The Military Occupation of Guam and the Struggle Against Bases in Okinawa
by Melvin Won Pat-Borja
During a congressional hearing on the Guam military buildup in early April, US Representative Hank Johnson said that he feared the Military Relocation on Guam would cause our tiny island to capsize and sink. The comment, though not meant to be taken literally, caused an uproar among Chamorus everywhere. People were so outraged at his perceived ignorance that they continually bashed him in the media and all over the internet. The sad truth however is that Guam WILL sink. It will sink under the weight of tons of toxic waste dumped by the military each year, sink under the pressure of contaminated drinking water, sink under the weight of overpopulated schools, massive amounts of traffic, inadequate health care, and extreme over population. If this military expansion goes as planned, the people of Guam will surely sink to the bottom of the Marianas Trench and become nothing more than a footnote in America’s colonial history.
Our story began centuries ago when we first sailed from the coast of south east asia and made this beautiful chain of islands our home, but for the sake of time, THIS story will begin when the DEIS (draft environmental impact statement) for Guam and the military buildup was released in November of last year. The document laid the blueprint for the transfer of 8,000 marines and their 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam. It was an 11,000 page document that held our future in the margins of the paper it was printed on and the public was only given 90 days to comment on it. The plans suggested that Guam was the best alternative to right the wrongs that America’s armed forces had imposed on the people of Okinawa. The Department of Defense had chosen Guam because South Korea, the Philippines, California, and Hawaii all said “no.”
But the sad reality is that Guam was never offered that same courtesy. We are an unincorporated territory of the United States, leaving us victim to whatever decision America makes, whether it is beneficial for us or not. Guam is America’s dirty little secret, the step child that no one ever talks about. We are affectionately referred to as the place “where America’s day begins,” but no one likes to admit that America starts each day with injustice. We have traditionally been loyal servants, patriots, and second class citizens, enlisting more soldiers per capita than anywhere else in the world. It makes me wonder if America could even have a military without people like us. We are as American as apple pie and baseball when there is war on the horizon or when strategic positioning in the Pacific is needed, but we are not American when it is time to vote in congress or the senate or when it is time to elect a new president.