Monday, February 16, 2009

Critiquing the Military Buildup of Guam Part 2

Next week on Tuesday, February 17, 2009, from 5:30 - 7:30 pm, the Univeristy of Guam will host its second "Critiquing the Military Buildup up Forum of Guahan," which brings together government officials and community representatives together to present, share and critique what the next few years and the planned military buildup hold in store for Guam.

I had the privilege of representing Famoksaiyan at the first meeting, and spoke primarily of the need to think through this entire buildup through the lens of colonialism, and hoped that people would stop seeing this has something that we are powerless against and can't do anything about. For more information on the first meeting click here.

For the upcoming forum, the list of presenters are: Representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the Legislative Committee on the Military Build-Up, a UOG professor, and community action groups (I Nasion Chamoru and Conscious Living). As far as I know this means that Guam Senators Judith Guthertz and Rory Respecio will be there, as will Maga'haga' Debbie Quinata, Women and Gender Studies Instructor at UOG (yan i male'-hu) Nicole Santos, and finally Lisa Baza who works at the Court. I'm not sure who'll be there representing the Governor's Office.

Here's the info again. If you can make it please do, the discussion promises to be very lively and informative. Famoksaiyan will be having a table at the event where we'll be handing out literature and also hoping to help organize those interested in becoming more "activist" on the issues at hand.

February 17, 2009
CLASS Lecture Hall
University of Guam
5:30-7:30PM

I'm pasting below a couple of articles, which can give you a sense of the buildup and where its at right now, what are the issues involved that might come up and that you should know more about.

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Okinawa Calls for Revision of Accord on US Forces in Japan
AP
January 9, 2009

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima said Friday he urged the U.S. government to revise the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement in light of a string of crimes allegedly committed by U.S. servicemen.

He said he made the call for revisions to the SOFA, which governs U.S. military operations in Japan and legal arrangements for its personnel, when he met Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Sedney at the Pentagon.

But Nakaima told a news conference that Sedney's reply was to tackle such crimes through improved operation of the SOFA in accordance with the U.S. government's longtime official position on this issue.
"Operations of the SOFA are to be dictated by 'sympathetic consideration' on the U.S. part. In other words, there exist no clear- cut rules about how to operate it and everything is up to the U.S. side," he said. "We simply cannot go along with this situation."
The small Japanese island prefecture of Okinawa hosts the bulk of the U.S. military presence in Japan, equivalent to about three-quarters of all U.S. facilities in the country by area.
The SOFA gives virtual extraterritorial rights to U.S. personnel and there are growing calls for a revision to ensure that suspects are handed over to Japanese police.
Still, Sedney was quoted as saying the Pentagon will strive to meet Nakaima's wishes that crimes and accidents involving U.S. personnel are brought as close as possible to zero.
Nakaima is visiting the United States to tell the Americans about Okinawa's need for its heavy burden in hosting U.S. military forces to be lessened.
On the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, he said he wants Okinawa's hopes regarding a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station within the prefecture to be reflected.
Japan's central government and Okinawa remain at odds over a plan to construct an airfield in Nago to which key functions of the Futemma base in Ginowan will be relocated in line with a Japan-U.S. accord reached in 2006.
Okinawa has demanded that the envisioned airfield with two 1,600-meter runways in a V-shape formation that will use part of the coast of the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Schwab be moved offshore, citing concerns among residents over safety and noise.
Noting the ongoing environmental survey around the site will probably expose a host of problems, the governor said, "We hope such factors will be taken into account as much as possible."
The relocation of the Futemma base by 2014 is a key item of the 2006 realignment agreement. Japan and the United States also agreed that 8,000 Marines and 9,000 of their family members will be moved to Guam from Okinawa in connection with the Futemma base relocation.
Nakaima said he intends to visit again for further talks at an early date after the new U.S. administration of President-elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

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Think tank proposes Guam as Iraqi refugee center
TUESDAY, 13 JANUARY 2009 22:31 BY GERARDO R. PARTIDO
VARIETY NEWS STAFF

An American think tank specializing in national security has released a study naming Guam as a possible relocation site for tens of thousands of Iraqis serving with the U.S. military and other U.S.-affiliated organizations.
The Center for American Progress or CAP, is a think tank headed by John D. Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and professor at the Georgetown University Center of Law.
Its study, entitled "Operation Safe Haven Iraq 2009: An Action Plan for Airlifting Endangered Iraqis Linked to the United States," warned that extremists and militia groups are now targeting the estimated 30,000 to 100,000 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis, describing them as traitors for working with Americans.
"In many cases, the lives of these Iraqis and their families are in imminent danger and many have become refugees or internally displaced persons within Iraq," CAP said.
The study concluded that these Iraqis urgently need and deserve America's help, and the Obama administration should act quickly to remove them from harm's way.GuamCAP said one possible location for processing these Iraqis is Guam, which already possesses pre-existing infrastructure and has status as a U.S. territory.
The study also pointed out that Guam already has experience in housing refugees during the aftermath of the Vietnam war as well as Operation Pacific Haven.
In 1996, the U.S. military set up a safe haven area in the Kurdish area of Iraq to protect civilians during the First Gulf War in 1991. The United States worked quickly to repatriate 6,600 Iraqi Kurds who first crossed the border into Turkey and were held briefly before being transported to Guam, with security screenings taking place prior to the airlift.
The Turkish government did not want this large number of Kurds in their territory, prompting the rapid U.S. airlift response. Operation Pacific Haven ran from September 16, 1996 to April 16, 1997.WavesThe study recalled that the military flew three groups of refugees to Guam in successive waves. Once in Guam, Iraqis lived on an annex of Andersen Air Force Base.
The United States provided food, housing, clothing, medical care, and assimilation classes. The asylum processing took place in Guam in an expedited fashion and involved lawyers, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the State Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services. Screening consisted of background checks, medical examinations, and the designation of sponsors.
According to the study, the whole process took an average of 90 to 120 days and the cost of the Guam portion of the operation was approximately $10 million.
"A small caseload of approximately 80-90 Iraqis were problematic and thought to be double-agents. They were the last to be airlifted from Turkey and were stuck in Guam and/or kept in detention for a lengthy period of time before their cases were resolved," CAP said.StepsFor the current proposed refugee operation, CAP proposes the following six-step course of action for 2009 as modeled after current airlifts by coalition partners and best practices from past airlifts:
Step 1: Appoint a White House coordinator for Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons. President-elect Obama should appoint a White House coordinator for Iraqi refugees and IDPs as outlined in the Kennedy-Biden-Durbin-Hagel-Smith legislation—a bill to develop a policy to address the critical needs of Iraqi refugees. The coordinator's responsibilities would include overseeing the airlift;
Step 2: Conduct an audit and review of current efforts. Full-time, dedicated embassy staff throughout the region from various U.S. government agencies must conduct a thorough audit and create a comprehensive list of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis through the SIV and traditional refugee assistance programs;
Step 3: Finalize security background checks. U.S. agencies should increase resources and personnel to conduct in-country security background checks of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis in Iraq and throughout the region;
Step 4: Order the commencement of the airlift. Once Iraqis are identified, the military should fly Iraqis in small, staggered groups to a third location;
Step 5: Implement and follow up on third-country expedited processing for Iraqi refugees. The White House coordinator should convene agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the Department of Health and Human Services, which would be engaged in the expedited processing of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis and oversee smooth coordination between U.S. government agencies and the military; and
Step 6: Facilitate relocation and placement in the United States. U.S.-affiliated Iraqis should be flown to the United States, where some can be funneled into Arabic language-critical jobs. Once the situation in Iraq has improved and U.S.-affiliated Iraqis feel confident about their safety, the expectation is that some of them will return to Iraq.

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CLTC property eyed for military buildup
By Clynt Ridgell
KUAM News
Published Dec 8, 2008

There's evidence of what land the military may be looking at for use with the military buildup. On Friday Governor Felix Camacho blasted the Department of Defense, the Joint Guam Program Office, and the federal government as a whole for not letting Guam leaders in on the various plans for the Guam buildup. The governor said he believes that the feds expect to use Government of Guam land, more specifically Chamorro Land Trust Commission parcels.

CLTC Administrator Joe Borja said he hasn't received an official request by the military for the potential use of CLTC property but he does have an idea of properties that federal officials may be looking to use as part of the military buildup. "The military, I believe, does have enough land for what they want to do, enough acreage but I don't believe they're in the right places so purely for planning purposes we're looking for some areas that they might be interested in," Borja said.

The administrator pointed KUAM to three areas that he believes the military may be considering. Based on his conclusions on properties that would make logical sense for military use, Borja said he expects the military will want property that they used to own after the Korean War and property that is in a large enough unused area away from residents and businesses.

Borja believes a piece of property near the NCTAMS area is a prime example of property the military would be looking at using. While the Navy owns property to the North and South of former Crown land which is now under the Ancestral Lands Commission, he said it would make sense for the military to utilize the Crown land along the northwest which is roughly around 600 acres.

Borja noted though that it's not the biggest piece of land the military may be considering. "The military through their contractor sub contractor did ask for permission to conduct a superficial survey of properties up north to see, you know, what the conditions of the property up North are, but there's been no real formal request other than their request for access to do superficial survey of properties up in the northeastern part of Guam," he stated.

The property Borja is referring to lies along with eastern coast of Guam in Land Trust property that runs from the Marbo Cave area, past the 76/Circle K Guam Raceway Park. Raceway Park owner Henry Simpson said he's actually heard similar rumors for quite some time now. "Just recently it became kind of a little bit more than a rumor as they've hired engineers and various people to go out... They're measuring how many plants and animals and things on the property so it seems like they're becoming more serious about it," Simpson explained. He said although they've begun surveying the property around the raceway park, he, too, has yet to receive any official word.

"I'm not anti-military by any means but it seems like they don't need to play their cards that close to their chest they could let the community know that they want that property give us time to plan for other areas or give us some kind of an idea you know if their gonna replace what we've built out there it would be very discouraging to see that much time and effort go to waste and all the people that have been involved in it so that bothers us," Simpson said.

The area, according to Borja, is roughly around 2,000 acres but it's not the only CLTC land this size that the military is surveying. Borja said they've also begun surveying land in the South that lies adjacent to Naval Magazine and Fena Lake. This property is mostly in the village of Talofofo and is roughly around what's known as the Babulao area. It too is roughly 2,000 acres so although it is by no means official, the military is surveying large amounts of CLTC property in the South and North.

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Officials Offer Conflicting Views On Guam Military Build Up
Written by Stars & StripesSaturday, 07 February 2009 09:55Guam - (Stars & Stripes):
More officials are expressing concern that the planned move of some 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam could be delayed.
While Japanese and Pentagon officials are standing by the timetable in a bilateral agreement signed in May 2006 that the move will be completed in 2014, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific and a Guam senator say it may take a decade or more to accomplish.
One issue is a key provision of the agreement — a new Marine air facility to be built in rural northeast Okinawa on Camp Schwab to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Okinawa officials want the plan revised to move runways for the new airport offshore. Their opposition has delayed the project.
Another sticking point is that Japanese taxpayers want assurances that money their country spends on the Guam end of the project will help Japan’s flagging economy.
"We are behind a timeline to achieve that goal of 8,000 [Marines] down to Guam, and we don’t have enough money to make it happen right now," U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. Timothy Keating told Reuters in Washington on Thursday.
"I don’t think it will happen on time," he was quoted as saying. "I think it will be more expensive."
However, the Reuters report quoted a Pentagon official as disagreeing with Keating.
"We have no reason to believe that we are not going to meet the timeline we have set out," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. "He’s certainly entitled to his opinion on this matter. But, officially, we are committed to the roadmap as agreed."
Guam Sen. Benjamin J. Cruz was in Tokyo recently and met with a Japanese Diet member who he said also expressed reservations about the realignment plan.
"There are various issues that they’re trying to deal with, besides the Futenma project," Cruz, vice speaker of the Guam Assembly, said in a telephone interview Friday with Stars and Stripes. "One is getting the Japanese taxpayers to support paying for the relocation of a foreign force."
He said the $6 billion Japan agreed to contribute to the Guam project is contingent on being able to recoup the money by having Japanese companies and workers involved in the construction projects.
"But it’s my impression that the mood in the U.S. today, with the ever-increasing unemployment rate, is to use U.S. companies and workers," Cruz said. "And some Japanese are put off by what they believe are unreasonable estimates for some of the projects. They’re especially incredulous over the estimated $645,000 for each single-family home for military personnel. Frankly, I’m not even sure how the military arrived at that figure."
U.S. and Japanese officials have said from the beginning that the move of the Marines to Guam, including III Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, hinges on the Futenma replacement project. Once the new Camp Schwab facility is built, the U.S. has promised to close Camp Kinser, MCAS Futenma, the rest of Camp Lester and part of Camp Foster.
In his interview with Reuters, Keating said there was no change under the Obama administration regarding the realignment plan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to sign an agreement detailing specific guidelines for the project when she visits Tokyo later this month.
Keating told Reuters a delay doesn’t have to be a bad sign.
"A case can be made that a more measured, longer-term approach could be beneficial," he said.
A spokesman for Japan’s Ministry of Defense said Friday he believed the project was still on track.
"The Ministry of Defense has allocated 35.3 billion yen (about $392 million) to be spent for the project for fiscal year 2009," said Takashi Sekine, chief spokesman for the ministry’s International Public Relations Office. "In accordance with the [2006 agreement], and to reduce the burden of Okinawa, we will faithfully implement the plans to move Marines to Guam, aiming to complete it by 2014"

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