Friday, March 30, 2007

What Lies at the Center of American Greatness? Taxes and 650,000 People

I had promised to write a letter to the editor of the Pacific Daily News several months ago, after it was announced that the five non-voting delegates to United States Congress (from Guam, The Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.) had suddenly become voting non-voting delegates!
Although I posted twice about this, I got sidetracked from writing the actual PDN letter because I decided to use the giving and taking away of these "symbolic" rights to articulate one of the ways in which the United States is dependent upon Guam, for the production of its sovereignty. I'm on break from school for a few days and so I've decided to finally get this letter out. I've got a long draft of it done, but just need to ribaha gui' esta ki 450-500 words. This is a very intriguing case which deserves more attention, both in Guam and elsewhere. If you are a patriotic American Chamorro, then your dreams are one step closer to being realized, if you are not, like myself then you have been literally handed another instance in which Chamorros and Guam is slapped in the face yan manmafa'ga'ga' ta'lo. Despite these facts, no one seems to really care about this.
For those interested, here's my draft so far:

In case many of you missed it, several months back, Guam joined Iraq and Afghanistan as another place which the United States has recently spread Democracy too! Through a change of the House of Representative rules, the five non-voting delegates from the territories/colonies of the United States are now voting non-voting delegates! The vote is symbolic yes, but we shouldn’t think of symbolic here as “ideal” “inspiring” or “hopeful” but rather concur with the U.S. District Court which heard the case of these voting rights first in 1993, which upheld the Constitutionality of the rights because symbolic here means “meaningless.”

In the limited way that the delegates are allowed to vote, if their vote affects the outcome, they the vote will be thrown out, and another vote will take place with those whose votes really count. Basically, for those enamored with the flashiness of having American greatness and democracy flashed before you eyes, we have moved from not having a vote, to having a vote that doesn’t count!

Democrats made this change initially in 1993 and Republicans challenged it in court, lost, but removed the rule when they came into power in 1995. Democrats vowed to bring back these symbolic rights if they regained the majority, claiming that they only want to spread a “sense” of democracy to those who are already American. Republicans have vowed to once again take this issue to court, asserting that only those who are truly American, meaning pay taxes or have at least 650,000 people in their districts should be allowed to have a voice in Congress.

Although we generally tend to think about discussions about Guam's political status as divided into two positions (those who heroically and patriotically want the status quo against those who maladjustedly and crazily advocate the island's decolonization), there are in reality three basic positions one can take. You can either want to move close to the United States or further away, or you can take the position that Guam and Chamorros are fundamentally inferior to the rest of the world, do not deserve to be equal among states or nations and should remain a colony.

If you are one of those people who believe that Guam is nothing but a backwater colony, a strategically important dot on the map until the rising tide of global warming swallows the island up, then the recent gift of this symbolic vote in Congress is something worth celebrating. If however, you are serious about Guam's just or ideal future being closer to the US or further away, then this voting rights issues should make you sick to your stomach, it should make you feel outrage and anger.

If you want Guam to move further away from the United States, and want our relationship with it to be less paternalistic, patronizing and exploitative, then this change is an obvious drawback. This change, the symbolic vote, while meaning nothing in terms of our power in the governing of the United States or determining its policy towards Guam (we are still just a lobbyist with no money), will have huge effects on the pysche of Chamorros and others on Guam, in making us think we are more American than we really are, or that Americanization or more America (in whatever form it is perceived to be) is the answer to all of life's problem.

If you love the United States, and want to be one with it, and believe that Chamorros have been historically very patriotic and suffered for the United States, then let me ask you a simple question: Is the pain of World War II, the loss of thousands of Chamorro lives in American wars, and the loss of so much land, language, culture and history worth a fake vote? If you believe in the greatness of the United States, then why can then not recognize that all of this sacrifice for them, why can they not give us not just a simple vote in the House of Representatives, but two Senators as well? Why is all of this pain and patriotism not worth incorporation, or even a real vote in Congress, and how much more pain and patriotism will it take?

And if your response is a pragmatic, we don’t pay taxes or aren’t large enough, then you are making the same arguments as Republicans in the House who have protested this symbolic vote, claiming that voting is only for real Americans. Their criteria for those who count as “real Americans” is simple, you pay taxes and you be a part of a district which has at least 650,000 people in it. If this however is what truly defines both America and Americans, then where is the greatness that we are so interested in having?

If it is true as Bordallo and other Democrats have asserted, that these symbolic votes help manifest and realize the greatness of the United States and its history and tendencies to spread and defend democracy, then we must recognize that this "symbolism" or this meaninglessness that we find in these votes, is not simply isolated in these fake votes that our delegate is to be given. This stupidity, this emptiness spreads to the core of what the United States is supposed to be, revealing the ridiculous character is its "greatness." What were once tales of American exceptionalism and moral superiority, have now been exposed as mere fictions, lies which Americans don't just tell others, but most importantly tell themselves.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Manifest Destiny, 300 and the Collective White American "We"

I wrote a few days ago about Manifest Destiny while talking about the new movie 300, and its role as a very potent site of white mythology, or a means by which the "exceptional" nature of whiteness and the whiteness of the United States can be explained and justified. This mythology has a number of different forms, but it is crucially dependent upon history being twisted into a gruesome, hopelessly random bricolage of historical events, figures, concepts, which only looks coherent, complete, and obvious to those who are invested in it reproducing their identities, privilege or whiteness.

In the case of 300 for instance, we can find this in the idea that the United States today is somehow the chosen/destined vessel for the historical transmission of the greatest principles of Spartan and Greek civilization. In the film the greatness, successes and fearsome overpowering positive charateristics of the Spartans become the property of the United States through the echoing of particular phrases and buzzwords, which seem to create the links of continuity from yesterday to today. The most inamous phrase which made me and my friends I saw the film with cringe, that so deadly and so painfully patriotic mantra, "freedom isn't free." As the Spartans use their reason and belief in justice and liberty to fight off annihilation from aliens who are ruled by mysticism and believe in tyranny, that phrase, spoken from that position of being besieged and embattled, which I see everyday on bumper sticker or from chain mails in my inbox, gives me the right to claim that moment as mine, the position, their positive qualities of the Spartans as my own, and furthermore gives me the right as the "victor" in and of history, to name and define those who are the "losers."

It is important to remember that the Asia and Europe, and "white" of the world of 300, and the reasons, freedom and justice are not the Asia, reason, freedom and justice of today. Yet they resonate in the minds of people today as "historical evidence" or ethnic/racial explainations as to the state of the world today. If you are like most people and have vague idea of what "the clash of civilizations" is between East and West, which is mostly propped up by the idea that because we simply are different, or because they are so violent, the behavior of the "hordes" of Asia in 300 carry alot of weight in making the clash make sense, even if its simply not true.


On Guam we can find this stupidity clearly in the way archeological and anthropological evidence about the "origins" of Chamorros are interpreted. Too often, upon finding out that Chamorros might have migrated from the area which are now called the Philippines, South East Asia, Taiwan or Indonesia, people will respond and make flash contemporary judgments about what Chamorros are today. "Oh so, you're not really Pacific Islander, you're Asian." or "Oh so you're not really Chamorro, you're Filipino."

For those who think that this is a simple, abstract and meaningless point, let's see how this plays out on a very popular website called Urban Dictionary. This online dictionary is very similar to Wikipedia, in that it is audience made, edited and supported. People "define their world" through the defining of "obscene" non-formal speech, which is still governed by rules, but seems to be outside of the realm of formal, clear and correct language, and so therefore appears to be the language which you can make truly yours. For the word Chamorro the website has more than a dozen definitions. The definitions range in content, taking different cultural, geographic and linguistic forms. The #1 definition however, makes clearly my point, I'll paste it below:

People. Indigenous to Guam and a couple of islands north of the Philipines. Kind of lacking in cultural identity. They are basically Filipinos that speak english, but are kind of Hawaii wanabes. Pretty decent folks unless addicted to ice or some other shit.

The claim that Chamorros are "actually" or "really" or "basically" Filipinos is a common one, and is supported by the mere proximity of Guam to Asia (it is often referred to as America in Asia), the appearance of many Chamorros, the large numbers of Filipinos living on Guam, the fact that Chamorros not being Polynesian are therefore inauthentic because they don't quite fit within the Hawaiian hegemony that hangs over the Pacific. It is also related, most importantly locally to the notion that the Chamorros ultimately came from somewhere else and so their political claims to being "indigenous" to Guam or having a viable contemporary claim to the island is suspect.

While one can claim that this definition is simply written by an idiot or someone who hates Chamorros or has no respect or knowledge about them, the website, because it has a sense of democracy to it, allows a feature by which people can give a definition a thumbs up or a thumbs down. While the majority of the rest of the definitions which take seriously the task of defining who or what Chamorros are received more positive votes than negative votes, this first definition when I saw it earlier today, had received by far the most votes overall, and 120 thumbs up and 63 thumbs down.

Returning to white mythology, what it is fundamental about the way I am speaking about mythology is that it is ultimately a network of meanings, concepts and historical happenings which give the illusion that the beneficiary of this mythology has the right or ability to pick and choose what is their historical inheritence and what isn't. In an excellent article by Gary Younge from The Nation titled "White History 101" we find a perfect example of how this works.

When it comes to excelling at military conflict, everyone lays claim to their national identity; people will say, "We won World War II." By contrast, those who say "we" raped black slaves, massacred Indians or excluded Jews from higher education are hard to come by. You cannot, it appears, hold anyone responsible for what their ancestors did that was bad or the privileges they enjoy as a result. Whoever it was, it definitely wasn't "us."

Although Younge is referring specifically to the way national subjects protect themselves from the dangerous violent truths of how their nation was formed (they displace it onto some abstract other), it has relevance in how white mythology is formed as well.

Because of the prevalance of multi-culturalism today, in which each culture is supposedly equal and deserving of respect and recognition, ethnic groups, their practices, rituals and histories can have important public value, but always cultural value, not political value. It is common for both white and non-white people to remark that white people "have no culture." In the multicultural framework of the United States today, those racialized as white do not have "a culture" they have THE culture, the political culture, which is central and all else subordinate to.

The thing which is supposed to truly make the United States unique is not its wealth, its military might or its cultural influence, but rather its success in "perfecting" democracy and then spreading it to the rest of the world and helping "end History." Whiteness in the United States is not simply white people, but this privilege to assert oneself as the just and destined heir to that grand and exceptional origin. That privilege is the one which might exempt you from the fun particularitic games of "culture," but gives you the ability to determine what the limits of the cultural are, and where their rights to make political statements based on their histories and contemporary experiences of oppression, colonization, slavery, genocide, imperialism and mercantilism begin and end. Given that multiculturalism is a framework that says that anyone can sit at the table so long as they accept certain political and cultural divisions which ultimately work to make impossible your ability to change the basic structure of meaning in society, or which seek to extract any political potential from the things you say, the things you embody and the things you want. You can have holidays, but not your language. You can have a month of the year for your race, but no justice. You can have welfare, but not sovereignty. You can practice your culture up until the point where it makes people uncomfortable, or makes things inefficient.

We can find an example of this division from a terribly racist letter to The Marianas Variety a few months ago from racist apa'ka Dave Davis. In this letter, Davis is responding to attempts to bring issues of colonization by the United States in Guam, and the prevention of Chamorros and others on Guam the right to exercise any rights to self-determination. As the Chamorro seeks leave its exile in the cultural and transgress into the political, and change the shape of how things are understood in Guam, most notably the decolonial deadlock where the Chamorro is impossible without the benevolence of the United States, Davis asserts the greatness of the United States or the "modern world," and their ability to determine the way things should work today, through the reduction of the Chamorro to simple culture, incapable of much of anything, both in history and most importantly today:

WE note that Mr. Jose U. Garrido (a.k.a. Joe Garrido, chairman of Guam’s Decolonization Commission’s free association task force) is again clamoring to part company with the United States of America — espousing Chamorro sovereignty, as it were.

As with dogs that chase cars — if he somehow managed to catch it, what would he do with it? Revert, perhaps, to the raw fish and grass hut societal mode? That’s what the Spaniards found in Guam 500 years ago: a Stone Age society distinguished mostly by several thousand years of no significant change or progress.

In other words, a stagnant and unremarkable Neolithic culture, indistinguishable in most respects from the multitude of similar tribes throughout the Pacific and other tropical climes.It seems that most modern Chamorros aspire to something quite different: government jobs, flush toilets, SUVs and nice housing.

What animates this exchange, what makes Davis' point is that the Chamorro which Garrido is invoking, a sovereign one, is in conflict with the United States, and first, what it wants for Guam, and furthermore its implicit assertions that it is what is best for Guam and for the rest of the world. In the language I am using for this post, we can reformulate Davis' stupid tirade in these terms "how dare you assert yourself in a political way! That is whiteness, made by white-wigged and white-skinned men in 1776, that is my domain! You have crossed the line! Need I remind you that you are nothing but culture, and because you are only that, you are nothing!"

Returning to Younge's point, the positive aspects of the wealth of the past, are brought together to form a great white collective "We." This "we" perfected democracy, or perhaps invented or created it. This "we" saved the world in two world wars, and this "we" is leading today's War of Terror.

But mythology is also invested in finding the enemies, or finding the bodies onto which the less than stellar aspects of a nation's or a race's history can be displaced onto. The not so nice violence, racism, evil, oppression, exploitation has to go somewhere, but must not taint this whiteness, must belong to someone else. So in the film 300 as the Spartans provide the white vehicle through which Americans and Europeans today can take credit for reason, democracy, rationality, justice, liberty, and the ability to adapt, change and break with evil or corrupting traditions, the negative parts of the binary, namely the mysticism, the foolish beliefs, the inability to adapt, to change, to see the way the world really is, or make use of reason and logic is displaced onto a civilization (the east), particular bodies (black and brown/and feminized/homosexual) and regions (Asia/Africa and the Middle East). Or in the Iraq War, we have all liberated Iraq, but a few bad apples whether they be in the President's Cabinet or National Guardsmen are responsible for the torture or excessive violence and atrocities, or for poor prosecution of the war.

My reason for returning to the issue of Manifest Destiny has to do with a short but very insightful article I came across from The Nation written by Air America Radio's Laura Flanders. In just a few paragraphs it deals very effectively with the issue of American exceptionalism today. For those interested in the origins of Manifest Destiny and the mechanics of how it was created and gained hegemonic traction in the 19th century you should check out this book, Race and Manifest Destiny by Reginald Horsman.

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Published on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 by The Nation
No Special Rights
Laura Flanders

Nonbinding this and that, deadline lah-di-dah, Bush/Cheney are going to ignore the mandate of the midterm elections and every pressure from Congress on Iraq, because Bush/Cheney know their opponents’ bark has no bite. And that’s because those opponents have yet to renounce the Bush/Cheney vision of US supremacy in the world. In fact, mostly, they share it.

William Pfaff writes about US Manifest Destiny in the New York Review of Books: “It is something like heresy to suggest that the US does not have a unique moral status and role to play in the history of nations,” he writes. Bush/Cheney tap into a belief that’s as old as the state itself. (Pfaff quotes Paine: “The case and circumstances of America present themselves as in the beginning of the world… We are as if we we had lived in the beginning of time.”)

Belief in US “exceptionalism” is the hop-skip-jump that led to US intervention in Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Central America–and now Iraq. It’s the “exception” that okays the breaking of global rules, from the Geneva Convention, to the conventions against torture to the chucking-out of Habeas Corpus. Like Dirty Harry, Bush knows Americans believe “good” cops can break the rules if they’re on a mission to save the world from terror, evil, tyranny.

Neo-cons came up with the chilling phrase “The New American Century,” but even their critics accept the concept. In his testimony to Congress on global warming, Al Gore referred not once but a handful of times to the US “unique” role to save the planet.

At the risk of being burnt at the stake I’d like to suggest that this month provides a special chance to review all this stuff about specialness. March 25 marked the 200th anniversary of the British Parliament’s abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. (A US law took effect in 1808.)

To take a second look at the foundations of the country is to be reminded of the reality behind the rhetoric.

The New World wasn’t so new. Ask the people who lived here. Slavery wasn’t a new beginning. It was ancient. The first place to throw off slavery was Haiti in 1801, sixty-three years ahead of the United States. That makes Haiti special. Does it give Haiti a unique role in the world, to invade other countries and pursue a Project for a New Haitian Century?

We’ve got the brawn, but does that give us the right or the responsibility to rule the world? The problem isn’t this deadline or that. The problem is the ideology of supremacy. The same ideology (that some are by nature better, or more valuable than others) that undergirded slavery in the first place.

Laura Flanders is the author of BLUE GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians, forthcoming April 9, from The Penguin Press.

© Copyright 2007 The Nation

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tentative Famoksaiyan Session List

I just wanted to give everyone an update on the Famoksaiyan 'Our Time to Paddle Forward:' Summit on Decolonization and Native Self-Determination. The date is still set for next April 20-22 with the program on the 21st taking place in Oakland at a place called SMAAC. On the 22nd the program will be taking place at UC Berkeley in Barrows Hall.
The schedule for presentations and sessions is filling up fast and we have a very exciting lineup so far. I'll have more details and descriptions later, but for now, I'll just list the titles. Remember, if you are intereted in attending or want to know more, just email me.
Information Sessions:
Marianas History
Getting to Know The Department of Interior
10 Books About Guam That You Should Own or Know
Overcoming the Activist Label
Workshops:
Writing for Social Change
Guahan Economic Sustainability Working Group
Collaborating on Chamorro.com
Campus Organizing for Pacific Islander Students
Chamorro Language Introduction
Presentations:
Chamorro Cultural Fair (SDCCC)
reading, supporting, writing and publishing pacific poetry


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Ti sina hu na'tungo' hamyo iyo-ku excitement put este na dinana! Hu hahasso ha' i "energy" ginnen i ma'pos na biahi na mandana ham todu.

For those of you unfamiliar with Famoksaiyan, here's some links where you can learn more about what we've done so far and where we're hopefully headed. I'm also pasting below the call for presentations for the upcoming conference.










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FAMOKSAIYAN: “Our Time to Paddle Forward”
Summit on Decolonization and Native Self-Determination
April 20-22, 2007

History:
On 14 & 15 April 2006 more than 100 Chamorro scholars, activists, and community leaders gathered at the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club in San Diego to share their work and research, and to participate in discussions relating to the future of their people and native homelands. The name of this gathering was Famoksaiyan: Decolonizing Chamorro Histories, Identities and Futures. This initial meeting of native leaders inspired such a great deal of research questions and possibilities that concrete action plans were soon implemented on an international forum.
Over the past year we have held regional meetings in Berkeley, Long Beach, Oakland, Camas, and Guam and helped plan a number of historic events. In October of 2006, several members of Famoksaiyan organized a trip to New York City to testify before the United Nations Committee on Decolonization, about the question of Guam’s continuing colonial status. During that same month a representative of Famoksaiyan presented at the National Pacific American Leadership Institute before a delegation of three hundred distinguished leaders and professionals in Hawai’i.
In November 2007 a town hall forum and report on the United Nation’s trip called “Remembering Our Roots: Decolonization in Guahan” was held in Berkeley, and was attended by Berkeley students and bay area residents interested in learning more about Chamorros and their struggles. In January of this year, Famoksaiyan participated in and helped coordinate the forum “Decolonizing Our Lives: A Progress Report on the Status of Human Rights on Guam” which brought more than 250 community members together at the University of Guam, to learn what different organizations are doing to facilitate Guam’s political and cultural decolonization.

The Future:
As part of Famoksaiyan’s continuing commitment to building progressive networks within the Chamorro community and among Pacific Islander, Native American, Puerto Rican and Chicano organizations throughout the world, with the shared goals of decolonization and self determination, we are pleased to announce:

Famoksaiyan: Summit on Decolonization and Native Self-Determination
April 20 -22, 2007 in Berkeley and Oakland, California.

This year we are interested in strengthening existing networks, building new ones, and more importantly, giving those interested the skills to promote the work of decolonization and cultural and historical revitalization in their politics, their creative work and everyday interactions. We are pleased to announce that this year’s conference will include: Chicanos, Pacific Islanders, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans and others interested in improving the opportunities and life conditions of indigenous peoples throughout the world. The conference is open to the public, and there is no fee to attend.
We therefore invite individuals or organizations to submit proposals for workshops, presentations or working groups related, but not limited to the following suggested formats:
1). A workshop designed to teach important skills: creative writing, how to talk to your family about decolonization, web development or graphic design, Chamorro language, etc.
2). An informational session designed to teach attendees or enhance their understanding about historical or contemporary issues such as: Guam history, the military build up in Guam, the state of Guam’s environment, US/Guam territorial relations, etc.
3). A working group which will strategize or develop plans and goals around a particular topic or issue such as: sustainable economics, how to reform media, how to revitalize Chamorro language, coalition building with other Pacific Islander groups, etc.
4). Updates on ongoing artistic or community projects such as films, research studies, events, grants, etc.
Your submission should include a proposal (no more than one page), describing the nature of the working group or panel presentation that you intend to organize, along with your contact information (mailing address, telephone and email). Please list which topic most appropriately describes your presentation:

1) Decolonization 2) Self Determination 3) Education 4) Research 5) Healthcare 6) Public Policy 7) Law 8) Employment 9) Community Activism 10) Stewardship/Leadership 11) Cultural Preservation 12) Language
The deadline for submissions is April 1, 2007. Proposals will be accepted after this date, only if space is available. Please email your submissions and any questions to Miget (Michael) Lujan Bevacqua at mbevacqua@ucsd.edu or to Migetu (Michael) Tuncap kupua@berkeley.edu

Si Yu’us Ma’ase. Biba i mannatibu! Biba Chamoru! Na’la’l’a mo’ña i taotao Marianas!


Homo Sacer and Torture

Put este na klasin tinige' siha, gof ya-hu Si Zizek. Malate' na taotao gui', ya magahet na gof grabu na isao este, na sina ta diskuti gi publiko'

Put este na klasin tinige’ siha, gof ya-hu Si Zizek. Malate’ na taotao gui’ ya magåhet na gof gråbu este na tinilaika, na pa’go siña ta diskuti gi publiko “torture” kulang tåya’, kalang tåya’ guaha.

Gi i ma’pos na simåna, gi iyo-ña show “Real Time” ilek-ña Si Bill Maher,


“Liberals have to stop saying that President Bush hasn’t asked Americans to sacrifice for the War on Terror. On the contrary, he’s asked us to sacrifice something enormous, our civil rights.”

Sigun Zizek, mas ki este ha', na ha na'fansakrifisio hit.

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Knight of the Living Dead
By Slavoj Zizek
The New York Times
March 24, 2007

SINCE the release of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s dramatic confessions, moral outrage at the extent of his crimes has been mixed with doubts. Can his claims be trusted? What if he confessed to more than he really did, either because of a vain desire to be remembered as the big terrorist mastermind, or because he was ready to confess anything in order to stop the water boarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques”?

If there was one surprising aspect to this situation it has less to do with the confessions themselves than with the fact that for the first time in a great many years, torture was normalized — presented as something acceptable. The ethical consequences of it should worry us all.

While the scope of Mr. Mohammed’s crimes is clear and horrifying, it is worth noting that the United States seems incapable of treating him even as it would the hardest criminal — in the civilized Western world, even the most depraved child murderer gets judged and punished. But any legal trial and punishment of Mr. Mohammed is now impossible — no court that operates within the frames of Western legal systems can deal with illegal detentions, confessions obtained by torture and the like. (And this conforms, perversely, to Mr. Mohammed’s desire to be treated as an enemy rather than a criminal.)

It is as if not only the terrorists themselves, but also the fight against them, now has to proceed in a gray zone of legality. We thus have de facto “legal” and “illegal” criminals: those who are to be treated with legal procedures (using lawyers and the like), and those who are outside legality, subject to military tribunals or seemingly endless incarceration.

Mr. Mohammed has become what the Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls “homo sacer”: a creature legally dead while biologically still alive. And he’s not the only one living in an in-between world. The American authorities who deal with detainees have become a sort of counterpart to homo sacer: acting as a legal power, they operate in an empty space that is sustained by the law and yet not regulated by the rule of law.

Some don’t find this troubling. The realistic counterargument goes: The war on terrorism is dirty, one is put in situations where the lives of thousands may depend on information we can get from our prisoners, and one must take extreme steps. As Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School puts it: “I’m not in favor of torture, but if you’re going to have it, it should damn well have court approval.” Well, if this is “honesty,” I think I’ll stick with hypocrisy.

Yes, most of us can imagine a singular situation in which we might resort to torture — to save a loved one from immediate, unspeakable harm perhaps. I can. In such a case, however, it is crucial that I do not elevate this desperate choice into a universal principle. In the unavoidable brutal urgency of the moment, I should simply do it. But it cannot become an acceptable standard; I must retain the proper sense of the horror of what I did. And when torture becomes just another in the list of counterterrorism techniques, all sense of horror is lost.

When, in the fifth season of the TV show “24,” it became clear that the mastermind behind the terrorist plot was none other than the president himself, many of us were eagerly waiting to see whether Jack Bauer would apply to the “leader of the free world” his standard technique in dealing with terrorists who do not want to divulge a secret that may save thousands. Will he torture the president?

Reality has now surpassed TV. What “24” still had the decency to present as Jack Bauer’s disturbing and desperate choice is now rendered business as usual.

In a way, those who refuse to advocate torture outright but still accept it as a legitimate topic of debate are more dangerous than those who explicitly endorse it. Morality is never just a matter of individual conscience. It thrives only if it is sustained by what Hegel called “objective spirit,” the set of unwritten rules that form the background of every individual’s activity, telling us what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

For example, a clear sign of progress in Western society is that one does not need to argue against rape: it is “dogmatically” clear to everyone that rape is wrong. If someone were to advocate the legitimacy of rape, he would appear so ridiculous as to disqualify himself from any further consideration. And the same should hold for torture.

Are we aware what lies at the end of the road opened up by the normalization of torture? A significant detail of Mr. Mohammed’s confession gives a hint. It was reported that the interrogators submitted to waterboarding and were able to endure it for less than 15 seconds on average before being ready to confess anything and everything. Mr. Mohammed, however, gained their grudging admiration by enduring it for two and a half minutes.

Are we aware that the last time such things were part of public discourse was back in the late Middle Ages, when torture was still a public spectacle, an honorable way to test a captured enemy who might gain the admiration of the crowd if he bore the pain with dignity? Do we really want to return to this kind of primitive warrior ethics?

This is why, in the end, the greatest victims of torture-as-usual are the rest of us, the informed public. A precious part of our collective identity has been irretrievably lost. We are in the middle of a process of moral corruption: those in power are literally trying to break a part of our ethical backbone, to dampen and undo what is arguably our civilization’s greatest achievement, the growth of our spontaneous moral sensitivity.


Slavoj Zizek, the international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, is the author, most recently, of “The Parallax View.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mina'Dos na Konfrensian Chamoru

Ginnen i Saipan Tribune
Friday, December 22, 2006
Giya Luta guatu i Mina'dos na Konferensi'an Chamorro

Sumen na'magof i monhayan-esta i masilebran i ofisi'at na mababan i Sentron Kuttura giya Luta gi ma'pos na Simana, Disiembre diha 13 yan 14, 2006. I kumabesasayi yan mumaneneha este na aktibidat giya Luta i Direktoran I Ofisinan Asunton Kominidat yan Kottura as Sinora Lourdes T. Manglona, gi papa' i direksi'on i Atkaden Munisipalidat Luta as Onorable Joseph S. Inos.

Despues de monhayan i na'magof, gatbo yan tai'acha'igua na okasi'on i mababan i Sentron Kottura, makontinuha i hunta put i planu yan areklamiento siha para i Mina'dos na Konferensi'an Chamorro. I primet na dinana' para u maplanuyi i Minados na Konferensi'an Chamorro masuseddi giya Saipan gi Oktubre diha 18, 2006. Ginen este na hunta na madisidi ni gurupu na u mafaisen Luta ya ayu guatu i dinana' i Mina'dos na Konferensi'an Chamorro. Si Direktora as Lourdes T. Manglona sen magof para u anunsia gi huntan i gurupu gi Disiembre diha 15, 2007, ana i Atkaden Luta as Onorable Joseph S. Inos, en kuenta i kominat yan taotao Luta, magof ya ha cha'lao yan ha kombibida i dinana' i Mina'dos na Konferensi'an Chamorro giya Luta.

“FANU'I YAN UMENTAYI” ma proklama na thema para u giha mo'na i planu yan aktibidat i Minados na Konferensi'a. I Finene'na na Konferensi'a masuseddi giya Guhan ya i theman i Finene'na na Konferensi'an - “Fanachu”! La'yiyi i intensi'on i Konferensi'a para u guaha dinanna' todu taotao Chamorro gi island Marianas siha, put para u guaha unu yan metgot na siniente yan ina'ayuda gi inatbansan i ma'usa-na i lengguahi yan kotturan Chamorro, gi bandan edukasi'on, pattisipasi'on famili'a yan kominidat siha, okasi'on kutturan natibu siha, yan u guaha mas prinikura para u madukumenta tiningo' mangguelo'-ta yan mangguela'-ta siha, ni hagas mapraktitika ya esta mamafnas ma'usa-na. Ya ginen este siha na finacho'cho', u masodda' hulo' siha ni famagu'on tiningo' yan minagahet put taotao yan lingguahen Chamorro

I maplaplanu para i Mina'dos na Konferensi'a para u na'guaha siha kuatket na inegga' yan prisentasi'on put kuttura yan lengguahen natibu. Gaige gi planu lokkue' na para u guaha fieria gi duranten este na Konferensi'an put para u guaha acha'ikak put tiningo' yan prinaktikan lengguahi yan kotturan Chamorro. Mememggai-na aktibidat para u masusedi gi Sentron Kuttura giya Songsong. Gaige este gi lagon i gima'Yu'us San Francisco de Borja gi kanton tasi. Sieptembre diha 27-29 I fecha ni ma'apunta para este na dankolo yan na'magof okasi'on natibu giya Luta! Gi mamamaila' siha na meses nai siempre manhuhuyong siha mas infotmasi'on put I Mina'dos na Konferensi'a.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Little Reminder...

The fourth year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq has just passed, and in honor of the occasion I thought I'd post this letter, which was written by the editors of The Nation magazine, on the eve of the Congressional vote to authorize the President of the United States the use of force. History is being twisted around quite a bit as I write this, as different sides argue what exactly this resolution authorized. Republicans and the administration are arguing that this resolution is open-ended, a resolution which formalized a state of exception, so that the President could fight the War of Terror wherever he needed to. Since 2003 its been in Iraq, but if the President did feel the need to invade another country, such as Iran, it would be covered under the resolution as well. Democrats and more sane parties are arguing that this resolution was directed towards Iraq and Saddam only, nothing more.

I think that it would be productive for those who support or are against this war to actually go into the discourse that has been produced around it and produced to justify or contest it. By now we are all used to the soundbyte style journalism, where the reason that Vice President Dick Cheney is so lousy and losing his clout is because his statements about the United States being "greeted as liberators" and the insurgency being in its "last throes." This of course allows the game of politics to simply go on, with no real bumps in the road. Cheney's "evil" and his attacks are deflected with simple rebuttals by people like Jimmy Carter or John Murtha, of "has anyone in the history of the world been more wrong more times?" (Well maybe Bill Kristol.)

As more and more revelations come out about the corruption and incompetence of the corporations which were tasked with the plundering and reconstruction of Iraq, and the role of Dick Cheney in helping create the 100,00+ mercenaries which are operating in the country right now, that ridiculous gotcha-style of journalism is particularly disheartening.

If we conceive of the media as working in this way, then the apparent implosion or inherent inconsistency in John Kerry during his 2004 Presidential campaign makes sense. If we think of his campain through those soundbyte sign posts, then he was a valiant Vietnam war hero, a radical anti-war protestor, who voted for the Iraq War and then protested it. Even just from this skeletal outline, if we assume that as Bush used to claim, before opinion polls turned against him, that consistency equal victory (meaning "Stay the Course") then the transformation from soldier to protestor, from war voter to war protestor, means icky inconsistency, which means a lack of power, authority and credibility. The learning of lessons, the coming into consciousness naturally falls between these points, into the cracks, impossible to represent when things must be reduced to those precious soundbytes. This is of course why Bush, for all his taihinasso is perfect for this sort of framework. He seems to operate without thought or thinking, and within this form of reporting, there is no space for someone to be thinking.

Thinking, here will depend upon going at least a little beyond the soundbytes and the talking points. In this spirit then, in addition to the letter from The Nation editors, I'm also attaching a number of other documents or videos.


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Boston attorney John Bonifaz of afterdowningstreet.org calls for the impeachment of George Bush at the Downing Street Memo hearings at the Capitol in June of 2005.





Bush's statement after he signed the resolution.

For another look at the force resolution and the role of Congress in times of war check out this Keith Olbermann video from Countdown.

A tragic and depressing editorial rewriting of the present and propagandistic fear-mongering by Condoleezza Rice from January 2003.

A New York Times article on 3 Generals who were warning of "the peril" in attacking Iraq without the United Nations.

A 2002 article by former Secretary of State James Baker.

A timeline from the website Downing Street Memo, which provides a very clear image of the Bush Administrations different manipulations in order to push the United States into the Iraq War.

For those interested in the actual text of the resolution, click here.

An article on the Downing Street Memo from The New York Review of Books.

Here is Senator from Wisconsin Russ Feingold's speech before the vote. And here is New York Senator Hillary Clinton's.

Lastly, from Youtube, former CIA specialist Ray McGovern giving a powerful speech on pre-war intelligence and what people in the U.S. should do to defend the Constitution.





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An Open Letter to the Members of Congress
From The Nation
September 25, 2002

Soon, you will be asked to vote on a resolution authorizing the United States to overthrow the government of Iraq by military force. Its passage, we read on all sides, is a foregone conclusion, as if what the country now faces is not a decision but the disclosure of a fate. The nation marches as if in a trance to war. In the House, twenty of your number, led by Dennis Kucinich, have announced their opposition to the war. In the Senate, Robert Byrd has mounted a campaign against the version of the resolution already proposed by the Bush Administration. He has said that the resolution's unconstitutionality will prevent him from voting for it. "But I am finding," he adds, "that the Constitution is irrelevant to people of this Administration." The Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the Washington Post, oppose the war. Telephone calls and the mail to your offices run strongly against it. Polls and news stories reveal a divided and uncertain public. Yet debate in your chambers is restricted to peripheral questions, such as the timing of the vote, or the resolution's precise scope. You are a deliberative body, but you do not deliberate. You are representatives, but you do not represent.

The silence of those of you in the Democratic Party is especially troubling. You are the opposition party, but you do not oppose. Raising the subject of the war, your political advisers tell you, will distract from the domestic issues that favor the party's chances in the forthcoming Congressional election. In the face of the Administration's pre-emptive war, your leaders have resorted to pre-emptive surrender. For the sake of staying in power, you are told, you must not exercise the power you have in the matter of the war. What, then, is the purpose of your re-election? If you succeed, you will already have thrown away the power you supposedly have won. You will be members of Congress, but Congress will not be Congress. Even the fortunes of the domestic causes you favor will depend far more on the decision on the war than on the outcome of the election.

On April 4, 1967, as the war in Vietnam was reaching its full fury, Martin Luther King Jr. said, "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And he said, "Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."

Now the time to speak has come again. We urge you to speak--and, when the time comes, to vote--against the war on Iraq.

The case against the war is simple, clear and strong. The Administration calls it a chapter in the war on terror, but Iraq has no demonstrated ties either to the September 11 attack on the United States or to the Al Qaeda network that launched it. The aim of the war is to deprive President Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction, but the extent of his program for building these weapons, if it still exists, is murky. Still less clear is any intention on his part to use such weapons. To do so would be suicide, as he well knows. Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo of California has reported that in closed session Administration officials have been asked several times whether they have evidence of an imminent threat from Saddam against the United States and have answered no. She elaborated, "Not 'no, but' or 'maybe,' but 'no.'" On the other hand, if he does have them, and faces his overthrow and possible death at the hands of US forces, he might well use them--or, more likely, give them to terrorist groups to use after his fall. He may be doing so even now.

Some observers have likened the resolution under discussion to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution of 1964 authorizing President Johnson to use force in Vietnam. But that was passed only after a report was received of two attacks on US naval forces. (We now know that the first attack was provoked by a prior secret American attack and the second was nonexistent.) The new resolution, which alleges no attack, not even a fictional one, goes a step further. It is a Tonkin Gulf resolution without a Tonkin Gulf incident.

Even if Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction and wishes to use them, a policy of deterrence would appear perfectly adequate to stop him, just as it was adequate a half-century ago to stop a much more fearsome dictator, Joseph Stalin. It is not true that military force is the only means of preventing the proliferation of these weapons, whether to Iraq or other countries. An alternative path is clearly available. In the short run it passes through the United Nations and its system of inspections, now more promising than before because Iraq, responding to US pressure, has opened itself unconditionally to inspectors. At the very least, this path should be fully explored before military action--the traditional last resort--is even considered. Such a choice in favor of multilateralism, diplomacy and treaty agreements should be part of a much broader policy of nonproliferation and disarmament of the kind that has already enjoyed great success over the past several decades. Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, for example, 182 nations have agreed to do without nuclear weapons. The larger issue is whether proliferation--not just to Iraq but to many other countries as well--is best addressed by military or political means.

But the decision to go to war has a significance that goes far beyond the war. The war is the product of a broader policy that has been spelled out in the clearest possible terms by the Bush Administration. Two other countries with nuclear programs--Iran and North Korea--have already been identified by the President as potential targets for military attack. The Administration's recently published "National Security Strategy of the United States" sets forth even larger ambitions. It declares a policy of military supremacy over the entire earth--an objective never before attained by any power. Military programs are meanwhile forbidden to other countries, all of whom are to be prevented from "surpassing or equaling" the United States. China is singled out for a warning that by "pursuing advanced military capabilities," it is following an "outdated path" that "threaten[s] its neighbors." The new policy reverses a long American tradition of contempt for unprovoked attacks. It gives the United States the unrestricted right to attack nations even when it has not been attacked by them and is not about to be attacked by them. It trades deterrence for pre-emption--in plain English, aggression. It accords the United States the right to overthrow any regime--like the one in Iraq--it decides should be overthrown. (The President would like international support and he would like Congressional support but asserts his right to wage war without either.) It declares that the defense of the United States and the world against nuclear proliferation is military force. It is an imperial policy--more ambitious than ancient Rome's, which, after all, extended only to the Mediterranean and European world. Nelson Mandela recently said of the Administration, "They think they're the only power in the world.... One country wants to bully the world."

A vote for the war in Iraq is a vote for this policy. The most important of the questions raised by the war, however, is larger still. It is what sort of country the United States wants to be in the twenty-first century. The genius of the American form of government was the creation of a system of institutions to check and balance government power and so render it accountable to the people. Today that system is threatened by a monster of unbalanced and unaccountable power--a new Leviathan--that is taking shape among us in the executive branch of the government. This Leviathan--concealed in an ever-deepening, self-created secrecy and fed by streams of money from corporations that, as scandal after scandal has shown, have themselves broken free of elementary accountability--menaces civil liberties even as it threatens endless, unprovoked war. As disrespectful of the Constitution as it is of the UN Charter, the Administration has turned away from law in all its manifestations and placed its reliance on overwhelming force to achieve its ends.

In pursuit of empire abroad, it endangers the Republic at home. The bully of the world threatens to become the bully of Americans, too. Already, the Justice Department claims the right to jail American citizens indefinitely on the sole ground that a bureaucrat in the Pentagon has labeled them something called an "enemy combatant." Even the domestic electoral system has been compromised by the debacle in Florida. Nor has the shadow cast on democracy by that election yet been lifted. Election reform has not occurred. Modest campaign reform designed to slow the flood of corporate cash into politics, even after passage in Congress, is being eviscerated by executive decisions. More important, this year's Congressional campaign, by shunning debate on the fundamental issue of war and peace, has signaled to the public that even in the most important matters facing the country neither it nor its representatives decide; only the executive does.

Members of Congress! Be faithful to your oaths of office and to the traditions of your branch of government. Think of the country, not of your re-election. Assert your power. Stand up for the prerogatives of Congress. Defend the Constitution. Reject the arrogance--and the ignorance--of power. Show respect for your constituents--they require your honest judgment, not capitulation to the executive. Say no to empire. Affirm the Republic. Preserve the peace. Vote against war in Iraq.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The White Mythology of 300

I am very very conflicted over the film 300. As a comic book geek, who has lost the direct passion for comics, but is still infected with heavy nostalgia and fidelity for comics, this film looks awesome!
But as a Ethnic Studies scholar and someone who has learned the importance of being vigilante to the ways that race, racialization and racism play out at multiple levels at every moment, this movie both scared the crap out of me, and really pissed me off.

When I watched Oliver Stone’s film Alexander last year, I enjoyed some parts of it, but one part in particular struck me. During the philosophical discussions with a young Alexander and an aging Aristotle, the glories of Greek civilization are laid out for all to see and learn, and for the viewing audience of today, to make continuity to the present. After watching this section, my reading of the film, which is also my reading for 300 can be encapsulated in two words, white mythology. Or the development of truth claims, which create a circular self-aggrandizing relationship between an infinite number of historical moments and a particular version of the present, meant to both explain the whiteness of the present, and infuse that newly whitened present with an authority, eternal viability, and the ability to act as the edge of History.

To paraphrase the Celion Dion song, white mythology is a collection of songs which are odes to why this whiteness, this white moment is the best evolutionary creation, and furthermore why this whiteness should go on.

Manifest Destiny is the most well known and established instance of this in the United States, but we can literally see it everywhere. Manifest Destiny did not come into being with the stroke of a pen, or the simple publishing of a book. It came from a number of different yearnings for power, wealth, sovereignty, exceptionalism. The nation, as an organism is always trapped in a contradiction. It is a consistently modern thing, captivated by a progressive, moral soul, which constantly pushes it forward in time. Yet at the same time, it cannot simply celebrate this youth, its power and ability to capture the future and to embody the apex of the present depends upon a tenuous genealogy, a skeletal chronology, through which that same good national soul has been sighted repeatedly, unfolded and revealed occasionally, and manifested proudly in this moment!

For Manifest Destiny, the progressive power and authority of the United States was traced back into different pockets of white mythology, and that collection of different ancient and modern European cultural developments, victories and evolutionarily divine mandates, was meant to create a spirit of blinding obvious, destiny and power!

To see a very simple way how this works, how one accumulates this sort of force, how you become simply a wave which has built in intensity from the millions of waves that have pushed you into existence, with a particular mandate, read the following quote from a 19th century US Senator. Writing in an 1895 article titled “Our Blundering Foreign Policy” Henry Cabot Lodge stated about the United States and its need to embody this imperialist and ferocious destiny which is so so manifest, “We have a record of conquest, colonization and expansion unequalled by any people in the Nineteenth Century. We are not about to be curbed now.”

Films such as Alexander and 300 are glorified instances of white mythology because of the way they provide images and can give life to empty and hollow claims of the eternal and far reaching greatness of the “Western” and “white” civilization. They make history real not only in the sense of “real in that time” but more so “real in this time.” In the ways that history can never remains in the pages that it is confined to by deaths and dates, the traces of any film touch us today, and if we are not careful can find ways of making concrete and natural the most grotesque, in this instance, racial ideologies.

Everyone in life is on a trip to search for an absent and never fully realized origin. Although you may have come from a family, a nation, a house, a school, etc, pieces of you always seem to stretch into realms and world beyond what seems possible and what can be readily explained. Thus all of life is about filling in the spaces for our always absent origins and sources. This doesn’t mean that what we fill in those spaces has no meaning, but only that the meaning they have is always open, is subject to change, contestation, rejection.

In the explanation for the present moment, for the way things are now, there are a multitude of potential answers. In the case of the United States, “western” and European societies, which seem to hold privileged positions in the running of the world, or the foundation for the prevailing global frameworks (human rights, Washington Consensus, democracy) life seems to be a dangerous game in which one must constantly either search for ways in which one is simply not complicit with the violence and inequalities either in their societies or around the world, or find reasons for which their exceptional and privileged positions are correct, just and appropriate.

So for instance, the claim made by both Republicans and Democrats that it is in the American character to spread democracy to the world, and that we are a just and moral civilization who has the monopoly on this particular “universal” commodity, finds consistency, solvency and safety, yes, in a text such as Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, but more so, and on a wider and more dangerous scale, a films like Alexander and 300.

In the conflicts in these films which naturally curiously echo the conflicts of today, the most base fears in a First World subject, or a middle class subject come to life. In both of these positions, that subject possesses something special which is always about to be lost and always the envy of all others. This feeling animates the self-aggrandizement of all First World subjects, propping up the stupid notion that people from around the world want to come to their country simply because its awesome or opportunity is only found there. This discourse of course completely ignores the realities of the world, most prominently their country’s complicity, either through colonialism, war, or economic mercantilism which ravages foreign economies and displaces populations.

So this incredible thing which the First World subject possesses is so awesome and powerful that everything either wants it or wants to destroy it. This is one of the reasons that Bush’s rhetoric after 9/11 had so much power. He didn’t only promise everyone war and violence against those who had toppled the World Trade Center. He also informed everyone as to why these attacks had taken place. But because of the way his rationalization touched this incredible national thing, it didn’t so much as inform them, but remind them about its existence, its potency, power and the fact that it is always under threat. Bush reminded everyone that these attackers hate our freedoms, our ways of life. The New York Times chimed in on September 16th, 2001 that, further enhancing Bush’s point that, “the perpetrators acted out of hatred for the values cherished in the West, such as freedom, tolerance, prosperity, religious pluralism and universal suffrage.”
My point in this tangent is that in the film 300 in particular, the Spartans are embattled, surrounded on all sides by a dark, angry, blood thirsty horde whose arrows threaten to blot out the sun. In differing ways, the Spartans wrap themselves (in very paradoxical ways) in the language of individual rights, freedom from tyranny, democracy, paladins for an endangered civilization and so on, and therefore seem like ideal positions of identification for your average First World subject who is looking for random, colorful, hi-tech and bloody ways in which his persistent fear of foreigners and ludicrous belief in his nation’s sublime power can make some sense. To quote the actor Gerard Butler who plays King of the Spartans Leonidas in the film, “I felt like it was my destiny to play Leonidas." In order to preserve myself, and to assure myself that I am indeed the recipient of a great legacy of democracy spreading, I feel that am destined too, to defend democracy and freedom, these precious national things, from the black, savage hordes, or in this case, the Middle East.

I think I’m done with this post for today, but I have plenty more to say. From what I have been reading and hearing about the film in the news, internet and just random conversations, this film is very frightening, precisely because it an apolitical and therefore ideal piece of white mythology. This characteristic making it perfect for those who wish to argue that civilizations around the world are clashing.

Feds Seeking Input on Military Increases

Gof na'chalek yan na'triste este na tinige' ginnen i PDN. Gigon hu taitai este fumuffo' yu', sa' taibali. Hafa pau faloffan (pau ma cho'gue) yanggen ta alok na taya' mas militat i minalago-ta? Kao pau ma respetu iyo-ta "input" yanggen "negative?" Ekungok nu hafa ma sangani i militat put este, ya gi i mamaila na sakkan siha, tufong gi todu na asunto siha ni' ma na'tungo' i militat, kuantos ma aksepta gi minagahet, ya ma tulaika i planu-niha, ya kuantos ma fa'ga'ga' hit.


Feds seek local input on Marine relocation
By David V. Crisostomo
dcrisostomo@guampdn.com
and Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News

As the region's chief executives prepare to gather in Saipan for their annual summit next week to discuss the military buildup and other shared issues, federal officials have opened the public comment window on the Marine relocation to Guam as part of the first step to the pending buildup -- the environmental impact study.

While the buildup links the regional summit and the federal environmental impact study, both events also provide local communities -- from Guam and Saipan to Palau and Yap -- an opportunity to add their voices and express their concerns about the buildup and its potential ripple effect, Gov. Felix Camacho said yesterday.

The military needs to enlarge and improve its facilities on Guam to support the transfer of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa, but it will take about two years of environmental studies here and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands before the first shovel of dirt is turned in connection with the move, military leaders have said.

The U.S. Navy yesterday took the first step, announcing its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement. The areas and issues to be examined in the study will be determined, in part, by information gathered from Guam, Tinian and Saipan residents and government officials during public "open houses" next month.

"This is the one chance for our people to come and speak," said Camacho of next month's federal public scoping meetings on Guam, Saipan and Tinian.

"This is an extremely crucial part of the process -- this window of opportunity," Camacho said. The governor called the impact study "the first step in the many moves that we have to undergo."
Guam and the federal government aren't the only players in the largest restructuring of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Camacho said.

At least $15 billion is expected to flow into Guam alone over a period of 10 years as the Marine relocation is completed. The players in this process, Camacho said, occupy the local, regional, national and international stages.

Public involvement
The environmental impact study, the public meetings and the public comment period provide residents an opportunity to recommend alternative sites for military facilities here.

"This is one of the ways the public can start getting involved in this," said Navy Capt. Robert Lee, commander of Navy region Marianas. The date of the meetings has been set for early April, but the time and place have not been determined.

U.S. Pacific Command last September released a 91-page military development plan for Guam, stating the possible location and scope of military increases here, including: the construction of a Marine Corps base and training area in the NCTAMS region of Dededo; improving the Navy's port in order to support the Marines and other military activity; and the creation of an Army base at Radio Barrigada to provide missile defense for the island.

According to the Navy, the environmental statement will examine all of those possibilities.

Yesterday's announcement provides even more information about the proposed military increase, stating, for example, that the proposed Army base would have 630 soldiers and 950 family members.

Naval facilities need to be improved to better accommodate transient nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the announcement states.

"The proposed action includes rehabilitation or construction of operational facilities, support facilities (such as housing), and training areas on Guam and other locations within the Mariana Islands," the environmental announcement, which was published in the Federal Register, states.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, last September said military construction is expected to begin with two years, which means environmental assessments must begin this year. The first major movement of personnel is not expected for at least six years, he said.

Camacho yesterday encouraged all community members on Guam and the island's Pacific island neighbors to take advantage of the opportunity to speak out during the comment period and next month's meetings.

Executive summit
The military buildup on Guam and its impact to this region will be central to discussions between Camacho and other regional chief executives during the seventh annual Western Micronesian Chief Executive Summit in Saipan next week.

Also expected to attend are: CNMI Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, Republic of Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. and Yap Gov. Sebastian Anefal representing the Federated States of Micronesia.

This summit will be an opportunity for Guam and its neighbors to agree on how they can collectively join the international players at the buildup "table" so their communities can benefit from the dollars and development expected from the buildup process, Camacho said.

One key topic is meeting the buildup's labor demand and the employment opportunities for residents in Guam and the CNMI to Palau and the FSM, the governor said.

Camacho said he and the other chiefs also are expected to discuss a wide range of shared issues during the summit, which begin on Tuesday.

The chiefs are expected to reach agreements on regional work-force strategies, recycling initiatives, cooperative efforts to address invasive species and strategies on meeting their communities' health-care challenges.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Graduate of University of San Diego Opposed to US Military Redeployment?

I'm in the middle of the last session of my Discourse Analysis class at UCSD, bored yan yayas didide' and taking advantage of the excellent wireless in the Communications building, to google random things.

I googled "Bordallo Video Congress" and came up with a few interesting things which I'll be posting about later and hopefully putting onto Youtube.

I also googled "turn my headphones up" because I want to find the video for the Dave Chapelle sketch about the hot new rapper, Fistacuffs who was shot six times in the ear, and can only rap when all the conditions are perfect.

Then I googled "pentagon friendly Guam base overseas" in hopes of finding this article "Looking for Friendly Overseas Base, Pentagon Finds it Already Has One." This article along with many others are crucial for my dissertation that I'm currently working on. This article along with many others which refer to Guam in less than respectful ways, casually conflates the military base with the rest of the island and refers to it only through the needs and interests of the base. This article though has inspired me to come up with a new tourist label for Guam, "Guam: What the Pentagon Forgets That It Already Has!"

Eventually through my google adventures I stumbled across this article which I had posted on my blog several months ago, Natives of Guam Decry US Expansion Plan, which included statements by me and several members of Famoksaiyan about the impending militarization of Guam. The article, written by Aaron Glantz was a big deal for our struggles because it was circulated on websites such as Anti-war and Buzzflash and picked up by several blogs such as The Western Confucian and de toto como en botica.

When I had originally posted this article on my blog I had found a German translation of it and pasted it as well. This time around though I was able to find a French version! Before I clicked on this version however my eyes caught the "translate" function on google. Unable to speak French and knowing what the basic tone and content of the article was, I decided to see how google would translate the piece. As you'll see from what I've posted below, the translation is hysterical! Sen na'chalek!

Here is my original statement in English:

"Guam has basically no say...So the U.S. has the right to bring in whatever they want, and there is no framework that Guam can make demands or negotiate with the U.S. military. The Pentagon and the United States Congress are the sovereign owners, and they act like that. There is no relationship that says we have to listen to your feedback or we have to listen to your demands."

And my statement translated from French by google:

“Guam does not have anything to say, the United States have the right to bring what they want and no framework envisages of the negotiations with the American army."

People often speak about the impossibility of translation, yet difficult truths nonetheless seem to emerge, as you'll see in the article.

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L’île de Guam s’oppose au redéploiement militaire US
SAN FRANCISCO, 13 december 2006 (IPS) - Le projet du Pentagone d’augmenter sa présence militaire sur l’île de Guam, dans le Pacifique, rencontre la résistance des populations autochtones, les Chamorros, et de la diaspora installée aux Etats-Unis.

Selon l’American Enterprise Institue, proche des néo-conservateurs, le Pentagone a déjà déplacé des sous-marins d’attaque et des missiles de croisière sur l’île de Guam, située dans l’archipel des Mariannes. Ce territoire a été cédé aux Etats-Unis à la fin de la guerre hispano-américaine, en 1898.

Le département américain de la Défense a annoncé cette année son intention de rapatrier sur l’île 8.000 Marines et 9.000 de ses militaires basés à Okinawa, au Japon. La construction d’une nouvelle base militaire américaine devrait débuter en 2010, l’arrivée des troupes étant prévue un an plus tard.

Ceux qui s’opposent à ce redéploiement craignent que l’île, dont la population est de 168.000 habitants, ne soit envahie par cette présence militaire. « Guam n’a rien à dire, les Etats-Unis ont le droit d’amener ce qu’ils veulent et aucun cadre ne prévoit des négociations avec l’armée américaine », explique Michael Lujan Bevacqua, diplômé de l’Université de San Diego.

Il note que ce redéploiement intervient après de nombreuses oppositions à la présence militaire américaine en Corée du Sud et à Okinawa, au Japon. Dans ces deux pays, les Etats-Unis opèrent sous des règles strictes, négociées sous la forme d’un accord sur le statut des forces (SOFA), dont l’armée US n’aura pas besoin à Guam.

D’autres, comme Madeline Bardallo, déléguée de l’île Guam au Congrès américain, mais ne disposant pas du droit de vote, soutiennent l’arrivée de ces troupes. « Lorsque les Japonais ont attaqué Pearl Harbour, ils ont envahi l’île par la même occasion. Aujourd’hui, la situation entre la Corée du Nord et du Sud, ou entre la Chine et Taiwan, est incertaine. Nombre d’entre nous se souviennent de cette occupation et ne veulent pas que cela se reproduise », explique-t-elle.

Pour les opposants, une large présence américaine n’est toutefois pas dans l’intérêt des habitants de Guam. « S’il y a confrontation entre les Etats-Unis et la Corée du Nord, les Coréens ne bombarderont pas le continent américain, mais chercheront un endroit proche, facile à atteindre, et ce sera Guam », estime Sabina Perez, membre de l’organisation International Peoples Coalition against military Pollution. (FIN/IPS/2006)

Categoriën: Politics - Asia and pacific - Guam

Auteur: Aaron Glantz.

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The island of Guam is opposed to the US military redeployment
San Francisco, 13 december 2006 (IPS) - the project of the Pentagon to increase its military presence on the island of Guam, in the Pacific, meets the resistance of the populations autochtones, Chamorros, and of the diaspora installed in the United States.

According to American Enterprise Institutes, near to the néo-conservatives, the Pentagon already moved submarines of attack and cruise missiles on the island of Guam, located in the archipelago of Mariannes. This territory was yielded to the United States at the end of the war Spanish-American, in 1898.

The American department of Defense announced this year its intention to repatriate on the island 8.000 Marines and 9.000 of its soldiers based with Okinawa, in Japan. The construction of a new American military base should begin in 2010, the arrival of the troops being envisaged one year later.

Those which are opposed to this redeployment fear that the island, whose population is of 168.000 inhabitants, is not invaded by this military presence. “Guam does not have anything to say, the United States have the right to bring what they want and no framework envisages of the negotiations with the American army”, explains Michael Lujan Bevacqua, graduate of the University of San Diego.

It notes that this redeployment intervenes after many oppositions to the American military presence in South Korea and Okinawa, in Japan. In these two countries, the United States operates under strict rules, negotiated in the form of an agreement on the statute of the forces (SOFA), which the US army will not need with Guam.

Others, like Madeline Bardallo, deputy of the Guam island to the American Congress, but not having the voting rights, support the arrival of these troops. “When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, they invaded the island consequently occasion. Today, the situation between the North Korea and of the South, or between China and Taiwan, is dubious. Numbers among us remember this occupation and do not want that that reproduces”, explains it.

For the opponents, a broad American presence is not however in the interest of the inhabitants of Guam. “If there is confrontation between the United States and the North Korea, the Koreans will not bombard the American continent, but will seek a place close, easy to reach, and it will be Guam”, estimates Sabina Perez, member of the organization International Peoples Coalition against military Pollution. (FIN/IPS/2006)

Categoriën: Politics - Asia and pacific - Guam

Author: Aaron Glantz.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

My Favorite Network

Gof magof hu na hu fakcha'i este na tinige'...put fin!!!! O'sun yu' put i invisiblity-ta yan banality-ta.

From http://www.commondreams.org
A New Network Forms to Close U.S. Overseas Military Bases
by Medea Benjamin

In a new surge of energy for the global struggle against militarism, some 400 activists from 40 countries came together in Ecuador from March 5-9 to form a network to fight against foreign military bases. The conference began in Quito, then participants traveled in an 8-bus caravan across the country, culminating in a spirited protest at the city of Manta, site of a U.S. base.

While a few other countries such as England, Russia, China, Italy and France have bases outside their territory, the United States is responsible for 95% of foreign bases. According to U.S. government figures, the U.S. military maintains some 737 bases in 130 countries, although many estimate the true number to be over 1,000.

A network of local groups fighting the huge U.S. military complex is indeed an “asymmetrical struggle,” but communities have been trying for decades to close U.S. military bases on their soil. Their concerns range from the destruction of the environment, the confiscation of farmlands, the abuse of women, the repression of local struggles, the control of resources and a broader concern about military and economic domination.

The Ecuadorian groups who agreed the host the international meeting had been fighting against a U.S. base in the town of Manta. The U.S. and Ecuadorian governments had signed a base agreement in 1999, renewable after 10 years. The purpose of the base was supposed to be drug interdiction, but instead it has provided logistical support for the counterinsurgency war in Colombia, placing Ecuador in a dangerous position of interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbor. The base has also affected the livelihoods of local fishermen and farmers and brought an increase in sex workers, while the promised surge in economic development has not materialized.

During Ecuador’s presidential race in November 2006, candidate Rafael Correa criticized the base and after winning the election he quipped, “We can negotiate with the U.S. about a base in Manta, if they let us put a military base in Miami.” His comment displayed the stunning hypocrisy of the U.S. government, a government that would never deign to have a foreign base on its soil but expects over 100 countries to host U.S. bases.

In a great boost to the newly-formed network to close foreign bases, President Correa sent high-level representatives to the conference to express support, and he himself, together with the Ministers of Defense and Foreign Relations, met with delegates from the network to express their commitment to closing the Manta base when it comes up for renewal in 2009.

But the Ecuadorian government’s courageous stand is unfortunately not echoed in most countries, where anti-bases activists usually find themselves fighting against both the U.S. bases and their government’s collusion.

Indigenous representatives attending the conference talked about the destruction of indigenous lands to make way for bases. In the island of Diego Garcia, the indigenous Chagossian people have been driven off their lands, as have the Chamorros from Guam and the Inuit from Greenland. Kyle Kajihiro, director of the organization Area Hawaii, explained that the U.S. military occupies vast areas of Hawaiian territory, territory which was once public land used for indigenous reserves, agricultural production, schools and public parks.

The delegation from Okinawa, Japan, has been trying to dismantle the U.S. bases for the past 50 years. One of their main complaints has been the violence against women. Suzuyo Takazato, the director of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, has compiled a chilling chronology of sexual abuse against Okinawan women by U.S. soldiers, including the rape of a nine-month old baby and a six-year-old girl. “We publish these horrible crimes to break the silence and impunity of U.S. soldiers who, according to the base treaty, cannot be judged in Okinawa.” Even when groups are not successful in closing the bases, at least they are pushing for U.S. soldiers to be subject to the laws of the host country.

The representative from Guam talked about the environmental devastation—the dumping of PCBs, Agent Orange, DDT, heavy metals and munitions, as well as fallout from the detonation of 168 nuclear bombs in the North western Pacific between 1946 and 1958, leading to high rates of radiation-linked cancers on his island. Activists who have been successful in closing bases warned that it is critical to force the U.S. to clean up before leaving. The Filipinos who won the closure of the Subic and Clark bases in 1992 after years of popular pressure are still fighting to force the U.S. military to clean the site and compensate the affected population.

One of the most compelling success stories came from Vieques, Puerto Rico, where a U.S. base was installed in 1948 in this island paradise of lagoons and sand beaches. The military used the base to build, store and test bombs and chemical substances, like cancer-causing Agent Orange. For decades the local people, especially the fisherman, protested the base, but the anti-base struggle was catalyzed in 1999 when a bomb killed a local civilian, David, Sanes. Activist Nilda Medina spoke with great passion about how they set up permanent protest camps, thousands performed acts of civil disobedience, and others went on hunger strikes. After residents occupied the test area for 13 months, the Navy finally agreed to close the base in May 1, 2003. Now the local people, as in so many other sites, are fighting to clean up the land and treat those who have been exposed to harmful chemicals.” We’re so proud of what we accomplished and want to tell our story to encourage others,” said Nilda Medina. “We understand that this is part of a worldwide struggle against the militarization of our planet.”

Post-9/11, this militarization has become even more entrenched as part of the “war on terror.” Representatives from Cuba at the conference complained bitterly about the use of the Guantanamo base as a center for illegal detention and abuse of prisoners. Activists from Japan, Turkey, Italy and Germany said their countries had been used to facilitate the invasions and ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Delegates from Germany said they have 81 U.S. bases, more than anywhere in the world, and that Germany had became a central rotation point for U.S. soldiers on their way to and from Iraq. They complained that the use of U.S. bases as a launching pad for hostile military operations makes their country vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

This is why over 100,000 people came out for a demonstration in February 2007 in the Italian town of Vicenza against a proposed new military base. “We don’t want the noise, the pollution, the taxing of our infrastructure,” said local organized Cinzia Bottene. “But most of all, we don’t want to be accomplices to Bush’s war and a target for reprisals.”

Many U.S. groups sent representatives to the conference, including the Fellowship of Reconciliation, AFSC, United for Peace and Justice, Southwest Workers Union, WILPF, Global Exchange, CODEPINK and the Marin Interfaith Task Force. U.S. delegates said that the bases did not make them more secure; just the contrary. “One of the reasons the U.S. was attacked on September 11 was because of U.S. foreign bases in Saudi Arabia,” explained Joe Gerson of AFSC. “But while the U.S. military has since abandoned the bases in Saudi Arabia, it has replaced them with even more bases throughout the region, creating more animosity towards Americans.” The U.S. delegates made it clear that the network to close U.S. foreign bases was in line with the efforts of the U.S. peace movement, which would like to see our military used for defensive, not offensive purposes. U.S. delegates also emphasized how the billions of dollars now being spent to maintain this empire of bases would be better invested in people’s needs for health, education and housing.

The new global network will help local groups share experiences, learn from one another, and provide support for the local efforts. It will conduct research, maintain a global website (no-bases.org), publish an e-newsletter, and convoke regular international meetings to assess progress.

Luis Angel Saavedra, head of one of the Ecuadorian organizations sponsoring the conference, was thrilled with the outcome. “We’ve been working against the base in Manta for the past seven years, and this conference feels like the culmination of this entire campaign,” he said. “It will strengthen President Correa’s position to close the base. Our people are better educated after all the publicity we’ve received. And we now have a network to exchange strategies and experiences with people all over the world. I’d call that a great success.”

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace. To learn more about the Network to Abolish Foreign Military Bases, go to www.no-bases.org.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Rubin Lake Incident

I wrote a few years ago a letter to the PDN which asked that those of us on Guam please rethink our relationship to the United States. I noted that the best time to reposition, rearticulate and rework this relationship was when, despite the powerfully charged rhetoric of Guam’s Americaness and patriotism and partnership with the US, we get slapped in the face with our colonial existence, our subordinate status. I called this moments “scandals.”

One common response that I receive from this point, is that no such scandals exist, that I was merely making it up. The relationship between Guam and America is as smooth and equitable as ever. In exchange for not paying taxes, and not being able to have any sovereignty, we get to enjoy being a strategically important appendage of the greatest country left in the world! If that can’t explain the high levels of Chamorro patriotism towards the United States, then nothing can!

Naturally, this isn’t the case. Life as a semi-American in Guam is a tenuous, delicate and scandal-ridden exist. On a regular basis, the desire you feel for America, to be American is rejected. Sometimes at the level of Federal-territorial relations and communication. Sometimes in the form of media, popular cultural, books, comic books. Sometimes in the form of military speech and policy.

Being from a colony today, we probably have the worst memories of all, and so these scandals do not stay with us. We struggle to forget everything, about our past and the damage that has been done and the things lost or destroyed, and only to look to the future which is sold to us by the United States. This amnesia is tragically productive. Released from the wisdom of any textured history, we find it easy to comprehend and live with the fact that our future at present exists to be determined by another, and that we shouldn’t simply accept this fact, but rather celebrate it!
Several decades ago, during the “age of decolonization,” a common mantra was “good government is no substitute for self-government.” Today in Guam, just like those who remain colonized, trapped in nation-within nation or dependent nations, completely obscene relationships, we cling to the inversion of that mantra, “self-government is no substitute for good government.” Stuck, forced into a position of powerlessness, we on Guam tend to accept as our only strategy, a rejoicing and glorifying of that powerlessness. What else, can really explain the disgusting celebration, by many of Guam’s leaders, of Guam’s impending militarization, without any comment on the negative impacts that will necessarily accompany it?

In Guam today, our constant amnesia is connected to denying the colonial difference, to finding patriotic or forgetful ways around the racist, paternalistic and exploitative relationship that continues to exist between us and “Uncle Sam.”

But the body and often the land itself remembers. When a scandal erupts, it is history and truth returning from its exile, to lay waste to the fantasies that we have built, to raze the illusions which we have conjured up in our desperate attempts to feel more American.

My point remains the same on the importance of these scandals. We should not use them as a podium from which we will scream that “WE’RE AMERICANS TOO!” We should instead take them seriously, and investigate what this difference means, which takes so many different forms and refuses to disappear no matter how may flags we wave in front of it or car magnets we suffocate it with.

In an effort to keep fresh the memories of an island which too often seems to me determined to forget everything which might shed a negative light on our colonizer, allow me to recount one such scandal which too many people assert, never happen.

In 1994 during a press conference organized by the Christian Science Monitor News Service to cover an upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, two of Bill Clinton’s advisors were asked a simple question about Guam. As APEC was designed not to be a cooperative of nations, but of economies, a reporter from Gannet, which owns The Pacific Daily News on Guam, asked whether or not it was possible for Guam to join this organization. As Ronald Stade notes in Pacific Passages, “the response to the question was a round of laughter.”

The reporter attempted to reformat and explain his question, noting that other “colonies” such as Hong Kong were allowed to join, and Guam’s economic and population size either exceeds or is equal to a number of APEC’s existing members. This question was met by Anthony Lake, assistant to the president for national security affairs and Robert Rubin, assistant to the president for economic policy with more laughter, giggles and smiles, and the final formal answer of “I guess I could say that the negotiations have not gotten to that point.”

In this moment, the patriotic, colonial and wishful fictions that bind Guam and the United States together through touching metaphors of willing partners, patriotic brothers, uncles to nephews, father to son, etc. all fall away. There are a number of formal answers which could have covered over this obscenity, substituted this revelation. Guam is too small, Guam is part of the United States, Guam is not mature enough, Guam is not economically developed enough, etc. Instead, the prospect of Guam being recognized in such a way, as a partner among nations, produces for those who represent its colonizer, laughter. In the words of the Governor of the Guam at the time Joseph Ada in his letter of outrage to President Bill Clinton, “The response was not an explanation, not a U.S. position but laughter.”

Large protests followed, and Democrats, Republicans, Chamorros, Filipinos and even manapå’ka all magically seemed to join together in unity behind the insult of this scandal, and both the news media and the gates to Guam’s military bases were flooded with demands for apologies and other angry demonstrations.

As I constantly reiterate, this instance was not unique or special, scandals like this take place all the time, but many of them don’t reach this sort of island-wide level, but rather move within certain circles and groups. But the problem with our historical amnesia is that when subsequent scandals take place, they are not connected to the previous moments, previous scandals, not organized or conceived of as part of a pattern, but are instead felt as intense and horrifying, because they always seem like the first instance this has happened.

In the hopes that these scandals are no longer conceived of as ephemeral or exceptional moments which just pass by and mean nothing, I want to present an artifact to remind us all about the Rubin Lake Affair.

I’m posting below the letter that Joe Ada wrote to Bill Clinton in 1994 a few days after the incident where the prospect of Guam joining the community of nations and world economic was laughed at, requesting and demanding an apology. This is a rare instance where outrage and anger, led to the realization that we on Guam are not simply dependent, not simply a footnote to something greater, but that we have power in this relation, if we are willing to make demands and assert things. It is a lesson which I wish more of our leaders today would learn.
















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14 November 1994

Dear Mr. President:

I would like to call to you attention the recent insult to Guam proffered by the National Security Advisor and the Economic Council Advisor during a press breakfast hosted by Godfrey Sperling of the Christian Science Monitor on November 10, 1994. In response to a reporter’s questions about Guam’s possible role in APEC, (and follow up questions) laughter was your advisors’ response. The response was not an explanation, not a U.S. position but laughter.

As you may be aware, both I and Guam’s Congressional delegate, The Honorable Robert A. Underwood have sought a role for Guam in APEC. The British Crown Colony of Hong Kong is allowed to attend. Countries with populations similar to our own are in attendance and in a parallel meeting of the Summit of the Americas, Puerto Rico is invited to attend. Although we are small, Guam procures over $1 billion of goods from the United States annually. In fact, we purchase more U.S. goods than all of the small island states of Oceania combined. Our trade with Asian countries is even greater. The impacts of Asian interests in our economy amounts to over $2 billion per year.

Guam is a major hub of telecommunications in the region and is poised to be a regional aviation hub with the closure of the Naval Air Station in Agaña. We don’t think our economic interests are a joke and we think that a U.S. position which treats it as such is myopic and not in the United States best interests. Perhaps what is most disturbing about the demeaning treatment of Guam’s desire to be heard is the fact that the National Security Advisor contributed to the “comedy” of Guam. Of all people, he should be aware of the longstanding U.S. military presence on our island and the fact that one-third of our people’s land is held by the U.S. government. If the National Security Advisor had any notion of the nature of these interests, and growing local sentiment against the way U.S. policy arbitrarily treats our land needs, he should have known the folly of belittling the people who have been patient in their hosting of such facilities.

The people of Guam are deserving of an apology from Mr. Lake and Mr. Rubin or to hear of their termination. The absence of an apology within twenty-four (24) hours will likely result in actions of civil disobedience directed at military installations as has occurred in Guam today.

The U.S. has interests in Guam, and our island’s economic future is in the Asian region. There is ample room for our partnership of interests to be manageable, but only if our interests are respected. I look forward to your expeditious reply.

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