Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Base Displacement

University of Guam School of Social Work and the GuåhanCoalition for Peace and Justice present speakers:

David Vine
American University
Anthropology Department

Leevin Taitano Camacho
We Are Guåhan



Wednesday, September 28, 2011
5:30 pm - 8:30 pm

University of Guam CLASS Lecture Hall

Monday, September 26, 2011

Corruption in Context

One of the unfortunate things about writing a column for a newspaper is the space limitations. Often times I'm discussing important topics and I can't do justice to it, can't say anything close to what I want to see or even feel I need to say. One such moment came last week in my column "Corruption in Context" in the Marianas Variety. In the column I discussed how people come to see the Department of Defense or the military in an extremely skewed way. As a place where there is no corruption, where everything is equal, based on merit, and handled in the right way. People see the military through nicely kept yards, proud serving men and women and cheaper gas that helps in the fight for freedom. In contrast to this image, the Department of Defense is interestingly enough, the largest, most corrupt, most incompetent and most inefficient part of the Federal government of the United States.

Although I mentioned this point, given the space limitations, I was not able to go into it in detail. I'm working on a follow up piece for this week Wednesday that will outline and give some evidence behind my claim.


“Corruption in Context”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety

The United States seems to be on the edge of fiscal chaos lately. State governments going bankrupt, the Federal government tearing itself apart, clamoring from all sides of the ideological spectrum for cuts. Amidst all the talk about cutting parts of Federal spending, I was surprised to see how very little attention was given to the arm of the Federal government which not only receives the most money, but whose track record makes it the most over-bloated, inefficient and corrupt part of the entire US government: The Department of Defense.

Most on Guam might consider our local government to be the worst part of the United States and its empire when it comes to things such as oversight or money, but the vice of Guam's government is minor in so many ways compared to the constant and obvious theft which takes place in broad daylight through the Department of Defense each day.

This comparison is not meant to excuse corruption on Guam, but rather to place it in a better context. The hiring of a relative or a poorly qualified, but politically related person is not good, but the level at which Guam's government corrupts life on Guam is so insignificant compared to the amount of graft and sheer mind-numbing incompetence at the Pentagon. The corruption there reaches global proportions, since the amount of money wasted in both war and peace dwarfs thousands of times over the entire budget of the Government of Guam, and could make up the economy of a large country.

This is important because when people on Guam give an identity to the military and to the Department of Defense they tend to do it in positively skewed ways, pining for its garbage free roadsides or cheaper gas prices and seeing it as something that acts solely on merit and not “politics.” The Government of Guam on the other hand is something which is always skewed negatively, something which can be assumed to be unable to handle even simple tasks, something which you can always assume to screw things up, make them worse. You see the military positively through proud serving men and women, and the Government of Guam negatively through a crowd of orange vested men seemingly doing nothing at a construction site or a bus driver sleeping in his vehicle while waiting for his next shift.

It is always surprising to see then the gap between the reality of an institution such as DOD and the daily sense impressions of people. That gap is precisely what makes the level of waste possible at the DOD. In the case of something like the Government of Guam, there is always a feeling of it needing to be better watched and monitored, and that is why even if it means that the island has failed itself, people can celebrate when GovGuam agencies are put in receivership. In the case of the DOD there is a feeling that one can let it do whatever it wants and everything should be ok. For Guam, this feeling of trust stems from personal feelings of the regimented order of military life, the nostalgia of the racist and paternal control from the Navy in pre-World War II Guam, and the perceptions of DOD as having endless coffers of cash from which it can draw from to constantly improve itself and take care of its problems. It is interesting then how this fantasy then clashes with reality over things such as the military buildup. So long as the buildup appeared to be in DOD's hands, it appeared to be an economic dream come true. The natural faith that people have in the DOD being able to keep promises, do the impossible and ensure order seeped into the buildup, and so the more that others became involved in the process, activists, local leaders, the Governments of Japan and the United States, the more it seemed to fall apart. Even if the interventions of others were necessary or did important things in improving the buildup or calling into question things that needed to be questioned, there was still a tension amongst those who are ideologically predisposed to believe the fantasies of DOD supremacy, that something horrible had been done by daring to question whether or not DOD has the interests of Guam and its people at heart.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I just noticed that I passed a pretty big milestone yesterday. As you can see from the image to the left, I recently passed 300,000 hits on this blog. This means that according to Statcounter, pages on this blog have been loaded 300,000 times, and it does not necessarily mean that 300,000 people have read my blog (olaha mohon na taiguihi).

What's weird is that if I follow the internal counter that Blogger uses, then I've had 300,000 hits for quite a while, since Blogger's counter always counts twice as much as Statcounter. Needless to say, this is an exciting day for me and my blog. I started this blog in August 2004, and this post is my 1,431th. I meant to commemorate the 7th year of this blog last month, lao maleffa yu'.

In 2004, my blog posts were brutally short. Sometimes one or two sentences, sometimes a paragraph. Sometimes I would post several tiny posts in a day. Although I only had this blog for 4 months in 2004, I still posted 120 times, meaning at least once per day.

In 2005, I kept up a high level of posting, with 236 spread across the year. Despite this amount of posts, there still wasn't much traffic coming to my blog. Despite so many posts, I only had 11,000 hits for the entire year. That averages out to less than 1,000 per month. Looking back it is kind of sad. I was putting alot of energy into my blog, but there just wasn't many people clicking on it.

In 2006, I dropped in terms of posts. The pressures of writing and researching a masters thesis at UCSD must have got to me and so I only posted 186 times that year. While my output decreased, I should note that my posts started to get long and longer at this point, as my blog become a place for me to vent and meditate on the stuff I was learning in graduate school. My hits for the year more than doubled, and my blog was visited more than 23,000 times.

In 2007, I feel my writing on my blog really began to mature. By this time I had been organizing with Chamorros in the states for quite a while and also felt comfortable in terms of expressing theoretical ideas and philosophy. Some of my favorite articles from this blog come from that year. There were alot of changes happening in my life this year. I became a father, a started a new relationship in San Diego. I wrote 174 posts, and the amount of hits for the year was more than 30,000.

2008 was the ultimate year for me in terms of blogging. Not only did I write more posts than any other year (241) but my blog was clicked on more than any other year (71,000). The reason for the numerous points was of course the 2008 US Presidential election, where I followed closely the primary races, often commenting on issues of race and gender as Hillary and Obama battled it out for the nomination. I traveled to Denver, Colorado to attend the Democratic National Convention as the official blogger from Guam and wrote several dozen posts on what was happening there. My blog was listed on more blogs than ever around the US, when they released the list of bloggers invited to the convention, and as a result my Google and Technorati rankings shot up. I got more traffic than ever.

In 2009, I dropped off in terms of posting, going from 241 - 155, primarily because this was my last year of dissertation writing, and I found myself spending all of my time working on it. I had no where near as many hits this year as the year before, but it was still my second highest at the time: 57,000.

In 2010, I increased the amount of posts again to 191. Although I did not post as much as I did in my early years, the high number of posts is because of three things: 1) The military buildup. At the beginning of the year, during the heated DEIS period on Guam, I find myself writing about it all the time. Eventually I'll transform my blog posts into an article on what happened to Guam at that time. 2) I traveled to South Korea for a research trip, and wrote many posts on my thoughts and experiences there. 3) I traveled to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan for the 2010 World Conference Against A & H Bombs. I wrote plenty of posts for that trip as well. Perhaps because of peoples' interest in my trips and the buildup my number of hits went up again, this time to 63,000. I would have had many many more posts for this year but I taught 5 classes in the spring and than 6 classes in the fall, in addition to 2 in the summer and 2 in the winter. So in general I was very very busy.

For 2011, I look on target to finish with between 50,000-60,000 hits for the year and somewhere around 160 posts. The amount of writing I do on this blog has taken a hit as other projects, most notably my weekly column in the Marianas Variety that I started last year, take up my time for research, writing and thinking. I need to refocus on writing for this blog. It has been around for a while, it has been an important resource for some, and an important place for me to share my thoughts and work out some ideas as well.

It took me 7 years to get to 300,000, I hope it doesn't take me another 7 years to get to 600,000.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Impulsive Proposal

Mapuno' i birak.

Esta hagas na tiempo hu u'uke' este na birak.

Kada pekkat-hu ha chungat yu.

Kada diha, kalang sinanggra yu' ni' i malago'-na.

Para Hamyo, ni' ti en kempreprende hafa ilelek-hu guini, pat hafa este na estaba na birak-hu, manaplika yu' "grant" halacha. Ya para dos meses ayu sumagayi i lina'la'-hu.

Lao makpo' este put fin, ya ha fattoigue yu' ta'lo i minagof-hu, i gailugat-hu.

For those who don't understand the Chamorro section above, my life was taken over recently by applying for a National Science Foundation grant. I have applied for grants before, but never one such as this. This grant was twice as large as the largest grant I've ever helped apply for (this one is $220,000), three times longer than the longest grant I've ever applied for (3 years) and stretched my ability to sound "scientific" in a grant proposal. Suette yu', because the grant was on something I take seriously and care passionately about, documenting specialized forms of the Chamorro language, but still, writing this and putting it together was such a monumental task for me. Magof yu' na makpo' este.

Every time I finish a huge task like this, it takes a while for my brain to readjust to not being consumed by a single, demanding job. This is the same for grants like this, scholarly projects, research trips and even big translation projects. Kalang estaba un bula' na abubu i tintanos-hu, ya ensigidas mapokka'. It's as if my brain was this big balloon and all of a sudden popped. I usually spend a day stumbling around my laptop, apartment, coffee shops, my office, wondering what I did with my life before I took on that ridiculous project.

Today, for some reason I find myself searching around the news database, Newsbank for articles from around the world on Guam. Most were the type I expected to find. News from Japan on the buildup and Okinawa. Sports news as Guam teams travel to Asia. Some old articles on typhoons and the damage they caused in Guam. Every once in a while, one article would stick out amongst the hundreds, and make me pause and read the text. These were either articles which were unusually indepth about Guam but from a random place, such as Afghanistan, India or Southeast Asia. Or they were just random stories, which somehow featured Guam.

One such article, about a couple form Hong Kong, who got married in the "paradise" that is Guam I've pasted below.


An impulsive proposal leads to Guam marriage
Lunch-hour phone call takes Catherine Kong and Gurt Wong to the altar in a Pacific island paradise
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)
Saturday, July 30, 2011

Catherine Kong almost choked on her lunch when Gurt Wong proposed to her over the phone last December. In fact, it also was quite a shock for Gurt.

Catherine was eating with colleagues when Gurt, whom she had been dating for six months, inadvertently popped the question. He suggested they spend Christmas in Guam, somewhere they had once agreed would be a lovely place to get married. "But I didn't plan to propose... I simply wanted to go travelling," Gurt said.

She said: "I was like, but we were going to get married there, and it was then that he said, 'Why not?' And I said, 'Yes'."

Catherine, 24, a financial planner at a bank, and Gurt, 30, a video producer, married at St Laguna Chapel in Guam on January 26. They then celebrated at Palace Wedding Banquet at The One with about 450 guests on June 6.

The couple first met at a mutual friend's party last year. They barely talked, but the next day Catherine added Gurt as a friend on Facebook and they started chatting. They soon found out that they had grown up in the same area and gone to the same primary school. They even lived close to each other - just a three-minute walk away.

"That was pretty amazing," Catherine said.

The following week, they met again when Catherine asked Gurt to join her and some friends at a karaoke lounge. That night, they took the same minibus home and decided to have dinner the next evening. After countless Facebook chats and text messages, love gradually blossomed.

"I was really attracted by his ambition and determination. He's one of those guys who would never give up on his dreams. He makes independent films on his own terms. I really respect that," Catherine said.

When Gurt asked Catherine out on another "friendly date", and asked her what food she'd like, "She said it didn't matter as long as it was with me", Gurt said.

He was happy to hear that but also had doubts. "I was like, we've only known each other for a matter of weeks and she's being so forward. I wondered if she was trying to sell me an insurance policy or something like that."

"Well, that's who I am. I don't play games and I wasn't trying to sell him anything," Catherine said.

They went on the date and both decided to give love a shot.

Gurt wasn't the only one who liked doing creative things, and doing them his own way. They once picked up two stones at the beach and Gurt joked that Catherine could make them into pendants.

She spent hours drilling holes in the small stones and eventually made matching necklaces, which they have not taken off since.

There were also times when Catherine appeared at Gurt's home in the middle of the night to give him scarves or bracelets she had just finished making.

"I know it might sound cheesy, but when a girl shows up at your door like that, it's hard not to be moved," Gurt said.

For all that the proposal may have been impulsive, each knew from their first date that they had found the right partner. "Sometimes you don't need years and years to make sure he's the one. You just know, really," Catherine said.

Gurt surprised Catherine with another, proper, proposal the night before they flew to Guam, on January 23. He asked her to test his video camera and went into another room, pretending to pack. When he came back and Catherine had the camera fixed on him, Gurt took out roses and a ring, and got down on one knee.

"I've got that all on the record. Now I don't have to tell friends that he proposed over the phone," Catherine said.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dogs and Karabaos

Gof tinane' yu' gi este mamaila na simana. Guaha inaplikan grant ni' bai hu na'halom antes di Tuesday. Guaha meggai na bai hu na'listo para i singko na klas-hu siha. Guaha tinige'-hu review put i lepblon Vince Diaz (Repositioning the Missionary) ni' bai hu tuge' antes di i finakpo' i mes. Guaha dos na kaduku na patgon-hu, ya kalang gof ga'tumane' i dos nu Guahu.

And so since I won't be posting much for a few days because I have too many things to do, I've pasted below a picture of two dogs riding a karabao.

Fa'na'an i duenon este na tres ga'ga' i bisinun Si tata-hu giya Piti. Lao yanggen sesso matto hao giya i kanton tasi Assan, sesso lokkue' sina un ripara este na tres manmamomokkat guihi.

Adios, esta otro biahi!

The End of Coral Reefs

Published on Sunday, September 11, 2011
by the Independent/UK
Coral Reefs 'Will Be Gone by End of the Century'

They will be the first entire ecosystem to be destroyed by human activity, says top UN scientist

by Andrew Marszal

Coral reefs are on course to become the first ecosystem that human activity will eliminate entirely from the Earth, a leading United Nations scientist claims. He says this event will occur before the end of the present century, which means that there are children already born who will live to see a world without coral.
The claim is made in a book published tomorrow, which says coral reef ecosystems are very likely to disappear this century in what would be "a new first for mankind – the 'extinction' of an entire ecosystem". Its author, Professor Peter Sale, studied the Great Barrier Reef for 20 years at the University of Sydney. He currently leads a team at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
The predicted decline is mainly down to climate change and ocean acidification, though local activities such as overfishing, pollution and coastal development have also harmed the reefs. The book, Our Dying Planet, published by University of California Press, contains further alarming predictions, such as the prospect that "we risk having no reefs that resemble those of today in as little as 30 or 40 more years".
"We're creating a situation where the organisms that make coral reefs are becoming so compromised by what we're doing that many of them are going to be extinct, and the others are going to be very, very rare," Professor Sale says. "Because of that, they aren't going to be able to do the construction which leads to the phenomenon we call a reef. We've wiped out a lot of species over the years. This will be the first time we've actually eliminated an entire ecosystem."
Coral reefs are important for the immense biodiversity of their ecosystems. They contain a quarter of all marine species, despite covering only 0.1 per cent of the world's oceans by area, and are more diverse even than the rainforests in terms of diversity per acre, or types of different phyla present.
Recent research into coral reefs' highly diverse and unique chemical composition has found many compounds useful to the medical industry, which could be lost if present trends persist. New means of tackling cancer developed from reef ecosystems have been announced in the past few months, including a radical new treatment for leukemia derived from a reef-dwelling sponge. Another possible application of compounds found in coral as a powerful sunblock has also been mooted.

And coral reefs are of considerable economic value to humans, both as abundant fishing resources and – often more lucratively – as tourist destinations. About 850 million people live within 100km of a reef, of which some 275 million are likely to depend on the reef ecosystems for nutrition or livelihood. Fringing reefs can also help to protect low-lying islands and coastal regions from extreme weather, absorbing waves before they reach vulnerable populations.
Carbon emissions generated by human activity, especially our heavy use of fossils fuels, are the biggest cause of the anticipated rapid decline, impacting on coral reefs in two main ways. Climate change increases ocean surface temperatures, which have already risen by 0.67C in the past century. This puts corals under enormous stress and leads to coral bleaching, where the photosynthesising algae on which the reef-building creatures depend for energy disappear. Deprived of these for even a few weeks, the corals die.
On top of this comes ocean acidification. Roughly one-third of the extra carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere is absorbed through the ocean surface, acidifying shallower waters. A more recently recognized problem in tropical reef systems, the imbalance created makes it harder for reef organisms to retrieve the minerals needed to build their carbonaceous skeletons. "If they can't build their skeletons – or they have to put a lot more energy into building them relative to all the other things they need to do, like reproduce – it has a detrimental effect on the coral reefs," says Paul Johnston of the University of Exeter, and founder of the UK's Greenpeace Research Laboratories.
An important caveat to the book's predictions is that the corals themselves – the tiny organisms largely responsible for creating reefs – may be lucky enough to survive the destruction, if past mass extinction episodes are anything to go by. "Although corals are ancient animals and have been around for hundreds of millions of years, there have been periods of reefs, and periods where there are no reefs," explains Mark Spalding, of the US-based environmental group Nature Conservancy, and the University of Cambridge. "When climatic conditions are right they build these fantastic structures, but when they're not they wait in the wings, in little refuges, as a rather obscure invertebrate."
The gaps between periods in which reefs are present have been long even in geological terms, described in the book as "multimillion-year pauses". And reef disappearance has tended to precede wider mass extinction events, offering an ominous "canary in the environmental coal mine" for the present day, according to the author. "People have been talking about current biodiversity loss as the Holocene mass extinction, meaning that the losses of species that are occurring now are in every way equivalent to the mass extinctions of the past," Professor Sale says. "I think there is every possibility that is what we are seeing."
About 20 per cent of global coral reefs have already been lost in the past few decades. Mass bleaching events leading to widespread coral death are a relatively recent phenomenon; though scientists have been studying coral reefs in earnest since the 1950s, mass bleaching was first observed only in 1983.
Dr Spalding, who witnessed the catastrophic 1998 mass bleaching in the Indian Ocean first-hand, says: "It was a shocking wake-up call for the world of science, and a shocking wake-up for me to be actually there as we watched literally 80 to 90 per cent of all the corals die on the reefs of the Seychelles and other islands in a few weeks." That single event destroyed 16 per cent of the world's coral.
But according to the book's author: "The 1998 bleaching was spectacular because it was so extensive and so conspicuous. But there have been mass bleachings that have been global since then: 2005 was bad; 2010 was bad. The visual appearance is not nearly as severe as it was in 1998, simply because there is less coral around."
These dramatic episodes coincide with unusual weather patterns such as El Niño, but are increasing in severity and frequency due to climate change. As such, tackling global warming is the most urgent solution advocated by the book. "If we can keep CO2 concentrations below 450 parts per million we would be able to save something resembling coral reefs," Professor Sale says. "They wouldn't be the coral reefs of the 1950s or 1960s, but they would be recognizably coral reefs, and they would function as reefs." The current atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is about 390 parts per million, but few experts believe it will remain below 500 for long.
There are signs that local conservation efforts can make a difference. Alex Rogers, professor of conservation biology at Oxford University, says: "We know for certain that corals subject to low levels of stress are much more able to recover. So if you take away pressures like overfishing of coral reefs and pollution, this has profound effects on recovery. But what we're really doing is buying time for many of these ecosystems. If climate change continues at its current rate, they will be done for eventually."
Though not all scientists agree with the precise timescales set out by the book, the crisis is clear. "When you're talking about the destruct-ion of an entire ecosystem within one human generation, there might be some small differences in the details – it is a dramatic image and a dramatic statement," Professor Rogers says. "But the overall message we agree with. People are not taking on board the sheer speed of the changes we're seeing."

'Our Dying Planet' (University of California Press) will be published in North America tomorrow
© 2011 Independent/UK.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Command Post

I've been reading a lot of 9/11 retrospectives lately, primarily because of the fact that for a week it seemed like that was all anyone could write or talk about. I even ended up writing one of my own for my Marianas Variety column this week, which I will post later about Guam's own 9/11, which is not 9.11.2001, and not even 12.8.1941, but rather 9.11.1671, the day of the first large scale open battle between Chamorros and recently arrived Spanish missionaries. It was a profoundly important day in Chamorro history, and the key moment in the story of Guam's third most famous Maga'lahi, Maga'lahi Hurao. In case you're wondering the two most famous are Kepuha and Mata'pang.

By far though  my favorite restrospective had to be from The Command Post.

This blog disappeared for a while, but several years back it had some very insightful commentary on militarism, imperialism, and even made some very interesting connections between Guam and Iraq. I was happy to see him return and I hope he keeps writing. His blogpost titled "Our Bloody Decade" is insightful, somber, but informative. I've pasted it below:


I suppose it is to be expected that the media would spend lots of air time memorializing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. After all, much of the national media are based out of New York. For them, this is not simply something which happened, but a deeply traumatic event in their own lives. Different communities have different shared experiences. I remember watching the towers fall while stationed far away in South Dakota. Somehow, everybody knew we were going to war, even though, as I pointed out, we didn’t yet know who was behind the attack. Somehow, the media immediately grabbed the name Osama bin Laden and ran with it as the most likely perpetrator, given his history of attacking U.S. targets. And somehow it didn’t matter either way. There would be blood. We’d figure out whose shortly.
There was a moment in which it seemed as though the nation was coming together, united by our common shock. Pundits like to refer to it as a lost opportunity to improve ourselves, to build an even more perfect union. Let us be candid about this point: that was fear, not some sort of new-found love for our fellow Americans. These were petrified Americans, not patriotic Americans. President Bush accurately measured the national mood. While there was some desire to turn the nation’s attention toward a higher purpose, the nation mostly reacted like a wounded animal. Their President was happy to stoke the bloodthirsty mob toward his ends… and then tell them to go shopping.

See, we had a volunteer military to handle the dirty work. No need for tax increases, we would simply borrow the money to pay for our great national bloodletting. No need for a draft, we have enough volunteers willing to risk their lives. Thank them for their service, listen to country music, slap a (magnetic, we don’t want to damage the paint job) yellow ribbon on your SUV, max out your credit cards, and vote Republican! This is what was asked of most Americans. No call to service, not even something domestic like Americorps. Indulge all your consumer desires, and don’t worry: statistically speaking, most of you probably don’t know anybody in the military, anyway.
Vietnam syndrome, thwarted.
The Iraq campaign eventually became deeply unpopular, especially after it had dragged on for over a year (imagine!) and it was revealed that, oops, guess they weren’t stocking WMD and didn’t have anything to do with 9/11 and really weren’t a threat to us at all and our military has been stacking prisoners in naked pyramids and menacing them with dogs and all this tough talk about how it would be good if we had a long, bloody campaign to prove our mettle typed up by courageous keyboard warriors were just so much bluster and that even if we could “take it”, the price we were paying for… what again?... wasn’t worth it anymore. Never was. But somehow, in their heart of hearts, the electorate remained deeply, deeply afraid… of gay marriage. And as such, they gave the unelected buffoon who oversaw the greatest terrorist attack on U.S. soil and dragged us into a costly and unnecessary war his first electoral mandate as President, saying with conviction, “four more years”.

Hurricane Katrina finally awakened the portion of the American people who know that the earth revolves around the sun that President Bush did not have the people’s interests in mind when making policy decisions. He had set us on a path to self-destruction which would ultimately be realized when the economy collapsed in the final months of his presidency, and he mostly treated it like a big joke. Our dopey, impetuous President, grinning like the Cheshire Cat with blood dripping from his teeth, was finally revealed for the fraud he was. The stubborn partisans who had cheered his war mongering mostly went into hiding until tax day in 2009, in which they rebranded themselves “Tea Party Patriots”, shifting the discussion entirely to the economic policies of the new administration, one of the most huge and successful acts of changing the subject I’ve ever seen.

The subject has been changed. The page has been turned. After President Obama took office, we heard nary a word about Osama bin Laden until President Obama’s May 2, 2011 announcement of his death. We no longer endure a barrage of transparently political “terror alerts”, always timed to distract from news which would be embarrassing to the administration.
And yet, some of us haven’t moved on… haven’t turned the page. The sound of rocket fire is a distant four year-old memory for me, but the barrage of 9/11 coverage has called back the rage and frustration I felt over the senseless destruction and loss of life. The alchemy of war is to turn blood into gold. KBR and Blackwater knew how to do that with ease. Rifle fire, explosions, and helicopter blades were my lullaby, but defense contractors couldn’t hear it over the sound of their coffers filling up. “Thank you for your service,” they said with a grin and a Scrooge McDuck money bin. And as a nation, we have yet to come to grips with what we did. Neo-conservatives mostly keep their heads down, although Dick Cheney has been making the rounds. Charles Krauthammer, in his characteristically pompous manner, has recently tried to renew the old and discredited justifications. Liberals occasionally mention Iraq as one of the wrong-headed policy decisions of the last administration, but only ever in a detached, academic way, not with the passion of those who remember 9/11 personally.
And the average American citizen would just as soon forget it ever happened. To them, electing Obama was their mea culpa. He promised to end the war. He was black and had a Muslim name. No more was required.

Please don’t thank me for my service any more. Instead, go to a veterans’ cemetery, look for a grave with the words, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” inscribed on it, lay a rose next to it and very quietly and quite sincerely say, “I’m sorry.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

UOG Student Protest Today

From F.I.T.E. Club:

Hafa adai todus hamyo, as you may know, the University of Guam is having a public hearing for the tuition increase proposal. When: Tuesday September 13, 2:00. Where: Business Building Room #129. If this news is new to you, here are some facts!

Hafa, Tuition Increases? YES! For residents, the rates will increase 10% in Spring Semester 2012 and will increase another 5% in both Academic Years 2012-13 and 2013-14. Let's look at Now: $190 per credit; Spring 2012: $209; Fall 2012: $220, Spring 2013: $231!!!

-Let's put this in numbers!!: A full time 12 credit student pays $2280 RIGHT NOW! Spring 2012: $2508! Fall 2012: $2640! Spring 2013: $2772
Students are already struggling to stay in school and many will not be able to afford college soon jeopardizing the future of our island. Without educated youth, future leaders will be fewer than it would have been. On this note, F.I.T.E. Club is organizing a protest/rally (whatever you want to call it). The purpose is to show up together as a student body to the public hearing and voice our opinions. We need to make them know that this student body will not just be passive to everything, and that we have a voice. We want to show up and get more details on the increase proposal as well as offer solutions on ways to mitigate the financial situation of the students. PLEASE JOIN US! THIS IS YOUR FUTURE TOO!
We will be meeting Tuesday, September 13 (30 minutes before the actual public hearing) at 1:30. We shall meet at the HSS ROTUNDA, gather there, and then walk into the public hearing together! It would be cool if people made signs for this event and were amped up. Have confidence in the process. We really do hope to see you there. If you have any questions, join our group on Facebook and ask! Here is the link:

Asta ki!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Kada damenggo-hu, mismo iyon grandpa.

Fihu i manatungo'-hu siha ma faisen yu', "sa' hafa kalang todu tiempo tailugat hao gi damenggo?"

Ayu na fine'nina na tinige'-hu, sesso este i ineppe-ku.

Esta tres anos desde iyo-ku grandfather Si Tun Jack Lujan ha tutuhun fumana'na'gue yu' taimanu humerrero.

Lao put i meggai che'cho'-hu yan obligasion-hu, ti sina hu fa'sahnge meggai na tiempo para este.

Pues kada damenggo hu fa'sahnge para Si grandpa.

Yanggen hu cho'cho'gue este kada diha, siempre esta kapas yu' mama'tinas ramenta yan esta kabales na herrero yu'. Lao put i ti nahong na tiempo-ku, ti kababales ha' i ineyak-hu.

Achokka' ti bai hu sangan na maolek yu', ti gos taisetbe yu' lokkue'.

Esta hu ayuda Si grandpa fuma'tinas meggai na diferentes na klasin ramenta. Guaha siete na ramenta ni' gof impottante para i kutturan Chamoru antes, ya esta sina hu ayuda gui' fuma'tinas kada unu.

Lao anggen Guahu ha' na maisa, guaha kuatro ha' na ramenta ni' hu hulat muna'funhayan na maisa: I hehgao, i si'i, i kamyo yan i seh'soh.

Ti hu tungo' hafa para bai hu na'funhayam agupa'.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Obama on Smog

From the Huffington Post

In Al Gore's most recent post to "Al's Journal," the former vice president slams President Obama for his recent retreat on smog standards.

Last Friday, under pressure from big industries and GOP lawmakers, Obama asked the EPA to withdraw proposed clean air regulations.

According to the Associated Press, "The regulation would have reduced concentrations of ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, a powerful lung irritant that can cause asthma and other lung ailments."

Janice Nolen, assistant vice president of the American Lung Association, told The Huffington Post that she was "outraged," given that "the current standard used was based on the science as of 14 years ago -- before we knew that ozone killed people."

In Gore's Wednesday post, he writes:

Instead of relying on science, President Obama appears to have bowed to pressure from polluters who did not want to bear the cost of implementing new restrictions on their harmful pollution—even though economists have shown that the US economy would benefit from the job creating investments associated with implementing the new technology. The result of the White House’s action will be increased medical bills for seniors with lung disease, more children developing asthma, and the continued degradation of our air quality.

Gore also mentions that fact that on the very day that Obama made this announcement, activists were outside the White House engaged in protests against the Keystone XL pipeline, which is expected to run from the Canadian tar sands in Alberta to refineries on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Over the course of two weeks, over 1,200 people were arrested for their acts of non-violent civil disobedience. In a recent HuffPost piece, Gore wrote, "The tar sands are the dirtiest source of fuel on the planet."

Many others have spoken out against Obama's decision, including Robert Redford, who wrote for The Huffington Post that "President Obama has done a lot to protect public health and our environment," but "I want our smog levels to come down so more of our children and seniors can breathe clean air. Putting corporate profits above public health is unconscionable. It's outrageous that it would be countenanced -- by this president or any other."

Keith Olbermann slammed President Obama on his Friday show, asking, "What the hell is going on in the White House?"

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The End of an Era

The end of one of modern Guam's most enduring eras is over.

Last week we closed one of the most storied chapters of our island's history.

We said goodbye to something which has in some ways been a terrible friend to the island and a necessary one as well. Through economic upswings, downturns, typhoons, an endless string of concerts by washed up musicians, the resurgence of Chamorro dance, and the sons of two different Republican Governors getting elected themselves to the island's highest office, this era had it all. Now it comes to an end.

Last week Guam began the transition out of the Ordot Dump era of the island's history and with the opening of a new dump in Layon, Inarajan, we have now entered the Layon Dump era of history.

Who knows what lies ahead for the people of this tumultuous little island as we go from putting our overabundance of garbage from one pile to another.


New Layon Landfill now open
FRIDAY, 02 SEPTEMBER 2011 01:39

TWO container trucks carrying trash became the first vehicles to make use of the new Layon Landfill yesterday morning following its official opening.

Prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the front gate, District Court Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood commented on the site, stressing it’s not a dump, but a landfill. She also noted the years it took for the new landfill to become a reality.

“This is really a long road, a challenging road to get to the landfill,” said Gatewood. “It was with a heavy heart that I appointed a federal receiver.”

She is aware of the concerns of residents in Malojloj, especially Inarajan Mayor Franklin Taitague, who didn’t want a landfill in his village.

Department of Justice Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mullaney called the new landfill a world-class facility and said Guam can be an example for other communities.

Also speaking was Harvey Gershman, president of Gershman, Brickner & Bratton (GBB), who admitted they saw challenges in the system, but since taking over the Solid Waste Management Division of the Department of Public Works, have been able to implement change for the better.

“What we have accomplished in this receivership is everyone’s success, not just our success,” said Gershman. “It’s a success for the island’s future – an environmental succession.”

Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio also praised the new facility.

“It’s a far cry from Ordot Dump. Ordot Dump was an environmental disaster. Here there’s protection to ensure our water doesn’t get contaminated,” he said.

A little sad

Meanwhile, Taitague admits that up until an hour before the ceremony yesterday, he was still in a state of sadness.

“My emotions are with the people of Inarajan. I still feel the site should not have been Layon, but the laws have made it clear that it’s beyond the control of the residents,” Taitague said.

Inarajan resident Manny D. Afaisen, 79, is one of those residents concerned about the site. He took a tour of the facility and looked at where the trash would be disposed.

“It’s a good idea. The only problem is there is a lot of water here,” he said of the location, expressing his concern about possible pollution of the area.

The Inarajan resident, however, said he was assured by many people, especially Judge Gatewood, that safeguards are in place.

“My visit and tour of the place kind of changed my perception of the facility; and I saw that it’s going to be run properly,” he said.


However, there are concerns about the road leading to the site and the trucks transporting waste.

“That concern was expressed during our public hearings because of the spill from the trash going on to the road and the stench from the trucks,” Taitague said.

The mayor added he was given the impression during a recent hearing that the highway will be fixed to accommodate the trucks coming to and from the site.

“They are working on the bridges. As far as the highway, that’s not a reality yet,” he said, adding he was informed by GBB it’s just a matter of the Department of Public Works fixing the rights of way for the trucks.

The mayor noted Route 4 will be used for a majority of the transfer of trash, which includes the snake-like road and hills of the As-Alonso area between Talofofo Bay and the entrance into Malojloj proper.

The matter was brought up during a status hearing at District Court on Wednesday. In GBB’s report to Gatewood, the receiver noted the problems they encountered during a couple of dry runs, including the narrow roads which made it difficult for the trucks to navigate.

It seems the work is already happening along that particular street. DPW crews were already seen clearing vegetation and cutting down trees that made it difficult for trucks to go through.

GBB’s report also stressed that until a permanent solution is made, they are going to use “pilot vehicles” to escort the trucks. These vehicles will be used to warn motorists of an oncoming trash truck.


Layon Landfill opens in Inarajan
Written by Arvin Temkar
Pacific Daily News

Officials celebrated the opening of Layon Landfill in Inarajan yesterday with speeches, a ribbon cutting, and even what amounted to a ceremonial dumping of trash. The occasion cemented the closure of the Ordot dump, which had polluted the air and water of the island for decades. But the opening wasn't a triumph for everyone.

"I know it's not a sweet moment for (the mayor of Inarajan)," said District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, who ordered the landfill built in 2004. "It's a bitter moment probably."

The U.S. Department of Justice, which forced the local government to close the Ordot dump and build the landfill by filing an environmental lawsuit, welcomed the milestone.

"We join the people of Guam in applauding the long-anticipated closing of the Ordot dump's gates and the opening of the Layon Landfill, two significant steps toward the enhanced protection of the environment and the public's health," said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, in a statement.

The Layon Landfill is designed and constructed with a number of environmental controls, such as double liners, to protect Guam's environment and the public from waste contamination, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Village host
As the gatekeeper for the island's waste, Inarajan must now reconcile with its new neighbor.

"There's not much we can do," said Inarajan Mayor Franklin Taitague. "We just more or less accept the system."

One of his concerns, Taitague said, was the path the large garbage trucks will be taking to the landfill, giving Tydingco-Gatewood's remark that "it's been a long road to Layon" a new meaning.

"Our highway, Route 4, is not suitable or adequate to satisfy the trash hauling," he said.

A report to the District Court of Guam yesterday from the federal receiver, Gershman, Brickner, & Bratton Inc., revealed that several curves in Route 4 leading to Layon are too narrow for the trucks, which can carry up to 29 tons of trash. The trucks encroach into the opposing lane when making these turns, according to the report.

Guam Department of Public Works is reviewing the receiver's report, said David Manning, special principal associate of the receiver.

Two escort vehicles with flashing lights and "wide load" signs will escort the trash trucks as a safety precaution, said Manning.

Other worries
Another worry is the smell that will trail the trucks as they drive by, Taitague said -- a concern validated when the large metallic vehicles came rumbling through the landfill during the ceremony yesterday.

Chris Lund, vice president of the federal receiver, said because the trucks can carry such a large amount of waste, trips to and from the landfill will be significantly reduced. Only 10 truckloads will be needed to move a day's worth of trash, he said.

Though some community members harbor a "not in my backyard" apprehension of the project, the new landfill is a major improvement over the Ordot dump, which, before the federal receiver took over, had been in violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act since at least 1986.

"It's a success for the environmental future for this island," said Harvey Gershman, the receiver's president.

How it works
The landfill's design ensures that problems that plagued the dump, like leachate running into a nearby river, will not happen.

The landfill is also monitored for landfill gas production, according to a District Court pamphlet. A gas collection and removal system will control the gas, which will either be flared or used as a fuel source, depending on the quality and quantity of the gas generated.

Waste will be deposited into vast "cells," which, unfilled, look like empty fields sunk into the ground. Two of 11 have already been built, and those two are expected to last seven to 10 years, depending on the amount of waste reduction people practice.

"This is a resource, so use it sparingly," said Gershman. "Reduce, reuse, recycle."

The trash entering the cells will be bulldozed and compacted, then covered with soil, Lund said. A tarp can be pulled over the waste on some days, so that soil coverage doesn't take up too much space. The portions of the cell not being filled with trash at the time are protected by a rain cap, which directs storm water away from the waste. Any leachate that forms will be collected and removed.

Taitague said though he is wary of the landfill, he recognizes the controls and precautions that have gone into the construction of it.

"I hope ... that it's going to be a healthy and prosperous landfill operation," he said.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Please Mess With Texas

Texas has made my teaching a lot easier lately for a variety of reasons.

When trying to talk about Guam's political status, it's experience of the colonial difference, or to use the imagery of Du Bois, its own personal veil, the story of a Chamorro woman who recently attempted to apply for a Federal childcare program for her children, but was rejected on the basis being born on Guam made them not U.S. Citizens. When she confronted the agency about this "mistake," this was the conversation she had with a supervisor.

"He laughed about it and said the letter is true and he actually had gone to college and he has never been taught or never had heard anything about Guam existing or even being a territory of the U.S."
She later received an apology. Where did this most recent example of the everyday manifestations of Guam's unequal political status in the lives of those who call it home take place? Texas.

The rhetoric of Texas Governor Rick Perry in the first year of Obama's presidency was very interesting. At a time when every conservative and Republican was making any insane claim as to Obama and his policies, and making all sorts of threats or comments on behalf of the "real" people of the United States, Perry's comment went the furthest away from the norm of American political rhetoric. Whereas most people talked about being furious at losing their country or Obama and Democrats mutilating the coutnry with their socialism, Perry stood out as the person who claimed that if the US moved too far in one direction, Texas might simply, leave.

One of his comments:

"There's a lot of different scenarios...We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."

As I've written about before on this blog, for those indigenous voices which reject the United States and its claims to their lives, their lands and their rights, often times your rhetoric appears to have more in common with the most conversative, rather than the most liberal sectors of the US. When you get to the extremes, to those ideas which lay at the very edges of the United States, even to the point of rejecting the nation, that's where the "unlikely allainces" seem to lie. I've written about this before on my blog, how sometimes the most support for Guam's indpendence can be found amongst conversative ideological sectors rather than liberal ones. There is no clear formula for this, but while Chamorro activists may seem themselves more in line with progressive movements in the US on most issues, this is rarely the case in terms of decolonization and the possibiltiy of Guam becoming independent. So much of it depends on how much a person's ideological position rests on the current existence of the US, or the current way it is. If so much of what you think and feel relies on that, then you will resist any change to it, especially in terms of the US, the greatest country in the world, losing something, losing a piece of it.

Finally, what makes Texas a great place to use in my classes is the two year long scandal over the whitewashing and re-writing of their public school history curriculum. For each history class that I teach at UOG, I begin the semester with a discussion of the various aspects of "history." I talk about the importance of history, but also its limits. History can do some things for us, but not everything. For every argument you can make that history is important, you can make an equally valid one that it doesn't do anything.

I use the Texas textbook example in order to discuss what the effects of history are, and what the importance is in fighting over how history is told. The article below highlights some of what students in coming years will be and won't be learning, and you can just imagine what impact that might have on how students thus navigate the world and their own lives.


Published on Thursday, August 25, 2011
by the Austin American Statesman
What Did You Learn in School Today? (The Texas Version)

by Craig Studer

Millions of Texas students head back to school this week confronted by a dramatically altered, state-mandated social studies curriculum.
The contentious hearings of the Texas State Board of Education received considerable attention in the spring of 2010, but seem to have fallen out of the public consciousness as the new school year begins. The new curriculum, officially called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, deserves renewed attention, as it will undoubtedly surprise most Texans.
The fiercest battle during the board's hearings was fought over the 11th-grade history curriculum, which in Texas is "United States History since 1877." The exception to that timeline is the new state-mandated "Celebrate Freedom Week," during which students will learn about our founding fathers. That sounds simple enough, except that the only founding fathers included in the curriculum are Benjamin Rush, John Hancock, John Jay, John Witherspoon, John Peter Muhlenberg, Charles Carroll and Jonathan Trumbull Sr. What about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or John Adams? They are nowhere to be found in the new high school TEKS. Students apparently learned everything they need to know about them in eighth grade.
As part of the board's effort to emphasize the positives in American history, students will no longer learn about "American imperialism." Instead students will discuss "American expansionism" and come to understand how "missionaries moved the United States into the position of a world power." The board eliminated mention of our government's use of propaganda during World War I, and instead of analyzing Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II, students will now analyze the development of the bomb. Additionally, students will now "evaluate efforts by international organizations to undermine U.S. sovereignty."
Perhaps you have heard something about a labor movement in the 20th century? No longer will your children. The only reference to a 20th-century labor movement will come when learning about Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. No mention of the Fair Labor Standards Act or the National Labor Relations Act. No mention of strikes or any labor dispute. The words "labor movement" were taken out of the TEKS. Perhaps there is not enough time because students must now "understand how the free enterprise system drives technological innovation ... such as cell phones, inexpensive personal computers and global positioning products."
Students will learn about the contributions of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. Maybe the students will read Falwell's claim that feminists and homosexuals were partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Phyllis Schlafly, the Heritage Foundation and the NRA are all included. Students will also be required to "discuss the meaning of ‘In God We Trust.' "
History in Texas classrooms will be decidedly different from when we were students. I never learned "both the positive and negative impacts of ... country and western music" in my high school history class. Where would you rate Estée Lauder in terms of historical importance to our country? If you think she is one of the 68 most important historical figures, you agree with the board. Yes, the board included her in the state curriculum, but not George Washington.
I also never learned that the findings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities were confirmed, perhaps because it is not true. It puts teachers in an awkward position by asking them to teach something that is historically inaccurate. I will not have to deal with that issue in some of my classes because my Advanced Placement U.S. History classes are not required to follow the state curriculum. I am guessing that the Texas Education Agency realizes that students could never pass national exams while learning the state-mandated curriculum.
During the next decade, we should not be surprised when university professors lament that Texas students are not prepared for college. Malcolm X once said, "Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today." You might remember a historical figure named Malcolm X, but your children won't. Malcolm X is not in the social studies curriculum in Texas. Now if you will excuse me, I have to do some research on Estée Lauder. She was not mentioned in any of my graduate history courses, either.
© 2011

Craig Studer is a public school teacher in Austin, TX. He has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction and a master's degree in U.S. history.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Testimony of Sung Hee Choi

NOTE: Sung Hee-Choi was arrested in May for protesting the construction of a Navy base in Gangjeong, Jeju Island, South Korea. She was released last month. Here is a link to an interview David Vine conducted with her in July.
Below is a statement from her on the struggle from: Ten Thousand Things:

The pictures are from my trip to South Korea last summer, for which Sung Hee was my guide.


[Translated by John Cha, Jinsoo An, Jun-Hyung Kim]

Final Testimony
Case: 2011 고단/Kodan 318 Obstruction of Business (2011 Kodan 511, Combined)
The Accused: Choi Sung-hee

Your Honor,

I, Choi Sung-hee, am a visual artist. I have been drawn to the beauty of Jeju Island, the pearl of Korea, and to the beautiful ecological preservation of Gangjeong village, which has been called the diamond of Jeju Island. I have also been drawn to the friendly spirit of the Gangjeong villagers who live peacefully with nature. Their will to protect and love the natural environment has moved me deeply, and I have been very inspired by their independent historical consciousness to realize peace for the greater people of Jeju Island through their preservation and protection of their village. I believe that their admirable spirit deserves the support and respect of all the Korean people as well as the people of the world. It is for this reason that I demonstrated my support for their non-violent and peaceful resistance against building the naval base.

Every time I placed myself beneath the wheels of construction trucks in an effort to protest the illegal, cunning, and manipulative measures to carry out the construction of naval base, I reminded myself of two important mottos, which were articulated by the older generation of colleagues. The first is “Unless you come forward, who will speak for that coral, fish, and shells that cannot speak?” The second is “This land we are living on is on lease from the next generation of people.”

The construction area that I endeavored to protect is home to endangered species like the red-footed crab and the narrow-mouthed toad, which are recognized by the Ministry of the Environment. On March 15, 2011, the Jeju Provincial Assembly rescinded the motion to nullify the “Absolute Preservation Area” designation, thereby reestablishing the legal grounds for the protection of the Jungdeok coastline. Several legal actions by local residents are also underway, including an appeal to rescind permission to use this area for national defense and as a military facility, an appeal to affirm the “Absolute Preservation Area” designation, and an appeal to ensure the public right to fair surface water use.

In addition, the project for preservation of cultural assets is still in progress yet what has been assessed through this project has not been properly conveyed to the local residents. In light of the ongoing status of these legal actions and the cultural assets assessment, I cannot but arrive at the conclusion that the move to forcefully continue with construction without checking into or conforming to proper procedures is illegal. In the case of the Saemangum area, construction was brought to a standstill because of a legal dispute. Why then is construction at Jeju Island being enforced without accountability or conformity to legal safeguards? Construction companies contend that the suspension of work harms business, but companies, which employ a lot of subcontractors, foster the conditions that themselves generate problems.

Construction companies, the Navy, prosecutors, and the police charged me with twenty counts of obstructing business, but what I did was to obstruct their illegal actions. In fact, what I did was meant to halt the manipulation of the law, which exploits people in order to advance the narrow interests of power. Siding with the haves in society, all branches of authority, i.e., legislative, executive, and judicial, exercise absolute power and wield illegal violence in their attempt to shrink any space for disobedience and dissent. Insofar as my actions were undertaken as a last resort to legally assert self-defense, I am not guilty.

I object to the charges related to the events of May 19. On that day, the Seogwipo Police and the Jeju prosecutor arrested me on the spot as a criminal who had been obstructing business, yet the situation was as follows: construction workers and police were carrying out the demolition of neighboring facilities through “execution by proxy” without ensuring that proper legal steps were taken. At that point, seven villagers and civil rights activists had already been arrested so I, along with other women, raised a banner in silence: “Touch not even one stone, touch not one flower.”

I do not remember if the police read me my Miranda rights; all that I remember is that they said, “Ms. Choi Sung-hee, we hereby arrest you as a criminal.” After this, five or six policewomen, dressed in civilian clothes, forced me into a police car, and, the police and Jeju prosecutor rendered me into custody on the charge of obstructing business. They say I obstructed business on May 19, but how does expressing protest by silently holding a banner constitute an illegal act tantamount to damaging the property of construction companies? Moreover, they inserted a clause indicating that I placed myself under the wheel of construction truck in order to justify their “arrest” of May 19 and “detention” of May 21, only to remove this clause along with the word “criminal-in-the-act” from arraignment after I protested. They “arrested” me first with a “false indictment” in order to “detain” me in custody. I cannot help but suspect that the whole rigmarole was designed for my “detention.” The Gangjeong village association and peace advocacy group that I am affiliated with accordingly released a public statement on May 23 to criticize the police and the prosecutor, which indicated that “the prosecutor, in conducting an investigation to determine the validity of the arrest warrant for Choi Sung-hee falsified additional information for the purpose of indictment” and that “the prosecutor indicted Choi Sung-hee on false charges that she obstructed business.”

I feel it is important to ceaselessly expose abuses of power and to highlight the need to curb such abuses on the part of the Seogwipo police department and the Jeju prosecutor’s office whose officials are paid by the islanders’ tax money. I speak out against the abuse of power because I fear that there will be more victims like myself if I remain quiet. Recently, the police and the prosecutor’s office have been badgering the residents of Gangjeong with a barrage of citations and demands for compensation for the damages the residents supposedly caused to the tune of about $280,000. This is nothing more than an oppressive tactic aimed at creating tension among the residents who in turn will blame peace activists for provoking the officials to behave badly, thereby driving a wedge between the activists and the residents.

I detect in the oppressive attitude in the officials the same sort of attitude responsible for the horrific 4.3 massacre. The history of Jeju Island is one of endless struggle against outside forces and this time, it faces the might of the central government and the Korean Navy. The Jeju prosecutors and Seogwipo police, instead of acting on behalf of the islanders, are committing treachery in collusion with the central government. A survey indicates that 44% of the residents of Gangjeong Village suffer from severe depression, and 34.7% of them have attempted suicide. On June 17, a villager was reported to have attempted suicide by consuming herbicide. On June 20, Navy personnel resorted to violent means to disband a group of peaceful demonstrators. Former Assemblywoman Hyun Ae-ja made a statement, “It’s a crime for the military to treat civilians with violence, even in wartime.” However, the central government, against the wishes of the villagers, quietly watched the Navy ruin the shoreline of the rare coral reef, which had been designated as a natural treasure.

Korea’s Constitution guarantees all of its citizens’ human respect and the right to pursue happiness. Sadly, this is the not the case in Gangjeong today. Your Honor, I believe that you can hear the voice of conscience founded in the Constitution.

Many people voiced their concern that Jeju Island and its future generations will become vulnerable to attack because its naval base is associated with the missile defense system of the United States. It is my duty and right to enact a peaceful non-violent demonstration against a base which is certain to invite war. I am told that about one thousand people have telephoned the Korean Embassy in Washington D.C. to voice their opposition to the naval base construction in Gangjeong. The danger of building a naval base in JeJu has become a concern for not only Koreans but also the international community. I understand that a Korean Embassy worker told callers that they should contact the U.S. government because it is pushing the naval base project rather than the Korean government.

Your Honor, why is the naval base problem developing into the second 4.3? One of the main reasons is because both the 4.3 massacre and the naval base conflict stemmed from the contravention of rights by outside forces (such as the U.S.) and their threat to the islanders’ right to peaceful existence. That is the reason why Jeju residents (who more than anyone had resisted outside powers) and the citizens of the Korean peninsula must recognize the fact that the major international powers have designs on the Jeju Island as a geostrategic location. They must realize that their home could become a battleground for the major powers and put a stop to the naval base.

Recent tensions between the U.S. and China justify our concern for the peace of Jeju. At a U.S.-Japan conference on June 21, the importance of forming alliances to isolate China was emphasized, suggesting the participation of the U.S., Australia, Japan, India and Korea. In this conference, the sale of Standard Missile 3 (developed by Raytheon of the U.S. and Mitsubishi of Japan) to Korea surfaced as a strong possibility. On July 9, the U.S., Japan, and Australia held a joint military exercise near Brunei in Indonesia. On that same day, the U.S. nuclear submarine USS Texas entered Korea’s waters and docked. Korea and the U.S. plan to hold training sessions for airborne fueling procedures every six months in preparation for possible actions against China, according to the experts. U.S. fuel-supply airplanes are said to operate out of its airbase in Okinawa. On August 4, the former chief of staff for the Korean Air Force was reported to have revealed military secrets to Lockheed Martin, the U.S. maker of fighter airplanes as well as destroyers that might dock in the Jeju naval base.

Was there American pressure to build the naval base on Jeju Island? I hear the clicking of the champagne glasses in the halls of weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon amidst the moaning sounds by the Gangjeong villagers. What region and country can revitalize the trade in U.S. weapons, their number-one export following their economic difficulties due to their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? It is Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea.

The island of peace is facing a crisis.

Your Honor, there is another important item I would like to bring up. It is the matter of environmental protection. Jeju Governor Woo Geun-min has failed to represent the people who elected him to look after their interests. He has neglected his duties in protecting Jeju’s unique environment and failed to abide by the rules and regulations set forth by UNESCO with respect to the management of the geological park.

According to the Jeju Daily on July 12, the third clause of UNESCO rules calls for continuous efforts by the governor in order for Jeju to retain its UNESCO designation as a natural treasure; the fourth clause calls for the islanders’ cooperation in the upkeep of the natural treasure. Assemblyman Yoo Won-il points out that the naval base site is only 1.5 km. from the UNESCO biological protection area; construction of the naval base will certainly cause UNESCO to retract its designation.

Instead of providing protection for the area, Governor Woo Geun-min is colluding with the Navy to ruin it. He is also trying to bring commercial tourism into the area. He recently stated that the Department of Defense promised him help promote tourism. Samsung, one of the firms involved in the naval base construction, has already begun advertising for tourism. When we examine all of these factors, we can conclude only one thing: the government, the military, and the corporations are colluding to destroy the environment, against the wishes of the islanders.

Your Honor, I ask that no more peace activists and Gangjeong residents stand here victimized as I am. I have faith in your conscience. Is it just for me to stand here because of my non-violent demonstration to preserve the island of peace? Or, shouldn’t the governor who sold Jeju out to the central government, military, and capital stand here? How about Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and Minister of Defense who turned over the island to the outside powers against the will of the people? People pay for their salary and yet they are oppressing weak people like me.

According to Howard Zinn, a well-known American peace activist, “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the number of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience.... Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

It is my hope that building the island of peace is actually realizable, not merely in language. Many people speak of building a peace park and a UN peace school instead of the naval base. Don’t you feel warm thinking about a world in which our young people and their children—free of pressure from draft and school tuitions—realize their dreams and work together to build a peaceful world? That hope keeps alive my passion for justice and gives me courage.

Thank you.
Choi Sung-hee

August 5, 2011

Jeju Courthouse


Related Posts with Thumbnails