US military endangers people of Guam

“The Department of Defense already occupies one third of our lands and has harmed so much of our ocean. We cannot allow them to take more from our island and people. These projects will devastate our ecosystems, change our ways of life, and disregard our Chamorro culture. United we can stop this. Let’s stand together to protect our lands, ocean, and culture!”

We are Guahan, an association of indigenous Chamorro people from the Pacific island of Guahan (US name Guam), made this statement as the latest stage in their struggle against the US military’s occupation and militarisation of their home gathers pace.

The militarisation of the north-west Pacific is anchored around the small island of Guahan, which has been called “the tip of the US spear pointing at China”. The island offers the US proximity to potential targets and the advantages of being US territory (although the indigenous Chamorro do not agree) so the Pentagon can act there without seeking permission from allies.

Flying to China or North Korea from the West Coast of the United States takes 13 hours; from Guahan it takes four. A carrier group based at Guahan could reach Taiwan in two days.

The closeness of successive Australian governments to our “great and powerful friend”, especially in military matters, makes us complicit in the US denial of Chamorro indigenous rights and complicit in the threat to regional peace and security posed by the militarisation of Guahan.

Massive military build-up

In the past few years, in addition to massive upgrading of facilities and increased deployments of planes, submarines and other equipment, Guahan faces a doubling of the troops stationed there.

Washington and Tokyo have agreed to move 8600 marines and 9000 of their dependents to Guahan from Okinawa at a cost of US$10 billion (60% of which will be paid for by the Japanese government).

At its peak, the change is expected to boost the island’s population by 79,000 people, or 45% over the current 180,000 residents. The figure includes large numbers of construction workers who will have to move to Guahan to build the new facilities.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has sharply criticised the military’s plan, saying its failure to plan for infrastructure upgrades would lead to raw sewage spills and a shortage of drinking water.

The EPA said the military’s plan to build a new aircraft carrier berth at Apra Harbour would result in “unacceptable impacts” to more than 28 hectares of a high quality coral reef.

Impacts

“The impacts are of sufficient magnitude that EPA believes the action should not proceed as proposed and improved analyses are necessary to ensure the information in the EIS is adequate to fully inform decision makers”, the EPA said.

Specifically, the EPA said the military’s plan would lead to the following problems:

A shortfall in Guahan’s water supply, resulting in low water pressure that would expose people to water-borne diseases from sewage.

Increased sewage flows to wastewater plants already failing to comply with Clean Water Act regulations.

More raw sewage spills that would contaminate the water supply and the ocean.

The military underestimated the effect the aircraft carrier berth would have on coral reefs that currently provide essential habitats for fish and endangered sea turtles and that support commercial and recreational fishing.

At the United Nations Special Political and Decolonisation Committee, Dr Hope Cristobal recently declared: “I am here to testify that the indigenous people of Guam continue to suffer social, cultural, and environmental annihilation at the hands of our American oppressors”.

A representative for We are Guahan said: “We have repeatedly sought political rights; and the actions in response to those requests over the years have moved at a pace we no longer have the luxury of accommodating”.

The United States has been holding Guahan’s indigenous Chamorro peoples hostage to its military ambitions for more than 60 years. The Chamorro of Guahan have been denied their inalienable right to self-determination. They need your solidarity.