Thursday, March 31, 2016

Natural Guard Assemble!

This editorial is written from Maine, by longtime peace and demilitarization activist Bruce Gagnon. I first met Bruce in 2010 during a solidarity tour to South Korea. I learned so much from him, as he is so much more involved in international peace and demilitarization work than I am. The stories he shared of his struggles, his travels, the victories that movements he's participated in have garnered were both so educational and inspiring to me. In this editorial he poses something which Guam, as the Tip of America's Spear, as Fortress Guam, as a strategically important base to the US should consider, but rarely does. What if the massive amount of money that the US invests in bases and weapons, was used for something else? Something that didn't destroy, attack or defend, but provided stability in a more direct sense? In Guam we have become so accustomed to the variety of militarism that exists in the US, we constantly forget to ask questions about its nature, and whether that is the best way to spend the majority of your nation's budget each year? Can you imagine what the world would be like if every nation tried to emulate that model? There would be bankruptcies and even more warfare than their currently is. Every nation would foreclose their future to buy bigger bombs, and once you've invested so much in it, "un nota na tentashon, nahong na rason," you tend to look for any reason to use to, to prove that your starving children and crumbling infrastructure is worth it for the fireworks displays of human suffering you can now create. The way we in Guam are stuck in thinking of defense and security from the perspective of the world's largest and most paranoid nation, often times inhibits our abilities to think about our own interests and what Guam might look like if we were decolonized and became an independent country. When conceiving what Guam might be without our colonial masters, people assume that if we cannot be exactly like the United States, it is unacceptable, as the US is supposed to be the epitome of possibility. To paraphrase a line from a Mel Brook's movie, that is why it is "good to be the colonizer." The more effective your colonization is, the more your colonial subjects see you as the apex of advancement and achievement. The more entangled they are in their desires to be like you, even if it means giving up who they are, their culture, lands and language, the more impossible they see their own independence, as they are the binary opposite. I recall from a quote from my Masters Thesis in Ethnic Studies, oh so many years ago, that touched on this. Through my interviews about the possibility of decolonization, I encountered so many statements that showed Chamorros were incredibly fearful of what the future held should there be more local authority over life. In this case a Chamorro said, that if Guam was decolonized "...a Guam military [would] fight off the Chinese with spears and slingstones."

What is so interesting about this resistance though, is that the obscene dimensions of American militarism and militarization never enter peoples' minds. As crazy as a modern army fighting with slingstones and spears sounds, shouldn't it seem even more ridiculous that a country spend the majority of its budget on arming itself, and as a result let its most basic infrastructure for life suffer and decline?


March 30, 2016
The Times Record
Brunswick, Maine

A March 18 article in The Times Record, “Vietnam facing severe drought,” caught my attention. The AP reported, “Vietnam’s southern Mekong Delta, the country’s main rice growing region, is experiencing the worst drought and saline intrusion in recent history that has affected more than half a million people.”

Here in Maine we had little winter this year with temperatures warming to record levels. There have been 10 straight months of record setting temperature rises worldwide. Our weather is changing — and unless something is done now our children and the future generations will suffer terribly. What are we willing to change in order that they have a future?

The Pentagon occupies 6,000 bases in the US and 1,000 bases in 150 foreign countries (See David Vine’s new book, “Base Nation”). The Pentagon has admitted to burning 350,000 barrels of oil a day and that doesn’t include oil burned by contractors and weapons suppliers.

Yet, despite having the planet’s single largest carbon bootprint, the Pentagon has been granted a unique exemption from reducing — or even reporting — its pollution. The U.S. won this prize during the 1998 Kyoto Protocol negotiations (COP4) after the Pentagon insisted on a “national security provision” that would place its operations beyond global scrutiny or control. As former Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat recalled: “Every requirement the Defense Department and uniformed military who were at Kyoto by my side said they wanted, they got.” ( Also exempted from pollution regulation: all Pentagon weapons testing, military exercises, NATO operations and “peacekeeping” missions.)

How do we move away from this toxic industrial way of life we have today here in the U.S.? How do we begin to quickly move to a different kind of industrial footprint? Rather than polluting cars, endless dirty wars, and a crumbling national infrastructure is it possible we could quickly make a shift to a sustainable future?

Germany is helping to show the way by lessening fossil fuel use and moving toward solar and wind power. Residential power prices are at their lowest levels in more than a decade. Coal-fired, gas- fired and nuclear power plants are being shut down throughout Germany — no longer needed. Why couldn’t we do that in the US? We know this direction creates more jobs and gives our kids a chance for a real future.

Around the world we are almost daily hearing about more severe weather like in Vietnam where drought will surely impact its ability to feed people. Stronger hurricanes and typhoons will intensify the already tragic global refugee crisis. Rising sea levels are already impacting some small Pacific islands. Where will those people go?

In the U.S. we are told there is no money to create a national emergency program to jump start a sustainable transition. Few, if any, politicians are willing to call out the elephant in the middle of the room – the Pentagon which today rakes in 54 percent of every federal discretionary tax dollar [National Priorities Project]. Are Sens. Collins and King, and Rep. Pingree, willing to call for the conversion of military production at places like BIW to build commuter rail systems, off- shore wind farms, tidal power and more?

When a nation moves toward a sustainable future the need to go to war for oil is dramatically reduced. Obviously the oil corporations, and the military industrial complex that former President Eisenhower warned us about, won’t like this plan but immediate profits and our children’s future don’t go hand-in-hand.

What if we converted the US war machine? When you add up all the various ‘national security’ pots of gold our annual taxpayer appropriation for the military costs right at $1 trillion?

Why not turn the Pentagon into the “Natural Guard” and build rescue hospital ships at BIW and send them to places around the world to help people who will be suffering as our Mother Earth’s body convulses in toxic shock.

Instead of killing people around the world to secure “our oil,” why not rely on the sun and the wind for power and turn global enemies into friends?

It takes vision, and a little light, to see the needed direction for our nation during this very Dark Age we are currently living in. Each of us must take some level of responsibility for this predicament but more importantly each of us must help do whatever we can to bring on the Natural Guard.

What is the most important job of a human being on Earth today? Make lots of money, buy lots of stuff, or protect the future generations? To me it is a no-brainer.

~ Bruce K. Gagnon is a member of PeaceWorks and lives in Bath.  

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