As tensions grow on the Korean Peninsula, the Guamanian academic and anti-US colonialism campaigner Lisa Natividad speaks out about her nation, Guam, in the the cross-hairs of the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang.
A US colony since 1950, Lisa also speak on Guam's contemporary history, and the fight of her people for freedom from oppression and explotation.
Edu Montesanti: Lisa Natividad, thank you so very much for granting this so important interview. What is Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice's mission, presided by you, why and when was it founded, and how does it act?
Lisa Natividad: The Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice is an organization based in Guahan (Guam) that was founded by a group of women in 2006, following the announcement of the signing of an accord between the United States and Japan, to transfer 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa and South Korea to Guahan.
We women got together in horror of how our lives would be impacted if the US Department of Defense increased its occupation of our island. We decided that it was time to take a stand and claim our power by fighting for our rights and our homeland.
Our coalition has focused on the issues of political decolonization and demilitarization of our island. We have done this primarily through organizing conferences, public forums, engaging the media, presenting our issues before international entities such as the United Nations, and speaking campaigns in other countries.
How is the state of mind of the people of Guam now, in the cross-hairs of the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang, under the risk of nuclear attacks?
Collectively, I would say that the people of Guahan have mixed reactions to the nuclear threats of North Korea. On the one hand, we wishfully hope that we can believe our governor and the U.S. President that we are safe and that the U.S. military technology can counter any attacks by North Korea.
However, we know all too well the realities of war. Because of the U.S.'s presence on our island, we were invaded during World War II by the Japanese Imperial Army and were an active war zone from 1941 to 1944.
Knowing of an impending attack, the United States pulled out all its military personnel and their dependents, leaving our indigenous CHamoru people behind to suffer war- in their name.
During this period, our people experienced great atrocities of war to include rapes, work encampments, starvation and dehydration, and ultimately death.
We CHamorus continue to suffer from historical trauma from this experience that has impacted who we are today. So while we want to believe that the U.S. will keep us safe during these days of nuclear threats, our past experience has been the exact opposite.
We in Micronesia know the horrific power of nuclear weapons. Our neighboring country, the Marshall Islands, was the site of the detonation of 67 nuclear bombs by the United States. Marshallese people were evacuated from their home islands of Bikini, Rongelap, and Enewetak and were asked to do so in the service of humanity for the promotion of world peace.
We know today that nuclear bombs do not promote world peace, but rather are a major threat to achieving it. The Marshallese continue to suffer from life-threatening health problems to include cancer, birth defects, stillbirth of babies, to name a few. Their homeland is so highly contaminated with radiation that they still are not able to return to their home islands and if they do; do so with great risk.
Professor Michel Chossudovski recently said to me: "Incidentally, DPRK did not threaten to bomb Guam; what they said is that the would send an ICBM into the Ocean 40 km from Guam, there was official statement, and the Western media immediately distorted.". Yoru view, please, Lisa.
This is probably true. Also, DPRK has never said that it would send a preemptive strike.... it has always maintained the position that it would only strike after it has first been striked.
What are the consequences of the American colonization of Guam, on the economy, politics, education, culture in general, health system, media, military, and society in general, Lisa?
The American colonization of Guahan has created great problems for our island and our people. Guahan has been on the United Nations list of Non Self-Governing Territories since the inception of the list in 1945.
While other colonies of the world have been given the opportunity to decolonize and assert their independence, Guahan has been denied this most sacred human right by the United States. In 1985, the island introduced the Guam Commonwealth Act into U.S. Congress and after some negotiations, it was finally denied in 1997.
The island continues today to educate its community on the decolonization process through the work of the Guam Commission on Decolonization with the hopes of resolving its political status in the next few years.
As territorial subjects, we do not have the right to vote for the U.S. President. Also, we are given one congressional delegate seat in the U.S. Congress, however, this person does not have full voting rights.
The delegate is able to vote at the committee level- but only if the vote is not a tiebreaker. In the event that the vote breaks a tie, it will be considered null and void. The delegate does not get to vote on the floor in the committee of the whole.
This reality is a great mockery of our island and merely creates the illusion of inclusion in the American democratic system. In addition, we are afforded only 1/7 of the federal funding available to states.
The United States has also unilaterally applied a number of restrictive federal-territorial policies that inhibit the creation of a viable local economy. An example of this is the Jones Act, which specifically requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the U.S., owned by U.S. citizens, and U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents are the only ones who can serve on their crews.
The Jones Act is so damaging for Guahan's economy because it does not allow for imports from Asian-based shipping lines to ship directly to the island. This results in a much higher cost of goods.
But ultimately, the greatest detriment of our colonization is the absence of any political power. We have no voice in our own homeland to affectuate federal decisions that are made impacting our lives.
Guahan and her indigenous people suffer a classic colonial condition with the highest rates of social problems on the island as compared to non-CHamorus.
For example, CHamorus have the highest rates in the following: poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration, school drop-outs, teen-age pregnancy, suicide, cancer, and mental health problems- to name a few.
These realities serve as motivation for political decolonization so that Guahan and her people's self-determination can steer its future.
You have said of the Guam Commonwealth Act: please explain what was it, Lisa.
The Guam Commonwealth Act was a draft legislation for U.S. Congress that contained a form of self-government for Guahan by changing our political status to that of a commomwealth of the United States.
It was not a perfect choice, but it was more advantageous as compared to being an unincorportated territory as we are now.
How do your people feel for Guam being a US colony? What do Guamanians think and say about it?
People on Guahan are becoming more and more aware of the impacts of our current political reality of colonization.
This past decade has resulted in a ground-swelling of activism in the island's youth who are becoming intolerant of our current status and who are committing themselves to resolving this issue and being able to exercise their sacred right to self-determination.
Public protests, teach-ins about independence, peaceful rallies, and even a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense have all been employed as strategies for social change.
These activities were especially ignited when the U.S. announced its plans to relocated 8,000 of its Marines from Okinawa, Japan to Guahan.As a community, people had concerns over the impact on the safety of our women and children, our health, our environment, and our daily lives.
Does everybody speaks Chamorro in Guam, Lisa?
No, unfortunately our language is not spoken by everyone so I am now taking a class to learn my own language.... another byproduct of colonization!
What about governor Eddie Baza Calvo's positions in favor of the Guamanian people and local progress, against such a neocolonialism?
The Governor has convened the Guam Commission on Decolonization, so that gives us hope in his leadership.
However, he has great confidence in the U.S.'s military defense capabilities and has assured the community that we "are safe" in light of the nuclear threats.
Do Guamanians in general feel secure by the US military?
Some people buy the rhetoric of the U.S. that its military is present on island to, "protect us." However, with the growing groundswell of activism and deeper community knowledge of the realities of colonization and militarization, people are beginning to question exactly how safe the U.S. military's presence on Guahan makes us.
For in truth, it is the U.S.'s presence here that makes us a prime target for North Korea in its conflict with the United States. North Korea is noted for saying that they will target Andersen Air Force Base in the north of our island because of the presence of B1 and B2 Stealth bombers stationed there.
That is made very clear. If we did not have those planes, then we would not be a target. Our neighboring islands in Micronesia are not targets. But we are because of these bases.
So no, we do not feel safe and secure with the U.S. military here.
What about the press in Guam, Lisa? How does the media influence your people? Please speak a little more about this. I ask you this question again because, apart our real alternative media, in Latin America we have a totally subdued mainstream media in favor of the interests of the mediatic Pentagon, that is, the Washington regime severely colonizing minds, imprisioning souls in our region.
We are also plagued by the same experience wherein our local, U.S. connected media primarily reports from the perspective of indoctrinating people into believing that the United States is the greatest world power and that westernization and Americanization is the road to success.
The media is also used to promote the U.S.'s global agenda, only telling one-side of geo-political situations, and to justify the U.S.'s military industrial complex. This media posturing- when not confronted- results in increased U.S. patriotism and ongoing colonization of Guahan.
It is often the case that the local media misrepresents stories on efforts to decolonize and demilitarize Guahan. Hence, we are happy to engage global media who are willing to help us spread the message of our colonization and expansive U.S. militarization to help elevate the conversation and to build global solidarity for a free and peaceful world.
What should the US do to really respect Guamanian economy, self-determination of the people and peace in your nation?
In order to respect CHamoru interests on Guahan, the U.S. must support and participate in the decolonization process of the island.
Our plebiscite will have three status options on the ballot: statehood (or assimilation into the administering power), free-association, or independence. The will of the people needs to be supported.
We hope that we can have a plebiscite in 2018 to resolve our political status issues. When this happens, then we can decide the degree of militarism that we want to engage on our island.
The choice should be ours and no one else's. In order to achieve peace, we must always deploy diplomacy and mutual respect for others. This entails respecting all levels of people's rights.
Lisa Natividad is an Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Guam; founder and President of Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, and member of Guam Decolonization Commission.
Edu Montesanti is an independent analyst, researcher and journalist whose work has been published by Truth Out, Pravda, Global Research, Brazilian magazine Caros Amigos and numerous other publications across the globe.