Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hafa na Liberasion? #13: Seven Crashes

A B-52 crashed on Guam yesterday, and at present two of the six crewmembers are reported dead, while four more are still missing.

The B-52 was flying on its way to take part in the Liberation Day festivities yesterday, by flying over the parade route with two 5-15s and an F-22.

I've spent the past week writing my dissertation and so Liberation Day completely crept up on me this year. Its a well known fact that I am no big fan of Liberation Day, my main reason being the first three words of the title of this post "Hafa na Liberasion?" This is the 11th in a line of posts, featuring my writings and the writings of others that I started last summer to create a space for alternative knowledge and ideas about the whole idea of Guam being liberated, yet continuing to be a colony.

As most people on island take this time of the year to celebrate the United States military and its positive presence on our lives and in our history, I would also like to take this opportunity to remind us of the negative impacts of the military on our island. The United States is celebrated for saving Chamorros in World War II, but little to no discussion takes place about the role their geopolitical machinations and their local lies played in making us a victim in that war. We celebrate the United States as a giver of life, something that creates prosperity and security, yet there is so much evidence that says that links the military presence on island to different terrifying environmental and health problems.

Today, as people solemnly memorialize this crash, it is nonetheless to remember that this is the seventh military aircraft incident that has happened on Guam since August of last year. I wrote a post titled "Six Crashes" in March of this year, providing the information on each of the incidents. For some of these incidents the aircraft were lost, for others just damaged or an accident took place.

B-52 Bomber
July 2008
Crashed 30 miles northwest of Apra Harbor

B-1 Bomber
March 2008
Collides with two emergency vehicles during a landing

EA6B-Prowler
Feb. 2008
Crashed two miles northeast of Ritidian

B-2 Bomber
Feb. 2008
Crashed shortly after takeoff at Anderson Air Force Base

Helicopter Sea Combat - 25
September 2007
Crashed during a training mission at Fena

2 F/A - 18 Hornets
August 2007
Collide during Valiant Shield traning, are able to land

F/A 18C Hornet
August 2007
Crashed 400 miles southeast of Guam

In the next six years, the massive military increases to the island will only make incidents such as this, more likely and possibly more dangerous.




Speaking of these sorts of things on Liberation Day is an almost unholy thing, esta hu tungo'. However, it is my hope that the idea that Robert Underwood proposed in his article "Red, Whitewash and Blue: Painting over the Chamorro experience" can someday be true. In his article Underwood argues that when Chamorros head out each Liberation Day and wait by the side of Marine Drive, waving flags, and acting in an almost super-patriotic way, they are not really celebrating the United States military or the United States, but rather themselves and their own survival.

This is a dream, but wishful dream. Anyone who looks at Guam today knows that this is not true. If it was, then what I am proposing we reflect on right now wouldn't be rejected, wouldn't be called anti-american or unpatriotic. It might be difficult, but it would be recognized as something critical that we consider. Liberation Day has become a holiday, a sort of huge orgy of patriotism that ends up continually increasing the presence and the intimacy of the American military in our lives on Guam. It creates the conditions for uncritical thinking, and therefore keeps all conditions status quos, ensures that no one can question the place of the military on Guam.

What Liberation Day should be, is a place where we do actively question the role of the military on Guam, where we do reflect accurately on its history and its impact (both positive and negative) on our island. If that were to take place, it would move us far closer to the spirit and meaning of liberation, instead of where we are at now, which is simply celebrating America, even at the expense of our island's economy, health, infrastructure and security.

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Crash of B-52 bomber off Guam kills at least 2
By JAYMES SONG – 11 minutes ago

HONOLULU (AP) — The Air Force says at least two crew members are dead after the crash of a B-52 bomber off Guam.

Rescue teams are searching a vast area of the Pacific Ocean on Monday for the remaining four airmen.

The Coast Guard says six vessels, three helicopters, two F-15 fighter jets and a B-52 bomber are involved in the search.

The military says the B-52 was en route to a flyover in a parade when it crashed about 9:45 a.m. about 30 miles northwest of Apra Harbor. The plane was based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

HONOLULU (AP) — Rescue crews were searching a vast area of floating debris and a sheen of oil Monday for crew members of an Air Force B-52 bomber that crashed off the island of Guam, officials said.

At least two people from the bomber's six-man crew were recovered from the waters, but their condition was not immediately available, the Coast Guard said.

Maj. Stuart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman, said the aircraft was unarmed.

Six vessels, three helicopters, two F-15 fighter jets and a B-52 bomber were involved in the search, which had covered about 70 square miles of ocean, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Elizabeth Buendia.

"We have an active search that's going to go on throughout the night," she said Monday. The Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and local fire and police departments were involved.

The B-52 bomber based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana was en route to conduct a flyover in a parade when it crashed around 9:45 a.m. Monday about 30 miles northwest of Apra Harbor, the Air Force said.

The Liberation Day parade celebrates the day when the U.S. military arrived on Guam to retake control of the island from Japan.

The Air Force said a board of officers will investigate the accident.

The accident is the second for the Air Force this year on Guam, a U.S. territory 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.

In February, a B-2 crashed at Andersen Air Force Base shortly after takeoff in the first-ever crash of a stealth bomber. Both pilots ejected safely. The military estimated the cost of the loss of the aircraft at $1.4 billion.

The B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber that can refuel in mid air. Since the 159 foot-long bomber was first placed into service in 1955, it has been used for a wide range of missions from attacks to ocean surveillance. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square miles of ocean surface.

According to the Air Force's Web site, the B-52 Stratofortress has been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the United States for more than four decades. It is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory, including cluster bombs and precision guided missiles.

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