Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Enduring Bases in Guam and Iraq

There are two main reasons why my academic work is obsessively about Guam.

The first is that I am obviously ethnocentric. Although I would definitely place my people as one of the most ridiculous in the world (how freakin patriotic can we get?), I nonetheless love them. We were after all builders of towering acho' megaliths, and consumate navigators and sailors, and today we are some of the best barbequers in the world, and appear to have incredible genes for acoustic guitar playing (does my half haoleness show in the fact that I did not inhereit this particular gene?). This is why of course I love stuff like Malafunkshun, and allow O.G.G. as a discourse to continue (without slipping into psychotic frustration) despite my knowledge of its origins and how and why it became hegemonic (see colonization for more information).

I am very proud of the fact that we have survived centuries of colonization, and that despite Americanizing pressures to forget our language and relinquish the corrupting influence of our culture, we still have both in forms na ti muna'muta' yu'. (For example, our language has not yet been reduced to "Hafa Adai" and "Lana" although this neutralization is on the horizon if we aren't careful. And also Chamorro culture isn't yet an "ethnic" lapel pin which is trotted out occassionally on "ethnic" days or celebrations, it is still a crucial part of political movements and organizing in Guam).

The other and more theoretically defensible reason given the would be post and anti essentialist leanings of the circles my work brushes up againt, is that Guam is a key site for thinking about the global trends. When I first read Michael Hardt and Tony Negri's Empire a few years ago they provided my the first theoretical framework for thinking about Guam's place in the changing world order.

In Reproducing Empire, Laura Briggs discussed Puerto Rico as a laboratory for globalization. That many of the policies of science and sexuality that were developed in Puerto Rico are now travelling the globe as the natural course of global integration of developing nations.

I think that Guam and a few other sites scatted through the American Empire, provide sites where similar critiques can be made. A paper which I presented last week at the National Association of Ethnic Studies Conference in San Francisco made this point, and I'll be sharing some of it with everyone soon.

But to begin to discuss it briefly, on Guam we can see the future of the world as it embodies the soon to be political reality of many supposedly "sovereign" nations, as well as the fantasy which is providing narrative and visual support for the American drive for global hegemony. It is important not to separate too strongly these points because they only work together. American military pushes for global dominance are not consistent without the fantasy that Guam embodies. But similarly the fantasy that Guam embodies pushes for the creation and maintenance of places such as Guam.

The key to both of these is the way that Guam embodies a particular manifestation of the global/local split, or as is more familiar with Guam's political existence a domestic/foreign relationship. It is common to think of Guam as "foreign in a domestic sense," its even used often to euphemistically describe its colonial/political relationship to the United States. One obvious point of Empire, as well as the construction of multiple bases in Iraq and policing actions going on throughout the country, is that given the construction of the global today, everyplace must in someway be formally in a similarly "ambiguous" way.

One symptom of this shift is what first lead me to consider Guam in this way, not just as a colonial victim, but as a crucial strategic global nodal point.

What does it mean that President Bush constantly speaks in front of uniformed troops on military bases? While obviously a manipulative, political ploy at making himself equivalent with the military, it nonetheless speaks to the global shift into Empire, and what becomes the basis for political possibility.

War becomes not a tragic, but unavoidable and therefore exceptional part of existence, but as we find in The War on Terror, it is a permanent condition, a condition of life itself. War, as Hardt and Negri note in Multitude, has become the primary organizing principle of society. Meaning that those with the “monopoly” on war, meaning the military become the new guardians and guarantors of civil society, of democracy, prosperity and national freedoms.

While we see this political shift in a place such as the United States primarily after 9/11, in Guam this has been hegemonic narrative of Guam for almost a century. Take for example this excerpt from a 1960 pamphlet published by the Government of Guam titled An Introduction to Guam,

Over the years the military has played an important part in developing this territory from an island torn by war to a community that is prosperous, healthy and free…Although one does not normally associate military with democracy, the United States Armed Forces as a strong deterrent for aggression and an important force in maintaining world peace, plays, too, a paradoxical role of keeping the island flouring under the principles of democratic government

The passage to Empire harkens the decline of sovereignty at the level of the nation-state, implying the possible reduction of all nations to colonies. But given the centrality of war in this shift, the world does not become transformed into merely colonies, but military colonies. A network of sites through which the power of a particular nation can be acted out globally.

Both Guam and Iraq in different ways, are unfortunate enough to be caught up in this.

Published on Sunday, April 2, 2006 by the lndependent/UK
US and UK Forces Establish 'Enduring Bases' in Iraq
Despite talk of withdrawal 'when the job is done', there are signs that coalition troops will be there for the long term
by Andrew Buncombe in Washington

The Pentagon has revealed that coalition forces are spending millions of dollars establishing at least six "enduring" bases in Iraq - raising the prospect that US and UK forces could be involved in a long-term deployment in the country. It said it assumed British troops would operate one of the bases.

Almost ever since President Bush claimed an end to "major combat operations" in Iraq on 1 May 2003, debate has focused on how quickly troops could be withdrawn. The US and British governments say troops will remain in Iraq "until the job is done". Yet while the withdrawal of a substantial number of troops remains an aim, it has become increasingly clear that the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are preparing to retain some forces in Iraq for the longer term. The US currently has around 130,000 troops in Iraq; Britain has 8,000.

Major Joseph Breasseale, a senior spokesman for the coalition forces' headquarters in Iraq, told The Independent on Sunday: "The current plan is to reduce the coalition footprint into six consolidation bases - four of which are US. As we move in that direction, some other bases will have to grow to facilitate the closure [or] transfer of smaller bases."

He added: "Right now, I don't have any information that tells me which nationality will comprise the remaining two bases, though my assumption is that at least one will be run by the Brits." An MoD spokesperson said British forces were currently operating out of eight bases in southern Iraq, with a small contingent based in Baghdad, and that "discussions with coalition forces relating to future basing are still at a very early stage. Nothing has been agreed."

The official added: "We have no intention of remaining, or indeed retaining bases in Iraq long-term. We will leave Iraq as soon as the democratically elected Iraqi government is confident that its security forces have the capability and capacity to counter terrorism and to preserve the security of democracy there."

A senior military source recently told the IoS that some British troops could be expected to stay in Iraq in a training role for years to come. There would be no British presence in the urban areas, however. The American and British governments say they remain in Iraq at the invitation of the interim Iraqi government, and would leave if asked to do so.

The Pentagon says it has already reduced the number of US bases from 110 a year ago to a current total of around 75. But at the same time it is expanding a number of vast, highly defended bases, some in the desert away from large population areas. More than $280m (£160m) has already been spent on building up Al Asad air base, Balad air base, Camp Taji and Tallil air base, and the Bush administration has this year requested another $175m to enlarge them. These bases, which currently house more than 55,000 troops, have their own bus routes, pizza restaurants and supermarkets.

Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and a persistent critic of the Iraq war, said it would be "very, very worrying" if British troops were to be involved in a long-term deployment. "Certainly the mood music has all been about the withdrawal of troops," he said. "Now we are just starting to see the glimmers of what may be the real policy."

Some analysts believe the desire to establish a long-term US military presence in Iraq was always one of the reasons behind the 2003 invasion. Joseph Gerson, a historian of American military bases, said: "The Bush administration's intention is to have a long-term military presence in the region ... For a number of years the US has sought to use a number of means to make sure it dominates in the Middle East ... The Bush administration sees Iraq as an unsinkable aircraft carrier for its troops and bases for years to come."

Zoltan Grossman, a geographer at Evergreen State College in Washington, said: "After every US military intervention since 1990 the Pentagon has left behind clusters of new bases in areas where it never before had a foothold. The new string of bases stretch from Kosovo and adjacent Balkan states, to Iraq and other Persian Gulf states, into Afghanistan and other central Asian states ... The only two obstacles to a geographically contiguous US sphere of influence are Iran and Syria."

The US and UK repeatedly say the timetable is dependent upon success in training Iraqi forces. Progress in this area has been slow; in February the Pentagon admitted the only Iraqi battalion judged capable of fighting without US support had been downgraded, requiring it to fight with American troops.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
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