Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Buildup/Breakdown #12: Gambatte!

"Demand, don't ask."

This is something that people have been telling Guam's leaders for years now about the military buildup, that being assertive is a far better strategy than being coy or meek. A group of Japanese Diet members who came to Guam last week, helped remind Guam's leaders of that simple fact. Given the magnitude of what the US military is planning for Guam, there is no room to be shy or whimpy about this. There is really no point in that, sen taibali ayu na hinasso.
For years, Camacho's approach to the military buildup was filtered through that stupid idea that emerged after the closures of US bases on Guam in the early 1990's and the activism of the same period: that Guam might be pathetic and powerless most of the time, but it somehow has this strange, bewildering ability to hurt the military's feelings and chase them away. Although Camacho and others who supported the buildup since it was first announced, would always speak of the buildup through a mystical fog of inevitability, and that no matter what we do, it will happen, and so we can either work with it or ignore it, there was always one key way in which they imagined that somehow Guam did have a say in this. The secret power, the secret say that Guam did have, was not one to be bragged about, but rather one to be feared. Although Guam did not have the power to say no, or make any demands about the buildup, the nervousness and fear in which many leaders such as Camacho and Congresswoman Bordallo spoke of the buildup, reflected the fact that Guam's power in the moment, was not that it could say no, but rather that it could screw the whole thing up and keep it from happening.

The inability of so many Guam leaders to not stand up earlier and not take any concrete action with regards to stopping, stalling or redirecting this buildup was because of that shared belief that the only power Guam had here was something that it didn't want. There was a fear, that if Guam were to act the way it had before, the anti-Federales rhetoric and the constant critiques of the military presence, then the US might just decide to not send the Marines to Guam.

That's the philosophy in Chamorro of being ekpe', of being prone to only destroy, to knock things over, to cause accidents, to screw things up. It is absolutely not a position of strength, but one where you always see yourself as only being able to mess things up, and never create or build yourself up. With all the metaphors of massive change and destruction being brought to Guam by 2014, we end up weakening ourselves even more by seeing ourselves through this lens.

Instead, we need to be thinking and acting based on the idea that we can make decisions for ourselves and that we can be trusted to take care of ourselves. To think of this from a colonial perspective, that fundamental belief in the inferiority and inadequacy of the colonized people, will keep them (even in their own minds) forever dependent upon the colonizer for everything. Even if the colonizer, his minions and his flag leave the colonies, so long as that dependency remains, so long as the colonized think of themselves through that idea of them being manekpe' and not manmetgot, they will remain colonized. This is the desire which keeps most postcolonies or formerly colonized territories stagnant and unable to progress, is that nostalgia for the order and the prosperity that the colonies once had, when their former master was in charge.

Robert Underwood in his article "Red, Whitewash and Blue: Painting Over the Chamorro Experience" makes a very good argument, that for generations after World War II, Chamorros played the loyal brown dupe card in order to help develop their island and get Federal funds to do it. They weren't really these superpatriotic, almost brainwashed people, but relied on that narrative in order to establish a place of power for themselves in relation to the United States. In later work Underwood would enhance this argument, by stating that this was particularly effective for the first four decades after World War II, when both houses of Congress were full of WWII vets, for whom that story of Chamorro loyalty and gratitude had great resonance.

In Guam's case now however, performing that same subservient, quiet and always respectful role is most likely not the best course of action. Keeping your mouth shut, or remaining glued to your chair out of fear that if you say or do anything, Uncle Sam will take his basket full of Federal dollars away from you is no way to live. They say that you should not bite the hand that feeds you, ti debi di un akka' i kannai ni' muna'boboka hao (pat muna'la'la'la' hao). But the truth is that you only ever truly live, by doing precisely that, by daring to rattle or break the chains that everyone around you says cannot and must not be broken. And Guam, in terms of this military buildup will (depending on your perspective) only survive this buildup, or benefit from this buildup, if it learns that lesson and dares to speak up, assert itself and bite Uncle Sam's hand.

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Japanese parliamentarian advises Guam to be more assertive
by Mar-Vic Cagurangan
2/11/10
Marianas Variety

BOTH the U.S. and Japanese governments have equal responsibilities to respond to every issue raised by Guam pertaining to the Marines’ relocation, but the people of the island must learn to be more assertive, according to Japanese parliamentarian Mikio Shimoji.

“Don’t ask, don’t say ‘please;’ demand,” Shimoji said in an interview with Variety last night. “It is very important that the people of Guam speak out and stand up for their rights. If you don’t say anything, nothing will happen.”

Shimoji doesn’t dismiss the possibility of Guam officials directly approaching the Japanese government for assistance.

When asked if the Japanese parliament would respond accordingly to Guam’s request for a portion of Japan’s $6 billion allocation for troop realignment, Shimoji replied, “Why not?”

He said “it is a mistake” on the part of the U.S. government to ignore the cost that will be incurred by the local community as a result of the military buildup.

“The U.S. government clearly said that they are not enthusiastic about doing anything outside the fence. It is wrong,” Shimoji said through an interpreter.

“You must continue to raise your voice; it’s not too late. You have the right to raise your voice to the government of Japan, as well,” he added.

DELEGATION

Shimoji is the chief of the policy making board of the New People’s Party, one of the partners in Japan’s center-left ruling coalition.
He is among the members of the Japanese Diet who arrived on Guam last night to assess the island’s situation and evaluate its capacity to handle the over 8,000 Marines and 10,000 dependents who will be relocated from Okinawa to Guam.

He was accompanied by fellow House members Abe Tomoko, Hattori Ryoichi and Yokota Syozo, who all represent the Social Democratic Party.

The Japanese delegation met last night with Speaker Judi Won Pat and Sen. Tina Muউa-Barnes during a dinner reception hosted by Ken Haga, president of the US. Explore & Study, Inc. at the Holiday Resort.

“Our sentiment three years ago is not the same as our sentiment today,” Won Pat told the Japanese parliamentarians. “Three years, the community might be pro-buildup, but that sentiment has changed after realizing its impact based on what we have read in the draft environmental impact statement,” Won Pat said.

Shimoji assured Won Pat and Muña-Barnes that the size of the troops that will be relocated to Guam will be not be bigger than what was agreed upon in the 2006 accord between the U.S. and Japan.

“We appreciate Guam for accepting the Marines who will be removed from Okinawa. This is why the Japanese government has a responsibility to listen to the people of Guam,” Shimoji said. “We will make sure that the forces that will be relocated to Guam are no bigger than what will be left in Japan.”

PARALLELISM

“I’m beginning to understand Guam’s situation more,” Shimoji said, as he noted the parallelism between Guam and Okinawa, which are both geographically and politically isolated.

“Guam will now be sharing the burden of Okinawa,” he said.

As to the lack of military transparency on the planning process for Guam buildup, Shimoji recalled that Okinawa experienced the same exclusion when the U.S. bases were in the process of being installed on the island. “The U.S. did not disclose the process,” he said.

“So, it’s history repeating itself,” Barnes said.

“We can’t let history repeat itself. We have to join forces to prevent it from happening again,” Shimoji said.

The delegation is scheduled to visit the base facilities today before meeting Gov. Felix P. Camacho at 2 p.m., but the Japanese officials said they are willing to cancel some of their appointments so they can meet with members of the legislature today. They are leaving tonight.




No More Troops
Friday, 12 February 2010 03:52 by Therese Hart
Marianas Variety
Japanese officials given copy of ‘sentiment’ resolution

LAWMAKERS yesterday unanimously passed a resolution that reiterates the island residents’ sentiments on the military’s draft environmental impact statement, which they consider “grossly flawed.”

Visiting members of Japan’s House of Representatives assured senators that there will be no additional troops that will be deployed to Guam beyond the number originally agreed upon between The United States and Japan.

Senator Rory Respicio, author of Resolution 275, described the legislature’s action as a tremendous victory for the people of Guam. He said the resolution reflects months of input based on the review of the draft impact report.

“The legislature’s approach to this military buildup is that we have to represent the people’s feelings on this matter,” said the lawmaker.

Respicio said Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo has made a commitment to represent the legislature’s position, which reflects the sentiments of the people.

Respicio hopes for Gov. Felix Camacho’s support for the resolution and to give his commitment as well.

Two members of Japan’s Diet, Mikio Shimoji of the People’s New Party and Tomoko Abe of the Social Democrat Party, made a brief stop at the legislature during yesterday’s session. The resolution was presented to the two Japanese lawmakers.

“What we saw today, we don’t think that there’s enough capacity for more forces because of the infrastructure situation in Guam,” Shimoji said through an interpreter. “And considering the sentiments and motivations of the people of Guam, at this point, there cannot be additional forces from Japan.”

Shimoji also said that the United States and Japan must both share equal responsibility for the buildup. He said when he returns to Japan, he and other members of the delegation will share with their colleagues the sentiments of Guam residents about the buildup.

Committeewoman on the Guam Military Buildup, Sen. Judi Guthertz said that
“The people of Guam should be proud of the legislature for standing up for them and for trying to make certain that this buildup will not be one sided but that it will benefit everyone who calls Guam home now and in the future,” said Sen. Judi Guthertz, chairman of the military buildup committee.

Guthertz said that was the goal of lawmakers when they drafted the resolution. “I encourage the people of Guam to read the resolution so that they can see what the legislature said and what we’re trying to accomplish,” said the lawmaker.

Speaker Judi Won Pat said the resolution is a very significant piece of document that would change Japan’s impression of Guam’s position on the military buildup.

Japanese Diet members told Won Pat that they were always under the impression, three to four years ago, that 80 to 90 percent of Guam residents were in favor of the buildup. “That was the story they were given,” Won Pat said.

They were very curious to find what the true sentiments were and this is why they made the effort to visit the Guam Legislature when they learned that Resolution 275 was being heard regarding the buildup.

“We told them that it will contain the sentiments of the people, and that to them was far more important—that they know what the military side of the story is, and they wanted to know the people of Guam’s story, too,” said the speaker.

Won Pat said members of the Japanese Diet were very humble when they acknowledged that Japan has an equal responsibility as the United States in terms of the Marines’ relocation as stated in the U.S. and Japan agreement.

“To us, this speaks volumes because this is the first time any government has ever said that—admitting that share in the responsibility,” said Won Pat.

The delegation left Guam yesterday afternoon.

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