Japan Peace Conference 2006
I Nasion Chamoru, Guam
American Militarization: The Power of One
I come here this today because of my deep interest and confusion over a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which once was the importer of slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage. I refer, of course, to the United States of America.
This time last year, the U.S. government announced its plan to transfer 7,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam. Since then, like a rising tide of military expansion the numbers grow beyond all control and there seems to be no end in sight.
First, it was 7,000. Then, 8,000. Plus their 9,000 dependents, and finally in his June 28 address, the Governor of Guam announced that the onslaught of military personnel would be 35,000 additional troops and dependents from the Army, Air Force, and Navy. This does not include the wave of 15,000 exploited Filipino laborers, who in pursuit of a better wage, will leave their families, break their backs , and add to the degradation of the developing world all for the sake of a construction boom whose taxable revenue will not reside with the people of Guam.
But the U.S. will flood its 21st century colony with man as well as machine. According to the Navy, six nuclear submarines will be added to the three already housed here; talk of a massive Global Strike Force and a sixth aircraft carrier abound. Deputy Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Daniel Leaf recently spoke of plans to establish a strike and intelligence surveillance reconnaissance hub at Andersen Air Force Base. But this buildup will only complement the impressive Air Force and Navy show of force, which takes up a third of Guam already.
Yet, no one speaks of how Guam is to ready herself for this violent demographic shift. No one speaks as the ever-shrinking 37% of native Chamoru living on Guam, wonder how we will survive this latest act of an Empire gone mad with the plans of war.
To date, no social or environmental impact studies have been done, leaving the people of Guam without a full understanding of the burdens this buildup will place on the backs of our island and her people. Recent fact-finding missions in Okinawa reveal alarmingly high rates of societal violence, including hundreds of rapes and rape-murders. More than 4,790 acts of military violence against civilian women have occurred in the 34 years since Okinawa reverted back to Japan and yet the ministers of misinformation at the DOD promise: These Marines are family-oriented.
Expansion advocates argue that the modern U.S. military is kinder and gentler; more apt to cooperation with civilian authorities and more sensitive to the needs of a community. Yet, a mysterious master plan said to detail the transfer has yet to be presented to Guam, though it has been promised three times. And so we are left wondering aimlessly in the dark hoping that the torch light of military expansion will burn us no more than it has.
Meanwhile, Guam was the site of one of the largest joint military exercises in recent history. 22,000 U.S. military personnel, 30 ships, and 280 aircraft partook in "Valiant Shield." That same weekend, water was cut off to a number of villages on the Navy-controlled water line. The people of those villages went some thirty out of sixty days without running water and still more is wanted; talk of plans to condemn more of our land to accommodate unending military hungers remain, and though the U.S. military exists to protect it citizens from threats foreign and domestic, who will protect its second class citizens from the military?
A report released by a committee commissioned by the 26th Guam Legislature to investigate how Guam was affected by the U.S. bombing of the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 offered evidence of radioactive contaminations of our home. Guam, 1200 miles west of the Marshalls, received nuclear fallout from more than ten of the sixty-six bombs dropped on Eniwetok atoll alone.
Planes used to measure the radioactive nature of various bomb-induced were flown to Guam and flushed down.
To date, the toxins at Apra Harbor and Cocos Lagoon have yet to be cleaned. The Guam Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a public warning, asking our people to refrain from eating fish from there due to dangerous levels of cancer-causing dioxin in the water, and just east of Guam, four Marshallese babies born in 2005 without eyeballs, reminded the world that the price of manﾕs race toward a more effective way of killing his neighbor will be paid by the grandchildren he may not live to see.
Reports of related contamination are coming in from all over. Recently in Harris County, Texas, a retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant - riddled with a fifty-year-old guilt, declared before a Notary Public that Guam received radioactive fallout from the first hydrogen bomb test done in the Marshall Islands. Bert Schreiber, the Atomic, Biological, and Chemical Warfare Defense Officer stationed in Guam at the time, gave written testimony that on the morning of November 3, 1952, after discovering radioactive material on Guam from an H-bomb dropped on Eniwetok atoll two days prior, his superior ordered him to keep his mouth shut. The nuclear fallout came down like dust on an unsuspecting people on that otherwise ordinary morning. Today, there's another poison in the air--a desperate lethargy. An understanding that the world is being robbed of an entire people and a callous unwillingness to stop it.
America above all else is an idea; a place founded by revolutionaries who did not want an unruly military quartered in their homes, backbreaking taxes levied against farmers and the poor and men who fundamentally believed that no man was born with a saddle on his back so that other men may ride him. These are the principles which gave America birth; these are the principles which undergo a slow death now.
Everything that makes man's life worthwhile -- family, work, education, a place to rear one's children and a place to rest one's head -- all this depends on the decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people. Therefore, the humanity of man can be protected and preserved only where government must answer -- not just to the wealthy, not just to those of a particular religion, not just to those of a particular race, but to all of the people.
"There is," said an Italian philosopher "nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things." Yet this is the measure and the task of all generations, and the road is strewn with many dangers.
Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their friends, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world.
Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind. And everyone here will ultimately be judged, will ultimately judge himself, on the effort he has contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which his ideals and goals have shaped that effort.
So we part, I to my home and you to remain. We are, if a woman of 53 can claim the privilege, fellow members of the world's largest younger generation. Each of us has our own work to do. I know at times you must feel very alone with your problems and with your difficulties, I know that I do. But I want to say how impressed I am with what you stand for and for the effort that you are making; and I say this not just for myself, but men and women you have never met. And I hope you will often take heart from the knowledge that you are joined with people in other land, we struggling with our problems and you with yours, but all joined in a common purpose; that, We are determined to build a better future, together.
Si Yu'os Ma'ase.
Sign our on-line petition Peace and Justice for Guam at: http://www.petitiononline.com/haleta/petition.