A FORMER U.S. diplomat turned peace activist advised Guam residents to be wary of the American government's military buildup plan for the island.
"We need to be looking very carefully at what our federal government does to us," said Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army colonel who spoke to a small crowd on the implications of the relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam during a presentation held Monday night at the University of Guam.
"While we all want to be safe and secure in the world, sometimes our federal government uses this issue of national security to do things to us that we normally wouldn't put up with," she added.
Wright accompanied members of the Code Pink Japan, a peace activist group, who visited Guam to discuss the impact of the military buildup with local activists. The group left Guam yesterday.
"Our delegation is here in solidarity with the people of Guam in terms of the movement of 8,000 marines from Okinawa. The people of Japan, particularly the people on Okinawa, have been working very hard to remove some of the extensive military forces. Now, they seem to be coming to your lovely island," said Wright, a native of Arkansas.
"The [Okinawans] certainly understand that whenever the U.S. military lands somewhere, it leaves a very large footprint. You all know it very well, because much of your land is already occupied by the U.S. military," the former U.S. envoy told the audience.
Wright is a former U.S. deputy ambassador who was assigned in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Mongolia and Micronesia. She joined the military at the time when the U.S. military was invading Vietnam.
On March 19, 2003, the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Wright cabled a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell, stating that without the authorization of the UN Security Council, the invasion and occupation of a Muslim, Arab, oil-rich country would be a isaster. Since then, she has been writing and speaking out for peace and is now a resident of Honolulu.
"It has been deeply emotional for all of us. Here we are in war again. The United States has started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," she said. "When you look at the number of civilians who have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guam, it brings home to us all what we should be working on."
"The history of the United States is not a peaceful history," said Wright, who added that the U.S. has, "a history of invading other countries."
With regard to the local military buildup, Wright told the audience that, "You have been seeing your own lands being taken from you," adding that, "The federal government builds without your agreement. They build enormous facilities that have disastrous effects on your environment."
The retired colonel suggested that people weigh the importance of their own lands, and whether or not it is worth it to lose those lands for an increase in short term values such as trade and business.
"Once the federal government gets its hands into something it never gets it out. With the Obama administration I certainly hope that we will all join together to throw out many of the provisions of the Patriot Act that are really curtailing our own civil liberties," she said.
Japanese parliamentarian and Code Pink member Sumi Fujita said that because of the long military presence and all of the rape cases in Okinawa, "women [there] now feel threatened."
"All of the military promises to help the Okinawan economy have been a big lie," Fujita said, through interpreter Hisae Ogawa.
As for the rape issue, Wright said, "This is a failure in leadership that is coming to you, that will allow this to continue."
"Sometimes being an activist leads to things that you'd never thought you'd be doing," said Wright.
The former U.S. diplomat also stated that we should all be aware of the "isms" created by policy makers. "Our government has been very good, meaning very bad, in using the ‘isms' like communism, terrorism, and fascism to frighten and scare the American public so that they can do things that normally we would protest," she said. "It something we should always be very wary of, when there's another ‘ism' coming up."