Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gates Stops Over on Guam, No Korea Troop Buildup

Gates stops over on Guam, says no troop buildup in Korea
Sunday, 31 May 2009 23:25 by LARA JAKES The Associated Press
The Marianas Variety

(AAFB) -- While worrisome, North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests have not reached a crisis level that would warrant additional U.S. troops in the region, U.Dr. Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense | Photo courtesy of
S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

Gates, flying to Singapore to meet with Asian defense ministers, said he has not seen any moves by North Korea’s military that would prompt the United States to add to the roughly 28,000 troops already in South Korea. He said any military actions would need to be decided upon, and carried out, by broad international agreement.

“I don’t think that anybody in the (Obama) administration thinks there is a crisis,” Gates told reporters aboard his military jet early Friday morning, still Thursday night in Washington.
“What we do have, though, are two new developments that are very provocative, that are aggressive, accompanied by very aggressive rhetoric,” he said. “And I think it brings home the reality of the challenge that North Korea poses to the region and to the international community.”

Gates appeared to try to tamp down some of the tough rhetoric that has flown between Washington and Pyongyang this week, since North Korea said it successfully detonated a nuclear device in its northeast on Monday and followed with a series of short-range missile launches.

Gates also cited a silver lining of the situation: an opportunity to build stronger ties with the Chinese government.

“Just based on what the Chinese government has said publicly, they're clearly pretty unhappy about the nuclear test in particular, and they weren't very happy about the missile test either,” Gates said. “And my impression is they were surprised by the nuclear test. And so, as I say, I think there may be some opportunities here.”

He added: “I don’t want to put the burden solely on China, because the reality is that while China has more influence than anybody else on North Korea, I believe that that influence has its limits.

But it is important for the Chinese to be a part of any effort to try to deal with these issues with North Korea.”

Gates suggested that diplomatic talks among six countries -- Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and the U.S. -- to get rid of all nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula have not worked. He said that while the discussions should continue, the nations other than North Korea now need to focus on what he described as “where do we go from here?”

“I think that they clearly have not had the impact in North Korea that any of us have wanted,” Gates said of the talks. “That doesn’t mean they are useless by any means, and we are still committed to the six-party talks. But I think that we need to figure out a way to try and move forward with North Korea.”

Gates said direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea are, for now, at least, “not the way to go.”

In what the Pentagon called a first for a U.S. defense chief, Gates was to meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts at the two-day Singapore conference. He also was to meet briefly with the head of China's military.

Gates said North Korea would likely dominate the Singapore discussions and hinted that additional economic or military sanctions might be put on Pyongyang as punishment for the tests. But he said that any sanctions should impact the communist government and not its citizens, whom he said have already suffered “enough damage” by their leaders.

He cited North Korean exports of missile and nuclear technology as a top worry, and said the United Nations, and Russia and China in particular, need to be part of any efforts to curb them.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Youth Activists Take Center Stage

Youth Activists Take Center Stage
Monday, 25 May 2009
by Jude Lizama
Marianas Variety News Staff

EDUCATE, express, empower. This was the central theme of the Reclaim Guåhan Rally [Chule’ Tatte Guåhan] staged on Saturday by young activists at the Skinner’s Plaza in Hagåtña.

One of the event coordinators, Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, expressed her sentiments about the ongoing military buildup, which many in the community see as a “done deal.”

“I’d like to challenge our community to begin to envision that it isn’t a done deal. We currently remain an unincorporated territory of the United States. We belong to but are not a part of the United States,” she said.

“If we, as a community, support the Chamorro people’s right to self- determination to choose our relationship with our without the United States, then we can change these things. We can stop things like the military buildup from happening.”

Leon Guerrero said the only way to stop the military buildup is to acknowledge that the local population is entitled to choose they want for their future and to be able to decide as a community.

Accompanying Leon Guerrero onstage was Krista Flores, from Mt. Carmel Catholic School, who read the “Collective Bill of Rights for Guåhan,” which was one of the class’ pre-graduation assignments.

The bill of rights drafted by MCS student states that “the people of Guam should always be free. The people can overrule the Department of Interior. The military should give back our land. We must keep the island clean and green. The elected governor should have to deliver on every promise made. The Guam flag will be raised above all other flags.”

Creative thinking

Amid talks of self-determination and indigenous rights, the rally also served as an outlet for community networking, platform for free thinking, enjoyment of art and literature, and an appreciation for the island’s different cultures.

“I’m very excited. I’m glad to be a part of something very positive, something that’s by the people and for the people. Basically, if it’s a good thing, I’m down; I’m in,” said Jovan Tamayo, who spoke with the Variety while contributing to a collective poem that was on display at the plaza. “I’d definitely like to help in any way that I can. That’s why I’m here, and I’d like to think that’s why everyone else is here as well.”

“Some of the organizers are good friends of ours. A lot of them are poets too,” said Melvin Won Pat Borja, Sinangån-ta Outreach coordinator. “When they were organizing this event, we heard that they wanted some youth poets since it is a youth rally.”

“It was good timing for us because we just finished up our program so we had our core base of poets that could do something like this,” he added.

Won Pat Borja said the rally sought to encourage critical thinking about the things that are happening around Guam.

“It feels really amazing. I’m not indigenous to the island. I’m Filipino. I’ve come to call the island home. Being a part of this really means a lot to me,” said John Norman Sarmiento, a member of Sinangån-ta Outreach.

“I’ve always wanted to help change the island ever since I was a little boy and I think doing this is a vehicle of change for me because we can reach out to the youth in so many different ways,” he said. “We’re teaching the youth in ways that teachers thought they could only do in classrooms. Like Melvin said, we’re proving that wrong.”

Young poet and Yona resident J Rae Tedtaotao read a powerful piece titled “Territory” written last April. “It fit the whole theme so I read it today,” she said.

“I’m really glad that a lot of people have come out. I’m honored to be up on the stage and speaking,” said Tedtaotao. “I call on anyone else to put your minds together, your writing, and do anything to express yourself and see what you can do to help our island and keep our culture alive.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

JGPO: No Secret, But Admits to Withholding Information

JGPO: No secrets
But official admits to withholding information
Friday, 22 May 2009 03:19
by Jude Lizama
Variety News Staff

CAPTAIN Ulysses O. Zalamea, deputy director of the Joint Guam Program Office, admitted yesterday that there are components of the master plan for the military buildup that are being withheld from the public but he was quick to clarify that such decision has nothing to do with national security or secrecy.

“We have this massive plan that we are developing, as we are doing the environmental impact statement. We have not fully released the massive plan to the public,” Zalamea said during his presentation on “Guam Strategic Military Realignment Program Update” before the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort yesterday.

Zalamea said the JGPO has identified the items that have not been released to the public, but he stressed that “It’s not because of national security, but because our plan is not complete.”

He said JGPO wants to be cautious with releasing information but “not because we are keeping secrets.”

“If we release a plan that is not complete then we will lead the public to make wrong conclusions and wrong assumptions. We just want to make sure that whatever we release is accurate and correct. At this point, most of the things we’re doing are still in the planning stages,” Zalamea said.

Master plan

JGPO’s “Guam Joint Military Master Plan” involves details of the relocation of Marines and their family members from Okinawa to Guam. It also provides for the establishment of a pier for transient [nuclear powered aircraft carriers], and the positioning of an Army Air and Missile Defense Task Force on Guam.

The plan is to continue to establish an intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance hub on island, and to continue other Department of Defense programs to improve force readiness and quality of life.

Over $1 billion is projected for fiscal year 2010 buildup.

“We want the community to understand what we are doing because if they don’t know what we are doing, they will be questioning our intent and purposes. If they are informed, then they can make better decisions for their lives,” Zalamea added.

“For us, it’s very important that the people of Guam are aware what we’re doing and what we’re planning to do. When the Marines show up, we’ll be part of the community. We want to be good neighbors,” he added.

Zalamea began his presentation by stating that “careful analysis of assets, capabilities and requirements,” helped the U.S. military to choose Guam as the “preferred location to relocate Marines from Japan.”

Stragetic location

GHRA members also listened to Zalamea’s emphasis on the island’s strategic importance.

“It would take a ship from San Diego traveling at 16kn [knots], 16 days to get to Taiwan, from Hawaii, 12 days, But from Guam, only four days,” he said.

“It would take a C-17 aircraft 13 hours to fly from the west coast to Taiwan, from Hawaii, almost eight hours, but from Guam, three hours and 20 minutes. The strategic location of Guam is very important,” he added.

The island is less than 2,000 nautical miles from locations like Seoul, Korea; Manila, Philippines and Taiwan, whereas it would take approximately 3,778NM to reach Seoul from Alaska, and 5,682NM to reach Japan from San Diego.

By 2014, JGPO forecasts a dramatic increase in active duty members and their dependents from 14,000 to 38,000.

New influxes of active duty members will come by way of 8,000 Marines, a U.S. Army Battalion consisting of 630 AD members, and 240 AD members from the U.S. Coast Guard. A combined total of 10,130 Marines, Army and USCG dependents will add to the island’s population.

“We have monthly meetings with the governor. We brief the senators on a regular basis. We talk to the mayors on a regular basis. On our plan, we are doing something to reach out to the government of Guam and the community in general,” said Zalamea on JGPO’s community outreach efforts.

“I think it has produced a good healthy dialogue, especially with the mayors because they are in touch with what’s going on with the community. They have given us advice on how to proceed. For me, that has been the most beneficial,” he added.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Legislature Approves Gatewood Lawsuit

Senators OK Lawsuit vs Gatewood
Wednesday, 20 May 2009 23:32 by Therese Hart

THE legislative committee on rules on Tuesday voted to adopt Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz’s resolution that endorses a legal action against federal court chief judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood to challenge her March 20 contempt order against the government of Guam.

The adoption of Resolution 114 authorizes the legislature to move forward with filing the action in the Ninth Circuit against Tydingco-Gatewood.

Resolution 114 was adopted by eight affirmative votes, one more than the minimum number of votes required to make it the official position of the 30th Guam Legislature.

The Committee on Rules is the legislative standing committee authorized to act on behalf of the legislature when the body is not in session. This panel, chaired by Sen. Rory Respicio, has jurisdiction over matters relating to the defense or initiation of court action on behalf of the legislature.

The district court used the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution to make null and void Section 6 of Public Law 30-1.

Section 6, prohibition on payments without appropriations states that the legislature asserts its authority to appropriate funds and determine the conditions for expending such appropriations.

After the government was held in contempt, it paid out over $5 million in weekly cash payments to federal receiver Gershman, Bricker & Bratton to fund the consent decree projects.

Prior to the vote, Respicio wrote to his colleagues, saying that Cruz has commissioned legal work on the merits of bringing a case against the district court.

The issue centers on the powers of the legislature and “it is our duty and obligation to defend an institution to which we were elected, and tasked with upholding the laws of the Constitution of the United States,” Respicio wrote.

Respicio said Cruz “has expressed his strong belief that we have faithfully done just that, in spite of the Chief Judge’s statement that we “resorted to frivolous modes of self-help, such as enacting patently unconstitutional laws…”

Committee members who voted to adopt Resolution 114 were Cruz, Respicio, Speaker Judi Won Pat, Sens. Judi Gutherz, Tina Muna-Barnes, Frank Aguon Jr., Adolpho Palacios, and Frank Blas Jr.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Committee on Decolonization makes budget request

By Sabrina Salas Matanane
Published May 18, 2009

The Committee on Decolonization's executive director, Jim Underwood, appeared before the Legislative Committee on Appropriations this morning. The agency is requesting $177,000 for Fiscal Year 2010, that's only $2,000 more than the current fiscal year; and evidently, the entire budget is going to pay for salaries. The agency is comprised of just three people.

Committee chairman Senator Ben Pangelinan empathized with Underwood, saying the agency and the plebiscite are not a priority of the Camacho Administration. It was also revealed during today's meeting that the Commission hasn't had a meeting due to a lack of quorum in the past four years. As a matter of fact, Senator Eddie Calvo just found out today that he was even a member of the board.

He said, "I had not been informed on that, again I'm thankful I'm on the commission. I'm not to sure what responsibilities, I will be making a formal request for a commission meeting. As far as I'm concerned, both as policymaker and now a as a member of the Commission on Decolonization, this island is going through some major changes we've been 100 years under American tutelage I think it's important we have to put some momentum under this we have to move forward. And enough of the status quo."

Only 200 people have registered thus far for the plebiscite. According to Director Underwood, he is still looking forward to holding the Chamorro-only vote in the 2010 General Election, this despite not including funding for it in his 2010 budget request.

Marine Protection as Empire Expansion

David Vine and Miriam Pemberton | May 6, 2009

Editor: John Feffer
Foreign Policy In Focus

At the 100-day mark, the new president has tackled an extraordinarily
wide-ranging agenda, but one item will need his attention soon: closing the
empire of U.S. bases around the world. One place to start is to reverse the
marine protection areas that the last president established in the Pacific.

In a last-minute bid to salvage a legacy, President George W. Bush created
three new protected marine areas in the Pacific. Environmental groups like
the Natural Resources Defense Council applauded. But the situation is more
complicated than it looks.

Why would a president who rarely saw a public land or off-shore site he
didn't want to drill on, and whose climate change policies have done lasting
damage to oceans and their inhabitants worldwide, exhibit such concern for
marine life in these particular faraway places?

One possible clue: This protective blanket will extend only 50 miles beyond
land, rather than the 200 that the law permits. Could it be his real concern
was for the land itself rather than for the water around it?

Because these aren't just any Pacific islands. Two - Wake and Johnston - are
home to important U.S. military installations, while a huge area of
protected ocean encompassing the Mariana Trench borders U.S. military bases
on Guam, Saipan, Rota, Tinian, and Farallon de Medinilla. The islands are
right now at the receiving end of a major eastward shift in the U.S.
military base infrastructure from concentrating bases and troops in Europe
and Okinawa, Japan to concentrations elsewhere in Asia and the Mariana
Islands in particular. Guam is set to receive an additional 8,000 Marines
and 40,000 civilians on an island where the military already controls
one-third of all land.

In designating the protected areas, the White House took pains to say that
"nothing" in this action "impairs or otherwise affects the activities of the
U.S. Department of Defense."

Many in Guam are opposed to the expansion of the military's presence,
concerned about increased crime, accidents, violence against women, health
and environmental damage, and other forms of social and cultural disruption.
And remember too that the islands involved are effectively U.S. colonies
without full voting rights and congressional representation and are still on
the UN's list of territories slated for decolonization. Whatever else it may
do, the marine monument designation will add a positive environmentalist
spin to the permanent U.S claim on these territories as military outposts.

But this spin has a problem. Military bases and regular military operations
are notorious for their harmful impact on the environment. Such damage
includes the blasting of pristine coral reefs, clear-cutting of virgin
forests, deploying underwater sonar dangerous to marine life, leaching
carcinogenic pollutants into the soil and seas from lax toxic waste storage
and military accidents, and using land and sea for target practice,
decimating ecosystems with exploded and unexploded munitions. Guam alone is
home to 19 Superfund sites.

It's hard to imagine that the net result of
base-expansion-plus-monument-designation will be good for the surrounding
marine life.

In fact, the case of Vieques, Puerto Rico, offers a telling precedent: After
locals won a decades-long fight to evict the Navy from their island, the
Pentagon was exempted from cleaning up most of the environmental disaster
area it left behind when the federal government declared the former base a
"wildlife refuge."

How then can these precious resources really be protected? First, and most
importantly, the Pentagon cannot be exempted from environmental regulations.
Second, full control over Wake Island and Johnston Atoll should immediately
be transferred from the Department of Defense to the Department of the
Interior - there's no reason that the Pentagon should have its own private
islands. Third, the people of Guam and the rest of the Northern Mariana
Islands should be given full control over the areas above and below the
water surrounding its territory in full accordance with international law.

To fulfill the Pacific marine reserve's promise of environmental protection
and conservation, environmental groups initially enthusiastic about the Bush
plan must unite with allies on Capitol Hill and a growing movement of those
critical of the Pentagon's expanding reach to press the new administration
to reverse this expansion. Those concerned about the environment must make
sure that the Pentagon does not use the mantle of environmental protection
as a cover for its profligate and environmentally damaging plans to use
military bases to control the Pacific. With around 1,000 military bases
outside the 50 states - each one a possible environmental disaster area -
now is the time when we should be closing and consolidating our overseas
bases, not finding new and increasingly stealthy ways to solidify their

Miriam Pemberton is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
David Vine is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University,
whose book about the military base on Diego Garcia, Island of Shame, will be
released in May by Princeton University Press. They are both contributors to
Foreign Policy In Focus.

The Bases Of Empire

Chalmers Johnson on the Cost of Empire

Posted on May 15, 2009

By Chalmers Johnson

In her foreword to “The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts,” an important collection of articles on United States militarism and imperialism, edited by Catherine Lutz, the prominent feminist writer Cynthia Enloe notes one of our most abject failures as a government and a democracy: “There is virtually no news coverage—no journalists’ or editors’ curiosity—about the pressures or lures at work when the U.S. government seeks to persuade officials of Romania, Aruba or Ecuador that providing U.S. military-basing access would be good for their countries.” The American public, if not the residents of the territories in question, is almost totally innocent of the huge costs involved, the crimes committed by our soldiers against women and children in the occupied territories, the environmental pollution, and the deep and abiding suspicions generated among people forced to live close to thousands of heavily armed, culturally myopic and dangerously indoctrinated American soldiers. This book is an antidote to such parochialism.

Catherine Lutz is an anthropologist at Brown University and the author of an ethnography of an American city that is indubitably part of the American military complex: Fayetteville, N.C., adjacent to Fort Bragg, home of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School (see “Homefront, A Military City and the American Twentieth Century,” Beacon Press, 2002). On the opening page of her introduction to the current volume, Lutz makes a real contribution to the study of the American empire of bases. She writes, “Officially, over 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees are massed in 909 military facilities in 46 countries and territories” She cites as her source the Department of Defense’s Base Structure Report for fiscal year 2007. This is the Defense Department’s annual inventory of real estate that it owns or leases in the United States and in foreign countries. Oddly, however, the total of 909 foreign bases does not appear in the 2007 BSR. Instead, it gives the numbers of 823 bases located in other people’s countries and 86 sites located in U.S. territories. So Lutz has combined the foreign and territorial bases—which include American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Johnston Atoll, the Northern Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands,and Wake Island. Guam is host to at least 30 military sites and Puerto Rico to 41 bases.

Combining the two numbers is a good idea. Some of the most deplorable conditions in the American military empire exist in U.S. territories, notably in Puerto Rico, where the citizens fought a long battle to stop the naval bombardment of Vieques Island, and in Guam, where the government plans to relocate more than 8,000 Marines from Okinawa together with a $13 billion expansion of Air Force and Navy facilities. The result will be an almost 15 percent increase in Guam’s population, which will significantly exceed the capacity of the island’s water and solid-waste systems. (See “U.S. Military Guam Buildup Spurs Worry over Services,” San Diego Union-Tribune, April 12, 2009.) In the book under review here, Lutz also includes an essay on the state of Hawaii, with its 161 military installations (in 2004) covering 6 percent of the state’s land area (22 percent of the state’s most densely populated island, Oahu). The military is easily Hawaii’s largest polluter, including the secret use of depleted uranium ammunition at the Shofield range, evidence of which was uncovered in 2006.

It should be noted that the BSR for fiscal 2008 has been available since the summer of last year and it somewhat alters Lutz’s figures. It gives details on 761 bases in other people’s countries and 104 U.S. territories, which produces a Lutz total of 865. Such small variations from year to year have been typical of the American empire throughout the Cold War. Some 865 bases located in all the continents except Antarctica is not only a staggeringly large number compared even with the great empires of the past, but one the U.S. clearly cannot afford given its severely weakened economic condition.

Nonetheless, there has been no public discussion by the Obama administration over starting to liquidate our overseas bases or beginning to scale back our imperialist presence in the rest of the world. One must also remember that the BSR is an official source that often conflicts with other reports on the numbers of American military personnel located all over the world. It omits many bases that the Department of Defense wants to conceal or play down, notably those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel. For example, just one of the many unlisted bases in Iraq, Ballad Air Base, houses 30,000 troops and 10,000 contractors, and extends across 16 square miles with an additional 12-square-mile “security perimeter.”

One other subject that Lutz touches on in her introduction and that cries out for a book-length study is the political machinations that every American embassy and military base on earth engages in to undermine and change local laws that stand in the way of U.S. military plans. For years the United States has interfered in the domestic affairs of nations to bring about “regime change,” rig elections, free American servicemen who have been charged with extremely serious felonies against local civilians, indoctrinate the local officer corps in American militarist values (as at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Ga.), and preserve and protect the so-called Status of Forces Agreements that the United States imposes on all nations with U.S. bases. These SOFAs give our troops extraterritorial privileges such as freedom from local laws and from passport and travel regulations, and they absolve the U.S. from a country’s anti-pollution requirements, noise restrictions and environmental laws.

Mapping U.S. Power

The first essay in Lutz’s collection is by one of the few genuine veterans of military base studies, Joseph Gerson, the New England director of programs for the American Friends Service Committee. He is the editor (along with Bruce Birchard) of “The Sun Never Sets: Confronting the Network of U.S. Military Bases” (Boston: South End Press, 1991). His essay on “U.S. Foreign Military Bases and Military Colonialism: Personal and Analytical Perspectives” is particularly good on the hypocrisy and opportunism that imperialism imposes on our foreign policy, regardless of our intentions. For example, he notes, in the words of the American Declaration of Independence, the “abuses and usurpations” that King George III of England imposed on us though his “standing armies kept among us, in times of peace.”

Today the “abuses and usurpations” of American standing armies “include more than rape, murder, sexual harassment, robbery, other common crimes, seizure of people’s lands, destruction of property, and the cultural imperialism that have accompanied foreign armies since time immemorial. They now include terrorizing jet blasts of frequent low-altitude and night-landing exercises, helicopters and warplanes crashing into homes and schools and the poisoning of environments and communities with military toxins; and they transform ‘host’ communities into targets for genocidal nuclear as well as ‘conventional’ attacks.” When it comes to opportunism, Gerson notes that the Navy’s Indian Ocean tsunami relief operations of 2005 helped open the way for U.S. forces to return to Thailand and for greater cooperation with the Indonesian military.

John Lindsay-Poland’s essay “U.S. Military Bases in Latin America and the Caribbean” is informed by his extensive background in organizing and supporting struggles for the closure and environmental cleanup of U.S. military bases in Panama and Puerto Rico. His essay is comprehensive and historically detailed, although it appears to have been completed in late 2007 or early 2008 and some of the information has been overtaken by recent events. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has refused to renew our lease on Manta Air Base when it expires in November 2009; and the U.S. Army’s 2005 attempt to woo Paraguay flopped. After the Americans are expelled from the Manta base in November the only physical facilities of the U.S. military in South America will be in Colombia.

In 2005 and 2006, the United States tried to seduce Paraguay into giving the U.S. a permanent base by sending several hundred soldiers to provide medical assistance and dig wells. As it turned out, these ancient ploys did not work. Suspicions of the American military’s motives were aroused throughout the cone of South America, and the local population pronounced itself fully capable of digging wells unassisted by foreign troops. Lindsay-Poland notes that the “medical attention [in Paraguay] was one-time only, and … U.S. personnel handed out unlabeled medicines indiscriminately, regardless of the differences in medical conditions.”

David Heller and Hans Lammerant have contributed one of the most useful essays in the volume on “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Bases in Europe.” Information on this subject is scarce and the U.S. press is frightened of reporting what little is available for fear of raising a taboo topic. Heller has been actively involved with anti-nuclear and anti-militarist campaigns in Britain, Belgium and other European countries since the early 1990s. Lammerant has long supported the Belgian branch of War Resisters International.

They reveal that there are today still an estimated 350 to 480 free-fall B-61-type tactical nuclear weapons in the territories of the NATO allies, compared with a maximum of 7,300 land, air, and sea-based nuclear weapons based in Europe in 1971. The bombs are housed at eight air bases in six NATO countries, all of which enjoy Bechtel-installed Weapons Storage and Security Systems, type WS-3. These devices are vaults installed in the floors within a “protective aircraft shelter” and allow for the arming of bombs and aircraft inside hangars, offering high degrees of secrecy and (supposedly) security. Heller and Lammerant note that the weapons based in Europe are “secret, deadly, illegal, costly, militarily useless, politically motivated, and deeply, deeply unpopular.” Before they were all withdrawn, ground-launched nuclear missiles were based at Greenham Common and Molesworth in Britain, Comiso in Italy, Florennes in Belgium, and Wuescheim in the former West Germany. Pershing II missiles were based at Schwaebisch-Gmuend, Neu Ulm, and Waldheide-Neckarsulm in West Germany.

One of the themes stressed by Catherine Lutz as editor of this book is the prominent role played by women and women’s organizations in resisting American military imperialism over the years. All of the chapters offer details on the contributions of women to anti-base resistance activities, particularly in the case of the nuclear bases in Europe. Following the U.S. decision to station nuclear weapons at Greenham Common in the south of England, local women created “Women for Life on Earth” and maintained a constant presence in front of the base from 1981 to 2000 (even though the nuclear weapons were secretly removed in 1991).

Heller and Lammerant conclude their essay with details on the early-warning radars, anti-missile bases, military hubs to support operations in Africa, and facilities extant or being constructed at Thule in Greenland, Vardo in Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Vicenza in northern Italy. On March 17, 2009, the Czech government rejected a proposal by the Pentagon to install a U.S. military radar base in the Czech Republic because the lower house of the Czech parliament seemed certain to vote against it.

Tom Engelhardt’s contribution, “Iraq as a Pentagon Construction Site,” is a cobbled-together version of two essays first published on TomDispatch, of which Engelhardt is editor. All source citations have been removed from the Lutz version, but readers can consult the original essays—“A Basis for Enduring Relationships in Iraq,” Dec. 2, 2007,; and : “Baseless Considerations,” Nov. 4, 2007,

The essays are tours de force on the construction of probably permanent American military bases in occupied Iraq and of the massive fortress—- as large as the Vatican—in the Green Zone of Baghdad that is the “American Embassy.” Engelhardt’s work is a model of how to glean information from the public press on subjects that the American military is trying to keep secret. This is the best research we have to date on the bases in Iraq and the billions of dollars that flowed into the coffers of Halliburton Corp. to build them. [Truth in reporting: Engelhardt is the editor of all three of my books in the Blowback Trilogy.]

Global Resistance

Roland G. Simbulan’s “People’s Movement Responses to Evolving U.S. Military Activities in the Philippines” is a detailed analysis of how the United States has tried to get back into its former colony after the Philippine Senate voted on Sept. 16, 1991, to close all American military facilities and ordered U.S. troops to withdraw. Simbulan is a professor at the University of the Philippines and he played an active role in the “people’s power” movement that overthrew the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and led to the 1991 rejection of the bases treaty.

Simbulan is justified in calling his country’s active protests against the Americans and their domestic lackeys “the most vibrant social movement in Southeast Asia,” but he is at pains to stress that the Americans are unreconciled to their colonial defeat. They continue with unabated creativity to invent “visiting forces agreements” aimed at restoring the U.S. troops’ old extraterritorial privileges and “joint military exercises” against domestic criminal gangs such as the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Mindanao and other Islamic provinces of the southern Philippines.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has also tried to overstate the threat of Islamic radicalism in the Philippines, even though there has been a slow-burning insurgency by indigenous Muslims for over 20 years, and it has pressured the Philippine government to abandon the anti-nuclear weapons provisions of its 1987 constitution. Americans may also be implicated in a clandestine campaign of selective killings of political activists, peasant and trade union leaders, human rights workers, lawyers and church people “in a pattern that was strikingly similar to that of Operation Phoenix”—the terrorist exercise run by the CIA in Vietnam that took the lives of some 30,000 suspected members of the National Liberation Front. Simbulan has written an important analysis of why the Philippines seems unable to get out from under the shadow of the United States despite the victories of “people power” almost 20 years ago.

David Vine’s and Laura Jeffrey’s article entitled “Give Us Back Diego Garcia: Unity and Division Among Activists in the Indian Ocean,” is a lively treatment of the seemingly hopeless efforts of the indigenous people of the island of Diego Garcia to obtain some measure of justice. In 1964, they were expropriated and forcibly expelled by the British government at the insistence of the U.S. Navy so that it could turn the entire island into an American military base.

This essay builds on Vine’s important monograph “Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia,” Princeton University Press, 2009. Vine is a professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. Jeffrey holds a postdoctoral fellowship in anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. She has carried out ethnographic fieldwork among the Chagossians, the exiled people of Diego Garcia, now living in Mauritius and the United Kingdom.

In 1960, U.S. government officials secretly approached their British counterparts about acquiring the tiny island of Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean as a site for a military base. By 1964, the United Kingdom agreed to detach Diego Garcia and the rest of the surrounding Chagos archipelago from its colony Mauritius and several island groups from colonial Seychelles to create a strategic military colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory. In a flagrant violation of human rights, Britain then removed the native inhabitants of Diego Garcia and Chagos, dumping them in Mauritius and Seychelles, 1,300 miles away, where they live today in abject poverty.

By 1973, the United States had completed the nucleus of a super-secret base that would grow faster than any other U.S. base since the Vietnam War. After the attacks of 9/11, the United States used Diego Garcia’s twin parallel runways, each over two miles in length, to launch its fleet of B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers in its assault on Afghanistan, and its 2003 “shock and awe” campaign against Iraq. Diego Garcia also became the site of a secret CIA detention and torture facility for suspected terrorists.

According to John Pike, who runs the military analysis website, Diego Garcia lies at the center of American imperialist plans in case the nations of East Asia should decide that they have had enough of American military forces based on their territories. According to Pike, “[Diego Garcia] is the single most important military facility we’ve got.” The military’s goal, Pike says, is that “we’ll be able to run the planet from Guam and Diego Garcia by 2015, even if the entire Eastern Hemisphere has drop-kicked us from bases on their territory.” With characteristic hypocrisy, the Pentagon has named the Diego Garcia base “Camp Justice.”

Environmental Issues

Environmental and health issues have become the most important new focus in the long-standing conflicts between the U.S. military and civilian communities. Chief evidence is the victory of popular mobilization and civil disobedience against the Navy’s 60-year-long bombing of Vieques, a 51-square-mile island municipality six miles off the southeast coast of the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Katherine T. McCaffrey’s expert treatment of the four-year-long movement to force an end to the bombing of Vieques is one the most important pieces in Lutz’s anthology. The bombing of a Caribbean island inhabited by 10,000 American civilians also exposed Puerto Rico’s lack of sovereignty and the second-class status of its residents within the U.S. polity. Emphasis on environmental issues overcame the Puerto Ricans’ traditional reluctance to politicize their plight and created a broad popular movement that mobilized women and caused the Catholic and Protestant churches to join hands.

On April 19, 1999, the Vieques movement was further strengthened and united when it acquired a martyr. Two U.S. Navy F-18 jet aircraft traveling at supersonic speeds accidentally dropped two 500-pound bombs on the compound that the Navy used to survey the shelling. A civilian security guard, David Sanes, who was patrolling the area, was knocked unconscious and subsequently bled to death. The result was that civilians occupied the site for more than a year, causing the Navy to move its bombing range to North Carolina. Given their access to the site, the occupiers also discovered that the Navy was using depleted uranium ammunition on Vieques. In May 2003, the Navy was finally forced off the island. McCaffrey concludes, “After decades of secrecy surrounding its activities, the military is emerging as the single largest polluter in the United States, single-handedly producing 27,000 toxic-waste sites in this country.”

From Vieques, mobilization based on environmental and health concerns spread to the Navy-controlled island of Kahoolawe in Hawaii, where it was equally successful in forcing the Navy to pull out. Kahoolawe had been occupied and bombed by the U.S. Navy since the outbreak of World War II. Kyle Kajihiro’s essay “Resisting Militarization in Hawaii,” touches on this and other military issues in Hawaii. Kajihiro is the American Friends Service Committee’s program director in Hawaii, who since 1996 has been active in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. His article is less a scholarly analysis of the popular protests against the huge military presence in Hawaii than a well-informed, impassioned brief for the rights of the Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians). Kajihiro also points out that for the first time since World War II, tourism is now a bigger part of the Hawaiian economy than the military installations. His essay is a valuable contribution to the comparatively small literature on the problems of militarism within the United States.

The essay by Ayse Gul Altinay and Amy Holmes, “Opposition to the U.S. Military Presence in Turkey in the Context of the Iraq War,” is important for three reasons. First, there is very little published on the bases in Turkey; second, Incirlik Air Base on the outskirts of Adana, Turkey, is the largest U.S. military facility in a strategically vital NATO ally; and third, the decision on March 1, 2003, of the Turkish National Assembly not to deploy Turkish forces in Iraq nor to allow the United States to use Turkey as an invasion route into Iraq was one of the Bush administration’s greatest setbacks. Public opinion polls in January 2003 revealed that 90 percent of Turks opposed U.S. imperialism against Iraq and 83 percent opposed Turkey’s cooperating with the United States. Nonetheless, major U.S. newspapers either ignored or trivialized Turkey’s opposition to U.S. war plans.

Altinay is a professor of anthropology at Sabanci University, Turkey, and the author of “The Myth of the Military Nation: Militarism, Gender, and Education in Turkey” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). Holmes is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Johns Hopkins University and has written extensively on American bases in Germany and Turkey.

Turkey is not an easy place to do research on American bases. Some 41 percent of bilateral agreements between the U.S. and Turkey between 1947 and 1965 were secret. It was not known that the U.S. had stationed missiles on Turkish territory until the U.S. promised to remove them in return for the USSR’s withdrawing its missiles from Cuba. Incirlik became even more central to U.S. strategy after 1974. In that year, Turkey invaded Cyprus and the United States imposed an arms embargo on its ally. As a result, Turkey closed all 27 U.S. bases in the country except for one, Incirlik. As Altinay and Holmes write, “It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of the Incirlik Air Base for U.S. power projection in the Middle East, particularly since the early 1990s; for more than a decade, the entire Iraq policy of the United States hinged on Incirlik.”

My choice of the best article in the Lutz volume is Kozue Akibayashi’s and Suzuyo Takazato‘s “Okinawa: Women’s Struggle for Demilitarization.” The persecution of the native population of the island of Okinawa, Japan’s most southerly and poorest prefecture, by the American occupiers and the Japanese government since at least the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 has been told often and is reasonably well known in mainland Japan and among the U.S. armed forces. Akibayashi and Takazato expertly retell the essence of the story here, but what makes the article a standout is their emphasis on the mistreatment of Okinawan women and girls and their theoretically sophisticated conclusions.

Akibayashi is a researcher at the Institute for Gender Studies of Ochanomizu University in Tokyo. Takazato is one of the best-known activists in the struggle of Okinawan women to escape the threat of sexual violence by American military personnel. She is an elected member of the City Council in Naha, the capital of Okinawa, and one of the founders of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, which was created in the wake of the gang rape on Sept. 4, 1995 of a 12-year-old Okinawa schoolgirl by two U.S. Marines and a sailor. The purpose of Takazato’s organization was to prevent a recurrence of attacks by the U.S. military on Okinawan women and to protect the young victim of Sept. 4 from unwanted publicity. The organization subsequently created the Rape Emergency Intervention Counseling Center in Okinawa, and has worked to end the U.S. military occupation of the island chain. Unfortunately, despite heroic efforts to get American military commanders to enforce discipline among their troops and strong representations to the Japanese government to take an interest in the plight of the Okinawans, little has changed. This has led Akibayashi and Takazato to two significant conclusions.

(1) “Integral elements of misogyny infect military training. …The military is a violence-producing institution to which sexual and gender violence are intrinsic. … The essence of military forces is their pervasive, deep-rooted contempt for women, which can be seen in military training that completely denies femininity and praises hegemonic masculinity.”

(2) “The OWAAMV [Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence] movement illustrates from a gender perspective that ‘the protected,’ who are structurally deprived of political power, are in fact not protected by the militarized security policies; rather their livelihoods are made insecure by these very policies. The movement has also illuminated the fact that ‘gated’ bases do not confine military violence to within the bases. Those hundred-of-miles-long fences around the bases are there only to assure the readiness of the military and military operations by excluding and even oppressing the people living outside the gated bases.”

These two propositions—misogyny in the official education of American troops and hypocrisy in describing the benefits to locals of foreign military bases—are significant. I believe that they should inform future research on the American empire around the world to see if they can be verified in many different contexts and to further develop their various implications. Meanwhile, these erudite essays should cause Americans to reflect on the nature of U.S. imperialism just at the point where it is most probably starting to decline due to economic constraints and popular exhaustion with the wars and deaths it has caused.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of “Blowback” (2000), “The Sorrows of Empire” (2004), and “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic” (2006), and editor of “Okinawa: Cold War Island” (1999).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Guam Mayors Mixed on Federalization and Military Buildup

Monday, May 18, 2009
Guam mayors mixed on federalization, military buildup
By Nazario Rodriguez Jr.

Guam mayors here for the 2nd Annual Pacific Mayors' Conference have expressed contrasting views about the upcoming military buildup at home as well as the federalization of the CNMI's immigration system.

Mayor Jose “Pedo” T. Terlaje of Yona said he is definitely against federalization because it is already impacting Guam.

He said he's attending the conference not only to talk about agriculture with Philippine mayors but also to share his views on the impacts of federalization. “I'm happy that we're sharing these issues with the other mayors in the region because we are all impacted,” he said.

Terlaje wants the United States to keep its hands off CNMI immigration because he does not want the people of the CNMI to experience what Guam went through.

“It weakened the social life in Guam and it will have the same impact for the people in the CNMI if that happens,” he said.

He said local people, even the local governments, have no control in Guam because the U.S. government runs the entire place.

“Implementing it [federalization of CNMI Immigration] will diminish the life of the people in the CNMI,” Terlaje said.

He said this is because the local workforce will not be enough to supply the needed manpower.

On the issue of the U.S. military buildup, Terlaje said the people of Guam can already visualize the problems and the issues that will confront the people of the region once that happens.

But the oldest Guam mayor, Vicente “Ben” D. Gumataotao of Piti, said the general feeling of the people in Guam is that “we are fully supporting the military buildup.”

He said there are some activists who are against it but they are a small fraction of the population.

Gumatatao, 82, is a retired U.S. Navy officer, who said he trained many people who are now working in Washington D.C. He is a first cousin of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and an uncle of CNMI Delegate to Congress Gregorio Sablan.

On the issue of the visa waiver program, Gumataotao said he understands the U.S. decision to exclude China and Russia.

Gumatatao described as “suicidal” Fitial's efforts to stop the U.S. government from federalizing CNMI immigration “but it is his right to do so because he takes care of the welfare of the people of the CNMI.”

Mayor Paul McDonald of Agatna Heights, who is also president of the Association of Pacific Islands Local Governments, said most resource speakers of the conference presented bleak prospects.

“It is alarming. But so far the conference is going smooth,” he said.

Vice Mayor Louise C. Rivera of Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon said this kind of gathering is a wonderful opportunity for dialogue.

“We are given the chance to share our visions and how we can best address our concerns on these issues,” she said.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reclaim Guahan Rally Gathers Strength

"Reclaim Guahan Rally" Gathers Strength
By Jude Lizama
Marianas Variety
May 11th, 2009

THE Guåhan Youth, an umbrella group for the island’s youth and grassroots organizations, will hold a rally that will amplify their collective voice that has been muffled amid rapid changes resulting from the ongoing military buildup and what some people consider “federal interference.” The rally, billed “Reclaim Guåhan: Chule' Tatte Guåhan,” will be a venue for education, expression and empowerment, featuring honored speakers, poetry, art, film showings and local music among others.

The overall goal to teach those in attendance about the island’s critical issues and the ability to express various opinions will be highlighted throughout.

The rally is scheduled to be held from 2 to 8 p.m. on May 23 at Skinner’s Plaza in Hagåtña.

“It stems from the $1 million a week put forth by Judge [Frances] Tydingco-Gatewood, which we saw as federal interference on local governance,” stated primary event coordinator Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero.

She cited such factors as the military buildup, land grabbing and lack of self determination as central reasons that prompted the Guåhan Youth to initiate a rally that centralizes on indigenous people’s self determination and other fundamental freedoms.

“It’s amazing that a lot of it is coming from the youth. People shouldn’t have to resign to hopelessness. The rally is intended to empower future generations to take leadership,” said Leon Guerrero, adding that the Guåhan Youth will show what they are “capable of as a community.”

“It’s frustrating to know that no one has spoken out,” said Leon Guerrero. “We need to focus on our language and culture in order to help stop all of this, and keep it as the land of the Chamorros. We don’t have power as a nation, but it is something that we are entitled to.”

I Nasion Chamoru’s Maga’ Håga, Debbie Quinata, said I Nasion Chamoru is a supporter and that in no way should I Nasion Chamoru take any credit for the upcoming Chule' Tatte Guåhan rally, which has been materialized and bolstered by the island’s youth movement.

“It’s important for young people to take responsibility for what will be their future. I will not take credit for this ingenious movement,” Quinata said. “It’s a great way to get information out to the community.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reclaim Guahan Rally

Reclaim Guåhan: Chule' Tatte Guåhan

A Community Rally to Educate, Express and Empower
Hosted by Guåhan Youth

Saturday, May 23
2:00pm - 8:00pm
Skinners Plaza

The people of Guam have been watching in silence as the future of our island drastically changes before our eyes. Due to our political status and current leadership, we have had little-to-no say in plans for our future.

A collective of youth and grassroots organizations have come together to organize a rally for change entitled “Reclaim Guåhan: Chule’ Tatte Guåhan.” The collective aims to break the silence and empower people to express what they envision for our island.

The rally will take place May 23, 2009 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Skinner’s Plaza and will feature honored speakers, poetry, local bands, art, film showings, carabao rides and much more. The rally will end with a candle light vigil at 7: 30 p.m.

“Reclaim Guåhan: Chule’ Tatte Guåhan” will be a space for education, expression and empowerment. The people of Guam are invited to:

• Learn about the most critical issues affecting our island, including political status, the military build-up, going green and protecting the land, the threats to Chamorro culture and ways of life, and the importance of uniting as a community during this time. Information tables with personal notes, creative work, research, documentaries, and other published literature pertaining to these issues will be available.

•Speak out on open mics and express things normally only discussed around the BBQ grill or in the outdoor kitchen (kusinan sanhiyong). Only there will be more people listening and sharing.

•Contribute to the “UNITED art PEACE,” a 12-by-6 foot wall for expression.

•Share and listen to stories from our past, and create stories for our present and future.

•Ask questions and seek answers from each other.

•Come together consciously to be more aware of how we exist as a people.

•Promote and practice unity by being open to different ideas and accepting of people's opinions.

•Take actions that will make a difference.

•Embrace diversity and celebrate the struggles we experience together.

For more information please email

Friday, May 08, 2009

Pentagon Reconsiders Pricey Guam Move

Pentagon reconsiders pricey Guam move
By Otto Kreisher
CongressDaily May 7, 2009

The Marine Corps commandant told House appropriators on Wednesday that the initial $4 billion estimated U.S. cost for relocating thousands of Marines from Japan to Guam is "way short" of what the service will likely spend.

"It will be far more than that," Gen. James Conway told the House Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee.

Conway said the decision to move more than 8,000 Marines from Okinawa and some bases in mainland Japan would be reconsidered as part of the global basing study during the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review. The Defense Department will have to come up with a prioritized list of projects and determine Guam's ability to support the additional forces, the commandant said.

Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash., opened the issue, saying he was concerned that Guam does not have the infrastructure to support all the Marines and additional sailors that are planned to be based there.

Conway agreed and noted that plans call for $3 billion a year in construction over a considerable period, and the territory of Guam could support only half of that. He also expressed concern about the ability to provide training facilities for those Marines.

Japan has committed to financing most of the cost of moving the Marines out of the bases on Okinawa, which are impacted by the growing population. But the Japanese government is struggling to provide the funds for that effort and the relocation on the island of a Marine air base.

Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Chet Edwards, D-Texas, asked if additional funds were provided in the fiscal 2010 budget to reflect the higher cost for the Guam move. Conway noted that he could not provide details until the budget is released on Thursday, but said "X amount of dollars" were in the budget.

Most of the big expenses, he added, were in future years, subject to decisions made in the QDR.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., noted that the Navy's plan to relocate a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport, Fla., also would be reviewed in the QDR. But Crenshaw asked Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations who also attended the hearing, if he still supported that move.

Roughead said he did, because he considered the concentration of all five of the Atlantic Fleet's carriers in Norfolk a security risk. He noted that the six Pacific Fleet carriers are in three locations.

The Virginia delegation has protested the move, arguing that the Navy could not afford what could be as much as $1 billion to prepare Mayport to host a nuclear carrier. The base had been home to the conventionally powered carrier John F. Kennedy, which has been retired.

Tiyan Landowners Concerned About Being Trumped by the Military

Tiyan landowners concerned about getting trumped by military
By John Davis
Published May 8, 2009

Tiyan landowners have negotiated a land exchange with the government after 13 hectares was taken for use by the Guam International Airport Authority and well on their way to determining a methodology on how ancestral lands will be divided. So far, the Tiyan Land Exchange Task Force has ensured properties they are looking at have proper easements for infrastructure to be installed.

And landowners are now concerned they'll never get the land exchange because the U.S. military is also looking at using the same parcels for a firing ranges and housing areas.

At the old Federal Aviation Administration, there's over 400 acres of land the land exchange task force is already looking at plotting and dividing for landowners owed smaller and medium sized lots. Tiyan Land Exchange Task Force chairperson Benny Crawford says with military land on both southern and northern boundaries, the feds want to use the old FAA property not as a firing range, but as a housing area.

"Being a retired military myself is they're looking at this land because it's a breach on their security. It's open and they want to close that gap again and I think that's the main purpose," he explained. "An option was to put some ranges up on the Finegayan area with the safety zones extending out into the water, the feedback we got, studies revealed that that would have a potentially negative impact on the people of Guam because it extends out into recreational waters, the double reefs out there."

Those who stand to receive larger portions of land via the land exchange will have their plots in the Marbou command sea land near Anderson South where there is 390 acres of land that can be used for the land swap. The problem? Joint Guam Program Office executive forward director, David Bice says the military plans to use that property as well.

"The planners had looked on the eastern side of Andersen South, Route 15 we call it, and there is some public and some private lands over there where the safety zones go out into the rather choppy waters on the windward side there and that would have less negative impact on the people," said Bice.

Although Bice says no decisions have been made on the use of local government land for the housing area and firing ranges, Crawford says the feds are doing a pretty good job of ignoring his calls. "I don't even know if they're aware of the Tiyan landowners. I've tried to contact this guy Capt. Ruggerio, whatever his name is the public information officer they've never returned my call. I've tried to call a Master Sergeant down there they never return my call, I just want to let them know there's such a task force," he said.

Next week, Crawford will meet with Senator Ben Pangelinan, the Governor and Lt. Governor and hopefully JGPO officials to sign a resolution to set aside the ALC land for Tiyan landowners. In the meantime, landowners will meet tomorrow at the Christ Bible Fellowship building in Tamuning at 1pm.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Guam to Save the Day Again with Military Buildup

Military Build-Up: Guam to Save the Day Again
By Mia Concepcion Triton’s Call, Volume 31, Issue 02

Driving around the island, one can see some big changes happening. New restaurants, businesses, and housing complexes are carving their way through Guam’s natural landscapes.

Multiple roads are currently going through extensive reconstruction to prepare for the military buildup, the transfer of 8000 U.S. Marines and their 9000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam.

According to Governor Felix Camacho in his address to the U.S. Senate Committee and Energy Resources, the Marines will start departing their old base in Okinawa in 2012 and the relocation will be complete by 2014. With such a close deadline for the Marines’ arrival, Guam is working overtime to be prepared.

Both the Japanese and the United States government are spending billions of dollars, 15 billion to be exact, to help Guam prepare for this nearly 25 percent increase in population.

Japan is agreeing to foot some of the bill to ensure a speedy relocation due to social problems between Okinawans and the Marines.

Great amount of publicity given to rapes done by U.S. Marines. According to the Japan Press Weekly, the number of sex offenses in the military forces is 22 times the amount occurring in Japan. Okinawan political activists were strong in voice and were adamant about the ridding of the Marines, one even travelling to Guam to speak of the military presence and the ills that come along with it.

Some newspapers, on the other hand, have criticized some of Okinawa’s media, saying that things were blown out of proportion in order to serve a special need. According to Stars and Stripes, the number of offences committed by the Marines is merely a fraction of the number of offences committed by locals.

Either way, there has been an obvious apprehension on both sides and the relocation seemed the best choice to get rid of it. This is where Guam comes in, to save the day in the same way the buildup will save Guam’s day, financially.

With the recession of multiple economies, these are not the brightest days of our island. The Japanese economy hasn’t been in its best shape either, which has a direct and serious effect on the island.

Guam, an island heavily relying on the money pulled in from Japanese tourists, is also feeling the tightening of the belt. The number of flights from Japan is steadily going downhill, thus the number of tourists and there is nothing else for our economy to rely on.

With such desperation regarding money on island, many people are really looking to this Marine buildup as an economic savior who couldn’t have come at a better time. The government of Guam seems to be stuck in a financial whirlpool, never quite getting out and the more people involved only results in a bigger debt, a bigger hunger.

Students of the University of Guam are in a unique position and have an invaluable perspective on this change on island. We can benefit enormously from this buildup and increase in population and military presence. We are embarking on our careers and it could not be a better time for us to do so.

With so many businesses and agencies coming to support the buildup, we have endless professional choices.

Older generations seem to be in consensus that this buildup will be a good thing. They have been on Guam long enough to see her during the good times: when politicians were trustworthy, when the government wasn’t in debt and when schools were actually safe havens for children.

Needless to say, things aren’t the same. Being able to gauge how good things were with money, it is easier for them to welcome this military expansion with open arms.

Maybe it’s a feasible way for them to return Guam to her good old days. Maybe they don’t want to see the social problems that might arise with the increased Marine presence on the island. Maybe it’s not going to be that big of a deal.

But denying that there will be social changes is a huge mistake. Any area that experiences a large population increase will, without a doubt, face a little tension, especially when there are differences in culture if transition is not done properly.

As young adults living on a small island with an already prominent military community, we see first-hand what these tensions can lead to. We see animosity rooted in cultural misunderstandings and what comes out of it: harsh words being exchanged, violence and worst, the passing of this animosity onto future generations.

We see numerous fights involving two different ethnicities, always on opposite sides and rarely mixing. We also hear the hatred and anger from certain elders about those “guys”.

I remember specifically waiting outside the Globe for a friend to come out. As I sat outside, I noticed that there was a military guy laid out on the ground. He was unconscious and wasn’t receiving help from anyone except for his lone friend, holding up his head. I thought he had blacked out from drinking but upon speculation, I learned that two local guys had attacked him. I insisted that some guys help him out, but they only replied with a cold “That’s what they deserve”.

It wasn’t a “That’s what he deserves” but a general statement about a large amount of people. I’m not saying that this misunderstanding is only on one side but it’s a multi-faceted thing. Tons of military guys, probably missing home and still getting used to Guam, tend to speak badly of the island. We have heard multiple times that they can’t wait to get off this rock.

With Chamorros being a proud people, it’s easy to understand how upset one can get when hearing such talk. Young men tend to be protective of their homeland, no matter where it may be, and will get violent in order to get their point across. We’ve heard countless stories, from both sides, about how things aren’t as pleasant as one would hope in regards to the relations between the locals and the military. We have heard about how the Chamorro people can be extremely hospitable or can be mean-spirited. We have also heard that members of the military are the most interesting people or the most obnoxious.

Either way, we need to open our eyes and our minds. As of right now, the buildup seems like a mere blueprint. Sure, we see new roads being constructed and new buildings going up left and right but are we ready for this? We can have numerous shopping malls and restaurants but what we need to prepare ourselves for are the cultural and social changes we are going to see in our community.

We, as a whole, could look forward to sharing our majestic island with others. We can teach others the joys of our culture instead of chastising those who don’t understand it.

That being said, we can also learn from other cultures to become better citizens of the world. We live in a wonderful place and we’re blessed to call Guam our home. It’s only right that we represent her the proper way; with respect and understanding, no matter who you are.

We could look at this buildup with fear, excitement or utter confusion but the number one thing to do is to keep open our minds and our hearts. We, as students of the University of Guam, are the island’s future leaders and we need to be the ones to show the way.