Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I just wanted to share with everyone this image, which is a photo (ginnen Thea) which shows off my blue Risk pieces on the verge of overrunning the world. This image is special to me because it records for posterity, what was my first Risk victory ever.
The game began in an interesting way. Me, Jose and Thea (all in Ethnic Studies at UCSD) were sitting at the table at a board game party which, was being attended primarily by Ethnic Studies graduate students from UCSD, and had been early on hijacked by a magic mic and largely assisted by large amounts of alcohol. With all the board games free the three of us faced a difficult choice. After reducing our options by almost a dozen we were left with two choices, capitalism or imperialism. Or as they are known around the world Monopoly and Risk.
Gof mappot este na inayek, para Siha ni' manggai"progressive politics." Manhuehuego taiguini kalang mani'isao no?
The three of us are all from islands, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Thea, who often argues with me that Filipinos are Pacific Islanders proved that she clearly wasn't an "islander" when me and Jose became obsessed with fighting over the island continent of Australia at the game's beginning. It might have seemed silly, but after watching my brother Jack so successfully win Risk games regularly by using the Australian Anchor strategy, I felt my only chance was to emmulate his greatness. So while me and Jose re-enacted scenes from The Thin Red Line across Papua New Guinea, Thea rushed to conquer the Western hemisphere. She ridiculed us for our primitive fight over such small and useless territory!
Talk about reversing the colonial gaze!. It was a victory that Epeli Ho'ufa should write about.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Why I Can't Take My Eyes Off of Ehren Watada

I've been following the case of Army Lt. Ehren Watada for a while now, with anticipation, fear, and yes, yes, coming from the most colonized place left in the world, Guam, yes, jealousy. I'll explain the jealousy comment in a moment.
As you can read below, Watada made alot of people relieved and nervous in 2004 when he refused to deploy to Iraq, claiming that the war was immoral and illegal. Alot of people in lower ranks have made similar claims or attempted to make claims such as this, but their attempts, except in a few cases such as Camilio Meija never receive this sort of national attention.
Why the buzz? One reason is simply that Watada is an officer. He isn't part of the rank and file, he's part of the management class of the military. It is understandable if the grunts make noises or try to escape fighting. After all, they aren't getting the material support they need for the war, are fighting next to private contractors who are making ten times as much, and as was recently reported in the Washington Post, but has been common knowledge for anyone who doesn't have an American flag stuffed up their noses, the services for veterans were not expanded in anticipation of the Iraq War, and are therefore struggling to meet the needs of the deluge of returning catastrophically wounded soldiers.
But Watada is an officer, who in exchange, for slightly more freedom, slightly more money and more opportunity is supposed to help manage the rabble. His objection to the war is dangerous to the military which is struggling to convince an underpaid and overworked, all volunteer military whose belief that the Iraq war was or is necessary is slowly eroding, to stay the course.
Second, Watada, as a straight A, college student, who volunteered to join the military after 9/11 is not someone who can be dismissed as a crazy, leftist loon or peacnik.
Third, Watada in his public statements is not someone who can be dismissed as "scared." This has been the typical right wing response, that "lu'han este na popble na lahi, ai na'ma'a'se." But what is going on in his head or heart isn't necessarily important or relevant here, since the statements and the arguments he is standing upon are rock solid. Soldiers are being asked to violate the Constitution in Iraq, as they are often required to do in wars. War is the space where the law is meant to be violated, where it is meant to be trampled upon, a space where each man is supposedly sovereign, because of the exceptionalism that pushes soldiers to kill each other and raze each other's lives and homes.
Samuel Huntington's thesis on The Clash of Civilizations, is this violent exceptionalist discourse consolidated and theorized for the public, but you can feel it in the simplest speech on Musliums today, and Vietnamese, Germans, Japanese before. In the space of war, you are meant to encounter an enemy who is beyond rehablitation, whose very existence is supposed to threaten your very core. There is no possibility for negotiation, for dialogue here. But because this enemy takes this radical position, beyond the desire to speak, to follow any law except their propensity for violence and wish for your death, you are relieved of the obligation to follow the law. Your release from this obligation, will be justified for different reasons, but ultimately is focused around the belief that the enemy follows no law and cannot understand the law, and can therefore be reduced to an object of violence, rather than a subject of violence.
The fact that there has been a perpetually shortage of translators in the war in Iraq, may not simply be due to incompetence, it might well be connected to this need to have the enemy or in this case the Iraqi be beyond communication, its speech, ranting gibberish, which cannot be translated into rational words, which cannot be translated into an understanding of peace, order or the law.
With Watada's refusal to fight, and rooting his objection in international law, the Constitution, the immorality of a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, he is asserting the importance of a higher law to respect and to adhere to than the command of the sovereign.
In times of war, as Bush administration shill John Yoo has argued, the balance of power becomes tipped to privilege the authority of the President. "We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch." With the Bush Administration's assertion that we are indeed in locked in a very real, but very different "war on terror" right now, he is attempted to elevate its rule, its interests, its demands above that of "the law." He is attempting to occupy the place of the law, to fill it, and make it the place from which his wishes become law. His biggest wish after all is not that he be the educator in chielf, but "the decider."
What Watada is reminding us is that, the simple assertion of the existence of a state of war, does not necessarily suspend the primacy of our laws. The sovereign dreams of war, because it is what infuses him with authority, what makes his words fall and form with the force of law. The laws which the President tells us are insufficient, irrelevant, or in the words of Alberto Gonzalez "quaint" do not disappear or cease to have any meaning because the President says so. What makes Watada so dangerous to those who wish to make more war, is that he is reminding us that laws such as the Geneva Convention or even the Constitution continue to persist, continue to have meaning and relevance, and only dissipate in authority because we treat the sovereign's words and needs as law. It is important to remember that that the sovereign is only sovereign, because he is treated as such, not because of any pre-existing condition or essence that makes it so.
So, why in the world would I be jealous of Lt. Ehren Watada? First of all he is from Hawai'i, which although being in a comparable place in terms of historical and contemporary military importance and colonization with Guam, at least Hawai'i has some sort of an anti-war movement, Lt. Watada, and can boast that its state senate took steps to bring back their Army and Air National Guard troops in 2006.
In Guam, military service comes heavily laden with not just the narratives of economic mobility, civic duty and exceptionalism, reinvigorated masculinity, but also the extra dimension of repayment to the United States for liberation from the Japanese in 1944. The idea of a young Chamorro officer protesting the war in Iraq is almost unthinkable in Guam. This is not because Chamorros aren't against the war or don't want to fight, but largely for the same reason that Bush had gained such dominance over public law and life in the United States, because everyone else assumes in a similar way, that everyone supports this, or no one in their right mind would contest or question that. Remember, or merely feel around you the closedness of public discourse after 9/11. Think about the ways that people could not speak out against the war in Afghanistan or the war in Iraq, or the erosion of civil liberties, because they were too busy defending themselves from attacks on their patriotism, and their critiques were lost because they were tripping over themselves trying to prove that they were just as war-like or just as America loving as the worst right winger.
This is what life is like in Guam all the time. Any critique of the United States, in particular the military or its right to wage war across the world is demolished by the rigid public assumptions that everyone supports whatever the United States military wants or says, because, due to the insane levels of Chamorro participation in the armed forces, we literally are the military, or because of our small island, non-modern culture and lack of natural resources, we need that military money to survive.
I dream daily of a Chamorro Lt. Watada. That young Chamorros who feel Guam's colonial status, and are tired of serving a nation that rejects their island as American regularly, but also prevents them from following their own self-determined path, and want to resist, want to speak out, will find a way of doing so. I receive emails regularly from Chamorros who are either serving, or who profess to speak on behalf of those serving which claim I am insane, unpatriotic, dangerous or way off base. This is my reality. But I am pushed forward by my dream, which I get hints of in the stand of Lt. Watada. My dream is that out there, whether in South Korea, Okinawa, Iraq, Afghanistan, Fort Lewis, Camp Pendelton, Chamorros serving in the armed forces will begin to find the space to speak their critiques from, and that in some way I can help them.
For now, you can go to the website his mother made to learn more about Lt. Watada's case, which was recently dismissed, but for which charges have once again been filed by the army. The website is
Click here to sign a petition in support for his cause.


Lieutenant Watada's War Against the War
Jeremy Brecher & Brendan Smith

In a remarkable protest from inside the ranks of the military, First Lieut. Ehren Watada has become the Army's first commissioned officer to publicly refuse orders to fight in Iraq on grounds that the war is illegal. The 28-year-old announced his decision not to obey orders to deploy to Iraq in a video press conference June 7, saying, "My participation would make me party to war crimes."

An artillery officer stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, Watada wore a business suit rather than his military uniform when making his statement. "It is my conclusion as an officer of the armed forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law," he said. "Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order."

A native of Hawaii who enlisted in the Army after graduating from college in 2003, Watada differs from other military personnel who have sought conscientious-objector status to avoid deployment to Iraq.

Watada told Truthout's Sarah Olson that at first he gave the Bush Administration the benefit of the doubt as it built the case for war. But when he discovered he was being sent to Iraq, he began reading everything he could, such as James Bamford's Pretext for War. He concluded that the war was based on false pretenses, ranging from the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to the claim that Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 to the idea that the United States is in Iraq to promote democracy.

His investigation led him to question the very legality of the war. In an interview with Democracy Now!, he explained that as he read articles by experts on international and constitutional law, reports from governmental and nongovernmental agencies, revelations from independent journalists, writings by the Iraqi people and the words of soldiers coming home, "I came to the conclusion that the war and what we're doing over there is illegal."

First, he concluded that the war violates the Constitution and War Powers Act, which, he said, "limits the President in his role as commander in chief from using the armed forces in any way he sees fit." Watada also concluded that "my moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders."
Second, he claims the war is illegal under international law. He discovered that "the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg principles all bar wars of aggression." The Constitution makes such treaties part of American law as well.
These are not wild legal claims. Watada's conclusions are supported by mountains of evidence and experts, including the judgment of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who in 2004 declared that the US invasion was "not in conformity with the UN Charter, and from our point of view...was illegal."
Watada said he came to recognize that the military conduct of the occupation is also illegal: "If you look at the Army Field Manual, 27-10, which governs the laws of land warfare, it states certain responsibilities for the occupying power. As the occupying power, we have failed to follow a lot of those regulations." He told ABC News that the "wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people" is "a contradiction to the Army's own law of land warfare."
While ongoing media coverage of the protest debates whether Watada's action is one of cowardice or conscience, so far the seriousness of his legal claims have been largely ignored. Watada's position is different from that of conscientious objectors, who oppose all wars. "I'm not just against bearing arms or fighting people. I am against an unjustified war," he said.
Can such a claim be heard in a military court? In 2004, Petty Officer Pablo Paredes refused to board his Iraq-bound ship in San Diego Harbor, claiming to be a conscientious objector. At his court-martial, Paredes testified that he was convinced that the Iraq War was illegal. National Lawyers Guild president-elect Marjorie Cohn presented evidence to support his claim. The military judge, Lieut. Cmdr. Robert Klant, accepted Paredes's war-crimes defense and refused to send him to jail. The government prosecutor's case was so weak that Cohn, in a report published on, noted that Klant declared ironically, "I believe the government has just successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."
One of Germany's highest courts heard a case last year regarding a German soldier who refused to participate in military activities as part of the US-led coalition in Iraq. The Federal Administrative Court issued a long and detailed decision in his favor, saying, "There were and still are serious legal objections to the war against Iraq...relating to the UN Charter's prohibition of the use of violence and other provisions of international law."
Watada's case comes amid a growing questioning of the Iraq War in all levels of the military. A February Zogby poll found that 72 percent of American troops serving in Iraq think the United States should leave the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the United States should leave immediately. While the "generals' revolt" against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld didn't challenge the legality of the war per se, many retired military leaders have strongly condemned the use of torture and other violations of international and military law.
According to USA Today, at least 8,000 service members have deserted since the Iraq War began. The Guardian reports that there are an estimated 400 Iraq War deserters in Canada, of whom at least twenty have applied for asylum. An Army spokesman says that ten other servicemen besides Watada have refused to go to Iraq.
Resistance in the military played a critical role in ending the French war in Algeria, the Israeli occupation of Lebanon and the American war in Vietnam. Such resistance not only undermines the capacity of a government to conduct wars; it also challenges the moral claims that are used to justify them and inspires others to examine their own responsibilities.
Watada's action comes as the issue of US war crimes in Iraq is inexorably creeping into the public spotlight. Senator John Warner has promised to hold hearings on the alleged Haditha massacre. The UN Committee Against Torture has declared that the United States is engaging in illegal torture at Guantánamo and elsewhere. An investigation by the European Union has found overwhelming evidence of the rendition of prisoners to other countries for torture.
Watada's highly publicized stand will no doubt lead others to ask what they are doing to halt such crimes. Unless the Army assigns him somewhere besides Iraq or permits him to resign his commission, he will now face court-martial for refusing to serve as ordered and possibly years in prison.
According to an ominous statement released by the Army commanders at Fort Lewis in response to Watada's press conference: "For a commissioned officer to publicly declare an apparent intent to violate military law by refusing to obey orders is a serious matter and could subject him to adverse action."
Watada's decision to hold a press conference and post his statements online puts him at serious risk. In theory, if the Army construes his public statements as an attempt to encourage other soldiers to resist, he could be charged with mutiny under Article 94 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which considers those who act "with intent to usurp or override lawful military authority, refuses, in concert with any other person, to obey orders or otherwise do his duty or creates any violence or disturbance is guilty of mutiny." The conservative group Military Families Voice of Victory is already "demanding the Army prosecute Lt. Watada to the fullest extent under the Uniform Code of Military Justice."
Watada told Truthout's Olson that when he started to question the war, he he felt, like so many in and out of the military, that "there was nothing to be done, and this administration was just continually violating the law to serve their purpose, and there was nothing to stop them." But he realized that there was something he personally could do: "It is my duty not to follow unlawful orders and not to participate in things I find morally reprehensible."
"The one God-given freedom and right that we really have is freedom of choice," Watada says, echoing the profound message of Mohandas Gandhi. "I just want to tell everybody, especially people who doubt the war, that you do have that one freedom. And that's something that they can never take away. Yes, they will imprison you. They'll throw the book at you. They'll try to make an example out of you, but you do have that choice."
Even facing prison time, Watada is firm. "When you are looking your children in the eye in the future, or when you are at the end of your life, you want to look back on your life and know that at a very important moment, when I had the opportunity to make the right decisions, I did so, even knowing there were negative consequences."
Watada's recognition of his duty provides a challenge not only to those in the military but to all Americans: "We all have a duty as American citizens for civil disobedience, and to do anything we can within the law to stop an illegal war."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Encountering the Colonial Other

I'm deadlocked in the writing of my prospectus right now, so even though kulang machuchuda i tintanos hu ni' meggai na idea siha, I don't have either the frame of mind of the focus right now for posting on my blog.

Para hamyo ni' esta un tungo' i kistumbre-ku, this means that I'll be posting response papers from my graduate seminars until I can get back on top of my schedule. Na'magof hao ni' este, ya despensa para i ginagu-hu.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Colonial Sovereignty
Jodi Blanco

According to Peter Fitzpatrick, the law becomes the curious fetish of the colonies. From the perspective of the colonizer, a sort of sudden sovereignty emerges at the moments of contact with a “new” world which cannot readily be accounted for in his current imagination. As he bumps up against this “new” gap in the symbolic network, which is never truly a gap, but only the appearance of one, sovereignty erupts as the ability to map not just this new land, but also himself. The double gesture which makes the term “sovereignty” appropriate to this moment is that this new land is filled through a brutal emptying of its content, the production of terra nullius, and at the same time is a self-determining process, whereby the subject creates authority and transparency by virtue of its recognition and the knowledge is produces.

In Serendipities, Umberto Eco writes about the "unicorn" that Marco Polo discovers in his travels throughout Asia. "Discovery" is a radically different concept than "encounter," yet one which happens more frequently than we might think. The European travels to lands (they had never imagined or visited) are called "discoveries" because of the way they are integrated into existing ideological framework and therefore nothing is actually really discovered. Although we may make a big ruckus over the newness of these lands, these "savages" the fact that I call them savage without incident, indicates that they were expected, there is nothing new here, just a slight addition to what I already knew, namely that those who are not me, are inferior and savage.With Marco Polo, the unicorn that he discovered was in reality a Rhino, but moment's demand that he re-evaluate his position did not hold sway, as he instead reinforced what he already knew, and brought the Rhino into his existing imaginary, by noting that although scholars and fairy tales might have romanticized the creature quite a bit, it was nonetheless clearly a unicorn, thereby creating his own authority and his own transparency.

Returning to the law in the colonies, it is what the colonizer constantly clings to, because although the colonizer may sometimes look like me, act like me, may seem like me, the rule of formal law, this feature that defines me, both defines me above/against the colonizer, and also insulates me from the chaos that mediates their lives. Part of the process of colonization therefore is the mapping of not two worlds, but one world and the line which divides these worlds, the formal and the obscene. One of these represents the realm of articulation, rational speech, and is demarcated by a line which is constantly shifting, alluding to but never truly mapping the chaotic world of the obscene, populated by ghosts, monsters and the dead.

While the line of reason and the line of ability to submit to law and accept order (one could say from Agamben that the Wolf man walks this line) exists to stave off the un-mappable obscene world, defending it from the formal, it is also obvious that the formal depends heavily on the obscene in a number of different ways.

Most relevant to this week’s readings is the notion of the blood compact and how a clearly obscene act/ritual between civilized and uncivilized parties is used to mark the beginning of the formal in the Philippines, the denote the moment of its entrance into “history’s waiting room” and the possibility for it to be recognized within formal legal frameworks.

For the family of nations, the blood compact is another charming story which provides a semi-formal, semi-obscene basis for the limited inclusion and recognition of the Philippines on the global level. It inscribes into the modern birth of the Philippines both the obscene pre-origin which will always taint the modern existence of the country. Yet at the same time, it will carry with it a sliver of Enlightenment and modern progressivity, small shred of the story that Europe needs to tell itself.

The line that I’ve already mentioned between the formal and the obscene does not hold though, as the naming of the origin of this order constantly forces questions of exceptionalism, of justice, of violence and of history and civility to the fore. For Rizal, the blood compact is a legal binding compact which places the Philippines as a civilization into the trust and care of the Spanish Empire and therefore the horizon which he speaks of is one of reform where the two nations and two races are somehow united, beyond the current state of exploitation. For Bonafacio, the horizon lies beyond the Spanish because the blood compact although representing a contact between the Spanish and Philippines civilization, more importantly directs the imagination back in time prior to the Spanish, which therefore defines the times since in terms of starvation and deprivation.

While the pragmatic reasoning behind the “choice” in representation would be that the lack of society and civility amongst these tribes necessitated a ritual which they could understand as they are brought into the modern world. Legaspi was therefore slumming in a sense when he makes the blood compact, bringing himself down to the level of the savage in order to bring him into the framework of modern law and history. But why is this gesture always necessary both in history and more importantly when histories of relations between colonies and countries are written? Why not represent as the moment of contact and contract as an image of pure force or colonization? Why instead does the colonizer constantly “lower” themselves to represent this moment?

Although one could answer this from the perspective of the “original sinlessness” of the nation, but theoretically it is definitely linked to the limit that the only violence which truly constitutes order as opposed to merely preserving it is always obscene.

This leads us to another interesting question. If the bodies of natives, savages, colonized peoples were not to be incorporated into the formal world, except through metaphors which would cradle them eternally as inferior, as trapped in time, as like children, etc. What is the need for this façade? If the colony is a process whereby exploitation, lawlessness and violence is collected and warehoused away from the Centre, what is the need for civilizing the savages or for finding a way to bring them into not just the colonial order, but rather the colonizer’s order?

While we can make arguments for humanitarianism, benevolence, biopolitical restructuring based on economic demands, this “humanizing” and therefore stifling of the colonizer’s enjoyment and sovereignty, relates to the obscene dimension of the law which it relies upon, but which is constantly disavowed. The further away the colonized is from the colonizer, the more obscene he appears to be, and the closer he appears to be to the source of order, the constituent power. Anxiety is of course always articulated as a distance, but rather it always instead refers to a terrifying proximity, a closeness. For the colonizer who clings to the law as the source of his self-ordering and power, the obscene violence which necessarily accompanies it, will nonetheless echo in the world of the obscene as well, haunting the colonizer and situating within the colonial I, a disturbing presence which will always have an obscene mastery over him.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lucky to be the Tip of America's Spear

When I make claims that Chamorro and Guam-based patriotism to the United States is dangerous, people tend to give me looks like I am insane or mabababa i ilu-hu.

For most people, and this includes Chamorros on Guam, the United States is basically all the island has got going for it. We get to be US citizens, we get to be a footnote to the greatest country in the history of the universe, we get to fly the American flag over our island and drap it over our soldiers who die in battle. In the universe of this thinking, even if we accept and admit that Guam is a colony of the United States, we are still apparently supposed to feel suette. I mean, things could be much much worse, what if we were a colony of France, or the Philippines, or Afghanistan? We should feel glad that we are stuck with a colonizer who understands how to use productively and efficiently our geographic position in order to project its military power into Asia and ensure that its narrow national and economic interests dictate the futures of almost half of the globe.

Patriotism to the United States is not just natural or expected here, but seems to be sound financial advice. We are stuck in this position of being a territory, a possession of the United States. Since we have no intention of fighting for our independence through force of arms, we might as well just accept our subordinate status, grab an American flag and celebrate the hell out of it. Furthermore, the logic that weighs down all of our minds and imaginations here seems to stem from the most pragmatic of sources, the simplistic obviousness of geography, size, numbers, distance. Guam is small and distant in so many ways, that this American attachment is one of the few things that in today's modern world, we can truly count on.

But as I've often noted, the fact that we may wave the flag or feel that it in some way is ours, there is a web of legal opinions, racism, ignorance, hypocrisy and strategic importance that says otherwise, according to this network of American and Guam exceptionalism, we are sort of American, kind of American, depending upon what we are asking for and what how necessary for United States military planning Guam is. The daily plebscite of belonging which Renan states take place each morning when the members of nation arise and emotionationally decide that they want to continue to embody this binding spirit, regularly sets aside as exceptional the votes of those on Guam. We can wave as many flags as we want, and say we are as American as apple pie or Stinger Cruise Missiles, but that does not overcome the historical and contemporary colonization of Guam.

Plus, given the non-position of the United States at the United Nations and during Commonwealth negotiations, it is obvious that our benevolent colonizer has no interest in decolonizing Guam or giving Chamorros and others on Guam the right to determine our future.

The basis for Chamorro patriotism towards the United States, given this resistance to both admitting to Guam's colonial status or any national desire to fix it, is therefore not one rooted in a caring and cradling equality. We are not patriotic to the United States because of an equal or mutual reciprocal relationship. This may be the way it appears at its most superficial or potent levels. But in reality the foundation for Chamorro patriotism to the United States is that we are not equal, and that that is the way its supposed to be.

Military commanders and Chamber of Commerce cronies call Guam the tip of America's military spear. Chamorro patriotism to the United States comes from the acceptance of this status as an object to be used by another, and whose only real value, real future, real life comes through the actions of another (the terrible, tragic myth that the text Destiny's Landfall historiographically teaches us). Our love for the United States is therefore derived from the fact that we are not worth anything, and must celebrate enthusiastically that someone sees value in us! Our patriotism is like a twisted version of My Fair Lady or She's All That. Where we on Guam are a homely, untalented, awkward, socially useless and vapid girl with nothing going for us, and some jock or Big Man on Campus type shows up out of nowhere to liberate us from our social squalor. Except at the movie's end, instead of the incredible unique, internal qualities of Guam becoming unfolding and the United States and Guam ending up equal partners in love for each other, and recognition of each others beauty, we remain an appendage to the gaze of the BMOC. We remain a creature who is determined to be pretty, ugly, cool, un-cool, based on not any and every gaze, but this particular gaze.

Why would this be bad, other than the obvious assumption it has that we on Guam are nothing without the United States?

The linking of one's colonizer to the ability to make life and giving it the monopoly on the means of making life is the dream and fantasy of every colonizer. In the non-psychoanalytic way, we are stuck in the fantasy of the United States. I say non-psychoanalytic because in psychoanalysis, fantasy means different things and isn't always pretty or dreamy, but is often just a fluffy cushion that protects us from a jaded and jarring impalement on the Real. In a more general way fantasy is related to dream, wish and ideal scenarios. The way we so wish things were. Olaha mohon na taiguini lina'la'-hu!

To say that we are stuck in the fantasy of the United States, means literally that we are stuck in a world in which the United States never has done and never can do any wrong. Take all the fantasy sequences from all the movies you've ever seen, women's clothes falling off, money falling from the sky, adversaries dropping dead, music playing all around, etc. and you find these sorts of insanely positive, goofy and ideal scenarios duplicated in the way we on Guam imagine the United States as possessing the same magic and liberating touch.

What pushed me to write this post and illustrates this nonsense is the following KUAM interactive poll which was submitted by one of their viewers. If this is truly the range of impacts that this viewer anticipates from the massive military build up crashing towards Guam, then we might as well paraphrase John Lennon and say that on Guam, "America is bigger than the Beatles."

"What is the greatest impact the military buildup will have on Guam?"
Submitted by an online viewer

Improved roads
Additional Section 30 money
Integrated landfill
Business sector expansion
Real estate appreciation

There is a potential in this question for the possibility of "negative" effects on Guam to be discussed, through the use of the words "greatest" and "impact." But instead I guess greatest is meant to be literal as in "minaolek" or "i mas maolek."

Here, although it might be difficult, we can see the problems with Chamorro and Guam patriotism to the United States. Since the foundational assumption of this devotion to the United States is the idea that it has everything and we have nothing, and we love it because we don't have any other choice if we wish to live, and then this combines with the colonial commonsense that everything the colonizer does is magic and positive, we become trapped. In this rotten intersection of colonial fantasies and dependencies any room from which we can even imagine that the United States could do anything wrong or any damage to Guam has evaporated. Either we just can't see it because we are blinded by the colonizing commonsense, or if we do see it, it can't really mean anything because such a recognition would amount to biting the hand that threatens to kill our life support.

This problem is most pronounced in terms of the military build up in Guam, which has the potential to destroy the island in multiple ways. But because that entangled and insane position I mentioned above is the most dominant public position on the presence, influence and power of the United States, none of the negative impacts can be discussed or are to be given any importance in discussions, demands or policy initiatives.

Will the buildup improve Guam's economy? Yes perhaps, but since this increase is completely unmanaged by anyone on Guam, it will benefit primarily those already in positions of wealth or those carpetbaggers who come to make a quick buck. Will it make the island a target for military or terrorist attacks? Absolutely, the idea that more military makes you safer is completely stupid. Will this damage the environment? Absolutely, we already suffer on Guam because of what toxic and hazardous waste has been hidden in the soils, and more military guarantees even more strain and damage. The bringing of nearly 50,000 soldiers, dependents and support staff into Guam is not a simple "transfer" or even another friendly neighborhood "liberation," it has catastrophic potential, it can shatter social life on Guam.

The fact that the majority of people on Guam and in particular the media, elite business community and politicians refuse to do anything about these dangers shows the clear limits and problems with Guam's patriotism and loyalty to the United States. If we are to plan for the future of Guam, with Guam's interests in mind, then we cannot simply forget, downplay or tampe ni' un barrato na bandera, these bad, negative or exploitative things when we confront with them. The United States has its own interests, Guam has its own as well, sometimes they might be the same, but often times they are not. Patriotism towards the United States tends to embody a mixture of both interests, and making them appear that they are equal and both represented. If we look at the casual way in which the possible razing of life on Guam is being celebrated by our re-christening as the tip of America's spear, it is clear that one interest becomes dominant over the other, and guess whose is on top?

Yanggen un alok "Guahan" lachi hao, ya siempre pau makonne' hao para GITMO.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Simple and Stupid Ways Sovereignty is Produced

I'm sorry I haven't been posting much lately. I've been trying to figure out my next step as far as my new baby, and also been stucking in writing my prospectus for my dissertation in Ethnic Studies.

I know all my ideas, but writing them down into a basic social science research format isn't my style. It feels weird, forcing me to answer too many questions which I don't feel are important and are more about establishing disciplinary or self-academic identities than anything else.

But this article from Newsweek which was just passed my way by Debbie Quinata, I Maga'haga i Nasion Chamoru, proves to me why my proposed dissertation project is not just correct, but also important.

Being a "tiny remote Pacific Island" or a "dot on the map" or "sleepy hollow of the Pacific" we tend not to think of ourselves in Guam, or even people from other islands, as having very much or being capable of very much. This seems to be true in numerous realms of inquiry or possibility. We have no natural resouces, no culture or technology which we can truly say is an important and recognized contribution to the "modern" world. No sizeable populations which would indicate that other people should learn our languages or know our histories, or make a sustainable economy possible.

Sadly, this extends into the world of critique as well. Since, we on Guam have little to nothing to offer the rest of the world, our colonial master, or even ourselves, we must rely on the United States for everything that makes life possible or enjoyable. Our critical abilities must therefore be limited, because mungga ma aka' i kannai ni' muna'boboka hao. Never, never bite the hand that feeds you!

When faced with this daunting and cruel framework, the majority of our energy which is dedicated to resistance and critique, never seems to actually directly confront the colonizer, but instead work to sidestep, predate or withdraw from such a fight, by retreating into claims about cultural superiority. This is why for so many, decolonization if it is not a dry and formal political process, it is then a purely cultural endeavor, in which one tries to find the point the colonizer hasn't tainted or destroyed yet. (Hunggan bei konfotme na maolekna i kutturan Chamoru kinu i kutturan Amerikanu, lao kao nahong ha' este na sinangan? Para Guahu, yanggen un atan i sisteman power giya Guahan, kalang taibali este, because it does not necessarily disrupt the authority or power of the United States over life and the future in Guam.)

I have written elsewhere on this blog about the problems I have with "cultural" decolonization, and so I won't rehash most of them here. But let me just share a quick anecdote about its limits.

During the Decolonizing Our Lives forum that Famoksaiyan helped organize last month in Guam, Howard Hemsing, an independence for Guam advocate, spoke for several minutes during the question and answer period about independence and cultural rights. Howard is often criticized for the radical stances he takes, most notoriously the holding of signs by the sides of Marine Drive that proclaim the importance of Independence for Guam, or that "Yankee Go Home." Howard began his statement by telling all that we don't need anyones permission to be independent, we don't need anyone else's process of decolonization or Congressional approval. Este i isla-ta esta, ti guailayi i inapreban otro, hita la'mon! For him, what constituted this independence was clear, the ability to practice our culture, to enjoy our cultural rights.

Somewhere in the middle of his tirade, Howard no doubt realized that the purely cultural realm which he was telling all was the site for decolonization was actually insufficient. Again, as I often write on this blog, that isolated native and its space which is dictated negatively into existence by appearing to embody all the things the colonizer couldn't kill, is unfortunately one of the colonizers most potent spaces for continuing its control.

I say that Howard realized this because by the end of his comments he had changed his tune completely. Gof matulaika i hinasso-na. Fine'nina ilek-na na hita i Chamoru la'mon todu put i kuttura gi isla-ta, lao by the time he finished, we Chamorros were not free at all on Guam. By the end of his statements Chamorros were not free to practice their cultural rights and heritage, the issue of independence was not simply finding what the colonizer hasn't touched, but rather would require, as Fanon notes in The Wretched of the Earth, a direct confrontation with the colonizer and the apparatus of desire that props up the colonial world.

But, forcing this sort of destructive/productive confrontation is difficult. The supplementary logic that pervades the way we conceive of ourselves in Guam, the way Guam is written of or represented all make it seem as if the drawing of battle lines for Guam's decolonization, would either be useless or barely even a match. The United States is the greatest country in the world, "the last remaining superpower," while Guam appears in the media in stupid and simple ways, emptied of any history, outrighted referred to as a dot on a map, a tiny island, the trailer park of the Pacific. What tools, what value does Guam have have that could in anyway match up to the discurisve power and authority of the United States, that could constitute the confrontation I am prescribing?

Commonsense tells us taya', but as anyone who is familiar with my blog knows, commonsense is generally my enemy.

The United States needs Guam, it is dependent upon Guam. Many would say, of course, we already know this, because of the island's strategic military importance, but I think we should push this further. Saying that the United States needs Guam simply because of its geographic location is too easy and gives the United States too much credit. For me, I want to make possible a confrontation with the United States and its authority over Guam, by revealing the way that the empty and strange ways that Guam appears, aren't simply reality or due to lack of knowledge, but are actually incredibly productive of American power and sovereignty.

In the article I'm pasting below, pay close attention to the ways that Guam is written of, the ways that it is brought into existence, how it is situated in the world, and make to belong to the United States, to place it as an exception from international and national law, and especially in terms of miltiary value, a place to be done with as it pleases.


U.S. Military Embraces Guam
Why the U.S. military is pouring forces into a remote West Pacific island.
By Christian Caryl
Newsweek International

Feb. 26, 2007 issue - For an out-of-the-way spit of land in the West Pacific, Guam has been getting a lot of interesting visitors recently. First came a steady stream of Pentagon bureaucrats and senior U.S. military officers. Then, a few weeks ago, a high-ranking delegation of Japanese officials arrived. And this week the island is set to greet its most illustrious guest yet: U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

So why all the fuss over a tropical island just 30 miles long, known mainly for its white-sand beaches and glorious sunsets? The answer: the Pentagon has begun a major redeployment of U.S. forces in the region, pulling troops and equipment out of sometimes unreliable allies and beefing up its presence in more-congenial locales. First on its list is Guam, a U.S. territory since 1898 that is fast becoming the linchpin of Washington's new Asia strategy. Current U.S. forces on the island number just a few thousand but within a decade will total well over 20,000―about the same size as the Bush administration's planned surge in Iraq. By comparison, there are some 29,000 U.S. troops left in South Korea, yet despite the dangers of a nuclear-armed North, that number is expected to drop significantly.

At a time when most of the world's attention is focused on the United States' misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon planners are quietly working on ways to fortify the U.S . presence in East Asia. And they're looking to do so in ways that will give them a free hand in a wide range of contingencies―including fighting regional terrorists and a possible showdown with China. Guam offers the U.S. military both proximity to potential hot spots and the advantages of operating off U.S. soil. The transfer of forces to the island also reflects the Pentagon's determination to give regional allies such as South Korea and Japan more responsibility for their own security.

Guam, a sleepy but diverse place that looks like a cross between Micronesia and Middle America, has long served as a U.S. air base and way station for troops traveling through the Pacific. At the end of the cold war, the Pentagon began shutting down some facilities on the island. But then came September 11, and a dramatic reassessment of America's global forces. Former secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld began to advocate the lily-pad strategy: rather than relying on large, static bases in Germany and South Korea, the Pentagon should create a global network of jumping-off points for quick responses to unpredictable attacks. Guam is an ideal lily pad, since the United States can act there without seeking permission from allies, says Honolulu-based defense analyst Richard Halloran. Declares Carl Peterson of the Guam Chamber of Commerce: "This is the U.S. in Asia. This is the tip of the spear."

The island has already become a convenient base for fighting Washington's "Global War on Terror" in Indonesia and the Philippines. Small wonder that Brig. Gen. Douglas H. Owens, the commanding officer of Guam's Andersen Air Force Base, describes the island as "an unsinkable aircraft carrier."

It's also well positioned for possible trouble to come. As Rear Adm. Charles Leidig, U.S. Navy commander on Guam, points out, if you take a map and draw a circle with Guam at the center and a radius of 1,500 nautical miles―equivalent to three hours' flying time or two to three days by ship―you come close to the main islands of Japan, Okinawa, Indonesia and the Philippines. China and the Korean Peninsula are only a bit farther off. So are several of the world's most important sea lanes, such as the Strait of Malacca, through which some 50 percent of the world's oil passes each year.

The Pentagon, however, may be building up its forces on Guam with even bigger game in mind. "The larger strategic rationale [for the shift] can be summed up in one word, and that's 'China'," says Halloran. "They [the Bush administration] don't want to contain China, and they couldn't. What they are trying to do is to deter the Chinese. That's what the buildup on Guam is all about."

The nature of the U.S. reorganization reinforces this point. Washington and Tokyo have agreed to move 8,000 Marines to Guam from Okinawa by 2014, at a cost of $10 billion (60 percent of which will be paid for by the Japanese government). But this is only the most public part of a broader buildup that has largely escaped notice. If all the pieces come together, it could mean billions more in Defense Department funds and a total increase in Guam's population (which is currently just 170,000) of 35,000.

Guam is already home to a major U.S. Navy port and one of the biggest bases in the U.S. Air Force, featuring twin two-mile-long runways. Not long after September 11, flights of massive B-52 bombers began returning to Andersen to carry out regular training missions. Now the Air Force has begun to prepare for the deployment of tanker aircraft and up to 48 fighter planes, including the state-of-the-art F-22 Raptor. Andersen has also already started construction of a $52.8 million project that will house up to 10 Global Hawks―large unmanned spy planes that, according to Pacific Command Air Force Gen. Paul Hester, could end up replacing aging U-2 spy planes now based in South Korea.

Meanwhile, the Navy has turned its port at Guam's Apra Harbor into a home for two Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, with a third to come later this year. It also plans to refurbish wharves to accommodate aircraft carriers and to transform Guam into a base for its new Littoral Combat Ship (a shallow-draft stealth ship designed to operate close to shore) and Trident submarines. The Tridents, immense cold-war-era craft converted to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles, can also be used by Navy Special Operations Forces, who can set off on missions in mini-submarines launched through the Tridents' missile ports. Guam is already home to an undisclosed number of Navy SEALs, many of whom have seen duty in the war on terror, and their number will likely grow.

Guam's new capabilities, however, are designed for more than just low-intensity conflicts. The attack submarines that will soon be based there, for example, probably wouldn't be much use in a conflict with North Korea or Qaeda-allied terrorists in the Philippines; the presence of the subs, experts say, is clearly aimed at the possibility of a naval confrontation with China over the Taiwan Strait. Similarly, analysts argue, the stationing of F-22s and tanker planes on Guam points to the Pentagon's desire to ensure dominance in the air should it have to fight the Chinese. China's media often worry about just this scenario, but not everyone agrees that China is the main target of the Guam buildup. Evan Medeiros of the RAND Corporation says "the initial impetus and primary driver" were to restructure the U.S. military for the wide range of operations it now faces, from fighting the war on terror to chasing pirates and conducting humanitarian missions.

In the complicated post-9/11 world, the United States believes it must be able to respond to various threats as flexibly as possible. This means keeping its forces close to the action. In the past that's required basing them in other countries' territories. But Guam offers an almost unique combination of a good location, excellent facilities (including a topnotch harbor, vast warehouses and massive airfields) and a lack of political restraints. As Kurt Campbell, a former White House staffer and Defense Department official now at the Center for a New American Security, says, "[Guam is] a point from which you can do a variety of things. And it's a place to remind people that you're still focused on the region."

Campbell points out that these secondary missions, such as protecting sea lanes, countering weapons proliferation and conducting relief missions, remain important; the U.S. military's humanitarian efforts after the tsunami of December 2005 gave a huge boost to the country's reputation in Asia. Brad Glosserman, executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Hawaii-based think tank, agrees. The Asia-Pacific region, he says, "is a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces are changing shape and size all the time. China's the big story―but there are also changes going in on Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan."

One such development driving the move to Guam has been the steady withdrawal of the United States from South Korea in recent years (more than 9,000 troops have left in the last three years)―a result, in part, of rising anti-Americanism there and Rumsfeld's reluctance to keep troops in politically sensitive places. Some Air Force units that have pulled out of South Korea have already arrived on Guam; others may be yet to come. That, along with the planned removal of the Marines from Okinawa, has led some commentators to characterize the Guam expansion as evidence of a virtual U.S. retreat from East Asia. But Campbell and others disagree: "I would see this not as a retrenchment but as a diversification." Indeed, after years of maintaining an even balance between its Atlantic and Pacific fleets, the U.S. Navy is now clearly emphasizing its force in Asia.

Whatever the rationale, the changes represent good news for Guam's population. The locals were hit hard in the early 1990s when the U.S. military's post-cold-war drawdown, combined with the Asian financial crises and the resulting plunge in tourism, caused the loss of thousands of skilled and unskilled jobs on the island. Guamanians are hoping that the Pentagon's new plan can bring billions in investment into the territory as well as new support for its sagging infrastructure. Contractors are already maneuvering for deals to build housing and other structures. Real-estate prices shot up 50 percent between 2005 and 2006 and there were more property sales in the fourth quarter of last year than in all of 2003.

To be sure, hurdles remain, such as ensuring that the Marines from Okinawa actually make the move. The deal, which requires Japanese cooperation, has already run into political problems there. Then there's the possibility that local activists in Guam will throw a wrench into the works. Some of Guam's indigenous Chamorro people, who wield great influence on the island, have opposed the changes, warning that the military could overrun the island. The Pentagon, which already controls one third of the territory, has promised not to expand this share, but that pledge could prove hard to keep. Still, most Guamanians support the buildup, given their traditional patriotism―traumatic memories linger of Japan's occupation during World War II―and the potential economic benefits the rebasing will bring.

Guam's significance as a regional base and steppingstone for U.S. military power therefore seems set to grow exponentially. Notes Gov. Felix Camacho: "We can no longer be ignored as some distant American territory." He seems right about that. If, as many in the region predict, the 21st century ends up belonging to the nations of the Pacific―and conflict in the region rises―Guam will have to get used to being in the headlines.

© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dispatches from Guam #6: Self Government in these dots

Dispatches from Guam #6: "Self-Government" in these dots...

“Self-government” American style, in these dots of overwhelming strategic value, looks suspiciously like colonialism.

A news flash for many American who think it died with the declaration of rich wigged white men that slaves, woman and poor people were inferior, or the imperialist flings of 1898, or was solely the province of lesser freedom loving nations.

In the name of democracy, the United States has assumed the throne of global colonizers, precisely because the exploitation, intentional underdevelopment and lack of democracy all gets portrayed and understood as necessary, for security, for freedom, for democracy.

From the lips of Washington’s legislators, military officers and policy shills, we encounter the height of hypocrisy, namely that the smooth running of American democracy requires its absence on Guam. The prospect of “alien races” having two senators might wrench the nation asunder.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I’ve got a surprise for everyone!

In about two months from now, I’m going to be a father!

Hunggan dinanche hafa un hungok, gi i otro’ña na mes bai hu tåta!

I’m very excited about this, but the situation is a little complicated too. Me and the i nananpatgon-hu, Jessica aren’t together, so although I’ve said that I’m committed to helping raise the baby and she’s said that she’ll support me and let me participate, the mechanics of it all are still uncertain.

For the past few months I’ve been planning to move back to Guam. I’ve been rushing to finish up with my coursework, qualify and take my exams and then head home to try and find work.

Over the past few weeks however, things have gotten more and more uncertain. Since coming back to Guam a few weeks ago (and feeling my baby kick twice!) I’ve been in academia again and facing the realities of finishing up a dissertation. Different people, professors and family members have all cautioned me against hurrying back to Guam. Not because of the baby, but because I might either take a long time to finish up my dissertation or never finish at all.

I’ve been feeling messed up lately because I’m torn. I want to be there at the beginning, for my baby, and I don’t want Jessica to feel like I’m abandoning her. She’s been supportive though, and said that its okay if I decide to stay out here. My mom says that in the long run, it will be better for me to finish up or get further along in my Ph.D. program to make sure I finish, before settling down to raise the baby.

I did ask Jessica though if she would move out here to San Diego so I can finish, but she was hesitant about it (for obvious reasons, her family and her friends are all in Guam, and then the two of us aren’t even together), and her family was dead set against it. That would probably be the best thing, but it’ll have its own complications.

While I was on Guam though we did choose names, which took a while and was a lot of fun. Jessica had already chosen the Chinese name for the baby, later on I’ll scan it and put it on my blog. But I was excited that she let me choose a Chamorro name for the baby. Here are the ones we picked.

If it’s a girl: Sumåhi
If it’s a boy: Sahuma

Even though I’m stressed as hell right now about this choice and about school in general, I’m still so excited, I just wished I had more energy to articulate it, to celebrate it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Dispatches from Guam #5: One Hand Gives While...

Dispatches from Guam #5: One Hand Gives While...

The liberating Marine brings more than just my freedom, he brings Spam, powdered milk, Coca Cola, nuclear submarines, mustard gas and Global Hawks, all apparently the building blocks for a better life in Micronesia.

As one hand giveth though, the other condemns land and lives left and right.

As the land and language is ripped from the fingers and mouths of my parents, never to be mine, I know the price is not only too much, but that the wares of this way of life are suspect, rotten to the core.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dispatches from Guam #4: Vicious Circle of Belonging

Dispatches from Guam #4: The Vicious Circle of Belonging...

Maayao i litratu ginnen este na lugat
A vicious, almost cruel circle of belonging awaits the Chamorro. The flag that was raised above Guam in 1898 and then again in 1944, which Chamorros now raised proudly as their own, cuts our island colonially, constantly.

It states with the emphatic content of a school song, that this land is their land, and no longer my land. The sea of historical and political inclusions and exclusions that comprise the daily existence of a Chamorro, exist at the whim of Congress, the President. When they see military necessity, citizenship we receive. Belonging to the United States is meant literally, why else would we be eligible for welfare, but not voting rights?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dispatches from Guam #3: Fortunate Footnote

Dispatches From Guam #3: Fortunate Footnote...

This nation to which we are taught to think of ourselves as a fortunate footnote, is indivisible when its strategically important, but easily divisible otherwise.

What a strategic schizophrenic experience I live, when every Liberation Day, the President places me at the center of what makes America American, while the media, the State Department, and the military places me last on the list of democratically acceptable options.

What am I to think when in the same day, the Department of Interior will call Guam a “partner” in negotiations and then NBC will refer to military exercises taking place on the “US owned island of Guam?”

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dispatches from Guam #2: The Edge of America

Dispatches from Guam #2: The Edge of America

Our homeland prime real estate for the projecting of power and the potential waging of war, we find ourselves well versed in seductive possibility in geography, or what the colonizer wants.

On the edge of America and the edge of Asia.

But the cost of this knowledge is dear and on a daily basis we are all haunted by a simple question: Would Reagan, Clinton, Bush the Second, or any other Commander in Chief, affirm an Americaness for me, second class or otherwise, if Guam lay on the edge of nothing?


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