Thursday, May 30, 2013

Decolonizing Dependencies

My first experience with the UN wasn't very useful or inspiring. Chamorros and representatives of Guam have been going to the United Nations to testify before the 4th Committee for more than 30 years. I became one of them in 2007.

Prior to testifying I already knew quite a bit about the UN process and so I wasn't expecting that my testimony would make much of a difference. Those who come from colonies or non-self-governing territories like Guam don't get representation at the UN, but they do get a few chances to let their concerns be heard. The 4th Committee is the most auspicious of such occasions. You get to testify in a large room in front of delegates from the entire world.

But the potential for the moment means little in terms of its actual effect. The day I testified it was like moving through an assembly line. Names were called. Testimonies given. Thanks given for the testimony. Move on, next name. It went on like that for hours. There were no questions asked while I was there. No dialogue. Nothing. I worked hard on my testimony, crafting it as best as I could to say as much as I could within the short 7 minute time frame they had given me. After I was done, I felt strangely cheated. Why did I work so hard on this statement when the only purpose it served was to be recorded. This wasn't a forum where reality was actually effected. I felt I could have gone up there and simply said every curse word or disgusting thought I could imagine, and no comments would have been offered and I would have received a "thank you" for my intervention.

Although the world has pretty much come to a consensus that colonization was wrong, this does not help much in terms of eradicating it from the world. The United Nations has done a very good job overall in terms of helping move colonies towards decolonization but in the past 30 years they have stalled significantly. One of the major reasons for this stagnation is the fact that the remaining colonies that the UN has listed, are primarily small islands. As I have written on this blog many times before islands function differently in relation to the rest of the world. They are seen as being fundamentally different because of the way they are "isolated," "cut off" or "distant."

Islands are ideal places for testing missiles, for hiding bases, and even for feeling like you are getting away from the world and enjoying tourist fantasies. Because of their alleged disconnect they are in general treated differently, and if they are small, they are naturally treated as less important.

As most people understand themselves as land-based and continent based, they see islands as being a lesser form of existence. One which because of them being cut off and surrounding by imposing waters, must be more dependent and less sustainable than land-loving societies.  The water is seen as something that does not connect, but something that bars and blocks and inhibits. This is why even though the world is against colonization, people can still calmly and rationally argue that it should still exist or can still exist since the remaining colonies in the world cannot survive on their own. Because of the nature of their geography and reality, they can never make it on their own, so colonialism may be necessary to take care of these place that aren't really just territories, but rather dependencies.

Dependency is a dangerous word since it has the ability to make something appear to be true beyond true. When you call a place like Guam a dependency, and therefore imply that its existence can best be understood and determined through a larger power who it feeds off of in a subordinate and dependent way, most people don't need to know much about Guam in order to make judgements about it. The true difficultly for islands is that even prior to someone knowing anything about you, they most likely have already made several assumptions about what you must be like because you are an island. The term dependency is so dangerous because it requires no knowledge whatsoever. If you refer to an island as a dependency, it makes perfect sense since islands are cut off from the world and need those who live on solid and dependable continents to help them out.

Another reason why decolonization is so stagnant lately at the UN level is because the colonies that are left in the world primarily belong to large countries that don't want anyone else telling them what to do. The United States and the United Kingdom for example are two administering powers that have plenty of island colonies between them. The United States however doesn't even try to make the usual dependency arguments, but simply doesn't participate.

It is already tough enough to decolonize small places that everyone assumes have no vitality and no ability except to suck social programs from the teat of their colonizer. But to mix in recalcitrant colonizers makes it impossible for anything to take place. The UN has always played a dual role of being an arbiter meant to protect the sovereignty of nations, but also be an interloper who can sometimes infringe on the right of nations in the name of something universal. But with decolonization the UN has shown little willingness to interfere with colonies if their colonizer is not engaged with the UN process. This is a recipe for oblivion for Guam since it could remain in this status forever since the United States hasn't given any indication that it wants to change Guam's political status.

The United Nations has already spent two decades trying to eradicate colonialism from the world. During that time they were able to decolonize a single territory, leaving 16 left. In 2013, the UN is several years into their third decade of trying to rid the world of colonialism. Just this month a new colony was added to the list of non-self-governing territories, French Polynesia.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Giya Ecuador

Esta gof apmam este na hinanao-hu, lao ti mismo munhayan. Matto di lamita ha'!

Esta munhayan i fine'nina na patte. Lumiliko' yu' giya California ya hu bisita diferentes na inetnon Chamorro guihi. Na'yafai este sa' sumugon yu' gi kareta para 1000 na miles gi tres dihas ha'.

Pa'go mafatto yu' giya Ecuador. Para bei hu fama'nu'i guini gi i UN Regional Seminar. Para bai hu fa'nu'i i kumiti put i estao pa'go giya Guahan, ya bai hu apatte siha ni' inaligao-ku put i "decolonial deadlock."

Estague i inatan ginnen i kuato-ku gi i hotet.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chamorro Community Building

This week I am in California meeting with Chamorro organizations in Long Beach and San Diego. When I was in graduate school in San Diego, I worked very closely with several of these organizations. It has been nostalgic coming back and catching up with people and learning about what new projects they are working on and what are new ways that diasporic Chamorros are creating community. All of this reminded me of a question that a friend of mine asked me several years ago about what community building is like from a Chamorro perspective. Below is part of my answer tomorrow.


It is important to think of community development not from any neutral or abstract stance, but rather take seriously the context that one intends to develop within, and by context I a huge number of things that must be considered both in the past and present. In conceiving this context, and forming it in a productive way, one must be prepared to bring into the analysis data, concepts and perspectives both commonsensical and unpopular or critical.

One of the most frustrating aspects of how we speak about community in Guam today is the way this sort of speech is almost completely detached from the contemporary and historical context of life in Guam. What I mean by this is that, when people speak of how to improve Guam it is almost as if they are possessed by a ghost which has recently arrived on a Continental flight from Washington D.C. or Honolulu. It is obvious, that despite the fact that they may be from Guam, that they may know Guam, that what they propose to fix Guam or to plan for Guam, belongs to someone else, was designed and developed with somewhere else in mind, and not Guam. The proposals they form are either completely detached from the island, and have no concrete relevance (or any relevance is simply accidental), or their proposals are based on the perceptions of those outside of Guam, and tend to treat the island in very simplistic, basic, callous and degrading ways.

This is most clear if we look at the economic literature on Guam, which is almost entirely build upon the dangerous yet pervasive assumption that Guam and other islands in the Pacific, have nothing. Well, that’s not entirely true, these islands have coconuts, but that’s about it. This perception plagues not just Guam but the entire Pacific, and can be found as a fundamental assumption amongst both scholars in the region as well as governments and economic elites. If one accepts the premise that these islands do have nothing but coconuts, then the failing, stagnant economies that are scattered throughout the Pacific make perfect sense. Developing an economy, within this mindset, means that one must import everything in order to develop. Not just labor, not just capital, not just technology, but most importantly ideas, concepts, dreams, goals.

In the same way that education in Guam has historically been a simple importation of ideas and curriculum with little policy-based or structural attempts re-define the purpose or intended community imagination/history that the educational system is meant to teach, we find the same poor planning logic in proposals for community development in Guam.

Community development in Guam, which is meant to be for Guam, means fundamentally stepping over and leaving far behind the principle that “What is good for the United States, is good for Guam.” While at the level of official government discourse and chamber or commerce of elite business speech this is not simply an obvious point, but is either woven into the fabric reality itself or a mantra through which prayers for more military increases are chanted. The scorecard of American intervention and impact on Guam is mixed, despite this sort of ridiculously over the top rhetoric of American awesomeness. Any notion that whatever is good for the United States is good for Guam must be destroyed early on and completely obliterated for any real community development to take place. The reasons for why this principle is so untrue range and can be found in terms of geography, economy, history, culture, colonization and so on. For too long, Chamorros and other on Guam, have accepted this principle for the basis for planning the future of the island, and we can see this in small and large ways throughout the island at the political, educational, economic and social levels.

Wrapped up in this principle, is all manners of American superiority, exceptionalism and colonialism. When these notions spread into different spaces and spheres of life in Guam, they take on the ridiculous, infectious and detrimental edge, that can be summed up by adding just a few more diminutive words to the earlier principle, namely, “since the United States is so much better than Guam, anything which is good for the United States, must be good for Guam.” This was the logic that led the Naval Government prior to World War II to assume that whatever curriculum students in the United States had would be fine for Guam.

This is the key to developing and planning community in Guam, breaking with the assumptions which emanate and invade from the United States, offering liberation from poverty, backwardness, miseducation, corruption and waste. Once one can break this assumption, then one can see the island’s problems, history, future, untainted by colonizing faith that all our problems can be solved by simply adding more America to Guam, by simply taking whatever they have used or don’t want anymore and using it here.

Referring back to the context I began with, this means that when making plans for how to develop community in Guam, one must contend seriously with colonization. One must be cognizant of the unequal power relationships between the United States and Guam, and how this affects either positively or negatively the economy, how this either positively or negatively affects its ability to build solidarity or relationships with its neighbors, how it affects its own ability to manage its resources and social/political and economic infrastructures.

Friday, May 24, 2013

GMIF gi Fino' Chamoru

Gaige ha' i kettura yan i inafa'maolek gi iya GMIF
Pedro Onedera
Guam PDN

Desdeki i ma babaña astaki i finakpo'ña i Mina'bente sais na Ferian Islan Maikrunisian Guåhan, sigi ha' hålom i finatton i taotao siha.

Guaha inapurao, minannge' prugråma, kulot yan inafa'maolek gi i tres ha'åni na feria ni', sigun gi ma muebi para mes Måyu, bula minagof put i atte, fina'tinas cho'cho' kånnai, tradisiunåt, tinalenti yan finatta ni' prinisenta nu i taotao tåno' ginen Republic of the Marshalls, Republic of Palau, Yap, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae ginen iya Federated States of Micronesia, yan ta'lo ginen iya

Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas yan islan Nauru. Desde franela, åtten botto, linasguen håyu, todu klåsen inatan åtte taiguihi litråtu siha, tiniffok, finattan agrikottura na tinanom, yan i petlas siha ginen islan Nukuoro, un islan Pålinesia gi iya estådon Pohnpei, bula siha na kosas para todu i taotao, manhoben yan manåmko'.

Debidi u ma nota na i tasen humanidåt ni' eståba guihi yan un nina'håssan gi iya Guåhan, tåtkumu para guåhu, mesklao lengguåhi siha un huhungok entre finatton taotao yan i mañåsaonao gi finatta yan binende na bånda. Ha upos chi-ña iya Guåhan på'go na såkkan ya dångkolo na agradesimento u ma nå'i i Setbision Bisitan Guåhan, i ayudånte ginen pumalu ahensian Gubetnamenton Guåhan yan kumetsiånte siha yan put uttemo i minaolek kinalamten na cho'cho' ni' pribiniyi ginen Gurupon Galaide' Guåhan.

Tåtkumu sumaonao yu' bumulontåriu gi i feria, banidosu yu' kada hu hanaogue i tento' siha ya umali'e' yu' yan manåttesta, yan manhusga yu' para i kompetasion inadotnan sagan åtte siha. Ha miresi rikoknision i tres na manmanggåna, fine'nana na premiu iya Star of Tahiti, i sigundo na premiu iya Ifit Addao yan i tetset na premiu iya Chamorrita Girl sa' magåhet manmappot para u ma adotna sagan-ñiha ni' naturåt na tinanom flores yan mikulot yåtdas magågu yan lokkue' tråstes siha ni' ha riprisenta kotturan-ñiha lao lokkue' i minannge' siñente kada ma abiba i finatton bisita guatu gi tento'-ñiha. Debidi u ma ekstende este na onra para i pumalu ni' mañaonao lokkue' sa' manggånnadot ha' ta'lo.

Este na siñenten inabiba para bisita siha gof tåddong gi i durånten tres ha'åni ya i paopao tininon nengkanno' gi sagan fañochuyan parehu yan i gimen siha taiguihi smuthi, sheif ais yan manengheng setbesa numa'månnge' i tiempo achokha' gof maipe tåtkumu umidu yan ma'lak somnak.
Maloffan anåkko' na tiempo desdeki maolek i klema gi i Ferian Islan Maikrunisian Guåhan sa' gi manmå'pos na såkkan siha ma go'te i aktebedåt gi talo' tiempon fanuchånan.

Gi tres puengi, yampak i lugåt annai manmane'egga', manmane'ekungok, yan mambabaila i taotao siha gi i dandan Tribal Theory, un ban San Diego ni' membron-ñiha klumåma na mañainan-ñiha mangginen Guåhan. Un taotao gi tapblon yåbi yan kåntadot as Parker Yobei ni' hu li'e' gi ma'pos na såkkan gi i Ferian Kotturan Chamorro ni' pinatlinuyu nu i Otganisasion CHe'lu ya ma go'te gi iya San Diego Market Plaza, måtto di ma guaiya nu i taotao guini. Put i hihihot yu' gi sisenta åños ya ha afekta yu' i musika ginen as Parker Yobei, duru yu' bumaila lokkue'. Fresko yan senmaolek gui' para guåhu.

Ha yunga' litratu-hu un senmaolek na yininga' åtte as Chris Mahilum ni' duru ha na'chålek yu' ni' frihon-ña yan estoriå-ña put pulitikåt siha. Sesso di hu chomma'-maisa yu' yanggen para bai hu ma yungå' pusision-hu sa' sentakpapa' komfiansiå-ku para este na manera, lao ha na'senmagof yu' ni' bidå-ña nu guåhu.

Unu hu tungo' put guiya si Chris na gi magåhet i na'ån-ña si Peter ya i kompli'años-ña pumoddong gi diha despues di i mafañagu-hu, parehu na såkkan. Senhåssan hu fakcha'i taotao siha ni' parehu osino hihot kompli'años-hu ya kulan hu pega na ga'chong-hu esta. Put mås, bisa-prisidente gui' para i Asusiasion Åttestan Filipinu ya i prisidente si Rolly Zepeda, un maolek åttesta ni' ga'chong-hu ha' lokkue'.

Gi otro na lamasa gi otro na tento' na eståba i Rinihistran Decolonization ni' ma kalamtitini ginen ufisinan Sinadot Ben Pangelinan. Hihot yu' yan este na asunto guihi na lamasa sa' put i hagas hu eppok estodiante-ku siha gi iya Unibetsedåt Guåhan para u ma rihistra siha gi iya Kumision Ileksion Guåhan gi kada simesta annai eståba yu' guihi. Put i manåtatte na tiempo na asunto, ha patitiki i Rinihistran Decolonization yanggen para u fanman ayek i tinaotao put estao pulitikåt Guåhan tåtkumu indipendiente, estådu osino asusiåsion linibette.

Hagas di gaige este na asunto såkkan put såkkan ya ohalåra mohon na u ma atendi este gi ti åpmam na tiempo. Hu tayuyuyuti na gi durånten ha'ani-hu na u posipble este.

Gi i lamasa, kumuentos yu' åpmam yan si Karen Charfauros put i noskuåntos taotågue esta manma rihistra yan put i hinasso-ña put este na asunto. Duru ha' i taotao manmåtto guatu para u fanma rihistra ya senmagof yu' na pumosipble este na cho'cho' gi durånten i Ferian Islan Maikrunisian Guåhan piot para ayu i ti tumungo' ha' put este na kinalamten ni' chinechennek as Sinadot Ben Pangelinan.

Hunggan, maolek i tiempo yan i fuetsa para i Ferian Islan Maikrunisian Guåhan para i finatto annai manma fatta, manma monstra yan manma bende kosas siha. Ma silebra lokkue' i mina'singkuenta åños-ña i Setbision Bisitan Guåhan.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Typhoon of Tinane'

The past few weeks have been crazy. You may or may not have noticed this on the lack of posting. The sparse amount of posts in no way means that I haven’t been doing anything. The truth is the opposite, I have been doing way to much lately. Sen tinane’ yu’, ya esta liso yu’ para bei lalango.

I am working on two Administration for Native American Grants. One to standardize Chamorro curriculum at the college level. The other to create a publishing house at the University of Guam that will publish Chamorro children’s books. I’m not writing them alone, but for those familiar with ANA grants, there always seems to be an endless amount of workplans, appendixes and so on to tweak and fine tune.

Another grant that I need to finish by next month is for the Guam Preservation Trust, and is requesting support to hold a mini-conference in the fall on language and culture shifts amongst Chamorros today. I am working with Faye Untalan, who teaches Chamorro at UOG on this project.

I also had to finish up the semester in terms of providing grades for close to 200 students, with no teaching assistant help. I ended up staying up for two days to finish up all the grading for my 6 English, World History and Guam History classes. Achokka’ munhayan yu’, para bai hu finatoiggue nu ayu siha gi chatguinife-hu siempre.

A project I finished up a couple months ago is coming to epic fruition. I was asked by Stephen Benardyk, a professor in music at UOG and the director for the Guam Symphony Society to translate the choral section for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony into Chamorro. This ended up being lots of fun to do. I got to write in very expansive ways in Chamorro, something few people realize the language is capable of. Here’s a section of what I translated.

Afañe’lus gi hilo’ i ma’lak na långhet / Nai u såga’ i guaiyayon na tåta / Kao manekken hamyo, miyones? / Kao un siente i nana’huyong, mundo?

The performances will take place next week, with the main show being on May 29th at the Sand Castle in Tumon.

Unfortunately I won’t be here for the performance as I am typing this while I am flying over the Pacific on my way to California. For the next week I’ll be doing two things. First I’ll be visiting Chamorro organizations and clubs in Southern California in order to find out more about what sort of outreach they are doing and ways that we might be able to work together on projects. Several years ago I helped write a ANA language grant for the organization CHELU based in San Diego. It was accepted and CHELU was given funding to study the state of Chamorro language in San Diego county. Now years later, they have received funding to create language classes to help perpetuate the language amongst the largest diasporic concentration of Chamorros.

The second half of the week I’ll be in Ecuador participating in a UN Seminar on Decolonization. I’ve never been to Ecuador, but this is a trip that others such as Hope Cristobal, Julian Aguon and Lisa Natividad have taken before and so I’m honored to follow in their footsteps. One thing that I should be doing right now is finalizing my testimony for the seminar. They have asked me to discuss my research on “the decolonial deadlock” in Guam that I studied in my Masters Thesis in Ethnic Studies at UCSD.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


NMI Descent Corp. opposes military use of Pagan

A non-profit corporation representing at least 7,000 registered people of Northern Marianas descent has added its voice to the growing opposition to the U.S. military's planned use of Pagan for live-fire training.

The Northern Marianas Descent Corp., led by its president Ana S. Teregeyo, adopted a strongly worded resolution opposing the use of Pagan for military activities.

The 10-page resolution was submitted as the NMD Corp.'s formal comments to the CNMI Joint Training Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas EIS.

“[The] officers and members of Northern Marianas Descent Corp., for and on behalf of the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people of Northern Marianas descent, unequivocally oppose and unanimously disapprove the proposed U.S. military development and tactical exercise activities on our culturally, historically, and environmentally rich, serene, and irreplaceable ancestral homeland of Pagan.,” the resolution partly reads.

Besides Teregeyo, those who signed the May 10 resolution were NMD Corp. vice president Karl T. Reyes, secretary Daniel O. Quitugua, and treasurer Rose T. Ada-Hocog.

Many of the comments from CNMI entities on the EIS are opposed to the proposed use of Pagan, but not necessarily on the use of Tinian, where two-thirds of its lands are already leased to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Gov. Eloy S. Inos, as chairman of the CNMI Military Integration Management Committee, has asked DoD to split into two distinct EIS the proposed Pagan and Tinian ranges “to prevent the downfall of one range because of the other.”

Teregeyo, in a phone interview yesterday, said the NMD Corp. represents 7,000 indigenous people, based on the NMD Registry.

The NMD Corp. claimed that historically, “the U.S. military is best known for covert operations, keeping secret anything they used or plan to use that may be harmful to the area, affecting and displacing people, animals, plants, wildlife, marine life, water, air and sea, permanently damaging and/or destroying the overall human habitat, landscape, flora, fauna, land and marine environment.”

It said the “most alarming statement regarding Pagan” is the U.S. military's intention to use “the entire island with a full spectrum of weapons and joint training activities.”

The group also asked that DoD comply with Sections 805 and 806 of the Covenant, which established the political relationship between the Northern Marianas and the United States.

The previous Fitial administration had offered to lease Pagan and other Northern Islands to foreign investors to generate revenue for the dwindling CNMI economy at the time. Pagan has a rich deposit of pozzolan.

DoD plans to use Tinian and Pagan to meet its unit level and combined level training deficiencies in the Western Pacific.

Guam training areas are already being used to capacity.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Where Dissertations Come From

When I left Guam in 2003 to start graduate school in the states I knew I wanted to research and write about Guam and Chamorros, but wasn't sure what angle to take exactly. My tagline for my research while in grad school was "everything Chamorro, anything Guam" and sometimes "everything Guam and anything Chamorro." Decolonization was something I was becoming more and more interested in in scholarly terms, even if it was something I had already been advocating and working on in an activist context. Would I do something more cultural? Something in your typical social movement, social science way? Would I do a historical project and come up with my bounded bundle of time and go from there? I ended up taking a more philosophical route and I'm grateful that my committee was willing to let me engage in that way.

I ended up using my "data" and my evidence in a more philosophical way, or the way that philosophical essays and articles are written. You are not contained a single form or a particular set of evidence, but can instead move more freely through the stuff that is life and make your arguments using whatever you can get your hands on. Although the analogy isn't perfect, I imagined that your typical social scientist would be akin to a warrior who becomes truly proficient with a single deadly weapon, mastering it and becoming one with it. A more philosophical approach is akin to not focusing on the weapon, but on the warrior and training yourself to turn the things around you into weapons, using whatever is at your disposal. One is not necessarily better than the other, but each have different possibilities.

The form that my dissertation took came from a series of speeches, articles and blogposts that I collected while I was working on my Masters Thesis in Ethnic Studies. These were small, potentially insignificant sorts of things. A line underlined in a speech by an Admiral. A string of statements from in the comments attached to a Youtube video. A laugh in the background of a speech when the House is debating an amendment proposed by Guam's Congresswoman. So many errant details were swirling around in my head, connecting in different ways, I couldn't see myself doing a typical social scientific research project. My evidence was diffuse and scattered, in my opinion it required a more diffuse method to give it meaning. 

One of the pieces of evidence that pushed me in the writing of my dissertation more than anything else, was the list below from the website for Foreign Affairs published in 2006. It was a simple list of the 6 most important US military bases in the world. This list animated so much in terms of looking at Guam in a very different way, past the nationalizing and colonizing ideaologies that people use to fantasizing about what Guam is and where we are it. By placing it alongside other places of not only strategic importance, but also indistinct and ghostly political existence, it helped make in my mind a connection between Guam's lack of status and a potency or power in the United States. As if the lack of sovereignty in Guam, led to an enhanced sovereignty for the United States. That is how I came to design my dissertation, taking up the question of how Guam helps to produce American sovereignty.

That list that helped my conceptualize all this is pasted below:


The List: The Six Most Important U.S. Military Bases
By Daniel Widome
Posted May 2006

The U.S. military is cleaning house. Existing bases are being retooled or eliminated, and new ones are popping up in some unexpected places. FP looks at the overseas bases that are now vital to the U.S. military—and the new ones that will change its global footprint for years to come.

Andersen Air Force Base & Apra Harbor, Guam
The base: Andersen can handle aircraft ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to long-range strategic bombers, and Apra Harbor can service everything from nuclear submarines to aircraft carriers. The naval base is also home to one of the three Maritime Prepositioning Squadrons worldwide, which provides mobile, long-term storage of land-combat equipment and supplies near potential trouble spots.
Its importance: Located in the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles from Asia, Guam is close enough to the mainland to be vital in any conceivable conflict yet distant enough to preclude a surprise blow from an adversary. Andersen is one of the few locations with the necessary hanger facilities to protect the B-2’s sensitive, radar-evading skin, and strategic bombers regularly cycle through the base to project power toward mainland Asia. The best part: unlike other large bases in the region, Guam is U.S. territory.

Balad Air Base/Camp Anaconda, Iraq
The base: Most prominent of the “enduring bases” being constructed in Iraq, Balad is located just north of Baghdad. It is one of the busiest airfields in the country, accommodating both Air Force fighters as well as transport aircraft. Camp Anaconda, adjacent to the air base, serves as a main base and logistics center for U.S. troops serving throughout central Iraq.
Its importance: Balad’s facilities and location make it more than just an ideal base from which to fight insurgents in Iraq. It is also perfectly positioned to project U.S. power throughout the Middle East, and it will likely do so for many years to come. Although this convenience might serve wider U.S. interests, it doesn’t sit too well with Balad’s Iraqi neighbors—U.S. soldiers have nicknamed Camp Anaconda “Mortaritaville” after a common greeting they receive.

Bezmer Air Base, Bulgaria
The base: Bezmer reflects a broader trend toward lighter, more austere bases in Eastern Europe and away from the larger military complexes in Western and Central Europe. To keep a low profile in the host countries, the Pentagon is reluctant to even refer to Bezmer and its Eastern European equivalents as “bases,” and it stresses that the host countries retain full control of their facilities.
Its importance: Compared to U.S. bases in “old” Europe, Bezmer and its Eastern European equivalents are cheaper to operate and closer to potential hot spots in the Middle East and Central Asia. In times of conflict, the military will use these facilities to “surge” men and materiel toward the front lines. The hope is that former-Soviet bloc host countries will be more amenable to U.S. bases than other hosts in “old” Europe and be less likely to block their use in a time of conflict.

Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory
The base: Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Diego Garcia served as a base for B-52s during the 1991 and 2003 wars with Iraq and during post-9/11 operations in Afghanistan. Its isolated anchorage is also home to both Army and Marine seaborne prepositioning squadrons for land-combat equipment and supplies.
Its importance: Isolation—and British sovereignty—make Diego Garcia a far more secure base for U.S. forces than any mainland base in Africa, the Middle East, or South Asia. Specialized shelters to protect the sensitive stealth equipment of visiting B-2s have recently been installed, and strategic bombers regularly rotate through the base. The atoll is also an important part of the U.S. Space Surveillance Network of telescopes, radars, and listening stations.

Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba
The base: Originally intended as coaling station for the U.S. Navy, Guantánamo Bay (or “Gitmo”) remains an important logistical base for Navy units operating in the Caribbean. It also serves as a hub for counter-drug and migrant interdiction operations.
Its importance: Gitmo’s greatest strategic asset is its hazy legal status—it is U.S.-controlled, but it is not U.S. territory. Although it’s not the only place through which “enemy combatants” (neither POWs nor convicted criminals) could be processed, it is readily accessible from the U.S. mainland, and its staff and facilities have experience in detention operations from their time as host to Haitian and Cuban refugees. As a result, Gitmo is one of the most well-known and reviled U.S. bases worldwide. The Bush administration has repeatedly rejected high-profile calls to shut down the base.

Manas Air Base, Kirgizstan
The base: Manas was established at Bishkek’s international airport in the months following 9/11 as a hub for multinational operations in Afghanistan. It has since grown into a substantial base in the heart of Central Asia, playing host to combat aircraft, their supporting personnel, and associated facilities.
Its importance: In addition to its proximity to Afghanistan, Manas is located near the immense energy reserves of the Caspian Basin, as well as the Russian and Chinese frontiers. Kirgizstan has not threatened to follow Uzbekistan’s example and expel U.S. forces, which suggests that Manas could become a linchpin of the enduring U.S. presence in Central Asia. Recognizing its value, Kirgizstan is talking about raising the rent from $2 million to $207 million per year.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Colonizing Frame

When I was in Okinawa last month for a symposium on Okinawan sovereignty and decolonization, there was significant interest amongst the local media in the island. I was interviewed extensively by a reporter from one newspaper. The other newspaper also provided coverage and even organized a large televised panel on the issue. A local media station filmed the symposium I spoke at and is planning to make a documentary about it. The one thing missing however was the mainland Japanese media. They didn't cover much of the sovereignty/decolonization related events. It seemed almost like a blackout, or perhaps a temporary refusal to acknowledge. I can understand why the Japanese media might want to not cover this issue. 
Media operates by frames, by easy ways of understanding a story. A story is presented in such a way that all you do is provide some details and the audience can already assume everything else. This is part of the limitations of the media but also the way in which people operate in general. Is this a story about a corrupt politician? A local hero? A scandal? A natural disaster? An incomprehensible tragedy? A war somewhere we don't understand?
The frame through which mainland Japanese understand Okinawa is primarily through bases and protests. What happened on the bases now? What are they protesting about now? This allows the Japanese to easily dismiss whatever critical discourse emerges from Okinawa as the grumblings of spoiled and immature children. What do they want, more money? Why can't they just accept the sacrifice of hosting these bases for the good of the country?
Independence for Okinawa is obviously outside of those frames. So the Japanese media doesn't not engage with those protests or that discussion. It ignores it and tries to put it into a petulant child context. It tries to recast it in such a way so that it does not exceed the national framework for understanding and giving meaning to Okinawa. 
The article above is a case in point. The main rhetorical thrust of the article comes from a politicial who argues that this move for Independence is a strategy that the Okinawans resort to when their country does not treat them properly. In the translated article above there are several interesting rhetorical cues that make it so that even if they are talking about leaving Japan behind and moving on, you can still understand this in a Japanese context. In other words, they are just upset and aren't really gonna leave. They aren't that serious. They probably just want more money. 
I hope that the Independence movement in Okinawa continues to grow until the point where Japan can no longer ignore it.  


Okinawans form group to study independence from Japan

May 15, 2013

NAHA--Could Okinawa become an independent state? Five Okinawans formed a group to study the possibility on May 15, the 41st anniversary of the island prefecture's reversion to Japanese sovereignty.

While only a minority of Okinawans are calling for independence, a growing distrust among islanders toward those on the mainland, who have left the southern prefecture burdened with U.S military bases, could lead to more empathy for the idea.

Okinawa Prefecture accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan’s landmass, but it hosts 74 percent of all U.S. military bases in the country.

The group, “Ryukyu Minzoku Dokuritsu Sogo Kenkyu Gakkai” (Ryukyu tribal independence general study association), is led by Yasukatsu Matsushima, an economics professor at Ryukoku University.
The members plan to conduct research on Scots who seek independence from Britain as well as on the possible effects on the local economy if all U.S. bases are withdrawn.

Matsushima decided to form the group after he heard about a meeting of prefectural governors in 2010. At the meeting, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima demanded that central and local governments significantly reduce Okinawa's burden of hosting U.S. military bases, but almost no governors supported him.

“To achieve a breakthrough on the bases issue, discussions on the option of independence are necessary,” said Matsushima.

The argument for Okinawa's independence stems from the “anti-reversion theory,” which was propounded around 1970 when Okinawa was still under U.S. administration. The theory stated that it is an illusion to believe Okinawans can live a peaceful life under Japanese sovereignty.

But the idea failed to gain widespread support from islanders at the time.

“Expectations for the return to Japanese sovereignty were so great that the anti-reversion theory was largely ignored,” said Akira Arakawa, 81, who advocated the theory.

Arakawa said he pins his hopes on the new group formed by Matsushima and his colleagues.
“Okinawans have continued to be betrayed by Japan after they were returned to Japanese administration, and some support the idea of independence,” Arakawa said.

Kantoku Teruya, 67, a Lower House member from the Okinawa No. 2 district, mentioned the new study group on his blog.

The entry in April comes under the sensational heading, “Okinawa finally becoming independent from Yamato." Okinawans refer to the Japanese mainland as Yamato.

“It is sad to discuss independence, but we should have enough backbone to discuss it (to call attention to Okinawa's problems),” Teruya, of the Social Democratic Party, said in an interview. “The call for independence represents an objection filed against the nation of not treating its people the way it should.”

According to Teruya, some people on the mainland sympathetic with Okinawans regarding the U.S. bases issue have told him that the tiny island prefecture should break away from Japan.

But Teruya said he has a key question for such people.

"I want to ask whether they are prepared to take on the U.S. bases (abandoned by Okinawa) on the Japanese mainland," he said.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Taotao Haya'

Last year local businessman Adrian Cruz proposed the creation of a Chamorro newspaper. It would feature articles and columns in the Chamorro language and focus on issues affecting Chamorros. I and a few others submitted articles to support this newspaper. I was happy to learn earlier this year that Adrian had gotten enough advertising and support to print the first issue. 
I wrote a story on the reunification of the Marianas, providing some background on how Guam was taken by the United States, but the other islands in the Marianas in Micronesia were not. My column appeared on the editorial page beside columns by Mario Borja who is heading the Chamorro Sakman project in San Diego and the infamous Robert Underwood, who wrote on the fluidity of Chamorro culture and the need to not only honor our ancient ancestors. Just the intellectual layout of the three columns was pretty cool to look at.
Another issue is coming out soon. I'm contributing a piece in Chamorro this time on the threat from North Korea and how Guam should respond to it. My brother Jack who created an editorial comic for my last column is making one again. Because my piece will be about the strategic importance of Guam and how we should learn to evaluate our place in the world, for ourselves rather than accept the place that America gives us, his piece is titled "Life at the Tip of the Spear."
I'm including below my article that I submitted in the previous issue titled "Sa' Hafa na Mansiparao i Islas Marianas?" or "Why were the Marianas Islands separated?"
Sa’ Hafa na Mansiparao i Islas Marianas?
Taotao Håya’
Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Ph.D. 

Para este na finaisen, debi di ta hasso i estorian i islå-ta siha yan i bali-ña este na lugåt para i otro na mas dångkolu na nasion siha. Gi i mina’diesinuebi na century, gumof dångkolu i intres i kometsiante yan i manakhilo’ na Amerikånu siha. Ma li’e’ i nuebu na nasion siha giya Latin America yan i manggof dångkolu na nasion siha giya Asia, ya puru ha’ metkao para u ma”plunder” i lini’e’-ñiha. Fine’nina ma fuetsa i Chapones para u babåyi i Amerikånu siha ni’ metkao-ña. Pues. Ma cho’gue i parehu giya i tano’ Chinu. Parehu i minalago’-ñiha yan hinasson-ñiha giya i Islas Filipinas. Manggaito’la i kometsiante siempre nai ma li’e’ i meggai na tåno’  siha, nai siña mangguadok mineråt, meggai na taotao lokkue’ ni’ para u facho’cho’ baråtu yan para u fåhan lokkue’ fina’tinas Amerikånu siha.
Annai matutuhun i Geran Espanot yan Amerikånu esta i US mandisidi na i PI para u masagåyi. Sa’ ginnen ayu na tåno’ manhihot todu i otro metkaon Asia siha. Lao gi guihi na tiempo, tåya’ båtkon aire, båtko ha’. Gof umachago’ i US yan i PI. Ya i batko siha ma u’usa katbon gi i makinan-ñiha. Ti siña ma hago’ i tano’ Asia ginnen i US gi un chinagi. Pues achokka’ i US gof malago’ gui’ mama’tinas salåpe’ giya Asia, taimånu na siña ha na’siña i batko-ña siha humago’? Debi di i US ha chule’ i islas siha gi halom i Tasin Pasifiku. Esta masåkke’ iya Hawai’i gi 1893, pues esta mataka’ låmita. Iya Guahan i mas dångkolu na isla gi entre i Islas Marianas yan Micronesia, yan humuyongña i bahinå-ña siha (ko’lo’lo’ña iya Apra), i mas dångkolu lokkue’. Yanggen chinile’ Guahan ni’ i US, esta kana’ kabåles i chalan Amerikånu asta Asia.

Pues gi i geran Españot yan Amerikånu, måtto i opportunidåt i US para u na’funhåyan este na chålan. Gi i kingautu-ña Si Henry Glass para i Islas i Filipinas, sumugo’ nå’ya gui’ giya Guahan. Sesso mafana’ån este na gera giya Guahan, i “taihagga’” na gera, sa’ ni’ unu matai gi i chinile’. Este un gof dångkolu na essiten gi i estorian Guahan. Annai i US ma hatme Guahan, i Españot ni’ mañasåga’ guini, ti ma tungo’ na guaha gera. Ya achokka’ i US ha kañon Fort Santa Cruz giya Apra, pine’lon-ñiha i Españot na ayu na pinaki un “hafa adai” ginnen i Amerikånu siha. Sa’ esta dos meses maloffan desde i uttimo na batko ni’ pumuetto giya Guahan, ti ma tungo’ tribiha na esta manggegera i dos nasion-ñiha. Pues machule’ Guahan gi 1898, ya desde ayu iyo-ña colony hit.
Kao i US ha atan i otro islas gi i Kadenan Marianas? Hunggan, buente ha atanñaihon, lao mungga gui’ chumule’ i tetehnan na islas siha. I hinasson yan i minalago’ i US gi guihi na tiempo, annai ha atan i Marianas, ti put tåno’ yan guinaha, sa’ gi este na bånda manaibali islas. Tåya’ oru, tåya’ mineråt, tåya’ goma, tåya’ gaibåli para i ekonomian i US. I bali-ña i lugåt-ña gi i tasi yan i hinihot-ña nu Asia. I nisisitan i US un na’chetton, ya para ayu na punto, nahong iya Guahan ha’. Ti manguailåyi i otro islas siha.
Pues despues di i Geran Españot yan Amerikånu, finahan iya Guahan ha’ ni’ i US. Ti ha fåhan i otro islas siha, ya humuyongña manmafåhan siha ni’ Alemania. Gi i Geran Mundo Unu, i Chapones ha hatme i tano’ Alemania giya i Tasi Pasifiku yan giya Asia, ya ha chule’ i islas Marianas. Ha gubietno i islas esta ki i Geran Mundo Dos, ya ginnen este na islas ha hatme Guahan gi 1941. Gi i Geran Mundo Dos, i US ha chule’ tåtte’ Guahan yan ha hatme yan chule’ lokkue’ i otro islas Marianas siha.
Gi i finakpo’ i gera, manunu i islas Marianas siha gi pappa’ i atoridåt i US, lao ti mismo mandåña’ siha komo “unified.”
I interes i otro muna’sahnge hit. Ma diside na este na isla gaibåli, ayu otro na islas siha manaibali. I chalån-ta asta på’go’ na momento sen na’triste yan matåhlek. I interes i sanhiyong na nasion siha muna’taiguini. Manafana’ i Chamorro siha ginnen Guahan yan i Sankattan na Marianas gi i Geran Mundo Dos. Manakontra siha, sa’ i “colonizers” umakontra. Manafa’enimigu ya achokka’ esta meggai años maloffan desde ayu na  homhom na tiempo, manggaiggaige ha’ i paladan siha.
Anggen ta kilili mo’na este na ideha put agondumåña’, ya na’magåhet i guinifen-ña, debi di ta na’siguru na i mina’kalamten hit put Hita, put i taotao-ta yan i probechå-ta.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hurao Summer Camp

For those interested in providing your child with a memorable summer experience and teach them about Chamorro culture and immerse them in the Chamorro language, Hurao Guahan is accepting applications for their Tiempon Somnak, or Summer Camp. I will be enrolling Sumahi this session because she really needs more support for her Chamorro language learning. I speak to her all the time, but no other kids around her speak Chamorro. Very few adults she knows speak Chamorro and so she feels very isolated in the language. I'm hoping this experience will help her become more comfortable in her Chamorro.

Here is the link to the application.

Here is the link to their Facebook page.

I love the theme that Hurao brings to their language revitalization work. You can see it on their t-shirts and on their Facebook page banner. It reads, "Hasso yu'. Fana'gue yu'. Na'i yu' ni' iyo-ku."

That translates to: Remember (think or) me. Teach me. Give me what is mine.

I love the way that this implies that the language already belongs to the children of Chamorros. They are just waiting for us to give it to them. It is an important reminder of our obligations. If we don't teach our children the language, who will?

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Day of Decolonization

On April 28, 1952 the Treaty of San Francisco ending World War II between Japan and the United States went into effect. As part of this treaty Japan would receive its sovereignty again, but the US would get to keep numerous bases in the country. Okinawa, as an island to the south of Japan, that had been forcibly annexed in 1879 was not thought of by most Japanese as being a true part of Japan. As a result it was the ideal “sacrifice” for Japan and was given to the United States in order for Japan to receive its sovereignty back. Bases that had been in mainland Japan were moved to the island, which was placed under US control until 1972. In the minds of the leaders of both Japan and the US, everyone got what they wanted. No one seemed to bother to ask the Okinawans about what they wanted.

In Japan, April 28th is thought of as an important anniversary, the day that Japan became whole again. This year the Japanese government announced that a celebration would take place to commemorate the return of their sovereignty from the United States. This upset almost everyone in Okinawa because April 28th, 1952 is known there as a “day of humiliation.” It is the day they were “sacrificed,” the day they were sold out to the United States. It was the day where what had been years of occupation would become permanent. 

For half a century prior the Japanese had colonized Okinawans, doing everything from banning their language, forcing them to change their names and banning aspects of their culture. Okinawa went from being its own kingdom, to a colony of Japan, where people were indoctrinated with the idea that they were now Japanese and had to give up those things they believed made them Okinawan.

Okinawans resisted in many ways this colonization and still held onto ideas of their cultural distinctiveness. Their being sacrificed by Japan has helped to amplify their cultural resistance to the point where it takes on political forms. If they were truly Japanese, why were they sold out in such a way? Why were they given over to a foreign power and had their lands militarized? If they were truly Japanese why has the rest of the country ignored their protests and their pleas to rid their island of US bases?

When the current Governor Hirokazu Nakaima heard of this celebration he politely refused his invitation to Tokyo. The Japanese government later tried to downplay their event by calling it more of a ceremony and memorial, not truly a celebration. Nakaima later decided to allow his Vice-Governor, a former historian and academic to attend on his behalf. The hope for his attendance was that since the Japanese seem to know so little about Okinawa and its history, who better than a historian to go and educate them.

The presence of the US bases in Okinawa has also helped to push people towards a more local critical consciousness. It is seen as a burden that people feel Okinawans bear unfairly compared to the rest of Japan, but also as the main issue in which they see the Japanese government to be unresponsive and unhelpful. For those who think the bases have only started to be contentious since 1995, this is hardly true. They have always been a source of antagonism and protest. When Okinawa reverted to Japanese control in 1972 there was a great hope that the bases would close. Nothing of the sort happened.

Okinawans lost huge amounts of land to these bases. There were even periods of starvation due to the land loss after the war. Okinawans worry about the effects the bases will have on their environment. They also fear, especially in the case of the Futenma, that the bases may lead to catastrophic accidents since some are so close to highly populated areas. As Okinawa has grown, they have even grown economically beyond the bases. Studies have shown that the amount of “sympathy” money that Okinawa receives for hosting the bases is actually much less than the amount of money the island could get if the land was returned and given over to public and private use.

While I was in Okinawa last month thousands came out to protest the “day of humiliation” on the beach in Ginowan City (where Futenma is located). In just the four days that I was there in April, there were numerous panels, conferences, debates, articles and demonstrations dealing with the issue of “Okinawa’s sovereignty.” It is for this reason that I would call 4/28 this year “a day of decolonization.” For years Okinawans saw themselves as a discriminated minority in a Japanese context. After years of protest and complaints that have not resolved the base issue for them, they are starting to expand their consciousness. As their value to Japan is that Okinawa is an island where it can hide most of the United States’ bases it is “forced” to host, it seems less and less likely that they bases could ever be removed if they remain a part of Japan. Decolonization and the asserting of Okinawan sovereignty may be the only way. 

(photo is from Sunao Tobaru)

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

2nd Marianas History Conference!

2nd Marianas History Conference
One Archipelago, Many Stories:
Integrating Our Narratives

August 30-31, 2013
University of Guam Campus
Call for Papers

The University of Guam, Guam Preservation Trust, Guampedia, and the Northern Marianas Humanities Council are pleased to announce a call for papers for the 2nd Marianas History Conference. It will be held on the UOG Campus in Mangilao, Guam, from August 30-31.

The conference will cover a full range of topics associated with the Archipelago’s history, and papers may be submitted under the following general categories: Ancient History; Early Colonial (17th-18th centuries); Late Colonial (19th-early 20th centuries); World War II; Recent (post-war); and Oral History and Genealogical Research. The general categories correspond to the 1st Marianas History Conference.

In addition to papers, organizers are also accepting posters that address the conference theme and/or topics. Posters will be exhibited through the 2nd day of the conference. These organizers also encourage student presentations.

Paper and poster abstracts with a maximum of 150 words may be submitted here: Marianas History Conference 2013 Presentation Application. Please submit a short bio in this same form.
The deadline for abstracts has been extended to 1 June 2013. Conference presenters will be allotted 20 minutes to present with an additional 10 minutes for questions and discussion.

Registration for presenters and attendees
There is a $25 fee for early registrants, both for presenters and attendees, payable here:

Please fill out the registration form here: 2013 Marianas History Conference Registration form
Those who register to attend at the event will be charged $40. Students will be charged a $10 fee at the door and a valid student ID will be required. Registration will be limited to only 180 persons.
The closing conference banquet, to be held at the Guam Sheraton on Saturday 31 August, will be a relaxing and enjoyable evening of food and fun. Tickets of $50 per person can be purchased by July 15, payable here:

If you prefer not to use Paypal you may pay by check no later than July 1. Write the check to Guampedia and send it to Guampedia Foundation UOG Station Mangilao, GU 96923. Note that is for the Marianas History Conference.

Marianas History Conference 2013 Planning Committee

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Adventures in Chamorro

Speaking Chamorro to young kids is alot of fun. You end up having to create alot of interesting words in order to describe things both in terms of technology and popular culture. Since I always speak Chamorro to my kids I have to find ways to talk about things in Chamorro, that most Chamorros never imagined they'd ever have to talk about. Superheroes, talking animals, cartoons, robots, and mythical creatures are just some of the things we have to talk about on a daily basis. I enjoy this creative aspect of the language. It is something that Chamorros have sadly lost over time.

I've started writing about some of these interesting things on my Facebook page. I've titled them "Adventures in Chamorro" and I wanted to share some of them below:


Adventures in Chamorro #1: Akli'e' is a big fan of Superman, but how do you say "Superman" gi fino' Chamoru? There are several possibilities but I eventually settled on "Geflahi." The reason for this choice is because of the way "gof" which means "very" used to be a prefix for words in order to make clear that they were a level about the rest. When adding "gof" to a word it meant that you were exceptionally skilled at something. "Geftaotao" was a possibility but is already taken since it is the original form of the term "geftao" which means to be generous or literally truly human. But since Superman technically isn't supposed to be human, even though he obviously is very generous with his time, I decided to use "lahi" for instead which translates to man, boy or son. "Geflahi" means that he is not just any man, but he is a super man.

Adventures in Chamorro #2: Akli'e' and Sumahi are both fans of Iron Man. Since blacksmithing is in the family they already know the word for iron or metal, "lulok." So would you say "Lulok na taotao" for "Iron Man." When Sumahi watched Iron Man 2 she disagreed with this name since Iron Man isn't really made of iron. He's not part spider like Spider Man, he just wears clothes that are made of iron and give him his powers. But "iron clothes" wouldn't make sense. There is an ancient word for armor "gnuga" which probably hasn't been spoken out loud in 200 years and so that wasn't right. I eventually decided to be more creative and decided to use the word "hima" or giant clam shell in order to indicate the armor or metal shell that Iron Man uses. So whenever we watch Iron Man, you will hear Akli'e' and Sumahi yell out "Lulok Hima!"

Adventures in Chamorro #3: Sumahi, like me, is a big fan of Optimus Prime. While watching the Transformers movie with Sumahi, the obvious question of how to translate "Transformer" into Chamorro came up. There are several words in Chamorro that mean something changing, shifting or being substituted, but the most commonly used word is "tulaika." In order to say something that is defined by its ability to change or transform, you would repeat the first syllable of the word and add emphasis to it. For Transformers we would say 'Titilaika." There is some ambiguity because "Titilaika" could be interpreted as something that changes or transforms other things, not necessarily itself. So if you ask Sumahi about Optimus Prime she will tell you that he is "i ma'gas i manmaolek na Titilaika siha" or "the boss of the good Transformers."

Friday, May 03, 2013

An Island of War

I gave several talks while in Okinawa recently. Below is the text for one of them. I was asked to address the topic of Japan's sovereignty. There were several possible ways to address this question. First and foremost, is Japan even a truly sovereign country? With so many US bases there can they ever truly be sovereign? In the case of Okinawa, is it truly sovereign Japanese territory with so many American forces there? Whose interests are truly dominant? What happens if the interests of the US and Japan diverge? Furthermore there is the question of what type of government a sovereign Japan should have? Should it continue to subordinate to the United States? Should it assert its own interests? For example if the US is pushing for war and Japan wants peace, how well can Japan assert its own sovereign interests when the US can still use its bases as it sees fit?

I decided to address the question of Japanese sovereignty with a focus on Okinawa. Is Okinawa just like any other part of Japan? Can it afford ti simply accept this as the truth of its reality and just move on with its life? Or is there something peculiar about Okinawa and its relationship to Japan that should make it question its place in Japan? The obvious answer is yes. By being the place where Japan and the US hide so many of their bases, Okinawa similar to Guam cannot simply pretend it is just like any other prefecture or piece of the nation that claims it. A particular destiny is forged for it and it does not have any say in whether or not it wants this destiny.

I've included the text from my speech below:

“Japanese Sovereignty and its Relation to Okinawa”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
April 27, 2013
Okinawa International University

On the question of Japan’s sovereignty and its relation to Okinawa I first want to talk a little bit about my island and how it bears a similar status as Okinawa. 

Guam is known as “the tip of America’s spear.” It gets this title in recognition of its value to the United States. Guam is a small island in the Western Pacific, right on the edge of Asia, and 28% of its 212 square miles host United States military bases. If you imagine a long American spear stretching across the Pacific, my island is its point, closest to any potential threats from Asia. Like the long spears of so many human wars and militaries, it extends forward to strike first, while the warrior remains at a distance.

Okinawa serves a similar purpose for the United States. As the “keystone of the Pacific” is has its own role in asserting American power in this part of the world. While Guam bears a forward, vanguard-like metaphor, Okinawa is given one of centrality or necessity. Okinawa is a key point that is required for the offensive and defensive postures of the United States to be effective.

Our islands are both important weapons in the arsenal of the United States. In any war with Asia we will be the weapons for the United States to wield against its foes. But as our islands are gripped tighter in anticipation of combat, we also become more visible as targets for those wanting to attack and weaken the United States.

The United States claims that we are both important to keeping peace in Asia. They claim that they must not only have bases in Guam and Okinawa, they claim that they must have many bases in order to ensure the region is “stable.”

In response to recent threats from North Korea, the United States has assured the people of Japan, Okinawa and Guam that they are safe and that they will be defended.

Because of our similar histories and the way that the United States and Japan have treated us before, there is a very serious question that we should ask ourselves: When the United States and Japan defend themselves, are they defending our islands? Or are we the weapons that they will use to defend themselves?

History has already shown that we should we wary of how these nations defend themselves. Guam as a lonely, distant outpost tactically exists as a forward projection point, but also a buffer, something to be sacrificed to protect the homeland. In the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco, the government of Japan gave the island and people of Okinawa as a gift to the United States, in exchange for their sovereignty. The United States established their many bases there and controlled the island from 1952-1972.

On this most recent trip to Okinawa I had the change to visit the Peace Memorial Museum in the Southern tip of the island. I greatly touched at the way the museum told the story of Okinawa’s suffering and struggles. It did not shy away from the brutal truth of the war and the discrimination of Okinawans by the Japanese and the United States.

Outside the museum I walked amongst the rows upon rows of stones filled with the names of those who had died when the island became a hell on earth. At the end of these rows, near the cliffs there was a large stone. The stone was called “The Cornerstone of Peace” meant to remember all of those who died in the Battle of Okinawa. Throughout the museum there were several mentions to peace and Okinawa learning the lesson of war and becoming “an island of peace.”

One of the poems who will find in the museum is as follows:

Whenever we look at
The truth of the Battle of Okinawa
We think
There is nothing as brutal
Nothing as dishonorable
As war

In the face of this traumatic experience
No one
Will be able to speak out for or idealize war

To be sure
It is human beings who start wars
But more than that
Isn’t it we human beings who must also prevent wars?

Since the end of the war
We have abhorred all wars
Long yearning to create a peaceful island

To acquire
Our unwavering principle
We have paid dearly

This commitment and this desire for peace inspired me, but also saddened me. What a beautiful notion, the idea that this island that suffered so much, with 1 in 4 civilians dying when the island was hit by a “typhoon of steel,” could become an island of peace. It could become a place where people understand why war should never happen again and look to prevent wars in the world.

I was saddened because the truth of Okinawa today is that so long as Japanese sovereignty reigns over the island and the United States has its bases there, it will never become “an island of peace.” The tragic fates for both Guam and Okinawa is that while we should have each learned the lesson that war is pointless and should be prevented at all costs, our islands are strategic locations where the United States and Japan love to hide their bases. Regardless of what we might want for ourselves and for our islands, their sovereignty over us means that we will always be their keystones, their spear tips, their weapons. Until Okinawa can assert its own sovereignty, and seek its own destiny as an island of peace, it will be dragged into whatever wars the United States is fighting. It will be used as a place from which planes carrying bombs take off and troops carrying weapons are stationed. Until Okinawa can achieve its own independence it will always be made into an island of war.

Nife deberu

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Threatening Thoughts #7: The Truth Behind the Crisis

I have long advocated that we on Guam stopped looking at the world through the eyes of the United States. It is tragic and pointless sometimes for us to the nations and the islands that are right beside us through the gaze of the United States which literally sits on the other side of the Pacific and the world. We see other islands through our privileged relationship to the United States. We see countries around us through the enemies, allies and interests of the United States. It is hilarious to the point of tragedy that we talk endlessly about how we are "America in Asia" and so close to Asia, but actually know so little about "Asia." What we do know comes imported from the United States and we learn little for ourselves.

In the recent controversy over North Korea and its potential threat to Guam we could perceive this in crystal clear fashion. For all the discussion and concern and worry over North Korea, what did we actually know about it? How much were we actually thinking about the situation as opposed to reacting in fearful ways simply because it makes us feel more "American."

Here is an interview with Christine Hong from The Hawaii Independent. The interview was conducted by Dennis Bernstein. To link to the interview click here.


B: There’s a lot of disinformation and patriotic reporting coming out of the U.S.  Why don’t you tell us what is going on right now. What is the situation and how dangerous is it?

CH:  You put your finger on it. All we see is media reporting that singularly ascribes blame to North Korea, which is portrayed as a kind of unquestionable evil, so what the U.S. is doing in response to the supposed provocation seems eminently justified. I think we are in a crisis point.  It doesn’t feel dissimilar to the kind of media rhetoric that surrounded the run-up to the U.S. invasion in Iraq. During that time also, there was a steady drumbeat to war. …

If we were to look at the facts, what do those facts tell us? I will give one example of the inverted logic that is operative, coming out of the media and U.S. administration. In a recent Pentagon press conference, [Defense Secretary] Chuck Hagel was asked whether or not the U.S. sending D2 stealth bombers from Missouri to fly and conduct a sortie over South Korea and drop what the DOD calls inert munitions in a simulated run against North Korea could be understood as provocative. He said no, they can’t be understood as provocative. And it was dutifully reported as such.

What we have is a huge informational landscape in which the average person who listens to these reports can’t make heads or tails of what is happening. What has happened since Kim Jong Un has come into his leadership position in North Korea is that the U.S. has had a policy of regime change.

We tend to think of regime change operations and initiatives as a signature or hallmark policy of the Bush administration. But we have seen under President Barak Obama a persistence of the U.S. policy of getting rid of those powers it finds uncooperative around the world. To clarify what I mean, after Kim Jong Il passed away [in December 2011], the U.S. and South Korea launched the biggest and longest set of war exercises they ever conducted. And for the first time it openly exercised O Plan 5029, which is a U.S. war plan that essentially simulates regime collapse in North Korea. It also envisions U.S. forces occupying North Korea.

What is routine during these war exercises, which are ongoing right now, as we speak, is they simulate nuclear strikes against North Korea. These workings are a combination of simulated computer-assisted activity as well as live fire drills. Last year, the first year of Kim Jong Un’s leadership, a South Korean official was asked about the O Plan 5029 and why he was exercising this regime collapse scenario.  He said the death of Kim Jong Il makes the situation ripe to exercise precisely this kind of war plan.

It’s almost impossible for us in the United States to imagine Mexico and the historic foe of the U.S., Russia, conducting joint exercises that simulate an invasion of the United States and a foreign occupation of the United States.  That is precisely what North Korea has been enduring for several decades.

DB: For some time now, the press has been stenographers for the State Department. There is no independent reporting about this. You don’t see it in either the conservative or the liberal press. We do not understand the level and intensity of the so-called war games that happen offshore of North Korea. You made a dramatic point about imagining if North Korea wanted to conduct war games off the coast of the United States. The press plays a key role here in fanning the flames of a dangerous situation. How dangerous do you perceive the situation is now?

CH: I think that it’s hair-trigger dangerous. There are many reasons for this. Even the commanding general of the U.S. armed forces in Korea, James Thurman, said that even the smallest miscalculation could lead to catastrophic consequences. Even though many blame North Korea, I think everyone realizes this is a very volatile situation that has gone entirely unreported in the U.S. media.

China has stepped up its military presence. You have a situation where China is amassing its forces along the North Korea-China border, sending military vehicles to this area, conducting controlled flights over this area. It’s also conducted its own live fire drills in the West Sea. So you have a situation which is eerily reminiscent of the Korean War, in which you can envision alliances like the U.S. and South Korea, with China in some echo that slips into a relationship with North Korea.

I think it’s a very dangerous situation we are in right now. The abysmal nature of the reporting is that all you hear is jingoistic. One thing we need to understand is that U.S. and North Korean relations must be premised on peace. For over six decades, the relations have been premised on war. U.S. policy toward North Korea throughout the existence of North Korea has been one of regime change.

If you understand the basis of the relations of war, you realize that war doesn’t just get conducted on the level of battles or simulated battles. It gets conducted on terrain of information. So when you think about it that way, it’s easy to understand why misinformation and disinformation prevails with the reporting of U.S. and North Korean relations.

DB: Secretary of State John Kerry called North Korea’s actions dangerous and reckless and he continues to be part of a policy to send the most advanced stealth fighting weaponry, as if they could name enough weapons that would back down the North Koreans.

You can’t document this, but what is your take on the many countries in the world who are cheering, maybe not in the foreground, that somebody finally said, “no, you can’t make believe that we are an aggressor. You can’t turn us into an enemy when you are having exercises with 60,000 troops. You can’t plan to invade us and expect us to just stand by.” I’m sure there are many countries and leaders, many revolutionaries in this world, who are taking note.

CH: Of course. That is the other inverted reality. There is the reality of those of us who are in the U.S. and locked into the limitations of our positions here, and the rest of the world. This is classic U.S. Cold War foreign policy. … So much of what goes on in our name in U.S. foreign policy is far from pretty. It is a blood-soaked history.

If you pause to think about the lived reality of those people who are unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of U.S. foreign policy, then you realize that George Bush had that plaintive cry, “Why do they hate us?” It was a kind of soul-searching incapacity to understand the causes of anti-Americanism around the world. But as you say, if we are going to have a sensible approach to procuring any kind of common future with the rest of the world, we are going to have to reckon with our foreign policy. And that is something that has yet to be done.

DB: I do get the feeling that the U.S. foreign policy is at least in part predicated on keeping a divide between the North and the South.

CH: Let’s go back to history. You nailed it. Since the inception of something called North Korea and South Korea, the U.S. has been instrumental throughout. If you go back to 1945, you see that scarcely three days after the bombing of Nagasaki, two junior U.S. army officers, Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel retired to a small room armed with nothing more than a National Geographic map of the Korean peninsula, through which, in a 30-minute session, with absolutely no consultation of any Korean, divided the Korean peninsula. This division of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel into north and south, and the creation of a southern government, had no popular legitimacy.

North Korea had a very long anti-colonial history relative to the Japanese. What was created is a divided system in which one in three Korean families at that time were separated. So a kind of state is visited on the Koreans who were colonized by the Japanese and were not a war aggressor during WW II. What this eventually assured is that there would be a civil war of national unification that would be fought by both sides, the North and South.

That tension has hurt U.S. purposes. The U.S. claims that it is doing all these very provocation actions, the stealth bombers, etc, because it needs to give a show of support to its South Korean ally. But of course, this fundamentally misunderstands history and the fact that the U.S., from the beginning, has exploited the division for its own geopolitical advantage.

DB: What do we know about what is happening in the South? Is there a grassroots movement that includes unity and shows concern for this kind of U.S. hegemony in the region?

CH: Absolutely. The specter of a nuclear war and a U.S. nuclear strike against North Korea would not just impact those people who live above the 38th parallel.  It would inevitably impact the rest of the peninsula, environmentally, and in every way. These are two countries that are very much tied through families, communities, etc. This is an unimaginable outcome.

When the South Korean people have been polled as to which country they think is the greater threat, the United States or North Korea, they point to the United States. In the South, as well as in the North, 60 years represents a full lifetime. …

South Korean progressive activists have said “We had 60 years of a war system.”  2013 will be the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice that brought the Korean War to a temporary halt, but did not end the Korean War. After six decades of a war system, they have said 2013 is the first year of Korean peace. We’ve had 60 years of war, and we are inaugurating a new era of peace.

Heaven forbid the U.S. continues its strategy for de-nuclearizing North Korea. North Korea believes that nuclear power is the basis of its sovereignty. Heaven forbid that the U.S., rather than finding a way of co-existing with North Korea, actually deploys nuclear power to stop nuclearization. That would be the greatest irony of all.

DB: Amazing. If you had ten minutes to advise Barak Obama about what U.S. foreign policy might be helpful, what would you say?

CH: I would say that the U.S. would secure so many gains were it seriously to consider peace. Both Donald Gregg, the head of CIA in South Korea for many years and also the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, and someone who actually runs a humanitarian aid organization that provides food relief in North Korea, both said, after Dennis Rodman returned from North Korea, that the message he was conveying to Obama was “Call me. We don’t want war.” They both stated that however irregular the form of the message, it could not be ignored.

Most U.S. presidents get a vision in their second term. In regard to North Korea, even G.W. Bush said engagement and diplomacy was the only way forward. I would only hope that Barack Obama would come to his senses about North Korea as well.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.  You can access the audio archives at


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