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Back Opinion Let's Fix It The buildup’s urban legend

The buildup’s urban legend

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IF YOU haven’t checked it out before, you should add this site to your favorites: http://www.snopes.com. Snopes goes after those junk emails that spread urban legends, myths and rumors on the Internet at the speed of light. One old fave dating back to 1997 claims that Bill Gates of Microsoft will give you hundreds of dollars to forward even more junk mail to your friends. Snopes and many other sites have determined this is utterly false, but that hasn’t ended this timewaster, which is periodically revived with different company names and amounts of money.

I wish Snopes would explode another persistent myth – this time about the Guam military buildup. The myth is that members of the Guam Legislature doomed the buildup by offending U.S. Senators Jim Webb and Carl Levin during their visit here in April. So the story goes our meeting with them was a confrontation in which we read them a list of non-negotiable demands, causing them to leave angry and determined to end Guam’s role in the military buildup.

This creative account is interesting because the meeting was closed – not my call – but it’s not supported by anything the senators said afterward. The actual meeting was not confrontational but rather candid, in my opinion. We leveled with the senators about some of the problems we had and they gave us some insights into other economic and strategic problems that could affect the buildup.

Advocates of the Guam military buildup, with no conditions or discussion, then filled in the white space with references to this meeting they were not present for, making it sound like a 1960s rally at U.C. Berkeley.

Like the infamous Gates email, there have been subsequent mutations of the message. One of my favorites is that public discussion of the buildup left the U.S. Marines feeling unwelcome and not wanting to come to Guam.

Another is the alleged list of demands in that meeting included local items that U.S. Senator John McCain is now, with great fanfare, trying to cut out of the National Defense Authorization Act – including additional school buses for Guam. Sorry folks, but the members of the Legislature were quite surprised to learn that former Gov. Felix Camacho had asked for the buses during closed door negotiations with the Department of Defense. Not our call.

Senator McCain – not Senators Webb or Levin – has chosen to ignore or ridicule the work and planning that went into project proposals aimed at benefiting Guam’s civilian community and offsetting problems caused by the buildup. Our civilian and military mental health facilities are pushed to the edge now, yet in the face of the arrival of thousands of U.S. Marines and their dependents envisioned in the original buildup plans, the military has made no commitment to expand the existing system. It would be irresponsible not to push for this, and I view that as part of my job as a legislator.

Senator McCain also got a cheap laugh, at the expense of the DOD agreement, to fund what amounts to a museum for human remains and artifacts likely to be turned up in the course of buildup construction. This was the result of negotiations between GovGuam and the Department of Defense spelled out in a formal agreement – not some ultimatum delivered to U.S. senators by the Guam Legislature.

I hope our citizens understand that the total amount of these projects being challenged by Senator McCain is $33 million – pocket change in the billion or trillion dollar discussions in Washington and seeming more to serve his political needs than the public interest. And also, you should question accounts of events made by interested parties who weren’t there.

 


Senator Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, chairs the 31st Guam Legislature’s Committee on the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. Send feedback to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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