Friday, September 15, 2006

On Our Own Again

The common sense that everyone believes about the 8,000 Marine military increase, that it will lead to a huge windfall for the entire island is patently disproved or at least disrupted in the following articles. While the PDN article obviously downplays the clear truth, JAL does little to dodge how we will be on our own in securing the money to pay for the arrival of the slew of military increases the US is unilaterally planning.

What frustrates me so much is that even though points like this are reported in both the PDN and the Marianas Variety, it does little to affect how people think about the military historically or in future terms. The military brings with it more than just spending at Chamorro village, taxes and a weak love potion #9 mixture to make the begging of the Guam delegate go a wee bit less degrading. It brings with it wear, tear, daily supposedly acceptable forms of violence, and therefore all sorts of damage.

While I was in Hawai'i last week, a military transport moving a huge crane from Honolulu hit a freeway pedestrian overpass, breaking it, and stopping traffic for half a day. The subsequent jam was so bad that some people couldn't leave Honolulu and had to stay in the city until Public Works cleaned it up late that night.

This damage however pales in comparision to the light weight (20 ton) Stryker tanks that the military is planning to use in Oahu. Recently the military acquired more than 20,000 acres for the purpose of training troops in these vehicles. The intended war games with these Strykers threatens to cause incredible infrstructure (roads, noise) and environmental damage (erosion, dust, hazardous chemicals), for which the military, as in the case of the pedestrian overpass, will most likely not pay for.

In Guam we face the same danger, but for so many frustrating reasons do not recognize them first. Instead we think incredibly about the benefits of the military, even if we don't actually know anything about them. This is colonization in action, the military, the United States as the liberator, a metaphor, an image which retains consistency even if there is little to no evidence to support it, or a mountain of evidence against it.

I can give you an academic paper which would incorporate Zizek, Laclau, Gramsci, Underwood and others to explain why this is this way, but it nonetheless kills me that these points have to be pounded into people's heads and that consciousness has to be so radically altered for them to be even considered clearly. If the military (as it already has) says that we are on our own in terms of our own infrastructure, then why do we continue to pine like stupid lovesick fools for it to be otherwise? They certainly do not treat us equitably in terms of the incredible strategic value Guam is supposed to have, so why do we just give in to them? Robert Underwood, despite the many changes of his philosophy as he has moved to different political positions, has always maintained that the United States gets a deal /steal with Guam. It gets our "strategic position" for barely anything, if you look at the amount it gives other nations and the amount other nations such as France give to their colonies.

Given that all of us on Guam are being therefore screwed by the Feds, every single day, whether OR not we try to lobby for the position of "most super patriotic semi-Americans" what good does it do us to as JAL puts it kowtow to the Feds? The begging and respectful silence of Camacho and Congresswoman Bordallo has done little to secure anything for Guam, and we continue to receive vague mixed messages, huge promises which could amount to nothing.

Although I am a hardcore Underwood supporter in terms of the current election in Guam, I did admire one aspect of Carl Guiterrez's campaign this year. On the issue of military increases all of the candidates were EXACTLY the same, in that they used the limp, tired and potentially meaningless language of "partnership" and shared benefits to describe their position on the coming Marines. In other words, we must make sure that we are partners with the military and so all the people of Guam benefit by their presence. There was not hint of antagonism from anyone, except for Carl Guiterrez in a single instance. Unlike the other three who refused to make any demands of the military, Guiterrez did say that he would demand one thing from the military, or that he would "get it back." Namely Fena Lake.

Tinige' Senadot Jesse Anderson Lujan
The Marianas Variety

"Kowtow Felix"

WE recently heard from the Secretary of the Navy about our efforts to obtain some federal government help to upgrade our infrastructure. We have been pursuing these efforts to better prepare ourselves for the incoming Marines from Okinawa and to better position ourselves for future military placements here.We want these investments to make sure we do not descend into an unending morass of water outages, power outages, overflowing sewer lines, clogged roads and serial killer power poles, mercilessly murdering more and more of our citizens. We want to avoid a total deterioration of our quality of life. Also, we want to succeed at helping in the defense of the country.

We cannot do that with substandard infrastructure which has a capacity that continues to be stretched beyond its breaking point.

Much to our amazement, the message from Mr. Secretary was nada, zip, nothing for Guam’s civilian community. Apparently, Mr. Secretary’s message was that as far as civilian infrastructure is concerned, we civilians are on our own.

Where does that leave us? Well, we, 160,000 people, must now find a way to beg or borrow up to $2 billion to upgrade our current infrastructure. We need to do this, mind you, so that we can accommodate about 50,000 new residents, who are coming here for the sole purpose of bolstering our national defense.

Perhaps, Mr. Secretary was misquoted or I misunderstood him. But if correctly stated, this position is incredibly short sighted and bordering on incredible. To give you an idea of how incredible Mr. Secretary’s position is, mull this example over for a minute. What if a private developer came to Guam, said that he was going to invest $15 billion here?

Let’s say that developer said he was going to bring in 50,000 people for his project. Moreover, all his investments would go straight into his project. Let’s say the developer told us that all impacts of his investment on our island and on our community would be ours to bear alone. With a straight face, he would tell us that all our power, water, roads, landfill and port problems were all ours to bear—solely. If this happened, it wouldn’t be long before we sent that investor on his way. The point is that some projects are simply too big for our small community to absorb by itself. The Secretary of the Navy and the Nation are asking us, a community of 160,000 Americans, to subsidize the defense of a nation of 300 million people. Put simply, giving us a helping hand is critical to the military mission in the Western Pacific. As Guam takes on an increasingly important role in the defense of the nation, the nation must recognize that a completely upgraded civilian infrastructure is an essential component of that mission. It is unquestionable that the military community will, to a large extent, live, work and shop in the civilian community. To think that this will all be meekly accepted and subsidized by us is simply foolish and reckless.

But, however stunned we were about Mr. Secretary’s position, we were even more stunned by Governor Camacho’s response to such an absurd position.

True to form, Governor Camacho stepped up to bat for the federal government.

His apology for such stupidity and arrogant abuse of our hospitality left many of us thinking whose governor is he? Does he represent us or the federal government? Is any one in his administration explaining to Mr. Secretary that leaving us civilians high and dry, and to foot the bill to boot, for the military move to Guam jeopardizes the stability of the whole effort? Does the governor even know how to defend our interest when it is necessary?

The governor should stop kowtowing and start thinking of the long-term consequences of his actions. Governor, stand up and defend our interests.

You must fight for us to deserve the title "governor." If you do not do so, you will not be remembered as Governor Felix Camacho but rather as "Kowtow Felix."

Article published Aug 25, 2006
Navy secretary: Okinawa 'tough act to follow'
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News

The Pentagon still must make the case for Congress to approve the billions of dollars the military needs to spend on its Guam buildup, Gov. Felix Camacho said after a meeting with Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter yesterday.

Camacho made the comment after he was asked if he received a more firm commitment from Winter that the military would try to help Guam get federal funds for infrastructure upgrades. The local government has estimated it would need about $900 million in utility upgrades based on estimates that the military buildup would boost the island population by 30,000 from about 168,000 today.

The relocation of U.S. Marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam is expected to cost around $15 billion, which would be spent over 10 years beginning around 2008. Japanese taxpayers are expected to pay a significant part of the cost.
But it might not be realistic for Guam to expect the U.S. government to pay for all of the utility upgrades Guam needs.

Host country

In Japan, the host country's government paid for the construction of buildings and support staff for the military, the governor said.

But the governor said the Navy secretary told him that would be "one tough act to follow."

In Guam's case, the island's infrastructure needs will be competing with other national spending priorities before Congress, Camacho said.

Winter is being accompanied on Guam by B.J. Penn, assistant secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment, according to the Navy public affairs on Guam.

During their two-day visit, Winter and Penn will tour the Navy base and Andersen Air Force Base.

Winter is the 74th Secretary of the Navy, sworn into office in January.

As the leader of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Team, he is responsible for conducting all the affairs of the Department of the Navy; overseeing the construction, outfitting and repair of naval ships, equipment and facilities; and formulating and implementing policies.

Penn is responsible for formulating policy and procedures for the effective management of Navy and Marine Corps real property, housing and other facilities; occupational health for both military and civilian personnel; and timely completion of closures and realignments of installations under base-closure laws.

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