Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Scene of the Trauma

I will be teaching Guam History this summer at the University of Guam and so I'm trying to put together a new syllabus for the condensed schedule of a summer intersession class. As I'm trying to figure out what lectures to keep and what should go, an interesting sort of Guam history question came to mind. Which of the periods of Guam History over the past 500 years would I consider to be the most traumatic for students to learn about? In my World History 2 class (1500 CE - the present), I teach it in such a way that it is meant to be a crash course in horrible things that the First World did to the rest of the world, focusing on colonialism and how people have attempted to liberate themselves from its grasp. In my Guam History class I take a similar approach, spilling out on the floor each week a laundry list of horrible things that have happened to Chamorros and to Guam.

But amidst all the truth telling, which is the period or the story, the moment in Guam History that is the most traumatic for young people, non-Chamorro and Chamorro, to learn about in my class? There are a couple of clear front runners: The Chamorro Spanish Wars, World War II, the prewar period, the postwar period, the reduccion phase. Some strong contenders, but I consider the end of the Chamorro-Spanish Wars to be the most emotionally potent moment in Guam History and the point which is the most unconsciously traumatic for my students. It is the moment which causes them the most latent discomfort, meaning something that stretches the limits of their identity, even in ways they don’t really know how to articulate.
On the surface, one might assume that the prewar US Navy period from 1898-1941 would be the most clearly traumatic for young people given the way the island of Guam has turned out over the past century. But given my experiences in teaching and talking to students, I don’t really see that. Covering this period has its moments of tension, but nothing compared to when we recount the effects of early Spanish colonization.

In the prewar period of Guam History students learn about a side of the United States which most wish they never had to confront or know about. Uncle Sam during that period is hardly seen as the benevolent and loving paternal figure that it is today. Uncle Sam then was not even seen as a relative, not even a cruel or hated member of the family, but an obtrusive and invasive stranger. At most Uncle Sam was a neighbor who had no respect for you, your property, but would constantly see themselves as needing to take over your life and force themselves upon you and your family. Uncle Sam back then was a racist, colonialist and paternalistic neighbor, who you might want to have a good friendship with, but their unwillingness to even respect the modicum of who you were prevented you from ever feeling that sort of connection to them. This was a time when Chamorros had no rights, no protections save for what the US Navy wanted them to have and lived under the shadow of a lazy but sometimes oppressive autocratic regime. The treatment of Chamorros wasn’t as horrible as it was under the Spanish during the early years of colonization, but it is still a stark contrast to the Guam of today and contemporary perceptions that Chamorros has of their colonizer.

It is usually a traumatic time because my students learn of the local sins of the United States. Coming from an Ethnic Studies background I am always amused to hear my students talk about racism or race in class. Their logic tends to follow to points: 1. That racism is a thing of the past or 2. That racism is something which other places and not Guam struggle with. This means that learning about the local history of oppression by the United States, or even talking about racism between ethnic groups on Guam in a contemporary sense is something which always makes students uncomfortable and often times feels like their minds are onions in need of layer upon layer of uselessness peeled back.

One of the stupidest things which comes from these twin logics is that despite our own history of being treated in racist ways, we instead refer to the history of the United States, most notably Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in order to articulate their ideas about race or oppression. Guam is not alone in this regard, as MLK’s hegemonic rise as a marker of inspiration (experiencing and overcoming oppression) is part of the hegemonic rise of the US in terms of stitching together a global/universal history. The attractiveness of MLK’s story, just like Gandhi’s story is of course the non-violence of the example, the “happy ending” and the way in which the true story is not the uprising, the insurgency, the fighting of power, but rather the anonymous arc of the moral universe, always quietly bending towards justice. The different is of course the “colonial” dimension of the two examples and what kind of happy endings emerge.

One of the reasons why MLK is such an attractive example to use on Guam (as with everywhere else) is because of the way it easily sutures back up the temporarily ruptured and bleeding national character of the United States. Like most stories of bad things a nation or nation-state has done, the perceived moral core, the inner goodness, the source of the national spirit leaks out from an obvious wound. The spirit which is supposed to hold the nation together and give it all the elevated power, the feeling that it is truly something great, something that you can believe in and should give up much of your freedom and identity in order to be a part of, it bleeds out, leaving the nation weakened and pallid. But the great thing about MLK’s story is how quickly it gives you the ability to sew right back up that wound and conserve that precious spirit. The wound which remains thus begins to emanate in such a way to appear to empower the spirit of the nation. The stories of those who were once strangled and suffocated by that spirit, their souls stripped of power to feed the hoary health of the nation, they now serve to show how despite the horrible wound, the nation has survived. After all, in the histories of nations as in life, that which does not kill you makes you stronger.

That is one of the reasons why the recounting of the racism of the prewar period on Guam is never actually that traumatic. Because of the way that wound on the skin of the nation actually becomes a mark of the inclusion of the souls which were once excluded.

It becomes both a sign of potential breakdown, inconsistency, it is a very real and corporeal stain on the nation, but it can also be something to signify change, evolution, survival, an ability to adapt and to incorporate. The scars, like those on a aged, weather-beaten warrior, do not indicate any weakness, but rather the ability to consume the strength of others and to become stronger as a result.

So when students hear about the horrible things the US did in the past, to their parents or grandparents, it is always filtered through the feeling that this is not an open wound, but rather just one of those scars for something that you must be happy you did not really feel the pain of. The worse things were, the more it can be taken as a signifier of how far things have come and therefore how grateful we should be that things have changed! The sins of the US of the US during the prewar period just become fodder for the exceptionalizing and the moralizing of America, making it part of that narrative of bad things, such as slavery, sexism, racism, genocide, which the US always feels compelled to remind itself it has overcome and left in the past.

Such is not easily the case with the Chamorro-Spanish Wars. It is something that can be easily dismissed on the basis of happening such an long long time ago, but the particular dynamics of that historical event, make it in some ways harder to neutralize and more difficult to tame the potential trauma.

One thing which makes the Chamorro-Spanish Wars different is that it cannot be viewed, except by the most ridiculous of observers as being some internal or agonistic struggle, it is a struggle between two antagonists, where one of which is knowingly oppressing the other. The prewar American period is always viewed agonistically between two antagonists. Although Chamorros and Americans are fundamentally different communities and people at this period, the eventually marriage that takes place, the inclusion that happens during and after World War II, has a way of affecting and rewriting the history that leads up to it. As a result, even though Chamorros and Americans see themselves as being fundamentally different, people tend to write of that history as being one of two lost souls seeking to find each other. Like a romance movie where people treat each other like crap at the beginning, but by the end realize that they were made for each other and only acted in such cruel, racist and paternalistic ways because they just hadn’t discovered how meant for each other they really were.

When it comes to the Chamorro-Spanish Wars, only the most insane Catholic can make a similar claim. Chamorros and the Spanish in the 17th century came from fundamentally different worlds, spoke very different languages and were heavily divided. The Spanish made claims to saving the souls of Chamorros, but there still remained the residue of the debate a century earlier where the humanity of non-Christian and non-European peoples had been challenged. The Spanish may have felt like they were in the right at that point, like what they were doing was just whether for religious or racist reasons, but changes in humanity have made it so what they did was clearly wrong.

One of the funniest things to listen to is a Catholic priest attempt to argue that what was done to Chamorros in the early days of colonization was right or was just. The accounts of the priests at that time make it clear. Some Chamorros agreed to convert, most however did not. The Spanish waged war against those who did not want to become Christians, slaughtering many, burning whole villages to the ground, prohibiting certain practices they did not agree with.

The Church often likes to dance around the issue by claiming that no one was “forced” to be Catholic, and that no one converted who did not want to be converted. That may be somewhat true, but the fact of the matter is that no one was actually given that choice. While everyone may not have been forced to accept Christianity as their new religion in their heart, in public and in their lives, they were not allowed otherwise. After the Catholic church came to Guam, you could not walk away from them to live your life as you see fit. They did not see you as having that freedom, that liberty. There was no way to say no. That, amongst many things is missing from the canonical accounts of that era and that sort of racial/religious climate. The Spanish at that time treated Chamorros as less than human and the foundation in Guam of the Catholic Church stems from that assumption. Without that horrible violence, Guam would have a radically different history. It could have still been colonized and Chamorros still suffered at the hands of other colonizers or the Spanish just during another era, but it would not be the Guam we know today.

The larger something is, the more violence it requires to come into existence. The larger something becomes the more it necessarily had to displace in order to gain such stature, such power. This is true in terms of smaller communities or socio-political organisms, but very much true for large coalitions such as nations or religions. The embeddedness of the Catholic Church and Catholicism in Chamorro culture came with a very high cost in historical terms. It did not come through early eagerness to convert, but came through horrible, disgusting and terrible violence, so much so that you could argue, as may have had, that the level of violence and deprivation committed against the Chamorro people in order to force them on the road to Catholicism, should stain and curse the whole thing on Guam. That it should be an anathema to Chamorros to be Catholic, because of how the church came to Guam and how it’s establishment here was built upon decades of painful torturous colonization, which some Chamorros accepted, but the majority of which fought against and detested.

But history and the identities that people draw from history are never that simple. African Americans will exist in great tension with the United States nation simply because the narrative of their inclusion requires an inhuman exclusion. It is not a heartwarming story of overcoming poverty and tough times to achieve the prototypical middle class fantasy, it is a story of millions of people from an entirely different continent ripped from their homes, sold into slavery, taken to entirely different land and then they and their descendants, treated like property for hundreds of years. Chamorros and Catholicism is similar. When Americans first came to Guam, they looked down on Chamorros for the obvious contradiction in their accepted of Catholicism as the book of ideas and identities that ran their lives. The Americans, a younger people and nation than Spain, thought themselves a new modern nation, strong and sturdy compared to the obvious decay and pointless decadent of the Spanish empire. Chamorros clinging to Catholicism despite it being a pagan religion in the minds of most Americans a century ago, and also because of the way it was forced into their lives, were see as ignorant and in need of proper enlightenment.

Two of the first Guam History texts ever written show this tension. The Pheonix Rises, written by a priest after World War II, tells the history of Guam and Chamorros through the history of the Catholic Church on Guam, showing how intertwined and interconnected we might see the church in Chamorro lives. The historiography of this text makes clear that there is no Guam, and there is no Chamorro without the Church, and that there is nothing wrong with that. Another Guam: Past and Present, written by an American named Beardsley, savages the Spanish in its historiography, calling them out for their crimes. The book elevates the Americans and their actions in Guam, at the expense of the Spanish. So even though you could claim that “modernity” comes to Guam via the Spanish, Beardsley writing of history makes that modernity a corrupting influence, one of violence and ignorance, whereas the American variety is much better.

But all of this doesn’t really explain why the start of Spanish colonialism on Guam would be more traumatic than the beginning of the American form. In a way though it does start to address the issue. Catholicism is older than Americanization or feelings of Americanness in Guam. Much older actually. So old in fact that there are many who claim that you cannot really be Chamorro or practice Chamorro culture unless you are Catholic, since so much of what is now Chamorro culture comes from Catholicism. So you could argue that learning more about that early colonization would be more traumatic since it is scraping and digging into a deeper wound. It is ripping the scab off of a wound which you haven’t looked at or even thought about for years, whereas thinking about America is just scratching at a newly grown scab. It might cause a small irritation but nothing compared to digging into your flesh and ripping apart something which your body may feel was settled and healed over long ago.

But there is a deeper issue here and that is who the Chamorros are in both of these historical moments, and why the mistreatment they received in one, would be harder to stomach than in the other. In the case of the prewar 20th century area, we have Chamorros who have already been ravaged by colonialism and history. They have been colonized for hundreds of years and in the eyes of most, have lost everything that made them who they are. They live on borrowed time, they dress themselves in borrowed culture. They are impure, they are almost pathetic, the most venerable group of zombies in the Pacific, long dead from the musket balls of colonialism, but still shambling around pretending there is still some life in them that they can call their own. The mistreatment of Chamorros by the United States is unfortunate, but it is not really tragic. It does not really reach the narrative level of the Garden of Eden, or the fall from grace, the loss of paradise which is necessary for so many people to understand or make coherent the story of how indigenous or native people are screwed over in history.

That narrative exists however in the story of the Spanish colonization of Guam. The Chamorros that lose that war are the pure ones. They are the ones that can truly carry the mantle of being “Chamorro. “ The ones who can truly claim to have been wronged, to have lost something in their being oppressed. What makes the crimes of the Spanish worse is that they took away that purity from Chamorros. They took away their sovereignty, their very place in history. It is because of what they did, that the existence of Chamorros is always a cursed one. They are a people who can’t say that they “really” exist anymore. They have to argue for the right to have their own dances anymore. They have a language which they can preserve, but aren’t supposed to speak and shouldn’t be teaching since it might interfere with the role of English in Guam. Their own islands are not theirs.

But the key to understanding this is not that, the amount of things which the Spanish did or set into motion are worse and more cruel (even if you could argue they are), what is key is the Chamorros they were lost or damaged in the process. Here, history works in a similar fashion to how Law and Order cases work. If the woman accusing someone of rape can be portrayed in anyway as someone who should “expect” would be treated in this way, a prostitute, a sexually active person, someone who doesn’t conform to some normative idea of gender, then it creates the means for accepting and justifying what happened. The reason why this can work is because the purity and innocence which is the stuff that you identify with, the source of your ability to feel sympathy for someone wronged by another or wronged by the world, is supposedly gone. Once this is gone, everything is supposed to be permitted.

In the making of the modern Chamorro and in the understanding of them, that trauma at the hands of the Spanish is the essential, foundational trauma. It is the one which must always be revisited each moment someone asserts something of the Chamorro, and as such it works as the warden, the gatekeeper. It is that place where the Chamorro is given permission to exist in a contemporary sense or not. It is a place which appears at first glance to be ancient, wizened and therefore unimportant. Like piles of rocks, overgrown with weeds, which were once an Ancient temple and now appear like nothing more that Chia pets waiting to finish in the middle of the jungle. But as one kicks around rocks and stumbles upon artifacts, you realize that all the answers are there. All the questions, the way they are phrased, their limits and the naturalness of how they are formed, result from that place. It is therefore a place you always have to return to in order to find meaning, but one which holds horrifying potential. It holds the potential for rending everything. It holds the potential for ripping asunder the fabric of the present, for revealing the normal to be abnormal, the natural to be the unnatural. It can make the Catholicism which drips from the world around you and is supposed to comfort you, feel like an oppressive and invasive presence. The trauma of that moment, is the trauma of the Chamorro and so for both Chamorros who struggle with their identities and what it means to be a Chamorro today, but also non-Chamorros who enjoy a Guam which has “no real Chamorros” or enjoy feeling like they come from a culture which did not lose everything in comparison to Guam’s indigenous people, that is a place which can be very dangerous.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vegas Hiatus

I'm in Las Vegas this week celebrating the graduation of my brother Jack.

I've been writing quite a bit, but haven't found time to post anything online.

I've been in the states for almost two weeks, but in a few days I'll be back on Guam.

I'll try to post something before I board my plane next week, just because I feel lazy for leaving my blog so dormant, even though so many things have been happening on Guam and in my life.

I have been keeping up my posts at my Tumblr though (I Pilan Yanggen Sumahi...), so you can check out there if by some weird chance you are starved of my content.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tata yan Lahi

Esta mas ki un simana desde hu li'e' i lahi-hu.

Sumasaga' ham yan i che'lu-na na'ya giya Kalifotna, ya gagaige ha' gui' giya Guahan.

Antes di humanao yu', pine'lo-ku na ti para bai hu mahalangi gui'. Mas mafnot ham yan i che'lu-na, Si Sumahi. Ya achokka' hu guaiya i lahi-hu, kalang ti gos mafnot ham. Hunggan bunito na paton gui', sen kinute lokkue', lao put i mampos pumapatgon gui', tataya' ha' substansia. Kalang un mampos kinute na taya' gui'. Ti ya-hu umoppan este na hinasso, lao este i minagahet. Esta ki sina kumuentos gui', ti siguru yu' hayi gui'. Ti siguru na ha hulat kumomprende yu'. Annai hu atalaki i mata-na, kao ha tungo' hayi yu'?

Siempre u matulaika este, lao para pa'go, i siente-ku na kalang hu nanangga i lahi-hu, ya ti apmam siempre u fatto.

Lao mahalang yu' sinembatgo para i gof kinute yan gof "clueless" na mata-na. Nina'atdet este na siniente annai hu hungok i kanta "Tata yan Lahi" pat "Father and Son" ginnen Si Cat Stevens. Ayu na kanta ha sen pacha' i korason-hu kada hu hungok gui'. Ha na'hasso yu' put i minagof yan i trinsite tumatata.

Hu hungok este na kanta gi i rediu annai manunugon pappa' para Atascadero ginnen Sacramento, ya siempre nina'hasso yu' put i lahi-hu.

Puede ha' maolek hao pa'go na puengge lahi-hu. Un simana ha' tetehnan este ki para u ta ali'e' ta'lo.

It's not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You're still young, that's your fault,
There's so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,
To be calm when you've found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you've got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It's always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

It's not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You're still young, that's your fault,
There's so much you have to go through.
Find a girl, settle down,
if you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it.
If they were right, I'd agree, but it's them you know not me.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chamorro Public Service Post #19: Pappa' Sombran Mapagahes

Ti siña mumaigo’ yu’ achokka’ gof yafai yu’. I can’t sleep tonight even though I’m exhausted.

I’m in Sacramento at the NAISA (Native American and Indigenous Studies Association) Conference. I spent the day hanging out with some Chamorro graduate students, attended some panels, walked around downtown Sacramento. Now I’m back in my hotel room, finding myself missing someone terribly, but unable to sleep.

I was going through my computer, looking through the digital equivalent of ancient, dusty files, seeing if I could bore myself to sleep. I came across a folder which I hadn’t look at in quite a while, full of the lyrics to old Chamorro songs. These are songs that all older Chamorros know in some form or another, but which aren’t as popular nowadays for obvious reasons as changes in taste and the decline of the language in general. When I was going through the lists of songs whose lyrics I've collected over the years, I remembered a story involving one of them.
Many years ago, when I first started a website on geocities called “Free Guahan,” I received an email from a Chamorro in the states whose mother had passed away recently and was looking for the lyrics or information about a song which she had loved. This Chamorro had spent most of her life in the states and didn’t speak Chamorro or know much about Guam or her culture beyond the parties she would sometimes attend or the relatives that she knew. There was a song which she would sing regularly, and so her daughter knew the tune, and could make out some of the lyrics, but like most Chamorros who hear Chamorro songs but don’t speak it, they often confuse the lyrics and sort of cobble together phrases of their own. This daughter had done just that, she had a sense of the song, but was having trouble finding the lyrics or even just the title of it online. She emailed me, writing down some portions of it that seemed clearer in her mind than others.

She wrote down the disparate lyrics and one of them in particular caught my eye, the word “sabedos.” This sounded a lot like the phrase “sabe dios” which means “god knows.” I could only recall this phrase being used in one song in particular, “Pappa’ Sombran Mapagåhes” which means “Beneath Somber Clouds.” I had found the lyrics to the song in MARC and had also heard a version of it on Johnny Sablan’s Dalai Nene album. I sent her the lyrics to see if that was the song, and indeed it was. The song itself is a love song, although like many Chamorro love songs, a tragic and na'puti one.

I wrote this post in an effort to get sleepy and it’s working. I’m going to bed now, but not before I post below the lyrics to the song. Hopefully the next Chamorro who is googling these lyrics won’t have such a hard time and can just find them right here on my blog.



Pappa’ sombran mapagahes
I tumampe na nuhong
Matto fehman guinaiya-ku
Ya ayu yu’ mina’umugong
Matto fehman guinaiya-ku
Ya ayu yu’ mina’umugong

Testigu ha’ siha I puti’on
Ni’ u madodotna I langhet
Faisen fan I ma’lak pulan
Nene kao ti magahet
Faisen fan I ma’lak pulan
Nene, kao ti magahet

Pappa’ sombran mapagahes
I tumampe na nuhong
Hahasso I kontrata-ta
Sa’ enao yu’ na’umungong
Hahasso I kontrata-ta
Sa’ enao yu’ na’umungong

Guaha un trongkon atdetfa
Gi pappa’ I bentana-hu
Hahasso I kontrata-ta
Antes di u ta adingu

Yanggen esta yu’ ti ya-mu
Pika yu’ put pidasu
Yute’ yu’ gi halom tasi
Para pinigan yan apu

Na’manteni yu’ ni’ kannai-mu
Ya bai despidi hao Adios
I mata-hu matan magof
Lao I korason-hu sabe Dios

Protest Leaders Arrested in Jeju

This came via Bruce Gagnon at Organizing Notes and The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.


Dear Friends:
This morning I received an urgent message (see below) from Jeju Island, South Korea saying that yesterday eight leaders of the protest effort against construction of a Navy base had been arrested. Global Network board member Sung-Hee Choi was one of those arrested - her second time in recent months.

Gangjeong village resident Professor Yang Yoon-Mo is now in his 45th day of his hunger strike while in jail for trying to block a construction truck. He has vowed to die in jail unless base construction is halted.

We need your help. We must show the South Korean and U.S. governments that people all over the world are following the story on Jeju very closely and care what happens. You can write to the South Korean Defense Attaché assigned to Washington DC. at this email and demand an end of the Navy base construction. or you can call the South Korean Embassy at 202-939-5600 to show your solidarity with the Gangjeong villagers on Jeju Island.

It is important to remember that the U.S. Navy will be porting Aegis destroyers (outfitted with "missile defense" systems) at this base. The proximity of the base on Jeju Island to China's shipping lanes, that they use to import 80% of their oil, is no coincidence. It is beyond obvious that this base is absolutely going to contribute to further militarization of the Asian-Pacific region and will in fact be a dangerous trigger for war.


Mr Gagnon,

I am writing to let you know about the current situation in Gangjeong, on Jeju Island. The military and police are stepping up their efforts to silence all opposition to the naval base. This morning, 19 May, the construction companies came with their heavy equipment together with around 100 members of the police and military. They specifically came to destroy the greenhouse on the Jungdeok coast that has been occupied by protestors for several years now as well as the many banners from around Korea denouncing the naval base. Once there intentions became know, many people gathered in an attempt to stop the greenhouse and banners from being destroyed. In addition to blocking the construction equipment some people chained themselves to the greenhouse.

Even though for the moment the protestors were successful in blocking the destruction of the greenhouse and banners, due to the overwhelming force of the police, military, and construction companies, eight protestors were arrested, all important leaders in opposing the construction of the naval base, including Sung-Hee Choi.

Obviously the situation is still ever developing, but I thought you might like to know what is going on right now. Thank you for helping to spread the news about Jeju beyond Korea.


Jungjoo Park

South Korea

You can learn more about the protest effort on Jeju Island at
Thanks for your support.

Bruce K. Gagnon


Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

PO Box 652

Brunswick, ME 04011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No Base Stories of South Korea

Every few months I remind people to visit No Base Stories of Korea, and get updated on the latest in the South Korean people's struggles against militarization, both from their own government and from the United States as well. This post is yet another reminder to go over there and check the blog, which is run by artist and activist Sung Hee Choi.

I recently finished an article where I discussed some of my experiences while I was in South Korea last year on a solidarity research trip. Some of the places which Sung Hee regularly provides updates about are areas that I visited, where I got to learn in detail about the struggles that took place or are taking place against militarism. As I wrote in my article, one of the things which made this trip important was the fact that it wasn't your usual "solidarity trip" where everything is neat and tidy and ready to be wedged into an assume matrix of solidarity formation. There is a formula to how we form solidarity, a simple way of feeling that something has been accomplished, even when there is a nagging doubt that anything has really happened yet. In my article I reduced it to these easy to remember steps.

This is part of it, but this really isn't solidarity in any meaningful way, since it doesn't touch the level of imagination, it doesn't touch the level at which you don't just see yourself tied to that other community through your knowledge of them, but rather something deeper and more intimate. Solidarity in its most potent and powerful form is not about knowing that other people exist, but rather feeling that you are connected in some fundamental way, that you are both moving towards something greater, that a cause binds you together. person from other country, ask them what the problems are in their country, listen intently with your face signifying deep thought or deep disgust. Repeat with roles reversed, and solidarity has been accomplished!

That is the frustration of all solidarity work. The dilemmia of how you can get distinct communities to actually identify themselves in such a way.

Below are some recent articles from the No Base Stories of Korea Blog.


Posted on : May.16,2011 13:41 KST
Members of anti-war organizations carry out a protest in front of the Ministry of National Defense in Yongsan, Seoul, on Sunday, marking International Conscientious Objectors’ Day.

The conscientious objectors lay on the ground to write out the word “peace.”
The South Korean chapter of Amnesty International asked for adoption of alternative service for conscientious objectors in a statement that day, saying that some 950 conscientious objectors to military service are in prison in South Korea.

Baek Jong-keon, a Jehovah Witness and lawyer indicted for refusing to serve in the military filed a petition with a court against the Military Service Law that puts conscientious objectors behind bars on May 9. Under the law, those who refuse military service without legitimate causes are sentenced to imprisonment of up to three years.

International Conscientious Objectors’ Day, organized by War Resisters’ International (WRI) and its affiliated organizations, is observed around the world on May 15. (Photo by Shin So-young) 

Please direct questions or comments to []


USFK Tyranny in Pyeongtaek; Entertainment businesses subject to armed crackdowns by US military police

Posted on : 2011-05-11

It has emerged that United States Forces Korea (USFK) in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, is effectively exercising “the right to crack down on and punish” foreigner-only entertainment businesses.

USFK is exercising thorough control in the fields of health, hygiene and public order. This includes entry by armed US military police into entertainment establishments and demands that employees present proof of identity.

Based on crackdowns, USFK is indiscriminately declaring “off limits” measures that effectively amount to suspension of business. According to entertainment businesses, 33 out of 40 establishments have been declared off limits or received warnings in the last five years.
Crackdowns by armed US military police

News of crackdowns was first revealed by the Kyunghyang Shinmun on May 10, after the newspaper acquired “an official document sent by the commander of ‘Base X’ of the Unites States Air Force in Pyeongtaek to the owner of a nearby entertainment business, by the name of Choe.”

The document states that USFK declared Choe’s business “off limits” to USFK personnel twice: once in June 2009 and once on January 21 this year. The reason stated for this was that the establishment allowed “bar fines” (female employees who receive alcohol from USFK personnel) and employed foreign workers in possession of “E-6” (entertainment) visas.

USFK stated in the documents that [a foreign female employee at the establishment] had refused to present her ID when requested to do so by patrolling USFK military police personnel, and that, having considered the circumstances, USFK had concluded that the establishment was in violation of the agreement not to employ Filipino women. This, the document said, was USFK’s reason for declaring the bar “indefinitely” off-limits.

This is not an isolated case. According to Pyeongtaek people’s Solidarity for participation and Autonomy (PPSPA) and the Songtan branch of the Korea Foreigner Tourist Association, the US military has declared 33 out of 40 US military-only establishments off limits since 2005.

From 1992, USFK controlled such businesses arbitrarily, according to a type of agreement reached with Pyeongtaek city authorities. When official documents upon which “off limits” measures were based were made public and caused a scandal in 2005 (as reported on the front page of the Kyunghyang Shinmun on March 31, 2005), this agreement was abolished.

Regulations not contained within SOFA

Even since then, however, USFK has been running a system of parallel crackdowns and punishment of businesses close to bases, by communicating regulations and guidelines orally and sending armed military police on patrol.

Under the pretext of protecting its own citizens, USFK has been creating irrational regulations that are not found within the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Korea and the US, and arbitrarily exercising what amounts to a right to carry out crackdowns.

Entertainment establishments have protested, saying, “For businesses that operate exclusively for foreigners, being declared ‘off-limits’ is a punishment equivalent to suspension of business. There are 500 more establishments that would effectively go out of business if US military personnel did not visit them.”

Despite the circumstances, however, Pyeongtaek city authorities are refusing to consider remedial measures or even look into what disadvantages are being incurred by the businesses in question. An association for Korea-US cooperation, created to aid conflict resolution between the two countries and headed jointly by the mayor of Pyeongtaek and the local USFK base commander, is also proving ineffective.

Civic groups including the PPSPA plan to hold a press conference on May 12 in front of the main gate of Base X and call for the off limits measures to be lifted. (News, The Kyunghyang Daily News. May 11, 2011. Reported by Choi In-jin; Translated by Ben Jackson. )


Recent News (May 9 to 13) of the Ministry of National Defense, ROK

NO. 766

Korea and U.S. marines discuss joint operations
May 13, 2011

South Korean and the United States marines showed strong will to counteract against North Korean provocations during tactics discussion held in Baengnyeong Island near the inter-Korean maritime border on Yellow Sea.

Marine officers from South Korea and the U.S. discuss on May 12 military matters regarding joint drills aimed at defending western islands on Yellow Sea during tactics discussion session held on Baengnyeong Island.

Marine officers from South Korea and U.S. held tactics discussion for two days since May 11 and exchanged views toward major matters related to joint military drills and the wartime operational control transfer.

On the Korean side, senior officers, including operations planning officer under the Marine Corps, and on the U.S. side Col. Thomas Ward and Lt. Col. Turner Larry under the U.S. Pacific Marine Corps Command joined the discussion.

Two countries discussed about schedule plan for joint drill on western islands and reviewed overall conditions of soldiers' lodging facilities and terrain at training field that U.S. marines are going to use.

Two agreed to regularly hold tour sessions for U.S. marines coming to South Korea for drills.

In addition, two sides discussed preparations and measures for strengthening joint exercises in the Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a joint command and control simulation exercise between South Korea and U.S.

"Western islands are strategic locations where North Korea and provoke any time," said a South Korean marine officer who took part in the discussion. "South Korean and U.S. marines will become a role model of defending any military attacks immediately on site with strong joint operations."

Col Ward said that, "It is the first time South Korean and U.S. marines jointly hold tactics discussion on western islands since the end of the [1950-53] Korean War. South Korea and U.S. will cooperate closely so that the North would never make provocations like the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island."


No. 765

Mungyeong will host Military World Games in 2015
2011-05-16 17:24
May 13, 2011

The location for the 6th Military World Games, a multi-sport event for military athletes that is held every four years, has been decided to be held in Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang, in 2015.

The International Military Sports Council (CISM), the event's organizer, held its 66th general meeting at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel on May 12 and made decision to open the event at Mungyeong in 2015. After the decision is made, Col. Kalkaba, the head of CISM, and Kim Il-saeng, the head of the Office of Personnel and Welfare at the South Korea's Defense Ministry, signed a written agreement.

South Korea had submitted it bid to hold the event exclusively at CISM's board meeting in Algeria on March this year. The organizer of the event gave the final approval in Seoul for Mungyeong to be the next venue for the event.

The Defense Ministry received its approval for a bid effort to hold the event from the Finance Ministry on August last year. The Defense Ministry had planned to select six cities, including Mungyeong, in North Gyeongsang, for the event.

The Military World Games, in which only active-duty military personnel can participate, is designed to boost friendship through sports and contribute in building world peace.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Pa'go na ha'ani, Hami yan Si Sumahi (i hagga-hu) para bei in falak iya Kalifotna.

Para bai hu famanu'i gi un konfrensia giya Sacramento gi este na simana.

Ya Si Sumahi para u bisita Si Nana-hu yan otro na membron i familia-ta.

Esta kana dos anos desde sumaga' yu' gi lagu, ya gof malago yu' bumisita i manatungo'-hu siha ginnen i Dippatamenton Ph.D.

Esta hu faisen Si Sumahi, hafa malago-na na para bei in che'gue annai gaige ham gi sanlagu. Hu ofresi gui' ni' tres na inayek: The Monterey Bay Aquarium, the San Diego Zoo, Disneyland. Achokka' hu sangan i na'an-niha este na tres, ti ha gof tungo' hafa siha ginnen i na'an ha'. Pues, hu sangani gui' ni' didide' put kada inayek. Para i aquarium hu sangani gui' na "ayu nai manasaga' i guihan yan otro na klasin ga'ga' tasi siha." Para i zoo, hu sangani gui' na este i "fangga'ga'an para i manasaga gi i tano' na klasin ga'ga' siha." Para Disneyland hu sangani gui' na ayu i "tano' i gof matungo' na cha'ka as Mickey yan manasaga' guihi i mamprinsesa siha."

Put este ha ganye Disneyland.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guam, Okinawa and Wikileaks

I heard months ago that Guam had some mentions in Wikileaks, but was never actually able to look into it beyond seeing Guam on the index. Thankfully, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun has saved me the trouble of searching for Wikileaks for some of the juicier Guam mentions. These revelations are pretty significant, they reveal some major problems with the buildup, the plans and even the the reason why there was an early mention of a billion dollar road being built on Guam, that was quickly and quietly swept under the carpet and never mentioned again. We'll see what kind of impact that have locally, and see what sort of response JGPO and others can come up with to try and counter the Wikileaks revelations.

EDITORIAL: Leaked Documents Reveal Shocking Japan-U.S. Diplomacy


WikiLeaks has published vast troves of internal and confidential government documents that normally would have been kept inaccessible to the public for a certain, usually long, period, such as 25 years, before being released after careful screening.

The anti-secrecy website has disclosed shocking facts about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and American diplomacy through the releases of classified government documents by whistleblowers. Now, the wave has hit Japanese diplomacy.

The Asahi Shimbun has obtained nearly 7,000 U.S. diplomatic cables from the site, which shed light on the unknown side of diplomacy between Japan and the United States mainly between 2006 and early 2010.

This is the period from the final days of the Liberal Democratic Party's rule to the era of the first Democratic Party of Japan administration led by then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The Hatoyama administration pledged to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of Okinawa Prefecture at the least.

Between late 2009 and early 2010, however, the Hatoyama administration secretly told Washington that Japan would go along with the 2006 bilateral agreement to move the base to a northern location in the same prefecture if no viable alternative to the existing plan was found. It was half a year before Hatoyama publicly said he had decided to break his promise to relocate the base outside Okinawa.

There are certainly some elements in diplomatic negotiations that should be kept secret from the public.

But the Hatoyama administration's lying about its basic policy concerning the Futenma issue amounts to an unpardonable betrayal of the people.

After the DPJ government assumed office, senior bureaucrats at the Foreign and Defense Ministries gave the United States some advice that could undermine the DPJ administration's efforts to solve the Futenma problem, such as Washington should not show flexibility (over the issue) too early.

If bureaucrats have objections to the government's policy, they should express their opinions to their own country's administration.

These foreign and defense ministry officials showed a gross misunderstanding of their roles when they tried to influence the new government's actions by communicating secretly with the negotiation partner.

But questionable diplomatic actions are not the exclusive preserve of the DPJ government.

Concerning the cost of transferring thousands of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, the previous government of the LDP-New Komeito coalition agreed with the U.S. administration to pad related expenses as a gimmick to make Japan's share of the financial burden look smaller than it actually was.

These cables, not intended for immediate publication, contain many facts about behind-the-scenes goings-on in the bilateral diplomacy.

Since they reflect U.S. interpretations of what actually happened, the documents may be silent about things the U.S. administration might find inconvenient.

But reading through these documents without reading too much into specific words and phrases throws into sharp relief some serious problems with Japanese diplomacy.

What emerged from the documents is a deplorable spectacle of Japanese politicians and bureaucrats making haphazard responses to the situation in order to protect existing policies or their own interests.

Their actions showed no sign that they were thinking consistently from the viewpoint of what was in the best interest of the Japanese people.

If there is any one thread running through their actions, it is consideration of the need to keep Japan's relations with the United States on good terms.
In addition, Japanese actors who were distrustful of each other talked fairly candidly about what was going on within the Japanese government to American officials. That's shocking rather than surprising.

If this distressing picture is a true picture of the state of our country's diplomacy, we need to start our efforts to rebuild it by confronting this reality.
What do the DPJ government, Japanese diplomats and the LDP really think about Japan's diplomacy as revealed by these cables? Their answers to this question should be seen as a starting point to debate.
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 5, 2011



THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (1): DPJ Government Never Committed to Futenma Alternatives

Editor's Note:

The following special package of articles is based on classified data The Asahi Shimbun obtained from WikiLeaks. The Asahi Shimbun has confirmed the credibility of the diplomatic cables and decided to publish these articles based on those documents according to the journalistic principles explained in a concluding article by Yoichi Nishimura, managing editor of the newspaper.
* * *

Despite the pledges and formal studies of the Democratic Party of Japan, Japanese government officials were never committed to relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma outside of Okinawa Prefecture.

Between late 2009 and early 2010, a number of high-ranking officials of the Yukio Hatoyama administration told their U.S. counterparts that Japan would seek alternatives to the 2006 agreement to relocate Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture. But they also secretly said that, in the end, Japan would go along with the 2006 agreement if the United States rejected the proposed alternatives.

When he led the DPJ in the months ahead of the 2009 Lower House election that led to a historic change of government, Hatoyama repeatedly said Futenma would be relocated outside of Okinawa Prefecture, at the least.

And after he became prime minister in autumn 2009, Hatoyama stressed he would take public sentiment in Okinawa into consideration in deciding where to relocate the Futenma station from Ginowan.

In November 2009, the two governments set up a working group consisting of Cabinet ministers to look into the Futenma relocation issue. Efforts started to seek a resolution by the end of 2009.

But the Social Democratic Party, a coalition partner, was a major barrier to any new agreement. In December 2009, SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima threatened to leave the coalition if the 2006 agreement was adhered to or if Futenma remained in Okinawa Prefecture.

However, no viable alternative to the 2006 agreement was found. DPJ officials decided that SDP cooperation would be indispensable for maintaining the coalition and passing the budget. So they decided to abandon the initial plan to resolve the Futenma issue by the end of 2009 and planned to keep seeking alternatives, including sites outside of Okinawa Prefecture.

Diplomatic cables from this period show that despite the DPJ's formal efforts to find a new candidate site for Futenma, the United States from an early stage thought the Hatoyama administration would go along with the 2006 agreement as long as the United States continued to reject any alternatives.

On Dec. 9, 2009, Seiji Maehara, who then served concurrently as land minister and state minister in charge of Okinawa, met with U.S. Ambassador John Roos at the ambassador's official residence.

On Dec. 10, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo dispatched a cable that was classified "secret" and for American eyes only.

The cable said, "Five DPJ Cabinet members (Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Maehara) met on the evening of December 8 and agreed that they could not accept moving forward with the Futenma Relocation Facility (FRF) because of opposition from the DPJ's coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party."

According to the document, Maehara explained to Roos that Japan would seek a number of alternatives that might be acceptable to both the United States and the Okinawa people.

But the cable shows that Maehara also said, "If the U.S. does not agree to any alternative to the existing FRF plan, the DPJ would be prepared to go ahead with the current relocation plan and let the coalition break up if necessary after Golden Week (April 29 to May 5 in 2010)."

Roos also pointed to problems on the U.S. side, in particular, criticism from the U.S. Congress.

The cable has Roos talking about "a problem with Hatoyama telling (U.S. President Barack Obama) to trust him but not following through."
A cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo dated Dec. 9, 2009, and classified as "confidential" relays the contents of a meeting between the deputy chief of mission and other embassy officials with Kenji Yamaoka, then DPJ Diet Affairs Committee chairman. The cable describes Yamaoka as a "close confidante" of then DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa.

Explaining the importance of maintaining the coalition, the cable has Yamaoka saying, "If the United States continues to apply pressure, ... the situation could further deteriorate." As for abandoning the goal of reaching an agreement by the end of 2009, Yamaoka told the embassy officials, "A decision had already been made."

The statements by Maehara and Yamaoka to U.S. officials were signals to the United States to understand that the political dynamics necessary to maintain the coalition had pushed back a decision on Futenma.

They were apparently trying to assure Washington that a decision would be made on the 2006 agreement if the DPJ won the Upper House election set in 2010, enabling it to dissolve the coalition.

Despite such assurances, the Hatoyama administration continued to waver.

On Dec. 21, 2009, then Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka had a lunch meeting with Roos. Their discussion was included in a cable classified as "secret."

Yabunaka referred to the Dec. 17 meeting in Copenhagen between Hatoyama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The cable has Yabunaka saying, "Prime Minister Hatoyama confirmed to the secretary in Copenhagen that if the (Japan) review of the FRF alternatives to Henoko did not yield viable proposals, (Japan) would return to the 2006 FRF agreement."

Immediately after his meeting with Clinton, Hatoyama told reporters accompanying him: "It would be very dangerous to force through (the 2006 agreement). We have begun efforts to think about new alternatives."

However, the cable has Yabunaka referring to those media reports as "inaccurate."

From January 2010, various alternatives for the Futenma relocation emerged, further delaying the government's decision to accept the 2006 agreement.

On Jan. 26, then Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yorihisa Matsuno met with embassy officials. A cable classified as "confidential" and titled, "Hatoyama confidante on Futenma, Nago election," described Matsuno as "Hinting at current Kantei (Prime Minister's Office) thinking."

Matsuno is further quoted as saying, "Hatoyama and the Okinawa Working Group will have to consider 'for form's sake' Futenma options outside of Okinawa, but the only realistic options are to move Futenma to Camp Schwab or another 'existing facility.'"

The cable also has Matsuno saying, "The Camp Schwab landfill option was 'dead.'"

Matsuno's remarks reflect the views of those close to Hatoyama to seek an alternative, including a land-based facility at Camp Schwab, to the 2006 agreement, while at the same time realizing they would have to break the campaign promise to relocate Futenma outside of Okinawa.

In the end, none of the proposed alternatives bore fruit.
In May 2010, the Hatoyama Cabinet approved the 2006 agreement to relocate Futenma to an offshore site near Henoko in Nago, where the U.S. Marines' Camp Schwab is located. That led to the SDP bolting the coalition and was one factor behind the subsequent resignation of Hatoyama as prime minister, along with suspicious donations he received.


THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (2): U.S. Used 'China Card' to Thwart Futenma Alternatives

The United States was using bases in Okinawa to prepare for a potential military engagement with China, which negated Japanese proposed alternatives on relocating the U.S. Futenma air station, diplomatic cables showed.

Specifically, comments attributed to U.S. officials showed that a key reason for following the 2006 agreement to relocate Futenma within the prefecture was the tactical need to prepare for a possible military contingency arising from China's growing military presence in the region.

In September 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan formed a Cabinet under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in a coalition with the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party based on a policy agreement that included a review of the realignment of the U.S. military in Japan.

Less than a month later, on Oct. 5, Raymond Greene, the U.S. consul general in Okinawa, sent a diplomatic cable classified as "confidential."

The cable quotes senior Japanese officials as saying, "He (then Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada) is confident the U.S. government will instead accept the merger of Futenma MCAS and Kadena Air Base, while continuing to implement the relocation of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam."

The proposal referred to in the cable would have been an alternative to the 2006 agreement to relocate the U.S. Marines Air Station Futenma from Ginowan in Okinawa Prefecture to the Henoko district of Nago, also in the prefecture.

The alternative proposed to merge Futenma functions at Kadena and, as a supplementary measure, to transfer some training exercises to outlying Okinawa islands, such as the auxiliary air field on Iejima island or at Shimojishima airport located on the Miyakojima island chain.

In addition to Okada, Seiji Maehara, who then served concurrently as land minister and state minister in charge of Okinawa, was said to have supported the proposal to merge Futenma functions at Kadena.

But the cable from Greene shows the United States was concerned about such a move.

"(The DPJ government) will likely focus on our level of flexibility on Kadena and willingness to delink the FRF from other elements of the realignment package," the cable says. "Maintaining clear linkages will significantly raise the political bar for the DPJ government to make any changes to the existing plan."

On Oct. 15, 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo sent a "secret" cable to the U.S. State Department, the National Security Council at the White House, the U.S. Defense Department, the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Japan.

The cable was a report by a joint delegation of U.S. State and Defense departments officials led by Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell that visited Japan.

On Oct. 11 and 12, the delegation discussed U.S. military realignment in Japan in meetings with high-ranking Defense Ministry officials, including Akihisa Nagashima, then parliamentary vice minister of defense, and Foreign Ministry officials, such as Kazuyoshi Umemoto, director-general of the North American Affairs Bureau.

During those discussions, a senior Defense Ministry official asked the U.S. delegation a hypothetical question: Would the U.S. military be able to respond to military contingencies if U.S. Marines were moved completely to Guam and training exercises were held on Iejima and Shimojishima as a supplementary measure to merging Futenma functions at Kadena?

The question was considered representative of the new DPJ government's thinking.

A number of U.S. officials said such a proposal would be insufficient.

Maj. Gen. John Toolan, who came up through the Marines and served as deputy commander of U.S. Forces Japan, is quoted as saying, "The Guam option presented time, distance and other operational challenges."

He cited as an example disaster relief measures taken the previous week following the earthquake on Sumatra, Indonesia.

The cable quotes Toolan as saying: "U.S. Marine helicopters based in Guam would have been unable to reach disaster-hit areas, and helicopters placed on ships would have taken four days to arrive. ... The Marines in Okinawa, however, had been able to self-deploy to the disaster area."

The cable also has Toolan saying: "The Japanese government was still assessing the needs of the Japan Self-Defense Forces regarding airstrips, particularly in the context of China's military buildup. Until the Japanese completed that assessment, the U.S. side would have difficulty knowing the facilities that would be available for use."

Toolan's comment referred to the possibility that the U.S. military might not have exclusive usage of Shimojishima airport because of the possibility that the Self-Defense Forces would use it as a joint military-civilian facility.

Another participant in the meeting, Kevin Maher, then director of Japan affairs at the State Department, is quoted as saying, "The runways at Ie and Shimoji would not be sufficient on their own, but would require the full complement of support facilities, including for refueling and maintenance."

Campbell used the "China threat" card in making his case for the U.S. position.

The cable quotes Campbell as saying: "The dramatic increase in China's military capabilities necessitated access to at least three runways in a contingency. ... In the 1990s, it had been possible to implement contingency plans for South Korea and China using only two runways in Okinawa, Naha and Kadena. The most significant change between 1995 (when the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) plans for the relocation (of) Futenma air base had been formulated) and 2009 was the buildup of Chinese military assets."

Because Kadena Air Base already has two runways of its own, Campbell likely meant that there was a need for three facilities. Campbell was involved in compiling the final report for SACO as deputy assistant secretary of defense. He likely emphasized the major differences in the international environment in an attempt to contain the re-emergence of the proposal to merge functions at Kadena.

Neither the Japanese nor U.S. governments have formally explained the need for the U.S. military to use bases on Okinawa, except for as a deterrent amid unstable regional conditions, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the strengthening of China's military capabilities.

While there has been a long-held view that the U.S. military on Okinawa was meant not only to respond to a contingency on the Korean Peninsula, but also with an eye toward China's military power, including possible fighting over Taiwan, U.S. government officials do not ordinarily refer to China by name in discussions with other governments.

For that reason, Campbell also said, according to the cable, "This (buildup of Chinese military assets) was now a driver of U.S. military assessments for the region, ... and could not be discussed publicly for obvious reasons."


THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (3): Numbers Inflated in Marine Relocation Plan to Increase Political Impact


Due to political considerations, the plan to relocate thousands of U.S. Marines from Okinawa Prefecture to Guam under a 2006 agreement included doctored figures related to Japan's financial burden and troop levels.

Such manipulation, uncovered in an Asahi Shimbun analysis of about 7,000 Japan-related diplomatic cables obtained from WikiLeaks, could affect the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The move of Marines to Guam is supposed to be conducted in conjunction with the Futenma relocation.

Japan and the United States in May 2006 compiled a road map for realigning U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan. Under the plan, a provisional agreement was reached in December 2008 on the move to Guam that included the financial burden on each nation.

A diplomatic cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to the U.S. State Department that provided details on the negotiations explained that Japan's share was made to appear smaller with the inclusion of an unnecessary project costing $1 billion (81 billion yen) to construct a military road by the United States.

The cable also explained that the numbers of those to be moved to Guam was inflated to 8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members to "optimize political value" (of the agreement).

A diplomatic cable said that in 2006, there were "on the order of 13,000" Marines based in Okinawa. Okinawa prefectural government officials argued that the actual number was 12,000 and criticized the figure included in the relocation road map as an exaggeration.

Although the issue was taken up in the Diet, the government at the time refused to confirm the actual number of personnel to be moved. The cables back up Okinawa's doubts about the figures.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government was not the first to make secret promises on the Futenma relocation issue that differed from official statements. Such discrepancies can be found in cables from the era of the coalition government between the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

The Japan-U.S. road map compiled in May 2006 included figures that differed from reality due to political considerations made by both governments.

The figures include not only the number of U.S. Marines based in Okinawa, but also the number of family members there, as well as the overall financial burden for moving Marines to Guam.

A series of cables dated Dec. 19, 2008, and classified "confidential" were sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others. They include the contents of a tentative agreement reached at working-level talks on moving Marines to Guam that defined the financial burdens to be borne by the two governments.

The documents show some of the hidden background in the road map for military realignment.

One example relates to $1 billion set aside to construct military roads, part of the approximately $4.1 billion to be borne by the United States. That figure represents about 40 percent of the total cost of $10.2 billion to relocate the Marines.

Two of the cables explain the road construction expenses were included during "negotiations on cost-sharing as a way to increase the overall cost estimate (i.e., the denominator) and thereby reduce the share of total costs borne by Japan."

The cables also show that the road was not necessary for the completion of the move.

During negotiations for the road map, a central focal point was the burden to be borne by Japan. The United States initially asked that Japan contribute 75 percent of the total, but the two sides eventually agreed on 59 percent. However, if the road construction cost is excluded from the U.S. contribution, Japan's burden increases to about 66 percent.

During talks for a formal agreement, U.S. negotiators said the road was not absolutely necessary and asked that the reference be deleted as a way to avoid an international obligation to build the military road.

The cables also show that the figures of 8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members to be moved to Guam from Okinawa were upper limits included as a budgetary measure.

"The two sides knew that these numbers differed significantly from actual Marines and dependents assigned to units in Okinawa," one of the cables says.

The cable goes on to say the "numbers were deliberately maximized to optimize political value in Japan."

Other wording in the cable states that while the road map agreement said 9,000 family members would be moved, the number was actually smaller in Okinawa. The United States proposed using the term "associated dependents" to leave open the possibility that family members not currently living in Okinawa could be included.

However, Japanese officials did not agree to that proposal.

Such differences were never made public.

Soon after Barack Obama became president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Japan in February 2009 and signed the agreement on the move of Marines to Guam with then Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone.

At that time, the Japanese bureaucrats and the U.S. government wanted to create a legal framework that would require the immediate implementation of the Futenma relocation plan if the DPJ took over control of government following a Lower House election expected that year.

A "secret" cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to Clinton that provided an explanation before her visit to Japan said, "Japanese officials believe the agreement and the allotment of over $900 million in realignment funding during the next fiscal year will buttress Japan's commitment to the May 1, 2006, Alliance Transformation Agreement even if there is a change in government here."
At that point, the move of Marines to Guam and the construction of a Futenma replacement facility that would serve as a precondition had already become part of an indivisible package.

THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (4): LDP Ministers Made Secret Promises to Okinawa Governor on Futenma



Although the United States was adamant against revising the 2006 agreement on relocating the Futenma air station, Japanese officials secretly promised the Okinawa governor that the runway at the new site would change.

Those promises were made during the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, according to diplomatic cables.

The main component of the agreement reached in May 2006 was to build two runways aligned in a V-shape along the coast near the U.S. Marines' Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, to serve as the relocation facility for the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

However, Okinawa prefectural government officials felt the Japanese and U.S. governments had gone over their heads in agreeing on the runway plan.

They wanted the runways to be move further offshore out of consideration for the environment and noise pollution for local communities.

Hirokazu Nakaima won his first term as Okinawa governor in November 2006. Although he was a conservative, he thought there was a need to revise the agreement.

The United States insisted that the 2006 agreement could not be revised because it was made through a complicated negotiating process. Even the slightest change was liable to return the talks to square one.

Diplomatic cables issued in 2007 show Cabinet ministers from the LDP expressing sympathy toward Nakaima's calls for a revision while U.S. officials were raising concerns about making a concession.

A "confidential" cable dated March 12, 2007, and submitted to the U.S. State Department from Kevin Maher, then consul general in Okinawa, said: "(Then Defense Minister Fumio) Kyuma then argued strongly that we need a fifty-meter revision in the FRF (Futenma Replacement Facility) plan in order to get Gov. Nakaima to agree to cooperate with the environmental impact assessment. I responded that we do not, and that to show any flexibility on this point is a mistake and a misreading of the situation in Okinawa."

Kyuma was forced to resign as defense minister in July 2007 after he said the U.S. atomic bombings in World War II could not be helped. Replacing Kyuma was Yuriko Koike, who served as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's special adviser on national security issues.

However, Koike was also forced to step down two months later after a confrontation with Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya over personnel decisions.

No longer defense minister, Koike nevertheless visited Okinawa in November 2007 and met with Maher at the Kanucha resort across the bay from Camp Schwab.

A cable classified as "confidential" and written by an official at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo in place of Maher mentions a secret promise Koike had made with Nakaima.

The cable said, Koike "admitted that as minister she had given the governor an informal 'promise' that after the EIA (environmental impact assessment) is completed, Tokyo will agree to slide the runway 50 meters more toward the ocean."

According to the cable, Maher told Koike that the United States had an "aversion to revising the plan at all," asking her, "What happens if there were no scientific reasons resulting from the EIA to justify any revision to the runway relocation?"

The cable said Koike responded, "There will be a different administration by 2009, so it doesn't matter what we've promised him."

The cable, likely based on a report by Maher, concludes with the comment, "It concerns us here if the governor is continuing to get this kind of informal wink on revising the plan from the current (Japanese) Cabinet."

The cable suggested that Japanese government officials be informed by U.S. officials about "our view that this is not the time to be showing Governor Nakaima any flexibility on revising the FRF plan."

THE TRUTH BEHIND JAPAN-U.S. TIES (6): Japanese Bureaucrats Also Critical of DPJ Government



Central government bureaucrats did little to hide their concerns and criticism of the inexperienced government led by the Democratic Party of Japan in talks with U.S. government officials on the Japan-U.S. issues.

The officials in the Foreign and Defense ministries, who were more comfortable following precedents set in foreign policy, were also unclear on what the DPJ might do to the planned relocation of the U.S. Marines Air Station Futenma and other issues related to the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Akitaka Saiki, then director-general of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, met with Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell on Sept. 18, soon after Yukio Hatoyama created his first DPJ-led Cabinet.

"Regarding DPJ leaders' call for an 'equal relationship' with the U.S., Saiki confessed that he did not know what was on the mind of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ... as the bilateral relationship was already equal," according to a diplomatic cable describing the meeting.

Saiki was also quoted as saying that the DPJ government "felt the need to project an image of power and confidence by showing it had Japan's powerful bureaucrats under control."

Saiki called such efforts "stupid," and said the DPJ "will learn," according to the cable.

Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka also met Campbell on the same day and told him, according to a cable, "Domestically, there is a sense in some quarters that Japan has not been treated equally, and as such, the DPJ had found political traction on this issue."

Japanese bureaucrats were particularly concerned about what would happen with the Futenma relocation issue.
On Oct. 12, 2009, a U.S. delegation led by Campbell and consisting of State and Defense department officials met with Akihisa Nagashima, then parliamentary vice minister of defense, and other Japanese officials to discuss the Futenma issue.

A diplomatic cable records what Nobushige Takamizawa, director-general of the Defense Ministry's Defense Policy Bureau, said at an informal working lunch, which Nagashima did not attend.

"The U.S. government should also refrain from demonstrating flexibility too soon in the course of crafting an adjusted realignment package palatable to the DPJ government," Takamizawa is quoted as telling his U.S. counterparts.

Lower-level bureaucrats were also quite open in expressing their concerns about the DPJ government.

On Dec. 10, 2009, an official at the U.S. Embassy in charge of political affairs met with three Foreign Ministry officials, including one who had worked at Japan's permanent mission to the United Nations.

In a cable dated Dec. 16, the Foreign Ministry officials expressed "their displeasure toward the Hatoyama government's handling and politicization of the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF)" issue.

The officials were also quoted as saying the United States "ought not to be overly accommodating to the DPJ government on FRF or risk being misunderstood and appear willing to make concessions to the agreed road map."

Monday, May 09, 2011

Selfish Jokes on a Burning Plane

One of the stupidest things I hear far too often on Guam is that the Chamorro language, its essence is a certain way and so changing that essence, not following it means not authentically using or preserving the language. The most common context in which I hear this is that the Chamorro language is primarily a spoken language and so therefore issues such as writing and orthography are either of secondary importance or of no importance than the actual speaking of the language. Or some people will say that so many of the problems with people not speaking the language today or it not being as healthy as we would want, are because we are transgressing and not being faithful to that essence, but trying to (by giving it standard spelling system, for instance) make it do what it isn’t supposed to do.

About three years ago, I recall getting some particularly taitiningo’ na comments on this blog from the owner of the Chamorro Language and Culture blog. I don’t know who makes that blog, her name, her story or anything else. At one time I had links to her blog on this blog because although many of her posts showed that they didn’t really know very much about what she was talking about (her claims about Chamorro language, history and culture were often full of more ego than fact), her blog posts showed that she had a commitment to the Chamorro language and to helping others learn parts of it or hopefully get a better understanding of it. Regardless of the tone of many of the things she wrote, her blog could be very helpful to people and I recognized that.

Out of nowhere one day she left a very pointless and irritating comment on my blog, which she later removed. I responded to it and she left a longer, less irritating, but still not very educated or informed comment, and unfortunately I got caught up with other things and didn’t respond until months later.

The maker of that blog was the epitome of what I call a Chamorro Language Loser. Part of my use of this term is naturally to say that that person is a “loser” meaning, they suck. But the other dimension is to draw attention to how, despite what they may claim about what their intentions are, what great service to the Chamorro people they might feel they are doing by speaking or spreading the language, their attitude and approach quickly unravels most positive effects, thereby making them actually contribute more to the decline of the language. Language losers come in many forms and most don’t have websites or any other permanent presence, some come in the forms of people who at an everyday level make those they interact with less likely to use the language or want to learn it. Most language losers have massive egos, and this tends to come out in how they teach the language or talk to others about it. Regardless of how limited or narrow their knowledge might be, the fact that they can speak the language inflates their ego to the point where they feel that everyone should speak like them or that no matter what they say or how they say it, they are doing a grand service to the Chamorro people.

One of the stupidest arguments that the maker of the Chamorro Language blog made was that issues of spelling weren’t important or necessary because the language was originally a spoken language and people who take that sort of thing seriously are simply making things up or being pretentious. Obviously in her comments she was lashing out at me, for being pretentious, and part of her tirade was also guided by the fact that she was from Saipan and that gave her some linguistic superiority over poor old me, who is from Guam. She associated much of her attacks with people on Guam giving up their language, people on Guam blaming others for things that are really their fault and for people on Guam being pretentious about things such as spelling. Part of her attack was my use and the use of people on Guam of the letter “å” which wasn’t used in older Chamorro language documents.

When I read her comments it was difficult to respond because so much was wrong, incorrect or just plain stupid about what she was arguing. She had probably seen some old Church books with Chamorro written in them, complained to some relatives from Saipan about pretentious Guam Chamorros and had then decided that whatever she thought was God’s truth.

It was clear that she hadn’t read very much written in Chamorro from ages ago, because if she did she would have found a number of things. First, church texts are the main documents where you can find old writings in Chamorro, and these texts were written primarily by Spanish speakers and Spanish people, not Chamorros. Second, when you look at old writings in Chamorro, even though almost all are inspired from the Spanish orthography, they still vary in spelling, since Chamorros were simply making things up based on familiar and assumed sounds. So, the complaint against me and others who are making things up by using the letter “å” was really quite stupid, since all Chamorros and Spaniards who were writing for centuries were simply making things up as well, since there was no established way of writing Chamorro. That’s why Chamorros can take the step to create their own orthography to suit their needs and if it is different than the way the Spanish spelled it, so what? Why can’t we have an orthography which matches the way we speak the language or the way we might want it to be?

The argument becomes even more stupid when people complain that the letter “å” is pretentious because it serves no purpose. It is just something that Chamorros such as myself created out of nothing, and must not serve a purpose since Chamorros before didn’t use it. As I’ve written about before, this argument is so stupid that it almost defies my ability to understand how someone could be so clueless. The argument that in the past people didn’t use this letter has no relevance to whether or not it has any significance. Some Chamorro texts make use of the letter “ñ” but I did not hear this person or anyone else complain that it was pretentious of those old Chamorros to use that term when they just could have used “n” and it would have been fine.

The reason that you use letters such as “ñ” and “å” in addition to letters such as “n” and “a” is because they are meant to signify different sounds! It is so mind-numbingly simple, it really makes my head hurt when I think of how I actually have to explain this to people. It doesn’t matter if Chamorros or the Spanish in the past didn’t do it, it absolutely serves a purpose today. You could use a different symbol if you wanted to, but you can’t attack the value of the symbol itself.

For instance, I will now write two different Chamorro words below, both of which are pronounced differently and mean different things. I will write them twice, the first time in a world without the “pretentious” letters, the second time in a world with them.

Baba / Baba.

Can you tell the difference between them? One means “bad, evil” the other means “to open.” The first “a” is supposed to be pronounced differently in each word, but without the differentiation between “a” and “å” you cannot tell when these words are isolated which is which. In the older writings in Chamorro, you had to tell which was being used based on the words around it, so you could usually tell which is was by what meaning it seemed to hold based on other more easily distinguishable words in its sentence.

Here are the words again now with the pretentious letter included!

Båba / Baba.

Now you know that one is pronounced with a “ah” sound whereas the other is pronounced with the “ae” sound.

One of the ways in which you can identify the primacy of the ego in Language Losers is in examples like this. One of the key reasons why it is important to have a spelling system which can distinguish between sounds, is not only to get rid of as much miscommunication and misunderstanding in the language between those who already speak it, but to make the language more accessible to those who are trying to learn it. So many people who are speaking or promoting the language or claim to be trying to protect it, think of how to save it through their ego first and thus come up with recommendations, strategies and ideas based on what they as someone who already speaks the language would want or be comfortable with. In reality, as I have said many times, any effort to bring back to a healthy state the Chamorro language, must be rooted in strategies not aimed at appeasing existing language speakers, but enticing and assisting those who do not speak it or are trying to.

For those who are learning the language, the issue of “a” and “å” is something which makes your life miserable. Even though there is an orthography out there for Chamorro, which was developed 30 years ago by representatives from both Guam and the CNMI (and it uses the “å” letter), few people use it and so whenever you read something in Chamorro you can never be certain as to whether or not the person is using “a” for both “ae” and “ah” sounds, or just for “ae.”

But this issue of Chamorro being a spoken language goes even further than tiny issues such as these. So many people who do speak the language already reject the need or the value of writing down the language or having a set system of spelling words. The only argument which can support these claims is a massively stupid one, which is all based on the idea that the essence of the Chamorro language is to be spoken and not written down, and that we lose some of its essence, its authenticity if we do take seriously how it is written down. This argument doesn’t make sense in any abstract or practical sense. It does not make sense to cling to a particular form of the language, since all languages that have survived for thousands of years have to make the same transmission. They either have to become written down in order to survive, or find some niche in life to ensure that they are kept alive and spoken. This is especially so when the vitality of the language is minimal or fading. The Chamorro language in both the CNMI and Guam is not healthy. The people from the CNMI like to pretend that it is healthy, but when I attended the last Chamorro conference in Saipan in 2008, I was surprised not only by how much the language had declined there amongst the youth, but how finally there were people who were willing to admit to it.

The language fluency of people from the CNMI had been one of the ways they had tried to claim superiority over Guam, which after World War II had always been superior in terms of development and Americanization. And for decades the CNMI was absolutely superior in this regard with people on Guam actively giving up the language or lazily letting it slip through the fingers of their children. But now the CNMI seems to be following Guam’s example in terms of letting the language die. Part of the problem that the CNMI faces, and which Guam already was disrupted by is the influx of English language media and policies which come as a result of Americanization and development. Not only is English spoken everywhere in the Marianas Islands, but it can be read everywhere, and it, not Chamorro becomes the language which ties life together. It ties together different peoples, it ties together trade, it even ties together government and life. For crying it out loud, it even ties together social networking sites. The easiest way to bring back the language is to solidify it as a written language; as something you can use in text messages, in emails, in your status updates, just in general something which isn’t only limited to the first three sentences of a conversation, but something you can use at any moment in any context and still feel like your language is strong enough to hold its own. Although it wasn’t always like this, in today’s world standardizing and nurturing Chamorro as a written language is a key element of making sure it survives.

Although a language can survive today as a primarily oral language, that assumes a healthy population which is fluent in it and which will ensure it remains alive in the context which it best serves. When you look at Guam and Chamorros today that context is simply not there, mampos taigue. We still have thousands of strong Chamorro language speakers, but the language is not being passed on. It remains somewhat vibrant within existing communities, but it doesn’t trickle down, it doesn’t move anywhere else. The amount which is being retained by the youngest of generations is so pathetically small, you almost have to laugh at how tragically gagu of a people Chamorros are. They would rail against Peter Onedera for not speaking “real Chamorro” or complain endlessly about the way something is spelled, and instead of using that time for something gaibali, such as speaking to their children, grandchildren or anyone else, they would rather waste it on pointless ego-based conversations which prove little, solve even less and protect nothing. Bringing the language back could be so easy if everyone who speaks it as of today ensured that at least one of their relatives learned the language. But we don’t see anything of the sort happening. Bula kuentos, lao tåya’ bida.

One of the saddest things about the general resistance to adopting an orthography for the Chamorro language is that it means that even amongst those who speak the language and profess to want to protect and nurture it, there is an acceptance that the game is already over. Ti manmangganna’ hit. We didn’t win or perhaps just another way of saying that we can’t win. They attempt to mask their defeatist attitude with that of a purist or a conservationist. They have very nice sounding, high-minded rhetoric meant to obscure the fact that they don’t really want Chamorro to be revitalized or for it to come back. These people have already selfishly given up. For whatever reason, they might not want their uniqueness in terms of speaking the language to be lost, they might be too lazy to want to expend the energy to make sure it survives, or they may still secretly accept those colonizing ideas that if you only speak one language you’ll be twice as smart as someone who speaks two. One of the things that intrigues me is how much time people waste not teaching the language, getting wrapped up in stupid pointless fights and conversations. It is almost as if they see things are pointless and so simply want to have some fun as all things go to hell. Why fight against it? Why not just enjoy the ride down?

That is the ultimate sin of the language loser. In movie imagery and formula, the language loser is usually the recipient of some horrible death towards the end of the movie because of the way their enjoyment or humor doesn’t fit with the theme of everyone about to die or the world about to come to an end. If you imagine the Chamorro language as a plane which is currently crashing towards the earth, you can see those of us who speak the language, those of us in it, each scurrying about in our own ways trying to save the plane and keep ourselves alive. Some might be sewing together parachutes. Some might be trying to fix machinery or electronics. Some might be trying to get cellphone signals to call relatives. Everyone is trying to do something. Each something might not be very effective, but all are trying to do something to keep the people alive or keep the plane in the air. But within this plane, you’ll have a group of people who won’t be doing anything. They’ll use the anxiety of the others, their preoccupation with trying to save everyone, to actually make themselves and their petty egos feel better. They won’t lift a finger to help, but rather needle the others, make fun of their ideas, tease them. They won’t explicitly try to make them stop working on the plane, but everything about what people do is fair game. They will be so counterproductive, make everyone else miserable for trying to do something, and from that misery, their ego will be filled and even if the whole plane crashes and everyone dies, at least their twisted hearts will enjoy some final moments of selfish superiority.


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