Tuesday, May 09, 2006

How The Interests of the Military Become More Than Our Own

There are almost too many things wrong with the following article "Semper Fi: former Marines Defend Corps at Women's Meeting", my mind mumachalapon trying to write about them all and distinguish them all. (scroll down to read the article, originally this was just supposed to be a short intro to the article, but it sprawled out of control)

First of all, there is the idea that no unfriendly, negative or critical thing can be said about the United States Military without a positive rebuttal. John Gerber is indignant that somewhere on Guam, people are talking poorly of the United States Marines Corps, and there is no representative of the Corps there to defend it. I would be fine with this complaint, if the next logical point became hegemonic in representations of the United States Military in Guam. Namely that all positive statements about the United States Military be accompanied by a negative rebuttal. Sadly and for those familiar with the tone of Guam's media, this is absolutely not the case.

It has been only recently that apprehensiveness about the arrival of these 8,000 Marines is being recorded by the island's leaders. Prior to that, the discussion seemed to follow the two most pathetically simple forms imagineable, first the delusional "what will we do with all that cash!?" and second, "how can we be good hosts and fix up the island for their arrival?!" I remember clearly the initial articles in the PDN covering this military increase. It was truly pathetic, because the only real critique the PDN offered in contrast to all the excitement and hoopla over the economic windfall of these 8,000 bodies and their families, was 1. our infrastructure sucks we can't support them, even though we love them! 2. they better respect!

Media teaches complex lessons in what appear to be very simple statements. First of all, the first critique is hardly a critique at all, since given the universe of statements that these sorts of remarks enter into, they only make the case that more military is not just good, but necessary. The Chamber of Commerce and other rabidly capitalist organizations in Guam gain their super powers not just from the sacrifice of Chamorros on the altar of war and colonialism, but because of the way the eternally crumbling infrastructure of Guam, plays into their arguments of the need for the military. By saying that the poor infrastructure of Guam is an argument against the influx of Marines, you are actually arguing for their arrival, because of the way it is commonly understood that it is only an arrival such as this which can cure those sorts of material ills. The paradox here being that only the arrival of these Marines can fix the problems which prevent their arrival.

The second reason I've pasted below direct from the October 31st, 2005 article in the PDN, "Marines Welcomed Warily,"

Byron Garrido, 43, of Yigo said he is not excited to see the shift of Marines to Guam.
"At first, I thought it would be good, but then think back to the past," he said describing how he has seen fights break out between local residents and military personnel.
Garrido said he hopes military officials will brief all troops who move to Guam about the culture on Guam and how to respect that culture. "Respect, learn where you are at," he said. "You are not in the states, this is Guam."


Here we encounter a similar problem, where the critique leaves unscathed a number of assumptions that must be tampered with.

Through the laundry list of reasons why we should support this miltiary increase we see a very important dash of culture/history (love of the US from liberation) mixed with a deluge of real-world/material factors most importantly economic. On the otherside of the issue, we have a very large dose of culture (respect us!) but little to no mention of the negative (or less than rosy) impact of the Marines in economic or material terms.

One thing that the media tends to teach very well is to what realms of life authority and value belong to, or emmanate from, and to where else should this authority be connected to. Take for example this common justification for voting for Felix Camacho in 2002, "he's a businessman, he'll know how to fix the island's economic problems." Underwood on the other hand was a teacher and therefore will only know how to fix the schools. These assumptions are actually pretty ridiculous for so many reasons, I feel like my brain would try to escape through my eye sockets if I even try to explain why. A connection like this however is common in the media, especially in a newspaper such as the PDN which is tied very closely to the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests in Guam (in other words, articulate that those who want control over the economy (for profits, for their business), should have the most control over it (but only because they have the know how to help all of us).

What we are meant to learn from the PDN coverage of the pros and cons of this and nearly all military increases, is that the positions of those in favor and support for the increase are bolstered and justified through "real world" arguments. Stone cold economic indicators and facts. Those against the increases appear in the media without any such support. There is no economic data to support whatever they say, common sense is definitely not on their side (there is for example no argument that if they don't respect our culture, interest rates will fall). The only argument they really do have is a cultural one, which as I've most recently started to write about after reading The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories by Partha Chatterjee, seems to always crumple beneath someone who proposes to speak on behalf of the "material" or the "real" world.

As Jeff Barcinas noted in an interview in Lee Perez's article "Liberation Day: A Chamorro Re-Telling," the realness of the United States and those who support it is almost always undeniable. Those who profess to speak from that realm seem to get not just the benefit of the doubt, but the benefit of "reality." In this statement by Barcinas, which describes the historical/theoretical dependency the Chamorro has on the United States for survival, we can see how the realness of the United States is privileged over the cultural specificities of the Chamorro, “we [the Chamorro people] could have been completely wiped out and we could have been nobody in terms of identity of a people who are seeking right now self-determination."

The Chamorro in the universe of this statement is the luxury. If all the realness of economics, of history and its liberation tendencies are satisfied, then issues of culture can be dealt with, such as self-determination. But the realness of the United States and those who proclaim to be its defenders in Guam will always have the power to override such simple, unrealistic, cultural things.

It is for this reason that at Famoksaiyan last month, I proposed the forming of an organization whose purpose would be to disseminate critical information about the military
(this 8,000 Marines increase in particular), to help support the positions of those who don't want them coming to Guam by providing them with "real world" hard economic evidence, facts and arguments to support their claims, which cannot be dismissed as simple "radicalism" or "maladjustedness."

Returning to the article I posted below, and how simply the two Marines listed can argue against the abuses, damage and pollution that the Marines have caused in Okinawa, we can see clearly how unequal ideas operate in Guam.

Where are the voices of the women who have suffered the presence of so many Marines in Okinawa? Why is it that these voices can be snuffed out with the mere mention of the fact that rape and violence take place on Guam? (also, why is the treatment of this issue being framed in a negative way, as if to dimiss it through the way it is introduced? To put it more simply, why is it that the topic of rape and gender violence in Okinawa or from the military in general is framed in such a way that the emphasis becomes how free speech and equality were denied to the Marines Corps? LANA!)

This is of course the very palpable residue of a colonial relationship. Notice, how unequal understanding of reality works? Certain statements resonate, can travel, can be understood easily, naturally, while others, are quickly and sometimes forcefully rejected.

Why is it that a critique of the military can be unravelled so easily, by merely showing that such abuses take place on Guam, and not the other way around? Why is it that in response to complaints that Chamorros on Guam and the government on Guam is pathologically corrupt, when I assert that such abuses take place in the United States at a far greater scale and with much more dire consequences (Iraq War), people reject such a point as being either meaningless of unimportant?

Why is it that the recent Abramoff scandal is not inciting the legendary outrage of the people of the Guam the way the abuses of Uncle Carl used to? Why is it that when evidence arises that clearly indicate that government corruption is not indigenous to Guam, and not simply a "third world plague," people work overtime to either ignore it or find ways of twisting it into meaninglessness?

Read carefully the final section of this article below and you can feel this inequity spilling within you and flowing out of you. The way that Gerber sanitizes the United States Military and then attempts to dissociate us from the island, to shame us into displacing local interests, and replacing them with Military interests. Because of the way conversations tend to operate in Guam, he doesn't have to work very hard. It is the clearest example of colonization in action, that the interests of the United States Military become not just our own, but more than our own. That we must consider them before we consider ourselves.


Semper Fi: former Marines defend Corps at women's meeting
by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Monday, May 08, 2006

While Governor Felix Camacho has been preparing for the arrival of 8,000 Marines and their families by meeting as recently as last week with key Defense Department officials on the need for accelerating and financing improvements to Guam's infrastructure. Senator Judi Won Pat (D) and Vice-Speaker Joanne Brown (R) met with a group of women from various walks of life on guam to discuss the potential social problems that may come with these thousands of servicemen.

With the arrival of troops are coming to Guam and with that comes a lot of concerned women. Women who met today at Carmen's Mexican Restaurant in Hagatna to discuss different concerns with this pending influx of military personnel. But while women were inside discussing these issues, former Marine and war veteran John Gerber was upset that he was not allowed into the women's-only meeting.

Gerber criticized, "I think this is a very unfair biased meeting that they're having in here not to allow them to have Marines in there to defend themselves and the blatant statement that Senator Won Pat said on TV last night with all the sexual problems that they're having in Okinawa - what is she talking about?" In this instance Senator Won Pat was referring to reports out of Japan of rapes committed by Marines against local Okinawan women.

Although Gerber feels that it has all been blown out of proportion, he admits that Marines are not perfect. He said, "I'm not going to say that Marines are not going to get into trouble here, you know Marines are human beings just like anybody else, but I'll tell you this for every Marine he has twenty superiors looking after him twenty-four hours a day and if he gets in trouble gets in some sort of mischief the Marine Corps will deal with him severely.

"Unlike on Guam you can be accused of rape and be a bus driver and still be employed and then be transferred to another sector and ordered not to talk to that girl that you were accusing that doesn't happen in the Marine Corps you are dealt with severely."

In fact retired USMC colonel Adolpho Sgambelluri was a provost marshal with the Marine Corps in Okinawa back in the early sixties and he questions the accuracy of reports that Marines committed rapes in Okinawa going as far as to say that these reports may be a result of propaganda. He hotly responded, defending the Corps, saying, "This notion that Marines are going to be involved when they get to Guam with rape and pillaging and destroying the village and raping the women and little girls. A bunch of crap, a bunch of crap."

While Sgambelluri and Gerber were upset that they weren't allowed inside the meeting to defend the Marines, the meeting inside was actually meant for women only and did not focus on bashing marines and perpetuating the fear of rape. Instead, the focus was on social issues and what kinds of impacts may result from such a rapid influx of this many people.

For example, Lydia Tenorio administrator for the Bureau of Social Services Administration said instead of bringing up concerns about rape the group brought up concerns about single local consenting women who may actually be looking forward to the arrival of Marines. "I'm also afraid that it may turn out to be the year of the baby booming year we'll have and increase in pregnancies we'll have unwanted pregnancies we'll have unwed pregnancies that's actually going to have a lot of impact on our society because whose going to have to take responsibility over this but our island community," she explained.

In fact the focus of the meeting was to bring up concerns like this and to discuss how the island community can prepare itself to be more accountable and responsible when these Marines arrive. Co-chair of the international networking committee of the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights former senator Hope Cristobal is concerned primarily with our island's leaders. She told KUAM News, "I'm concerned about the kind of leadership that I feel is lacking I feel that the chamber of commerce has basically taken the leadership on this and this is not truly just about economics it is about how our family lives are going to be impacted it's about how most importantly also how our environment will be impacted."

While it's obvious that the women inside were concerned about the social impacts of these Marines, outside Gerber also expressed his concerns about what might happen and what has happened when you mix locals with military personnel. He said, "Everyone is worried about our Marines. I was in the Marine Corps, I was born and raised in Ordot. I never heard of one incident where a marine in the past fifty-five, sixty, seventy, years was ever accused of rape or getting into any misconduct on Guam, but I can tell you this in the early 1990's, I remember the lance corporal that was invited to the Umatac fiesta beat to death and left to die in the bamboo patch down there. I remember those three sailors that were strangled down at Cabras Island robbed and strangled, I remember the two sailors that were taken up behind Ordot dump robbed and executed.

"Now if you ask the parents of those kids whether they should station troops on Guam, they'll say, 'Hell no, that's a dangerous place.'"

1 comment:

Mari said...

AAAAAAHHHHH!!! You posted it! How could you? I read this in the PDN and was already pissed off about this and the entire issue of the military itself. I come innocently into your blog, only to be bombarded with the idiocy and ignorance that is John Gerber and Adolf Sgambelluri once again.

Sigh, Miget, I'm getting so tired of everything--the PDN, rabid patriotism, the sheep syndrome (with the US as the wolf leading us astray, unquestioning), ulterior motives from the business community, everything. Reading your intro just made me think even harder about all the things I'll be face to face with when I get back home.

Keep in touch, I'll be wading through the fray this summer, so wish me luck!

-Mari

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