Monday, December 14, 2015
Setbisio Para i Publiko #30: Ghosts of Buildups Past
Part of the change in tone is due to the fact that the island of Guam changed in the buildup debate process. This is a key feature of my article. When the buildup was first announced, public opinion on the buildup was optimistic and positive. The buildup was conceived of as a golden ticket for the island, as something that would solve so many of the problems that had plagued Guam since the slowdown of the Japanese economy. Many forget nowadays that the Government of Guam had been lobbying hard since the late 1990s for increased military presence in Guam (especially after the closure of bases such as NAS Agana in Tiyan in the early 1990s). The announcement first of 7,000 Marines being moved to Guam, seemed to them like a prayer jointly answered by Uncle Sam and Santa Maria Kamalen. The number later changed and has continued to change over the years, initially going up to 8,000 and now being reduced to closer to 4,000. But perceptions of the buildup when it was first announced in 2005 were so unrealistically positive. The media contributed to this and island residents in general, at least when presented in the media, seemed to feel that the buildup was make things better, by providing jobs and a much needed economic boost to Guam.
Lost in these politically pedantic announcements was the issue of whether or not the buildup was even good for Guam. What damage it might cause, environmentally, economically, socially or politically? It was intriguing to see that while the buildup remained largely a fantasy, an idea floating around and above the island, people had overwhelmingly positive ideas of it. It fed into many of the embedded colonizing discourses that plague Guam. The buildup wasn't seen as a simple policy or a set of decisions being made without Guam at the table, but rather as something that fit within prevailing ideas of the United States as being a liberator of Guam and the US military always looking out for Guam and for the Chamorro people. As Guam has had such a close relationship to the US military, sometime too close for comfort, it can at times feel intensely and intimately connected, and people don't perceive it as an organization or an institution which has its own interests, but rather personify it as a liberating Marine, a loyal soldier deserving of our patriotism, or a creature that if we support it and wave the flag real high, we can overcome the colonial difference between Guam and the US and pretend that we are real Americans, just like anyone else. Rather than seeing the buildup as something to analyze, to criticism or understand, many seemed to think it was a test of loyalty, that what mattered was that you just supported it and as long as your faith was true, the buildup would benefit you. To go against it, was to tempt fate and bite the hands that feed you like Angel Santos and other had done in the past, when they had allegedly chased away the military at NAS Agana. I cannot understate how dangerous it is to conceive of any military in particular the US military in this way. It can blind you to so much danger or risk that exists beyond the nice uniforms, the nicely cut grass, the commissary privileges or the Back to Sumay Days!
So long as the buildup had no real form, people could place their fantasies, their particular ways of desiring a closer connection to the United States within it. They could imagine a relationship between Uncle Sam and them through the buildup, since it was so amorphous and could at that point literally be anything. People who would in no way realistically benefit from the buildup were imaging jobs and money and opportunities coming their way with this mana from Uncle Sam on its way.
After the Department of Defense released their DEIS, things began to change. Although very few people probably made it through its 11,000 pages, the details were now committed to paper and so the fantasies were now restricted. If was more difficult to imagine that a high-paying job was waiting for you with the buildup, when the studies conducted by the Department of Defense itself were saying it wasn't going to happen. So many people, including some elected and appointed officials had ideas that money would just be handed over to them by the military, akin to some Military Buildup Christmas Holiday. Once the exact plans were released, along with the US military's own analysis of what would happen to Guam economically, it made it more difficult to sustain that fantasy.
With the release of the DEIS, the buildup was no longer money and jobs raining down from B2 or B52 bombers and being grabbed by our patriotically Spam-fattened fingertips. It was something less exciting, something less dreamy. It was in fact, something very problematic. Once the facade of the economic fantasy was gone, you were left with some very troubling plans, some very problematic assaults on Guam's environment. Huge amounts of land and sea being dredged or destroyed to make way for barracks and nuclear aircraft carriers. Thousands of acres and historic and sacred sites being cut off to feed the greedy land needs of an entity that already controls close to a 1/3 of the island! People didn't just see a fancy new job in the buildup, they saw higher rent, higher costs of groceries at the store and longer waits in the emergency room at the hospital.
Prior to the release of the, the concept of the buildup could sustain almost anything, but once it was release and it had feet on the earth and teeth in the soil, that fantasy could no longer hold. It felt apart, not completely, but that's one thing about fantasies. Is that disrupting them is quite easy, because every fantasy is formed through certain exclusions, certain fundamental ideas that are necessarily banished in order to give what is left a humming, happy and trusting consistency. While the fantasy of the buildup's sustainability or prosperity appeared to be commonsensical and powerful and beyond the ability to challenge or disprove at a time, those notions quickly fell apart, once the exiled errant fragments of knowledge were returned to their home, and were brought back to the buildup itself. Once the statistics about the buildup emerged, and the plans and potential costs, the damage and the drawbacks followed, and what had to be excluded veered its unwanted head. The fantasy of the buildup was built on various forms of colonial dependency and also a colonial trust, a blind faith, a strong belief in the ultimate benevolence of the United States and its status as the ultimate guarantor of meaning and reality. For decades people have opined that "what is good for America, must be good for Guam." This buildup fantasies were tied into that. Once that which must not be spoken, namely the fact that militarization can be bad and is often harmful was present and accounted for, it was difficult and impossible to go back. Once it was revealed, the very rational notion that the buildup could, on its face, prior to any ranting or distorting of activists, not be good for Guam and actually harm Guam, the game was over.
With the notion of sustainability through military buildup was no longer effective for Guam, or no longer as powerful and consistent, another discourse emerged to fill the space formed by the critiques and critical action. That discourse was formed from a variety of ideological sources. It came from those who were now resistant to the buildup because they didn't want to see their home change. It came from those who were riddled with discourses on environmental protection. It also came from those tied to indigenous rights and in some ways different, but other ways connected to this, it came from those who were hesitant about the buildup due to Guam's lack of consent or participation in the process. Although we got to provide comments, we in truth had little power in the process and it was frustrating to see something so large looming overhead and no power in our hands other than scribbling things to be ignored on sheets of paper. Many of these things came together however under the banner of inafa'maolek, a term used to refer to Chamorro epistemology and the appropriate relationship between humans, their ancestors and the natural world. It breaks down to "the act of making things good for each other" but is often translated in English to "interdependence."
The military buildup was promising some billions of dollars in exchange for some coral reef, some jungle and the site of an ancient village, with some old stones and artifacts. At the start of the comment period, most people on Guam, Chamorro or not, would have agreed that the military buildup was worth it in exchange for all those things. They were just stones and shells, rocks in the water, and trees, what was their value really?
But after the bubble fantasy was broken, people began to question that exchange, question the idea of selling off land, historic and cultural sites and the environment to be taken over or destroyed by the US military. A "Save Pagat" movement was born as different levels of activism began to merged together and assert that Pagat, wasn't simply jungle or stones, but that it is "I Sengsong Pagat" or "Pagat Village" a location for life and for history and for culture, not empty jungle which can only achieve value if it is sold off or bulldozed over. This was a critical moment, as during the height of debate over the military buildup and its impact on Guam, suddenly people began to assert that we should have a very different relationship to this piece of land. That we should protect it and defend it and not just let it be closed off behind fences, or let it be destroyed in construction to add more military facilities to an island already covered in US military facilities. In my recent article that I co-wrote with Tiara Naputi "Militarization and Resistance from Guåhan: Protecting and Defending Pågat" we discussed how Chamorros and other residents of Guam began to feel reconnected to Pagat as a site, and while hundreds came out in open protest, thousands wrote critical comments asking that it be protected, and in general the population began to sour on the entire buildup process, no longer excited at its economic possibilities.
Below you will find some of the article that I've unearthed from those early military buildup days. For example I've pasted below the first article in from The Pacific Daily News after the transfer of Marines from Okinawa was first announced. I've also included a 2006 column by Julian Aguon, who at that time was writing columns for the Marianas Variety. He was one of the few voices that regularly appeared in print at that time who was openly critical of the military buildup and was also seeking to draw our attention to protests that were taking place in Okinawa.
Anyways, back to my article, although I should note that typing up this post has definitely helped me work through some of the points of my argument. Este i bali-na un blog taiguini!
7,000 Marines: Pentagon announces shift to Guam
By Gene Park
Pacific Sunday News
October 30, 2005
Guam will be receiving the bulk of up to 7,000 Marines being relocated out of Okinawa, Japan, the Department of Defense announced today.
Although there is no exact figure of how many Marines will be moving to Guam, Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo announced that the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force will be moved to Guam. The Expeditionary Force is the same that helped liberate Guam from Japanese forces during World War II.
"The decision to bring U.S. Marines to Guam represents another acknowledgement of the strategic value of Guam and the increasingly prominent role our island plays in America's national security," Bordallo said this morning. "We will now celebrate many Liberation Days in the future beside the men and women that carry on the tradition of those that freed our people. It will be a wonderful reunion."
Guam makes most of its money from tourism, but the existing military presence represents about 30 percent of the island's economy.
Guam's business community and elected leaders have pushed for a greater military presence on the island, citing the economic benefit.
"This is not only great news for our economy but also for Guam and our nation, as it places the best fighting forces in the world on U.S. soil while simultaneously keeping them at the tip of the spear," said Lee Webber, chairman of the Armed Forces Committee of the Guam Chamber of Commerce. Webber also is the president and publisher of the Pacific Daily News.
"Marines cleared the way on Guam some 60 years ago and that has enabled our island to grow into its current position," Webber said. "They will most certainly assist us in maintaining that growth position well into the future."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Nobutaka Machimura and Minister of State for Defense of Japan Kiyoko Ono made the announcement at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
Bordallo this morning stressed the need to prepare the island, including Guam's infrastructure and schools, for the incoming Marines and their families. Important discussions, including cost sharing with Japan, remain in the future.
While no exact time line for arrival of the Marines has been established, Bordallo said the island should expect a planning period and then a phased movement of forces to Guam during the next two to eight years.
The move from Okinawa is part of a bilateral agreement to reduce the burden on base-hosting communities, Japanese Defense Agency Chief Yoshinori Ono is quoted as saying in a Japan Today report.
The personnel will be mostly from command posts -- office personnel and supply officials --and not operational troops, in order to maintain deterrence, Ono and his agency officials stated in Japan Today.
The United States has 14,460 Marines in Japan, the largest contingent overseas, most of whom are on Okinawa.
Okinawans long have complained of crime, crowding and noise associated with the Marine presence. Protests against the presence peaked in 1995 after the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by three U.S servicemen.
The United States recently agreed to close the Futenma Marine Air Corps Station in the crowded southern part of Okinawa and move its functions to Camp Schwab in the north.
And it was announced Thursday that Japan will allow a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be based in Japan for the first time, possibly in 2008.
The carrier would replace the USS Kitty Hawk, a diesel-powered carrier based in Yokosuka, Japan, which often makes port visits to Guam. Commissioned in 1961, the Kitty Hawk is the Navy's oldest aircraft carrier.
U.S. Agrees to Relocate Marines on Okinawa
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 27, 2005; Page A15
Deal to Move Air Operations Resolves Long-Standing Dispute in Alliance With Japan
TOKYO, Oct 26 -- Japan and the United States reached a deal Wednesday to consolidate U.S. Marine airborne operations on Okinawa, resolving one of the thorniest issues of their strategic alliance and laying the groundwork for a broader realignment of more than 37,000 U.S. troops stationed on Japanese soil.
The plan calls for relocating operations from the Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma -- located near a densely populated civilian area of Okinawa -- to another U.S. base on the island, officials from both countries said.
"There was a sense of emergency that not reaching agreement on the issue, a central part of the U.S.-Japan relationship, would seriously damage relations," Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura told reporters.
Despite the accord, U.S. dismay at the pace of the talks was evident. The head of the U.S. delegation, Richard Lawless, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian & Pacific affairs, suggested Tuesday that the difficulties over such issues as Futenma had delayed a broader reshaping of the U.S.-Japan alliance. The United States has come to view the alliance as a cornerstone of regional security as China assumes a more assertive stance and North Korea is presumed to have become a nuclear-armed threat.
"We have to realize that we no longer have the luxury of interminable dialogue over parochial issues," said Lawless, speaking at a Tokyo conference sponsored by the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.
"If we are to bring the alliance to where it needs to be in the 21st century," Lawless said, "then we need to dramatically accelerate, across the board, to make up for the time lost to indecision, indifference and procrastination."
The initial decision to relocate the air station was made in 1996, but negotiations were drawn out because of protests to the U.S. presence, heightened by the 1995 rape of an Okinawa schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen.
The countries are also considering a greater role for U.S. troops stationed in Japan to respond to hot spots throughout the Asia-Pacific region as well as an increased integration of Japanese and American forces. U.S. officials have been pushing Japan to take on a greater role in the alliance by bolstering its defense capability.
The compromise announced Wednesday was reached after U.S. officials dropped their demands for a new offshore facility in Okinawa to replace the Futenma airstrip. It would have been constructed on some of the last pristine coral reefs in the area, which drew fire from environmentalists. Japan, on the other hand, insisted on consolidating the operations at the existing U.S. Marine base, Camp Schwab, also on Okinawa. While American negotiators had long argued that there was not enough space at Camp Schwab, the compromise calls for adding reclaimed land off the base's shoreline.
The Futenma issue was so divisive that many here said it played into the decision by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to skip Japan on his recent three-nation tour of Asia. Lawless headed the U.S. delegation instead, extending his stay to complete the agreement before a meeting in Washington this weekend between Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and their Japanese counterparts on broader strategic issues, including troop realignment. Officials were also brushing up against another, more important deadline, President Bush's visit to Japan in mid-November.
The agreement has been hailed as a breakthrough, but many details have yet to be worked out. Particularly complicated is the question of where more than 3,000 Marines at Futenma will ultimately be relocated.
Machimura said that "thousands" of U.S. troops would be moved away from Okinawa. The U.S. government, however, has not yet said where and when those troops might go and has not dismissed stationing them elsewhere in Japan. Japanese diplomats have suggested such a move would be politically untenable given local opposition, saying the U.S. forces should be moved to Guam or the United States.
Marines welcomed warily
Boost to economy may strain island infrastructure
By Tammy Anderson
Pacific Daily News
October 31, 2005
News that as many as 7,000 Marines will be relocated from Japan to Guam in the next few years has island leaders and retailers smiling and some local residents concerned.
Gov. Felix Camacho said he is happy to see the Marine division that helped liberate the island 50 years ago return to Guam. Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and other U.S. officials announced that the headquarters of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force will be moved to Guam.
"We welcome the Marines back home, and their return not only benefits the people of Guam but also our great nation," Camacho said. "My administration has been working tirelessly alongside the congresswoman and the Guam Chamber of Commerce to ensure that the return of the Marines becomes reality." Camacho added that this move "means more than millions in economic activity. It also increases Guam's global strategic value and returns an important part of our history to our shores."
The move is intended to strengthen military cooperation, reduce the number of U.S. Marines on Okinawa and give Tokyo greater responsibility for security in the Pacific.
The decisions were part of an American effort to streamline the U.S. military overseas and create a leaner, more flexible fighting force.
Okinawans have long complained of crime, crowding and noise associated with the American bases. There are 14,460 Marines in Japan, the largest contingent based overseas, and nearly all are in Okinawa.
Barrigada resident Juan M. Unpingco was happy to hear about the announcement made Saturday.
"We give thanks that they are coming to our island not as in wartime like World War II, but in peacetime," the 82-year-old said.
While he was happy about the boost the move may bring to Guam's economy, he also was wary about the possible strain that 7,000 people coming to Guam would put on the infrastructure.
Guam Power Authority spokesman Art Perez said he hopes to meet with military planners soon about the changes in infrastructure the island will need to support such a large movement of people to Guam.
"At this point, we would like to work with the military planners on what their move will be in mission support," he said.
"The military is an important customer for both utilities," Perez said of GPA and the Guam Waterworks Authority.
He added that both utilities already are making improvements.
"We are in the right momentum forward to meet the lion's share of this movement to put more troops on Guam," he said.
Heidi Meyer, owner of the bar Tower of London on Ypao Road, said she thinks the move will mean great things for Guam's economy and her business.
"It is going to improve the business and improve the whole economy of the island," Meyer said.
She has operated the bar since 1991 and said her business could see a direct effect when the military realigns itself on Guam.
"I don't think the impact will be immediate," she added, but she feels the impact will be large with the extra money being pumped into Guam's economy.
Byron Garrido, 43, of Yigo said he is not excited to see the shift of Marines to Guam.
"At first, I thought it would be good, but then think back to the past," he said describing how he has seen fights break out between local residents and military personnel.
Garrido said he hopes military officials will brief all troops who move to Guam about the culture on Guam and how to respect that culture.
"Respect, learn where you are at," he said. "You are not in the states, this is Guam."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Guam seen as pivotal U.S. base
The Washington Times
Originally published 11:07 p.m., March 10, 2006
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The U.S. Pacific Command is moving forward with plans to recast the posture of its military forces in the western Pacific and Asia with the new pivot point to be a robust base on the island of Guam.
"Look at a map," said the command's leader, Adm. William J. Fallon, as he flew toward Guam after a weeklong trek through Southeast Asia. He pointed to the relatively short distances from Guam to South Korea; the Taiwan Strait, across which China and Taiwan confront each other; and Southeast Asia, the frontier of terror in Asia.
U.S. officers often talk about the "tyranny of distance" in the Pacific Command's area of operations, which runs from the west coast of North America to the east coast of Africa. Guam, when it is fully operational, will provide a base for land, naval and air forces closer to targets than for forces on the U.S. mainland or Hawaii. Guam was a major air base during the war in Vietnam.
A genuine advantage, Adm. Fallon said, is that "Guam is American territory." The island does not have the political restrictions, such as those in South Korea, that could impede U.S. military moves in an emergency. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, who repeatedly has taken an anti-American stance, has suggested that U.S. forces could not be deployed from his nation without his government's approval.
In an interview on his airplane and in congressional testimony this week, the admiral emphasized the vital role that Japan would continue to play in U.S. strategy.
"The U.S.-Japan alliance remains the most important pact in the Pacific," he said. Even so, depending on what sort of government is in power in Tokyo, political complications could arise in deploying forces elsewhere from Japan.
The disadvantage of Guam is the run-down state of the island's infrastructure. The roads, the electrical system, the water supply, piers and airfield runways are in disrepair.
"I want that infrastructure fixed," Adm. Fallon said. One runway at Andersen Air Force Base already has been demolished for rebuilding. Guam also is vulnerable to typhoons and should have its power lines buried, Adm. Fallon said.
Adm. Fallon said he saw the island as primarily a staging area through which troops, ships and planes would surge toward contingencies in Asia. The island's maintenance and repair capacity would be refurbished and expanded so that, for instance, aircraft carriers could be serviced without having to return to home ports on the West Coast.
What this will cost and whether Congress will provide sufficient funds has not been determined.
About 7,000 Marines, including the headquarters of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, would go to Guam from the Japanese island of Okinawa, where friction between Marines and Okinawans has been constant. Three fast-attack submarines are based at Guam, and two more will be assigned there. Squadrons of B-1 bombers are rotated through Guam from the United States for several months at a time.
On realigning U.S. forces in Japan, American and Japanese officials have been putting the finishing touches on an agreement to be completed by the end of this month. It is to include a new U.S. Army headquarters alongside a Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force headquarters at Camp Zama, southwest of Tokyo, and a similar arrangement for air force units at Yokota Air Base, west of Tokyo.
Japan has agreed that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington will replace the Kitty Hawk, driven by conventional steam turbines, in Yokosuka when it is retired in 2008.
Throughout the discussion of his vision for positioning forces in the Asia-Pacific region, Adm. Fallon emphasized "flexibility."
"We need to have forces ready to react," he said. "We must have built-in flexibility" to meet emergencies, including disaster relief and other humanitarian operations.
He underscored that he flew by helicopter from Clark Field north of Manila in the Philippines to the amphibious assault ship Essex at sea to thank the Marines and sailors aboard for their efforts in trying to rescue victims of the giant mudslide on the island of Leyte.
"You responded magnificently with great speed, agility, demonstrating flexibility in shifting your priority focus," he told those assembled on the flight deck. They had started an exercise in the Philippines before taking on the relief work.
In congressional testimony, Adm. Fallon expanded on that theme: "Forward deployed forces, ready for immediate employment, send an unambiguous signal of undiminished U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific area. Agile and responsive global forces also act to deter aggression."
The Myth of Military Money
by Julian Aguon
May 29, 2006
The Marianas Variety
PEOPLE of Guam: The transfer of thousands of U.S. Marines and their dependents to our island should give our moral outrage a new lease of life. And although it will have devastating consequences on all levels—social, moral, cultural, political and ecological—it seems as if only money matters. So, let’s start there.
Fact: Of the $10.3billion settled upon by the U.S. and Japan, we have yet to find exactly how much of this is going to be used to improve and upgrade local infrastructure, or in what ways. Will money go directly toward capital improvement projects or will they be spent unwisely on more privatization efforts like those we still see being pushed from the top-down at both the Guam Waterworks Authority and the Port Authority of Guam?
Fact: Military communities are self-contained communities. Their dollars stay mostly on base. Dollars that make it out will go where they always go —to the sex industry (porn shops, massage parlors, etc.) As case studies from various places indicate, one example being Hawai’i, U.S. military buildup does not benefit common people. The big bucks go to big businesses which are privileged over locally owned small businesses. Big, mainland-controlled companies make their money and leave. They receive corporate welfare. For example, they will be given qualifying certificates allowing them 20 years of tax evasion in exchange for participating in Guam’s economic development. Though these come with clauses requiring the training of locals to take over management of these businesses, this doesn’t happen. These companies are not subject to local accountability and do not pay their share of taxes. The locals they hire will not earn a living wage. Instead, we’ll get menial jobs at which we will earn too little to pay taxes and contribute to the general treasury.
Outside contractors brought here for construction projects resulting from the buildup will most likely work solely on base, remain unaccountable to us, and contribute nothing to our treasury. If we paid better attention, we would be making noise about the fact that U.S. Defense officials have already awarded two multi-million dollar contracts to two U.S. mainland-based companies for construction projects here on Guam. TEC Inc. Joint Venture, a company based out of Charlottesville, Virginia , has received a $40 million military contract to do work here, on Saipan and Hawai’i. Epsilon Systems Solutions Inc., a company based out of San Diego, California, was awarded $5.7 million to repair and upgrade naval berthing barges here and elsewhere. We are already seeing how this game works. So, where are our local players? Could local companies have done some of this work? These contracts are supposedly competitive, so where was the request for proposal? I blinked and must have missed it.
In the end, we must ask: Who benefits from this transfer, really? Perhaps the best way to find this answer is to look to the group pushing so hard for it —elite members of our business community, in particular, the local Chamber of Commerce. This group has been pushing the mass privatization of Guam as well. It is they, not the common people, who stand to benefit from this buildup. We must remember that the real engine of our economy is not the Chamber, but the relatively disempowered, locally-owned small business sector, the very sector that will be threatened by this transfer. What we are witnessing is a plan to keep the wealthy rich and the rest of us without. And we should not be surprised. People with almost only profit on the brain often have interests that endanger the true welfare of the wider community.
Our leaders are standing almost blindly behind this transfer, moving fast and against the wind of what small hope has survived in our hearts for some sort of decolonized future. It is more urgent than ever for those of us who know how to act and for those of us who are just plain tired to shake the sleep off.
Too much is at stake. And besides, the numbers just aren’t adding up.