December 26, 2012
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that a Schofield soldier was charged with stabbing a woman in Waikīkī:
A 23-year-old man Schofield Barracks private was charged Monday in the stabbing of a woman in a stairwell in Waikiki early Sunday.
Solomon D.M. Battle was charged with second-degree attempted murder. He is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Police said the suspect and victim, who is in her early to mid-20s, were seen walking together in Waikiki sometime before 3:24 a.m. Sunday. Witnesses heard a woman scream and saw a man flee from a stairwell near a hotel. Police said the woman managed to track down a security guard, who called for help.
August 6, 2012
Bloomberg News reports “Wisconsin Sikh Shooting Suspect Said To Be Army Veteran” (August 6, 2012):
The gunman suspected of killing six people before police shot him dead at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee was identified by police as a 40-year-old U.S. Army veteran with ties to white supremacists.
Wade Michael Page entered the Army in 1992 and served at Fort Bliss, Texas, as a Hawk missile-repair specialist before switching to be a “psychological operations specialist,” according to a defense official. He served at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before being discharged in 1998, said the official, who asked for anonymity, saying he wasn’t authorized to speak for the Army.
Police secure a neighborhood where the gunman lived who is suspected of opening fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin August, 5, 2012 Cudahy, Wisconsin. Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images
The Southern Poverty Law Center described Page as a “frustrated neo-Nazi” who in 2005 led a “racist white supremacist” metal band called End Apathy. The Montgomery, Alabama-based organization, which monitors hate groups, said it has been tracking Page for a decade.
Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates describes the Islamophobic climate from which “Christian Terror” such as the Wisconsin Sikh massacre or the emerges “Islamophobia, Antisemitism and the Demonized ‘Other’: Parallels among bigotries reflect the conspiratorial mindset” (August 2012).
Responding to the Wisconsin massacre, in “Why History Matters” (August 6, 2012), Scot Nakagawa revisits the context of war, deeply imbedded structural racism and white racial fears that spurred the WWII internment of Japanese American and Alaska Natives:
The color of the demons under our beds are still black and brown. And when racism and fear combine, particularly in times of crisis, the mixture is too often lethal. Lethal to our rights, our freedoms, even to our lives.
That we continue to be afraid of those we label The Other was made tragically evident by this weekend’s shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The shooting resulted in the deaths of 6 people. And according to Mark Potok and the Southern Poverty Law Center, the suspected shooter is “a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.”
[ . . . ]
History tells us that these phenomena are connected. History also shows that encouragement of bigotry in the form of scapegoating, racist pandering, and fear mongering on the part of visible mainstream leaders makes matters worse and may even be the glue the holds all the other trends together – word to Michele Bachman.
And Harsha Walia writes that “Hate Crimes Always Have A Logic: On The Oak Creek Gurudwara Shootings” (August 6, 2012):
White supremacy is fostered, cultivated, condoned, and supported–in the education system and mainstream corporate media, from military missions to the prison industrial complex.
The crimes of white supremacists are not exceptions and do not and cannot exist in isolation from more systemic forms of racism. People of colour face legislated racism from immigration laws to policies governing Indigenous reserves; are discriminated and excluded from equitable access to healthcare, housing, childcare, and education; are disproportionately victims of police killings and child apprehensions; fill the floors of sweatshops and factories; are over-represented in heads counts on poverty rates, incarceration rates, unemployment rates, and high school dropout rates. Colonialism has and continues to be shaped by the counters of white men’s civilizing missions. The occupation of Turtle Island is based on the white supremacist crime of colonization, where Indigenous lands were believed to be barren and Indigenous people believed to be inferior. The occupation of Afghanistan has been justified on the racist idea of liberating Muslim women from Muslim men. Racialized violence has also always targeted places of worship–the spiritual heart of a community. In Iraq, for example, the US Army accelerated bombings of mosques from 2003-2007 with targeted attacks on the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque, Abu Hanifa shrine, Khulafah Al Rashid mosque and many others. And so I repeat: the patterns of hate crimes have a sense, have a logic, have a structure – they are part of a broader system of white supremacy.
[. . . ]
Media reports also note that Page was a psychological operations specialist in the Army, responsible for developing and analyzing intelligence that would have a “psychological impact on foreign populations.” While racialized cultures and religions are consistently held to task, the culture and system of white supremacy is never scrutinized by the state or media. What breeds white power movements? Who funds white power groups? How are people recruited into neo-Nazi groups? What is the connection between white supremacist groups and state institutions like the Army? These are the questions that will never be interrogated because whiteness is too central, too foundational to the state and to this society to unsettle.
White supremacy, as a dominant and dominating structuring, actually necessitates and relies on a discourse that suggests that hate crimes are random. Otherwise, whites might just have to start racially profiling all other young and middle-aged white men at airports or who are walking while white. Whites might have to analyze what young white children are being taught about in schools and in their homes about privilege and entitlement. Whites might have to own up to and seek to repair the legacy of racialized empire, imperialism, and settler-colonialism that has devastated and continues to destroy the lives and lands of millions of people across the globe.
Whites might actually have to start distancing themselves from white supremacy.
Now, that’s a fresh idea.
July 13, 2012
In 2005, DMZ-Hawaiʻi / Aloha ʻAina first exposed the fact that, despite Army assurances that depleted uranium was not used in Hawaiʻi, in fact, depleted uranium (DU) had been found at Schofield Barracks on Oʻahu. Since then, the Army has tried to dismiss the problem. In order to not run afoul of nuclear regulatory laws, the Army applied for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to “possess” DU at several ranges, including Schofield and Pohakuloa in Hawaiʻi. Several activists petitioned to intervene in the proceedings, but were denied standing. However, the regulatory conference calls are open to the public. It seems that the Army has been trying to skirt the NRC regulations. After receiving the license to “possess” DU in Schofield, the Army decided to start doing grubbing and construction in a contaminated area. The NRC told the Army to stop because their permit did not allow for such a “removal” action. There was recently a conference call on this matter. Thanks to Cory Harden from Sierra Club Moku Loa chapter who shared her unofficial notes from that call, which, by the way, are quite revealing of the Army’s dismissive attitude to the health risks as well as their disrespect to the NRC regulators.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM 7-12-12 TELEPHONE CONFERENCE
ON HAWAIʻI DEPLETED URANIUM (DU)
BETWEEN NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION (NRC) AND ARMY
Caveat—there may be inaccuracies—this is my best understanding of a technical discussion—Cory
Testy exchanges punctuated the conversation.
- The Army said onerous NRC restrictions put soldiers at “unnecessary and unacceptable risk” by impacting training and NRC has “virtual control of Army training ranges…” NRC countered by asking what specific conditions in the license will impact training and how NRC’s “statuatory mandate [is] harmful to the nation.”
- The Army said the DU response nationwide has cost $10 million so far, and ongoing costs will be $100,000 a year per Hawai’i base (Pohakuloa and Schofield). There are 15 other known DU sites in the U.S. NRC asked what percentage of the Army’s operational budget $100,000 was. The Army said they’d get back to NRC in writing.
- NRC told the Army sharply not to “throw reports” at NRC “willy-nilly” but to tie them to relevant conclusions. NRC called for more data to back up several Army conclusions, such as little migration of DU, and no need for sampling of sediments and of ground and surface water. The Army said NRC requirements keep becoming more burdensome. NRC asked if the Army was contesting one of the license conditions. Army staff said they were not authorized to answer.
Issues covered included:
- For now, no high-explosive munitions will be fired into DU areas. To resume firing, the Army would need to do a risk assessment (requiring another telephone conference) plus environmental monitoring.
- NRC said there was uranium in some water samples, but the Army did not mention this to NRC. The Army said they will release a study on this soon.
- Isaac Harp asked that air monitoring be done at Makua, where no ground surveys were done because of unexploded ordnance and thick vegetation. The Army said they have data on Makua which they will share with NRC.
- NRC will look into whether the 2,000-pound dummy bombs dropped on Pohakuloa from high altitudes may liberate DU dust.
- Dr. Cherry of the Army said they will do their best to check for DU in exploratory water wells planned for Pohakuloa.
- The Army agreed it was inappropriate when a DU air sampling study at Schofield included ash and soil in one sample.
- The Army wishes to delay issuance of the license until the end of August so it can address issues raised by NRC.
- It is possible to challenge the license after it is issued, but the license would not be changed unless the challenge succeeded.
- NRC is looking into ways to make information on the license and ongoing reports more easily available to the public.
Dr. Cherry of the Army said:
- the Atomic Energy Commission (precursor to NRC) and NRC had numerous opportunities, such as license renewals, over the course of 50 years, to offer guidance to the Army on controls for DU spotting rounds, but never offered any guidance.
- A May 10, 2011 document (I didn’t catch the author) said the spotting rounds were not believed to pose a health hazard and they could be left on the ranges. So the Army may have had no obligation to inform NRC of the 2005 discovery, but did so anyway.
- All studies indicate no health hazards, low probability of migration, and harmless radiation levels.
PO Box 10265
Hilo, Occupied Hawai’i 96721
June 28, 2012
Here are two articles citing the recent court ruling that enjoins the Army from conducting live fire training in Makua until it has completed marine environmental impact studies as required by a 2001 settlement with Malama Makua. The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported “Army must conduct more studies on live-fire training at Makua” (June 21, 2012).
The AP reported “Judge wants updated Makua Valley studies” (June 22, 2012):
No branch of the military has trained in Makua with live ammunition since 2004, after the Army failed to complete a court-ordered environmental study on the effects of decades of military training. The Army and its opponents have been embroiled in a decade-long legal dispute over how the military may use the valley.
Many Native Hawaiians consider the valley sacred. Others object because the environment includes more than 50 endangered plant and animals. Lawsuits came after the training exercises led to multiple fires in the 4,190-acre Waianae Coast valley.
But this court ruling will not bar all Army training in Makua, and the slow easing out of Makua may be deliberate misdirection from the enormous military (Army and Marine Corps) at Pohakuloa on Hawai’i island:
Army officials say the military branch will abide by the order and use the military reservations in different ways, and decide whether to resume live-fire training once the studies are complete.
“The Army will continue to prepare soldiers through a training regimen that does not employ live fire while studies are completed, the results are analyzed and the appropriate level of National Environmental Policy Act planning is completed,” the Army said in a statement.
Last year, the top Army commander in the Pacific told The Associated Press he would need to keep his options open on Makua in case the construction of new ranges at Schofield Barracks and Pohakuloa Training Area is delayed.
In other words, the Army is holding Makua hostage while it expands on Hawai’i island.
June 28, 2012
For immediate release: June 21, 2012
Sparky Rodrigues, Mālama Mākua, (808) 352-0059
Court Confirms No Live-Fire Training at Mākua until Army Completes Missing Studies
Army ordered to report on progress in studying marine contamination, threats to cultural sites
HONOLULU – Yesterday, U.S. District Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway issued an order confirming that no live-fire training may take place at Mākua Military Reservation (MMR) on O‘ahu until the Army completes new studies of potential military contamination of marine resources at Mākua and new surveys of Native Hawaiian cultural sites at risk of destruction from military training. Judge Mollway previously found that the Army’s failure to carry out these studies violated two court-ordered settlements with Mālama Mākua, a Wai‘anae Coast community group that first sued the Army in 1998 to secure comprehensive review of the impacts of military training at MMR.
“Last year, the Army said it wanted to keep open the option of conducting live-fire training at Mākua,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who represents Mālama Mākua. “Yesterday’s order makes clear that the court will hold the Army to the promise it made in 2001 that it would first complete these important studies before any live-fire training can occur.”
In October 2010, Judge Mollway determined that the Army violated its obligation under a 2001 settlement with Mālama Mākua to complete comprehensive subsurface archaeological surveys to identify cultural sites that could be damaged or destroyed if mortar rounds, artillery shells, and other ordnance go astray during training exercises, as they have in the past. Despite the passage of nearly two years since that ruling, the Army failed to take any steps to carry out the required surveys. In yesterday’s order, Judge Mollway instructed the Army to file quarterly progress reports to “update the court on the progress of these surveys.”
The Army also must report on its progress on studies of contamination of limu (seaweed) and other marine resources in Mākua’s nearshore waters on which Wai‘anae Coast families rely for subsistence. In her October 2010 order and in a separate order following a June 2011 trial, Judge Mollway concluded the Army had violated the terms of a 2007 settlement with Mālama Mākua when it failed to conduct these marine studies.
“We have been waiting over a decade for the Army to make good on its promises to conduct meaningful studies to let us know if military training at Mākua is poisoning the food that we put on the table to feed our keiki (children) and to identify cultural sites that military training threatens to destroy,” said Mālama Mākua president Sparky Rodrigues. “We’re pleased that the court will be now be keeping tabs on the Army to make sure we finally get accurate information about the harm to public health and cultural sites that military training at Mākua can cause.”
Mālama Mākua is a non-profit, community organization based on the Wai‘anae Coast of O‘ahu. Formed in 1992 to oppose the Army’s open burn/open detonation permit application to the EPA, Mālama Mākua has continued to monitor military activities at Mākua and has participated in a number of community initiatives to care for the land and resources at Mākua.
Earthjustice is the nation’s leading non-profit environmental law firm. The Mid-Pacific Office opened in Honolulu in 1988 and represents environmental, Native Hawaiian, and community organizations. Earthjustice is the only non-profit environmental law firm in Hawai‘i and the Mid-Pacific and does not charge clients for its services.
May 14, 2012
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported “Hit-and-run driver sentenced” (May 11, 2012):
A state judge sentenced the hit-and-run driver who killed 18-year-old bicyclist Zachary Manago to the maximum 10-year prison term Thursday for leaving the scene of the fatal traffic accident in 2010.
In addition, Circuit Judge Edward H. Kubo Jr. ordered Army Sgt. Douglas Curtis to pay Manago’s mother $4,233 for her son’s funeral expenses and to pay $500 into a state special fund for neurotrauma victims.
Curtis is also facing discharge from the Army because he cannot remain in the military with a felony conviction, his lawyer Jonathan Burge said.
February 14, 2012
After several weeks of speculation and anonymous ‘leaks’ about possible changes to the U.S.-Japan plan to relocate the Futenma Marine base to Henoko, Okinawa, government officials announced that the U.S. would begin moving some troops out of Okinawa, independent of the base relocation to Henoko. But the news is having an unsettling effect across the entire region. Here are a sampling of the articles.
The AP reported “Okinawa Marines going to Guam, Australia, Hawaii and Philippines” (February 7, 2012):
Japan and the United States agreed Wednesday to proceed with plans to transfer thousands of U.S. troops out of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, leaving behind the stalled discussion about closing a major U.S. Marine base there.
The transfer, a key to U.S. troop restructuring in the Pacific, has been in limbo for years because it was linked to the closure and replacement of the strategically important base that Okinawans fiercely oppose.
The announcement Wednesday follows high-level talks to rework a 2006 agreement for 8,000 Marines to transfer to the U.S. territory of Guam by 2014 if a replacement for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma could be built elsewhere on Okinawa.
That agreement has been effectively scuttled by opposition on Okinawa, where many residents believe the base should simply be closed and moved overseas or elsewhere in Japan. More than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan, including 18,000 Marines, are stationed on Okinawa, taking up around 10 percent of the island with nearly 40 bases and facilities.
The two governments said in a joint statement that the transfer of thousands of U.S. Marines to Guam would not require the prior closure of Futenma, as the original pact required. Details of the realignment will be discussed further, but about 10,000 troops will remain on Okinawa, as in the original agreement.
The reduced number of troops projected to move to Guam may be encouraging to grassroots groups who have fought against the military expansion in Guam. However the Governor of the U.S. colony, and the many businesses that hoped to cash in on the boom, were disappointed:
Guam, meanwhie, has pushed hard for the troop buildup because of the potential economic boom.
“We are the closest U.S. community to Asia. We are very patriotic citizens. And unlike many foreign countries and even some U.S. communities, we welcome an increased military presence,” Gov. Eddie Calvo said in a statement last week.
Guam, which is being built up to play a greater role in Washington’s Asia-Pacific strategy, could also stand to get far fewer Marines than expected if the new plan goes through. The tiny U.S. territory had been counting on a huge boost from the restructuring plan, and may have to revise its forecasts.
But officials said the revised number could be more manageable.
A smaller contingent of Marines would alleviate concerns on Guam that the swelling military presence would overwhelm the island’s infrastructure and environment.
Mark G. Calvo, the director of Guam’s military buildup office, said the territory has been briefed by the Department of Defense about the talks with Japan and supports the transfer, even if it is smaller than expected. He said the idea of reducing it to about 4,000 Marines had been discussed after an environmental impact assessment two years ago pointed to possible problems.
“There are concerns about a loss of economic benefits, but it puts us in a better position to adjust our infrastructure,” he said.
The AFP reported “US Marines may leave Japan before base closure” (Febraury 8, 2012):
Thousands of US Marines could leave Japan’s Okinawa island before a controversial American base is closed, Washington and Tokyo announced Wednesday, in the latest twist in a long-running saga.
In a densely-worded joint statement, the two sides said they were talking about “delinking” the redeployment of 8,000 Marines from a 2006 agreement to close the base in the crowded urban area of Futenma.
It has been widely reported in Japan that Washington has now set its sights on shifting 4,700 Marines to Guam without waiting for Japan to stop its foot-dragging over the accord, which would see a new facility built in a sparsely populated coastal area.
The original agreement offered the carrot of a Marine drawdown in exchange for Okinawans allowing the construction of an airstrip at Henoko.
The Washington Post headline was “U.S. likely to scale down plans for bases in Japan and Guam” (February 8, 2012):
The U.S. military will probably scale back plans to build key bases in Japan and Guam because of political obstacles and budget pressures, according to U.S. and Japanese officials, complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen its troop presence in Asia.
Under a deal announced Wednesday with Japanese officials, the U.S. government said it will accelerate plans to withdraw 8,000 Marines from the island of Okinawa. The decision came after several years of stalled talks to find a site for a new Marine base nearby.
Washington’s inability to resolve its basing arrangements on Okinawa, as well as the rising price tag of a related plan for a $23 billion military buildup on Guam, underscore the challenges facing the Obama administration as it seeks to make a strategic “pivot” toward the Pacific after a decade of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Japanese government said it is still committed to a 2006 accord with the United States to find a new base location for other Marines who will remain on Okinawa. But officials in Tokyo acknowledged that they had made little progress in the face of fierce resistance from islanders opposed to the long-standing U.S. military presence there. Bleak public finances in the United States and in Japan have also undermined the effort.
The article also described the proposal to rotate troops to different locations in the Asia-Pacific region, including an expanded U.S. military presence in Singapore:
The administration has moved on a series of fronts to bolster the U.S. military presence in Asia and the Pacific recently. Officials reached a deal with Australia to deploy a small number of Marines to Darwin and are holding talks with the Philippines about expanding military ties.
Those moves, along with an agreement to station Navy ships in Singapore, are part of a broader strategy aimed at countering China’s rising influence in the region. Although the Obama administration wants to retain the bulk of U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan, where they have maintained a heavy presence since World War II and the Korean War, officials said they are looking to expand their presence in Southeast Asia.
With the United States shifting its axis of security toward the Asia-Pacific by expanding its military footprint in Australia, the Philippines and Vietnam, it may be high time for the United States Marine Corps to leave Japan’s Okinawa.
A shifting security dynamic in the region, most notably due to China’s enhanced strike capabilities, will likely marginalize the marines’ presence on the island.
The Asia Times article explored how the U.S. strategy is directed at countering China’s rise, but it tended to overemphasize the military threat from China as the reason for moving troops from Okinawa:
The planned transfer of thousands of marines to Guam without progress on the Futenma relocation is also part of an ongoing US strategy to counter China’s military build-up, especially its growing naval power in the West Pacific.
The Pentagon is closely watching China’s “anti-access/area denial” strategy, which envisions blocking freedom of movement for US ships. By creating two lines of coastal defenses in the region, military analysts believe Beijing aims to nullify the capabilities of US aircraft carriers and air defenses within the zone.
The so-called AirSea battle concept combines US air and naval strengths. It departs from the Cold War-era AirLand Battle doctrine drafted to prepare for an invasion by the former Soviet Union.
The AirSea battle concept meant to combat China’s growing military might doesn’t fit with high troop levels on Okinawa, since the latter cannot be moved swiftly and could be easily targeted by China’s middle-range ballistic missiles such as the DF-21.
The new battle strategy forces the Pentagon to keep key US forces out of China’s strike range.
“It’s better for US Marines to keep at a safe distance from China,” Japanese military analyst Toshiyuki Shikata told Asia Times Online. “I expect the US to fortify Guam as a strong military base from now on.”
The Asia Times also revealed that in addition to shifting troops to Guam, Hawai’i, Australia and the Philippines, there have been talks about moving Marines to South Korea or other parts of Japan:
Japanese media have reported that apart from moving 4,700 marines from Okinawa to Guam, the Pentagon is also considering rotating 3,300 to other overseas bases in the Pacific such as Hawaii, Australia and the Philippines.
Of the 3,300 marines, media have reported that 1,000 will be deployed to Hawaii and 800 to the US mainland. Meanwhile, other media have said 2,300 will go to Darwin in northern Australia and 1,000 to Hawaii.
It’s also been reported that the US has sounded out Tokyo on transferring about 1,500 marines to the Iwakuni marine base in Yamaguchi Prefecture – the only Marine Corps Air Station on mainland Japan – with central and local governments flatly rejecting the idea.
Some US Marines stationed in Okinawa will likely move to South Korea, Chosun Ilbo also has reported. Pentagon spokesperson Leslie Hull-Ryde on Friday denied the South Korean newspaper’s report by saying, “there has been no discussion between the US and the Republic of Korea [South Korea] on this issue”.
Unclear figures on how many US Marines are actually on Okinawa – due to expeditions and rotating shifts – has also aggravated the Japanese public. While both the US and Japanese governments claim 18,000 marines are normally based on Okinawa, the Okinawa prefectural government says only 14,958 marines were based on the island as of September 2009.
Military experts estimate the number at 12,000-14,000 at best in recent years because of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Then Japanese defense minister Toshimi Kitazawa said in February 2010 that there were only 4,000 to 5,000 marines stationed on Okinawa due to Iraqi and Afghanistan deployments.
The US and Japanese governments say there will 10,000 marines in Okinawa even after shifting 8,000 marines around the island. But the claim could be just a pretext to avoid military budget cuts.
Plans for deep US defense cuts are another major likely reason why moving the marines out of Okinawa has been disconnected from the relocation of the Futenma airbase.
The Marine Corps Times published an article “More Marines may deploy to South Korea” (February 14, 2012) expounding on the possible stationing of more Marines in South Korea:
Recent South Korean media reports have highlighted two items of interest. The first was a Jan. 19 meeting in Seoul attended by the commanding generals of Marine Corps Forces-Korea and the Republic of Korea Marine Corps. There, the two sides agreed to expand combined training exercises, including a large joint-landing operation planned for the first half of this year.
The second report is potentially more sensitive. Two articles, one Feb. 8 and another Feb. 10, published in the Chosun Ilbo, a national daily newspaper, indicate that as part of the planned move of U.S. Marines from Okinawa, an undetermined number may end up going to South Korea on a rotational basis.
A Defense Department spokeswoman, Lt. Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, had no immediate comment on either of the South Korean media reports, saying no decisions have been finalized concerning the scope of planned personnel shifts in the Pacific.
Reuters published an interesting article “Exclusive: U.S. military seeks more access in Philippines” (February 9, 2012) on the proposed expansion of the U.S. military presence and activities in the Philippines. Calling it “access, not bases,” the Philippines government hopes to deflect public protest for violating the 1987 constitutional ban on any permanent foreign military presence. The Philippines has been a laboratory for new types of basing arrangements, where U.S. troops, equipment and supplies are “temporarily” stationed in the country for training missions:
The United States is seeking more access to Philippines ports and airfields to re-fuel and service its warships and planes, diplomatic and military sources said on Thursday, expanding its presence at a time of tension with China in the South China Sea.
But it is not trying to reopen military bases there.
Washington’s growing cooperation in the Philippines, a U.S. ally which voted to remove huge American naval and air bases 20 years ago, follows the U.S. announcement last year of plans to set up a Marine base in northern Australia and possibly station warships in Singapore.
It also coincides with diplomatic and military friction in the South China Sea and its oil-rich Spratly Islands, which are subject to disputed claims by China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.
Last month, senior Philippine defense and foreign affairs officials met their U.S. counterparts in Washington to discuss ways to increase the number and frequency of joint exercises, training, ship and aircraft visits and other activities.
“It’s access, not bases,” a foreign affairs department official familiar with the strategic dialogue told Reuters.
“Our talks focus on strengthening cooperation on military and non-military activities, such as disaster response and humanitarian assistance, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation. There were no discussions about new U.S. bases,” he said.
These activities would allow the U.S. military more access in the Philippines, stretching its presence beyond local military facilities and training grounds into central Cebu province or to Batanes island near the northern borders with Taiwan. (Emphasis added)
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported “Admiral Seeks Freer Hand in Deployment of Elite Forces” (February 12, 2012) that the Commander of the Special Operations Command wants more autonomy for special forces, which as Filipino activists point out, is the main branch of the military involved in counterinsurgency operations in Mindanao:
The officer, Adm. William H. McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command, is pushing for a larger role for his elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy. The plan would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed.
It would also allow the Special Operations forces to expand their presence in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Filipino reactions to the news has ranged from outrage to sarcasm. Erick San Juan wrote an opinion piece in the Zamboanga Today Online, “Let’s get our acts together!“ (February 14, 2012), in which he suggested that Senator Inouye’s visit to the Philippines last year was a prospecting mission for expanding the U.S. military presence:
Americans are our friends. But, let us all be wary every time Uncle Sam’s top officials and representatives visit the country. . .
In May of last year, I wrote about the “visit” of US Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and William Thad Cochran (R- Mississippi) to the country for a “possible return of the US naval base in Subic.” Of course, the US embassy here denied this and that the visit was “to see the economic progress in the Subic Freeport area that has been made over the years and to ask how the US can collaborate.”
And, could it be that the said visit of the two elder senators from the US Senate Appropriations committee was to test the water, so to speak of what could be the reaction of the populace?
US troops never left and they are using our military camps as portable bases via the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). In this way, they are actually saving a lot of dollars because in reality the annual joint military exercises has benefitted them a lot more than our Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Actually that “smaller base” in the south has been there as the aftermath of Bush’s synthetic war on terror. And now, according to reports, Uncle Sam will send its marines and navy men in Subic Bay on rotation with its other allies.
Speaking of portable base, Washington has plans of deploying of what they call “floating base”, first in the Middle East this summer. According to news release from the New York Times online dated 1/27/2012 – The conversion of the Ponce, which had been scheduled for retirement, would be an interim step to providing the military with its first afloat staging base.
The Pentagon’s new budget proposals, unveiled Thursday, included money to turn a freighter hull into a full-time floating base that could be moved around the world for military operations or humanitarian missions.
Seriously? That familiar line again – for humanitarian missions?
February 6, 2012
Over the past week there have been confusing and contradictory reports about plans to relocate U.S. military bases in Okinawa. Do they reflect the actual state of disarray in the U.S.-Japan alliance or psychological operations to pressure local communities into accepting base relocation plans in Okinawa and Guam?
On February 1, the Kyodo News Service reported that:
The U.S. Defense Department is considering shifting part of some 8,000 Marine troops in Okinawa Prefecture to Hawaii and other Pacific areas instead of Guam, Pentagon sources said Tuesday.
This alarmed the Pacific Daily News in Guam: “BREAKING NEWS: Kyodo reports that 3,000 Marines may move to Hawaii instead of Guam.” However its concern was that Guam would lose out on the economic “benefits” of the military buildup. Meanwhile grassroots communities in Guam and Hawai’i brace to fight the latest threats of military expansion.
Then Bloomberg News reported “Obama Said to Curtail $21 Billion Guam Military Expansion”(February 3):
President Barack Obama plans to curtail a plan costing as much as $21.1 billion to expand the U.S. military’s presence in Guam and instead will rotate some of the Marines through the Asia-Pacific region, people familiar with the matter said.
The administration now intends to send about 4,500 U.S. Marines stationed in Japan to Guam and to rotate an additional 4,000 through Australia, Subic Bay and perhaps a smaller base in the Philippines and Hawaii, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan hasn’t been announced.
Joseph Gerson suggested that these news leaks may have been part of a psychological campaign to pressure Japan and Okinawa into accepting the 2006 “Roadmap” relocating the Futenma base to Henoko and moving 8000 Marines to Guam. It appears that some elements of the base realignment will proceed, while others are put on hold. On February 4, the Japan Times reported “Genba, U.S. huddle anew over ’06 base pact”:
“Both Japan and the U.S. remain unchanged in that we think relocating the Futenma base to Henoko is the best plan and that the number of marines who will remain in Okinawa will also be the same — 10,000,” Genba said.
Earlier this week, Kyodo News reported that out of the 8,000 marines that would be redeployed to Guam under the Futenma relocation plan, the U.S. was instead considering deploying some 3,000 of them elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, including Hawaii, because of Guam’s proximity to China.
On Friday, Bloomberg also reported that about half the marines would be rotated around the region, including Australia and Subic Bay in the Philippines, in line with Washington’s new defense strategy to increase the U.S. presence in Asia.
The bilateral 2006 realignment plan entailed shifting 8,000 marines and their dependants to Guam upon completion of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko coast in Nago farther north on Okinawa Island.
But on February 6, a Kyodo/Bloomberg article reported “Marine base to remain in Futenma: U.S.”:
A senior U.S. official told Japanese officials in late January that Futenma Air Station will have to stay in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, for the time being because of the standoff over its relocation plan, sources close to bilateral relations said Sunday.
This suggests that the facility, U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, is staying in the crowded city despite a formal bilateral agreement to return the land to Japanese control once a replacement facility is built for it elsewhere in the prefecture.
On Saturday, Japan and the United States reportedly agreed to move 4,700 marines in Okinawa to Guam instead of 8,000, delinking the transfer plan from the contentious Futenma relocation plan stipulated in the road map for realigning U.S. forces in Japan.
The developments have increased the likelihood that the relocation issue is headed for the back burner, which is likely to upset the already upset Okinawan public, which has been fighting the plan tooth and nail for well over a decade.
Meanwhile, the AP reported “Army reducing number of combat brigades to cut costs.” Taking into account the Pentagon’s new concentration on the Asia Pacific region, it could mean an increase in the size of Army brigades in Hawai’i:
The Army plans to slash the number of combat brigades from 45 to as low as 32 in a broad restructuring of its fighting force aimed at cutting costs and reducing the service by about 80,000 soldiers, according to U.S. officials familiar with the plans.
Officials said the sweeping changes will likely increase the size of each combat brigade — generally by adding another battalion — in a long-term effort to ensure that those remaining brigades have the fighting capabilities they need when they go to war. A brigade is usually about 3,500 soldiers, but can be as large as 5,000 for the heavily armored units. A battalion is usually between 600-800 soldiers.
It’s time to reduce, not relocate U.S. bases and forces from the Asia Pacific and invest in “Trans Pacific Peace”!
January 26, 2012
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that 22-year old Army veteran Kevin Merk has been arrested as a suspect in several burglaries in the Kane’ohe area:
An Army veteran arrested Sunday for allegedly breaking into buildings on the Castle High School campus may also be a suspect in other recent Windward Oahu burglaries, officials said.
Kevin J. Merk, 22, charged with two counts of second-degree burglary and one count of second-degree attempted burglary, was being held Monday in lieu of $150,000 bail at Oahu Community Correctional Center. He was arrested on the high school campus about 3:55 a.m. Sunday.
The paper reported that “Merk may be responsible for other burglaries in the Windward area, including at St. Ann’s School and the Kokokahi YWCA”:
Among the items taken during the burglaries were a bicycle, a laptop computer and hundreds of dollars in cash, Murray said. The money was taken from the library, which has been burglarized four times since Dec. 13, and a large donation jar left in the open was taken from another campus building, he said.
The paper reported that Merk had served in the Army until November and is reportedly homeless.
January 15, 2012
Speaking at the 11th annual Hawaii Military Partnership Conference, an annual military-business love fest sponsored by the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, Commander of the U.S. Army Pacific described the monstrous Army heʻe (octopus) in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific: “Obviously our center of gravity is here in Hawaii. It’s where the majority of our forces are, it’s where the majority of our families live, it’s where our headquarters are located. But we have forces prepositioned and stationed around the entire Pacific realm.” Here’s the article from the Army website:
USARPAC commander outlines Hawaii’s importance to Army at community leaders’ talk
January 13, 2012
By W.B. Terry
- USARPAC commander stresses significance of Hawaii to USARPAC
- U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii maintains successful partnership with local community
- Soliders from USARPAC have played critical role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski joined senior military leaders of the Pacific Command at the 11th annual Hawaii Military Partnership Conference Jan. 5 in Waikiki.
Wiercinski, the U.S. Army Pacific commander, and other PACOM component commanders from each of the services based in Hawaii, presented an overview of current and projected posturing of the U.S. military in Asia and the Pacific to the Military Affairs Council, the Chamber of Commerce and other officials.
Wiercinski stressed the importance of Army forces in the Pacific.
“I’m here today to talk about the Army,” he said. “What is a fact, is that in a geopolitical and economic sense, the Pacific is the future. And it is, in this century because you are seeing a fundamental shift from Europe to the Pacific of our forces, of our priorities and where we’re headed.”
He stressed the significance of Hawaii to USARPAC.
“Obviously our center of gravity is here in Hawaii. It’s where the majority of our forces are, it’s where the majority of our families live, it’s where our headquarters are located. But we have forces prepositioned and stationed around the entire Pacific realm.”
Solider deployments from USARPAC have played a critical role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Wiercinski said. Since 2001, USARPAC has deployed 115,000 Soldiers from the U.S. Army Pacific into those areas.
The commander also praised the success of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii and its partnership with the local community.
“Our garrison here in Hawaii is the fourth largest garrison that we have in the Army. Just like we’ve signed a U.S. Army Covenant to our Families and our Soldiers, we’ve signed a Hawaii Covenant that is also a commitment to the people here in Hawaii, the local community and the ohana that we all belong. We have many forums that we conduct monthly, quarterly and yearly to make sure we’re staying on that path to meet our requirements and responsibilities. Some of the things that we do is teaching partnership and watching out for the environment and culture that is so rich here in Hawaii,” he said.
The keynote speaker at the conference was Adm. Robert F. Willard, U.S. Pacific Commander. He said Hawaii, as the forward most state, is the most strategic in terms of entry into Asia and is an important region of the world.