Sunday, April 30, 2017

Davis Case Updates

I have too many things to do this week to waste much "ink" on Dave Davis or his case on this blog, but that doesn't mean I am not writing about it in other forms. Here are some articles about the Davis case, the Respect the Chamoru People Rally and also a recent letter to the editor connecting Davis' case to a longer history of disrespect that Chamorros have experienced.


Appeal Made in Plebiscite Ruling
by John O'Connor
Guam Daily Post
April 8, 2017

"A lot of the Chamorros here and the community feel (the ruling) was an attack on them, calling us racists for not allowing somebody to register to vote in our plebiscite or register land." – Amber Benavente-Sanchez, rally organizer

Hundreds of people descended on the pristine front lawn of the governor's office at Adelup late yesterday afternoon to join the "Respect the CHamoru People" rally that was being held in response to a March 8 District Court of Guam ruling holding Guam's plebiscite unconstitutional.

The rally began around 4 p.m., just hours after the Office of the Attorney General filed a notice at the District Court stating that it would appeal the earlier decision with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Counsels for the government of Guam in the case include Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson, Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Orcutt and Special Assistant Attorney General Julian Aguon.

Aguon had argued Guam's case before Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood of the District Court of Guam in September 2016, and had been researching arguments for a potential appeal in the aftermath of the court ruling.

Barrett-Anderson has told The Guam Daily Post that her office would only pursue an appeal if it believed it had a strong argument.

Guam's political plebiscite had been limited to indigenous residents. Tydignco-Gatewood found that the status vote was race-based and therefore, unconstitutional. Longtime resident and U.S. Air Force Veteran Arnold "Dave" Davis challenged the plebiscite on behalf of himself and others unable to register for the vote. The ruling struck a chord with many activist and citizens, who viewed the decision as an example of the federal government undermining indigenous rights.

A matter of messaging

Yesterday's more than two-hour-long rally included activities, songs and speeches from noted individuals – Chamorros and non-Chamorros – such as Carmen Kasperbauer, a World War II survivor and wife of former Sen. Larry Kasperbauer. Robert Underwood, president of the University of Guam, said he attended the event to show support for those fighting for Chamorro rights – a long-term project that has struggled over decades, he added.

But interspersed within the mass of chanters, educators and activists were individuals much more blunt in expressing their animosity toward the man now at the center of their struggle. They carried signs and wore T-shirts making derogatory statements about Davis – some calling him a racist.
Tano Lizama, wearing a "Deport Dave Davis" T-shirt, said he wanted to show that Davis had "awoken the Chamorro people" with his actions. The shirt and its message, he added, was a symbol of how upset he had become over recent events, for which Davis was the catalyst.

"I don't think it's inflammatory. I don't think it takes away from the message," Lizama said.

"Everyone's got their own opinion ... Dave Davis is just a small piece of this and this shirt is just how I feel."

Amber Benavente-Sanchez, a rally organizer, said she did not want the message of the event to be directed by animosity.

"Here's the thing on the racist issue ... a lot of the Chamorros here and the community feel (the ruling) was an attack on them, calling us racists for not allowing somebody to register to vote in our plebiscite or register land," Benavente-Sanchez said.

"What we want to make clear here is we are the indigenous people of the island – here for 4,000 years and colonized for over 400 years. We want the community of Guahan to recognize that we have rights, too. We are not racists, we have opened up our doors and its our turn now to be recognized," she said.

Benavente-Sanchez said the signs and statements made at the rally were up to the individual but in the weeks planning for the event, she had spoken to people who felt that some of Davis' past public statements were also derogatory or racist in nature – leading them to counter similarly.

She added that she wanted people to walk away from the rally understanding that Chamorros had rights as a people and to walk away a bit more educated on current matters.

"We've invited the (plebiscite) task forces. We've invited Chamorro Land Trust here to set up information booths. We want people to walk away with a sense of pride, to recognize that we have rights and to get a little bit educated with the issues at hand," Benavente-Sanchez said.

Continue moving forward

Gov. Eddie Calvo had made the plebiscite a major initiative for his administration. He told media yesterday that he still hoped to hold a vote at the end of his term in 2018 and would continue with the process while the appeal made its way through court. After the District Court decision ruled the plebiscite unconstitutional, Calvo proposed using a dual-ballot system that would indicate whether a voter was a non-native or indigenous resident but opened the vote to all residents.

The rally was also in response to a Department of Justice notice in January finding the Chamorro Land Trust Act discriminatory in nature. The attorney general has publicly opposed the DOJ on this matter and stated in a March letter that she would not enter into a consent decree, as requested by the federal justice department. She asked that a copy of whatever lawsuit the DOJ files be forwarded to her office instead.

Davis had filed a complaint initially bring the matter to the attention of the DOJ.


 Davis Seeks $930K Worth of Fees for Plebiscite Suit
by Mindy Aguon
Guam Daily Post
April 9, 2017

Arnold “Dave” Davis is seeking close to $1 million in attorneys’ fees and costs for a lawsuit he filed against the government of Guam six years ago for preventing him from participating in a plebiscite vote because he was a non-native inhabitant of the island.

In a motion for costs and attorneys’ fees filed in the District Court of Guam on Friday, Davis requested the court award him:

• $869,639.15 in attorneys’ fees;
• $51,063.95 in non-taxable expenses;
• $3,525 in expert fees; and
• $5,104.25 in taxable costs.

District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood entered a judgment on March 9 in favor of Davis, striking down Guam’s plebiscite law allowing only the island’s native inhabitants to vote for Guam’s future political status. The ruling stated that the law is considered race-based discrimination in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments.

In the decision, the judge barred the Guam Election Commission and government of Guam officials from implementing "any laws and regulations designed to enforce the plebiscite law, insofar as such enforcement would prevent or hinder plaintiff and other qualified voters who are not native inhabitants of Guam from registering for, and voting in, the political status plebiscite."

Davis has said he had a difficult time hiring an attorney on Guam to represent him, so he ended up getting primary legal representation from a stateside law firm.

“The political sensitivity of the case made it very difficult to find anyone on Guam willing to work on this case,” court documents state.

Entitled to fees and expenses

Because he prevailed, Davis argues he is entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees, a reasonable expert fee, and reasonable non-taxable expenses.

J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center PLLC, Michael Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and Mun Su Park of the Law Offices of Park and Associates represented Davis, while Gibson Dunn represented Davis in the appeal after the initial dismissal of the lawsuit.

Rosman argued that the case required a “substantial” amount of work given the initial dismissal of his suit and the government’s “vigorous opposition.”

He said his client “fully vindicated” not only his own constitutional rights, but obtained an injunction that will aid many others – blacks, whites, Japanese, Filipinos, etc., a memorandum states.

“If the plebiscite moves forward, they will have a voice. If it does not, they will at least no longer be treated as disfavored citizens,” Rosman noted.

Davis’ lawyers said the litigation qualifies as “complex federal litigation” and have asked the court to award all of the attorneys’ fees, expert fees, non-taxable costs as well as Davis’ taxable costs that included fees paid for transcripts, to the court, witnesses, and the appeal.

Hours and fees

Court filings detail the hours each firm has contributed and the fees requested:
Election Law Center PLLC (J. Christian Adams): 719 hours, 34 minutes – $378,577.40
Center for Individual Rights (Michael Rosman): 453.3 hours – $247,322.00
Gibson Dunn: 587.5 hours – $215,489.75
Law Offices of Park and Associates (Mun Su Park): 113 hours – $27,250.00


Davis ruling perpetuates more of the same for colonized CHamorus
by Kisha Borja-Quichocho-Calvo
May 1, 2017
The Guam Daily Post 

Since the ruling on the Davis case in early March, I have felt disappointed and disheartened. But most of all, I have felt dissatisfied. Though many of us knew what the likely outcome of the case would be (since we were working within the U.S. federal court system), it was still sad to see CHamorus get the wrong/raw end of things, yet again. Guam is the only place on Earth that CHamorus who come from this particular island can claim indigenous rights and ancestral ties to. It is only here that we are taotao tåno` and taotao tåsi. Only here, where we can practice and perpetuate our culture and values as the people of this land and the people of this ocean. Only here and nowhere else. Though other places may become home, Guam will remain our only ancestral homeland.

Because of our status as a U.S. colony, we CHamorus of Guam thus remain a colonized people of the U.S. and have been since 1898. Many of us know about the injustices imposed on our people since the U.S. naval administration — including illegal land occupation and restrictions, English-only speaking policies, devastating and irreversible health and environmental impacts, and the lack of proper compensation for the use of local resources for military purposes. These injustices persist even until now. Today, what makes the situation worse for CHamorus is that we have not been given the right to choose what kind of political relationship we want with the U.S. And recently, we have been called racist on our own island, simply because many of our people have become vocal about particular rights that should belong solely to us as the indigenous people of this place.

The Davis ruling, though expected, was still disappointing. It’s disappointing because outsiders/settlers/non-CHamorus who come to Guam and make this island their home hold much power over the CHamoru people and have more rights and access to things than we do, despite this being our ancestral homeland. This is the epitome of tai respetu and of tai mamahlao. CHamorus are expected to uphold the “Håfa Adai spirit” and maintain smiling faces toward outsiders (tourists, military, and others). But outsiders/settlers? They can come here, disrespect our culture, ignore our history, and then claim rights to things that clearly should not belong to them.

As a CHamoru woman/mother/educator/activist, it is disheartening to know that my people remain colonized and that the struggles of raising my 3-year-old CHamoru daughter will remain so long as the status quo is maintained.

Finally, I, along with many other CHamorus and non-CHamoru allies, are feeling dissatisfied. Dissatisfied with the systems that we constantly have to work with(in) but which continue to fail our people. Dissatisfied with the unjust outcomes of political- and military- related issues. Dissatisfied with our political relationship with the U.S. It is because of this dissatisfaction that many CHamorus are choosing to speak up, choosing to take action, and choosing to address the wrongs of the past and present, so that we can have a more just, decolonized, sustainable, and sovereign future.

Litraton Respect the Chamoru People Rally Siha

100 Days

Commentary from 44 different political leaders, community activists and artists about what Trump has or hasn't accomplished in his first 100 days. Some very insightful remarks.


44 Leaders, Legislators and Artists Sum Up Trump's First 100 Days
by Paige Lavender
Huffington Post
April 29, 2017

In October 2016, before Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, he outlined a plan of all the things he hoped to accomplish during his first 100 days in office.
But in the wake of failure and unfulfilled promises as his 100th day approaches, the president has changed his tune. Last week, he criticized “the ridiculous standard” of the first 100 days, slamming the deadline in one sentence.

To mark the milestone, HuffPost asked lawmakers, activists, lobbyists and influencers to offer their own (roughly) one-sentence takes on Trump’s first 100 days.
Here are the responses, which have been lightly edited for clarity and style:
Khizr Khan, Gold Star father
“Every action and word of Trump has [a] foul stench of political expediency and self-aggrandizing, total lack of moral compass and leadership.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)
“President Trump has spent his first 100 days lying to the American people about issues both great and small, refusing to disclose his tax returns or address fears about his campaign’s ties to Russia, struggling to advance a coherent foreign policy strategy and failing to guarantee affordable health coverage for all Americans ... #sad!”
Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter 
“45 has proven to be one of the most dangerous human beings on the planet; we must resist his regime and build a movement in the millions.”
“[The first 100 days] are as bad as I thought they’d be. I am a bit relieved that some of his efforts — the travel ban, his health care bill — have been stymied so far, but those fights are not over.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Philip Ellender, president of government and public affairs at Koch Industries
“We’re encouraged by the administration’s work to rein in burdensome and unnecessary regulatory overreach that has stifled innovation and has added unnecessary costs to goods and services that Americans rely on every day.”
Michael Mann, climate scientist
“Back in October, I wrote that Donald Trump is a threat to the planet, and what we have seen in his first 100 days of office — denying the threat of climate change, hiring climate deniers and fossil fuel industry lobbyists to fill key administrative roles, and issuing executive orders aimed at dismantling the progress of the past eight years — reaffirms that.”
Aasif Mandvi, actor
“It’s been 100 days. I can’t believe it’s only been 100 days. I thought he was going to take a year to start showing signs of demagoguery.”

Fr. James Martin, editor-at-large of America magazine and consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication
“I hope that the president might consider the needs of those he used to call ‘losers’ ― in this case, those who have lost out at the hands of the economy: the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, the sick and the uninsured.”
Sheryl Crow, singer-songwriter
“There’s been an arc of betrayal, chaos, manipulation and ignorance.”
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center
“President Trump has proven in his first 100 days that the economic populism of his campaign was fake, but that the racism and xenophobia were very real. His support for the health care bill showed his indifference to the fate of those trying to make ends meet. At the same time, he’s pressed a far-right agenda targeting immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community and others who are vulnerable.”
Tom Perriello, Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia
“It is hard to decide whether his supporters, whom I meet with often on the trail, are more disheartened by President Trump’s sheer incompetence, his ties to Russia, or his failure to focus on jobs, but this toxic trifecta means about the most positive review I hear is, ‘Give him a bit more time.’”
April Reign, activist who created #OscarsSoWhite
“Trump’s first 100 days have been harrowing and bear witness that we must challenge him and his administration at every turn by continuing to fight for justice and equity for all marginalized communities.”
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.)
“About as bad as could be expected from a team of misogynist, climate-change denying, anti-immigration, billionaire civil rights opponents, but we better be ready for even worse to come.”
Ben Cohen, activist and co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s
“It’s clear now that ‘Drain the Swamp’ really meant ‘Suck up all the morally bankrupt billionaires, Wall Street executives, and special-interest pond scum, and then pump them into the White House with a fire hose.’”

Raed Saleh, leader of Syrian rescue group the White Helmets
“After President Obama failed to uphold his ‘red line’ and let [Syrian President Bashar Assad] put Syria into a six-year spiral of horror and destruction, Syrians have found hope in President Trump’s resolve to reassert the international community’s intolerance towards the use of chemical weapons. We now wait to see if he will lead the international effort to help protect Syrians from other brutal regime tactics, and to help build a democratic alternative to the brutality and extremism of both Assad and ISIS.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
“Promises to working families: either broken or unfulfilled.”
Former Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), executive director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
“To date, President Trump’s nuclear policy can only be described as consistently inconsistent. After 100 days with the nuclear codes, it’s still not clear that the president understands the complexity of the nuclear threats facing the United States or that these threats cannot be mitigated through tweeting.”
Kathy Griffin, comedian
“During the first 100 days, there’s been never a better time to be a standup comic and never a scarier time to be a human on the planet of Earth.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
“President Trump’s first 100 days have been a disastrous parade of broken promises to working people, handouts to wealthy special interests, and deep damage to the health and economic security of America’s families.”
Rob Delaney, comedian and co-creator of Amazon’s “Catastrophe”
“Seen from space, Trump’s first 100 days has been a muddled but steady effort to lay the groundwork to redistribute the nation’s wealth from the bottom 99 percent to the top 1 percent, with him and his grotesque family astride the foul summit (with a side order of bigotry).”
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, director of external relations for the National Center for Transgender Equality
“The Trump administration has taken malicious and harmful actions against several minority groups over the last 100 days, including attacking one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations by rescinding Title IX guidance that clarified how to create safe and affirming environments for transgender children.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
“Bad for children, mothers, workers, immigrants, women’s health, LGBTQ rights and national security, just to name a few.”
Peter Neffenger, former administrator of the Transportation Security Administration
“Although a new administrator has not yet been nominated, I’m glad to see that the transformative changes we began continue to move forward, particularly with respect to partnering with the private sector to develop and deploy new security technologies through the TSA Innovation Task Force, coupled with continued focus and coordination on public area security.”
Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999
“Donald Trump’s delusional.”
Al Madrigal, comedian and former correspondent on “The Daily Show”
“It’s been a shockingly horrible disaster ― he’s gone back on so many promises that I can’t believe the people in his base that put him in office can continue to support him, considering that he hasn’t done a thing that he’s promised to do. But what do I know? I’m just some idiot comedian.”
Jonathan Gruber, economics professor at MIT
“Trump’s first 100 days showed that democracy still functions as long as there are truth-telling organizations out there like the CBO ― and highlighted the key dependence of our government on those institutions.”
Richard Carmona, U.S. surgeon general from 2002-2006
“A perception of unpredictable entropy, chaos, confusion and alternate facts have so far infected the beltway. America is better than this, let’s show the world who we really are!”
Tamika Mallory, national co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington
“We need to continue to use our voices to push back on the harmful policies and rhetoric of this administration, because the imminent threat that communities are up against is something too great to ignore.”
Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama
“Trump’s relationship to the presidency so far seems like my relationship with dieting ― he wants the results without doing the hard work.”

Melissa Etheridge, singer-songwriter
“It has solidified and brought to the surface even more the importance of diversity and how diversity is challenging and fearful to some. Being on the other side of diversity — being the diverse part of diversity — that means it is my job to take that freedom, to take that responsibility and to respect and love myself and to stand in my truth with it and show that the only way to get out of this mess is by understanding and believing that diversity is what makes us stronger.”
Tom Colicchio, “Top Chef” host and co-founder of
“The first hundred days of any presidency comes with a steep learning curve … unfortunately, this instance has been a classic example of ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’”
Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods
“I think it’s making things more urgent. I don’t know if we’re getting better art, I don’t know if we’re getting more art. But the art we are getting feels more urgent.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD
“100 days of Trump translates into 100 days of erasure for the LGBTQ community ― from the census exclusion, to rescinding Obama’s guidance for trans youth in schools, and lack of any LGBTQ mentions on the White House website, he has spent the early days of his administration trying to remove us from the very fabric of this country, and we must resist.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)
“Major issue: Supreme Court nominee is approved. It’s one of the reasons why he got elected.”
Tom Toro, New Yorker cartoonist
“Despite countless pathetic failures during his first 100 days in office, Trump can point to one great accomplishment: He has inspired a record number of people to become politically engaged artists. The spontaneous creativity of the Resistance, led by ordinary citizens expressing themselves with extraordinary imagination, has grown day by day to become the most powerful cultural force of the century, and it ― not Trump’s vacuous, vain avarice ― will shape the future of our nation.”
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)
“With regards to marijuana policy, we need the Trump administration to stop sending mixed messages filled with backtracks and flat out flip-flops. We need to take the marijuana sector out of a grey zone and into a legitimate one.”
Kelly Garvy, founder of Protecting Progress in Durham
“Trump lies and embarrasses himself and the country on a daily basis, but for the past 100 days, I have forged new relationships and friendships with wonderful people in my community ― and we are ready for 2018.”

María Teresa Kumar, founding president and CEO of Voto Latino
“From immigration to health care, the president’s agenda is the antithesis of a forward-looking nation, with the potential to take us back to our country’s darkest days.”
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.)
“Two words: Neil Gorsuch.”
Joycelyn Elders, U.S. surgeon general from 1993 to 1994
“While the POTUS may be a genius, he would greatly benefit by listening to the informed ideas of authorities in health care, education and human rights in order to bring motivation and hope to all.”
Ian Kerner, relationship counselor and sex therapist
“Whereas in the Obama era, ‘sexual cliteracy’ was on the rise and the ‘orgasm gap’ between men and women had been closing, I am now seeing a rise in sexual complaints from women about men who are woefully ill-cliterate. Sadly, the ‘Viva La Vulva’ years are over.”
Heems, rapper
“It’s been really rough. I can say from a community perspective a lot of South Asians are much more worried about their reality.”
Lewis Black, comedian
“It feels like two and a half years. Two and a half years is what it feels like.”
Multiple HuffPost reporters contributed to this story.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Space Between

A few years ago two of my poems were featured in a creative/scholarly anthology titled The Space Between edited by Marata Tamaira. It was one of my first academic publications and I was honored to be included in it. I recently came across this interview that noted Chamorro poet and scholar Craig Santos Perez did with Marata following the release of the anthology. Craig recently asked me if I'd be willing to have one of the poems that was featured in the anthology, "My Island is One Big American Footnote" to be included in a new Micronesian anthology that he is co-editing. In many ways, this poem fit the theme for the overall anthology, as that concept of the space between can be used to understand the liminal place of something, the marginal and confused positionality. Yet it also can evoke an intimacy, as close of connectedness and love.


Anthology Spotlight: The Space Between
Interview with Marata Tamaira
By Craig Santos Perez
The Poetry Foundation
March 20, 2010

Recently received my copy of this beautifully produced anthology a few weeks ago. Edited by Marata Tamaira, The Space Between: Negotiating Culture, Place, and Identity in the Pacific, is a “collection of graduate student essays, poetry, and art explores the indigenous Oceanic concept vā, a space marked by tension and transformation as well as confluences and connections. The art of Maui-born Roxanne Chasle is featured on the cover and throughout the volume. The Space Between is available electronically via ScholarSpace, the institutional digital archive of Hamilton Library, University of Hawai`i, Mänoa.”

I sent the editor a few questions and she was kind enough to respond:

What is the purpose of The Space Between? 

The purpose of the publication was to clear a space and give emerging scholars the opportunity to articulate their ideas and to exercise their own unique brand of scholarship, whether it be in the form of academic writing, personal reflection, poetry, or the visual arts. My goal was that the publication would give graduate students first-hand experience with the publishing process, and that it would empower them and give them a sense of confidence in knowing that what they have to say has meaning and importance. That their voice can impact how we think about things.

Why did you personally pursue this project? 

I had wanted to publish a graduate journal for several years before Vili Hereniko, the Director of the Center for Pacific Islands studies at UH Manoa, asked me to take on the project in 2008. When I was in graduate school, I had the wonderful opportunity of working on one of the leading publications in Pacific studies, The Contemporary Pacific (tcp). As an assistant to Jan Rensel, the managing editor of tcp, I got to read through many manuscripts—manuscripts that were written by top-notch scholars. It’s wonderful to read the critical insights of seasoned writers, but I felt there wasn’t any room for new, emerging scholars to grow. At the time, too, I was struggling to get my own work published and I learned first-hand just how tough a skin one needs to develop in order to survive the publishing process. I wanted to create a more nurturing, yet rigorous, environment for upcoming scholars to exercise their ideas. So, when Vili asked me if I wanted to edit the Center for Pacific Islands studies inaugural graduate journal, I pounced on the opportunity!

What were your experiences as an editor/publisher? 

I feel so fortunate, because I picked up so many valuable skills from my dear friend and mentor, Jan Rensel. She’s so incredibly generous and gracious with writers and it’s through her that I learned how to build and maintain a good working relationship with the contributors of The Space Between. It’s a very humbling experience being an editor, because you’re essentially the caretaker of someone else’s work. My sense of obligation to the contributors was very intense; I didn’t want to let them down in any way! There were a lot of sleepless nights. I liken the job of editing to having a baby (although I’ve never actually given birth myself). There’s a gestation period, during which time the contributors’ works are fine-tuned (in the case of The Space Between, this part of the process took a year) and then there’s the delivery, when the final product is published. It’s an amazing experience to care for and nurture peoples’ work and to see it in all its beauty—bound together and waiting to be picked up and read. It’s an extremely fulfilling experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

What do you feel this project contributes to Pacific Islander

I hope this publication inspires other emerging writers out there to start submitting their work to journals, magazines, and so on. The written word is a wonderful way to share your thoughts and perspectives. We’re all unique and we all have something valuable to contribute. You don’t have to have a doctorate to have something of substance to say. I think this publication underscores that notion and I believe it breaks down the wall between the academy and everyday people. Many of the contributors are not only emerging scholars, they’re practitioners—they live their scholarship. They’re artists, poets. They’re also deeply imbedded in the issues that confront their island homelands. To me, that’s really powerful—theirs is the voice of experience rather than theoretical musings from a distance.

Marata Tamaira hails from Aotearoa/New Zealand and recently completed an MA degree in Pacific Islands studies at the University of Hawai’i that explores the construction of New Zealand national identity through the deployment of Māori cultural symbols. Her research interests include issues of representation in the Pacific, specifically through the visual arts and filmmaking, and the use of indigenous material culture and symbols to construct national identity, particularly in settler countries in the region. She edited the UHM Center for Pacific Islands Studies graduate-student publication The Space Between: Negotiating Culture, Place, and Identity in the Pacific.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mensahi Ginen i Gehilo' #23: Commonwealth Memories

Commonwealth is a word that continues to haunt discussions of decolonization in Guam.

For most younger people, they have no idea what Commonwealth means in a Guam context, although they know of it in the context of the CNMI's political status.

It is something that has some very profound meanings for people of a certain age, most older than I am, because of the way it represents nostalgia for a time when political status change on Guam seemed to have a more clearly defined direction.

Commonwealth in terms of Guam, was a decades long movement to try to get the island to a new political status, something along the lines of "improved status quo."

It involved long negotiations with different presidential administrations, different iterations of Congress, all in the hopes of moving Guam to a slightly better political position.

In terms of political status options, Commonwealth would fall between integration and free association. It kept Guam and the US tightly connected, but also could have given Guam some autonomy, similar to that the CNMI had initially negotiated.

But the movement failed and in 1997 a Commonwealth Bill for Guam died in the US Congress.

In today's discursive spaces and debates, Commonwealth is invoked as some nostalgia for a less risky option for Guam's future.

When someone doesn't know much about the three available options, or finds the ones offered to be unsavory, that person, if they know the term or even just a sliver of the context, may wonder aloud, "What ever happened to Commonwealth? Isn't that supposed to be an option?"

I have conversations about this every week, and just finished one earlier today.

I decided to dig up a few articles from the Commonwealth era, just for those who want to know more about it.

In a future post I'll detail more about why Commonwealth isn't necessarily something that we should pursue. 


Pacific Business News

Immigration and trade are the areas expected to be most affected if Guam is successful in its push to become a commonwealth of the United States.
For almost 100 years, the island has been ruled by the United States, most recently as a non-self-governing territory.
In 1987, the Chamorro people, who comprise the indigenous population of Guam, passed the Guam Commonwealth Act, which requests the policy change. It has been a periodic subject of hearings in Congress.
The act's most significant feature is it would give Guam complete control over immigration laws, allowing the island to have access to laborers and issue Guam-only visas to promote tourism.
Businesspeople interviewed liked the idea of Guam controlling its own borders and said it was a key element in the governor's Vision 2001 plan, which aims to increase tourist arrivals to about 2 million by the year 2001. The island now welcomes about 1.3 million visitors a year.
"The governor ought to make those kinds of decisions," said Bob Coe, regional president for DFS Group LP. "We're going to have a need to expand the work force and the governor doesn't have that capability."
The 1990 census reported 20,000 aliens lived on the island and an additional 16,000 people were naturalized citizens.
Hoteliers said although the isle's unemployment rate hovers at 9 percent, filling jobs with qualified workers is difficult, especially since developers are rapidly opening new resorts.
Gov. Carl Gutierrez insisted Guam would implement labor laws familiar to the United States and not commit the kinds of human-rights abuses that are allegedly taking place in the Northern Marianas, which ended its territorial status with the United States in 1986.
A second major benefit of the law would be the release of Guam from the Jones Act, which disallows ships from docking in two successive U.S. ports without stopping at a foreign port in between.

Because of the law, many transporters traveling between Asia and the U.S. West Coast skip Guam in favor of larger markets. This has hampered the territory's import-export industry.
Also, the proposal would allow Guam the freedom to trade and have relationships with foreign governments. Guam is subjected to U.S. quotas, which prevent the island from developing a significant export market.
Paul Calvo, a former governor and president of a conglomerate, has testified before U.S. Congressional committees, saying Guam suffers from U.S. trade discrimination and an "imbalanced mercantile service economy without significant industry or light assembly sectors."
Under the act, Guam's tax laws would remain in force for a year, then Guam would create new tax laws.
"That's good and bad," said Allen Pickens, managing partner at Deloitte &Touche. "Good because we can draft our own and bad because the laws could change on the whim of a political group."
Other provisions in the act would grant Guam full control over its local court system, similar to the way state and federal courts operate. And Guam would have authority over its natural resources, including its exclusive economic zone. Also all surplus federal land would revert to Guam.
Finally, the act would give the United States full charge of foreign affairs and the defense of Guam, but would prohibit changes in military activity on Guam without prior consultation. And it would give Guam authority to request compensation for military and federal government use of land and infrastructure.
Most businesspeople felt the policy change would do little to aid Guam's economy.
"It's more emotion-driven than economics," said John Lee, a senior vice president at First Hawaiian Bank, echoing the sentiments of several businesspeople.
Said Wali Osman, an economist specializing in the Asia-Pacific region at Bank of Hawaii: "Whether it happens or doesn't happen, there will be no real impact on the economy."
He added for investors, it would be business as usual if Guam became a commonwealth.
"The U.S. flag -- that's Guam's greatest asset," he said. "People will still want to do business there because it is American soil."
Under the proposal, the U.S. flag would continue to fly over Guam.



United Nations General Assembly
Press Release
October 1997

Petitioners from Guam this morning objected to the current form of the omnibus draft resolution approved by the Special Committee on decolonization, stating that its language with respect to Guam had been weakened at the request of the United States, the administering Power. Addressing the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), they urged the Main Committee of the General Assembly to reinstate the language used in prior years in the text it submitted to the Assembly for adoption, as the current version undermined the process of Guam's decolonization.
A representative of the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights said the "shameless changes" to the Guam portion of the text violated the purpose and mandate of the Fourth Committee. A senator from the Guam Legislature urged the United Nations to send a visiting mission to the Territory to personally hear the voices of the colonized Chamorro people, in order to better ascertain their situation.

Those two speakers were among eight petitioners who addressed the Committee this morning on the situation in Guam. The representative of the United States, in response, said that both his Government and that of Guam supported self-determination for the people of Guam, but differed on who would exercise that right. It should be exercised by all the people of Guam, he said. The United States could not support a self-determination process which excluded Guamanians who were not Chamorros. The representatives of Cuba, Papua New Guinea and Syria also spoke on the matter.

Also this morning, statements in the general debate on decolonization issues were made by the representatives of Brazil, Tunisia, Pakistan, Spain and the United Kingdom. The representative of the United Kingdom also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Monday, 13 October, to conclude its general debate on decolonization matters and begin its consideration of the effects of atomic radiation.
Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to continue its general debate on decolonization issues and hear petitioners on the question of Guam.
Statement of Committee Chairman

MACHIVENYIKA TOBIAS MAPURANGA (Zimbabwe), Committee Chairman, said that Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast told him this morning that the Secretary-General had said it would be helpful for the sponsors of the draft resolution concerning the transfer of the decolonization unit (document A/C.4/52/L.4) to meet with him.

Hearing of Petitioners

ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, delegate from Guam to the United States House of Representatives, said that the people of Guam had chosen to pursue a change in their political status, in the form of a commonwealth association with the United States. That choice was made in a series of locally authorized referendums between 1982 and 1987. However, such commonwealth status was intended to be an interim step; it did meet internationally recognized standards for decolonization and it was not independence. The Committee was urged to reaffirm the right to self-determination of Guam's indigenous people, the Chamorros. That principle was not negotiable. It would be inappropriate to consider removing Guam from the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Although the United States Government had identified excess lands for return to Guam, it had yet to provide a process for their expeditious return, he said. In fact, the current process allowed federal agencies to bid for those lands ahead of Guam. The United States Mission had been asked to support a revised General Assembly resolution which would address Guam's quest for greater self-government.

MARK CAMPOS CHARFAUROS, Senator in Guam's Legislature, spoke on behalf of Antonio Unpingco, Speaker of the Guam Legislature. He said that since 1946, the United Nations had been confused by all the terms the United States used to describe Guam's people -- Chamorro, Guamanian, inhabitants of Guam and people of Guam. That was apparent in the current draft resolution on the matter and in the previously amended draft resolutions adopted by the Assembly during its session last year. That misconception was understandable, for the United States had given the impression that it considered two peoples when addressing the situation in Guam. The United States was not an angel, and would resort to deception and manipulation to further its agenda.

Reference to the people of Guam must consider the context of a colonized people, he said. One term used by the United States concerned a people, another concerned citizenship. The United Nations had assumed the Chamorro people's right to self-determination by including all American citizens in its resolution on the matter, and the present draft resolution continued that grave injustice. What had happened to the Chamorro people's good relationship with the Fourth Committee and the Special Committee on decolonization?

Sensing that the tide had turned, the Guam Legislature had passed a law to create the Commission on Decolonization for the Implementation and Exercise of Chamorro Self-Determination. Another Guam bill would protect the right of the Chamorro people to determine their political status and that of their homeland. Upcoming hearings in the United States House of Representatives would likely amount to nothing.

The Guam portion of the original text of the omnibus draft resolution on decolonization should be substituted for the current language, he said. The United Nations should send a visiting mission to Guam to personally hear the voices of the colonized Chamorro people, in order to better evaluate their situation.

LELAND BETTIS, Executive Director of the Guam Commission on Self Determination, speaking on behalf of the Governor of Guam, said that December would mark the fifty-first year since Guam had been inscribed on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Since that time, nothing had fundamentally altered the colonial nature of its relationship with the United States. The administering Power extended its edicts without input from the representatives of Guam.

The people of Guam refused to be subject to the pageantry of a colonial beauty contest, he said. Chattel was chattel was chattel. Under the internal legal mechanism of the United States, Guam was mere property. There was no indication that that would change. The Fourth Committee was therefore called upon to carefully examine the situation.

He said that Guam's identification as a Territory was under threat. There was a concerted effort under way to strip the Special Committee on decolonization of its political mandate and its ability to interact with the Territories. Further, the administering Power now supported continuing Guam's colonial status. The administering Power's Mission to the United Nations had stated that the work of the Special Committee was finished. They had said that colonialism was finished.

Guam was a small island with a small population, and it was a colonial possession of the world's largest nation, he said. Its lands remained occupied, and the rules of government were subject to constant change without local input. The administering Power continued to present the Special Committee with inaccurate depictions of the situation in Guam. The portions of the Special Committee's omnibus resolution regarding Guam were therefore unacceptable.

Offers to support visiting missions to Guam had seemingly been withdrawn and promised measures of cooperation had not occurred, he said. The emasculation of the decolonization process by the administering Power should not be allowed. Guam would advance the decolonization process unilaterally if necessary. International standards should continue to be fully reflected in the Fourth Committee's consideration of the question.

HOPE ALVAREZ CRISTOBAL, Chairperson of the International Networking Committee of the Organization of People for Indigenous Rights, said that Guam's journey towards self-determination was at a critical juncture. It was important for the Fourth Committee to recognize that the question of Guam was one of decolonization. Guam should not be removed from the list of Non-Self- Governing Territories.

The administering Power had been negligent in its handling of Guam, she said. The proposed implementation of commonwealth status for Guam did not mean it would achieve self-determination. The administering Power had continuously tried to deny the Chamorro people their right to self- determination. Those efforts included an attempt to confuse the United Nations about the identity of the people of Guam. Several different names -- including "people of Guam", "Guamanians" and "Chamorros" -- had been used, making it seem that the people of Guam were a mixed bag.

The welfare of non-self-governing peoples such as the Chamorro people of Guam would continue to be compromised as long as the administering Power was allowed to negate their efforts at the highest levels of the United Nations, she said. It was a difficult pill to swallow, that the United Nations was willing to minimize commentary on the administering Power's sacred responsibility to promote self-government through decolonization. In the case of Guam, that process had stretched out for over half a century.

The Fourth Committee was asked to oppose the current language of the section on Guam in the Special Committee's omnibus resolution, she said. The shameless changes to that portion of the text, initiated by the United States, would violate the purpose and mandate of the Fourth Committee.

RONALD TEEHAN, of the Guam Landowners Association, said there had been a significant increase in pressure this year to pretend that colonial situations no longer existed, but nothing could be further from the truth. At the United Nations, the United States had attempted to undercut, if not eliminate, the decolonization process. The fact that Guam had conducted local elections did not make it self-governing. Was Guam self-governing when a United States agency could take land that belonged to its people? Guam's colonial status dramatically impeded its political and economic development. The Committee should regard with great suspicion any suggestion that colonial politics was the primary manifestation of self-government.

He said that Guam was not in position to control its resources or to make decisions about its future; the administering Power reserved those decisions to itself. The 1996 General Assembly resolution concerning the situation in Guam and the current draft resolution before the Committee actually undermined the process of Guam's decolonization. The United Nations decolonization process was becoming nothing more than an accelerated effort to declare the International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism by the Year 2000 a success.

The administering Power had raised concerns about the Chamorro people being the exclusive party to decide Guam's colonial status, he said. That was a cruel joke. The administering Power's immigration policy was clearly a colonization policy; only those who were colonized should decide Guam's decolonized status. Guam was inclined to reject any arguments that its requests should be to the political realities of the United Nations. He urged the reinstatement of the language adopted by the Special Committee in its 1996 resolution on the situation in Guam. The resolution should truly reflect the situation in Guam, rather than serve the purpose of a political expediency.

PEDRO NUNEZ-MOSQUERA (Cuba) said informal consultations between the Special Committee and the administering Power had produced the language of the draft resolution on the situation in Guam. Had there been any improvement in the situation as a result of those consultations?
Mr. TEEHAN said the consultations had not discernibly improved the situation. Rather, they had resulted in a further weakening of the section concerning Guam.

UTULA U. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee on decolonization, asked Mr. Teehan whether the Guam Commonwealth Act passed by the Guam Legislature had produced further movement on the situation on the island.

Mr. TEEHAN said that since the Act was passed 10 years ago, Guam had consistently brought the matter to the attention of the United States Government. A bill was now before the United States Congress, but hearings on it had been postponed several times. Implementation of the Act had not been supported financially by the United States Government, but had been funded locally, in Guam. Many portions of the Act had been attacked by agencies of the United States Government. Nothing concrete had occurred, except for 10 years of protracted discussion.

JOSE ULLOA GARRIDO, of the Nasion Chamoru, said the portion of the Special Committee's omnibus draft resolution concerning Guam was appalling. The Chamorro right to self-determination had fallen on deaf ears in the Special Committee. Lands taken by the United States must be returned. It was hard to accept that members of the Special Committee which were once colonies would accede to the changes to the draft resolution supported by the United States. Those changes cut through the soul of the Chamorro people.

The purpose and mission of the Fourth Committee to eradicate decolonization had been compromised, he said. The Special Committee had assigned to the United States the right to decolonize -- a right which belonged to the Chamorro people. Guam's colonizer had always been a master of intrigue and deception but it had not been expected that some members of the Special Committee would be co-opted. The United States had created a welfare state in Guam. It was tragic that some countries had joined the United States in condemning human rights abuses in China without condemning the treatment by the United States of indigenous peoples in its colonies.
The United States must unconditionally return all lands stolen from the Chamorros of Guam, he said. It had taken less than a month to take the lands; 50 years was too long for them to take in returning it. Further, all titles over and control of natural resources must be relinquished; all nuclear warheads and missiles must be removed, and all 36 hazardous and toxic waste sites must be cleaned. Visiting missions should be sent to Guam.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) asked Mr. Garrido about the change in the language of the resolution. What language did he have in mind?

Mr. GARRIDO said he had been referring to items 1, 3, 4 and 5 of the 1997 version of the omnibus resolution.

PATRICIA ULLOA GARRIDO, representing the Ancestral Landowners Coalition of Guam, said the United States' continued withholding of land documents from the government of Guam, was a violation of treaty. In addition, repeated petitions on civil and human rights by Chamorro leaders had been ignored. It was ironic and evil that the United States expected substantial payment for the return of lands it had confiscated for military uses. That position was designed to create a sense of hopelessness and resignation among the Chamorro people. The Chamorro people would not pay for the return of their lands; they did not have the required funds.

PATRICK SAN NICOLAS, a Chamorro tribal chairman, said the draft resolution approved by the Special Committee on 20 June included a new and appalling change. The Chamorro tribe of the Marianas opposed any form of self-determination which surrendered the sovereignty rights of the Chamorro people.

The United States had divided the Chamorro people into two separate forms of government, he said. There was Guam, an unincorporated Territory of the United States, and there were the northern islands of the Marianas. The Chamorros were one nation and would not surrender their sovereign rights. The United Nations should recognize the sovereignty of the Chamorros people and the United States should be urged to recognize the Chamorros of the Marianas. The Chamorro people could then begin to experience true sovereignty.

DAVID SCOTT (United States), said his Government and that of Guam supported the self-determination for the people of Guam but differed on who would exercise that right. That right should be exercised by all the people of Guam. Petitioners who had spoken today had asked only that a portion of the population of Guam be allowed to exercise that right. The United States could not endorse a process which excluded Guamanians who were not Chamorros. The ultimate outcome of the self-determination process would depend on its ability to include all citizens in its scope.
General Debate on Decolonization

HENRIQUE R. VALLE (Brazil) said his delegation fully endorsed statements made yesterday by Paraguay on behalf of the Rio Group, as well as by Uruguay, on behalf of the Common Market of the Southern Cone (MERCOSUR), Bolivia and Chile. He reiterated Brazil's support for the Declaration on the Malvinas Islands adopted last year by MERCOSUR, Bolivia and Chile.

With respect to East Timor, Brazil had always stressed the importance of a fair and internationally acceptable solution, he said. Hope was placed in direct talks between the parties involved. Brazil strongly supported the tripartite process being held under the auspices of the Secretary-General, as well as the All-Inclusive East Timorese Dialogue.

He drew attention to a resolution adopted in July by the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, meeting in Brazil, which established the categories of "associated observers", "permanent observers" and "invited observers". That decision allowed for the presence in East Timor of representatives of all interested political trends, without the predominance of any of the parties or political movements there.

EL WALID DOUDECH (Tunisia) said that it was necessary to strengthen the trend of international cooperation in order to eliminate colonialism by the end of the century. Although the time was short, there was reason to be optimistic. The Special Committee's omnibus resolution last year had established principles; practical measures for the next stage of the process must now be defined. A programme for cooperation between the Special Committee and the administering Powers must be devised as a matter of priority. The aspirations of the Non-Self-Governing Territories must be recognized.

While there were a variety of options in the decolonization process, free choice by the concerned people was the key, he said. One of the questions facing the Special Committee concerned the appropriate means for ascertaining the nature of those aspirations. Such means varied, and it was appropriate to consider each case individually. Visiting missions were an effective means, and consultations should begin to organize such missions to relevant Territories.

MIAN ABDUL WAHEED (Pakistan) said that the increase in the United Nations membership from 51 to 185 States was a clear testimony to its success and achievements. It was a matter of immense satisfaction that over 60 former colonial Territories had joined the community of independent nations. The peoples of the remaining 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories looked to the United Nations for their freedom. Efforts must be consolidated to end colonialism. The positive response of the administering Powers was welcomed. Greater pragmatism and innovation was needed in considering the issue.

Pakistan had achieved independence through the exercise of its right to self-determination and considered it a moral duty to support peoples which were under alien subjugation, he said. Unfortunately, the right to self- determination had been smothered in many parts of the world. That had occurred in the case of the Kashmiri people, under occupation by India. Inhuman repression and persecution had occurred, and 60,000 Kashmiris had been killed. The Indian claim that Jammu and Kashmir were an integral part of India was a farce. It was a case of neo-colonialism. Denial of the rights of the Kashmiri people was a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law.

JAVIER PEREZ-GRIFFO (Spain) said that despite the United Nations achievements in decolonization, unresolved issues remained. There was no single recipe by which to terminate colonialism. The Organization should ensure that the peoples of the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories could observe their right to self-determination.

The situation on Gibraltar had peculiar features, he said. The Rock of Gibraltar was acquired by force during the eighteenth century. However, the peninsula did not cease to be Spanish. Also, the isthmus above it was acquired illegally and gradually by the United Kingdom. The survival of this last colony was difficult to reconcile with the modern world. Gibraltar was converted to a military base by the United Kingdom, which expelled the Spanish people there.

In the United Nations, there was clear doctrine on Gibraltar, which urged the United Kingdom to end colonial domination there, he said. Several General Assembly resolutions had reiterated the principle of territorial integrity with respect to Gibraltar. Negotiations between Spain and the United Kingdom on the situation had begun in 1985, and Spain remained firmly committed to dialogue in the hope that negotiations would end the Gibraltar dispute.

The Treaty of Utrecht established Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar should it cease to be under British rule, he said. Spanish authorities had stated their respect for the legitimate interests of the population of Gibraltar, as well as for their identity and characteristics. Spain was ready to make a very generous offer, that once reincorporation of Gibraltar with Spain had taken place, efforts would be made to improve the economic situation of its people.

KATE SMITH (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom considered the rights of the peoples of the Territories to be of paramount importance in determining their futures. Within the restraints of treaty obligations, the constitutional framework in each of the United Kingdom's Territories sought to reflect the wishes and interests of their peoples. Each of the Territories held regular and free elections. Indeed, the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands had exercised their democratic rights in an election yesterday.

She expressed dismay at statements made before the Committee this week implying that the choice of independence was the only possible outcome of the free exercise of self-determination. That was not the case. The vast majority of people in the British Territories were content with their basic relationship and with the degree of self-government they had achieved.

The United Kingdom recognized the important advances made on the text of the Special Committee's draft resolution with respect to "economic activities", she said. However, it was important to note that foreign economic activities did not always do the Territories more harm than good. Often, the contrary was the case. Foreign investment was a valuable source of income for a number of the United Kingdom's Territories, helping them to achieve a greater degree of self-sufficiency.

The United Kingdom would continue to support the people of Montserrat in their plight, she said. Those wishing to leave Montserrat would be assisted. Statements made this week by representatives from the Caribbean region calling for support for the people of Montserrat had been appreciated.
The Committee then approved a request for a hearing by a petitioner on the question of New Caledonia for the week of 13 October.

Right of Reply

KATE SMITH (United Kingdom), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the position of the United Kingdom with respect to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and Gibraltar had been laid out in the right of reply statements by the United Kingdom before the General Assembly on 24 and 26 September.

* *** *
For information media. Not an official record.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Malcolm Nance Interview

Donald Trump has a way of bringing diverse groups of people together, for good or for bad reasons. I have felt this quite profoundly in the way that in my own distaste and loathing for Trump, I am now willing to feel ideologically similar to those who are very much defenders of American imperialism, but against the chaos that Trump has brought to American interests and power structures. Mind you, this chaos will have no positive effect on rich and power in the US, but it is affecting the relationship between the governed and those who govern and the US and its allies. On the one hand, I am against Trump intentional or accidental efforts at destabilization, but this is something that I would desire in the context of Guam becoming independent or ceasing to be the tip of America's spear. An interview such as this, from someone who worked within the machinery of American national intelligence, would have likely never appeared on this blog in the past. We shall see how long this game of strange bedfellows lasts.


On an almost daily basis there are new revelations about the questionable and perhaps illegal connections between President Donald Trump’s administration (and before that his campaign) and the Russian espionage apparatus under the control of Vladimir Putin. It is no longer appears to be a question of whether the Russian government actively worked to undermine or affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, but who aided it in doing so.

Trump’s short-lived national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign because he did not disclose his contacts with Russia. In addition, Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general, met repeatedly with the Russian ambassador and known intelligence operative Sergey Kislyak. Trump campaign aides Roger Stone and Paul Manafort also had extensive contacts with the Russian government. Stone has even publicly admitted to communicating with WikiLeaks — a group known to act as a conduit for classified information — in an effort to smear Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton. And Trump and his inner circle have unknown but likely extensive financial connections to Russian banks, financiers, corporations and the Russian government.

How much damage has been caused to the American people by Trump’s Russian gambit? Most important, are Donald Trump and his advisers working in support of Russian interests and against those of the Unites States? Are they traitors? How did this all transpire?

In an effort to answer these questions, Salon recently spoke with Malcolm Nance, a career intelligence and counterterrorism officer for the United States government. In his more than three decades working in that capacity, Nance served with U.S. Special Operations forces, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. He has worked in the Middle East, North Africa, the Balkans, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. A frequent guest contributor on MSNBC, Nance has authored several books, including “The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election.”

My conversation with Nance has been edited for length and clarity. A longer version of this conversation can be heard on my podcast, available on Salon’s Featured Audio page.


In trying to make sense of  the constant revelations about Trump’s connections to Russia, we are often hearing the truism that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” But in this case, it seems that the public is just seeing the tip of the iceberg. 

You are absolutely correct. I think that the activities that have occurred and the thing that we’re seeing indicate a scandal on an order of magnitude greater than anything that’s occurred in the 20th century. What’s occurring now is as close to Benedict Arnold as I think we’re ever going to get in American history. It had better be because the only alternative to what we’re seeing with this information is, if it’s not espionage, then it will be the largest financial scandal in American history.

One would think that someone would have taken Trump’s associates aside and told them, about the ambassador and others, “These guys are Russian spies using diplomatic status as cover?” Did they not understand that or did they just ignore it?

You would think that the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael Flynn — who had his own coterie of spies, by the way — would know that. But what would override that? Only one of two things would override that. This incredible belief that you give me a boatload of money and I get a boatload of money. Then you get these incredible, unbelievable returns promised to you, and you bring in more people. That’s what we’re seeing here, in this whole crew . . . and I refer to them in my book as “the Kremlin crew” . . . in that they saw relationships with Russia and the extractive energy industries as an ATM that would make them madly wealthy beyond anything if they controlled the levers of government.

The only other way to explain it is that they ideologically bought into [the idea] that Vladimir Putin is the greatest man on Earth and that the Russian antidemocratic system and autocracy is their way of life. I can’t believe that. I think they wanted to win at all costs, and at the end of “win at all costs,” whether that meant cooperating with Russia or working with them, there was the promise of outrageous quantities of money.

Why was the mainstream American media so far behind on the story with Trump and Russia? Incompetence? Fear? Laziness?

I think a combination of lazy and afraid. The Trump train was just so incredibly wild. For them, it was just a question of keeping up on a daily basis, writing these incredible stories. But putting that aside, the people who really, really understood the American media and really knew what to do and how to do it were Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence.

In fact, Vladimir Putin was the director of Russian intelligence and then became the president of the country from that position. Vladimir Putin understood, from the Communist era when he was a KGB officer that the Russian propaganda system of targeting Western media — that in the digital world you could easily pull the Western media around by a nose ring. He hacked the American mindset through its own news media. I would personally say [it was] the most brilliant intelligence operation quite possibly in the history of mankind at this point, because he selected the president.

Could this be worse than the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg perhaps in terms of intelligence coups?

Granted, that gave Russia nuclear power and the hydrogen bomb. That was a pure old-school intelligence operation. But now, you could argue that Vladimir Putin has control of 4,000 atomic bombs and they did it using Americans — knowing how Americans thought, knowing how Donald Trump thought. As part of that, you also have the successful attempt to split the “Bernie bros” from the Democratic Party, and also the Jill Steins of the world out there saying, “There’s no difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.”

It was a laughable and absurd claim.

“Vote for Donald Trump so that he can destroy the country.” That was the thing that got me about the Stein people. They wanted this anarchy and chaos that we are getting today. The Russians knew this. Vladimir Putin had Jill Stein at his table for the 10th anniversary of the RT network. I don’t care who you are, you can’t say, well, if you received the invitation, you would’ve gone, too. On his right arm, Vladimir Putin had the former director of defense intelligence, Michael Flynn. He had both sides of the election coin at his elbow, and he successfully used his agency and the American media to select the president. Russian intelligence attacked this nation with a cyber-warfare bomb and got members of the American public to prefer a former director of the KGB over anyone in the Democratic Party.

Do you think it is fair to say that Trump and his cadre are traitors and that they should be held accountable based on those criteria?

If we use the rhetorical definition of treason, the common vernacular definition of treason, and it turns out that anyone at any time in this campaign was aware of Russia’s operations, decided to use Russia’s operations and coordinate with Russia’s operations, that right there would be treason. That would be betraying the trust of your nation.

This situation also reflects the way the Republican Party to this point has pursued party over country in blockading these investigations about Trump and Russia. Trump is their opportunity to remake the second part of the 20th century and they’re going to support him no matter what. Also, Trump has surrounded himself with white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazi sympathizers. His cadre is part of a larger movement of extreme right-wing nationalism in Europe as well. Again, that is not being covered extensively.

Vladimir Putin is creating an axis of authoritarian regimes that he will lead. Russia’s a small country. It’s really poor. It has nothing other than oil and weapons sales. They have taken the United States and they now have two pillars in which to hold up Western Christendom by authoritarianism. Now they’re going for others. They’re going to topple Germany. They’re going to topple France. They’re going to topple the Netherlands. They’re going after Norway right now.

If you view Trump as a “Manchurian candidate” in league with Russia, how does that complicate the battle against ISIS and international terrorism?

Well, as far as Trump and Russia is concerned, it doesn’t because they view ISIS as the vanguard of Islam and as being a fundamentalist basis of the religion. The worst part of it all is that this comes from Osama bin Laden. He attacked us on 9/11 in order to induce a clash of civilizations between the Christian West and Islam. In all of these insane right-wingers, none of them have any military experience, and the military people that they do have that are on board with their ideology are the ones who we consider insane. These are the Jack D. Rippers from “Dr. Strangelove,” who want to start a global war and would use their authority at whatever level. This is dangerous.

This administration has got me frightened on a strategic scale because we’re all going to suffer from this. We have a saying in the military: “The stupid shall be punished.” This nation voted for stupid, and we are going to get punished because these people have no sense of decorum, no sense of decency, no sense of living up to any of the traditions enacted over 240 years of this great nation growing.

They are the wrecking crew, and they don’t work for this nation. I really think their ideology is based on an ideology they got from Putin’s philosopher, Alexander Dugin, the man who believes that Western liberal democracy must be destroyed and a strongman authoritarianism [must] step into its place, and then you could reshape the world as you saw fit. That’s Hitler and Stalin talk.

What do you think comes next? Do you think this administration can survive this scandal? Is the partisanship so deep they’re going to weather the storm?

No. There is a very serious chance that this could split the country in a very negative way. That’s what Barack Obama did not want to happen, which is why he didn’t bring all of this out before the election: “No Drama Obama.” He thought that the norms of the United States would be of help, and that the American public, with the information that they had in hand, without any thumbs on the scale, would make the right choice for president. He was horribly wrong. Actually, he wasn’t wrong. He was only wrong by 70,000 people and three counties.

I think this will end in impeachment. If it does not, the American system of government will split in two. I mean, like the Democrats will just stonewall and say, “This is treason.” Then you’re going to get the Republicans who will say, “We’re going to use every level of power to go after anyone that doesn’t agree with us.” But at the street level, you won’t see the changes. You’ll still have the right to speak out. There won’t be any arrests like there were in Russia with Pussy Riot. But people who support Trump will do all of that. They’ll come and attack you. They will silence you. There will be self-appointed groups of people and militias that will make it clear that Trump is God.

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.


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