In Guam, the Gravest Threat Isn’t North Korea—It’s the United States

Source: In These Times

The United States is using this Pacific colony as its own private firing range.

This past Fourth of July, while I listened to the fireworks outside the Capitol building, my phone started buzzing with news alerts. North Korea, they said, had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile. Headlines emphasized that it could supposedly reach Alaska.

But much closer than Alaska is the tiny island of Guam—a U.S. colonial possession in the Pacific long exploited as a military base. My grandmother was born there, and much of my family remains. At just 30 miles long and 8 miles wide, Guam is often called “the unsinkable aircraft carrier,” as a third of the island is covered in military bases.

That’s long made it a strategic target for enemies of the United States. In fact, during the Cold War, it was said that the Soviets were the only ones who could point out Guam on a map. For as long as the West has been aware of Guam’s existence, it’s been a target.

During World War II, while my grandmother still lived there, the Japanese occupied Guam and terrorized the indigenous Chamoru population, rounding them up and herding them into concentration camps. In the Manenggon camp, 18,000 Chamorus were interned and surrounded by machine guns set up by the Japanese soldiers for a planned massacre.

Today, with the Japanese long gone and the Soviet Union dissolved, the island still faces a battery of live-fire military ammunition with no foreseeable end. But the immediate danger doesn’t come from North Korean missiles. It comes from the United States military, which freely uses the Pacific territory as its own private firing rage.

While tourist ads depict the South Pacific as a tranquil safe haven, that tranquility is pierced by the roars of B-52 bombers and submarine water-to-shore artillery blasts. For as long as the United States has maintained Guam as a colony, it has been a simulated warzone.

It’s not simply the military firing weapons that can make life difficult for locals, however. The issue is often the presence of the military itself.

With military bases come extreme pollution, the occupation of sacred lands, and what some scholars describe as an invisible public health crisis. While the primary argument for these bases is national security, there are countless examples of these bases damaging the health and security of the local population.

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