Guam Libre!

Guam, currently a US dependency, is mulling going its own way. The impetus: a plan by the US military to transfer 8,000 American soldiers from Okinawa to the tiny Pacific isle. Fourteen thousand US troops currently occupy the island, and there are plans to upgrade military facilities, including an air missile defense task force, at a cost of $15 billion. Add in military families and support facilities, and the influx could easily mean 50,000 additional newcomers total. One third of the island is now taken up by the US military. The Pentagon plan aims to convert the island into an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” – an instrument for the projection of US military power into Asia.

The movement for self-determination is supported by Governor Edward Calvo, who successfully campaigned on the issue of de-colonizing Guam: Calvo’s plan is to hold a referendum which would offer the Guamanians three options: independence, “Free Association,” and US statehood. Says Calvo:

“I highly doubt the 1,744 Marines and soldiers who gave their lives in the Battle of Guam died so that the people they liberated could be colonized for eternity. Because we are still an unincorporated territory (of the US) we have not reached our full potential. We should be able to determine where we want to go to as a community.”

Guam’s residents are, in theory, US citizens: in practice, however, they are second-class “citizens” whose representative in Congress cannot vote, nor can Guamanians vote in US presidential elections. Guam is, in effect, a US colony – the last remnant of our spoils from the Spanish-American war.

Spain acquired the island as a result of the voyage of “discovery” of Ferdinand Magellan: Spain’s rule was characterized by the extraction of whatever natural resources they could loot and the “Christianizing” of the native Guamanians. The island was subsequently invaded by the US during the Spanish-American conflict, and its colonial status was “updated” by President Harry Truman, when it became an “unincorporated territory” – a fancy name for a colonial possession.

The long history of efforts to establish a more formal status for Guam culminated, in the 1980s, in a referendum, in which the overwhelming majority of voters chose “Commonwealth” status, rejecting statehood and the status quo. Independence was not an option.

It is now, however, as the US military’s plans have ignited fierce opposition, especially from the native Chamorros, who have inhabited Guam for 4,000 years. Without consulting the largely powerless Guam “legislature,” the Pentagon has moved swiftly to build up its assets on the island, with the support of those who see the move as an economic boon. Others, however, are opposed, including Chamorro activists who resent the military’s arrogance and the pollution of the island’s formerly pristine waters and verdant rain forests. They also resent the vast influx of military personnel, who –in combination with other emigrants – already outnumber the native population.

The militarization of Guam is not in the interests of the Guamanians, nor is it in our own: we pay out much more than we get. The conservative writer Garet Garrett noted that the American empire is unique in history in that “everything goes out and nothing comes in.” In terms of welfare caseloads per capita, Guam is second only to the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, we can’t rid ourselves of DC, but I’ll settle for ditching Guam, at least for the moment.

One American resident of Guam reports this island paradise has “more government workers (by far) per capita than any other state, commonwealth, territory, or district of the United States. Something over 40% of Guam’s jobs are furnished by the government. Some people have two government jobs with two government paychecks and two government pensions … Many of these same people go home during the day … and then stop in at work at 5 o’clock to punch out – that is if they don’t want any ‘overtime’ that week. We witnessed this first hand and the perpetrators were totally unashamed.”

“Yes,” the writer concludes, “this little welfare state of mind is subsidized by American tax dollars. GovGuam receives about $250 million annually from Uncle Sam and pays nothing into the federal government – not one dime.”

Yet someone is taking in an awful lot of money on account of the Pentagon’s militarization plan: and, yes, you guessed it, these welfare recipients are the “white collar” type – military contractors who are already being handed cushy government contracts by the Obama administration. That’s where the $15 billion is slated to go – straight into the open maw of the military-industrial complex.

Governor Calvo no doubt means well, but his plan for a referendum is fatally flawed, since it includes the statehood option. While this option is open to other US possessions, such as Puerto Rico, financially the only rational choice is to unilaterally cut the Guamanians loose by granting them their independence – whether they want it or not.

While there is a clause in our Constitution that provides a formal process for the entry of new states into the Union, in reality the Founders never envisioned admitting territories outside the natural continental boundaries of the US. Having reached California, the task of building the American nation – on the bones of native peoples, by the way – was for all intents and purposes done.

Like much of the rest of the Founders’ work, however, this implicit principle was eventually undone by the imperialist movement led by Teddy Roosevelt and the theoreticians of sea power, who sought to fulfill America’s “Manifest Destiny” as the successor to the British Empire. As England’s glory sank beneath the waves, another Anglo-Saxon sea-faring nation of adventurers – and conquerors – set sail to create what the libertarian writer Frank Chodorov called a “Byzantine Empire of the West.”

The result has been a fiscal disaster for the US, which can no longer afford to police the world. Conservatives who insist that the “unsinkable aircraft carrier” of the USS Guam is worth keeping would surely be horrified if they knew about the little welfare state that’s thriving alongside this outpost of empire. Here’s an educational anecdote from a once longtime resident:

I was in line behind him at the grocery store last night. He had loaded a bunch of shit on the counter, mostly junk food, snacks and crap, nothing vaguely looking like nutritious food items. As he waited in line, he farted around with what appeared to be a nearly-new smart phone, playing what appeared to be some sort of video game. He paid for his purchases, nearly $100 worth, with a QWEST card, meaning welfare had purchased his snack items. As the situation would have it, it turned out that the same guy was parked two slots down from me in the parking lot, walking a few steps ahead of me out of the store. Again, I noticed him, because he piled the stuff he had just purchased into a nearly new Ford pickup, the deluxe model, with all the bells and whistles. A serious machine that I knew for a fact could not be purchased for less than $30,000. ”Something is seriously wrong with that scenario, and it would read as interesting fiction if it weren’t true. The guy has a far better car than I do, a better phone, but buys his groceries with welfare. This, to me, is more than a little fucked up.”

Ya think so?

This is military socialism at its worst: an occupied country whose “citizens” are ruled over with arrogant impunity, and “compensated” by being subsidized from cradle to grave. The battle-cry of every responsible fiscal conservative – and anti-imperialist liberal – can be summed up in two words:

Guam Libre!

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].