Archive for October, 2008

Will Tony the tiger turn out to be just a pussycat after all?

October 31, 2008

What happened to tough talking Tony?

When he was running for office Tony deBrum told voters that former President Kesai Note and his ruling party leadership were letting the U.S. push the RMI around. Tony argued that it was time for the RMI to stand up to the U.S. and make it pay more for its use of Kwajalein, and he often used the injuries to the RMI people caused by the U.S. nuclear testing program as an example to arouse indignation toward the U.S. for its “crimes” against the RMI people.

Tony claims he is not anti-American, but the speeches he gave over the years, when he thought no one would remember, expressed angry contempt for the USA. His speech on May 11, 2005 to a U.N. non-proliferation conference declared that Tony wants the U.S. out of Kwajalein. That is strange because Tony got back in power, after his disgrace in 1991, by aligning himself with the traditional ruling class of feudal land barons from Kwajalein. But the feudal lords do not want the U.S. out, they just want more money. So Tony’s real agenda and that of the old land barons who put him in office may not be the same.

Tony clearly has some wild ideas. He has pushed RMI alignment with Taiwan first, then with PRC, than back to Taiwan, but only after traditional chief Imata Kabua and President Tomeing blabbed about the “secret” PRC strategy. Kabua and Tomeing are traditional chiefs without the same level of education as Tony, so they think China will treat RMI better than USA. I guess Tony forgot to tell Imata Kabua and Litokwa Tomeing that historically Chinese communists put feudal lords and traditional “royalty” like Kabua and Tomeing in jail, that is, if they don’t just disappear in the night.

But Tony knows he serves at the pleasure of the feudal lords, so now we hear that Tony is ready to accept some trade off and just sign the Land Use Agreement so the U.S. can use Kwajalein, and so he can get his hands on the increased land use payments that have been in escrow waiting for the LUA to be signed. We are told the trade off is just a U.S. Army agreement to buy power from an OTEC project for Kwajalein, if such a project is ever funded and built.

What happened to the tough talking Tony who made demands that the U.S. pay millions more every year directly to the landowners, or that the U.S. just get out of Kwajalein?

Tony sold out poor nuclear victims for wealthy Kwajalein land barons

We now have received a copy of a letter Tony deBrum sent to Senator Diane Feinstein in May seeking extension of the Four Atoll Health Care Program at FY 2008 levels. The letter asks for time to study solutions to health care funding for nuclear affected population. Yet, S. 1756 was perhaps as good a solution as the RMI is going to see, and the RMI failed to support it.

As everyone knows, S. 1756 opened the door to further assistance in the future, closed the door on NOTHING, and would provide a much better framework for seeking additional ex gratia assistance in the future than existing law. Asking for $1 million in FY 2008 funding for four atolls for 1 year, instead of a 300% increase for 10 atolls for 20 years, is really a very weak RMI position. Weak. Especially when you have a bill with the 300% increase for 20 years pending in the U.S. Senate, supported by the Democrat and Republican leaders of the Senate committee that controls funding authorization of the RMI.

We don’t see how the four atolls, or the ten atolls, can rely on the RMI government unless it gets its act together in the management of RMI-U.S. relations. Not even Kwajalein can count on Tony, because all they are getting is an agreement by the U.S. Army to buy power from an OTEC project if one is ever built. Now that Tony’s lobbyist, Cooper Brown, is creating controversy in the OTEC development effort that will probably fail. Like Tony, Cooper Brown knows how to create confusion and conflict, but he has never actually gotten anything done.

Tony’s letter to Senator Feinstein shows how little he understands Congress. Which raises the question of why the RMI is paying former Senator Johnston and his son Hunter millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to lobby Congress, and they are advising Tony to send such a weird letter to Senator Feinstein.

First, the U.S. Department of the Interior reportedly was already prepared to support allocation of funding for the current four atoll health care program at the 2008 level from the DOI budget, if S. 1756 did not pass, without the need for any additional legislation for that purpose. So sending a letter to Senator Feinstein asking her to spend her time on something that was already taken care of was really embarrassing for the RMI.

Even if Senator Feinstein’s staff writes a nice letter back to Tony, it would have been much better for the RMI and more logical to ask Feinstein to support S. 1756! At least then the RMI would not look like it does not know what it is doing.

Tony made the RMI look like a fools

But the real problem with Tony’s letter to Feinstein is that it will be seen in Congress as propaganda. Instead of proposing solutions it restates Tony’s long held personal ideology based on anger toward the USA. The Congress already knows the people were harmed and may need more assistance, but the adequacy of compensation paid to nuclear test victims by the U.S. is currently under review by the U.S. courts, and there will be a ruling soon.

So the question is what Congress can do now. The answer in 2008 was S. 1756, and it is not clear a better answer, or even as good an answer, will be possible. We’ll see.

But what is worse is that Tony’s letter complains about the inadequacy of Section 177 funding for health care, then asks for $1 million for 1 year for four atolls. It must have been very confusing that Tony did not ask for $4.5 million a year for 20 years, adjusted for inflation, for 10 atolls!

If the staff in Senator Feinstein’s office called the staff of the Senate committee leaders who sponsored S. 1756, they would have found out that S. 1756 was a better proposal that would help the RMI more than what the RMI was asking for in Tony’s letter. Since S. 1756 did not require espousal or settlement or waiver of additional future assistance, they must have thought Tony was crazy.

Why condemn the U.S. for not giving more, then ask for less than the U.S. Congress leaders had proposed? That is crazy, and everyone in Washington was shaking their head wondering what Tony was doing.

Let the record show that Senator Bingaman, the Democratic chairman of the Senate committee, and Senator Pete Domenici, the senor Republican on the committee, were supporting S. 1756, a bill with almost $100 million for 10 atoll health care over 20 years, and Tony fails to support that S. 1756. Instead he asks for $1 million for 1 year for four atolls.

Maybe he thinks a new U.S. President and a new U.S. Congress will listen to Eni Faleomavaega instead of Chairman Bingaman, and provide more funding than S. 1756. Is that the advice Bennett and Hunter Johnston gave to the RMI? Funny, because many in Washington think S. 1756 had a better chance in 2008 than it will have in 2009.

The illogical letter from Tony is strong evidence that his real goal was to prevent S. 1756 from passing, because it would compete with the funding he was seeking for Kwajalein lease payments increases. He did not need time to study S. 1756.

It takes ten minutes to read S. 1756, and ten minutes to call everyone in Washington or Majuro who has any knowledge of the nuclear claims issue to find out that failure to support S. 1756 would be a really foolish thing for the RMI to do. The only possible explanation is that Tony had made more U.S. dollars for the land barons at Kwajalein his only priority, and he was prepared to delay additional funding for he nuclear test survivors to eliminate any funding proposals that might compete with Kwajalein money.

How could someone as smart as Tony send such a poorly written letter?

Tony’s letter states that:

“A bridge funding at the same amount in previous fiscal years would allow the RMI ample time to review this proposed language and, at the same time, serve the nuclear affected communities without interruption. Thank you and I await your favorable response.”

This is an embarrassment because the letter does not make any reference to S. 1756, so the phrase about the need to “allow the RMI ample time to review this proposed language” does not make sense. What proposed language? Without referring to S. 1756 there is no way for Senator Feinstein to know what Tony is talking about when he refers to “this proposed language” that he wants to study.

If Feinstein’s staff call Bingaman’s staff they may be able to figure out that Tony probably was referring to S. 1756 as the “proposed language” the RMI needed to study. As soon as they looked at S. 1756 they would wonder why he was asking for $1 million a year for 1 year instead of $4.5 million per year of 20 years.

First they would have to figure out that FY 2008 funding for the four atoll health care program was actually $1 million, not $2 million, as implied by Tony’s sloppy letter. When the Senate staff figures out that the Section 177 Agreement provided $2 million annually for 15 years, and that Congress had reduced it to $1 million after the Section 177 terms had been fulfilled, that is when they would not be able to figure out why Tony was asking for $1 million for one year instead of $4.5 million for 20 years.

Tony wrote to Feinstein in May of 2008. That means he had more than 5 months to study S. 1756. It does not take 5 months to figure out that $.5 million for 20 years is more than $1 million for 1 year.

Tony will attempt to argue that his letter to Feinstein was a back up in case S. 1756 did not pass. But the biggest obstacle to approval of S. 1756 was the failure of the RMI to express its strong support. So why send a back up position before you send a going in position supporting the best proposal on the table and the best outcome possible for 2008?

This is crazy! Everyone knew the Congress and DOI would have to try to find a way to continue the four atoll health care program at 2008 levels under the FY 2009 budget if S. 1756 did not pass, but everyone also knew that would not be the best result possible. That is why it was a betrayal of the nuclear survivor communities for Tony to tell Feinstein in his letter that the 2008 level would “serve the nuclear-affected communities” in a way that Tony found satisfactory.

The four atolls made it clear to Tony in the “hearings” he staged with Congressman Faleomavaega that another year of funding at the FY 2008 levels was inadequate, and that the four atolls wanted the RMI to support S. 1756. For Tony to then tell Senator Feinstein the nuclear-affected atolls would be served by extending 2008 levels, at the same time Tony failed to first support S. 1756, was the worst of both worlds:  incompetent and dishonest.

We expected Tony to favor Kwajalein, we just did not expect him to hurt the nuclear survivor communities in the pursuit of more money to satisfy the greed of wealthy land barons.


Global economic crisis may affect U.S. policy on Kwajalein

October 13, 2008

The U.S. and global economic crisis may increase American resolve to carry out the already clear and firm U.S. policy on Kwajalein base rights funding. The U.S. may want and need Kwajalein in the future, but it already has been demonstrated on numerous occasions that the U.S. military mission at Kwajalein can be carried out using alternative sites and existing capabilities not based at Kwajalein.

With new limitations on U.S. budgetary resources, even the Department of Defense will be forced to do more with less in some programs. Many in the U.S. government and Congress responsible for budget priorities may now view use of Kwajalein at increased cost as less desirable.

If it can be accomplished under the terms already agreed, the U.S. would like to stay. But Kwajalein may not be so essential that the RMI can hold out for even further increases that add to long term costs, without risking a U.S. decision to walk away in 2016.

Even before the current economic crisis it appeared the U.S. deadline of December 17 for a final RMI base rights agreement was not negotiable. Now any RMI strategy for seeking increased payments, other concessions, or even extension of the deadline to try to negotiate a better deal, seems even more certain than ever to backfire.

The 2003 U.S. law ratifying the treaties that govern RMI-U.S. relations provides that increased U.S. lease payments to the RMI for the base at Kwajalein would be held in escrow from December 17, 2003 to December 17, 2008. Over $20 million in increased payments have accumulated in the escrow account.

That $20 million will be paid along with all current lease payments until 2016, and after 2016 the lease payments will continue at the increased levels agreed to in 2003. However, if the feudal land barons of Kwajalein do not sign an agreement extending the U.S. base rights beyond 2016, the $20 million escrow funds irrevocably revert to the U.S. Treasury on December 17 of this year.

In this context, it is significant that the new RMI leadership that gained power in 2008 represents the political party controlled by the feudal land barons of Kwajalein. Securing even further increases in U.S. payments has become the controlling priority of the RMI government under the current leadership.

So it is not surprising that all other RMI-U.S. bilateral issues pending in Congress have been cast aside or put on hold by the new RMI leadership and its lobbyists. That way, no other funding needs of the RMI people and the nation as a whole would compete with the demand for larger for payments to the land barons of Kwajalein.

In the past, the U.S. officials responsible for RMI-U.S. relations might have been frustrated by the new RMI regime’s repudiation of its treaty obligations, but willing to make some concessions to ensure that the base rights agreement is implemented. However, even before the current economic crisis the U.S. had rejected RMI demands for increased payments above and beyond the increases already agreed to in 2003.

Even the RMI’s fall back strategy of linking compliance with the 2003 base rights agreement to other forms of U.S. assistance to Kwajalein have been rejected. While there are energy projects and other initiatives that could benefit Kwajalein and the RMI as a howl that the U.S. was already considering, the clumsy RMI attempt to create linkage of those proposals in order to extort benefits for the Kwajalein land barons has been rejected by the U.S. government.

Thus, the U.S. seemed unlikely to make concessions as a condition to good faith RMI compliance with its treaty obligations, and may be even less likely to do so now that budgetary resources will be even more severely restricted than before the economic crisis of 2008. Federal officials who previously might have wanted to extend the December 17 deadline to buy some “breathing room” for the RMI may now have reasons to let the Kwajalein base rights lapse in 2016 and allocate future resources elsewhere.

Since the purpose of the $20 million in escrowed payment increases was to make the extension of base rights after 2016 acceptable to the RMI, loss of that $20 million by its return to the U.S. Treasury would be of little long term significance to the U.S. government. This would be especially true if the U.S. decides it could realize savings needed for other operations in the event the Kwajalein facilities can not be counted on because the RMI is an unreliable strategic treaty partner.

There is another factor that may make it very risky for the RMI to play chicken with U.S. on the December 17 deadline. The U.S. law in which Congress created the deadline makes the return of the escrow payments to the U.S. automatic “unless otherwise mutually agreed” by the two governments.

It appears the RMI may be counting on the U.S. to agree to extend the deadline in order to create a negotiation process with yet another deadline. That might be a plausible scenario if the RMI had been working in good faith to carry out its treaty obligations and there was a constructive process that had just not reached completion.

However, the U.S. is well aware that the RMI government is captive of the Kwajalein land barons, and the RMI leadership is actually an agency of the feudal oligarchy of Kwajalein. The U.S. also knows that increased land payments will not be distributed evenly among the entire landowner community.

Rather, most of the U.S. payments go to the ruling class, and distribution of lease payments through the lesser chiefs is accomplished under a trickle down system in which many so-called “commoners” never receive any significant benefits. While the U.S. has held its nose in the past and looked the other way, by overplaying its hand and demanding even more increases in lease payments the RMI has called attention to corruption in the Kwajalein lease payment distribution scheme.

Many in the U.S. are beginning to ask if the Congress should reward with increased payments extorted by blackmail by the RMI government, especially when it is now controlled by the landowners who will benefit for increased payments. The current President, Foreign Minister and majority of the Cabinet in the RMI national government are members of the political party organized to secure more payments for Kwajalein land use.

The head of the local party that controls the RMI government is the “king” under the feudal landowner system in the RMI. Many of the “commoners” receive little or nothing from their “king” out of the many millions he keeps for himself each year.

The lobbyists for the “king” receive millions too, including former U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston and his son Hunter, even though Johnston was the chairman of the U.S. Senate committee that approved the are 1982 Kwajalein agreement. Ironically, the new RMI government denounces that 1982 lease agreement that Johnston approved as a “rip off” that must be rectified by the further increases demanded by Johnston and the ruling class of Kwajalein.

For these and many reasons it seems unlikely that the decision of whether the U.S. should agree to extend the December 17 deadline will rise to a high level in the U.S. government. Some believe the real decision was already made in 2003, when Congress, and the federal agencies like the State Department and the Defense Department, decided that the U.S. had already agreed to pay what Kwajalein is worth to the USA.

That decision meant the U.S. could accept loss of Kwajalein in 2016, if the funding approved by Congress was not sufficient for the RMI to secure land use rights required to extend base rights beyond 2016.

Thus, the ”unless otherwise mutually agreed” provision in the U.S. law creating the December 17 deadline was not intended to create leverage for the RMI to hold the U.S. hostage as the deadline approached, and extort more lease payments for the feudal lords. That language was included to give the U.S. the flexibility to reach agreement with the RMI, well in advance of the deadline, on mutually beneficial terms for implementing the base rights agreement.

The “unless otherwise mutually agreed” provision also was intended to give the U.S. and RMI the ability to agree in advance on the disposition of escrow funds, without reversion of the funds to the U.S. Treasury, in the event the RMI was acting in good faith to comply with the treaty, but there were unforeseen delays in getting the land use agreements required under local law finalized.

For example, the U.S. Congress wanted to take into account all possibilities, such as a situation in which the land use agreements required under local law were signed, but were being challenged in local courts, or even U.S. courts. In that kind of a scenario, an agreement to ensure the funds would not revert would be justified because the delay might be beyond the control of the RMI government.

However, it was not contemplated by Congress that the RMI government could use the “unless otherwise mutually agreed” provision to enable the land barons of Kwajalein to run out the clock, and defy the deadline as a tactic to force the U.S. into a negotiation under a new deadline, created by the RMI instead of Congress.

There are rumors that the land barons and lesser chiefs of Kwajalein are clamoring for the “king” to sign the land use agreement (LUA) needed to meet the deadline, but that the king has influenced – or even commanded – that the current Foreign Minister of the RMI hold out, and try to force the U.S. into a new deadline agreement, and a structured negotiation process more favorable to the RMI.

These rumors seem plausible, because the RMI Foreign Minster was quoted in the Marshall Islands Journal as stating that he takes his negotiating instructions from the “king” of Kwajalein, under the feudal land system of the RMI. Although obedience to the “king” is more a convenient excuse to do things that are not rational or prudent, it clarifies the actual nature of this policy making process to point out that “king” Imata Kabua is also the head of the Foreign Minister’s political party.

In any event, earlier this year RMI Foreign Minister Tony deBrum stated that deBrum stated that the Tomeing administration will base its policy on Kwajalein on the “8-Point Declaration of Demands” made by the Kwajalein High Chief and the titled landowner chiefs of Kwajalein.  In Tony’s own words about the landowner leaders and their role in controlling RMI policy, deBrum said:  “If they see movement both on the U.S. and RMI side, they will give us instructions to go talk to the U.S. government.”

This confirms that the RMI national government’s highest priority in dealing with the U.S. government is to get what the Kwajalein chiefs want as landowners, no matter what the cost is to the RMI as a nation.  It also confirms that the high chiefs under the feudal landownership system are giving the orders to Tomeing and deBrum, and that deBrum looks to High Chief Imata Kabua for his “instructions” instead of the President and Cabinet.   Has the Cabinet agreed to take its order from “King Kabua” too?

In this context, we also have heard reports that the land barons and lesser chiefs have singed the LUA, but that is being kept secret so the RMI can be ready to notify the U.S. that the deadline has been met if the U.S. calls the RMI bluff.

These political games may prove to be a costly miscalculation for the land barons, but Foreign Minster deBrum has gone of record that he would consider it best if the U.S. pulls out of Kwajalein.

In the face of this kind of bad faith conduct by the RMI, the U.S. may already have decided that anything other than unconditional RMI compliance with December 17 deadline, securing landowner agreements needed to finalize the 2003 base rights agreement and release the escrowed funds, is unacceptable.

As it stands today, the RMI has adopted a policy supporting the refusal of Kwajalein feudal land barons to sign the LUA, in an attempt to force the U.S. to agree to further increases in U.S. payments for lease of Kwajalein.

This reminds us all of the RMI miscalculation on nuclear test compensation legislation in the U.S. Senate this year. As we all know, the RMI attempt to salvage S. 1756 failed because it was too little too late.

Because of the U.S. ad global economic crisis the chances of getting Congress to pass S. 1756 in 2009 are much worse than 2008. That means the RMI passed up a very good chance of getting the bill out of the Senate in early 2008, which would have made approval by the House of Representatives possible.

By the time RMI lobbyists, former Senator Bennett Johnston and his son, told the Congress the RMI supported S. 1756, the best that could be done is to approve the bill at the committee level and with to next year.

Although the out-going Bush Administration could punt, and leave this issue to the next President, it may be that any attempt at this late stage by RMI to avoid loss of increased payments for U.S. use of Kwajalein after 2016 may also be too little too late.

RMI becoming a sad story

October 4, 2008

Reading the Marshall Islands Journal is no longer just frustrating, it has become depressing.   Giff Johnson (editor) and Joe Murphy (publisher) had their fun trying to help Tony deBrum pull off his silent coup and seize power after losing the election, due to the inability of the winning party to resolve its leadership struggle. Then the MIJ helped and stage his showdown with the USA.

Tony said he would bring the USA to its knees, but now the RMI is bending instead. That is not because the U.S. is leaning on the RMI.   In fact, the MIJ article about the visit of the Pentagon’s highest ranking military commander in the Pacific makes it clear the U.S. is trying in a friendly way to remind the people of the RMI and their leaders that in difficult economic times they have a pretty good thing going with the Compact of Free Association.

The U.S. actually seems to be giving the RMI space to come to its senses. What the U.S. does not want to admit in public is that the instability and crisis-after-crisis syndrome in the RMI is not due to the cost of energy or the global economic recession. Rather, the RMI is suffering hardships caused by the heavy burden of self-inflicted failures, self-imposed hardship and self-defeating politics of the RMI under current leadership.

Amenta Matthews, Jack Ading, Litokwa Tomeing and others who became partners in Tony’s silent coup all share some of the blame for putting Imata Kabua’s surrogate in power, and allowing the ideologically obsessed deBrum to become the de facto head of state.   That was wrong because it enabled Tony to make Kwajalein the controlling RMI national priority, and this betrayed the rest of the people of the RMI.

By putting Kwajalein first deBrum keeps Imata Kabua happy, even though deBrum has not really done anything for Kwajalein or Kabua. Indeed, the policies Tony deBrum has implemented regarding Kwajalein and RMI-wide issues seems more calculated to end U.S. Army presence at Kwajalein and terminate free association itself.

If what Kabua really wants is increased lease payments from the U.S. then deBrum’s tactics are not producing good results for Kabua. But as the MIJ story on Imata’s visit with traditional leaders from other Pacific island nations suggests, Imata Kabua seems happy as long as he gets invited to parties where he is treated like a king.

Meanwhile, the question we asked months ago remains relevant, and it can be asked again. Are Tony deBrum’s actions more consistent with achieving the goal of increased Kwajalein payments, RMI-wide adjustment to increased energy costs, additional nuclear claims compensation, or any other constructive goals?  Or, are his actions since seizing power more consistent with a plan fro destabilizing the RMI bilateral relationship with the U.S. and ending what he regards as the U.S. “occupation” of the RMI?

As reported on this website, Tony deBrum has gone on record and told the world in a 2005 to the international community that he wants the U.S. out of Kwajalein. He has admitted that he even wants the U.S. to end free association, which he sees as the political, economic and military mechanism for the U.S. to continue what he views as an imperialist occupation of the RMI that began in 1946.

Admiral Keating’s statement in Majuro was the right message, the U.S. remains committed to free association, and that is a message the people of the RMI want and need to hear.  But it is a message that is getting lost in the confusion and chaos that Tony deBrum is creating in the RMI. Instead of leading to a constructive agenda to address mutual goals, the positive message from the Admiral is being lost in the fog of political conflict and strife instigated by deBrum.

As if the symbolism of a crumbling capital building is not bad enough, now we have Tony deBrum handling the press on this issue?  Since when did he become the spokesman for Public Works? It is no coincidence that he is taking a high profile in managing the evacuation. Tony regards the capital building as the symbol of he sees as Amata Kabua’s capitulation to the U.S. in the first Compact of Free Association, and he is taking intense pleasure in presiding over its evacuation.

The rest of the stories in the current issue of the MIJ paint the true picture of what is going on in the RMI better than we ever could. In a sense the MIJ is a snapshot of the present that also predicts the adversity of the future, especially if Tony continues to be in the position to manipulate the political culture of the nation.

At the same time, the stories in the MIJ are strangely reminiscent of the past, when the RMI was part of the TTPI, and no matter what the U.S. and local government institutions tried to do, better results for social, economic and political development always seemed just out of reach.

That has always been true and maybe always will be due to the inherent structural problems of sustaining an acceptable level of development in such small and remote islands, but it is even more difficult, and probably impossible, when you have a master political manipulator and propagandist who is using a figurehead president to stay in power as the de facto head of state.

So the same MIJ editorial policy that helped Tony deBrum seize power has now become made the MIJ the chronicler of what his reign as the power behind the throne has wrought. All we can do is read the stories, recall all the times we read similar stories in the past, reflect on the truism that the more things change the more they stay the same, and wonder what will happen next.

For example, The DOI health report is deja vu all over again, just like a dozen studies of health care that reached the same conclusion every 5-10 years during the TTPI period.   Like before, the health care system in RMI is making the sub-standard Guam and CNMI health care programs look good by comparison.

If only the U.N. Trusteeship Council was still monitoring U.S. relations with the RMI like the old days, Tony deBrum could go back to New York and accuse the U.S. of human rights violations and crimes against humanity based on failure to provide Marshallese with the same health care U.S. citizens get.

But wait, if treatment equal to U.S. care is what the RMI wants, shouldn’t Tony have supported U.S. territorial  commonwealth status? Instead of opposing free association or pursuing full independence, why didn’t Tony advocate U.S. citizenship and territorial status? The answer is that he does not have a clear goal, he just wants to preside over conflict and confusion of his own creation.

In the TTPI days Tony would go to Washington and New York, traveling on U.S. taxpayer funds, and show pictures of conditions at the hospital to Congress, the U.N. and Greenpeace. He would blame every sad story and social problem he had time to describe on the Americans, and accuse the U.S. government of treating Marshallese as less than human?

Because the U.S. actually deserved to be so accused due to the abuses committed during the nuclear testing program, Tony could get away with saying and doing just about anything he wanted to denigrate and denounce the U.S. presence in the RMI, and its administration of the islands under the U.N. trusteeship.

But times have changed, and the record of U.S. relations with RMI now exists in a larger context than the TTPI and the nuclear testing program. The U.N. trusteeship ended in 1986, and since then the U.S. has invested billions in the RMI’s social, political and economic development, as well as its national security through alliance with the USA. RMI citizens serve in the U.S. military, and their ability to enter, reside go to school and work in the U.S. is an important social, economic and political aspect of the RMI’s national development.

So times have changed, and Tony has had to adapt his methods and strategies for seeking an end to what he believes is U.S. hegemony in the RMI. To deBrum, the U.S. is the man, and he wants to stick it to the man. But because the RMI is a sovereign nation now, Tony can not stick it to the man now the way he used to do, because now he is the man.   He can’t just blame the U.S. any more because now it is the Marshallese who are failing to deliver better health care and other services.   He can’t blame the U.S.  any more, because it is the government he runs that is treating his own people so badly.

When the resources provided by the U.S. were not enough to do better in the past, he accused the U.S. of racism and inhumanity.  But now the U.S. is giving more to the RMI for health care than any other nation is willing to do, so no one will listen to him blame it all on the USA anymore.

He can not even convincingly condemn the U.S. based on the nuclear testing program, because he refused to support additional nuclear compensation under S. 1756. He pretended that was because S. 1756 was inadequate and would close the door to an even larger compensation bill, but that was exposed as a cover up for his real motives. The truth was that he did not want the nuclear compensation bill to move forward before he got increased rent payments for Kwajalein, and he saw S. 1756 as competing with his Kwajalein strategy.

In addition, while the U.S. has unmet obligations to address health care needs arising from the nuclear testing, Tony can no longer blame the U.S. for all health problems in the RMI, because the biggest health problems in the RMI are not caused by nuclear testing. The U.S. territories and other free associated states have similar health care needs based on patterns of life in the islands that are not connected to he nuclear testing legacy.

Also, the rest of the world will not listen to his accusations that the U.S. is inhumane when the U.S. provides levels of support per capita that make the RMI a wealthy nation compared to most similarly situated peoples.

That was underscored b the MIJ story about Japanese assistance.  The interesting point in that article is that titular President Tomeing had told the Japanese government that a water project for Majuro was an RMI priority, but then Tony manipulated Tomeing to change signals and tell the Japanese the water project had to be moved to Ebeye.   That was part of Tomeing’s deal with Tony to keep Imata Kabua happy, by cheating Majuro out of the project and putting Kwajalein first.

But the Japanese do not do well with last minute changed signals. So if the Japanese find the RMI difficult to work with, and there is delay, who can blame them?

Then we have the story about the U.S. Admiral who is serving as the Commander-In- Chief of the Pacific.  He comes and proclaims the U.S. military commitment to the Compact of Free Association.   But it is sort of an empty gesture when the RMI has refused to sign a base rights agreement, and time for renewal is running out on the Kwajalein lease.

The U.S. commitment is not in doubt, it is the RMI commitment that is an issue. The U.S. sees itself as acting in good faith, and there is a perception of bad faith by the RMI for trying to makes its obligations conditional on increased benefits to Kwajalein. That showdown strategy is a throw back to the TTPI days, and the U.S. may not find it acceptable in the context of free association as an alliance based on a mutually agreed balance of burdens and benefits.

Small nations enter alliances with large nations for many reason, one of which is to have security and stability even in times of global crisis. When Tony instigated his showdown strategy, oil was cheap and the major economies of the world were going strong. The world has changed in less than a year, and the RMI needs to decide if it can afford to put its alliance with the U.S. at risk, so that Imata Kabua, the wealthiest man in the RMI, can become more wealthy, and so that Tony deBrum can preside over the decline of the RMI.

Again, if the U.S. caves in, then Tony stays in power as long as the people and their leaders tolerate him, and Imata Kabua ‘s power under feudal custom will be confirmed. The democratic constitutional government of the RMI will have become the instrument through which that will have been achieved. One suspects that this will be the beginning rather than the end of conflict in RMI political culture over the relationship between customary powers of the feudal lords and the democratic government.

That brings us to the story in the MIJ about the traditional chiefs meeting in the RMI.   There is even a picture of a beaming Imata Kabua and Roman Bedor of Palau.   The chiefs made good points about environmental stewardship by local officials, but the chiefs are resisting the primacy of elected leaders of the people. Teaching heritage and custom in the schools is a good idea, but it won’t restore their political power, which is what they really want.

The deterioration of RMI government public policy it is due to a shift in the RMI political culture caused by the alliance between Tony deBrum and Imata Kabua.   This has harnessed the traditional powers of Kabua under the archaic, anachronistic and anti-democratic feudal customs of the RMI to serve the deBrum ideological agenda.   Kabua does not understand deBrum’s real agenda, he is just being used by deBrum to control the government and stay in power.

Kabua has no ability to recognize that deBrum is a classic anti-social personality, and in his political life he is like the sorcerer’s apprentice, taking great delight in unleashing forces of chaos that can not be controlled. Tony learned his craft during the TTPI days, and based on his experience back then he actually believes the RMI may be able to hold the U.S. hostage, and extort increased wealth for Imata Kabua from the U.S. if he is able to really put U.S. access to Kwajalein at risk.

If the U.S. capitulates and makes concessions Congress and the Pentagon have said the U.S. would not accept, that would be a huge propaganda success for Tony, and he would be satisfied, for a while. However, that is not the scenario he most prefers. He would rather see the U.S. pull the rip cord and bail out of Kwajalein, so he could preside over an international auction for use of the atoll.

Because the U.S. has treaty rights to deny use of Kwajalein for military uses by other countries, the RMI might have to limit use of Kwajalein for non-military uses by other governments or even international organizations, governmental or not. Commercial use of Kwajalein also would be possible. It is not know if other uses will generate as much return for the landowners as the current use by the U.S. Army, but as the U.S. prepares to withdraw in 2016, Tony would love to preside over the process for finding out.