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

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.


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