Thursday, September 30, 2010

R.O.D. Rally This Friday

We Are Guahan


 *September 23, 2010; Guam*- With the release of the DoD’s Record of
Decision, it has become evident that the Department of Defense will continue
to disregard concerns voiced by the people of Guam. Guam’s local residents will be the demographic most severely impacted by plans to increase the US military’s presence within the region through one of the largest peacetime military relocations in modern history. We Are Guahan will be hosting a rally on Oct. 1 to unite the community in response.

The island participated actively within the NEPA process, with over 10,000 comments submitted in response to the Draft EIS from the community and Government of Guam agencies. Despite the outpouring of community involvement, the Final EIS failed to incorporate many of the island’s concerns into their final plans.

Guam’s community and local leaders presented a united front in opposition to the condemnation of land and the taking of more sites considered culturally and historically significant to the island’s indigenous people. However, the Department of Defense’s Record of Decision (ROD) indicates that the condemnation of land through eminent domain is still a possibility. Although decisions regarding the use of Pågat, an ancient Chamorro village and burial site, have been delayed, the site remains affected by the Department of Defense’s preferred alternatives for live-ammunition exercises.

 Guam boasts one of the highest rates of enlistment into the United States Armed Forces per capita. Guam’s soldiers have fought and defended American values at rates higher than any other state within the Continental US, but remain excluded from discussions that greatly determine their futures. As a United States colony, residents of Guam lack any real control of their home and its resources. The lack of Democracy involved in the processes surrounding the military build-up in Guam have prompted residents to demand a role in the decision making process.

 Plans to realign US troops stationed in Okinawa highlight a critical moment in the island’s history. Residents are uniting in efforts to empower themselves, protect their home’s resources, and shape their futures.

 *We Are Guahan invites all residents to participate in an island-wide rally to demonstrate unity, commemorate the island’s many sacrifices, and to empower the community to prepare for their home’s future. The rally is scheduled for Friday, October 1st from 4:30pm to 7:30pm at Adelup. *

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Live and Let Die in Afghanistan

The shortcut for talking about the US military fighting in Afghanistan is to say "Afghanistan." Even though fighting there has dramatically increased in the past two years, it still hasn't come to the point where it has been embedded in peoples' minds as being a "war." There are few very people who say Afghanistan War and the phrasing of "the war in Afghanistan" could simply be descriptive and not meant to convey a unique particular set of events or a stand-alone period of time. Although the war there is getting bloodier and bloodier and more and more hopeless (at least it seems), it still is not its own experience, or hasn't had its own substantive impact on the US and its psyche. Even tiny, public relations wars such as Grenada have their own particular meaning, even if the events of the US invading a tiny island in the Caribbean for no real reason cannot under any circumstances be counted as enough to shoulder the label of being a "war."

We saw in 2008, Afghanistan become a huge political football in the US elections, as something which was used to describe what an ideal contemporary American war could be or even something to stigmatize the Bush Administration and its policies, but characterizing the war as something which they had mismanaged or failed it and even let Osama Bin Laden escape from. It has therefore achieved a sort of political value in terms of politics, but not yet one which would place it up there with Iraq, Vietnam or others which had a deep impact on the nation and its being.

But, with mid-term elections in a few weeks and the next Presidential election two years away, Afghanistan just might become a profound historical moment if it does lead to the unraveling of President Obama and help make the first African-American and first Bi-racial President, a one-term President. Such would help give the war in Afghanistan some legs of its own and a place in both progressive and conservative narratives of US history. Another disastrous attempt at American imperialism and dominance or another example of weakness by Democrats and peacelovers who led America to defeat instead of victory.

One of the reasons why Afghanistan hasn't become defined yet or been elevated in such a way is because it still holds so much residue of being a just and necessary war, that it was first prosecuted in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, and was simply a response to the threats from terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan.

As I write this, news can be found across all Guam's media about the island's most recent casualty in the US military's war in Afghanistan. Jaysine Petree, who just graduated from high school last year, was killed recently by an IED in Afghanistan.

Although the initial point of this post was to introduce a recent Washington Post account of how President Obama is becoming more and more stuck in the quagmire that is Afghanistan, because of the way the military is attempting to give him no options other than more troops, more commitment and more money, after reading articles about the most recent Guam death, I could not help but remember what the official name of the US war in Afghanistan is. Operation Enduring Freedom.

For all of the rhetoric that we often hear about how freedom isn't free or that there are so many costs for freedom, I always remember this name of the war in Afghanistan, because it reminds us of the other side of that ideological demand. Namely, that the claims of those who fight for freedom or the violent things which can often be done in the name of freedom, its defense, its promotion also have their own heavy prices, in the past few years we have seen, the transfer of huge amounts of public resources into the machinery of war, the thousands of flag-draped coffins that come home, the xenophobia or jingoism that comes as a side-effect of it all. After 37 people from Micronesia being killed in the Middle East, 18 of them from Guam, haven't we endured enough of this "freedom?"

I used to get so enraged when someone from Guam, especially a Chamorro would die in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere in the Middle East. But after seeing so many die over the years, it just makes me sad and depressed. It makes me so because the island itself seems resigned to this life, this fact, this supplementary role in supporting the US military in whatever way it can. Nothing else can be done, nothing else should be done, this lot, this life should just be accepted, it shouldn't be criticized or fought against, instead it should just be endured.

Military thwarted president seeking choice in Afghanistan

By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 27, 2010; 12:34 AM

The first of three articles adapted from "Obama's Wars" by Bob Woodward.

President Obama was on edge.

For two exhausting months, he had been asking military advisers to give him a range of options for the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he felt that they were steering him toward one outcome and thwarting his search for an exit plan. He would later tell his White House aides that military leaders were "really cooking this thing in the direction they wanted."

He was looking for choices that would limit U.S. involvement and provide a way out. His top three military advisers were unrelenting advocates for 40,000 more troops and an expanded mission that seemed to have no clear end. When his national security team gathered in the White House Situation Room on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2009, for its eighth strategy review session, the president erupted.

"So what's my option? You have given me one option," Obama said, directly challenging the military leadership at the table, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command.

"We were going to meet here today to talk about three options," Obama said sternly. "You agreed to go back and work those up."

Mullen protested. "I think what we've tried to do here is present a range of options."

Obama begged to differ. Two weren't even close to feasible, they all had acknowledged; the other two were variations on the 40,000.

Silence descended on the room. Finally, Mullen said, "Well, yes, sir."

Mullen later explained, "I didn't see any other path."

This stark divide between the nation's civilian and military leaders dominated Obama's Afghanistan strategy review, creating a rift that persists to this day. So profound was the level of distrust that Obama ended up designing his own strategy, a lawyerly compromise among the feuding factions. As the president neared his final decision on how many troops to send, he dictated an unusual six-page document that one aide called a "terms sheet," as though the president were negotiating a business deal.

This inside story of Obama's strategy review, and what it shows about his leadership style and decision-making, is based on meeting notes, classified memos and interviews with more than 100 national security officials. Those firsthand accounts reveal a new president confronting the realization that months of tough debate and hard work had not brought forth a clear solution that everyone could agree on. Even at the end of the process, the president's team wrestled with the most basic questions about the war, then entering its ninth year: What is the mission? What are we trying to do? What will work?

At critical points in the review, the ghosts of Vietnam hovered. Some participants openly worried that they were on the verge of replaying that history, allowing the military to dictate the force levels. While Obama sought to build an exit plan into the strategy, the military leadership stuck to its open-ended proposal, which the Office of Management and Budget estimated would cost $889 billion over a decade. Obama brought the OMB memo to one meeting and said the expense was "not in the national interest."

From the beginning of the review, it irked Obama that Petraeus, Mullen and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had been out campaigning for more troops on top of the 21,000 that Obama had approved shortly after taking office.

In September 2009, Petraeus called a Washington Post columnist to say that the war would be unsuccessful if the president held back on troops. Later that month, Mullen repeated much the same sentiment in Senate testimony, and in October, McChrystal asserted in a speech in London that a scaled-back effort against Afghan terrorists would not work.

Mullen's Sept. 15 testimony had been reviewed and approved by Denis McDonough, then the head of strategic communications for the National Security Council. But it infuriated Obama's inner circle at the White House, particularly Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff and designated enforcer. What was the president's principal military adviser doing, going public with his preemptive conclusion?

On the day of Mullen's testimony, Emanuel and deputy national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon jumped on Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell outside the Situation Room, where the national security team had been meeting.

The president is being screwed by the senior uniformed military, they told Morrell. Filling his rant with expletives, Emanuel said, "Between the chairman [Mullen] and Petraeus, everyone's come out and publicly endorsed the notion of more troops. The president hasn't even had a chance!"

Mullen saw the heated powwow as he stepped out of the Situation Room. He was surprised they were giving him hell. The White House knew in advance what he was going to say. No specific troop number was in his testimony. He had been as amorphous as he could be.

Mullen let them seethe. "I just took it," he said later.

The only distinctly new alternative offered to Obama came from outside the military hierarchy. Vice President Biden had long and loudly argued against the military's 40,000-troop request. He worked with Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to develop a "hybrid option" - combining elements of other plans - that called for only 20,000 additional troops. It would have a more limited mission of hunting down the Taliban insurgents and training the Afghan police and army to take over.

When Mullen learned of the hybrid option, he didn't want to take it to Obama. "We're not providing that," he told Cartwright, a Marine known around the White House as Obama's favorite general.

Cartwright objected. "I'm just not in the business of withholding options," he told Mullen. "I have an oath, and when asked for advice I'm going to provide it."

When word of the hybrid option reached Obama, he instructed Gates and Mullen to present it. Mullen had other ideas. He used a classified war game exercise - code-named Poignant Vision and held at the Pentagon on Oct. 14, 2009 - to support his case against the option.

Believing the game was rigged, Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, Obama's representative from the National Security Council, boycotted it. According to participants, Poignant Vision did not have the rigor of a traditional war game, in which two teams square off. This exercise was a four-hour seminar.

Mullen and Petraeus both attended, as did Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair, a retired admiral who had once headed the Pentagon's war gaming agency. Blair had suggested the game, thinking it might help in assessing various troop levels.

As the exercise ended, Blair hinted at its limitations. "Well, this is a good warm-up," he said. "When is the next game?"

Blair realized that Mullen and Petraeus had no intention of taking the issue further.

At the Nov. 11 meeting in which Obama expressed his frustration, Petraeus cited the war game as evidence that the hybrid option would not work.

It would alienate the Afghan people whom U.S. forces should be protecting, he said. "You start going out tromping around, disrupting the enemy, and you're making a lot of enemies. . . . So what have you accomplished?"

Petraeus saw what Biden and Cartwright proposed as a repudiation of his protect-the-people counterinsurgency approach, the model he had designed and implemented in Iraq as commander of U.S.-led forces.

"This is not a stiletto, this is a chain saw," Petraeus told Obama.

"So," Obama asked, "20,000 is not really a viable option?"

Mullen, Petraeus, Gates and McChrystal all said it would result in mission failure.

"Okay," Obama said, "if you tell me that we can't do that, and you war-gamed it, I'll accept that."

No one contradicted the claim. Cartwright and Blair weren't at the Nov. 11 review session. Biden later told the president that the war game was "bull----."

Experienced Obama watchers could see from the back benches of the Situation Room that the president was becoming impatient. He waved a green-colored graph from the military labeled "Alternative Mission in Afghanistan" as if it were a piece of damning evidence in a courtroom.

The graph showed the projected deployments of 40,000 like a slow-rising mountain. The line peaked at about 108,000 troops in late 2010 and then gently slid back down to the then-current level of 68,000 in 2016.

"Six years out from now, we're just back to where we are now?" said Obama in mild disgust. "I'm not going to sign on for that."

Ben Rhodes, the president's foreign policy speechwriter, passed a note to a National Security Council colleague: More troops in Afghanistan in 2016 than when he took office!

The timeline from deployment to drawdown was too long. "Actually," Obama continued, "in 18 to 24 months, we need to think about how we can begin thinning out our presence and reducing our troops."

He later told his staff, "I'm not going to leave this to my successor." The military's plan "compromises our ability to do anything else. We have things we want to do domestically. We have things we want to do internationally."

Obama turned to Gates. "You have essentially given me one option," he said."It's unacceptable."

Gates replied, "Well, Mr. President, I think we owe you" another option.

It never came.
Mullen and Lute, the National Security Council coordinator for Afghanistan and Pakistan, talked privately after the Nov. 11 meeting.

"Mr. Chairman, the president really wants another option," Lute said. "You're on the hook."

Three days later, Mullen and the Joint Chiefs produced a new version of its "Alternative Mission in Afghanistan" graph. The revised chart showed a faster drawdown beginning in 2012, when Obama would be running for reelection. The then-current level of 68,000 would be reached by spring of 2013. Then the shift to an "advise/assist" mission would begin.

The new timetable relied on four "key assumptions," none of which the strategy review had suggested was likely. The assumptions were that Taliban insurgents would be "degraded" enough to be "manageable" by the Afghans; that the Afghan national army and police would be able to secure the U.S. gains; that the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan would be "eliminated or severely degraded"; and that the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai could stabilize the country.

The chart projected about 30,000 U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan through 2015.

Two weeks later, on the day before Thanksgiving, the president and Emanuel met in the Oval Office with Donilon and his boss, retired Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser. No Pentagon officials were there.

Obama said this had been his most difficult decision - and it seemed to show on his face.

"I've decided on 30,000," he said.

Obama described how he wanted to explain his strategy to the American people in a speech scheduled for Dec. 1 at West Point.

"This needs to be a plan about how we're going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan," he said. "Everything that we're doing has to be focused on how we're going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint."

He said he didn't want to use the word "counterinsurgency." The language he wanted was "target, train and transfer."

The president then said, "I want everybody to sign on to this - McChrystal, Petraeus, Gates, Mullen, [U.S. Ambassador Karl W.] Eikenberry and [Secretary of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton. We should get this on paper and on the record." With the president speaking as though there would be a signed contract, some had the mistaken impression that he wanted actual signatures.

Donilon pointed out that not everything was resolved with the military. The Pentagon had revived a pending request for 4,500 more "enablers" - logistics, communications and medical personnel.

"I'm done doing this!" Obama said, clearly annoyed.

The 30,000 was a "hard cap," he said. "I don't want enablers to be used as wiggle room. The easy thing for me to do - politically - would actually be to say no" to the 30,000.

The president gestured out the Oval Office windows, across the Potomac River, in the direction of the Pentagon. He said, "They think it's the opposite. I'd be perfectly happy . . ." He stopped mid-sentence. "Nothing would make Rahm happier than if I said no to the 30,000."

There was some subdued laughter.

The military did not understand, he said. "It'd be a lot easier for me to go out and give a speech saying, 'You know what? The American people are sick of this war, and we're going to put in 10,000 trainers because that's how we're going to get out of there.' "

It was apparent that a part of Obama wanted to give precisely that speech. He seemed to be road-testing it.

Donilon said Gates might resign if the decision was 10,000 trainers, an option the military leaders had all rejected in the early stages of the review.

"That would be the difficult part," Obama said, "because Bob Gates is . . .there's no stronger member of my national security team."

No one said anything more about that possibility.

"We're not going to do this unless everybody literally signs on to it and looks me in the eye and tells me that they're for it," Obama said.

The president was as animated as most in the room had ever seen him. "I don't want to have anybody going out the day after [the speech] and saying that they don't agree with this."

But even as he laid out how he planned to explain his choice to send 30,000 more troops, he added a caution. "There's a chance the decision could change," he said. "We may need another speech."
Later that same day, Obama held his regular weekly meeting with Gates in the Oval Office. The room is so well lit, bright with no shadows, that it has a stark feeling. It is assuredly a setting for business.

Jones was also there; Mullen was traveling, so Cartwright attended in his place.

Under the redefined mission, Obama told Gates, the best I can do is 30,000. "This is what I'm willing to take on, politically," the president said.

Gates had worked for seven other presidents. Each had his own decision-making style. They often floated assertions and conclusions, sometimes emphatically, sometimes tentatively. It wasn't always evident what they meant.

"I've got a request for 4,500 enablers sitting on my desk," Gates said. "And I'd like to have another 10 percent that I can send in, enablers or forces, if I need them."

"Bob," Obama said, "30,000 plus 4,500 plus 10 percent of 30,000 is" - he had already done the math - "37,500." Sounding like an auctioneer, he added, "I'm at 30,000."

Obama had never been quite so definitive or abrupt with Gates.

"I will give you some latitude within your 10 percentage points," Obama said, but under exceptional circumstances only.

"Can you support this?" Obama asked Gates. "Because if the answer is no, I understand it and I'll be happy to just authorize another 10,000 troops, and we can continue to go as we are and train the Afghan national force and just hope for the best."

"Hope for the best." The condescending words hung in the air.

Joshua Boak and Evelyn Duffy contributed to this report.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hokkok i Umestudiante-Ku

Achokka' esta apmam desde hu na'funhayan iyo-ku Ph.D. pat esta apmam desde humokkok i umestudiante-ku, guaha na biahi, kada diha na hu alok "Si Yu'us Ma'ase" na makpo' ayu na patten lina'la'-hu. Achokka' hu gof agradesi ayu na tiempo, ya bula ineyak-hu, mas ki 13 na anos umestudiante yu', ya hagas esta listo yu' para bai hu tutuhun i otro na patten lina'la'-hu.

Lao, put i chinatsaga' UOG, ti hu tungo' ngai'an nai na bai hu tutuhun ayu gi minagahet, ya ti hu tungo' kao Guahan i lugat nai bai hu tutuhuni. Esta mas ki un sakkan hu kekena'halom maisa yu' guihi, lao sesso ma fama'dagi nu Guahu. Lao para ayu na klasin institutsion, ti gaibali iyo-mu merits pat i bida-mu pat i minalate'-mu. I mas impottanten na arekla na kao manmassa' i esta manggaigaige gi halom nu Hagu? Put este na i meggaina na ma'estro yan ma'estra siha giya UOG, ti mangkapas. Lao ai adai, este na prublema-hu, bai fa'sahnge esta ki otro na ha'ani.

Lao hu fa'tinas este na kamek (i gepapa'), put i minagof-hu, achokka' maliliti gi tasan lina'la'-hu este na maolek na siniente, ya bula otro ti maolek yan aburido na siniente put hafa bai hu cho'gue ya taimanu na bai hu susteni i familia-ku.

Lao ayu na chathinasso bai hu konsedera, gi un otro na ha'ani. Para pa'go, nahong ha' i minalulok-hu na hokkok i umestudiante-ku!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Workless Rhetoric

After the Record of Decision was signed, the Pacific Daily News collected responses from Senators in the Guam Legislature, detailing their thoughts and concerns on the military buildup finally being officially declared "begun."

I have pasted them below for people to read and reflect on. I have heard so many people over the past few months speak with some satisfaction that the rhetoric of so many of our political leaders have changed, that the efforts of so many who were critical of the buildup have helped make it so that no potential political leader who wants to be taken seriously can be 100% supportive of the military buildup, but instead has to hover around 50% - 70% good and the rest bad. This is a very real shift in rhetoric since for the first few years of the buildup, politicians would try to convince people that the buildup was a boon, that it was great and that the problems were minor and not such a big deal. That was how the public was shaped back then, in such a way that leaders of Guam felt that it was their role to communicate the greatness of the military buildup, to be part of the effort to sell it to the public.

The fact, that if you go now and speak to a Guam Senator about your concerns about the buildup and they won't try to convince you otherwise, but may actually agree with you and give you some answer which "sounds" like they might be against the buildup, is not something to be taken lightly. Fihu annai hu hassuyi put este na tinilaika, mana'hasso yu' ni' ayu na kantan Tony Fegurgur, "ai matulaika i siniente!"

Although it is much more comforting to have elected leaders who are neutral sounding about the buildup or make their faces look very grave with furrowed brows when they talk about the buildup, I can't help but be irritated. When I read the comments below, and hear the tone and the nature of the comments, and the pure tonnage of words which are being used to try and convey the "concern" of our leaders, which is an attempt to get the public to understand the depth of those notches in their furrowed brows, it sounds nice, but it is easy to forget what the purpose of leaders are supposed to be. They are supposed to lead. Sometimes that means leading a conversation, getting out information, taking advantage of teachable moments, guiding the discussion in a society, but more than anything it is supposed to mean creating laws and passing laws. That is the part which sadly has been almost completely absent in the past five years with regards to this buildup. While the rhetoric has sometimes been critical and has been what it should be, there has been little to no action to back it up.

A case in point has been the chine'guen Senator Judith Guthertz. During the past year, as the Chair for the Legislative Committee who is supposed to be in charge of the buildup, she has regularly been in the news for firing off fiery and gof kalaktos emails and letters about everything from transparency of the military, lack of communication, contradictions in their statements and so on. She appears to be on top of the issue, always ready to pounce and speak into a microphone about what is not right with the process and how the way things are going right now will not result in a "win-win" situation for Guam and the Feds. These letters may say some very critical things, but writing letters and making statements is only part of what the job of each Senator is. They are also meant to be the people who write and make the laws for Guam. If there is a large, looming, massive problem out there on Guam's horizon, then while it would be very easy to write letters about how massive, looming and large it is, their first priority should be to find ways to mitigate it, stop it or take advantage of it through the laws they pass.

As the Chairperson in charge of this, it is primarily her responsibility to lead on this issue, not just in word, but in deed as well. It is her job to work with others to craft legislation which can protect the island from the potential badness of the buildup which everyone is now talking about. I scanned through the bills which have been introduced, passed pat masotta in the past two Legislatures, seeking anything that Guthertz had written or co-sponsored which would have shown her leadership on this issue, and could only find two. The first was signed into law several years ago and set aside several hundred thousand dollars for an independent study to be conducted on the effects of leakage from nuclear submarines in Apra Harbor. The second, was her much makase' bill which would have set up toll booths outside of US military installations on Guam, to collect tolls for their entrance into the civilian side of Guam until such time as war reparations for Chamorros would be passed. I meggaina na taotao Guahan, ma sangan na este na idea "puru ha' babarias" ya pues mana'suha este, ya siempre Si Guthertz ga'o'na na esta manmaleffa todu nu ayu na chinagi.

This level of action comes nowhere close to matching her level of rhetoric and that is precisely the problem with the way things have shifted ideologically with Guam's leaders. They have latched onto to a way of appearing to do something, appearing to be active, while not truly fulfilling their mandates. This is not something which is endemic to Guam of course, but part of i lina'la yan minatai of all politicians.

Politicians live to find the places and spaces in life and in discourse where one can appear to be doing something, without doing anything. It is their bread and butter, mantikiya yan pan, their will to live. Finding now and improved ways of not really doing their job but appearing to be active and doing something is their Holy Grail. When they come across a new taicho'cho' na strategy, or a new taisetbe na tactic, you can almost imagine choirs of angels singing in the background.

Doing things requires time, effort. It generally requires the expenditure of political capital. In democracies it requires making deals, promises, you have to shake hands with those who may not otherwise. It means putting your reputation, your i gef matungo' on the line, and possibly failing, looking foolish or making things worse. This is especially so in terms of politics and making and passing laws. This is something that Senator Guthertz learned when she submitted her bill for creating toll booths in front of the military bases on Guam. The more radical a law or attempted piece of legislation is, the more it proposes to change or upset things, the more dangerous it is for you and your political future.

That is why the resolution is such a big part of being a politician. It can be one of the biggest and flashiest ways of formally and officially doing nothing. It can inspirational and help guide the memories of people, the meaning of the community, its identity and how it perceives itself, but it is usually just a big way of not confronting a big issue. You pass resolutions about everything, from old people, to athletes, to historic events, to strongly worded statements condemning something, politely or rudely requesting that something not be done or not happen. You can comment on the state of all of these things, without doing much to affect the conditions of existence or the balance of power. You can pass a resolution which celebrates a Guam sports team, which is much easier than supporting them through more funding or better facilities. In the same vein, you can pass a resolution condemning something which might happen, and it is far easier than trying to prevent it from happening.

That has ultimately been my frustration over the past few months. Is that while the rhetoric has changed, and for the better in my opinion, so much time was lost which could have been used to turn that rhetoric into necessary action.


September 22, 2010
Senators question Record of Decision
By Oyaol Ngirairikl
Pacific Daily News

Senators, many of whom are running for office Nov. 2, shared their reactions to the signing of the Record of Decision.

A copy of the Record of Decision hasn't been sent to senators or posted on the Joint Guam Program Office website. Speaker Judith Wonpat said she talked to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, and said Pfannestiel told her shortly after the document was signed there was only one major change reflected in the Record of Decision after comments from the lawmakers and the community with the release of the final Environmental Impact Statement -- a delay in the decision regarding the firing range near Pågat, Mangilao.

The Record of Decision is a document that solidifies the military's plans for most of the buildup projects. Once signed, contracting work can begin, followed by actual construction.

Sen. Frank B. Aguon Jr.

Aguon questioned the Defense Department's Record of Decision on the military buildup, citing "a failure to address Guam concerns on a broad array of issues."

"Unfortunately, they seemed to have ignored the many concerns raised by the community regarding infrastructure, land use, and the impact on our people and our culture," Aguon said. "Final as it may appear to be, this so-called 'Record of Decision' cannot be allowed to stand without visible financial support for Guam. Working with our congresswoman, Madeleine Bordallo, we need to pursue this at all levels to ensure that Guam is fairly treated."

Aguon, who chairs the Legislature's health committee, highlighted several shortcomings in the Defense Department plans with respect to health care.

"Guam's existing health infrastructure does not have the capacity to deal with the projected surge in population, and yet DOD projects that approximately 25,000 foreign laborers may be needed to meet DOD's 2014 relocation deadline," Aguon said. "Largely unanswered is how health care will be provided to all these workers. Will they have health insurance? Will emergency care be provided alone by GMH's already overburdened emergency room? What preventive measures will be in place to prevent the possible spread of communicable diseases that may accompany such a massive influx into our population? ... We also have to keep in mind that after the major construction period, our island will see an enormous permanent increase in our population. The ROD does not really address the concern about the strain on our health-care system by this permanent increase."

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz

"This last week, the Pacific Daily News reported that U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Marianas awarded $167 million for the first phase of a $446 million reconstruction of the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, the government of Japan provided $96 million for a clinic at Apra as well as $14 million for a new kennel at Apra, (all inside the fence)," Cruz said. "The Record of Decision does not commit any funds to address any hospital needs outside the fence. The ROD does not consider the hospital as part of the 'infrastructure' that the Adaptive Management Program will be invoked to prevent any more workers coming to work on Guam until the hospital shortcomings are addressed.

"The ROD does not include the explicit testing regimen that U.S. EPA provided me in a Sept. 10, 2010, letter to prevent the spread or disposal of radioactive nuclides when they dredge Apra Harbor. The ROD does not take the Pågat firing range off the table. For these and a score of other reasons I am dismayed that the ROD was signed without giving true consideration for the comments and resolution of the people of Guam and their elected leaders."

Sen. Judith Guthertz

After waiting overnight for word of the signing of the military buildup Record of Decision, Guthertz, chairwoman of the Legislature's Military Buildup Committee, found few surprises as sketchy details of the ROD began to emerge.

"I'm trying to be optimistic and constructive in order to make this buildup work," Guthertz said. "The military has its responsibility in this, which is to get all of their projects going and completed and we have ours, which is to make sure this proceeds with the best interests of all the people of Guam in mind. It's that win-win approach that I've been pushing for a very long time."

Guthertz said she was particularly pleased that the Record of Decision officially incorporated her earlier proposal to stretch the buildup over a longer period and to revisit the construction schedule to minimize impact on the island. A civilian military group will be responsible for making such adjustments.

Sen. Tina Muña Barnes

Upon learning that the Record of Decision was signed this morning, Sen. Tina Muña Barnes remained cautiously hopeful that the concerns raised throughout the EIS process would be addressed by the federal government. However, the release of details contained in the Record of Decision confirmed the truth that history already dictated: the concerns and issues raised by the people of Guam fell on deaf ears.

"It is very disturbing that the federal government continues to disregard the concerns raised by the people of Guam," Sen. Muña Barnes said. "It is upsetting to come to the realization that after all the town hall meetings, public hearings, and over ten thousand comments submitted we were ignored by the federal government."

Sen. Ben Pangelinan

"The economic cost of this military expansion outweigh the benefits based upon the FEIS and now the Record of Decision. It will negatively affect the people, environment and culture of our island as admitted to by the experts hired by the military to plan and execute their plans in the FEIS," Pangelinan said. "The military and the federal government have not committed the necessary resources to mitigate the negative effects. The military and the federal government have been deaf to our voices and blind to our vision on how to make this a win-win proposition. We must stand united and support each other to stop their plans to steamroll our island and way of life."

Sen. Rory Respicio

"In 1949, our island's leaders did something as a group to cause the United States government to be embarrassed. This walkout led to the signing of our Organic Act on Aug. 1, 1950, by President Truman," Respicio said. "It took an action of such enormous courage in order for Guam to be noticed back in 1949, but in 2010, a walkout won't work. Instead, we must stand up to the powers that be in Washington, D.C. We have to remain vigilant and relentless in communicating that we are relevant to the rest of the United States, we must be treated fairly and equally, and our federal government must remedy all past injustices (self-determination, political status, war reparations, etc.).

"They must stay within their footprint, protect our environment, and provide for the means to fund their own buildup needs. President Obama promised, 'One Guam, Green Guam,' and so far -- and especially with today's signing of the ROD -- the president's pledge has been nothing more than an empty promise. If the United States wants the people of Guam to welcome their buildup, then the federal government must stop treating us as second-class citizens. We have a right to make this claim because of our loyalty to the American flag and our strategic importance in the global arena."

Speaker Judith Won Pat

"About 7:30 a.m., after the Record of Decision was signed, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jackalyne Pfannenstiel called me. She said to me the Record of Decision is the same as the FEIS, with the exception of the deferment of the Pågat site. I'll continue to say that they have not addressed our concerns at all. It's obvious the DEIS was released and we submitted 10,000 comments. The FEIS came out and the only change was Apra Harbor, and now with the ROD, there's only one thing different, it's the Pågat site decision.

"I was hopeful there was going to be some change when they decided to hold off from signing the ROD several weeks ago because I thought they were going to take more of our comments, the concerns of the people of this island, to send us. We were appealing to their sense of justice. After all, the U.S. is known for their fairness, justice and compromise, but I don't think that's being applied to our situation here.

"We are going to join others in the calling for a rally, 'Realizing Our Destiny.' We're looking at Oct. 1. We want to unite the people. We want to get international and national media involved so that the people around the world will know about this. The staging of this base here is for international peace, therefore people internationally need to know what's going on and nationally because the people in the continental U.S. will be footing the bill. The world needs to know that the people on this island are united."

Sen. Adolpho Palacios

"I'm not surprised, first of all, that there's little change in the Record of Decision. Second, there's been a lot of discussion regarding the military buildup and I have faith in people who worked (on the Record of Decision). It's not a perfect document, I understand that. But I've decided that my role, as a member of the Legislature, is to facilitate in the implementation of the military buildup and the programs that are to occur to make them possible. But at the same time I want to get involved and make sure we minimize the adverse impact that comes with the development. I'm ready to sacrifice and I am ready to sacrifice. The bottom line is the security of our nation.

Sen. Frank Blas

"I think it's premature to make comment on the Record of Decision until I see it. Yes, there are concerns voiced as a result of the DEIS and FEIS. I think that we need to go through the ROD to see what they have in there. My disappointment with the process itself this was an opportunity to discuss issues related to the social and cultural impact of the buildup. I don't know if the ROD addresses these cultural and social concerns or not -- so I'm waiting to see it before I make any real comment."

Sen. Edward Calvo

"We can breathe a temporary sigh of relief that a decision to take Pågat was not made yet. It shows the concerns of the people of Guam are being heard. As a people, we must raise our voices even louder in opposition of any land taking. The federal government seems to be showing more of a willingness to listen to Guam's concerns.

"The next step is to ensure Guam is a partner in this process, not simply a spectator. This is important because so many of our people are looking forward to the opportunities this buildup can bring to them. People are looking for good jobs and opportunities to open their own small business. We have to do our jobs in the local government to lead this buildup so those opportunities come to our people.

"The federal government can take more proactive steps to show a true willingness to partner with Guam by resolving longstanding issues between us. This includes war reparations, compact-impact reconciliation, political status, visa-waiver programs, and more. I will continue being a proponent of a Guam buildup. I will continue pushing issues in the best interests of the people of Guam."

Sen. Telo Taitague

"The signing of the ROD early this morning marks a monumental time in our history. I am filled with mixed feelings as I understand that the impact the buildup will have on Guam can have positive effects to our community, but only if it is done with full cooperation and input from our people and only if necessary assurances are made to protect our culture, land and environment.

"My concern relating to the FEIS has largely focused on the impact the military buildup will have on health-care services. If the ROD does in fact mirror the FEIS, then improvements to our hospital to mitigate the impact the projected influx in our population will have on our hospital still need to be addressed.

"I, along with my colleagues in the Legislature, will continue to hold DOD accountable to their word in ensuring that negotiations and discussions continue in addressing our concerns. However, I will not stand for this buildup if it does not ultimately benefit our people and if the impact to health-care services is not made a priority."

Sen. Ray Tenorio

"I'm thankful controversial plans to use Pågat and dredging our island's precious coral were delayed. I'm hopeful the military buildup will move forward with the best interests of our people in mind.

"I believe many of our residents are concerned about the pending increase in our population. Population increases anywhere, if not planned right, can lead to more crime. I want to make sure we bring down the crime rate and keep our people safe. I want to see how the Record of Decision proposes working with the government of Guam to make that happen."

Thursday, September 23, 2010


The US military buildup to Guam "officially" starts now.

The Record of Decision which is supposed to mark the end of the Environmental Impact Assessment process was signed earlier this week and so now construction on the projects outlined in the Final Environmental Impact Statement can "officially" begin.

At this point, there is almost too much to be written about this issue and not enough time in my day today (since this is my long teaching day) or energy in my body (since this is my long teaching day) to do it. Although I've been writing about this DEIS and FEIS issue for months now and been actively participating in conversations and actions challenging the military buildup at so many levels, I still can't help but feel as if I did not do enough, that I could have done far more.

But for all the feelings filtering through my mind and body right now screaming that something has ended, something is over or we have moved into a new phase and something can't be changed, I know the truth that nothing is actually over.

For those who have been paying attention, plenty of documents have been signed, plenty of promises have been made, and Guam made an industry out of finding new and creative ways to say that something is going to happen no matter what we do and so we shouldn't bother doing anything. The fact that so much energy was put into making people feel like the buildup was inevitable or that it would happen no matter what, the more we can argue it truly wasn't. The past year for instance, so much of that certainty has collapsed, fallen off, had to be picked up by the Chamber of Commerce, JGPO, local politicians and duct-taped back on. The conversation has absolutely changed, and that should remind us that this latest end to the discussion or end to the issue is like all those before, just another point in a long road, which could be called a beginning of an unraveling just as much as it could be called the end of an unraveling.

People called this thing a done deal the moment Congresswoman Bordallo sent out a press release about it. People said it was a done deal before it had even been decided what was going to be done or what was going to be brought to Guam or be built here. This issue was supposedly decided last year when Secretary of State Clinton signed a piece or paper in Japan, yet over the past year and a half, when it has come to specifics and funding, the buildup seems far less secure or certain then it ever did before. Right now funding for the buildup was cut in half in the Senate and the White House is lobbying to get it put back in.

So much of the buildup conversation was so pathetic, especially from Guam's leaders, but also from so many people as well, because of that aura of inevitability that they infused into it, so often without even knowing what they were talking about, or what the buildup was supposed to be. The conversation was so sad and so poor because Guam was never truly in the conversation, it was never really a part of it, and instead of working to create a place for us, most people on Guam and most politicians found ways of not being able to understand or grasp the whole of what might be happening, but letting that inevitability fill in the gaps. It is after all just a few mental leaps to move from, "we can't do anything about it or be against it, because it'll happen no matter what" to nothing matters because it'll happen no matter what. The inevitability is not a tiny dimension of this, but it is the overpowering force in the way people understand it.

It locks the minds of people who try to understand it, who try to think about it or even analyze it, speak of it. It locks you in such a way that half of the problem is masked, half of the problem is unintelligible to you because it requires that you not see the buildup as inevitable and not as some force of nature, but as something which simply can or can't happen, and that you might have a role in deciding that.

As I've written about before many times, the military buildup has not really changed in and of itself in anyway over the past year, other than the fact that the military at last stated what their desires and intentions are. The reason that things feel different has little to do with the buildup itself, but rather to do with how people on Guam see it, namely what is different is that they see it at all. It is no longer some floating dream, something castle of fantasies and illusions which floats above Guam granting wishes to those who faithfully believe in it and don't question its power. It is something here on the ground in Guam. It is something which will affect everything from the less than tangible to the very tangible. The military buildup, at last has become something here on Guam, no longer something buttressed by its inevitability and the fantasy that it will somehow be better for Guam the less we know or understand about it. It has promise and it has problems, but it is no longer automatically seen as something with all promise and some minor negatives. When the buildup is viewed in as much of its sprawling and island-capsizing size and dimensions as your brain can handle, it is hard to sustain the argument every pathetic politician and person on Guam makes about it; that it is mainly good, but a little bad and so we need to make sure that we use all that good to mitigate that very little bad.

Once you strip away all that inevitability that gives the feeling that you are somehow winning by merely supporting it or saying it will happen, that you are on the side of reality and common sense, you are left with something which is more of a problem than a boon. More like a curse than a blessing. Something with far more concrete potential problems, than abstract assumed gains. And the primary reason that this is so, is because of that accursed inevitability, that permeates the issue and gives it more power than it should have and far less scrutiny than it requires. The buildup is more of a problem than a solution, not only because of things such as overpopulation, overextension of utilities, damage to economy/society and so on, but because of the way it keeps intact (and invigorates) so many forms of dependency and inferiority that pervade this island, and finally because of the fact that so few people seem capable of considering it in anything close to an objective, practical or even useful sense. And the crux of objectivity is the ability to consider the merit of things which go against what is assumed, commonsensical or natural. To be objective about something requires that you entertain its anathemas, that you spend time with its antagonists and that you understand what drives that opposition, that you treat it not like some supplementary ridiculous, maladjusted, fake opposition, but something that could be very real.

I guess the point of this post is that don't think for one second that this issue is over and done or that somehow, at last you can say the the buildup is a done deal. If anything, the rollercoaster of the past five years has taught us the lesson which haunts Adrian Veidt at the end of the graphic novel Watchmen. After engineering a massive hoax against humanity, which cost the lives of millions in order to try to convince the world that aliens are attacking earth in order to prevent the world from being obliterated in nuclear war, Veidt asks Dr. Manhattan, another superhero, one with god-like powers and god-like detachment from the world, "I did the right thing didn't I? It all worked out in the end?"

Dr. Manhattan, politely mocks Veidt and his hope that he can find some security or stability in meaning or order after what he has done, in hopes that he can stamp some finality on this act to keep it from slipping away from him or unraveling. He says to him, "In the end? Nothing ends Adrian. Nothing ever ends."

That as much as the military might hope that the ROD means the battle over the meaning of the buildup is over, such is not the case. The ROD, like so many other things works in their favor, but it does not end the issue. It does not magically make money appear or politicians fall in line. It may swoon those who don't care about the issue that much and are more interested in appearing to be "normal" ideologically on the issue than stand on what they believe is better for Guam, but it does not win over those who see and worry about the buildup in all its vast complexity and insanity. It does not fix the numerous flaws and problems in the buildup and what we've seen so far in the DEIS and FEIS. It does none of these things, it is like everything, a wishful symbol, a hope that if you say something is finished, over and done with enough times, it might at some point magically come true.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wake Me Up, When September Ends

For those who have been following politics in the US the past few weeks, the phrase “Ground Zero mosque” has been thrown around quite a bit. Conservatives and Republicans have been using the phrase to refer to a planned Islamic Cultural Center which will be built two blocks away from the edge of Ground Zero in an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory. These cries to prevent the building of this cultural center are joined by protests throughout the US in cities big and small where people are trying to prevent Muslims from building mosques or cultural centers.

The angry rhetoric is mixed and contradictory to say the least. Some would claim that two blocks away is simply too close to such a sacred site. Even if the Constitutions gives them the right to do it, they shouldn’t, and for them to force it upon the US is in bad taste, like salt in the wound. Here’s two things wrong with these arguments: 1.If the site is truly sacred then why are these Conservatives not moving to get rid of all the strip clubs nearby or other sites they might find in “bad taste?” 2. The argument against the cultural center works only if you believe that all Muslims are terrorists or that there is something fundamentally “terrorist” about them. If we follow this logic even further you come to the eternal question of whether the actions of a few should stigmatize or define a larger group. In a recent episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, they drew a parallel saying that given historical circumstances, the Catholic Church has a right to build churches near playgrounds, but is it really such a good idea?

Eventually this madness culminated in the plans of a pastor in Florida to celebrate/commemorate 9/11 this year by burning copies of the Qur’an or Islamic holy book. This past week, after even General Petraeus who is currently leading the US war effort in Afghanistan said that it was a terrible idea which would make his job there far more difficult, the pastor called it off.

One of the band Green Day’s more poignant songs is “Wake Me Up, When September Ends” and in the 9 years since the 9/11 attacks, as I’ve seen the ways in which Republicans have used the tragedy to win elections and how the worst parts of blind American patriotism and jingoism can emerge around this time of the year, I’ve sometimes felt like that song was absolutely right. It is as infuriating as it is sad to watch ya maolekña na bei maigo’ ha’, ya’hu yu’ an makpo’ este!

But interestingly enough, the notion of being woken up in September holds a very different meaning for me as well, because when people ask me how I became a “radical” or a “political person” I often point to the 9/11 attacks as a moment which helped open my eyes to the world and most importantly to the nature of colonialism on Guam.

September 11th actually happened (for the most part) on September 12th on Guam, and during the course of that day I remember classes being cancelled, people glued to television sets and conversations everywhere about what had happened and what was going to happen.

As I listened to the media from the states I constantly heard “Pearl Harbor” as the metaphor through which people were trying to make sense of what had happened. The attacks pierced the wishful innocence and isolation of the US. The world had felt so tranquil and so well-understood before, but like in 1941, the attacks seemed to shatter all that, leaving people bewildered and angry. Since most people in the US don’t know much about their own history or their history of doing things to other people around the world, the 9/11 attacks felt like a “surprise” attack, but in truth a bubble of American innocence had been burst. As people turned to history for answers, sadly most actually weren’t looking for an historical explanation, because the US history of interventions in the Middle East would not inspire much patriotism, but simply wanted to find a way of protecting that feeling of everything being so tranquil before. Pearl Harbor seemed to do the trick.

Even on Guam, I heard Chamorros, young and old, describe their own feelings of shock and vulnerability through the idea of “Pearl Harbor.” This, despite as everyone on Guam should know, Guam was attacked by the Japanese in 1941, just a few hours after Hawai’i was. At that point in my life I had already made a choice that one of the things I wanted to be was a Guam historian. As such I couldn’t help but be appalled when I heard people on Guam speak like that. In that moment when they were trying to articulate intimate feelings of being lost, attacked, confused by this attack which had appeared to come out of nowhere, they did not refer to something local, something which they could literally be genetically tied to, something which every Chamorro on Guam at that time went through. Instead they imported a memory from a larger national imagination, and ended up erasing that local meaning, or worse yet making it so that the invasion of Guam was just a footnote to the attack at Pearl Harbor and not something to be recognized on its own.

I’ve learned plenty of lessons in how colonialism can affect a people since then, but each September my mind is drawn back to that initial lesson.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Calls for Common Dreams

Yanggen guaha salape'-mu konsedera este na ginagao lismona, ginnen i inetnon Common Dreams.

Gof maolek este na website, siempre sina ta alok na Guiya i mas kabales na lugat para infotmashon.

Estague i kattan ginagao ni' mana'huyong gi duranten i ma'pos na simana.


In March of 2003 our anti-war numbers were in the millions... We were around 30% of the country according to most polls (that's nearly 100 million Americans!) and yet we had no way to communicate with each other aside from through the Nation and a few websites like"

-- Michael Moore

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September 15, 2010

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Pure Ideology

I got an email the other day which featured the "purest" example of ideology I've seen in quite a while.

It contained an email that had been sent to my friend (who I won’t name in case she wants her identity kept secret) from a “Marxist” professor which basically attacked her for not being Marxist enough. I only know some of the context, but she had just recently helped organize an Ethnic Studies summit in San Diego and so the listserv for the conference has been the site for a lot of pointless posturing, of which this purely ideological email is a perfect example.

Reading the snarky, snippy Marxist email was both hysterical and depressing. It represented on the one hand something so hilarious in the way in which the author took himself and his orthodox defense of Marxist theory, thought and intellectualism so seriously. It was depressing because it made him look like someone so sublimely out of touch with reality and even the nature of the very theories he was shrouding himself in to argue his intelligence and superiority.

My reason for calling this email (which unfortunately I won’t share here) purely ideological is because it was almost completely self-referential and insular, self-fulfilling and judged itself and everything around it through Marxism. I felt like I had just seen the theoretical metaphorical manifestation of Gaara from Naruto’s Ultimate or Total Defense Jutsu, Kabåles yan Perfekto na Dinifende! His email was perfectly cocooned and cut off from the world in an elegant, but delicate and utterly pointless Marxist prism. The email claimed others to have dared to cite Marx through “second or third hand readings” and also dared to think about the world through other lens such as Third World Feminism which as anyone should know are not properly Marxist and therefore cannot be correct! That was what made the email so perfect in its pointlessness, was that it judged everything through a claim to the rightness and effectiveness of his interpretation of Marx, even things, theories or ideas which don’t give a crap about Marx or are blisteringly critical of it. It was as if the email was not only written despite contrary ideas or evidence, but that it almost seemed to ignore the existence of anything else in the world, and through the belief that everything can be explained in some way through citing something that Karl Marx once wrote or perhaps burped after eating a particularly good meal. That is pure ideology. It is so pure, you might even call it religious.

As should be obvious, my connection to Marxism has always been kind of funky. I never participated in Marxist reading groups like the radicals of yore. Where we all gather together in a coffee shop, an abandoned building or in the college library and whisper to each other about what could Marx and Engels mean in this page in this paragraph in this tome. I never ever went through any experience of being a "real Marxist" where I took his theories to the point that they became my strict ideology. The world in which I grew to consciousness in is the one where Marx had already been killed. His ideology, his side of the battle for the world had lost in the 1980’s, and he could only be called forth, from now on, through a medium, as a spectre as Jacques Derrida so poetically put it.

But that in no way means I haven't read Marx and don't think he is one of the most important thinkers in the world. I appreciate Marx in a detached way, which doesn't mean I don't have any passion for discussing his revolutionary potential, the revolutions that his ideas helped bring about, but it just means that I don't really care about the icon or idol or Marx, nor treat his words as sacred and things to be interpreted and followed in the original essence or intent. Marx is a philosopher to me, and his ideas are philosophical, they are not at all religious.

Part of this distance from Marx proper comes from my Ethnic Studies background. When we read Marx in my department, we read him through others who have reinterpreted and revised him, such as Atonio Gramsci, Stuart Hall, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Oliver Cox, Slavoj Zizek and Gayatri Spivak. For so many of these thinkers, their relationship to Marx is similar to mine. He is important, he is or was revolutionary, but he needs to be revised, revisisted, challenged, re-made and yes in many cases completely ignored pat mana'salamanka.

For example, in Ethnic Studies we often would sift through the ideas which built modern academic disciplines such as Political Science, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology and so on. And part of that exercise would be reading their texts and seeing what role race, difference, reason or exclusion would play in making that imagined academic community or domain. When you read the primary texts from long dead white people such as Hegel, Freud, Weber, Durkheim, Marx, Kant, Locke, and so on, you cannot help but read them through their gaps, their limits. By this I don’t only mean read them through the way their theories have failed to bring about the worlds they envisioned, but I mean the gaps or sheer taihinasso na inconsistencies which you can sometimes find in their work, especially around things such as race or sex.
In the case of Marx, I have so much trouble taking him seriously because I supposedly live in a post-revolutionary moment, where even if I despise the way someone like Francis Fukuyama puts it, I live in a moment where history proper, a sort of real radical and fundamental change in terms of society, politics or economy can never take place. The present world which appears to be dominated by the prevailing ideas of liberalism, democracy and capitalism is just too damn cushy, too damn comfortable, and too best of all possible worlds, and so it will never be surpassed, just reformed in minute ways. This is of course not true, but it is a powerful and potent hegemonic thought which binds together so much of what is considered to be commonsensical or the nature of things in today’s world.

But I also find it difficult because Marx has been proven wrong so many times on so many things, that it seems almost ludicrous to treat his ideas as gospel. Marx is not the person who has been proven most wrong in the world ever, I’m sure that privilege belongs to some market analyst for Wall Street in the past few years. But in the time since he was alive, his ideas have been questioned, rephrased, adapted and sometimes thrown out completely, especially as Marxist true believers struggled with when exactly the millenarian prophecies would be fulfilled, or when the abstract conditions Marx outlined would finally be met and so the gears of his revolution would at last begin!

One thing that I find most interesting is while Marx was clearly one of the most radical philosophers prior to the 20th century, his thinking was still very limited in terms of race. As a result he, like so many others, created hierarchies for races and their prospects for revolution and always placed Europeans at the top and the rest of the world at the bottom or edited of the list entirely.
So when I say that the email I read was purely ideological, I am not saying it is somehow different than this blog post, and my claims are non-ideological, while that professor’s are. Ideology is of course everywhere and it is one of those strange academic terms which you could conceivably warp in order to say almost anything. Ideology is like a sheet in a Cristo conceptual, environmental art piece, which lays over the landscape, giving it a definition and therefore shaping our view and how we perceive the tendencies or power and discourse in the world around us. Ideology allows us to make sense of the potential chaos that is the world, it makes everything easier by limiting our frame, limiting our potential identifications and by narrowing our gaze and dividing the world into allies and enemies, problems and solutions, what is reasonable and what is madness, where resources should be put into and where they shouldn’t, what is sacred and what is not.

But, as Slavoj Zizek notes the ideological statement par excellence is “that this is not an ideological statement.” Similar to the way in which, when you preface something with “I mean no disrespect” it usually communicates that you are about to clearly disrespect someone, when you qualify something as not ideological, that means that it very well could be the most ideological statement possible. Ideology is meant to be natural and neutral, it is not supposed to mean anything, even though it is full of meaning. You are supposed to come to those conclusions, those thoughts as if they are as natural as breathing. That is one of those reasons why the idea of being called “ideological” is so loathsome and is supposed to be negative. It is because whoever is calling you that is attempting to reveal that your ideas are not your own, they are trying to paint you as someone who does not have your own thoughts and more importantly, who does not have natural thoughts, which are rooted in the world, but instead thoughts which come from “special interests” or particular, specific places and are not universal in the sense of being part of the sheet draped over the world which people accept as the world itself.

As such, the personal ideologies of people, the things they take as their true thoughts are meant to function like fanhulof’an, like a sanctuary, a sacred, safe place which can shield you from the uncertainties and indeterminacies of the world. Life is just one minor or major confusion or trauma after another, and in fact you could argue that the condition of existence for humanity, is to live of trauma with a dash of sanity and stability mixed in. So the ideological castle you build for yourself is not just a structure meant to help you debate with people who disagree with you, hinangai-ña gi lina’la’-mu na u hulof hao ginnen i fehman na pinadesi gi lina’la’-mu, it exists to be your shield to and protect you from the regular trauma of life, so instead of feeling like an ant on a leaf which is floating down to the earth from the tree, with no way of doing anything about it, that ideological nexus makes you feel like you can guide that falling leaf, or it at least gives you good reasons why it is important that the leaf fall!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hiroshima Hell and Historic Bikini

Since I came back from Japan last month while attending the 2010 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, I've found myself constantly drawing and painting mushroom clouds.

The conference, the stories and history I heard there, the images that were etched into my mind by speaker after speaker, were full of mushroom clouds, and not just those from Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), but those from elsewhere as well. Although only two nuclear bombs have been used against populations as explicit acts of war, hundreds of nuclear tests, above and below ground have taken place in the Pacific, the Continental US, Siberia, China, India and Pakistan. For populations who live in those areas, such as the peoples from the Marshall Islands of Bikini and Rogelap, these "peaceful" testing of nuclear missiles may have well been acts of war.

In Hadashi no Gen, or Barefoot Gen, a manga written and illustrated by Keiji Nakazawa who was a survivor of the atomic blast in Hiroshima, the atomic blast is regularly referred to as coming stragith from hell, something which clearly should have no place on earth.

In the manga Gen reads out of the account of Matsukichi Hirayama's "The End of Summer," a writer who loses his entire family in the blast, which grips tightly the hellish metaphors of the bomb and refuses to let them go. When the bomb is dropped it is as if the doors of hell have opened and something scurried to the surface. The Enola Gay, with smoke tailing behind it as it flies is thought to be the messenger from hell, you carries with it direct flight tickets for tens of thousands to his place of work. Survivors are transported into the depths of hell in the first day after the attacks, while the fires caused by the blast, which no one seems to be able to extinguish, are the hounds of hell that nip at the hells of the live, and eagerly devour the flesh of the dead. Even when the Matsukichi is able to escape the devastation of Hiroshima and flee like so many others to to hills outside town, the metaphor of hell itself still holds. The fires burned so high and so brightly, that even in the dead of night, the destruction and suffering was still clear as day for all to see. In a bamboo grove nearby he sees scores of people burnt beyond recognition by the blast, their bodies on the verge of death, their minds most likely gone, but still, by instinct they all cried out for water.

The ultimate tragedy of his account is what happens after the initial bombing, and how the hellish nature of the bomb invaded people's bodies. How children would be deformed, and how people healthy one moment would drop dead the next, and no matter what people tried in those first years after the atomic attacks, nothing seemed to save them. It was as if they and their bodies had become cursed that day and the devil could take them anytime he wanted.

Much of the plot flow of Barefoot Gen after the first three volumes deals with efforts by people to rebuild, find some normality in their life again after losing so much, and then the moment they find some happiness, some safety and security, what Nakazawa refers to as the never-ending war, the war with the effects of that dreadful bomb appear and take someone down to hell.

This morning I came across an article from In These Times posted on the blog Kith and Koko, about how the Bikini Atoll is going to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its complex historical significance in helping create the "nuclear age" we now live in. It discuss some of the ways in which people in the Marshall Islands live in their own never-ending war, and how the hell of radiation and nuclear weapons have been brought down upon their own lives, bodies and lands.

The drawings and paintings included in this post are some of the ones I've done recently while I've had mushroom clouds on my mind.

September 15, 2010

Bikini’s Tragic Heritage
The world’s most atomic atoll is recognized by the UN.
By Peter Cohen
In These Times

In dubious honor of its unique role in 20th century history, on August 1 UNESCO declared the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site a “World Heritage” site. Both beautiful and historically significant, the atoll — part of the Marshall Islands archipelago in the North Pacific Ocean — was named a heritage cultural site “for the role that tests of atomic weapons at Bikini played in shaping global culture in the second half of the 20th Century.”

It was the first time the UN’s Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization has so honored the Marshall Islands. But Bikini’s new title is likely small comfort for Marshall islanders affected by the testing, including the small surviving Bikinian community, which voluntarily left its home in 1946 after being told by a U.S. military governor that nuclear testing there would contribute to world peace.

The UN declared the Marshall Islands a trust of the United States in 1947, a move “intended to promote the welfare of the native inhabitants and to advance them toward self government.” But even before trusteeship, the United States began to use the Marshall Islands as a proving ground for nuclear weapons. From June 1946 to August 1958, 67 nuclear tests were conducted there.
The most powerful bomb detonated on the islands was the hydrogen bomb “Bravo,” on March 1, 1954. Estimated to produce around four megatons of power, it unexpectedly produced 15 megatons, an impact equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. In shifting winds, the fallout from the huge explosion reached the inhabited islands of Rongerik, Rongelap and Utirik, more than 100 miles to the east. Contaminating more than 7,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean with radiation, fallout from the blast also reached Australia, India and Japan. Ocean currents carried the radioactive fallout northwest, where the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Lucky Dragon Number 5 suffered radioactive poisoning resulting in the death of one fisherman.

But the greatest tragedy struck the heavily radiated northern Marshall Islands. In November 1995, Marshall Islander Lijon Eknilang appeared before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague and gave this chilling first-hand account of the effects of nuclear testing in the Pacific: “Women have experienced many reproductive cancers and abnormal births … In privacy, they give birth, not to children as we like to think of them, but to things we could only describe as ‘octopuses,’ ‘apples,’ [and] ‘turtles,’ ” Lijon said, who herself has had seven miscarriages and no live births.

“The most common birth defects … have been ‘jellyfish’ babies. These babies are born with no bones in their bodies and with transparent skin,” she continued. “Many women die from abnormal pregnancies, and those who survive give birth to what looks like purple grapes, which we quickly hide away and bury.”

Lijon pleaded that what she and other islanders have suffered never be repeated. As Alyn Ware noted in SGI Quarterly, the ICJ concluded that nuclear weapons “are unique in their destructive potential, that their impact cannot be contained in time or space, and that there is a universal obligation to abolish such weapons.”

Of course, this has yet to happen. In fact, Bikinians haven’t even been fully compensated for the damage and displacement caused by nuclear testing. The Nuclear Claims Tribunal, a body designated by the governments of the U.S. and Marshall Islands to determine compensation owed, awarded them $563 million in 2001, but as the tribunal points out, funds made available by the United States are “manifestly inadequate.” In 2006, Bikinians sued the U.S. government for most of that money, but in April 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the lawsuit.

While the small number of tourists who now trek to Bikini Atoll may be charmed by its coconut palms and fascinated by the ships that Bravo sank in its lagoons, we must not forget the suffering of Marshall Islanders. It is up to us to see that ongoing nuclear disarmament and abolition efforts ensure that Bikini’s tragic heritage remains unique.


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