Monday, August 31, 2009

Isla Para Ladrones

Click this link and check out below the lyrics for a beautiful song titled "Isla Para Ladrones" by the band J.R. Jones.

Its a contemporary sound, but with a curious ancient feel as well. Its a rock song about Chamorros and their long-standing struggles. The title for those who don't know refers to the name that Guam and Chamorros were given by the Spanish, which called them "thieves" and their land an island full of them.

This is a conscious song not just in the sense that it is a rethinking of history and culture and Chamorro identity, but that its also made with the explicit intent that it be used as a tool for the creating of consciousness and the supporting of movements on Guam and amongst Chamorros for their sovereignty and decolonization. According to the band's description this song is "dedicated to our ancestors and to the undying efforts of the Nasion Chamoru. Our intentions with this song is to help promote the spirit of the Nasion Chamoru and to increase an awareness of it's efforts."

Gof gefpå'go este fina'tinas-ñiha. Debi di ta sappote todu i artists kalang este siha.

Fihu ma sångan na Guahån "i punton i lansan Amerika." Lao fihu ma sångan lokkue' na i artists, i creative na taotao siha, i punton i lansa lokkue'. I punton i lansan mumun linahayan. I punta ni’ siña tumulaika i tano’, i kuminidåt.


Siha muna'dokko' i hinasson conscious pat revolutionary gi i tintanos i taotao siha.


Pues para Guahu, i che’cho’-hu yan i guinife-hu siha para este na dikike’ na isla, gof impottånte i fina’tinas taiguini.



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Isla Para Ladrones by J.R. Jones

Kahulu Chamoru, mungga manao
Fan hongge Chamoru, para I taotao (repeat)

In 1521, Magellan sailed the ocean blue
Landed on our island from whence the wind blew
Massacred our islands, burned our homes,
How can it compare to a boat, iron, and rope?
How could we defend against bullets and guns
Against armada fleets with slings and stone?
Branded by a name to last through all of time
Listen up manuelos we’re accused of a crime

Kahulu Chamoru, mungga manao

Pale San Vitores, Legaspi and his crew
Dubbed us thieves and savages, like animals in a zoo
La Islas La Drones is what we are named
For cultural clashes for the food and warmth we gave
These Euro-ruffians changed our sacred way of life
promoting new gods, new diseases and strife
Does this make us thieves, to be robbed of culture
A tiny spec of land amongst wolves and vultures

Kahulu Chamoru, mungga manao
Fan hongge Chamoru, para I taotao

In 1941 a new terror washed ashore
Pillaged our islands turned our beaches into gore
This beast from the east was unstoppable, too strong
Native naiveties could not fight what was wrong
They raped our daughters and they killed our sons
Slanted eyed aliens from the Land of the rising sun
How can we forgive all these crimes of war
Will it bring our chelus back from oh so very far?

Kahulu Chamoru, mungga manao
Fan hongge Chamoru, para I taotao
(repeat)

Finally, a friend came and gave us liberation
Red white and blue were there colors of his nation
This strange new creature seemed so friendly and so kind
Gave us his candy, made us drink his wine
Little did we know what intentions he had
Until we lost our culture, our government, our land
La Islas La Drones is the island for thieves
Hafa lai Chamoru ko pun sungun ha
este?

Kahulu Chamoru, mungga manao
Fan hongge Chamoru, para I taotao
(repeat)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Acts of Peace: Resistance, Resilience and Respect

Next month a historic event will take place on Guam. A gathering of women activists from ten different regions, (Guam, Okinawa, Japan, US, Puerto Rico, Philippines, The Marshall Islands, Belau, South Korea and Australia) will take place from September 14-19th at the University of Guam. This gathering will be the 7th of its kind, and brings together activists who are working with each other and within their regions to mitigate existing negative impacts of militarization and decrease its influence in the world. The name of this gathering in Chamorro is "CHinemma’, Nina’maolek, yan Inarespetu para Direchon Taotao" which in English translates to, "Resistance, Resilience, and Respect for Human Rights." The link to the conference blog is here.

For those of you who don't know, militarization, as it sounds can refer to a process through which a place becomes inundated with military, power, technology, influence. Guam, since World War II has undergone generational periods of militarization, with huge spikes in US military presence coming every few decades, and then declining. Right now, it is in the beginning stages of a huge wave of militarization, with the 8,000 Marines + 9,000 dependents from Okinawa, only being the opening act.

So although militarism and militarization most commonly refers to the physical moving and increase of military presence, it can also refer to how a society relates to military or to a particular presence. So a militarized society is one which prioritizes war and those who make wars. It assumes that it is natural for the military to receive the largest part of a budget, that the military should be accommodated in whatever way it needs to be, and that military values, are universal values and should be accepted and celebrated by all. So militarism is also a social/political ideology, and one which doesn't see the military, as just another part of society, but a central one, and thus tends to view the world (especially those places outside of its borders) as something full of places that need to be policed, controlled, dominated and neutralized.

In both of these senses, Guam is a very militarized place. Guam "hosts" a lot of military, and rather than their presence being seen through some objective lens, it is seen through visions of liberation from World War II, the hand that feeds Guam, and fears of being called anti-American, despite the fact that Guam is barely considered American anyways. The United States military, its interests tend to dominate Guam and how it can see itself, or understand itself. And for every Senator in the Guam Legislature, who talks tough to Navy Commanders about the military buildup, you have two Senators and probably five thousand people on the island who say that the Navy and the military should be given whatever they need and be allowed to do whatever they want.

Although Guam is unique in many ways, it is hardly unique as being a place which is struggling under the heavy weight and pressure of US militarization. The communities which are all attending this conference, all have contemporary and historical relationships with the United States military. They are sites of awful and horrifying military contamination, they are places whose existences are kept on tight leashes because of their strategic military importance, they were testing grounds for military weapons, they have people, survivors who represent the horrible legacies of war, the violence against women and the displacement that always takes place. Some however are not just dealing with US forms of militarization, but their own postcolonial nation's attempts to militarize their societies.

In the Philippines for instance, there has been some very violent repression of democratic and grassroots activists. In Japan, the government has been long trying to get rid of Article 9 of its Constitution, which is known to some as the "peace article" or the "peace clause" and prevents Japan from creating a standing army which could be used for antagonistic purposes.

The actual text (translated into English) reads as follows:

ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

For any nation which wants to prove its first-world status today, a hi-tech, massive army that it is not afraid to use is a must, and the inability to build this in Japan is a source of constant frustration to Japanese nationalists.

When I attended a meeting with CODEPINK Osaka last month, one of the campaigns that they have taken on is the theme that Article 9 must be saved, as it is a "world treasure." The campaign is an important one, because the spirit of Article 9, or that military should be defensive in nature and not offensive, is one which is lost today, especially in countries such as the United States, who seem to casually assume an imperial consciousness, where the world is theirs to intervene into. When taken into account alongside another historic constitutional element, the nuclear-free clause of the original Palauan Constitution, both of these are truly historical and important acts of peace, meant to provide a foundation from which humans as a species , or a particular community, could start to step back, and away from the potential global doom and current violent chaos that he tends to cause (and is nowadays adept at exporting to other peoples' backyards).

The acts of war, that nations and armies take are always violent, loud, and brutal, they are meant to be a spectacle to strike fear into both those who are causing the violence and those who are receiving it. It is meant to make cower and submit those who are its recipients, but it is also meant to make weak and fearful those who are dishing it out. It is meant to make them dependent upon it, feel that they must have it, that if they are not oppressing someone, not militarizing somewhere, not taking over someone else's land or dictating how they live their lives, they can never feel safe. Without that violence, they feel helpless, as if their whole world could easily be stripped away or shattered. The safety or sovereignty that this violence enables is of course an illusion. You can lose the world over night or in the blink of an eye, no matter how many thousands you slaughter, millions you conquer, or billions of shoes you make people take off in airport security lines.

Acts of peace, are by their nature, more subtle, quieter, less perceptible. But as I see it, the upcoming conference is precisely about things such as this. Forming community across boundaries, building solidarity. Working towards peace, working towards justice. Finding ways to heal old wounds, heal the very soil which sustains us, and finding ways to confront past and current oppressors. They don't provide any lasting security either. They don't guarantee that you won't lose anything, that you won't be hurt, but they are instead acted based upon a very different impression of human beings, and one that takes the risk, that although anyone, from your closest friend, to your own family can be your potential enemies, it is a life far better lived, which trusts first, than strikes first. Which tries to build first, before it destroys.

I'm assisting with the conference in terms of online support, by setting up and helping update its blog. I've already pasted the link above, but just in case here it is again. Genuine Security.

There will be more updates on the blog as we get closer to the conference date. In the meantime, there are some links, info and images you can check out. For those of you who might be interested, I'm looking for writers (old and young, professional or non-professional) to help by attending the conference and writing about/covering the proceedings. If anyone is interested in this, you can send me an email at mlbasquiat@hotmail.com, or leave a comment on this post.

Lastly, the delegation from the United States which is attending the conference is having a fundraiser in a few days, on August 30th in the Bay Area. If you know people in the area, spread the word and pass along the info below. If you live in the area, consider coming to the event to help support these important efforts of activists working towards international solidarity, peace and demilitarization.

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Please come out to support a 6-women delegation to Guam for the 7TH MEETING OF THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK OF WOMEN AGAINST MILITARISM.

The meeting is entitled "Resistance, Resilience, and Respect for Human Rights". More info about the meeting is included below.


Women's Resistance, Resilience and Respect for Human Rights
Fundraiser House Party
1607 Sonoma Ave. Albany (home of Debbie Lee and family)
Sunday August 30th 2-5pm. Short program at 3pm

Events include:

*Deserts by Jonas Low, Pastry Chef at Gary Danko

*Lindsey Kerr trio
*Preview clips of WGS film, "Along the Fenceline: Women's Voices for Peace and Security" by Lina Hoshino
*Silent auction
*Activities for children

Driving directions:

From Highway 80, take Buchanan Street/Albany exit. Turn right and continue east on Buchanan/Marin Street. Turn right on Peralta. Left on Sonoma. Enter through pathway to the backyard garden.

Need a ride from North Berkeley BART? Call: 415 312-5583

Tax-deductible donations should be made payable to the Agape Foundation and earmarked “WGS.” For online donations, visit our website. We can also accept donations payable to WGS. Please mail checks to WGS, 965 62nd Street, Oakland CA 94608

About Women for Genuine Security: We envision a world of genuine security based on justice, respect for others across national boundaries, and economic planning based on local people’s needs. Our shared mission is to build and sustain a network of women to promote, model, and protect genuine security in the face of militarism. We are part of the International Women's Network for Peace. The International Women's Network started in 1997 and links women activists, policy-makers, teachers and students from Guam, Hawai'i, Korea, Okinawa, mainland Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico,and the United States to share information and strategize about the negative effects of military operations in all our countries.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How to Get Rid of an Empire

Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire: And Ten Steps to Take to Do So

Thursday 30 July 2009 by: Chalmers Johnson | Visit article original @ TomDispatch.com

However ambitious President Barack Obama’s domestic plans, one unacknowledged issue has the potential to destroy any reform efforts he might launch. Think of it as the 800-pound gorilla in the American living room: our longstanding reliance on imperialism and militarism in our relations with other countries and the vast, potentially ruinous global empire of bases that goes with it. The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will, sooner rather than later, condemn the United States to a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.

According to the 2008 official Pentagon inventory of our military bases around the world, our empire consists of 865 facilities in more than 40 countries and overseas U.S. territories. We deploy over 190,000 troops in 46 countries and territories. In just one such country, Japan, at the end of March 2008, we still had 99,295 people connected to U.S. military forces living and working there - 49,364 members of our armed services, 45,753 dependent family members, and 4,178 civilian employees. Some 13,975 of these were crowded into the small island of Okinawa, the largest concentration of foreign troops anywhere in Japan.

These massive concentrations of American military power outside the United States are not needed for our defense. They are, if anything, a prime contributor to our numerous conflicts with other countries. They are also unimaginably expensive. According to Anita Dancs, an analyst for the website Foreign Policy in Focus, the United States spends approximately $250 billion each year maintaining its global military presence. The sole purpose of this is to give us hegemony - that is, control or dominance - over as many nations on the planet as possible.

We are like the British at the end of World War II: desperately trying to shore up an empire that we never needed and can no longer afford, using methods that often resemble those of failed empires of the past - including the Axis powers of World War II and the former Soviet Union. There is an important lesson for us in the British decision, starting in 1945, to liquidate their empire relatively voluntarily, rather than being forced to do so by defeat in war, as were Japan and Germany, or by debilitating colonial conflicts, as were the French and Dutch. We should follow the British example. (Alas, they are currently backsliding and following our example by assisting us in the war in Afghanistan.)

Here are three basic reasons why we must liquidate our empire or else watch it liquidate us.

1. We Can No Longer Afford Our Postwar Expansionism

Shortly after his election as president, Barack Obama, in a speech announcing several members of his new cabinet, stated as fact that “[w]e have to maintain the strongest military on the planet.” A few weeks later, on March 12, 2009, in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington DC, the president again insisted, “Now make no mistake, this nation will maintain our military dominance. We will have the strongest armed forces in the history of the world.” And in a commencement address to the cadets of the U.S. Naval Academy on May 22nd, Obama stressed that “[w]e will maintain America’s military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen.”

What he failed to note is that the United States no longer has the capability to remain a global hegemon, and to pretend otherwise is to invite disaster.

According to a growing consensus of economists and political scientists around the world, it is impossible for the United States to continue in that role while emerging into full view as a crippled economic power. No such configuration has ever persisted in the history of imperialism. The University of Chicago’s Robert Pape, author of the important study Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (Random House, 2005), typically writes:

“America is in unprecedented decline. The self-inflicted wounds of the Iraq war, growing government debt, increasingly negative current-account balances and other internal economic weaknesses have cost the United States real power in today’s world of rapidly spreading knowledge and technology. If present trends continue, we will look back on the Bush years as the death knell of American hegemony.”

There is something absurd, even Kafkaesque, about our military empire. Jay Barr, a bankruptcy attorney, makes this point using an insightful analogy:

“Whether liquidating or reorganizing, a debtor who desires bankruptcy protection must provide a list of expenses, which, if considered reasonable, are offset against income to show that only limited funds are available to repay the bankrupted creditors. Now imagine a person filing for bankruptcy claiming that he could not repay his debts because he had the astronomical expense of maintaining at least 737 facilities overseas that provide exactly zero return on the significant investment required to sustain them? He could not qualify for liquidation without turning over many of his assets for the benefit of creditors, including the valuable foreign real estate on which he placed his bases.”

In other words, the United States is not seriously contemplating its own bankruptcy. It is instead ignoring the meaning of its precipitate economic decline and flirting with insolvency.

Nick Turse, author of The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books, 2008), calculates that we could clear $2.6 billion if we would sell our base assets at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and earn another $2.2 billion if we did the same with Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. These are only two of our over 800 overblown military enclaves.

Our unwillingness to retrench, no less liquidate, represents a striking historical failure of the imagination. In his first official visit to China since becoming Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner assured an audience of students at Beijing University, “Chinese assets [invested in the United States] are very safe.” According to press reports, the students responded with loud laughter. Well they might.

In May 2009, the Office of Management and Budget predicted that in 2010 the United States will be burdened with a budget deficit of at least $1.75 trillion. This includes neither a projected $640 billion budget for the Pentagon, nor the costs of waging two remarkably expensive wars. The sum is so immense that it will take several generations for American citizens to repay the costs of George W. Bush’s imperial adventures - if they ever can or will. It represents about 13% of our current gross domestic product (that is, the value of everything we produce). It is worth noting that the target demanded of European nations wanting to join the Euro Zone is a deficit no greater than 3% of GDP.

Thus far, President Obama has announced measly cuts of only $8.8 billion in wasteful and worthless weapons spending, including his cancellation of the F-22 fighter aircraft. The actual Pentagon budget for next year will, in fact, be larger, not smaller, than the bloated final budget of the Bush era. Far bolder cuts in our military expenditures will obviously be required in the very near future if we intend to maintain any semblance of fiscal integrity.

2. We Are Going to Lose the War in Afghanistan and It Will Help Bankrupt Us

One of our major strategic blunders in Afghanistan was not to have recognized that both Great Britain and the Soviet Union attempted to pacify Afghanistan using the same military methods as ours and failed disastrously. We seem to have learned nothing from Afghanistan’s modern history - to the extent that we even know what it is. Between 1849 and 1947, Britain sent almost annual expeditions against the Pashtun tribes and sub-tribes living in what was then called the North-West Frontier Territories - the area along either side of the artificial border between Afghanistan and Pakistan called the Durand Line. This frontier was created in 1893 by Britain’s foreign secretary for India, Sir Mortimer Durand.

Neither Britain nor Pakistan has ever managed to establish effective control over the area. As the eminent historian Louis Dupree put it in his book Afghanistan (Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 425): “Pashtun tribes, almost genetically expert at guerrilla warfare after resisting centuries of all comers and fighting among themselves when no comers were available, plagued attempts to extend the Pax Britannica into their mountain homeland.” An estimated 41 million Pashtuns live in an undemarcated area along the Durand Line and profess no loyalties to the central governments of either Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The region known today as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan is administered directly by Islamabad, which - just as British imperial officials did - has divided the territory into seven agencies, each with its own “political agent” who wields much the same powers as his colonial-era predecessor. Then as now, the part of FATA known as Waziristan and the home of Pashtun tribesmen offered the fiercest resistance.

According to Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, experienced Afghan hands and coauthors of Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story (City Lights, 2009, p. 317):

“If Washington’s bureaucrats don’t remember the history of the region, the Afghans do. The British used air power to bomb these same Pashtun villages after World War I and were condemned for it. When the Soviets used MiGs and the dreaded Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships to do it during the 1980s, they were called criminals. For America to use its overwhelming firepower in the same reckless and indiscriminate manner defies the world’s sense of justice and morality while turning the Afghan people and the Islamic world even further against the United States.”

In 1932, in a series of Guernica-like atrocities, the British used poison gas in Waziristan. The disarmament convention of the same year sought a ban against the aerial bombardment of civilians, but Lloyd George, who had been British prime minister during World War I, gloated: “We insisted on reserving the right to bomb niggers” (Fitzgerald and Gould, p. 65). His view prevailed.

The U.S. continues to act similarly, but with the new excuse that our killing of noncombatants is a result of “collateral damage,” or human error. Using pilotless drones guided with only minimal accuracy from computers at military bases in the Arizona and Nevada deserts among other places, we have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed bystanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pakistani and Afghan governments have repeatedly warned that we are alienating precisely the people we claim to be saving for democracy.

When in May 2009, General Stanley McChrystal was appointed as the commander in Afghanistan, he ordered new limits on air attacks, including those carried out by the CIA, except when needed to protect allied troops. Unfortunately, as if to illustrate the incompetence of our chain of command, only two days after this order, on June 23, 2009, the United States carried out a drone attack against a funeral procession that killed at least 80 people, the single deadliest U.S. attack on Pakistani soil so far. There was virtually no reporting of these developments by the mainstream American press or on the network television news. (At the time, the media were almost totally preoccupied by the sexual adventures of the governor of South Carolina and the death of pop star Michael Jackson.)

Our military operations in both Pakistan and Afghanistan have long been plagued by inadequate and inaccurate intelligence about both countries, ideological preconceptions about which parties we should support and which ones we should oppose, and myopic understandings of what we could possibly hope to achieve. Fitzgerald and Gould, for example, charge that, contrary to our own intelligence service’s focus on Afghanistan, “Pakistan has always been the problem.” They add:

“Pakistan’s army and its Inter-Services Intelligence branch… from 1973 on, has played the key role in funding and directing first the mujahideen [anti-Soviet fighters during the 1980s]? and then the Taliban. It is Pakistan’s army that controls its nuclear weapons, constrains the development of democratic institutions, trains Taliban fighters in suicide attacks and orders them to fight American and NATO soldiers protecting the Afghan government.” (p. 322-324)

The Pakistani army and its intelligence arm are staffed, in part, by devout Muslims who fostered the Taliban in Afghanistan to meet the needs of their own agenda, though not necessarily to advance an Islamic jihad. Their purposes have always included: keeping Afghanistan free of Russian or Indian influence, providing a training and recruiting ground for mujahideen guerrillas to be used in places like Kashmir (fought over by both Pakistan and India), containing Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan (and so keeping it out of Pakistan), and extorting huge amounts of money from Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf emirates, and the United States to pay and train “freedom fighters” throughout the Islamic world. Pakistan’s consistent policy has been to support the clandestine policies of the Inter-Services Intelligence and thwart the influence of its major enemy and competitor, India.

Colonel Douglas MacGregor, U.S. Army (retired), an adviser to the Center for Defense Information in Washington, summarizes our hopeless project in South Asia this way: “Nothing we do will compel 125 million Muslims in Pakistan to make common cause with a United States in league with the two states that are unambiguously anti-Muslim: Israel and India.”

Obama’s mid-2009 “surge” of troops into southern Afghanistan and particularly into Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold, is fast becoming darkly reminiscent of General William Westmoreland’s continuous requests in Vietnam for more troops and his promises that if we would ratchet up the violence just a little more and tolerate a few more casualties, we would certainly break the will of the Vietnamese insurgents. This was a total misreading of the nature of the conflict in Vietnam, just as it is in Afghanistan today.

Twenty years after the forces of the Red Army withdrew from Afghanistan in disgrace, the last Russian general to command them, Gen. Boris Gromov, issued his own prediction: Disaster, he insisted, will come to the thousands of new forces Obama is sending there, just as it did to the Soviet Union’s, which lost some 15,000 soldiers in its own Afghan war. We should recognize that we are wasting time, lives, and resources in an area where we have never understood the political dynamics and continue to make the wrong choices.

3. We Need to End the Secret Shame of Our Empire of Bases

In March, New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert noted, “Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing.” He continued:

“New data released by the Pentagon showed an almost 9 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults - 2,923 - and a 25 percent increase in such assaults reported by women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan [over the past year]. Try to imagine how bizarre it is that women in American uniforms who are enduring all the stresses related to serving in a combat zone have to also worry about defending themselves against rapists wearing the same uniform and lining up in formation right beside them.”

The problem is exacerbated by having our troops garrisoned in overseas bases located cheek-by-jowl next to civilian populations and often preying on them like foreign conquerors. For example, sexual violence against women and girls by American GIs has been out of control in Okinawa, Japan’s poorest prefecture, ever since it was permanently occupied by our soldiers, Marines, and airmen some 64 years ago.

That island was the scene of the largest anti-American demonstrations since the end of World War II after the 1995 kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by two Marines and a sailor. The problem of rape has been ubiquitous around all of our bases on every continent and has probably contributed as much to our being loathed abroad as the policies of the Bush administration or our economic exploitation of poverty-stricken countries whose raw materials we covet.

The military itself has done next to nothing to protect its own female soldiers or to defend the rights of innocent bystanders forced to live next to our often racially biased and predatory troops. “The military’s record of prosecuting rapists is not just lousy, it’s atrocious,” writes Herbert. In territories occupied by American military forces, the high command and the State Department make strenuous efforts to enact so-called “Status of Forces Agreements” (SOFAs) that will prevent host governments from gaining jurisdiction over our troops who commit crimes overseas. The SOFAs also make it easier for our military to spirit culprits out of a country before they can be apprehended by local authorities.

This issue was well illustrated by the case of an Australian teacher, a long-time resident of Japan, who in April 2002 was raped by a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, then based at the big naval base at Yokosuka. She identified her assailant and reported him to both Japanese and U.S. authorities. Instead of his being arrested and effectively prosecuted, the victim herself was harassed and humiliated by the local Japanese police. Meanwhile, the U.S. discharged the suspect from the Navy but allowed him to escape Japanese law by returning him to the U.S., where he lives today.

In the course of trying to obtain justice, the Australian teacher discovered that almost fifty years earlier, in October 1953, the Japanese and American governments signed a secret “understanding” as part of their SOFA in which Japan agreed to waive its jurisdiction if the crime was not of “national importance to Japan.” The U.S. argued strenuously for this codicil because it feared that otherwise it would face the likelihood of some 350 servicemen per year being sent to Japanese jails for sex crimes.

Since that time the U.S. has negotiated similar wording in SOFAs with Canada, Ireland, Italy, and Denmark. According to the Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces (2001), the Japanese practice has become the norm for SOFAs throughout the world, with predictable results. In Japan, of 3,184 U.S. military personnel who committed crimes between 2001 and 2008, 83% were not prosecuted. In Iraq, we have just signed a SOFA that bears a strong resemblance to the first postwar one we had with Japan: namely, military personnel and military contractors accused of off-duty crimes will remain in U.S. custody while Iraqis investigate. This is, of course, a perfect opportunity to spirit the culprits out of the country before they can be charged.

Within the military itself, the journalist Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007), speaks of the “culture of unpunished sexual assaults” and the “shockingly low numbers of courts martial” for rapes and other forms of sexual attacks. Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq (Beacon Press, 2009), quotes this figure in a 2009 Pentagon report on military sexual assaults: 90% of the rapes in the military are never reported at all and, when they are, the consequences for the perpetrator are negligible.

It is fair to say that the U.S. military has created a worldwide sexual playground for its personnel and protected them to a large extent from the consequences of their behavior. As a result a group of female veterans in 2006 created the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN). Its agenda is to spread the word that “no woman should join the military.”

I believe a better solution would be to radically reduce the size of our standing army, and bring the troops home from countries where they do not understand their environments and have been taught to think of the inhabitants as inferior to themselves.

10 Steps Toward Liquidating the Empire

Dismantling the American empire would, of course, involve many steps. Here are ten key places to begin:

1. We need to put a halt to the serious environmental damage done by our bases planet-wide. We also need to stop writing SOFAs that exempt us from any responsibility for cleaning up after ourselves.

2. Liquidating the empire will end the burden of carrying our empire of bases and so of the “opportunity costs” that go with them - the things we might otherwise do with our talents and resources but can’t or won’t.

3. As we already know (but often forget), imperialism breeds the use of torture. In the 1960s and 1970s we helped overthrow the elected governments in Brazil and Chile and underwrote regimes of torture that prefigured our own treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. (See, for instance, A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors [Pantheon, 1979], on how the U.S. spread torture methods to Brazil and Uruguay.) Dismantling the empire would potentially mean a real end to the modern American record of using torture abroad.

4. We need to cut the ever-lengthening train of camp followers, dependents, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and hucksters - along with their expensive medical facilities, housing requirements, swimming pools, clubs, golf courses, and so forth - that follow our military enclaves around the world.

5. We need to discredit the myth promoted by the military-industrial complex that our military establishment is valuable to us in terms of jobs, scientific research, and defense. These alleged advantages have long been discredited by serious economic research. Ending empire would make this happen.

6. As a self-respecting democratic nation, we need to stop being the world’s largest exporter of arms and munitions and quit educating Third World militaries in the techniques of torture, military coups, and service as proxies for our imperialism. A prime candidate for immediate closure is the so-called School of the Americas, the U.S. Army’s infamous military academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, for Latin American military officers. (See Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire [Metropolitan Books, 2004], pp. 136-40.)

7. Given the growing constraints on the federal budget, we should abolish the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and other long-standing programs that promote militarism in our schools.

8. We need to restore discipline and accountability in our armed forces by radically scaling back our reliance on civilian contractors, private military companies, and agents working for the military outside the chain of command and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (See Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater:The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army [Nation Books, 2007]). Ending empire would make this possible.

9. We need to reduce, not increase, the size of our standing army and deal much more effectively with the wounds our soldiers receive and combat stress they undergo.

10. To repeat the main message of this essay, we must give up our inappropriate reliance on military force as the chief means of attempting to achieve foreign policy objectives.

Unfortunately, few empires of the past voluntarily gave up their dominions in order to remain independent, self-governing polities. The two most important recent examples are the British and Soviet empires. If we do not learn from their examples, our decline and fall is foreordained.

——–

Chalmers Johnson is the author of Blowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006), and editor of Okinawa: Cold War Island (1999).

[Note on further reading on the matter of sexual violence in and around our overseas bases and rapes in the military: On the response to the 1995 Okinawa rape, see Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, chapter 2. On related subjects, see David McNeil, "Justice for Some. Crime, Victims, and the US-Japan SOFA," Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 8-1-09, March 15, 2009; "Bilateral Secret Agreement Is Preventing U.S. Servicemen Committing Crimes in Japan from Being Prosecuted," Japan Press Weekly, May 23, 2009; Dieter Fleck, ed., The Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces, Oxford University Press, 2001; Minoru Matsutani, "'53 Secret Japan-US Deal Waived GI Prosecutions," Japan Times, October 24, 2008; "Crime Without Punishment in Japan," the Economist, December 10, 2008; "Japan: Declassified Document Reveals Agreement to Relinquish Jurisdiction Over U.S. Forces," Akahata, October 30, 2008; "Government's Decision First Case in Japan," Ryukyu Shimpo, May 20, 2008; Dahr Jamail, "Culture of Unpunished Sexual Assault in Military," Antiwar.com, May 1, 2009; and Helen Benedict, "The Plight of Women Soldiers," the Nation, May 5, 2009.]

Monday, August 24, 2009

Guam Resists Military Colonization

Last month I had the privilege of meeting peace and US demilitarization activist Ann Wright while she was in Guam meeting with the group Codepink Osaka. I got to attend the meeting, where they not only talked about what is going on in Japan right now, but also wanted to hear more of the stories of Guam and Chamorros and their particular struggles against US militarization.

The meeting was an interesting one, as translators were used and made communication difficult, but it was still an exciting experience for me. Meeting Ann Wright was a great pleasure. She is someone who I'd seen interviewed on Cable News, read plenty about on the internet and long admired for her willingness to not only speak out against the Iraq War, but even go so far as to resign from her position in the United States State Department after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. The years since the Iraq War started have been filed with plenty of retired military or diplomatic officers from the US, who now that they are no longer employed by the United States, feel they can speak freely in criticizing things they were apart of and violence or stupidity they helped enable. That is one of the most frustrating things about the military, is that you are expected to simply follow orders while you are serving, and only allowed to refuse and speak out against what you feel is wrong or immoral, after you have already done it or participated in it.
Its for that reason that you really have to admire those who felt the moral responsibility to speak out, to resign, to opt out when they felt they were being ordered to participate in something illegal or immoral. Hu gof konfotme i finayin Si Hardt yan Si Negri gi i lepblon-niha Empire, annai ma sangan na debi di u guaha statue gi kada songsong para i mandeserters siha. Hunggan, hu tungo' na meggaiggaiggai ma sasangan put i minaolek i manhanao yan manggera, lao debi di lokkue' ta honra i ti manhanao, ayu na taotao ni' sumangan ahe'. Ti mismo mangkubatde siha. Lao para kada na rason na sina un alok na maolek pat guailayi i gera, guaha ga'chochong-na na rason na ahe' ti maolek.
It was also very refreshing meeting peace activists from Japan.
As someone living on Guam, I see plenty of Japanese people all the time, and as someone who spends every Wednesday night at the Chamorro Village in Hagatna, I interact with Japanese people all the time. Of course, with the exception of talking to Mr. Ken Haga, who does historical and cultural tours of the island and publishes a tourist magazine which actually talks about issues such as the military buildup, the Japanese that I interact with appear to be in an almost perfect bubble. We can blame both them and ourselves for these bubbles. The collective desire amongst Japanese after World War II to forget and bury their imperial and military sins, has led to a very formative whitewash of their history. A whitewash so effective and complete, it is most likely the envy of other nation's with violent pasts, who can't seem to get their ghosts busted so easily. Japanese tourists can come to Guam and have no idea that Japan was ever here, and absolutely no idea that Japan ever came, bombed the island, occupied it, killed hundreds of Chamorros before the US returned.
But, since the birth of Guam's tourism industry, we've also helped enable this particular whitewash of history on Guam, as well as a generation marketing whitewash. For several generations, Guam was regularly portrayed to the Japanese market, as a poor man's version of other places. A paradise island, so close, yet still with flavors of the United States. A place where one could relax, shop, watch Polynesian dancers, and practice your English. Its only the past two decades that Guam has made an effort to market itself to Japan, as Guam and not someplace else, where tourists wish they could go to instead (lao ti nahong i salapen-niha).

The focus of any tourist economy and society which defines itself by performing and catering to outsiders, is always this mix of putting on your best face, showcasing your best parts, but also hiding away and making sure no one can see any ugliness or any discomfort. If Chamorro or decolonization activists on Guam were criticizing the tourism industry more, or calling for Japanese to stop coming to Guam, or if the sentiments of Chamorros from the 1960's when Japanese tourists first started visiting Guam had remained instead of fizzling out, then you can bet this island would have more laws or harsher penalties for protesting and speaking out. Activists would be another one of those things on the list that Bert Unpingco and Guam Visitor's Bureau hate. We would be right up there at the top next to dirty bathrooms, litter and stray dogs. Naturally, the result is that Guam's current relationship to Japan and to Japanese people is about as fake and superficial as it can get. It is all based just on the idea that the Japanese have money in the pockets of their Hawaiian print shirts, or in their fanny packs that we must take from them. It is almost completely devoid of any of the other ways, both historically and today that we are bound together.

This means that the whole history of Japanese colonialism in Guam is non-existent, but it also means that any knowledge about the relationship between Guam and Japan in terms of the relocation of US Marines is also absent. But part of this reason is not simply because we are pushing the issue, but would be for the same reason that most people from the United States who might visit Guam would have no idea either. The majority of Japan's US military presence is in Okinawa, much for the same reason that so much of it is in Guam and Hawai'i. They are far away, both geographically and in the mind, and they are both communities who can more excitedly accept the idea of themselves and their lives, their economies, their lands, being dominated by the US military and its interests. If any "mainland" state or area of Japan had to shoulder the percentage of military presence that these islands had to, they might have a very different perception of it.

So meeting with people from Japan, who weren't as interested in dances, shopping or going to a shooting gallery, but wanted to know more about how Guam will be affected by the drastic increases in population and military infrastructure that are coming was a fantastic experience. I'm posting below one of the articles that Ann Wright wrote after the visit, and also a Marianas Variety piece about it.
Speaking more on this issue, don't forget that next month, Guam is hosting the 7th Meeting of the International Network of Women Against Militarism. The conference blog can be found here. There isn't much there yet, but there soon will be.

*********************

Published on Monday, August 17, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
Guam Resists Military Colonization
Having No Say When Washington Tries to Increase your Population by 25%
by Ann Wright

The United States and the Chinese governments have some remarkable similarities when it comes to colonization. The Chinese government has sent a huge Han population to inhabit Tibet and overwhelm the Tibetan population, even building the world's highest railway to get people and materials there.
The United States government, with virtually no consultation with the local government and citizens, is increasing the population of its non-voting territory, Guam, by 25%. 8,000 U.S. Marines, their dependents and associated logistics units and personnel-a total of 42,000 new residents-will be moved to the small Pacific island (barely three times the size of Washington, DC) that has a current population of 175,000. The move will have a tremendous impact on the cultural and social identity of the island.

These military forces are being relocated to Guam, in great measure, because of the "Close US Military Bases" campaign organized by citizen activists in Okinawa, Japan. The United States has had a huge military presence there since the end of World War II.

I thought I was reasonably well-informed about America's interests in the Pacific. I had worked as a US diplomat in Micronesia for two years and travelled many times through Guam, a US territory, located an 8 hour flight west of Honolulu.

But earlier this month, in Guam on a study tour sponsored by a coalition of Japanese peace activists spearheaded by CODEPINK-Osaka, Japan, which included a former member of the Japanese Diet (Parliament), I learned new aspects of the decision to relocate this large number of U.S. military to Guam.

Guam was first colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s, became a US colony in 1898, a war-trophy from the Spanish-American war and served as a stopover for ships travelling to the Philippines. During World War II, Guam was attacked and occupied by Japan on December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. American citizens living on the island had been evacuated by the United States government before the attack, but the indigenous Chamorro population was left behind. During the 31 months of Japanese occupation, the Chamorros endured forced labor, concentration camps, forced prostitution, rape and execution by the Japanese military. The United States military returned three and one-half years later on July 21, 1944 to retake Guam.

In 1950, Guam was made an "unincorporated territory" of the United States by a US Congressional act and residents were given US as one of 16 "non-self governing territories" left in the world.

Lands were taken after World War II from the native Chamorro population without compensation by the US military to construct major air and naval bases which the US military still uses. Currently, there are 3,000 US Air Force and 2,000 US Navy personnel and 1,000 employees of other federal security agencies assigned to Guam.

Three Guam legislators told us that the Guam government has not been properly consulted in the discussions between the US and Japanese governments on the relocation of the large US Marine force. Guam officials have been given little firm information about the military expansion plans. They are very concerned about the impact of further militarization of their island as its major income is provided by hundreds of thousands of Japanese tourists who visit the tropical island annually.

They are disturbed by rumors of proposed forced condemnation of another 950 acres of land owned by members of the native Chamorro population for a live fire range for the incoming Marines. Residues of Agent Orange left from the Vietnam War and other toxic wastes from the military bases, plus the possibility that artillery shells and other munitions made from depleted uranium will be used on their island, are all sources of concern for the people of Guam.

In order to get the 8,000 US Marines out of Okinawa, the Japanese government is paying $6 billion to the US government for their relocation. Guam officials are concerned that not enough of the relocation funds will be made available for the large infrastructure improvements that will be needed for the island's roads, water, sewage and electrical systems as it tries to support a 25% increase in population. They feel the military will take care of its bases but may leave the local population struggling with the new infrastructure problems created by the large number of military personnel.

The Japanese people, too, are in the dark about the details of the billions of dollars they will pay the US government to have US forces leave Japan. Japanese members of our delegation were shocked when they learned from local Guam activists that the relocation budget calls for the Japanese government to pay $650,000 for the construction of each new house on the base, while Guam activists told us the cost of a middle class home on Guam is around $250,000. The Japanese delegation was greatly concerned that their government is funding such inflated projects and is going to raise the budget with Japanese Diet members when they return to Japan.

Of concern to the Guam business community is consideration by US House of Representatives law makers to give Japanese contractors the same access as American firms to bidding on contracts worth more than $2.5 billion in upcoming US military construction projects on Guam. Apparently, the Japanese government, like the US government, likes to have its commercial firms benefit from government aid projects it is funding "overseas." With Japan's $6 billion contribution to the $10 billion cost of relocating the Marines, Japan wants some of that money returned to Japan through construction contracts on the Guam infrastructure projects.

Many Guam officials and a large number of Guam citizens are deeply concerned about the cultural, economic and security impact of the dramatic increase in population and militarization of their island the relocation would present. The current cultural divide of those living in relative luxury inside the bases with better housing, schools and services has been a source of friction between the US military and the local population over the years.

Guam officials said that they too have been perturbed about the extraordinarily high expenditures on US military base facilities, when the Government of Guam is strapped financially. The officials said they were amazed and horrified when they learned that the Air Force recently built an on-base animal kennel for $27 million, with each animal space costing $100,000, when locally, the government is unable to provide sufficient infrastructure for its citizens, much less animals.

Professors and students at the University of Guam expressed concern that there will be a sharp increase in sexual assault and rape on the island due to the relocation of US Marines. They believe one of the reasons the Japanese government finally was able to get the US government to move some military forces out of Okinawa was because of major citizen mobilizations that occurred in response to rapes by US military personnel.

In 2008, the US Ambassador to Japan had to fly to Okinawa to give his apologies for the rape of a 14 year old girl by a US Marine. The US military forces on Okinawa had a 3 day stand-down for "reflection" and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to express her "regrets" to the Japanese Prime Minister "for the terrible incident that happened in Okinawa... we are concerned for the well-being of the young girl and her family."

In April, 2008, U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Tyrone Hadnott, 38, who had been in the Marines 18 years, was charged with the February 10, 2008, rape of 14 year old girl, abusive sexual contact with a child, making a false official statement, adultery and kidnapping.

On May 17, 2008, Hadnott was found guilty of abusive sexual conduct and the four other charges were dropped. Hadnott was sentenced to four years in prison, but will only serve a maximum of three years in prison due to a pretrial agreement that suspended the fourth year of the sentence. He was reduced to private and given a dishonorable discharge from the US Marines.

The rape accusation against Hadnott stirred memories of a brutal rape more than a decade ago and triggered outrage across Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said that Hadnott's actions were "unforgivable."

There are US Congressional stirrings of concern about the relocation of the Marines to Guam. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee chair Ike Skelton has raised concerns about the size, scope and cost of the move to Guam. "At over $10 billion (two and one-half times the initial cost estimate of $4 billion), it is an enormous project, and I am concerned that the thinking behind it is not yet sufficiently mature," Skelton said at a recent Congressional hearing. "We need to do this, but it needs to be done right."

In a challenge to US military "forward deployment" strategy in Asia and the Pacific, Guam activists strongly feel the US military should relocate large forces to the mainland of the US where there presence can be better absorbed by the greater populations and existing large military bases, rather than to their small Pacific island.

However, the US federal government seldom takes into account local feelings about their projects, particularly military projects in a region far removed from the Washington power center.

Guam activists want their voices heard and respected and not to be treated as merely residents of a colony of the United States.

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience." (www.voicesofconscience.com)

******************************

Former U.S. envoy backs Guam sentiments on buildup
Friday, 21 August 2009 00:25
by Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Marianas Variety News Staff
TAKING up the cudgels for local activists, former U.S. ambassador and retired Army colonel Ann Wright assailed the federal government for shutting out the local population in the planning process for the U.S. Marines’ relocation from Okinawa to Guam.

Ann Wright
“The U.S. federal government seldom takes into account local feelings about their projects, particularly military projects in a region far removed from the Washington power center,” Wright writes in an article titled “Guam resists military colonization” posted on CommonDreams.org.

“Guam activists want their voices heard and respected and not to be treated as merely residents of a colony of the United States,” said Wright, who accompanied members of the Japanese peace activist group Code Pink-Osaka during a fact-finding mission on Guam last month.

Wright said her visit to Guam has given her new perspectives about the Department of Defense’s plan for the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam.

“Three Guam legislators told us that the Guam government has not been properly consulted in the discussions between the U.S. and Japanese governments on the relocation of the large US Marine force,” Wright said. “Guam officials have been given little firm information about the military expansion plans.”

Anti-war
Wright is an outspoken critic of the Iraq war. Over the course of her diplomatic career that began in 1987, Wright served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassies in Afghanistan.

On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003, Wright sent her resignation letter to then State Secretary Collin Powell, saying she could no longer work for the U.S. government under the Bush administration. Wright quit her job in protest over the U.S. invasion of Iraq without sanction from the U.N. Security Council.

Now taking up the Guam military buildup case, Wright lashed at the U.S. for its plan to deploy thousands of troops to Guam “with virtually no consultation with the local government and citizens.”

Guam concerns
“Professors and students at the University of Guam expressed concern that there will be a sharp increase in sexual assault and rape on the island due to the relocation of US Marines,” she wrote. “They believe one of the reasons the Japanese government finally was able to get the U.S. government to move some military forces out of Okinawa was because of major citizen mobilizations that occurred in response to rapes by U.S. military personnel.”

The $10 billion relocation cost will be subsidized by the Japanese government, which has pledged to shoulder $6 billion, a commitment that was cemented in the Guam International Agreement signed in February.

“The Japanese people, too, are in the dark about the details of the billions of dollars they will pay the U.S. government to have US forces leave Japan,” Wright said.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Act of Decolonization #14: Sota i Manmapongle

As I wrote in my master's thesis in Ethnic Studies, sometimes the key to making decolonization possible, is simply being able to talk about it without one's brain exploding. It is about talking about what sorts of rational things would happen if Guam changed its political status and its political relationship to the United States. As Guam is mired in the decolonial deadlock, most resist vehemently the idea of Guam being decolonized, or being changed at that level. They resist discussing decolonization to keep things from changing, to prevent and preclude even those discussions.

Often times, the strategies in order to prevent the discussion of decolonization from taking place, is to ask questions. They appear on the surface like serious questions, they can be about health care, economy, defense. They are all tied to things which are thought to be essential to life, basic things, and all the person appears to be doing on the surface is asking questions about how things would function or what would people do if some sort of drastic political change took place.

The surface of these interventions are covered with the innocence of a question, but as I've often discovered, no matter how you respond, the question was never meant to meet a response, it was never meant to be answered, but asked only to make clear and obvious that nothing should change, nothing can change. So when someone asks, "how would we run an economy with the United States?" they don't really want to know the answers to the question, but their question already assumes that there is nothing that can be done outside of the United States. The question is asked in such a way that it is meant to provoke an affirmative response, one which totally agrees with the obvious commonsense of the question. "Of course there's nothing we could do economically without the United States!" Its not a real question, but one asked precisely to prevent the actual considering of the question they are asking.

I recall numerous interactions over the years, when the issue of Guam's possible independence comes up, where this was exactly the case. Where a discussion was taking place about whether or not independence was feasible, and in order to try to dispel my claims, I am branded as an idealist, gaige i ilo-hu gi i mapagahes, somebody who has plenty of dreams, but no real plans. Thus, in order to defeat me they start asking those deadlock style questions, meant to appear as if they are merely part of the debate, when in reality, they are meant to stifle it. Hoping to seal the deal and place the final few nails in my coffin, they will start talking about the mechanics of independence, how would utilities work? How would school work? How can we defend ourselves with just BBQ tongs and sling stones? How can we manage our resources when Chamorros destroy their island and leave trash and broken cars everywhere?

The Guam military as fighting off foreign invaders with BBQ implements and Ancient Chamorro artifacts is a particularly common and instructive remark. It really shows how little Guam trusts itself. People may say its a few radicals, racists, or politicians that they don't really trust, but their resistance to talking about the idea of Guam supporting or sustaining or determining itself, all stems from the idea that Chamorros and others on Guam, cannot function, cannot control themselves, cannot handle anything unless Uncle Sam is looking over their shoulder, or they are using to govern and manage themselves with things perceived to come from Uncle Sam.


In any colonial situation, there are divisions that pierce each and every person as well as the world around them. The world is divided into things that belong to the colonizer and that are stuck to the colonized. There is no single way these things are divided, some things signify multiple things, are claimed by different people, but in a colony which is not in the throes of a decolonial struggle, the world tends to be divided by positive and negative, with the colonizer on one side and the colonized on the other. The things which the colonizer claims are those which provide order, progress, which run the world, make it safe, make it successful, which can stand on their own. Those which stick to the colonized are the ones which may be beautiful and exotic, but don't provide security, safety or prosperity, they don't provide order, in fact if you leave things to them, things fall apart, there is nothing but chaos.


From this perspective in Guam, most people resist decolonization because it appears to be letting the particular take over for the universal, letting the chaos overturn order, letting the crazy, lazy useless Chamorro take over what the hardworking American has built for Guam.


So although people may ask someone like myself, what sort of plans I have for decolonization, they often times never hear me, they can't hear me, because in their minds, there can be no plans. It is simply not possible, it goes against the fabric of reality. But it is for this reason, that the mere planning, the mere discussing of decolonization and what it might entail, can be a radical act. It dares to imagine the possible order in this chaos that all assume. It provides very common sense answers to the insane questions that people ask or assume. A Guam military need not fight with slingstones, a Chamorro or a decolonized Guam need not be limited only to those things which aren't "modern" or aren't "American." A decolonized Guam or a decolonized Chamorro represents a blending of the past and the present, a blending of new and old ideas, a claiming and reclaiming of things, all not for the benefit of the United States, but rather Guam.


It is for this reason, that I was glad to find the letter to the editor of The Marianas Variety pasted below. It takes this position and argues it very well. It lays out that decolonization in a political sense has nothing to do with returning to the past, but rather staking a claim, in your own name, for your own benefit to the future. Part of that claim might be reviving or revitalizing things, it might be upsetting the current order a little bit, it will mean thinking clearly about what you can do, what you should do, free from the idea that the current moment, the current way in which the world is perceived, should be the only way things can be done.

********************************

Guam on its own
Monday, 10 August 2009
Letter to the Editor

THIS is the picture of an independent Guam that I have in my mind. The United States keeps Anderson Air Force Base here simply as a military outpost in the Pacific and as our security. All other lands in military inventories are reverted to GovGuam, being distributed and used at our discretion.

American dollar remains to be our currency, like other independent Pacific nations that have this form of security and currency arrangement. With a stable government and currency comes investors’ confidence. All existing free enterprises continue. All jobs are retained. Mortgages and bills get paid. Now we invest in our selves.

We can take advantage of our proximity to the ocean. We can invest and develop the following initiatives:

A storage facility to accommodate fish harvests from the entire Micronesian region;
A fish cannery;
A transit point for distribution of Micronesian fish to the world;
A fueling and replenishment point for the fishing fleets. In addition to fueling, vessels can replenish supplies such as food, fishing inventory and labor.

Because of our proximity to Micronesia and Asia, these ideas are feasible and will stimulate the development of more businesses. Thousands of new jobs will be created and new monies will be infused into our economy. With new monies we will live better.

Our hospital, utilities, roads, trash and other services will be better maintained. And the domino effect will touch individual lives.

I am not talking about going back to coconut huts and grass skirts. We can leave those for the tourists to marvel at. I like my computer, cell phone, the mall, movies and my car, but I also feel that it is our destiny as a people to decide our fate, for better or worse. It is our birth right.

Caged things must be set free at some point. As with our children, even with all our investment, time and love, there comes the time when we have to let them seek their own path.

Ben “Sinahi” del Rosario
Mangilao

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taya Este Simana

Despensa yu', but there probably won't be much on this blog for the next few days. I'm starting teaching at UOG in a few hours and so things will be crazy as I finalize my syllabi (syllabuses) and try to familiarize myself with how to teach English Composition ( in addition to the Guam History classes I'm teaching).
I will be back soon though, as there is simply too much going on out there, to not be writing and blogging about it!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I'm F**k**g My Dissertation

Contrary to the rumors that are circulating that I'm already done with my Ph.D. I still have some revisions left to do. Ti dinagi este, lao ti mismo munhayan yu'. I did defend in June, and I did walk in my graduation, but there is still one more big hurdle na bai hu tayoki in order to finish.

As for the revisions, to say that the past month or so of writing has been frustrating is very kind, and is nowhere close to expressing my actual feelings. Some of the revisions are good and will make the dissertation more solid and improve it, others are tedious and I loathe or resist because of the way they came primarily from an antagonistic committee member at my defense. But still I'm forcing myself to work and to write. But its difficult to find time to write for hours or days at a time (especially now that I'm back in Guam). So my writing comes in (as my male' Nicole calls them) chunks. Small or large pieces of time here and there. Maybe a page, a paragraph of something here, and then there. No ripping out hair and yelling at a blank document or an unfinished sentences or thought for hours. You take lots of breaks, do other things, come back and try and finish up the next thought.

Although it feels slow, I've often found that this works much better. Especially since the wording or the phrasing or the argument that I was seeking in angry frustration when I was in front of the computer, will often pop into my head out of nowhere, when I'm doing something else.

Returning to work, after doing something else or taking a break can often be difficult and sometimes returning to work on my laptop will entail nothing near my dissertation, but instead amount to blogging, writing emails, reading progressive blogs or sifting through my old files to see if there's anything that I can just cut and paste from so I don't need to produce any new original thoughts.

What I've found that works in order to get me into the mood for writing again, is to watch funny videos on Youtube. If I can find a video that puts a smile on my face or makes me laugh out loud, then before my smile fades off, I've opened up the draft I'm working on and started reading and writing where I've left off. Ti hu tungo' i mina'taiguini yu', lao taya' guaha. Maolekna na gaitiningo' put Hagu ya estranu, kinu taitiningo' put Hagu ya pues taya' kinemprende lokkue'.

These two videos are from a year or two ago, but damn ,they still make me laugh and for some reason help me work on my dissertation.





The whole "I'm F**k**g Matt Damon" and I'm F**k**g Ben Affleck" fight was epic. The first video by Sarah Silvermann is hysterical, but the response by Jimmy Kimmel and Ben Affleck was grandiosely hysterical. The gathering of famous and semi-famous people to stand together and sing in unison about the sexual intercourse that Ben Affleck and Jimmy Kimmel are having, in the style of We Are the World is somewhat offensive, but horribly funny!

My favorite part of the entire cameo filled video is when out of nowhere, Lance Bass formerly of the band N'sync suddenly asks what Huey Lewis thinks and whether or not he saw the couple doing it. Cameron Diaz confirms that such an inquiry is a kosher one, and then proceeds to ask Huey what he saw. Huey, with all the soul and power of love that he can muster, belts out that he did indeed see the two in question making love to each other in a bathroom stall.
Macy Gray: He’s f**k**g Ben…Ben Affleck’s his guy.

Joel Madden and Benji Madden: Oh, it’s through the f**k**g night and day…

Lance Bass: Just ask Huey!

Cameron Diaz: Okay, I’ll ask him Huey, did you see them f**k at all?

Huey Luis: Yes, I saw them f**k. They were in a bathroom stall.
These sorts of arrangements where each celeb gets a line or two are so funny, because if you've got a big ego and only a few words or notes to display it, you put everything into it. When you're making a parody of We are the World, it gets even better, as the video shows.

That reminds me, better get back to writing!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Republican Death Trip

Published on Friday, August 14, 2009 by The New York Times
Republican Death Trip
by Paul Krugman

“I am in this race because I don’t want to see us spend the next year re-fighting the Washington battles of the 1990s. I don’t want to pit Blue America against Red America; I want to lead a United States of America.” So declared Barack Obama in November 2007, making the case that Democrats should nominate him, rather than one of his rivals, because he could free the nation from the bitter partisanship of the past.

Some of us were skeptical. A couple of months after Mr. Obama gave that speech, I warned that his vision of a “different kind of politics” was a vain hope, that any Democrat who made it to the White House would face “an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false.”

So, how’s it going?

Sure enough, President Obama is now facing the same kind of opposition that President Bill Clinton had to deal with: an enraged right that denies the legitimacy of his presidency, that eagerly seizes on every wild rumor manufactured by the right-wing media complex.

This opposition cannot be appeased. Some pundits claim that Mr. Obama has polarized the country by following too liberal an agenda. But the truth is that the attacks on the president have no relationship to anything he is actually doing or proposing.

Right now, the charge that’s gaining the most traction is the claim that health care reform will create “death panels” (in Sarah Palin’s words) that will shuffle the elderly and others off to an early grave. It’s a complete fabrication, of course. The provision requiring that Medicare pay for voluntary end-of-life counseling was introduced by Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican — yes, Republican — of Georgia, who says that it’s “nuts” to claim that it has anything to do with euthanasia.

And not long ago, some of the most enthusiastic peddlers of the euthanasia smear, including Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, and Mrs. Palin herself, were all for “advance directives” for medical care in the event that you are incapacitated or comatose. That’s exactly what was being proposed — and has now, in the face of all the hysteria, been dropped from the bill.

Yet the smear continues to spread. And as the example of Mr. Gingrich shows, it’s not a fringe phenomenon: Senior G.O.P. figures, including so-called moderates, have endorsed the lie.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is one of these supposed moderates. I’m not sure where his centrist reputation comes from — he did, after all, compare critics of the Bush tax cuts to Hitler. But in any case, his role in the health care debate has been flat-out despicable.

Last week, Mr. Grassley claimed that his colleague Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor wouldn’t have been treated properly in other countries because they prefer to “spend money on people who can contribute more to the economy.” This week, he told an audience that “you have every right to fear,” that we “should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.”

Again, that’s what a supposedly centrist Republican, a member of the Gang of Six trying to devise a bipartisan health plan, sounds like.

So much, then, for Mr. Obama’s dream of moving beyond divisive politics. The truth is that the factors that made politics so ugly in the Clinton years — the paranoia of a significant minority of Americans and the cynical willingness of leading Republicans to cater to that paranoia — are as strong as ever. In fact, the situation may be even worse than it was in the 1990s because the collapse of the Bush administration has left the G.O.P. with no real leaders other than Rush Limbaugh.

The question now is how Mr. Obama will deal with the death of his postpartisan dream.

So far, at least, the Obama administration’s response to the outpouring of hate on the right has had a deer-in-the-headlights quality. It’s as if officials still can’t wrap their minds around the fact that things like this can happen to people who aren’t named Clinton, as if they keep expecting the nonsense to just go away.

What, then, should Mr. Obama do? It would certainly help if he gave clearer and more concise explanations of his health care plan. To be fair, he’s gotten much better at that over the past couple of weeks.

What’s still missing, however, is a sense of passion and outrage — passion for the goal of ensuring that every American gets the health care he or she needs, outrage at the lies and fear-mongering that are being used to block that goal.

So can Mr. Obama, who can be so eloquent when delivering a message of uplift, rise to the challenge of unreasoning, unappeasable opposition? Only time will tell.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Paul Krugman is professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University and a regular columnist for The New York Times. Krugman was the 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics. He is the author of numerous books, including The Conscience of A Liberal, and his most recent, The Return of Depression Economics.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Open Veins Beneath the Border

For years while I was living in San Diego, I became accustomed to having "the border" or the border between the United States, California, San Diego and Mexico be a central part of my life and its conversations. Although I was never the most knowledgeable person on border issues, during my time in Ethnic Studies, I read a few books, got to hear from faculty who do the research, heard plenty of stories. As the border represented one of those gaping wounds, that a nation attempts to cover over, by putting police, military units, fences, drones, it was also an ideal intellectual site for talking about issues of violence, the issues of race, citizenship, trade, transnationalism, health.

But at the same time, living in San Diego, so many of these issues were not academic, because the communities were literally right there. As I went to different activist meetings or social justice events, I would hear even more stories and meet more people, who live in the "shadow of the border" in San Diego, meaning regardless of whether or not their are undocumented, they are often treated as if they crossed the fence yesterday.

The creation of any community is all about borders, the masking of some, the policing of others. So in some ways, San Diego is built around its identity as being on the border. You use the border to get money, to militarize the police, to scare people, to talk about the humanitarian core of the American people, to talk about a line of hardship and trauma from which the American dream can be made, to mark the terrain where the chaos of the third world begins. But as in any place, you also mask other borders. You make invisible ways in which communities are divided or stratified. The divisions, the economic and racial fault lines have to be hidden, especially in order to create the image of any location as a model or democratic, equality-loving community.

I remember in 2007 when there was a series of nasty fires in the San Diego area, alot of the violence that goes into stratifying society in San Diego came to the surface, even though the media and people in the city did as much as they possibly could to repress it. Media reports in Qualcomm Stadium or other shelters touted as Governor Arnold did, that California is no Katrina. That unlike New Orleans, San Diego and California know how to take care of people. They know how to pull together, work together and make sure everyone is okay. The coverage was so laudatory and gross at times that my department in Ethnic Studies put together a forum on it, wrote an official departmental statement, students wrote different blog posts, and then supporting all this was a web of frustrated emails.

You see, while the media was reporting that there was an abundance of food in all shelters, that San Diego's generosity was really visible today, that everything was going to be okay, you had a wealth of unseen and unacknowledged acts of racism, most all directed to those who are defined in San Diego by a perceived relationship to that border. There were stories of people who looked or were Hispanic being chased away from shelters because they were "illegal." There were reports of ICE patrolling neighbors looking for undocumented people as the fires were ravaging and areas had already been evacuated. For undocumented communities on the outskirts of San Diego, there was no aid, no help.

Any emergency tends to push up for all to see, the order of things, the hierarchies of social value, which often have alot to do with race. An emergency is a moment where the state and where individuals have to draw the lines, and decide who counts, and who doesn't? Who can we afford to help, who can we not? How can some obscene or extreme plan that we've been thinking about, at last be (unfortunately) implemented?

Like any border, those who make it and defend it always assert that it has some eternal presence, that it has always been there and must always remain. The permanence of the border is a relatively recent invention. In previous eras, migratory workers from Mexico crossed the border for work and then returned. Besides, the US-Mexico border provides a very easy and simplistic way of viewing the relationship between the United States and Mexico (and to some extent the rest of Central and Latin America). It provides a metaphor which has the simultaneous impact of providing a source of tension and anxiety for those who want to protect the purity or the whiteness of the US nation, but also provide a metaphor of struggle for those who want to articulate the sheer greatness of the American dream, to use the border to talk about the grandess and promise of it, that they would risk life itself just to get to US soil. Relationships between nations, for instance in terms of economics, get reduced to this almost childlike understanding of the world, where Mexico has no money, no jobs and no opportunity, America has them and so that's why they come to the United States. The lure of the border, in this sense, is due to the ways it can allow the "Open Veins of Latin America" thesis to go completely unread. Imperialism and neo-liberalism are replaced with the American dream. How convenient.

Now that I'm Guam though, thoughts of this particular border are often far from my mind. I'm not free from borders, Guam has plenty of them. Military fences everywhere. Walls between different Micronesia groups. Ethnic groups. Borders of privilege and power. But what brought me back to thinking about the US-Mexico border was a letter that a friend of mine from Ethnic Studies, Traci, put on her blog Frankie's Rides and Tirades. Its a letter written to California Senator Barbara Boxer, about the issue of militarization of the border titled "Treating border violence with...more violence."

*******************************

Dear Senator Boxer,

Thank you for the email update I recently received from your office, dated July 23, 2009. This email indicates your enthusiasm to report to me that San Diego County will be the recipient of $5 million from the Department of Justice for the creation of something with the ominous acronym BUST--the Border Uniformed Suppression Team.
As a longtime San Diego resident, who has been quite attentive to the problems related to drugs and violence on and across our southern border, I would like to say plainly: NO THANKS. As your email notes, the "drug problem" is at its root a problem of drug use; therefore this money should be spent on prevention and treatment of drug addiction here in the US. Instead, this BUST policy operates under the wrongheaded conviction that an escalation of the violence and guns on the border will somehow help the problem. The San Diego-Tijuana region is quite well armed as it is--we do not benefit from policy that escalates the tenor of conflict in the region, nor the eventual proliferation of weaponry that always attends these kinds of arms races.

As my representative in the US Senate, I implore you to fight rather than support this kind of misguided policy. We do not need more guns on our border. We need sympathetic, nonviolent policy that sees community development, cross-border cooperation, public health, and drug-use prevention as the primary pathways to healing the border region.

Yours,
Traci Brynne Voyles
University of California, San Diego

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