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Guam: The invisible colony’s struggle for survival

Guam: The invisible colony’s struggle for survival


Niko Leka & Edmund Parker
Green Left Weekly

Two representatives of Guam’s Chamoru people are visiting Australia. Lisa Natividad and Julian Aguon are fighting against the militarisation of their land by the US.

Guam has been a US territory since 1898, and, noted a November 5 Newsweek article, it “is fast becoming the linchpin of Washington’s new Asia strategy”.

“Guam is an ideal lily pad” for the Pentagon, the magazine reported, “since the United States can act there without seeking permission from allies … Declares Carl Peterson of the Guam Chamber of Commerce: ‘This is the US in Asia. This is the tip of the spear.’”

Brigadier General Douglas Owens, the commanding officer of Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base, describes the island as “an unsinkable aircraft carrier”.

Just north of the Equator below Japan, Guam was populated 4000 years ago by a matrilineal people, the Chamoru. In the 1500s it was colonised by Spain. After Spain’s defeat in the 1898 Spanish-American war, it was claimed by US claimed. It became important as a military base after World War II.

Guam is only about 50 kilometres long, and US bases occupy about a third of its length. The Australian reported on June 14 that “By 2014 Guam will receive about 8000 US marines who will transfer from their present base in Okinawa, the Japanese Government helping pay the $10 billion-plus relocation costs. With a population of about 170,000, Guam is already home to 12,000 US military personnel and the heavy build-up promises to put further strain on local communities.”

There are only some 65,000 Chamoru on Guam, according to the CIA World Fact Book. They are not only outnumbered, they are dying from illness due to US military activity. Many of the people exposed to radioactive dust during atomic tests nearby died prematurely.

In addition, US forces are polluting Guam with deadly chemicals including dioxins and PCBs. People who have lived there for over 4000 years can no longer eat the fish in their harbours and lagoons.

In April, Aguon addressed the UN about the situation facing Guam. His speech can be viewed at http://youtube.com/watch?v=U7V1ZGpR12w, or visit
http://decolonizeguam.blogspot.com for more information. An online petition against the decision of the US to further build up its military presence without consulting the people of Guam is at http://www.petitiononline.com/hasso/petition.html.

Natividad and Aguon will speak in Newcastle at 7pm on Monday, June 23, at a public meeting convened by the Hunter Valley Quakers and Newcastle NoWar collective. Admission is free, and supper will be provided. It is being help at the Quaker Meeting Place, Bryant Street, Tighes Hill (in the former Uniting Church next to Lifeline). For more information phone Bob on (02) 4921 5190 or Niko on 0406 296 141.

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