Friday, June 27, 2014

Looking at the Tip of the Spear

Looking at the ‘tip of the spear’

How U.S. Military policy in Guam, a proposed “mega build-up” and population displacement are destroying the island and its people. 

by Craig Santos Perez
June 6, 2014
The Hawaii Independent

Guåhan (Guam), an unincorporated territory of the United States, is the largest and most populated island in Micronesia. For a local comparison, Guåhan is larger than Lanaʻi yet smaller than Molokaʻi. Similar to Oʻahu, U.S.military bases occupy a third of Guåhan’s landmass.

Kanaka Maoli activist and scholar Kaleikoa Kaʻeo once described the U.S. military as a monstrous heʻe (octopus). Imagine Pacific Command headquarters as its head, the mountaintop telescopes as its eyes, and the supercomputers and fiber optic networks as its brain and nerve system.

Now imagine one of its weaponized tentacles strangling Guåhan: “The Tip of the Spear.”

In 2009, details of a military “mega-buildup” on Guåhan were released in a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a document that requires the military to outline how the military buildup will pollute and degrade natural and cultural resources. The EIS was 11,000 pages long.

One of the toxic proposals was to build a live firing range complex around the sacred village of Pågat. Many Chamorros (the native islanders of Guåhan) visit Pågat to fish, hike and collect medicinal herbs in the pristine jungle; to learn about Chamorro culture and history from the ancestral artifacts in the area; and to seek guidance from the ancestral spirits that dwell there. Pågat is also home to the Marianas eight-spot butterfly, an endangered, native species.

Pågat is listed on the Guam Register of Historic Places, the National Register of Historic Places, and the National Trust for historic Preservation as one of “America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.” Pågat means to council or to advise.

Another proposal for the buildup was the transfer of more than 8,000 marines from U.S. military bases in Okinawa to Guåhan. For decades, Okinawans have protested military presence for many reasons, including the tens of thousands of rapes and sexual assaults perpetuated by soldiers against civilians. The most well known case occurred in 1995, when three soldiers kidnapped and gang-raped a 12-year old Okinawan girl.

This is just the tip of the invasive spear. Sexual violence perpetuated by U.S. soldiers also rampantly occurs in the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Iraq and Afghanistan.

They say to be careful when you walk through the jungles of Guåhan alone. Camouflaged fishermen carrying throw nets stalk the island. If they catch you, they will take you away and you may never return.

Many Chamorros are caught in the net of predatory military recruitment. Chamorros enlist in the U.S. armed forces at some of the highest rates in the nation. Guam is “a recruiter’s paradise.” The military goes where the fish are biting.

Before 1950, nearly all Chamorros in the world lived in our ancestral home islands. Today, more Chamorros live off-island than on-island. Our largest diasporic populations reside near military bases in California, Washington and Texas. Here in Hawai’i, Chamorros comprise the second largest Micronesian group (estimated between six to eight thousand). According to the 2010 U.S. census, Chamorros are the “most geographically dispersed” of all Pacific populations. 

The main reason why Chamorros leave home: military service. Only a small percentage of Chamorros who leave ever return.

Military enlistment acts as a “benevolent removal” of native peoples from their lands. The fewer Chamorros that live on-island, the easier it will be to militarize the island. The more Chamorros you can assimilate and make dependent, the lesser chance we will bite back. Discipline the Chamorro to save the soldier. 

In 2012, more than 26,000 service members reported being sexually assaulted or raped by fellow soldiers.

The U.S. military has a long history of destroying sacred places, especially islands, for military training and weapons testing. Vieques stop Jeju stop Kahoʻolawe stop San Clemente stop Diego Garcia stop Kaʻula stop Farallon de Medinilla stop Kwajelein stop Enewetak stop Bikini please stop.

This year, a new “Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” (SEIS) for the military buildup was released. Four thousand acres of Litekyan (Ritidian), an area in northern Guåhan, is now being considered as an alternative to Pågat for the live firing range complex.

In 1963, the U.S. military removed the original landowners of Litekyan under eminent domain. The navy used the area as a communications station during the Cold War. Thirty years later, 1,000 acres of the land was deemed “excess.” Instead of that land being returned to the families, it was given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who established the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. The only dedicated critical habitat in Guam, this refuge protects the last remaining native species of fanihi (Mariana fruit bat), sihek (Micronesian Kingfisher) and aga (Mariana Crow). It is also the nesting area for the threatened haggan betde (green sea turtle) and haggan karai (hawksbill sea turtle).

Like Pågat, Litekyan houses many Chamorro remains, artifacts and cave art. According to the SEIS, Litekyan will become a “Surface Danger Zone,” and nearly seven million bullets will be fired in the area each year. Litekyan meansto stir, or a stirring place.

If you want to train soldiers to kill, it makes sense to choose beautiful, sacred spaces to destroy. If you are looking for a weapons training paradise, then indigenous lands, waters, bodies, sea and land creatures make lovely, inviting targets.

In a 2011 issue of Foreign Policy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed the 21st century as “America’s Pacific Century,” a time when the U.S. military will “pursue a more geographically distributed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable force posture” in the Asia-Pacific region.

The word force comes from the 13th century Old French forcier, “conquer by violence.” Its earliest sense in English, from the 14th century, was “to rape.”

As part of the Environmental Impact Statement review process, the public is invited to submit our comments about the military proposals. If you do not support the further militarization of Guåhan, please show your solidarity and share your thoughts via online submission form or by mail, to Joint Guam Program Office (Forward), P.O. Box 15324, Santa Ri

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