New: Berkeley to Host Global Event on Obama’s "Pacific Pivot" – A Threat to Environment, Democracy and Culture

By Gar Smith
Thursday May 30, 2013 - 01:09:00 PM

Location: Martin Luther King Auditorium, Berkeley. Saturday 10-10PM, Sunday 10-6PM. Saturday $15; Sunday $10; both days $20. Advanced discount tickets available at moanabui.brownpapertickets.com. Full program available online at www.ifg.org.

In Washington's eyes, the Pacific Ocean is anything but pacific. For more than 100 years, the US has made a habit of sending soldiers across the sea to wage bloody wars in The Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and even inside China. In the process, the US has established temporary and permanent military bases in scores of Pacific Rim nations. Now that situation threatens to become decidedly worse.

In 2011, President Obama announced a new military adventure dubbed the "Pacific Pivot" that called for redirecting 60% of the US military's money and might toward Asia and the Pacific. The Pentagon has already made numerous enemies in the region -- for offenses ranging from servicemen beating and raping local women on Okinawa to the seizure of local Islands (like Pagan in the Marianas) so they can be turned into military bombing ranges.

Meanwhile, the people of the vast Asia-Pacific region have a view of a different future -- one without military bases and foreign domination. They even have a different name for this vast stretch of the planet. They call it Moana Nui ("Great Ocean").

For the residents of Moana Nui, it's clear that Washington's 'Pacific Pivot' represents "a threat to land, water, cultures, sovereignties and peace among Pacific nations and Indigenous Peoples."

With the future of the Pacific Basin at stake, 50 scholars and activists from 20 nations are preparing to convene in Berkeley on June 1 for a two-day "teach-in" on the impacts of US plans to further militarize the region and subject it to neoliberal economic remodeling. 

The event, dubbed Moana Nui 2013, is sponsored by San Francisco's International Forum on Globalization (IFG) in collaboration with Pua Mohala i ka Po and the Oceanic Coalition of Northern California. Obama's "Pacific Pivot" is only one of many issues that will be discussed during the two-day Asia-Pacific teach-in. 

"Global corporations are raiding the last resources of Pacific nations," the organizers warn. "From Borneo to Siberia, from Melanesia and Micronesia to the Philippines and Australia, they're grabbing land, forests, palm oil, rare earth minerals and other resources. The giant economies – the US and China – race to dominate the supply chain and trade routes, suppressing resistance and, in doing so, threatening world peace." The US hopes to further its economic influence in the region by imposing a Trans-Pacific Partnership, a "free-trade" agreement that reaches from Japan to Chile – bat manages to exclude China. 

"The peoples of the Pacific need help," the organizers explain. "It is no longer sufficient to speak merely of working to 'protect local cultures' and 'traditional economic practices.' Local peoples are being rapidly overrun by the larger hegemonic battles of the United States vs. China. As the saying goes, 'when elephants battle, the ants are crushed.'" 

IFG organizer Koohan Paik notes "one major celebrity will be the Mayor of Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, who is leading the battle against the construction of a navy base there." For the past seven years, Jeju's traditional fishing community has been nonviolently blockading attempts to destroy precious coastal reefs and beaches to build a massive, joint U.S.-South Korean Aegis missile base. Other participants include: Rosa Koian, from Papua New Guinea; Julian Aguon from Guam; Walden Bello, from the Philippines; Hideki Yoshikawa from Okinawa; Akihiko Kimijima from Japan; and local rights activist Anuradha Mittal, from the Oakland Institute. 

The Berkeley event will be a continuation of the first Moana Nui gathering which was held in November 2011, at the University of Hawaii. It was at this Honolulu meeting that IFG forged a unique partnership with 500 front-line activists from 17 countries and dozens of Pacific Island activist groups. The unprecedented convocation brought together people who live thousands of miles apart, across the sea and had rarely join forces before. For three days, they engaged in spirited public meetings, collaborative organizing, protest marches, and strategic campaign planning. The events received enormous attention and praise across the Pacific region and it was clear that other Moana Nui meetings would follow. 

Moana Nui is committed to responding to some of the greatest threats ever to face Pacific peoples. Recent shifts in US economic and military strategies are could have broad negative effects on the peoples, resources, economies and geo-politics of the Asia-Pacific region. Washington has already jangled regional nerves by deploying 2,500 US marines to a new base in Australia. And, 20 years after a nonviolent "People's Revolution" toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, the new leaders of The Philippines have invited the Pentagon to return to the US Navy's abandoned base at Subic Bay. 

These policy shifts, mostly under the Obama Administration's "Pacific Pivot," threaten to erode the viability and sovereignty of indigenous peoples and small nations of the Pacific. At the same time, the Pivot, could greatly accelerate dangerous power struggles underway between the US and China, and potentially Russia. At stake are geopolitical issues involving trade, maritime and island resources, and economic and military domination of an 8,000-square-mile region. 

The "Great Game" that has been playing out across the vast chessboard that stretches from the Middle East to China, is now shifting to the nations that ring the Pacific Basin. This is not just a Democratic whim that Obama is pursuing. The vision of American power extending even deeper into the region is also embraced by the Republicans. During the Presidential campaign, both Obama and Romney endorsed the idea that the US needed to expand its "presence" in the region. The differences were only a matter of degree: Obama called for building a US fleet of 300 naval vessels to patrol the region: Romney called for 350. 

Moana Nui was created in direct response to a dire situation. There are two primary goals, the organizers explain: 1) to stimulate collaborations among Pacific Island peoples and nations, toward common purposes in behalf of their resources, cultures and sovereignty, and 2) to alert U.S. mainland policy-makers, activists and media to the changes now underway in the Pacific -- and other destabilizing changes still on the drawing boards.  

The struggle against Privatization and Pivotization will require strengthening contacts and support for the indigenous and small nation peoples to enable them to resist domination, defend their traditional cultures, protect their environments, and retain control over their lives. It's an effort well worth undertaking. 


The Moana Nui Proclamation 




In November 2011, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group -- comprised of economic leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region -- met in Hawaii to discuss revising trade agreements to bolster the sagging global economy. At the same time, indigenous activists convened a parallel conference – one dedicated to finding solutions based on food, not finances. At the end of the conference, they issued the following statement. 

"We, the peoples of moana nui, connected by the currents of our ocean home, declare that we will not cooperate with the commodification of life and land as represented by APEC’s predatory capitalistic practices, distorted information and secret trade negotiations and agreements. 

We invoke our rights to free, prior and informed consent. We choose cooperative trans-Pacific dialogue, action, advocacy, and solidarity between and amongst the peoples of the Pacific, rooted in traditional cultural practices and wisdom. 

E mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono. A mama. Ua noa." 

We ask you to join us in shifting away from neoliberal, profit-driven relations and sign-on to this statement.