housing near the airport. "But when you come to a tiny island where land matters the way it does here, you can't barge in and take the amount of property that the federal government has for the last 60 years here. At some point there's got to be a backlash."

Guam has had little say in its relationship with Washington since the island became a U.S. territory in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. Although Guam residents are U.S. citizens, they cannot vote in presidential elections, and the island's representative in Congress can be on committees but has no vote on the House floor.

But that may be changing. Some of the island's top leaders and activists recognize that there may never be a better time for Guam to bargain with the federal government than now, when the U.S. military so badly needs this little island so perfectly situated to be a key link in the United States' modern Asia policy.

And as a result, a movement is gaining traction to demand that the people of Guam be allowed to vote on what kind of political relationship—statehood, independence or territory—they want to have with the U.S. in the years to come.

Century of the Pacific

This spring, Vice President Dick Cheney traveled to the Pacific to champion the United States' global military strategy. One of his first stops was Guam, and his remarks to troops at Andersen Air Force Base hinted broadly at the growing significance of this island that sits within easy flight or sail of China, North Korea and the Strait of Malacca, one of the most important shipping lanes in the world, especially for oil.

"Guam is in the heart of a strategic area where the distances are great and the responsibilities are many," Cheney said. "By positioning our forces on Guam, the United States can move quickly and effectively to protect our friends … and to keep the sea lanes open to commerce and closed to terrorists. This island may be small, but it has tremendous importance."

Even as Cheney spoke, Andersen air base was working on construction of typhoon-resistant hangars that can house up to 10 Global Hawks, the nation's most advanced unmanned global spy planes. And across the island, at Naval Base Guam, the port is to be re-outfitted to hold new stealth combat ships that can deploy special covert forces.

Indeed, while most eyes in recent years have focused on the Middle East and demands on U.S. forces there, many military experts have predicted this to be the century of the Pacific.

American military officials hope that a significant U.S. presence in the Pacific will make China think twice about attempting to push into Taiwan. The U.S. also wants to monitor what some experts have called an Asian arms race, where governments from China to Pakistan have begun building up submarine fleets, many of which have stealth capabilities advanced enough to elude U.S. radar. And routine U.S. military exercises off the coast of Guam are clearly intended as a show of force to the North Koreans.

In his recent speech, Cheney thanked the people of Guam for their support. "You've made us feel right at home here," he said. But the vice president never left the base during his brief island visit. If he had, he would have encountered several dozen protesters with posters such as "Massive military buildup catastrophic to Guam." He would have seen that while the vast majority of residents hope the expansion will help the island, not everyone wants the military to feel welcome here.

Demanding a seat at the table: Sitting on the patio of a run-down little bar on Guam's southern shore, Debbie Quinata shakes with rage as she talks about U.S. plans to increase troop levels here.

Others may worry about the expansion's effect on everyday concerns such as water and sewage systems, power and traffic. They question how the already gridlocked island of about 170,000 can absorb what may amount to well over 30,000 new military residents and their dependents.

But Quinata's concerns are broader. She fears the expanded U.S. military presence will kill any chance for a vote on political self-determination, something she and a group of activists seeking the island's independence have been demanding for years.

"The U.S. doesn't want to cede any control in a place where they are going to be having this many troops," she said. Most top military officials acknowledge that the reason they want to pull troops out of Japan is to avoid having to bargain with other governments about military decisions, which is unnecessary on land controlled by the U.S.

Quinata and other activists have taken a unique approach to try to stop the expansion. They've begun lobbying Japan's government to back out of its tentative deal to pay roughly 60 percent of the nearly $10 billion price tag associated with transferring Marines to Guam, a gambit that currently shows little promise because Japan is so keen to regain the land of Okinawa.

More moderate voices on the island are equally apprehensive about the expansion.

Guam legislator Judith Won Pat and other political leaders have traveled to Okinawa to attempt to understand why the Japanese government is so committed to ensuring that the Marines leave. She said the Japanese list a number of reasons, from prostitution to the rapes that U.S. Marines have committed there.

"If the Marines are going to come here, we need to go to great lengths to ensure the problems of Okinawa are not replicated here," Won Pat said. "The terms of engagement for this expansion have to be determined by the people of Guam. They have to at least be allowed a seat at the table, not just to have all the terms laid down for them."

Eddie Calvo, vice speaker of the Guam Legislature, looks at the military expansion through the eyes of a seasoned politician, one who knows it's always easiest to strike a bargain when the other party wants—or, better yet, needs—something from you. Calvo believes Guam has never been better positioned to push for statehood.

"In the 21st Century, Guam's role in the world is going to be more strategic than Hawaii," he said. "Now is the best time for us to try to negotiate."

Though most people on Guam want the island to have a chance for self-determination and more say in its future, polls conducted by local news media also show that up to 85 percent of the island believes the U.S. military expansion has the potential to be good for Guam. But precisely how much of the military's huge investment will spill over to the island's general economy remains to be seen.

New military housing slated for several sites on the island will reduce the number of troops who will rent private homes. And the Guam Department of Labor has talked of granting visas to some 15,000 skilled foreign laborers, the vast majority from the Philippines, in order to staff the building boom.

This land is our land Military officials this spring launched public meetings in which island residents voiced their concerns about the coming expansion. Predictably, much worry revolved around the commodity most cherished on an island as small as Guam: land.

In the eyes of many on Guam, the U.S. military does not have a good track record on this.

The history of the land debates on Guam dates to World War II. On the same day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, they easily overtook the tiny American military presence on Guam and occupied the island with brutality for two years. In 1944, the U.S. regained control of the island after a bloody battle that left Guam in shambles.

Jose and Jesus Pangelinan, whose father was executed by the Japanese for suspicions he was aiding the Americans, still weep when they remember those days. They also remember welcoming the victorious U.S. Marines with parades and hugs—until their liberators came to tell them and hundreds of other families that their land was being confiscated for military use.

Some were paid pennies on the dollar for thousands of acres of oceanfront property; others signed away their titles, believing it was the least they could do for the nation that freed them from Japanese tyranny.

"It broke our hearts—our spirits—to leave this land," said Jose Pangelinan, 82. "On an island this small, all you are is the land you own, the food you grow, the shoreline you fish. These are everything."

In the 1990s, during a decade of military downsizing, the U.S. started a program to return some of that land to original owners or their descendants. Some 9,000 families, including the Pangelinans, benefited, according to program officials. But with the coming expansion, people are terrified that history is about to repeat itself.

The land returned to the Pangelinans, for example, sits adjacent to land slated to become housing for 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents. The Defense Department has made no moves to acquire more land on Guam, and commanders on the ground say they doubt such action would be taken, but families who have lost property in the past still fear the worst.

"I want to believe my country will be fair to me," Jose Pangelinan said. "I love my country. … But the last time I believed they would be fair, everything my father had ever worked for was taken away."

His brother interrupted him.

"Whenever the U.S. troops roll in," Jesus Pangelinan, 84, said, "you never know what else will follow."


Copyright (c) 2007, Chicago Tribune

Monday, July 23, 2007

Herbicides in Guam

Retired airman says he sprayed herbicides in Guam
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
July 16, 2007

WHEN he was an active airman stationed on Guam as a fuel specialist, MSgt Roy Foster's job was to mix, prepare, and spray herbicides on Andersen Air Force Base facilities.

Now retired and disabled, Foster has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and arterial disease, which he believes were caused by his direct exposure to the toxic defoliants.

He is now looking for witnesses from the Air Force or the Navy who were stationed on Guam between 1968 and 1978, to support his disability claims with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The U.S. government has never admitted to storing herbicides on Guam but several soldiers who were on Guam during the Vietnam War have testified in various forums on the presence of drums of chemicals stored in military bases on island.

Foster was stationed at AAFB on three separate occasions between 1968 and 1978, working in the Supply Squadron Fuels Branch.

"I worked at on-base fuel storage facilities at Andy I and II during my first assignment from 1968 and 1969 preparing, mixing and spraying herbicides (bags of white powdery substance with oil and demineralized water in a 750-gallon trailer), spraying on fence lines, pipelines, building perimeters, fuel pipeline junction pits, fuel storage recovery dikes, etc.," Foster stated in an e-mail to Variety.

During his second and third deployments, from 1969 to 1971, and then from 1976 to 1978, Foster said he worked extensively on off-base fuel facilities, "working out of Anderson AFB Andy II fuel storage tank farm driving a six-pack pickup truck with a crew of six to 10 men."

"I was responsible for the cross country pipeline operations to include tank farms near NCS Yigo, Tumon Bay tank farm, NAS Booster Station Agana and the cross country pipeline to the Naval Station underground fuel storage facilities where the Air Force maintained several underground fuel storage tanks for transfer to those facilities mentioned above," he recalled.

Herbicides were used by the U.S. military to control jungle vegetation. The use of these defoliants was part of the U.S. military's chemical warfare program during the Vietnam War. Approximately 19 million gallons of Agent Orange were reportedly sprayed in Vietnam to thin the jungles and make it easier for U.S. troops to advance.

Degradation of these herbicides released dioxins, which have caused harm to the health of those exposed during the Vietnam War. The chemicals have been linked to cancer, lymphoma, and birth defects prevalent in Vietnam.

"When I was an airman, I was ordered to prepare, mix and spray those herbicides when others refused because they knew things that I did not know," Foster said. "I was a very young airman new to the Air Force and the Vietnam War."
Foster said he learned that one of his supervisors, TSgt Edmund Schmitz, died from cancer many years ago.

"Others may and probably also have died of the same disease. I suspect from herbicide exposure as the wind would blow the stuff back into your face and dry quickly with a white powder surface," Foster said.

A report by the Dow Chemical Investor Risk Report revealed the heavy concentration of dioxin at Andersen Air Force Base, poisoning soldiers who were stationed in Guam in the late 1960s.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently approved the disability claim filed by a Vietnam War veteran who developed a cancer of the larynx as a result of his direct exposure to Agent Orange when he was stationed on Guam between 1968 and 1969. Robert L. Burgett was awarded a full grant of benefits effective May 17 of this year.

The Blue Water Navy operates a Web site (http://bluewaternavy.org/) that provides comprehensive information related to dioxin and other toxic exposures by Navy personnel.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

US Missile Testing in the Marshalls

Islanders block US missile testing range
By Pacific correspondent Campbell Cooney

Posted Sun Jun 24, 2007 6:00pm AEST

Local officials say the future of a United States missile testing range in the western Pacific is in doubt because Marshall Islands land owners refuse to accept rent offered by the US.

Four years ago the US and Marshall Islands governments signed a deal allowing use of the range until 2086.

The Reagan Test Site is used as a target for ballistic missiles launched in the US and elsewhere.

But the deal relies on traditional land owners agreeing to continue renting the site to the US.

They are saying they will not accept another 70 years of failing services and poor conditions on Ebeye Island, which is home to 12,000 people.

Most of the locals working on the range live on the island on a third of a square kilometre - an area labelled "the slum of the Pacific".

The current land use agreement expires in 2016, and the US has confirmed it wants to stay beyond that date.

The US ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Clyde Bishop, says he is confident the differences will be sorted out.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Protecting a Troubled Paradise

Global diary: She protects a troubled paradise

For 62 years, the United States military used this lush island for target practice—until Nilda Medina and an army of protesters made it stop. Mariane Pearl meets the activist still fighting for Vieques. See more Global Diary
By Mariane Pearl

Nilda and her husband, Robert, discuss Vieques' future on a local radio show.

Nilda Medina, the woman I'm writing about this month, reminds me of Rosa Parks. Both are so-called ordinary women who changed their worlds. Rosa, an African American from the segregated South, uttered arguably the most famous "no" in history when she refused to give her bus seat to a white man in 1955; that bold, simple act launched the modern civil rights movement. Nilda, a resident of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques that was used for decades as a U.S. military bombing range, wouldn't stop fighting the war machines she says were destroying her home and her people's spirit. Thanks in large part to her perseverance, the military left the island four years ago.

I have come here to Vieques, eight miles off the Puerto Rican mainland—and the twelfth stop on my round-the-world journey for Glamour—to see what has happened since the bombs stopped falling. I have found that this Rosa Parks of Puerto Rico is still fighting for the island she loves. Looking out at the Caribbean Sea, rocking in a chair on the porch of her small house, Nilda reflects on the nearly 30 years she has dedicated to Vieques—and the many struggles still ahead as residents fight to clean up their environment, find good jobs and give their young people hope. As we talk about Vieques' difficult past and uncertain future, Nilda's sweet, round face and braided long hair glow softly in the spring sunset's orange light. "We've made so much progress," she tells me in Spanish, "but the horizon is still far away."

Vieques, a narrow, 21-mile-long island with white beaches surrounded by aquamarine waters, is described in tourism brochures as the last unspoiled Caribbean paradise. Until recently, though, Vieques wasn't considered a desirable vacation spot. During World War II, the U.S. military expropriated three quarters of the island, forced residents to leave their homes and began testing weapons here. By the time it pulled out in 2003, the military had detonated about 18,000 tons of explosives—some containing napalm and Agent Orange—on Vieques.

Nilda grew up as one of eight siblings in Vega Alta on the mainland; her mother spoke often about social justice. Nilda remembers being moved, as a girl, by the plight of the Viequenses, who lived amid bomb explosions as if they were at war. In 1980, as a 35-year-old science teacher, Nilda came here to work in the schools and volunteer as an activist. "The people were in crisis," she recalls. "There had been protests years before, but they lost momentum. Hope was low." And psychological trauma was widespread, she found. "Bombs fell [on testing ranges] 20 days a month, 12 hours a day," Nilda says. "People would run to their homes, scared that bombs would fall on them. Children would cry." Amid the sounds of low-flying planes, Nilda staged small protests and went door-to-door educating people about the military presence. "I explained how the bombing was affecting their health and hurting their chances for better jobs," she says. "Our lagoons, land and ecosystems were at risk of being destroyed."

In her first year in Vieques, Nilda met her soulmate, Robert Rabin, an American college student researching his master's thesis here. They fast became partners in love and activism, and have been together ever since. In 1993 the couple helped set up the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques (CRDV), a group that reenergized the protest movement against the bombing. For years they struggled to gain attention. Then, in 1999, a security guard at the weapons testing facility, David Sanes Rodriguez, was accidentally killed by two 500-ton U.S. bombs that fell too close to his post. "He was one of us," Nilda says. "After his death, the people said, 'No more.'" Nilda and others organized demonstrations, and thousands of protesters, including celebrities like Edward James Olmos, staged round-the-clock sit-ins. "Many of us were arrested," she recalls. Dignitaries such as Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama sent messages of support. A politician named Sila Calderón won the race for governor of Puerto Rico on promises that she'd push the military to halt the bombing.

In 2001 President Bush announced that the U.S. military would pull out of Vieques two years later, saying that Puerto Ricans "are our friends and neighbors, and they don't want us there." At last, on May 1, 2003, the bombs fell silent. But there was an explosion of joy in Vieques, complete with fireworks and celebrations. "People finally understood that ours was truly a human rights struggle," Nilda says. The military pullout was a personal triumph for Nilda—one that gives her comfort as she fights Vieques' next battles.

During the past four years, Viequenses have wondered: What's next for us? While many feel hopeful, the islanders face myriad new problems. Much of the land is contaminated with toxins, experts say, and thousands of unexploded bombs remain buried under former testing grounds. Cancer is about 30 percent more common here than in the rest of Puerto Rico, according to several reports; and with one private doctor for every 9,000 residents, health care is substandard. Plus, even as foreign investors turn the island into a luxurious tourist haven, few locals (72 percent of whom live in poverty) have the skills or resources to benefit.

Like an informal mayor, Nilda is trying to ensure that residents have healthy and prosperous futures. The CRDV is lobbying the U.S. government to clean up the environment. But Nilda's main mission is helping residents take advantage of the economic boom. "Natives must develop businesses or they'll always be dependent on foreign whims," she says. "Fighting the military was sexier, but this is our new social justice movement: to make sure the people benefit from the development of Vieques."

I attend a small-business seminar Nilda has organized in a museum that was once a Spanish fort; here, 12 participants are learning how to get financing and write business plans. Carmen, 21, hopes to start a catering company. Itza, 18, wants to open a community center for young mothers. "Are you a mother?" I ask. "I have three," she says. "All different daddies." Now she's settled down with a fourth man. "This one," she says, "is mature." Itza tells me that the youth of Vieques struggle because there's little for them to do. "Young people drink, do drugs and have too much depression," she says. "Boredom is getting the best of us."

The next day, Nilda takes me to the only high school in Vieques (there is no university) and introduces me to five girls, ages 15 through 17. All are single mothers. "We have no movie theater, no bookstore, no entertainment whatsoever," a girl named Claimar says. "Sex is all there is to do." I tell the girls I will turn 40 this year and have a five-year-old son. When I say I had my first boyfriend at 19, they think it's hilarious. The girls dream of becoming nurses or social workers but have no idea how to make that happen.

Everything moves slowly in Vieques. When I jump into a taxi for what should be a five-minute ride, the driver, nicknamed Coqui after a frog found in the region, stops to buy himself dinner, which is a plastic bag of ghastly-looking seafood. Then he buys lottery tickets and chats leisurely with the ticket seller. A half hour later, we reach my destination.

That little adventure helped me understand how much patience Nilda has needed to get things done here. But change is coming faster these days because activists like her are making the Puerto Rican government pay attention. A recent breakthrough: Vieques' first maternity ward, where 300 babies have been born. There's also a new school for dropouts, Nuestra Escuela, where I meet Adelaida, a single teen mom. "I feel respected here, for the first time in my life," says Adelaida, who was raised in foster care. I also meet Andres, who walks with crutches after being diagnosed with cancer in his knee. "I am 17, I shouldn't have cancer. But I swallow my anger," he says. Gesturing toward the other kids, he adds: "We all do."

Dinette, a young woman with copper-colored skin, is working at Nuestra Escuela to put herself through physical therapy school. We meet later, and she shows me the tiny room she rents with her boyfriend, who's 15 years older than she is. Dinette and her friends spend most of their time at a bar down the street where the bartender works in bare feet. The place has a strange collection of paintings: a romantic landscape of two horses, a still life with apples, a vodka ad featuring three Josephine Baker look-alike models. Leaning against the jukebox, Dinette glances at two skinny cats fighting. "That's the way it goes here," she says. "Different day, more fighting."

Dinette and I leave for dinner, and when we drive back to the bar, several drunken boys she knows jump into my rental car; one of them is holding a steel bar. The boys look more bored than harmful, but I point out that we are on a tiny island, and if they hurt us, they couldn't escape. Convinced her friends are just fooling around, Dinette leaves with them. As I drive away, I watch her reflection in the rearview mirror until she becomes a little dot.

The next day I take the ferry to the mainland and look at Vieques until it, too, becomes a little dot. Later, in the plane, I watch Puerto Rico disappear beneath the clouds. I think of Dinette, the newborns, Andres and his cancer fight. I think about Vieques' best asset in its ongoing struggle: its people. They have saved their land, and now they are working on their souls. I'm glad Nilda's on their side.

Mariane Pearl is a documentary filmmaker and the author of A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl. Mariane's next column will appear in October.

Sad, But True

Unpingco: US hasn't changed attitude toward Chamorros
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
June 20. 2007

SENATOR Tony Unpingco, R-Santa Rita, believing that the United States hasn't changed its post-war attitude toward Chamorros, urges the people of Guam to "stand up for our rights."

"Right after the war, there were 250,000 military personnel on island. The landscape and the mood may be totally different now, but the American attitude toward us seems to remain the same," said Unpingco, chairman of the military and veterans affairs committee.

Unpingco said the secret memo that has been kept in confidential file since 1945 "opens up a lot of bad memories."

He was referring to the memo issued on Nov. 21, 1945 by Vice Adm. G.D. Murray, then commander of the Marianas Navy Force, which revealed the United States' apparent condescension toward the island's residents.

Murray stated that "the economic development and administration of relatively few native inhabitants should be subordinate to the real purpose for which those islands are held."

The island's commercial or industrial value and its resources were "of little or no relative importance to the welfare of the United States," he added.

"We're not a piece of property," Unpingco said.

He said the U.S.'s condescending attitude has been evident in the way federal officials ignore Guam's demand for war reparation and the veterans' claims.

"I would like to think that the U.S. policy has changed but the attitude still exists. Most of the Americans in mainland don't know who we are. They don't recognize that we are a part of the United States. They need to be educated about Guam," Unpingco said.

"It irritates you and gets you fired up because of these stupid people. We need to stand up and let them know who we are," he added.

Debbie Quinata, maga'haga of Nasion Chamoru, said the secret memo was consistent with the way the U.S. military is currently making decisions for Guam.

"That's how they see us ― a convenient possession to serve their war. Their only intention is to turn Guam into one big military base," Quinata said.

She described the military officials' scoping meeting on Guam as a farcical "PR job" that is only meant to follow a procedure.

"They pretend to be interested in how the community feels about the military buildup. They pretend to take our inputs when, in fact, whatever we tell them doesn't matter because they have already made the decision," Quinata said.

"They're only holding these meetings to comply with the requirement and complete the paper work. This is almost a comedy," she added.

Quinata also lambasted elected leaders for not showing up at the scoping meetings with military officials. "We elected them to represent us, but where are they?" she asked.

At Monday's scoping meeting at the Hilton Hotel, Quinata said only members of Nasion Chamoru showed up to represent the civilian population.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Where is the Marine Backstory?

Activists demand back story on Marine migration
by Michele Catahay , KUAM News
Thursday, July 12, 2007

Members of I Nasion Chamoru ("The Chamorro Nation") were at the Chief Quipua Park in Hagatna late yesterday afternoon to protest various concerns in the community, most notably the upcoming massive military buildup on Guam. The organization's, maga lahi (the highest ranking male), Vicente Garrido, believes the buildup is not a good thing for the island.

While a Japanese delegation visiting from Okinawa is on Guam, Garrido says he wants them to tell the local community the real reason the Okinawans want United States Marines to move out of their island. "There must be a good reason why," he suggested. "Otherwise, if it's really good for them, they're not going to send those Marines to Guam because it's going to help the economy...that's what they say. There must be some reason why. I want those people in charge of Okinawa to tell us why they want those Marines out of Okinawa."

While some continue to fight against the move, others are more concerned about the taking of land at Ritidian and Tiyan. One such activist, Katherine McCollum, continues to fight against the taking of indigenous land. "We are threatened everyday; Tiyan, especially with the enclosure that the Guam International Airport Authority has put on the families up there in closing their properties with the fences and there are issues about sewage problems.

My family is being charged for sewage, which are services they're not getting," she told KUAM News.

McCollum says when people suffer it hurts families, adding that she wants to see these families build homes and live in their homes as equal private property owners. Meanwhile, the group continues to fight for self-determination, return of lands and vows to continue to fight against what they feel is the military contamination of the land.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Navy Warships Back on Guam

Navy warships back on Guam
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff
wednesday 18 july 07

DON’T be surprised if you’re again seeing an influx of military people around the island.

Two U.S. Navy warships are currently docked on Naval Base Guam and their personnel have been on liberty on Guam for a couple of days now.

The amphibious assault ships USS Tortuga and USS Juneau are on Guam after recently participating in the joint Australian-U.S. Operation Talisman Saber military exercise off the Queensland coast.

Combined, the two U.S. Navy ships have a complement of about 2,000 sailors and Marines.

The USS Tortuga, homebased in Sasebo, Japan, has 22 officers, 391 enlisted sailors and a Marine detachment of 402.

The USS Juneu, also homeported in Sasebo, has 35 officers, 400 enlisted sailors and 930 Marines.

The two ships narrowly avoided being hit by Typhoon Man-Yi, which passed 23 miles west of Okinawa, packing144 mph sustained winds and 173 mph gusts at its center.

According to the Navy, the ships were already at sea when the typhoon hit.

Protests Won't Hold Up US Military Construction in Guam

Radio New Zealand International
The Voice of New Zealand, Broadcasting to the Pacific
Te Reo Irirangi O Aotearoa, O Te Moana-Nui-A-Kiwa

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Guam government says land protest won't hold up construction of US
military base
Posted at 08:23 on 02 July, 2007 UTC
The office of Guam's Governor, Felix Camacho, says it doesn’t expect
protest action by Urunao landowners to hamper planned construction by the
US military in their area.

About 400 Urunao landowners are concerned that they are being kept in the
dark about how their land is to feature in the construction plans for the
US military's pending build-up with the relocation of 8,000 Marines from
Okinawa to Guam.

The Marianas Variety newspaper reports that some of the landowners have
blocked off the access road leading to their property.

The Governor's spokesman, Shawn Gumataotao says the military are planning
construction on land the federal government legitimately owns.

But he concedes that access to and from that property is the issue:

"It's been an issue for, gosh, on six years now, and they (the military)
are working with the landowners individually to cmoe to some resolution.
It's not going to be an easy one, considering the amount of activity
that's going to be in that area on the footprint that belongs to the
federal government"

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Great White Whale

Oceania: No War Games - 29 Jun 2007
White Whale forces Military Retreat in US-Australian War Games
english (original)
Migaloo, the white humpback whale, is forcing the USA and Australian
military forces to reconsider using the Great Barrier reef for war games.
The USA and Australian Defence forces have faced down a civil disobedience
peace campaign against their Talisman Sabre War Games, from June 19 to
July 2, at Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, only to
come up against the white whale!

Hundreds of people protested outside the restricted area near Rockhampton,
Queensland, with many attempting to enter the area, several actually
succeeding (Video) and evading capture for a number of days. (Audio
reports: 1, 2, 3) But still the military exercise continued, although
possibly in a slightly subdued form. Now the combined military forces are
facing another threat - a very rare and distinctive white humpback whale
by the name of Migaloo has been sighted heading towards the exercise area,
and the miltary are being forced to back off from endangering this
beautiful creature.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Okinawa Mayor Shuns Nasion Chamoru

Mayors shuns Chamorro Nation
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
July 16, 2007

GUAM senators yesterday gave the Japanese delegation a rundown of demands that they want from the U.S. government in exchange for hosting the 8,000 troops that will be relocated from Okinawa, while Chamorro activists told the delegation that they don't want the Marines to come to Guam at all.

The delegation, however, declined to give audience to Chamorro Nation.

Funds for infrastructure developments, healthcare, new schools, new hospitals, environmental protection, social stability and peace: these are among the things that senators said they expect the U.S. government to provide to Guam.

All these, plus transparency. There are so many questions left unanswered, Sen. Tony Unpingco, R-Santa Rita, said, adding that Guam has not received enough information about the troops relocation plan.

"You've experienced what it's like to live in a military base. We want to learn from you, so that when they come here, they don't create the same problems," Unpingco told members of the Local Government Mayors Association of Central Okinawa who are on Guam on a fact-finding mission.

"It's important for us to know what it's like to have a big military base on a small island. We're hoping that you can tell us its negative impact," minority leader Judi Won Pat, D-Malojloj said.

Vice Speaker Eddie Calvo, R-Maite, said the business community sees the economic opportunities offered by the military buildup.

"Guam has different views about the relocation. Some people see this movement as a positive development. I'd like to hear the perspectives on your side," Calvo told the delegation.

But Okinawa City Mayor Mitsuko Tohmon, head of the 18-member delegation, said her group is on Guam to gather information pertinent to the military relocation.

"The purpose of our visit is to listen to your opinion," Tohmon said through an interpreter. Japan and the US agreed to relocate 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents to Guam so we want to hear what's going on in Guam. "We are representatives of our citizens. We are here to listen to you."

Among the senators, only Won Pat came on time to meet the delegation members who arrived at the Legislature ahead of the 1:30 p.m. schedule. The rest of the senators walked in 15 to 20 minutes late into the meeting.

While waiting for the rest of the senators, Won Pat allowed members of the Chamorro Nation to join the roundtable and speak to the Okinawa officials.

"We're not invited to this meeting, but we have to say how we feel because two big powers are negotiating our future. Please step in and support us," activist Trini Torres said.

Cathy McCollum said she laments that some people only see the dollar sign without thinking that we want to go home to our own lands that the federal government took away.

"Tell me, if you know, the reason behind this military relocation. Guam is not ready for this massive military buildup," said Ben Garrido, Maga'lahi of Chamorro Nation.

Tohmon said she was confused by the presence of Chamorro Nation at the meeting.

"I thought we were to meet only with the Speaker and the senators. We want to speak to the speaker and senators only, she said. We have heard about what the Chamorro Nation has to say. We want to know your own opinion as senators."

Won Pat gently asked the activists to leave the roundtable. Shortly after, activist Howard Hemsing walked into the session hall bringing a bunch of anti-military placards.

Won Pat said testimonies from Chamorro Nation indicate that Guam does not have a unanimous stance on the military expansion.

"There are those who want the Marines to come here because of the economic benefits that the buildup offers. But not everyone on island wants them here. There's a lot of people with a lot concerns about the impact of increased military population on island," Won Pat said.

The delegation, which arrived Wednesday, leaves Guam today.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Guam Welcomes Okinawa Delegation

Guam officials welcome Okinawa delegation
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
July 12, 2007

ADMINISTRATION officials yesterday welcomed Okinawa mayors who are on a fact-finding mission to assess the situation on Guam and determine how the U.S. military relocation plan is coming along.

Gov. Felix P. Camacho, Lt. Gov. Mike Cruz and Guam National Guard chief Brig. General Donald Goldhorn met with the fact-finding team headed by Okinawa City Mayor Mitsuko Tohmon and assisted by Japan's Consul General on Guam, Tamio Tomino.

"Okinawan citizens know very well how annoying it is to live with U.S. bases. We would like to see how the U.S. forces realignment plan is carried out in Guam, where some U.S. forces in Okinawa will be relocated, and to find some lessons for us in the future," the Japanese newspaper Ryukyu Shimpo quoted Tohmon as saying.

The governor's office did not give a media statement about the meeting. The Variety photographer was told that the meeting was off-limits to the media.

Joe Tenorio, spokesman for the Japanese Consulate Office, said the fact-finding team is composed of 18 members of the Local Government Mayors Association of Central Okinawa.

Tenorio said the Okinawa delegation also met with Navy officials yesterday afternoon. The Okinawa mayors are scheduled to meet with members of the Legislature at 1 p.m. today.

According to Ryukyu Shimpo, the fact-finding team will be on Guam until tomorrow.
The Okinawa officials' arrival coincided with the Nasion Chamoru's anti-military bases demonstration held every Wednesday at the Chief Kepuha Park in Hagatna.

Debbie Quinata, maga'haga of Nasion Chamoru, said the protest rally was also meant to share the Chamorro people's sentiments with Okinawans.

"We are in solidarity with Okinawans' desire to have the military leave Okinawa. But we don't want the military to come here. We want them to go to the U.S.," Quinata said.

"I hope that Okinawa officials enjoy their trip on Guam as much as I did when I visited their beautiful island. I want to match their hospitality," she added.

Around 8,000 Marines now stationed on Okinawa will be deployed to Guam by 2012.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Guam Confronts Americanization

Activist Demand Info on Marine's Migration

Activists demand back story on Marine migration
by Michele Catahay, KUAM News
Thursday, July 12, 2007

Members of I Nasion Chamoru ("The Chamorro Nation") were at the Chief Quipua Park in Hagatna late yesterday afternoon to protest various concerns in the community, most notably the upcoming massive military buildup on Guam. The organization's, maga lahi (the highest ranking male), Vicente Garrido, believes the buildup is not a good thing for the island.

While a Japanese delegation visiting from Okinawa is on Guam, Garrido says he wants them to tell the local community the real reason the Okinawans want United States Marines to move out of their island. "There must be a good reason why," he suggested. "Otherwise, if it's really good for them, they're not going to send those Marines to Guam because it's going to help the economy...that's what they say. There must be some reason why. I want those people in charge of Okinawa to tell us why they want those Marines out of Okinawa."

While some continue to fight against the move, others are more concerned about the taking of land at Ritidian and Tiyan. One such activist, Katherine McCollum, continues to fight against the taking of indigenous land. "We are threatened everyday; Tiyan, especially with the enclosure that the Guam International Airport Authority has put on the families up there in closing their properties with the fences and there are issues about sewage problems. My family is being charged for sewage, which are services they're not getting," she told KUAM News.

McCollum says when people suffer it hurts families, adding that she wants to see these families build homes and live in their homes as equal private property owners. Meanwhile, the group continues to fight for self-determination, return of lands and vows to continue to fight against what they feel is the military contamination of the land.

Protecting Article 9

SDP sees Upper House race as vital in protecting Article 9
Staff writer
Japan Times
The Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 is in danger of being revised by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the upcoming Upper House election is an opportunity to put a stop to this effort, Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima said.

"The Upper House election is a chance (for the public) to cast a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet," Fukushima said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.

Abe has repeatedly said he plans to revise the Constitution, which was drafted in 1947 during the Allied Occupation. He has cleared the first major step by getting a bill passed to establish procedures for a national referendum to revise the charter.

The referendum law takes effect in three years, enabling a revision to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority vote in both Diet chambers followed by a majority vote in a national referendum.

"The SDP has a sense of impending crisis" over the Constitution, Fukushima said, describing the passage of the referendum bill and "everything up to now a preliminary drill," but from this point forward the amendment issue is the real thing.

Fukushima voiced concern over the Abe-led Liberal Democratic Party's 2005 draft version of a new Constitution that stipulates Japan's "self-defense military" would also be permitted to "engage in activities abroad to ensure safety and peace in international society."

Fukushima said this means Japan "can send the Self-Defense Forces abroad and go to war."

The LDP's version of the Constitution "would change Japan from a country that does not use military force to a nation that goes to war — and the point is that Abe does not deny Japan would be using force in other countries."

Fukushima also slammed Abe and his Cabinet, which has seen a drastic drop in its support rate amid a series of scandals and problems, for "ignoring the public" and ramming many bills through the extended Diet session that ended July 5.

Amid the public outcry and the outrage in the opposition camp, the LDP-New Komeito ruling coalition unilaterally passed a raft of controversial bills, including for the referendum, for pension-system reforms in a bid to resolve the fiasco over 50 million unidentified pension records and for revising the Political Funds Control Law to increase transparency on lawmakers' expenditures — a measure slammed as "full of loopholes."

Abe has created a government "of himself, by himself, for himself — without showing any interest in the general public's lives or grief," Fukushima said. "I don't think (Abe) understands that politics actually exists so that people don't have to shed tears. A government like Abe's that does not empathize with the public's pain must step down."

The SDP has a combined 10 Diet members in both chambers, excluding three seats up for re-election in the July 29 race. It plans to officially back 14 candidates in small electoral districts and nine in the proportional representation segment.

Fukushima said it is her ardent wish to obtain seven seats in the Upper House election. With more than 10 lawmakers in both chambers, the party will be able to gain more clout, Fukushima said, adding that this would enable her to engage in a one-on-one battle with Abe.

"The SDP is in a political confrontation with Abe's government. As a party most active in human rights issues from prison reform and the death penalty to refugee issues . . . the SDP values pluralism and a convivial society, whereas (Abe's government) values monism and nationalism."

Fukushima was an active human rights lawyer before being elected to the Upper House in 1998. She is serving her second term and has been SDP leader since 2003.
The Japan Times: Wednesday, July 11, 2007 (C) All rights reserved

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Dancing With a Rogue Empire

Roland G. Simbulan*
July 4, 2007
The Philippine Daily Inquirer

July 4 marks the independence day of what has become today the modern American Empire. July 4 also used to be our own independence day because while it was granted to us by our colonizer right after the Second World War, it became an outright farce as new economic, political and military agreements were imposed on us. These were the quid pro quo for the passage of reconstruction assistance by the U.S. Congress that our leaders had to beg for to rebuild Manila's infrastructure, the second most devastated city in the world, next only to Warsaw in Poland.

But our July 4th "independence day" became too embarrassing, so we turned July 4 into "Philippine-American Friendship Day." Ironically, then Philippine president Diosdado Macapagal who made this change of date of Philippine Independence from July 4 to June 12 would not go beyond date change in asserting the country's national sovereignty. Nor did he have the political will to stand up to U.S. designs. The "Filipino First" economic policies of the previous Garcia administration were dismantled by Macapagal, giving in to the wishes of the American Chamber of Commerce and the International Monetary Fund. It was then that the Philippines entered the era where its economic and fiscal policies were designed by the IMF and the World Bank, institutions under the thumb of the United States.

Today, we have joined the global "war on terror," led by what a former official of the U.S. State Department, William Blum, called " The Rogue State". The Philippines has become an accomplice thru the Balikatan military exercises which trains U.S. interventionist forces for missions around the globe.

More than half a million American troops are posted outside U.S. territory (of which 137,000 are in Iraq) in at least 740 overseas military bases and facilities, mostly in Europe and Asia, to guard U.S. corporate, vital resource and strategic interests. In fact, its armed legions have divided the world into "U.S. unified commands" like the Pacific Command, European Command,Central Command, Southern Command, Northern Command, even the U.S. Air Forces' Space Command, etc.. On the other hand, it rules and dominates the high seas with gunboat diplomacy maintained by its naval carrier fleets and so-called "expeditionary forces." It has used its lead in high-tech warfare and panoply of advanced strike, surveillance and communications systems worldwide to bomb just about any target it wishes to destroy on our planet with impunity. And in the past five years, in contravention of the U.N. Security Council, it has invaded and occupied two sovereign states which were recognized by the United Nations.

It controls and dictates the direction and policies of the three largest global corporations today: the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. The largest private global corporations are U.S. transnational corporations, but even the largest strategic oil and vital resource corporations , are U.S. corporations. Now an empire, and a far cry from its founding fathers' libertarian aspirations, the United States, though having less than 20 percent of the world's population, consumes more than 60 percent of the globe's natural and food resources.

A recent book, Empire and the Bomb (2007) by Dr. Joseph Gerson, an American scholar of East Asian affairs, states that the U.S. rogue empire engaged in more than 150 military interventions from 1899 to 2000, in complete disregard of the sovereignty of small states. It is the only country that actually exploded nuclear weapons against the people of a non-nuclear state. According to Gerson, the United States has threatened the use of nuclear weapons to preserve its global empire on more than 20 occasions against other countries especially during the Cold War -- against Russia, China, Vietnam, Korea and the Middle East. Today, it continues to follow its doctrine of "full spectrum dominance" by threatening to use and to detonate nuclear weapons against smaller countries.

But it is not just guilty of double standards when it comes to the matter of nuclear weapons; it also does so when it comes to human rights and democracy. The Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons ---or even those long-ago atrocities committed against a distant people, the Filipinos, during the "pacification" war in the early 1900s, all speak of how the United States truly regards human rights.

That is why it cannot claim to have a high moral ground when it raises concerns against nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, while ignoring the nuclear arsenals of its allies, Israel and Pakistan. It also keeps mum on its own continued development of mini-nukes, uranium-depleted ordnances, strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, and other kinds of weapons of mass destruction like chemical and biological weapons that it continues to develop and refine.

The Bush administration's foreign policies have, in fact, only increased the enemies of the U.S. worldwide, such as those among families left behind by those who were obliterated by American bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq. Six years after 9/11, the U.S. --the rogue empire -- has neither diminished the threat to its homeland nor to its interests; it has become the No. 1 recruiter of its most feared "terrorist" enemies.

Our friendship today with the American people should start by strengthening our solidarity with those among them who oppose the continued military occupation of Iraq and the global military interventions of the Bush administration. Thousands of promising young Americans just out of their teens, especially from minority families --Blacks, Hispanic, Asian including Filipino-Americans -- who have joined the U.S. armed forces either for employment or for the much-coveted U.S. citizenship are being used today as cannon fodder in a useless, senseless war in Iraq. Many young Americans have been sacrificed by Bush to die for the expansion and reaping of superprofits by U.S. oil companies which have shamelessly grabbed Iraq's oil-rich lands.

Recently, the American people have expressed their anti-war sentiment by voting for Democrats in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. We should support those Americans who oppose war and intervention in other sovereign countries. They are our allies as we are theirs in the struggle for peace. The American people are learning that they must act quickly, they must speak out now, before it is too late, as more Iraqis and Americans continue to die for the corporate greed of U.S. oil companies.

A few years ago, a Filipino war veteran who survived Bataan and the Death March and who now lives in San Diego wrote me a lengthy letter saying I was an "ingrate" (walang utang na loob) for opposing U.S. policies in the Philippines and in other countries. He said that "we should support Americans for having liberated us Filipinos from the Japanese in World War II, and we should be grateful for this." I wrote back to our kababayan in the United States, clarifying two points with him.

First, I said, when Filipinos strongly articulate pro-Filipino and pro-sovereignty positions on issues such as the Subic rape case where the victim was a Filipina, they do not seek to disrupt or sever our ties with the United States. On the contrary, what we seek is the improvement, expansion and deepening of those ties, which have been weakened, smeared and strained in the past and even in the present by unequal, one-sided relations. Because after all, when we talk about true "friendship", a relationship between two entities, we assume that there is mutuality and respect of the other . When one treats the other as a doormat, you cannot expect such a relationship to flourish or develop.

Second, that those who are strongly against U.S. interventions are not anti-American, but are in fact, pro-American people. The policies and activities of the US government in many Third World countries are not necessarily supported by the American people, let alone known by the latter because these are hidden under the cloak of secret operations by the CIA. There is also opposition because of the serious budgetary deficits caused by over-spending on its defense and military expenditures, eating away a big portion of the US budget that should have gone to health, education, welfare and school-feeding programs, and other basic social services for the American people.

If we succeed in preventing and stopping U.S. wars and other forms of U.S. military interventions overseas like the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, we would in fact be giving the American people a big favor. In that case, more money can be rechanneled to where it should be spent, namely, for their social and welfare services . This is where the deeper and more substantial interests of the Filipino and American peoples can actually converge.
* This article was based on the author's speech at Dela Salle University-Taft, Yuchengco Hall on June 30, 2007. Roland Simbulan is Full Professor at the University of the Philippines. An author of several books on Philippine-American relations, he is also a former Faculty Regent and Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Solidarity Between Guam and Australian Activists

Australian activists share solidarity with Guam counterparts
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff
July 2, 2007

AUSTRALIAN peace activists have shared their solidarity with their Guam counterparts who are opposing the military buildup and the repositioning of nuclear-powered submarines at the Naval Base and aircraft carriers at Andersen Air Force Base.

"The Chamorro people face the prospect of more of their pristine land and sea areas being polluted and contaminated by the toxic chemicals used by the military, as is happening here in Shoalwater Bay," peace activists said in a statement read at Yeppoon Rockhampton during the June 24 rally against the joint U.S.-Australia war games billed "Talisman Sabre '07."

Thousands of activists participated in the Peace Convergence that opposed the military exercise held at the Shoalwater Bay training area near central Queensland. Nasion Chamoru was represented by young Chamorro activist Fanai Castro.

"These experiences of Gua'han and Gani that Fanai Castro has shared with us during the Peace Convergence are full of important warnings to all Australians," according to a Peace Convergence statement.

"We of the Peace Convergence and the thousands of other Australians who support us extend our warm solidarity to the Chamorro people and all the organizations of your island that are struggling against military occupation and colonization imposed by the U.S.," the statement added.