Harry Brill / The Berkeley Daily Planet – 2018-01-08 20:35:40
Guam’s Military Perspective: Let The Public Be Damned
Harry Brill / The Berkeley Daily Planet
(January 1, 2018) — Guam, which is a possession of the United States, has been making the news in response to military threats by North Korea. North Korea’s warning was triggered by military threats from President Trump. It is probably unlikely that either nation will attack the other.
On the other hand, Trump does not need the approval of Congress to launch an assault even with the deployment of nuclear weapons. Although North Korea and Guam are about 2100 miles apart, their missiles can reach each other in only 14 minutes. Neither side would have much time to prepare for a catastrophe. In any case, the battle rhetoric has certainly increased world tensions.
Guam is considered by the US Department of Defense as among the most important of the approximately 800 US bases. It is situated in the Pacific within easy reach of opponents, including China and North Korea. The base is also close to its allies, including Japan and South Korea.
Guam has a history that the Defense Department is proud of. To support the Vietnam War, the Air Force sent 155 bombers to Guam to hit targets in Southeast Asia. Guam has also served as a refueling spots for military heading to Southeast Asia. During the US war with North Korea (1950-1953) many of its bombers and soldiers were deployed from Guam.
Significantly, Guam is much more than a military base. It is also a growing colony of over 170,000 people. As a result of winning the a war against Spain (1898), the US obtained both Guam and Puerto Rico.
Like imperialist nations generally, the US never offered the people of Guam any options such as gaining independence. And democracy in this American occupied Island is almost completely absent. In prior decades public officials openly referred to Guam as a colony. But since this is no longer respectable, Guam like other US colonies is now referred to as a territory.
Those who are born in Guam or in several other US colonies are considered citizens. But it is in name only. They cannot vote for president, and although they are allowed one representative in the House of Representatives, they are not allowed to vote on the floor of the House.
On domestic issues, they cannot override any decisions made by the military even when it clearly impacts, as it often does, their quality of life. One general explained to reporters “We can do what we want here”.
About doing” what we want”, take for example the highly undemocratic decision of the navy to detonate explosives beneath the water’s surface. The media was filled with critical comments about the project. It can pollute drinking water which already is contaminated. Guam citizens insisted that they be consulted but they were unsuccessful.
The Coast Guard acknowledged the “inherent danger” and “potential hazards” associated with underwater detonation. But the Guam residents were told that it could not accommodate public comments due to time constraints.
What nonsense! There was no urgency to proceed as quickly as possible. Also, to the chagrin of Guam’s residents, the governor and other local leaders were blamed for their silence despite their anti-colonial rhetoric.
Clearly, Guam’s military establishment does not empathize with the problems of Guam’s citizens. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency Guam’s sewage plants, whose purpose is to remove contaminants from the water, is in noncompliance with the Clean Water Act.
Also, the air is foul due to Guam’s military activities. And especially for residents living near the military airport, the noise level from planes taking off is virtually intolerable. About Guam’s future, the population will be confronting another problem: the military is planning to relocate a minimum of 4,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam.
On this small Island, which is only 240 square miles, the public is concerned with the already crowded roads and the additional pollution more vehicles will spew. But the protests by many “citizens” have been as usual in vain.
The abysmal standard of living is also among Guam’s serious problems. Although Congress has been financially generous to Guam’s military base hardly enough trickles down to the population. About thirty percent of Guam’s residents receive food stamps compared to around 13 percent in the US generally.
The unemployment rate is 8.2 percent, which is twice as high as the national rate. And Guam’s official poverty rate is 23 percent compared to about 14 percent nationally. These are the official figures. The reality is really worse.
Guam’s military occupies about a third of the land. But politically speaking, the military impacts on the human rights of the entire civilian population. Its decisions are made undemocratically. It continually pollutes the environment. And it does essentially nothing to address the population’s poverty problem. Clearly, the major principle that guides the conduct of the Guam military is “Let The Public Be Damned”.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.