Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Gap Between Delays and Done Deals

I love to hear people talk about how massive and overwhelming (yan kalang taichi) the planned US military buildup to Guam is. And I love how in that discussion of immensity, they are trying to say that the huge tidal wave of bodies, hardware, speculative spending, carpetbagging and tip of the spear sharpening, it is all a good thing! The only other thing which is that figuratively massive and supposed to be a good thing is the rapture.

The gap between the object of which you are attempting to describe or argue about and the reality that you are trying to staple to that object don't fit very well. Ti uminos pat ti umaya, there is a clear gap, and not just any gap, but one which yawns a chilling contradiction whenever you try harder to close it or cover over it.

Several months ago, Guam lived in a similar sort of gap, when the DEIS or Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the buildup was released. The military and its PR arm for the buildup, JGPO made great pains to ensure that whenever the DEIS was mentioned, it was always mentioned as well that Guam was receiving twice the normal time limit for public comment.

Usually communities in the states gets 45 days to read and parse through a DEIS, but Guam, because it's special, because it's exceptional, because America is sweet on its colonies, and because it is the only tip of the spear in the Western Pacific that can handle most of what the US military might want to put there, it gets treated twice as good as everyone else.

This was a very nice sentiment, something to help yokyok the always waiting embers of emotionationalism of those on Guam (that always present emotional craving to be more nationally American and seek out the artifacts that prove it), but it was like trying to cover over the Marianas Trench with a 45 x 90 foot tarp. Its big sure, but not big enough to cover up what you want.

90 days, to read anywhere from 8,000 - 11,000 pages. Now that right there is a massive gap, which you would have to have American flag contact lenses on to not perceive. Even if the people of Guam were given 8,000 days to read and comment on the DEIS, it still wouldn't make a difference. The DEIS was a very apt metaphor for the buildup itself. Mysterious, massive, threatening to consume everything, but at the same time, gof machalapon yan ti fitme, or all over the place and not very clear or certain. Scattered within it, you find some hopeful promises, but so much more uncertainty and so much more potential damage.

One of the reasons why I would argue that things seemed to change with regards to public perceptions about the buildup during the DEIS comment period, was because of the way in which people were forced to stare into the gap that was those thousands of pages which were meant to chronicle the potential impacts to Guam because of the buildup. As I often said to people on this blog, in the media and in conversation during that time, even if you have no actual knowledge about the DEIS or the buildup, if you can simply imagine that the document which is meant to analyze what impact it will have is eight times longer than the King James version of the Bible and six times longer than the Penguin Classics edition of War and Peace, then your mind has to wonder, what the hell is in there?!?!?!

Your ideological and emotionational devotion to the US has to be very strong to imagine that a document of that size is simply dollar signs, unicorns and happy faces. There was a logical, automatic way in which that size itself translated into a nagging, suspicious feeling. A book like War and Peace is long because its a long story, but a document like this being long means that there is a long list of impacts. It is not long because the author chose to make it long, but its long because there wasn't any way to make it shorter!!! And given that so much of the public discourse on the buildup had been primarily positive (with a few token minor negatives), that simple fact could be so jarring.

In the time since that comment period, we've been able to see a number of other gaps in this buildup form or become clearer. One of the most significant forms you can see this is through the relationship between something being delayed, negotiated, fought over, funding slashed and something being constantly argued as being "a done deal." Esta magutos i finihu. The "done deal" trope was so effective from 2005 - 2009, for rebuffing any criticism of the buildup or calls to stop or change it. It was effective because of the way Guam always struggles with this desire to respect the US and to give up its local sovereignty or local power to them in order to improve things, take care of things or pay for things. It was funny how so many people, when asked about their personal thoughts on the buildup would preface their responses with the notion that "its not up to us." Pure, fresh, unadulerated colonial ambivalence. When asked what you personally feel about something, you couch even that ability to think about it or make a choice in the matter (something which should always belong to you), being something which is either already dominated or will be dominated by the US. It is a point which people use to try to reflect reality (of Guam's colonial, powerless position), but it is just as much something that they use to create reality, to create and reengineer that powerlessness.

I shouldn't be writing this post right now, I've got too much work to do, but I was compelled to write it after reading more news from Japan (as opposed to recent news from the US) about delays, slowdowns, changes in funding, and plenty of unanswered questions about the buildup. None of these shreds of news indicate that the buildup is being called off or not happening, but there is a very big difference between something being a done deal and ultimately "closed" off and no longer subject to change, debate or even being prevented. But the first step in a situation like this is to change things on that level, to open up something like the buildup, to deprive it of its force of being assumed or unquestioned.


Japan may delay finalizing U.S. base relocation details

Jul 20 03:18 AM US/Eastern - Jul 20 05:18 CST

TOKYO, July 20 (AP) - (Kyodo) — Japan may delay finalizing details of the planned relocation of a key U.S. military base within Okinawa Prefecture, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa suggested Tuesday in reference to the original deadline of August.

Kitazawa, speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting, said the government must pay attention to the result of a gubernatorial election in Okinawa slated for November.

"We must place importance" on the election to choose the governor "who has the heaviest responsibility for Okinawa," he said.

The Japanese and U.S. governments agreed in May to move the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station within the island prefecture despite strong opposition from locals. The two countries then decided to work out such details of the relocation plan as a specific location and construction methods for the replacement facility by late August after a series of talks.

Kitazawa said the government hopes it could avoid forcing people in Okinawa to accept finalized details without any argument, adding, "I think it is likely that we cannot tell anything for sure until after the election."

His comments signal that the government may not aim to reach a conclusion during the ongoing talks between Japanese and U.S. officials and experts, and will instead only narrow the possible options they could take.

Tokyo's position of delaying the relocation may cause U.S. backlash. But Kitazawa said, "I believe the U.S. side understands the political situation in Okinawa well."

The Japan-U.S. agreement in May said more of the U.S. military drills in Okinawa will be transferred out of the prefecture, naming Tokunoshima Island of Kagoshima Prefecture, Self-Defense Force bases in mainland Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam as possible hosts.

The government is now more likely to abandon the Tokunoshima option as it is considering giving up earmarking in the budget for next fiscal year the cost of research in connection with a possible transfer of some U.S. military drills there, government sources said.

Cabinet members denied anything has been finalized.

"That isn't something definitively decided," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told a news conference on Tuesday. Kitazawa said the government is not yet at a stage where it can decide "whether or not we should give up."

The move to give up securing funds reflects concerns over the considerable costs likely to arise in building supply and maintenance facilities and barracks needed to move the drills onto Tokunoshima, said the sources, who added strong protests from the islanders to accepting the drills were also factored in.

Kitazawa has said a concrete transfer plan would be compiled by the end of next month. For now, the Defense Ministry will consider moving the drills to SDF facilities at which the U.S. military has already conducted them, they said.

1 comment:

TenThousandThings said...

Thanks for news and insights!

I was not surprised to read this -- I heard on C-Span that there are blogs and people who post on blogs who are funded by the government and special interest groups:

"True, the Pentagon does have perhaps the single largest public relations apparatus on earth – spending $4.7 billion on P.R. in 2009 alone and employing 27,000 people, a staff nearly as large as the 30,000-person State Department – but is that really enough to ensure positive coverage in a society armed with a constitutionally-guaranteed free press?

"And true, most of the major TV outlets are completely in the bag for the Pentagon, with two of them (NBC/GE and Logan’s own CBS, until recently owned by Westinghouse, one of the world’s largest nuclear weapons manufacturers) having operated for years as leaders in both the broadcast media and weapons-making businesses."

This explains why so few outside of Guam, Okinawa, Japan, Korea, Hawai'i know about the proposed Asia-Pacific buildup, and if they do, why their impressions are skewed. It's amazing how a miniscule number (in proportion) of non-paid, volunteer bloggers and citizens are as effective as they/we are in response. I guess you can't contract the power of truth-telling; style and pzazz that radiates from integrity and creative ability-- all which go a long way.

From Matt Taibbi's latest:


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