Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Opposition to the Affordable Care Act

by Bruce Karolle

Letter to the Editor

Marianas Variety


AMAZINGLY, Obamacare threatens America’s unique status among the world’s advanced economies.

As a nation where access to regular medical care has been a privilege, a privilege, according to many right-wing conservatives, that must be earned. We are the only advanced, Western-oriented country in the world with such a privileged healthcare system.

Our friends in Canada and our buddies the Brits (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), perhaps America’s two closest allies, have had for years superior national health plans for all their citizens, as have other developed countries, i.e., France, Australia and Israel. When measured comparatively, their costs are far less than ours over the past decades.

Since the days of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (early 1900s), seven other U.S. presidents, in my lifetime, have proposed national healthcare plans (Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, JFK, LBJ, and Clinton). All of those past proposals and every piece of legislation put forth in the U.S. Congress – for a hundred years – failed, until the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Amazing!

The ACA passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives in 2010. In June 2012, it was approved by the Supreme Court through a legal constitutional challenge. And, because of traditional corporate opposition as well as from the nonsensical political far right, many are still committed to its demise.

By shutting down the federal government for more than two weeks, threatening a default on the national debt a couple of weeks ago, and, now, continuing to obstruct and provoke its collapse, Obamacare will come online in the midst of unprecedented political warfare.

Nevertheless, the essence of the ACA combines solutions to the increasingly higher medical costs and the problem of access to health insurance. The individual mandate will provide new customers for the medical industry that is required to undergo reforms.

Specifically, according to the experts writing in the Boston Globe and the Hartford Courant, the new law creates penalties for hospitals with high rates of poor care and high rates of patient re-admission. The old pay-for-quantity system rewarded hospitals for doing a bad job by not treating the patient effectively, so that patients had to return for more treatment. This changes care for the better and lowers costs.

Additional future tax penalties (effective date: 2018) on most expensive insurance healthcare plans have already seen employers shopping around to avoid the tax. Apparently, companies hope to avoid the coming tax and are beginning to scale back on the excessive health benefits and looking closer for ways to bring down the costs of health care.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will provide these well-advertized benefits:

  1. Access to affordable coverage for the uninsured with pre-existing conditions, preventing insurance companies from denying coverage of pre-existing or congenital health issues for their existing clients;
  2. Re-insurance for retiree health benefit plans;
  3. Closing the coverage gap in the Medicare (Part D) Drug Benefit;
  4. Small-business tax credits assuring employee coverage is more affordable; and
  5. Extension of dependent coverage for young adults, which means children stay on their family health insurance policies until the age of 26.
Despite radical opposition and rampant campaigns against Obamacare, the president and his supporters will see the implementation of this new healthcare law. Obviously, Congress can make changes – as the law is amendable and certainly could be improved. Democracy and sensible government regulation wins again.

The United States will finally join the group of advanced nations that already have universal healthcare systems in place for their respective populations.

Bruce G. Karolle,
Tamuning and Vernon, Conn.


Monday, October 28, 2013

On Pagat

As the focus is drawn away from Pagat, we must remain vigilante.

Pagat was the buzzword for several years in terms of conceiving and resisting the buildup for many people. It is surreal the way it came to stand beside other terms such as "jobs" or "economy" in the way people imagined the buildup. It was one of the first critical or negative things that made it into the conversation to help counter much of the unrealistic positive perceptions of the buildup that were out there. 

Pagan, a word so similar sounding to Pagat, will most likely be the next buzzword. As it is far north in the Gani Islands, it remains to be seen if it can be given the same visibility and transformative power that Pagat received. 


"On Pagat and Our Continuing Concerns"
By Senator Ben Pangelinan
Marianas Variety
September 19, 2013

 RECENT information from the Joint Guam Program Office (JGPO) indicated that the informal decision of the Department of Defense is to remove Pågat as a preferred site for its firing range. Pågat, an ancient Chamorro village, is listed on the national and local Registers of Historic Places and listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the top 11 most endangered sites in 2010. 

Gov. Calvo, in one of his first actions in office, urged the signing of a Programmatic Agreement with DOD that allowed it to move forward with the Record of Decision which listed Pågat as a preferred alternative for the firing range, notwithstanding its historical significance, and despite the great community opposition to its use from the Guam Legislature, the Guam Preservation Trust, We are Guåhan, Fuetsan Famalao’an, the Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice, the Guam Boonie Stompers, University of Guam professors, agency professionals, archaeologists, historians, cultural practitioners, students, and many more groups and individuals. Following the lawsuit filed by National Historic Trust, the Guam Preservation Trust, and by local attorney Leevin Camacho on behalf of Julian Aguon and We Are Guåhan, the DOD announced it would do a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) on the use of Pågat as a firing range. 

As a community, we are grateful to the individuals and organized groups that came out publicly and in their own creative ways during the EIS process, the Programmatic Agreement discussions, and the seemingly never ending subsequent EIS processes, to keep track of and provide input on the proposals for increased training ranges and facilities in cultural sites and environmentally significant areas. Many volunteers and government of Guam employees worked tirelessly to educate the community on the known effects of the proposed actions, and to slow the further desecration of our waters, land, and historical and cultural sites.

While Pågat may no longer be the site for the firing range, as a community we remain concerned about the environmental and health effects that this type of training will bring if conducted within the footprint of our lands and waters, inside or outside the fences. There are still many questions that remain unanswered, and it is incumbent upon all of us to be diligent and informed. 

A few weeks ago, we heard that there were closed-door discussions between Guam’s delegate to U.S. Congress, Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam military buildup lobbyists and U.S. intelligence and national security experts focused on the role of Guam and the Marianas in ensuring that U.S. national security interests are protected in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Additionally, we learned that a team from the Department of Interior is on-island to determine, through program audits, whether Guam is able to accommodate the impact of the relocation of Marines from Okinawa.

We also hear of DOD’s interest in using the northernmost island of Pagan for military training exercises, and the increasing opposition from the Northern Mariana Islands and national environmental groups.

Just this week, we were notified of the release of another EIS for the Navy’s continued and expanded use of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands for underwater explosives and firing range training, The Navy’s MITT EIS/OEIS can be viewed online at The comment period ends on Nov. 12. Public hearings will be held in Guam on Oct. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the University of Guam, School of Business and Public Administration Building, in Saipan on Oct. 8 at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center, and on Oct. 10 at the Sinapalo Elementary School cafeteria.

What we’re experiencing again is a surge of discussions and planning by top-level administrators mainly from off-island regarding the increased military presence on our island. Much of this happens without the consent of everyday people on Guam, and without acknowledgement of the true cost of this on our community. In spite of the overwhelming commitments we have to our families, to our jobs, and to our everyday lives, I believe it is all the more critical for each of us to remain vigilant and continue to insist that any and all plans for the military buildup, in whatever capacity, be open, transparent, and inclusive of all voices.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Makahnan Mimu One Shot

The Guam Bus is the creative team that consists of myself and my two brothers.

Over they years we've talk about alot of creative projects, and even started some of them, such as Battle for Kamchatka, but we haven't ever really finished any of them. We made ashcans a few years back when we had a table at WonderCon in San Francisco, and I did write the script for four issues of Battle for Kamchatka and Jack did pencil three of them, but we never actually formally published anything.

Jack is back on Guam for the next few months and I am taking advantage of his presence here by making him create for me on my various Chamorro Studies and Guam Museum projects. He is also working on a one-shot comic book script I wrote last year about "Makahnan Mimu" or "Warrior Wizards" in Ancient Chamorro times. If all goes well, he should be done with the pencils by the end of next month.

Here's a panel from the comic so far:

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Chamorro Experience gi Fino' Chamorro

For thousands of years the Chamorro people have used the Chamorro language to tell their complicated story.

When Magellan arrived in ships filled with starving and sickly sailors, Chamorros greeted him in the Chamorro language. When the Spanish and other Europeans stopped in Guam to trade with Chamorros bits of iron for rice, water and fruits, Chamorros greeted them in Chamorro. Even during the Spanish Chamorro Wars, both those who fought against the Spanish such as Hurao, Agualin or Chelef did so in Chamorro, giving grand speeches trying to inspire courage. But even those who sided with the Spanish, like Hineti and Ayihi and pledged their spears to defend the earthly representatives of an invisible deity they had just met, they did so in the Chamorro language.

Even as Chamorros started to become Catholic and accept the new faith in their lives, they used Chamorro, albeit infused with some Spanish, in order to experience their religion. When the Americans arrived replacing one colonizer with another, Chamorros learned a new language, but kept to their own. They talked about the new opportunities the Americans were bringing, but also complained about their racism and discrimination all in the Chamorro language.

During the Japanese period the language was once again a shield. At a time when not bowing properly to a Japanese soldier could get you beaten, the Chamorro language provided a means of expressing oneself while protecting yourself. Chamorros created songs that mocked the Japanese and would sometimes sing them within earshot, leaving the Japanese to question in ignorance whether the song was offensive or not.

Even in the time before colonizers, the Chamorro language was still there. It was the soundtrack to the erecting of latte homes, of voyages across oceans, battles between villages, and the venerating of ancestors.

Since World War II the language has declined rapidly. It is no longer actively being spoken to younger generations. Today, Chamorros use English as the primary means of expressing themselves and talking about their experiences. For most Chamorros born after World War II, the language exists, and they hear it and may even use it in some ways, but it is fundamentally divorced from their experiences. For describing their daily lives, their desires, their emotions, their goals, English feels more comfortable.

The Chamorro language has long been used to tell our story, but it also represents in and of itself, our story and our history. The Austronesian roots, the core of the language still persists, but other languages have changed it and influenced it as well. It is the sum of all our complicated parts. To use contemporary Chamorro means to use a living linguistic organism that connects you to people in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. From a language, we can analyze the values of a people, their psychology and epistemology.

The Chamorro language has for thousands of years been the means through which Chamorros connected to each other and to the world. It survived and adapted as the Chamorro people survived and adapted. It is truly tragic to see that within a few generations it may disappear. When our manamko’ today pass on, they will take most of the language with them, since they did not actively pass it on to the generations that followed them. To go from 100% fluency to 4% fluency in three generations means that a language will be alive and vibrant only as long as that generation of manamko’ is around. Once they pass on, the Chamorro language will go the way of the songs of native birds, it will be quieted and eventually close to silence.

It is important that we teach it to our children and support their learning it and using it. It is imperative that we keep the ability to tell our stories in the Chamorro language.

This week the University of Guam President’s Office and Chamorro Studies program are premiering a new lecture series, a Chamorro language lecture series. Its title, “The Chamorro Experience gi Fino’ Chamorro.”

Over the course of the next month, we will host four Chamorro language lectures, each from a Chamorro who will talk about their experiences and their perspectives. They come from very different walks of life and very different perspectives, and the focus is not necessarily on the Chamorro language, but rather the nexus between their experiences and the Chamorro language. Having a lecture series like this won’t “save” the Chamorro language, but if it can inspire some fluent Chamorro speakers in the audience to use it more around those younger than them, or inspire some young would-be speakers to really commit to learning and using the language, then the series will be well worth it. 

Our first speaker is Tun Jack lujan, the Chamorro Master Blacksmith. On October 24th, at 5:30 pm at the CLASS Lecture Hall in the University of Guam he will be giving a lecture on the Chamorro traditional tools to which he has devoted his life to preserving and promoting. The lectures are free and open to the public and some refreshments will be provided. Following the lecture a Q and A session will take place. 

The remaining speakers are: Ann Marie Arceo, founder of Hurao Academy (11/7), Flora Baza Queen, Queen of Chamorro Music (11/14) and Eddie LG Benavente, former Maga'lahi of Nasion Chamoru (11/20). 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mungga Machupa

Tomorrow I'll be reading my poem "Ancient Chamorro Sexy Time" as part of the launch for the Chamorro Studies major at UOG. I am not much of a poet, but I do every once in a while, about once a year, enjoy writing some poetry. I usually end up writing one long piece, that takes several weeks to eventually finish. In it, I try to tackle some big huge issue going on in Chamorro history, culture or in the Chamorro present. In my most recent poem I dealt with issues of "nakedness" and our relationship to our ancient, pre-clothing past. I've also dealt with revolution, cultural purity, language politics and others. 

With the starting of the Chamorro Studies program at UOG, we are moving into a new phase in terms of our place in this island and in the world. Chamorros have been working for decades to seek legitimization for their knowledge, language and culture. To have a major at the University of Guam that can provide that is a truly remarkable thing. As the program coordinator for Chamorro Studies, I've had lots of people talk to me about their ideas about what a Chamorro Studies program is supposed to do. Some people focus on the idea that a Chamorro Studies program will authenticate things, and tell everyone with definitive certainty what is and what isn't Chamorro. 

This is not a goal for Chamorro Studies. Chamorro Studies is not about creating a singular sort of portrait of what Chamorros are or what they once were. It is meant to be viewed on a spectrum, with the different variations and possibilities for Chamorros mapped out, so that we can see ourselves not through a microscope, but through a macro lens. It is not about elevating the Ancient ones to be the true ones, or about making the argument that only Catholic Chamorros are real Chamorros or anything else. In my mind it is about analyzing the things that Chamorros define in their lives, but also the things that define them. 

It is intriguing to come to this point, a point in my life that I have long dreamed of, and then reflect back. The sparodic nature of my poetry writing is most likely not random. I think in many ways it is tied to different watershed moments in my development of consciousness or ideological growth. As I have grappled with issues and tried to figure out my ways of talking or thinking about them, a poem as emerged helping me navigate things. 

Like many Chamorros who undergo a shift of consciousness after going through the canons of Guam history and seeing the racism and obliviousness drip from the pages, I was once angry. The smugness of so many historians and academics as they wrote about Chamorros was amazing in an appalling sort of way. There was this sort of glib glee as people would write about Chamorros no longer existing and how they had all died out long ago, and all that were left today were the ghosts too stupid to know that they were dead. I remember feeling such incredible rage, poetry was one way I would seek to escape from that bleeding red haze. 

I came across one of my poems that I wrote during those grad school days. One that I don't share very often. I'm not sure exactly why I don't share it very often. I think it might be that the language isn't particularly poetic. Or it might be that the first time I did read it, few people seemed to get what my point was. Regardless, I felt for some reason like sharing it here today. 

It's titled is "Don't Give the Chamorro a Cigarette Just Yet."


Don’t Give the Chamorro a Cigarette Just Yet…
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
In my readings of Guam’s history from the Spanish period to the present day, there always seems to be this one image that captures and dictates my imagining and imagination. 

When I read our history, I always get this scene of Chamorros, standing before a firing squad, often blindfolded, each with an unlit cigarette in their mouths, just on the edge of non-existence. 

Go through Spanish accounts and you’ll see discussions about Chamorros by priests and governors as if they don’t exist, or as if they are on the verge of oblivion. Read governors’ reports or medical articles from the American period and you get the same impression, Chamorros are dirty little impure creatures who without America and the English language would just drop dead and cease to be.
The intensity of this image became so ingrained in my ideas that I began to think of Guam’s history in terms of Chamorros being given metaphorical cigarettes of death.

Questions and scenarios began to pop into my head 

Did the Spanish introduce tobacco to Guam just to give Chamorros that first whiff of genocide and extinction just before they nearly wiped them out? 

After those wars, when some sources say all the Chamorro men were dead, and boatloads of Filipinos came to marry Chamorro women, thereby giving eager scholars the best evidence of Chamorro non-existence. Did these Filipinos hand cigarettes to their new brides as wedding gifts? 

And what about the benevolent Americans who we tend to think of as the liberators of our culture?
Did they flick cigarettes at Chamorro farmers as they called them “niggers” or wrote articles that said, without civilizing and the destruction of their culture, they’ll just dissipate from history? 

Or what about the American desperate, urgent almost pathological need to destroy the Chamorro language? They burnt books, they beat children, they fined people the wages of an entire month if a child so much as uttered a single Chamorro word. 

Did they force open the mouths of these children, extinguish their sizzling and smoking cigarettes on the tongues of these children, and then demand that they smoke that same cigarette? 

And how could we ever forget the war? When the Navy abandoned Guam in 1941 to the Japanese, leaving Chamorros the victims of empires and their inevitable conflicts. Did they leave behind crateloads of American brand cigarettes as well as the tune to Uncle Sam Won’t You Please Come Back to Guam?
Then there was the bombing, which was so sporadic and so careless it destroyed most of the villages of the island, and left unknown numbers of Chamorros dead, to be remembered as less than collateral damage. Did they drop bomb-loads of cigarettes from planes as they flew overhead? 

As Marines landed on the beaches and discovered crowds of jubilant Chamorros, and gave eager young boys and girls candy bars, gum, and yes infamous cigarettes, they were often heard to exclaim, “You mean people live here?” or “I can’t believe anyone could have survived that bombing!” 

And how could we ever forget the post war years. When the military thought it strategically important enough to steal almost every piece of land north of Inalahan. I remember hearing stories about farmers who were forced to give up their lands, or tricked into giving them up, and then died broken tragic deaths with little to offer their children. Their despair nothing more than tears in the pounding, requiem-sounding torrential downpour of war. Did Naval officers, in spotless and neatly pressed uniforms put cigarettes into the mouths of these men, and then their children, their wives, before they stole their land? 

Even to this day, the extinction agenda is not complete. 

In articles, in conversations, the discourse on cultural destruction persists. Chamorros themselves have taken up this habit, and begin to doubt their own existences, sometimes puffing the first whiff of death from that last cigarette as they board a Continental flight away from Guam, both in body and spirit. 

Even I am sometimes offered that final metaphoric smoke.

By scholars reciting historical scholars. 

Or by older Chamorros who are tired of GovGuam corruption or buying food for family gatherings, or thinking about how much easier life would be if their parents were in Saint Dominic’s.
Or by young Chamorros, some of which have never left Guam, who write poetry about snow in the voice of Brittney Spears and know more about Lord of the Rings Characters than their own grandparents. 

But everytime the deadly addiction, the extinction affliction is   offered.

Meaning someone is telling me it’s almost my time to go.

To go and meet my ancestors in whatever museum or tourist attraction houses the souls of lost and dead cultures.

My response is always the same,

I don’t smoke, and I’m not going anywhere.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chamorro Studies Launch Schedule

Maila ya ta fanhita sumilebra i mas nuebu yan mas gefpago na prugrama gi UOG, CHAMORRO STUDIES!

Come and let's celebrate the newest and most awesome program at UOG, Chamorro Studies!

This Thursday, the launch event will feature presentations, performances, displays and the start of a new Chamorro language lecture series.

Below is the schedule:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

He Helped Capture Yokoi

I would love to do a research project on Yokoi. His name always comes up in the most random places. The connection that he felt to Guam is so unique and so interesting, and his actually gets in the way of us understanding it. He returned to Japan a hero, but seemed to chafe against that characterization. In his mind he had failed in so many ways, and the hero status he received missed everything he was and every value he cherished. The quiet jungles of Guam seemed to understand him more than the country he returned to. There was more meaning to that spartan existence than the flashy and fake Japan that he returned to. You could argue that his soul remained in Guam while the rest of him returned hooe.

Here is an interview that a UOG student conducted with her grandfather Jesus Duenas, one of the two Chamorros who discovered Yokoi in 1972. I came across this in the most random way earlier today on a very old version of UOG's website.


Interview with Jesus M. Duenas
By Winnie Duenas, the Grandaughter of Mr. Duenas
April 8, 1999
Talofofo, Guam

How many children do you have? 

-We had 12 children, Evelyn, Cristobal, Jose, Edward, Johnny, Julia, Soledad, Joseph "J.D. Crutch", Ignacio, Maria, Ramona, and Jesse. I have plenty grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

What is your occupation? 
-I am a farmer, fisherman and I used to hunt. I do not really farm and fish as much as I used to, but I follow my sons to the ranch now. They keep up my ranch and farm. 
What type of crops?  

-We raised pigs, goats, chickens, carabaos, cows and dogs.
Who helped you on the farm?  

-My children and grandchildren helped on the farm. Also, my brothers and sisters and their families would help, too. Whoever helped out got a share of what was sold, as well as a share of the vegetables. My farms were big and I needed a lot of help.

At what age did you start school?
The rainy season on Guam is from January through June, which meant that I had to walk from the Ugam River up the hill to the village. The walk was not far, but it was hard to come to school when it was raining. My father was just a farmer and he and my Mom did not know any English. My brothers and sisters went to school all wet because it rained. After that, the principal told my Dad not to send us to school if it was raining. So we did not really go to school during the rainy seasons. 

Were you allowed to speak Chamorro in school?
-At school we spoke English in the classroom. But we could speak Chamorro when we were on the playground. 

What did they do to you if they caught you speaking Chamorro?
We did not get in trouble for talking Chamorro. 

Were your teachers Chamorro?
My teachers were Chamorro and my principal was also. 

How many grades did you complete?
I only finished up to the first grade because that year the rainy season was long and we never went back to school. 

How was life at home? How many brothers and sisters did you have?
My dad was a farmer and my mom stayed home. I always helped my dad on the farm with the plants and animals. I had 15 brothers and sisters; there are only three of us living today. Most of my brothers and sisters died at a young age because they were sick and we lived too far from the main village. One of my brothers was killed in the jungle. We think he was killed by a Japanese straggler after the war. He died in the early 1950's. 

Did you only speak Chamorro at home?
-We only talk Chamorro at home because my parents only know Chamorro. They did not understand English. 

Was school emphasized at home or were the chores a priority?
-At my house, the house and farm came before school. Sometimes my dad will go to school to tell the principal that I am not going to school because he needs me at the farm.
How old were you during WWII when the Japanese occupied Guam? 

-I was about 15 years old when the Japanese came to Guam.
Where were you living when the Japanese started bombing Guam? 

-Me and my family were at our house at the Ugam River. We knew that the Japanese were coming because one of our neighbors' daughters that lived by the bay came running and yelling that the Japanese were here. Everyone was running into the jungle to hide. When the Japanese found us and the other families, they told us to stay together. 

Did you work for the Japanese?
-Yes, I worked for the Japanese. 

What did you do and where did you work?
-I worked at a lot of places. I worked at what is now Diary road. I helped build the airstrip at NAS, and build the tunnels at COMNAVMAR (Nimitz Hill). The Japanese told the mayors of every village to get all the young guys. So the mayor had to listen and he took everyone to the village. I worked with men from Umatac and Merizo. We even cleared big pieces of land so we can plant for the Japanese. They gave us rations of food every morning before we go out to work. There were young guys like 9 or 10 years old that worked as water boys, but they were treated the same as us. If we did not obey them, we were shot or would have had our heads chopped off. 

When the US liberated Guam in 1945, did you work for them? What was your job and how long did you work for them? 
-I worked with the Marines when they came to Guam. After the fighting was over and I was home, they hired men that knew of hiding places of the Japanese. Sometimes I was hired to keep watch of houses because people were complaining that the stragglers were stealing from their houses. I did not work for them long. Maybe for only about three months. I did not work for them everyday, only on days that they needed me. 

Do you have any more stories you would like to share?
-Every morning the Japanese rationed out the food to everyone before we go out to work. They gave everyone a small cup of uncooked rice. I collected my rice in my food sack and when I had a lot of rice I did something that was bad. One time when we were stationed at NAS, I ran away from the camp during the morning coffee break. I ran all the way to my house down at the Ugam River. My mom would cook the rice I saved and cook a chicken. We would eat, but then I had to hurry back up to NAS before three o'clock. I had to be there before they did a head count. My boss at the time would get made at me because if the Japanese found that I was missing, they would kill him. 

How long did you work for the Japanese? 
-I worked for them until the Americans came to Guam. Maybe about four months. 

Can you tell me why your family honors the Saint Korason DeJesus?
The Saint Korason DeJesus was the saint my mother started saying prayers to when the fighting was heavy between the Japanese and the Americans. I was still under the Japanese rule when the Americans started shooting. My mom prayed for me to be safe and to come home. I hardly saw my family so when the Americans were at war with the Japanese my mom was worried. We pray to the saint every year for nine days. The novena starts on June 26 and ends on July 4. My mom started to pray to this saint on June 26 and nine days later I was home. That was July 4th. 
I ran away from the Japanese during the time of war. We were at NAS. I had to hide from the Japanese and  while I was running home. So now every year since that day we (the family) pray to that saint and have a big celebration at the end of the nine days.

Is it true that if a feast is not celebrated something bad will come upon you and your family?
-Yes, it is true that if we do not celebrate the novena bad luck would come to the family. It happened one time and we promised that it will never happen again. 

In 1972, you were one of the men who caught Sgt Yokoi, the Japanese soldier who hid in the jungle for 17 years after the war ended. Who were you with and what were you doing when you caught Sgt. Yokoi?
It was about 6:00 in the afternoon when me and my brother in law, Manual, went to go set shrimp traps. My house was about 4 miles walking distance from where we were. We were up on a hill when we saw the tall grass moving at the bottom of the hill. We could not see what it was. I thought it was a carabao or a deer, but then Manuel said, "No, it looks like a man. Maybe it is Maxamino." He was a Saipanese straggler who stayed in the jungle because he was afraid of people. Then I said, "wait here and I'll get him." So I went down the hill. When I got about 50 feet from the tall grass I could see that it was not Maxamino, but someone else. I could see that this person did not wear any shoes. When he came out of the grass and saw me, I aimed my rifle at him and he dropped his shrimp traps and kneeled down. He was begging for me not to shoot him
When I got closer I noticed that he was a Japanese man. I yelled for Manual to come because this man was Japanese. Then I told the man ( Sgt. Yakoi) to turn around and follow the road. He walked a little bit, then he stopped. He tried to fight with me. I tried to brace myself on the ground and ended up getting stuck in a puddle of mud. That place was like a swamp. (Link) The mani took my rifle and threw it, then he grabbed my arm. I grabbed his arm so he cannot punch. Then Manuel came running down and airmed his rifle at the man  and told him to stop. Then I punched him  and he fell to the ground. We then tied his hands up and told him to walk. When we were walking to my house, he was like a wild animal trying to run away. I tried to calm him down by talking to him in Japanese. I learned a little during the war. Then I gave him some pancake I had with me. 

How did your family react when you brought Sgt. Yokoi home?
-When we got to my house everyone was surprised that we came back early. Then I told them that I caught a dear. They asked, "Really? How big?" They thought I really caught a dear. Then I said, "I caught a Japanese deer." They were confused, but then I showed them Yokoi and they were really surprised. We untied him and gave him food and water. After he ate he calmed down and started to tell us his story. We all tried to understand. We asked him how long was he in the jungle, he said, "about 20 years." When Yokoi said that, I remembered that my brother was killed around that time and near where we found Yokoi. So I knew that it was him that killed my brother, but I said that it was long ago and that it was over. When I first saw that Yokoi was Japanese I wanted to kill him. I hated Japanese a lot. But now it is okay. The war was a long time ago. 

How did the police officials find Yokoi's cave?
-The next day they took Yokoi in a helicopter to find the caves. 

Did Yokoi ever come back to visit Guam?
-Yes, he came back about three or four times. One time he was invited by the Commissioner of Talofofo at the time, Tito Mantanona, for the dedication of the fake cave near Talofofo Falls Park. 

The cave was put there by Tito Mantanona for the tourists to see. Manual was the one that dug up the cave. He made the cave look like the real one.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Shutdown

Shutting Down Americans: The Government Shutdown in Perspective

What Was “Essential” and What Wasn’t


(Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

On a damp Friday morning 11 days into the government shutdown, a “few dozen” truckers took to the Capital Beltway in a demonstration with the Twitter hashtag #T2SDA (Truckers to Shut Down America).  They wanted to tell lawmakers they were angry, launch an impeachment campaign against the president, and pressure Congress to end itself.

They were on a “ride for the Constitution,” protesting big government and yet the opinion polls were clear.  In fact, the numbers were stunning.  One after another, they showed that Americans opposed the shutdown and were hurting because of it.  At that moment, according to those polls, nearly one in three Americans said they felt personally affected not by too much government, but by too little, by the sudden freeze in critical services.

In reality, that government shutdown was partial and selective. Paychecks, for example, kept flowing to the very lawmakers who most fervently supported it, while the plush congressional gym with its heated pool, paddleball courts, and flat-screen televisions remained open. That’s because “essential” services continued, even as “nonessential” ones ceased. And it turned out that whether the services you cared about were essential or not was a matter of just who got to do the defining.  In that distinction between what was necessary and what wasn’t, it was easy enough to spot the values of the people’s representatives. And what we saw was gut-wrenching. Stomach-churning.

Prioritized above all else were, of course, “national security” activities, deemed beyond essential under the banner of “protecting life and property.”  Surveillance at the National Security Agency, for instance, continued, uninterrupted, though it was liberated from its obviously nonessential and, even in the best-funded of times, minimal responsibility to disclose those activities under the Freedom of Information Act.  Such disclosure was judged superfluous in a shutdown era, while spying on Americans (not to speak of Brazilians, Mexicans, Europeans, Indians, and others around the planet) was deemed indispensible.

"So let this be the last time we as a nation let our elected officials cut nutrition assistance for vulnerable children at the same moment that they protect deep tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations. And let’s call recent events in Washington just what they are: breathtaking greed paired with a callous lack of concern for the most vulnerable among us."

Then there was the carefully orchestrated Special Operations Forces mission in Libya to capture a terror suspect off the streets of Tripoli in broad daylight, proving that in a shutdown period, the U.S. military wasn’t about to shut off the lights. And don’t forget the nighttime landing of a Navy SEAL team in Somalia in an unsuccessful attempt to capture a different terrorist target. These activities were deemed essential to national survival, even though the chances of an American being killed in a terrorist attack are, at the moment, estimated at around one in 20 million. Remember that number, because we’ll come back to it.

Indeed, only for a brief moment did the shutdown reduce the gusher of taxpayer dollars, billions and billions of them, into the Pentagon’s coffers. After a couple days in which civilian Defense Department employees were furloughed, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that 90% of them could resume work because they “contribute to morale, well-being, capabilities, and readiness of service members.” This from the crew that, according to Foreign Policy, went on a jaw-dropping, morale-boosting $5 billion spending spree on the eve of the shutdown to exhaust any remaining cash from the closing fiscal year, buying spy satellites, drones, infrared cameras and, yes, a $9 million sparkling new gym for the Air Force Academy, replete with CrossFit space and a “television studio.”

Furloughing Children

Then there were the nonessential activities.

In Arkansas, for instance, federal funds for infant formula to feed 2,000 at-risk newborn babies were in jeopardy, as were 85,000 meals for needy children in that state. Nutrition for low-income kids was considered nonessential even though one in four children in this country doesn’t have consistent access to nutritious food, and medical research makes it clear that improper nutrition stunts brain architecture in the young, forever affecting their ability to learn and interact socially. Things got so bad that a Texas couple dug into their own reserves to keep the program running in six states.
If children in need were “furloughed,” so were abused women. Across the country, domestic violence shelters struggled to provide services as federal funds were cut off. Some shelters raised spare change from their communities to keep the doors open. According to estimates, as many as six million women each year are victims of domestic violence. On average in this country, three women are murdered by an intimate partner every day.

But funding for domestic violence protection: nonessential.

Funds for early childhood education, too, were shut off. Seven thousand low-income kids from 11 states were turned away. Their “head start” was obviously less than essential, even though evidence shows that early education for at-risk children is the best way to help them catch up with their wealthier peers in cognition and adds to their odds of staying out of prison in later life.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) wasn’t accepting new patients because of the shutdown. Typically 200 new patients arrive every week for experimental treatment. On average around 30 of them are children, 10 of whom have cancer.

Cancer, in fact, is the leading cause of death among children ages one to 14.  But treatment for them didn’t qualify as essential. Unlike fighting terrorism -- remember the less-likely-than-being-struck-by-lightning odds of one in 20 million -- treating kids with cancer didn’t make the cut as “protecting life and property.”

A father of two young girls in the town of Eliot, Maine, said to a National Priorities Project staffer in disbelief, “If even one kid can’t get cancer treatment, isn’t that enough to end the shutdown?”
Let this be the last time we find ourselves on the wrong side of that question. Because every day we as a nation allowed our lawmakers to keep the government closed was a day in which we as a people were complicit in replying "no."

Let this be the last time that a couple dozen Tea Party truckers are the only ones angry enough to take to the streets. The vast majority of Americans, whatever their anger when faced with pollsters or TV news interviewers, took this shutdown lying down, perhaps imagining -- incorrectly -- that they were powerless.

Let this be the last time we allow ourselves such lethargy. After all, there are 243 million Americans old enough to vote, which means 243 million ways to demand a government that serves the people instead of shutting them out.  Keep in mind that in the office of every member of Congress is a staffer tracking constituent calls. And what those constituents say actually matters in how legislators vote. They know that a flood of angry telephone calls from their home districts means legions of angry constituents ready to turn out in the next election and possibly turn them out of office.

Shutting Down Taxes

Americans, however, didn’t get angry enough to demand an end to the shutdown, perhaps at least in part because poisonous rhetoric had convinced many that the government was nothing more than a big, wasteful behemoth -- until, at least, it shut down on them. Think of these last weeks as a vivid lesson in reality, in the ways that every American is intimately connected to government services, whether by enjoying a safe food and water supply and Interstate highways, or through Meals on Wheels, cancer treatment, or tuition assistance for higher education, not to speak of Social Security checks and Medicare.

Deep in the politics of the shutdown lies another truth: that it was all about taxes -- about, to be more specific, the unwillingness of the Republicans to raise a penny of new tax revenue, even by closing egregious loopholes that give billions away to the richest Americans.  Simply shutting down the tax break on capital gains and dividends (at $83 billion annually) would be more than enough to triple funding for Head Start, domestic violence protection, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, and cancer care at the NIH.

So let this be the last time we as a nation let our elected officials cut nutrition assistance for vulnerable children at the same moment that they protect deep tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations. And let’s call recent events in Washington just what they are: breathtaking greed paired with a callous lack of concern for the most vulnerable among us.

It’s time to create a roll of dishonor and call out the lawmakers who supported the shutdown, knowing just what was involved: Mark Meadows (North Carolina, 11th congressional district), Walter Jones (NC-3), Rodney Davis (IL-13), John Mica (FL-7), Daniel Webster (FL-10), Jim Gerlach (PA-6), Justin Amash (MI-3). And that’s just to start a list that seems never to end.

Such representatives obviously should not be reelected, but we need a long-haul strategy as well -- the unsexy yet necessary systemic set of changes that will ensure our government truly represents the people. Gerrymandered district lines must be redrawn fairly, which means that citizens in each state will have to wrest control over redistricting from biased political bodies. California has set the example. Then the big money must be pulled out of political campaigns, so that our politicians learn how to be something other than talented (and beholden) fundraisers.

Finally, we must build, person by person, an electorate that’s informed enough about how our government is supposed to work to fulfill its responsibility in this democracy: to ensure, that is, that it operates in the best interests of the broadest diversity of Americans.

Ahead will be long battles. They’ll take years. And it will be worth it if, in the end, we can give the right answer to that father who asked a question that should have been on everyone’s lips.

Jo Comerford
Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project. Previously, she served as director of programs at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and directed the American Friends Service Committee's justice and peace-related community organizing efforts in western Massachusetts.
Mattea Kramer
Mattea Kramer is a research analyst at the National Priorities Project in Northampton, Massachusetts and co-author (with Chris Hellman) of the new book, A People's Guide to the Federal Budget.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Fino'-ta

The Chamorro language is as old as we are. It is an Austronesian language, which means it bear similarities to many languages throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia. It connects us to those cultures even up until today. Here below is a short history of our language.

Gof ti kabales este, lao para Hamyo ni' taitiningo' put i lenguahi yan i estoria-na, este un tinana' ha'. Puede ha' ya-mu, yan nina'malago' hao nu mas. 


In Ancient times the ability to use the Chamorro language creatively distinguished one above all others. At large gatherings, those who could recall in vivid details the glorious history of their family, twist phrases to make an opponent seem silly in debate, or create in a spontaneous moment a song that would evoke all sort of emotions, were considered to be the height of Chamorro society.

The first grammar book for the Chamorro language was created by Pale' San Vitores. He became fluent in Chamorro and used this to his advantage in the early days of Spanish colonization. 
From the Spanish, the Americans, to the Japanese the language has always offered a sanctuary for the Chamorro people, a means of expressing themselves, whether it be their frustration or finding their freedom.

The Kantan Chamorrita or spontaneous singing style was a integral part of how Chamorros passed the time and interacted with each other. Through their songs in the language Chamorros could broach topics, such as love or sexuality, that the Catholic priests had made taboo. 
The Americans tried consistently during the prewar period to ban the Chamorro language, however Chamorros refused to give it up. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Catholic Church began to play a central role in preserving the Chamorro language, by publishing prayer books in Chamorro. At a time when the US Navy was prohibiting the Chamorro language and compelling Chamorros to give it up, the Catholic Church and in particular Pale’ Roman De Vera were encouraging them to hold on to it.

During the Japanese period, Chamorros used their language as a means to mock the Japanese, sometimes to their faces. Chamorros would poke fun at the Japanese to their faces in Chamorro, but be smiling and appear friendly the entire time. The Japanese, not able to understand assumed the words must be respectful.

During the Spanish, Japanese and American periods the language remained primarily oral, although it was beginning to be published. The oldest recorded instance we have of a document written in the Chamorro language is from 1798. Because of the lack of formal education and orthography, the spelling was at times creative and other times modeled after the Spanish. This has caused some problems when Chamorros themselves tried to organize a more systematic and standardized way of spelling Chamorro words. 
Although today there are efforts to use the language in its pre-colonial form, without the influence of Spanish or English words, the Chamorro language as it is today represents well the history of the Chamorro people. It contains their ancient Austronesian elements that have persisted for thousands of years. It contains the influences of those who have claimed the lands of Chamorros and in many ways attacked their language and culture. The language is a symbol of the survival, beautiful scars and all, of the Chamorro people.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tiningo' i Manamko'

For most people in life, the history of your family is something behind you and nowhere near as important as getting to work on time, getting kids through school, or watching to see who will win next on “The Voice.” It is something almost all will say has value, but like so many things, it gains the most value only after it is out of your reach. Stories of your family are always there as you drive on the road of life. You will see signs that hint at how you should ask grandma or grandpa questions about your family, but most people just keep on driving. Only when it is too late and you can’t ask those questions, then do you look into the rear view mirror with longing, wishing that you had stopped and wishing you had heard those stories while they were still alive.

For most of my life on Guam, I spent it living in my grandparent’s house in Mangilao. From my grandfather, Joaquin Flores Lujan (Bittot) I have learned about Chamorro blacksmithing and how to make tools like the kamyo, the si’i, the soh’soh, the heggao and the machete. From my grandmother, Elizabeth Flores Lujan (Kabesa) I have learned so many things, but most importantly are her stories. My grandmother often says that she inherited her stories from her mother, who died the same year I was born. Her mother lived during the last years of the Spanish period in Guam history and was raised by her grandfather and grandmother. She was educated, got married and raised kids during the American colonial period. She survived the Japanese occupation and lived to reach her late 80s. Through her tales, the coldness and emptiness of history has been replaced by a familiar warmth. I swear sometimes when my grandmother speaks I can hear the clanging of large metal pots after a party at the Spanish governor’s palace, the smell of coconut oil lamps, the sounds of clothes being beaten against river rocks.

If you were to talk to my grandmother she would gladly tell you many of these tales. But for me I am grateful for the sense of responsibility they have instilled in me. Not just for the stories of my own family, but for the Chamorro people in general.

This fall I am working at the main writer for the text of the Guam Museum, set to open in December of next year. This museum represents a wonderful opportunity to tell the story of the Chamorro people in a way that has never been done before. The design of the museum calls for the collection of quotes about Chamorros, describing their history, culture and natural landscape. As of now I have a collection of thousands of potential quotes, that include song lyrics, Chamorro sayings as well as historical accounts and academic analysis.

Victoria Leon Guerrero, a local creative writer is helping create the museum text with me, and felt that in order to truly give voice to the Chamorro people and especially our elders today, we needed to go further than just archival work. She has conducted oral history projects in the past, most recently she assisted the office of former Senator Frank Blas Jr. on the War Survivors Memorial project. She proposed that we go out into the community and try to talk to our elders today, to capture their perspective on our recent history and to record stories and knowledge that may be lost when their generation is gone.

As a result this fall, through the Chamorro Studies program at UOG we are undertaking a project called “I Hinekka i Tiningo’ i Manåmko’” which translates to “the collection of the knowledge the elders.”

Our hope for collecting this knowledge is divided into two categories. The first is Chamorro-language based. We are hoping to ask elderly Chamorros to share the creativity of the Chamorro language they can remember, especially from their younger days. As the Chamorro language is declining in use, much of its complexity and its creativity is being lost as well. We are hoping to gather as many children’s songs, jokes, sayings and even bedtime stories in the Chamorro language that we can.

The second deals with parts of recent Guam history that have yet to receive adequate attention from standard histories. For example, there are already a great deal of oral histories about Chamorro experiences during World War II. But there are nowhere near as many histories about the period of rebuilding afterwards. We may know the stories of where our grandparents were on December 8th, 1941 or which concentration camp or bokkongo they were in on July 21st, 1944, but there has not been as much attention given to the difficulties in rebuilding after the war. This is just one of many under-documented avenues we hope to explore.

At the end of the project, all interviews will be archived in the Micronesia Area Research Center. If you have someone that you think would be important to interview, either in your family or your village, please let us know by emailing

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Ma Adahen i Fino' Chamorro gi Koleho

Read below to learn more about a project I will be working on for the next few years: I Ma’adahen i Fino Chamorro gi Koleho.


UOG Received a 3-Year Federally Funded Grant to standardize the Chamorro language curriculum for post-secondary instruction; it also plans to produce a textbook for student use.

Starting this Fall Semester, the University of Guam will begin this 3-year project funded by the Administration of Native Americans to create a standardized curriculum for teaching the Chamorro language at the college level. The project entitled  “I Ma Adahen i Fino’ Chamorro gi Koleho” or “The Preservation of the Chamorro Language at the Post-Secondary Level” will bring together the four colleges that currently offer Chamorro language in their curriculum to work together to determine a unified curriculum for instruction for four-semesters of Chamorro language. Dr. Faye Untalan is the Principal Investigator of this project. 

The Chamorro language is taught at only 4 institutions of higher education, the University of Guam, The Northern Marianas College, the Guam Community College and the University of Hawai’i, at Manoa. As there is no standardized curriculum for teaching Chamorro at the college level, faculties at each institution often have to create their own materials. Instruction may vary widely from one class to the next. Students taking one level of Chamorro with one instructor, are often lost when moving to the next level, as their new instructor may follow a completely different curriculum.

Chamorro language faculties, one representing each of the four colleges and two outside members , will be convened to identify and determine the core curriculum content for each semester of the Chamorro language curriculum.  This effort and product will form the basis for the instructional text. The Mamfayi, a Panel of Experts of native Chamorro speakers and leaders, scholars and educators will be established to provide oversight on the product produced by the project and to give approval on the accuracy of Chamorro language usage and rules governing its grammatical structure and syntax.  “I Ma Adahen i Fino’ Chamorro gi Koleho” aims to produce as a final product at the end of the three years a 4-semester curriculum with instructional materials for textbook production.  

The textbook and curriculum developed under this project will have an impact beyond just the four institutions that already teach Chamorro. According to Dr. Faye Untalan, “This curriculum and this textbook will be a resource for Chamorros anywhere in the world, whether it be Guam, San Diego or Killeen Texas, to use to create language learning opportunities in Chamorro communities everywhere. These materials will be created by those who have dedicated their lives to preserving the Chamorro language. The goal of the project is to make Chamorro language teaching easier and to increase fluency in Chamorro here in the Marianas, and throughout the diaspora, who want to learn Chamorro but may not have the resources they need.”

The project will be formally introduced to the public on October 15, 2013 at 3 pm at the Multipurpose Room in the Leon Guerrero building at the University of Guam. Dr. Untalan and Project Coordinator Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua will both make presentations outlining the logistic for this grant.

MEDIA CONTACT:    Dr. Faye Untalan
                                    Telephone: 735-2150

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Italian Job

The Italian Job: The Pentagon Goes on a Spending Spree

How the Pentagon Is Using Your Tax Dollars to Turn Italy into a Launching Pad for the Wars of Today and Tomorrow

by David Vine

The Pentagon has spent the last two decades plowing hundreds of millions of tax dollars into military bases in Italy, turning the country into an increasingly important center for U.S. military power. Especially since the start of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the military has been shifting its European center of gravity south from Germany, where the overwhelming majority of U.S. forces in the region have been stationed since the end of World War II. In the process, the Pentagon has turned the Italian peninsula into a launching pad for future wars in Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.
At bases in Naples, Aviano, Sicily, Pisa, and Vicenza, among others, the military has spent more than $2 billion on construction alone since the end of the Cold War -- and that figure doesn’t include billions more on classified construction projects and everyday operating and personnel costs. While the number of troops in Germany has fallen from 250,000 when the Soviet Union collapsed to about 50,000 today, the roughly 13,000 U.S. troops (plus 16,000 family members) stationed in Italy match the numbers at the height of the Cold War.  That, in turn, means that the percentage of U.S. forces in Europe based in Italy has tripled since 1991 from around 5% to more than 15%.

Last month, I had a chance to visit the newest U.S. base in Italy, a three-month-old garrison in Vicenza, near Venice. Home to a rapid reaction intervention force, the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), and the Army’s component of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the base extends for a mile, north to south, dwarfing everything else in the small city. In fact, at over 145 acres, the base is almost exactly the size of Washington’s National Mall or the equivalent of around 110 American football fields. The price tag for the base and related construction in a city that already hosted at least six installations: upwards of $600 million since fiscal year 2007.

There are still more bases, and so more U.S. military spending, in Germany than in any other foreign country (save, until recently, Afghanistan). Nonetheless, Italy has grown increasingly important as the Pentagon works to change the make-up of its global collection of 800 or more bases abroad, generally shifting its basing focus south and east from Europe’s center. Base expert Alexander Cooley explains: “U.S. defense officials acknowledge that Italy’s strategic positioning on the Mediterranean and near North Africa, the Italian military’s antiterrorism doctrine, as well as the country’s favorable political disposition toward U.S. forces are important factors in the Pentagon’s decision to retain” a large base and troop presence there. About the only people who have been paying attention to this build-up are the Italians in local opposition movements like those in Vicenza who are concerned that their city will become a platform for future U.S. wars.

Base Building
Most tourists think of Italy as the land of Renaissance art, Roman antiquities, and of course great pizza, pasta, and wine. Few think of it as a land of U.S. bases. But Italy’s 59 Pentagon-identified “base sites” top that of any country except Germany (179), Japan (103), Afghanistan (100 and declining), and South Korea (89).

Publicly, U.S. officials say there are no U.S. military bases in Italy. They insist that our garrisons, with all their infrastructure, equipment, and weaponry, are simply guests on what officially remain “Italian” bases designated for NATO use. Of course, everyone knows that this is largely a legal nicety.

No one visiting the new base in Vicenza could doubt that it's a U.S. installation all the way. The garrison occupies a former Italian air force base called Dal Molin. (In late 2011, Italian officials rebranded it “Caserma Del Din,” evidently to try to shed memories of the massive opposition the base has generated.) From the outside, it might be mistaken for a giant hospital complex or a university campus. Thirty one box-like peach-and-cream-colored buildings with light red rooftops dominate the horizon with only the foothills of the Southern Alps as a backdrop. A chain link fence topped by razor wire surrounds the perimeter, with green mesh screens obscuring views into the base.

If you manage to get inside, however, you find two barracks for up to 600 soldiers each. (Off base, the Army is contracting to lease up to 240 newly built homes in surrounding communities.) Two six-floor parking garages that can hold 850 vehicles, and a series of large office complexes, some small training areas, including an indoor shooting range still under construction, as well as a gym with a heated swimming pool, a “Warrior Zone” entertainment center, a small PX, an Italian-style café, and a large dining facility. These amenities are actually rather modest for a large U.S. base. Most of the newly built or upgraded housing, schools, medical facilities, shopping, and other amenities for soldiers and their families are across town on Viale della Pace (Peace Boulevard) at the Caserma Ederle base and at the nearby Villaggio della Pace (Peace Village).

A Pentagon Spending Spree
Beyond Vicenza, the military has been spending mightily to upgrade its Italian bases. Until the early 1990s, the U.S. air base at Aviano, northeast of Vicenza, was a small site known as “Sleepy Hollow.” Beginning with the transfer of F-16s from Spain in 1992, the Air Force turned it into a major staging area for every significant wartime operation since the first Gulf War. In the process, it has spent at least $610 million on more than 300 construction projects (Washington convinced NATO to provide more than half these funds, and Italy ceded 210 acres of land for free.) Beyond these “Aviano 2000” projects, the Air Force has spent an additional $115 million on construction since fiscal year 2004.
Not to be outdone, the Navy laid out more than $300 million beginning in 1996 to construct a major new operations base at the Naples airport. Nearby, it has a 30-year lease on an estimated $400 million “support site” that looks like a big-box shopping mall surrounded by expansive, well-manicured lawns. (The base is located in the Neapolitan mafia’s heartland and was built by a company that has been linked to the Camorra.) In 2005, the Navy moved its European headquarters from London to Naples as it shifted its attention from the North Atlantic to Africa, the Middle East, and the Black Sea. With the creation of AFRICOM, whose main headquarters remain in Germany, Naples is now home to a combined U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa. Tellingly, its website prominently displays the time in Naples, Djibouti, Liberia, and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Sicily has become increasingly significant in the Global War on Terror era, as the Pentagon has been turning it into a major node of U.S. military operations for Africa, which is less than 100 miles away across the Mediterranean. Since fiscal year 2001, the Pentagon has spent more on construction at the Sigonella Naval Air Station -- almost $300 million -- than at any Italian base other than Vicenza. Now the second busiest naval air station in Europe, Sigonella was first used to launch Global Hawk surveillance drones in 2002. In 2008, U.S. and Italian officials signed a secret agreement formally permitting the basing of drones there. Since then, the Pentagon has put out at least $31 million to build a Global Hawk maintenance and operations complex. The drones provide the foundation for NATO’s $1.7 billion Alliance Ground Surveillance system, which gives NATO surveillance capabilities as far as 10,000 miles from Sigonella.

Beginning in 2003, “Joint Task Force Aztec Silence” has used P-3 surveillance planes based at Sigonella to monitor insurgent groups in North and West Africa. And since 2011, AFRICOM has deployed a task force of around 180 marines and two aircraft to the base to provide counterterrorism training to African military personnel in Botswana, Liberia, Djibouti, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Tunisia, and Senegal.

Sigonella also hosts one of three Global Broadcast Service satellite communications facilities and will soon be home to a NATO Joint Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance deployment base and a data analysis and training center. In June, a U.S. Senate subcommittee recommended moving special operations forces and CV-22 Ospreys from Britain to Sicily, since “Sigonella has become a key launch pad for missions related to Libya, and given the ongoing turmoil in that nation as well as the emergence of terrorist training activities in northern Africa.” In nearby Niscemi, the Navy hopes to build an ultra high frequency satellite communications installation, despite growing opposition from Sicilians and other Italians concerned about the effects of the station and its electromagnetic radiation on humans and a surrounding nature reserve.

Amid the build-up, the Pentagon has actually closed some bases in Italy as well, including those in Comiso, Brindisi, and La Maddalena. While the Army has cut some personnel at Camp Darby, a massive underground weapons and equipment storage installation along Tuscany’s coast, the base remains a critical logistics and pre-positioning center enabling the global deployment of troops, weapons, and supplies from Italy by sea. Since fiscal year 2005, it’s seen almost $60 million in new construction.

And what are all these bases doing in Italy? Here’s the way one U.S. military official in Italy (who asked not to be named) explained the matter to me: “I’m sorry, Italy, but this is not the Cold War. They’re not here to defend Vicenza from a [Soviet] attack. They’re here because we agreed they need to be here to do other things, whether that’s the Middle East or the Balkans or Africa.” 

Location, Location, Location
Bases in Italy have played an increasingly important role in the Pentagon’s global garrisoning strategy in no small part because of the country’s place on the map. During the Cold War, West Germany was the heart of U.S. and NATO defenses in Europe because of its positioning along the most likely routes of any Soviet attack into Western Europe. Once the Cold War ended, Germany’s geographic significance declined markedly. In fact, U.S. bases and troops at Europe’s heart looked increasingly hemmed in by their geography, with U.S. ground forces there facing longer deployment times outside the continent and the Air Force needing to gain overflight rights from neighboring countries to get almost anywhere.

Troops based in Italy, by contrast, have direct access to the international waters and airspace of the Mediterranean. This allows them to deploy rapidly by sea or air. As Assistant Secretary of the Army Keith Eastin told Congress in 2006, positioning the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Dal Molin “strategically positions the unit south of the Alps with ready access to international airspace for rapid deployment and forced entry/early entry operations.”

And we’ve seen the Pentagon take advantage of Italy’s location since the 1990s, when Aviano Air Base played an important role in the first Gulf War and in U.S. and NATO interventions in the Balkans (a short hop across the Adriatic Sea from Italy). The Bush administration, in turn, made bases in Italy some of its “enduring” European outposts in its global garrisoning shift south and east from Germany. In the Obama years, a growing military involvement in Africa has made Italy an even more attractive basing option. 

“Sufficient Operational Flexibility”
Beyond its location, U.S. officials love Italy because, as the same military official told me, it’s a “country that offers sufficient operational flexibility.” In other words, it provides the freedom to do what you want with minimal restrictions and hassle.

Especially in comparison to Germany, Italy offers this flexibility for reasons that reflect a broader move away from basing in two of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations, Germany and Japan, toward basing in relatively poorer and less powerful ones. In addition to offering lower operating costs, such hosts are generally more susceptible to Washington’s political and economic pressure. They also tend to sign “status of forces agreements” -- which govern the presence of U.S. troops and bases abroad -- that are less restrictive for the U.S. military. Such agreements often offer more permissive settings when it comes to environmental and labor regulations or give the Pentagon more freedom to pursue unilateral military action with minimal host country consultation.

While hardly one of the world’s weaker nations, Italy is the second most heavily indebted country in Europe, and its economic and political power pales in comparison to Germany's.  Not surprisingly, then, as that Pentagon official in Italy pointed out to me, the status of forces agreement with Germany is long and detailed, while the foundational agreement with Italy remains the short (and still classified) 1954 Bilateral Infrastructure Agreement. Germans also tend to be rather exacting when it comes to following rules, while the Italians, he said, “are more interpretive of guidance.”

War + Bases = $ 
The freedom with which the U.S. military used its Italian bases in the Iraq War is a case in point. As a start, the Italian government allowed U.S. forces to employ them even though their use for a war pursued outside the context of NATO may violate the terms of the 1954 basing agreement. A classified May 2003 cable sent by U.S. Ambassador to Italy Melvin Sembler and released by WikiLeaks shows that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government gave the Pentagon “virtually everything” it wanted. “We got what we asked for,” wrote Sembler, “on base access, transit, and overflights, ensuring that forces... could flow smoothly through Italy to get to the fight.”

For its part, Italy appears to have benefited directly from this cooperation. (Some say that shifting bases from Germany to Italy was also meant as a way to punish Germany for its lack of support for the Iraq War.) According to a 2010 report from Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, “Italy’s role in the war in Iraq, providing 3,000 troops to the U.S.-led effort, opened up Iraqi reconstruction contracts to Italian firms, as well as cementing relations between the two allies.” Its role in the Afghan War surely offered similar benefits. Such opportunities came amid deepening economic troubles, and at a moment when the Italian government was turning to arms production as a major way to revive its economy. According to Jane’s, Italian weapons manufacturers like Finmeccanica have aggressively tried to enter the U.S. and other markets. In 2009, Italian arms exports were up more than 60%.
In October 2008, the two countries renewed a Reciprocal Defense Procurement Memorandum of Understanding (a “most favored nation” agreement for military sales). It has been suggested that the Italian government may have turned Dal Molin over to the U.S. military -- for free -- in part to ensure itself a prominent role in the production of “the most expensive weapon ever built,” the F-35 fighter jet, among other military deals. Another glowing 2009 cable, this time from the Rome embassy’s Chargé d'Affaires Elizabeth Dibble, called the countries’ military cooperation “an enduring partnership.” It noted pointedly how Finmeccanica (which is 30% state-owned) “sold USD 2.3 billion in defense equipment to the U.S. in 2008 [and] has a strong stake in the solidity of the U.S.-Italy relationship.”

Of course, there’s another relevant factor in the Pentagon’s Italian build-up. For the same reasons American tourists flock to the country, U.S. troops have long enjoyed la dolce vita there. In addition to the comfortable living on suburban-style bases, around 40,000 military visitors a year from across Europe and beyond come to Camp Darby’s military resort and “American beach” on the Italian Riviera, making the country even more attractive.

The Costs of the Pentagon’s Pivots
Italy is not about to take Germany’s place as the foundation of U.S. military power in Europe. Germany has long been deeply integrated into the U.S. military system, and military planners have designed it to stay that way. In fact, remember how the Pentagon convinced Congress to hand over $600 million for a new base and related construction in Vicenza? The Pentagon’s justification for the new base was the Army’s need to bring troops from Germany to Vicenza to consolidate the 173rd brigade in one place.

And then, last March, one week after getting access to the first completed building at Dal Molin and with construction nearly finished, the Army announced that it wouldn’t be consolidating the brigade after all. One-third of the brigade would remain in Germany. At a time when budget cuts, unemployment, and economic stagnation for all but the wealthiest have left vast unmet needs in communities around the United States, for our $600 million investment, a mere 1,000 troops will move to Vicenza.

Even with those troops staying in Germany, Italy is fast becoming one of several new pivot points for U.S. warmaking powers globally. While much attention has been focused on President Obama’s “Asia pivot,” the Pentagon is concentrating its forces at bases that represent a series of pivots in places like Djibouti on the horn of Africa and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, Bahrain and Qatar in the Persian Gulf, Bulgaria and Romania in Eastern Europe, Australia, Guam, and Hawai’i in the Pacific, and Honduras in Central America.

Our bases in Italy are making it easier to pursue new wars and military interventions in conflicts about which we know little, from Africa to the Middle East. Unless we question why we still have bases in Italy and dozens more countries like it worldwide -- as, encouragingly, growing numbers of politicians, journalists, and others are doing -- those bases will help lead us, in the name of American “security,” down a path of perpetual violence, perpetual war, and perpetual insecurity.

David Vine
David Vine is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the more than 1,000 U.S. military bases located outside the United States.


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