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.

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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.

Tomeing-deBrum sells out nuclear test survivors compensation for Kwajalein, but get nothing for either nuclear or Kwajalein: A lose-lose result from lose-lose leadership

September 10, 2008

In the U.S. political system, when a Congress nears the end of its term at the same time a Presidential term is ending, that can be a good time to get certain business done that is a low priority in a new Congress and President have so many competing demands and priorities.   That is especially true when there is a record before Congress to support action.   Even in an election year, the last session of Congress before its term ends is when an issue that does not have importance in the U.S. elections can be addressed.

In the case of S. 1756, there was a strong record of hearing in the House and the Senate on the RMI Changed Circumstances Petition and the nuclear claims.   In the Senate the RMI government had been successful getting a bill introduced, having a hearing, and having the Senate committee leadership agree to approve the bill with amendments that benefit the RMI.   If the bill had passed in the Senate back when the committee leadership and staff told the RMI it was ready to move, there was a realistic chance that the Senate and RMI together could get the House to act, and that the Department of the Interior and OMB might not oppose the bill too strongly.   That is how Bikini got its $90 million resettlement funding in 1987, when OMB decided not to object.

Since the Senate had introduced S. 1756 by request of President Note, when it was ready to pass the bill in January it needed to confirm that there was stability and continuity in the RMI government, and that the new leadership would continue to support the bill.   But Tony deBrum was afraid to let anything good happen if the Note Administration might get credit for it, so he refused to answer the Senate, and in this case silence meant the answer was “No” just as clearly as if the RMI was saying “No” to the Senate.   Also, deBrum did not want a success for the RMI nuclear claims policy unless he first had success for the Kwajalein ruling class based on deBrum’s demands that  the U.S. pay them more or get out.  That juvenile delinquent strategy backfired big time.

So S. 1756 was in limbo, even though the four atolls testified in the “hearing” deBrum staged for U.S. Congress member from American Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega, that the RMI must make S. 1756 a top priority.   The four atolls wrote and spoke to the RMI and asked that the RMI take quick and clear action to support he bill, because this was not a transition issue, it did not need to be studied for more than a day or two to understand that it would be a mistake not to say “Yes’ loud and clear to Congress.

The four atolls reminded the Tomeing-deBrum administration that even if the bill does not go all the way through, the further it gets in this Congress the better the hope it will get back on the agenda next year in a new Congress and with a new President.   But Tony deBrum was too angry at RMI Ambassador Banny deBrum, and fired the Ambassador and embassy staff before he had a new Ambassador and so he did not maintain stability and continuity.   Tony mismanaged the transition and we can now put a price tag on the cost of his incompetence:  $100 million.

It may be that the Bill can be re-introduced next year, but then it will be in competition with so many other issue that are a higher priory for the new Congress and a new President.  Also, the funding for the RMI bill will have to come from somewhere in the budget, and in a new Congress it will be much harder to find the money because there will be so many new budget priorities in a new Congress.

As forecast yesterday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources placed S. 1756 on its agenda now that the RMI government has ended its opposition by silence, as well as its secret behind the scenes opposition.   The committee approved S. 1756 with favorable amendments that in creased the additional funding for health from $2 million annually for 4 island to $4 million annually for 10 islands recognized as having been affected by the U.S. nuclear testing program in recent U.S. Government health studies.   Under S. 1756 that $4 million annual health care funding would continue for 20 years and be adjusted upward each year for inflation.

Unfortunately,  approval of the S. 1756 this late in the Congress is more like a death march than a celebration of a new beginning.   Since S. 1756 did not pass, instead of $4 million for health care for 20 years to benefit 10 atolls, there reportedly will be as little as $1 million for just 1 year, with no reliable commitment to future funding.

All the RMI had to do was say “Yes.”   It could have been a one sentence diplomatic note.   Since no one on any continent trusts anything that comes out of Tony deBrum’s mouth, it had to be in writing to be accepted by the U.S. and relied upon by Congress.   But it could have accepted the $100 million package as an additional U.S. contribution to compensation, without waiving past, present or future claims in the U.S. courts, Congress or through diplomatic channels seeking additional compensation.   No one was demanding that the RMI espouse and settle claims or waive claims that U.S. compensation under the Section 177 Agreement was inadequate.   All the RMI had to do was say “Yes” that $100 million more is better than nothing, it is good, but it is still not adequate.

But that would have meant $100 million for 10 atolls over 20 years would be approved by the U.S. Senate without also getting more U.S. funding for Imata Kabua.   That is why Tony deBrum told his lobbyist, Mr. Johnston, to take a pass on S. 1756.   Tony used his position as Foreign Minister of the RMI to make more, more and more money for Imata and the ruling land barons of Kwajalein the top priority.   As the Senator from Kwajalein he did not want the nuclear claims compensation funding to compete with Kwajalein funding.  He did not even want both S. 1756 and the RMI demands for the U.S. to pay more or get out of Kwajalein to move forward at the same time.

The problem is that when you are a minister you have to act on behalf of the nation.  If you want to act only as the senator from your place of election, then you resign as minister, or you recuse yourself on an issue if you can not be fair to all the people and free of conflict of interest.    Try explaining that to Tony.  Yeah, right.

So Tony quietly killed S. 1756.   He then used RMI money to pay a reported $1 million that belonged to all the people to his lobbyist to get more money for just a few people.  That includes Imata Kabua and Tony!

As the months went by and the chance for approval by the full Senate slipped away, and the chance for approval by the House of Representatives slipped away, Tony returned to the scene of the crime and tried to play word games to deny that he did it.

He blamed it on everyone but himself, even though he prevented anyone but himself form controlling the agenda and blocked the bill. Now he says there was opposition by 1 Senator, but obviously that did not stop the bill once the RMI supported it. He said the statement in the report of the committee on the bill that Bikini and Enewetak wanted might be used against the RMI in seeking more funding in the future, but that could have been dropped from the report or easily changed to ensure it does not cause any problem in the future.

Tony deBrum killed S. 1756 because he sold out the nuclear victims for Kwajalein. Do not be surprised if Tony has the arrogant pridefulness to now take credit for getting the bill passed out of committee.   Do not be fooled.   Yes, the committee acted because the RMI finally supported S. 1756.   But that only shows that the Senate committee was ready to act and did what it promised.

We will never know how far the bill would have gotten if the RMI had supported it when asked to say “Yes” in January, but we do know that Tony deBrum’s flip flop decision to support S. 1756 in September was TOO LITTLE TOO LATE!

Tony deBrum statements on Kwajalein land use agreement assume U.S. shares RMI interest in preventing reversion of escrowed base rights payments: How does agreement to prevent reversion serve U.S. national interest if it does not secure binding base rights as mandated by Congress in 2003?

September 6, 2008

Kabua-deBrum view of reality from the Kwajalein Kava Club

For more than 25 years Tony deBrum and Imata Kabua have demanded that the U.S. negotiate directly with feudal lords of Kwajalein to secure U.S. Army land use rights at Kwajalein, rather than on a government-to-government basis with the RMI national government. Now deBrum is telling Kabua that it will finally happen, because the RMI government is controlled by the feudal landed ruling class of Kwajalein and the U.S. will be forced to deal with Kabua and his political allies in the RMI ruling party.

For more than 25 years Tony deBrum and Imata Kabua have demanded that U.S. base rights payments be managed by the Kwajalein land barons. Now they think that will happen because the local organization known as KADA has been re-established to manage U.S. base payments, and with Kwajalein land barons in control the RMI government will facilitate KADA role in administration of Kwajalein funding.

For 5 years Tony deBrum and Imata Kabua have insisted that the date of December 17, 2008, is a vague target, a goal, a flexible schedule for RMI steps to secure agreement by the land barons for U.S. government on use of Kwajalein by the U.S. military after 2016. Now they believe that – unless the RMI and U.S. accept terms Kabua demands before then – December 17 of this year will be just another day in on-going negotiations for a new land use agreement.

Kabua and deBrum believe they can ignore the December 17 deadline set by Congress because the RMI government is controlled by the Kwajalein land barons, and the RMI government is prepared to facilitate but not exercise sovereign control or responsibility for the land use negotiations.

Indeed, as we reported back on August 9, 2008:

“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…instead of rule of law under the constitutional process 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 orders from ‘King Kabua’ too?”

Thus, in essence deBrum is demanding that the U.S. deal directly with Imata Kabua as a sort of RMI domestic tribal leader in the ruling oligarchy that controls land use in the RMI, while the elected leadership of the constitutional government who owe their official positions to Kabua act as glorified errand boys and office clerks for Kabua.

The current edition of the Marshall Islands Journal quotes deBrum extensively on the negotiation process he envisions. As Tony sees it, the provision of U.S. law making December 17 the end of the period allowed for securing a land use agreement (LUA) represents an “exploding deadline concept…first and foremost in the minds of any who want to use that language to coerce an LUA.”

Instead of meeting a deadline to fulfill obligations of a treaty ratified by both governments through their respective constitutional processes, deBrum calls for “postponement of the drop dead date,” and an “alternate use…as the landowners might suggest” for land payment increases held in escrow until the LUA is in effect.

In the alternative, deBrum argues it would be “better yet” for the U.S. to waive the deadline altogether and pay the funds in the escrow account “while the LUA is being negotiated,” even after December 17 has come and gone. Yet, the U.S. law provides for the escrow funds to revert to the U.S. “unless otherwise mutually agreed,” but without an LUA reversion may be more attractive to the U.S. than agreement to some other use without securing the base rights agreed to in 2003.

The option of mutual agreement to provide for use of the escrow funds exists only to enable the governments to prevent reversion on terms that include securing the LUA. But deBrum appears to believe the U.S. can or will enter into mutual agreement to prevent reversion even if the RMI is in breach of its obligations and fails to secure an LUA or any binding and enforceable agreement with the rulers of Kwajalein the terms of which ensure with certainty an LUA.

Tony deBrum sees breach and abrogation of RMI treaty obligations as somehow allowed under the law and justified so long as there are “bona fide” and “good faith” negotiations going on. Of course, that is absurd. A party that fails to meet it obligations can not claim to be acting in good faith once a breach is on-going, and the RMI is a matter of just weeks away from being in breach of the bilateral base rights treaty for U.S. use of Kwajalein.

The U.S. federal statute increasing payments, but putting the increase in escrow pending a new LUA, states that the U.S. and RMI can “mutually agree” to another use of the funds, but it would have to be consistent with the purposes for which the funds were appropriated. Specifically, the U.S. can not mutually agree to a reprogramming, reallocation or alternate use of funds unless it is linked to a land use agreement securing U.S. base rights at Kwajalein.

Why would Congress reward the RMI by changing the rules of the road at this point? Indeed, Congress would need to act to authorize any use “the landowners might suggest,” unless it is one that secures the land use rights as required by the applicable treaty provisions and current law. It is too late for Congress to address this issue before it adjourns for the year, so the deadline stands, time has run out.

That means the RMI and the land barons need to sign an agreement that secures land use rights, or the deadline will come and go. The Congress said what it meant and meant what it said. As discussed further below, after December 17, a process will be set in motion for winding up operations at Kwajalein by 2016.

Once that process is triggered, the RMI and rulers of Kwajalein will have no legal right or political powers to reverse it, the options and choices will belong to the U.S. and not the RMI or the land barons of Kwajalein. Their options exist before the deadline, not after it.

The Washington/Majuro real-world view of reality

Since 2003 the U.S. and the RMI have been parties to the Compact of Free Association (CFA), and a Military Use and Operating Rights Agreement MUORA) creating mutual obligations regarding U.S. use of its base at Kwajalein after 2016, when the previous lease expires.

The U.S. views as an internal sovereign matter for the RMI those national legal and political steps required to secure under its domestic law the land use rights the RMI government agreed to provide to the U.S. Army at Kwajalein. Because the RMI and the Kwajalein land barons had not completed those internal steps at the time Congress approved the new Compact of Free Association in 2003, Congress allowed a 5 year period for those steps to be competed.

Before doing so, the U.S. Congress held hearings, listened to the testimony of the elected and traditional leaders of Kwajalein regarding land use issues, listened to RMI national government leaders, and U.S. negotiators. As an incentive to an agreement Congress increased payments between 2003 and 2016 over and above the amounts the U.S. was obligated to pay under the existing lease that does not expires until 2016. Congress then continued increases for payments throughout the period of any extension of the lease after 2016.

At the same time, Congress decided it should treat failure of the RMI and the land barons to reach an agreement before the five year deadline as an indication that the amounts the U.S. Congress was willing to pay for Kwajalein base rights was insufficient for the RMI to secure those rights. Congress did not authorize further increases in that event, but rather provided for termination of the Kwajalein lease after 2016.

So the remedy Congress provided for is the opposite of what deBrum espouses. Instead of negotiating how much more funding the U.S. should give to the RMI to secure Kwajalein, the solution Congress prescribed is for U.S. use of Kwajalein to cease in 2016.

Thus, in the absence of a land use agreement by the deadline of December 17, 2008, all escrowed amounts over and above the amounts already being paid under the existing lease for the 2003-20016 period would revert to the U.S. treasury, and the President would report to Congress on plans for termination of U.S. operations at Kwajalein.

Contrary to deBrum’s most recent statements to the press, this was not a “drop dead concept” that was something to be “used to coerce” a land use agreement. It is not what deBrum calls an “exploding deadline” to pressure the land barons into an agreement.

Rather, it was an act of patience to create a grace period. But the grace period had to have an ending. It could not go on indefinitely or remain open ended if an agreement was not reached within the allowed period.

That is not coercion, that was accommodation. That was patient forbearance with fair warning putting all parties on notice of the U.S. policy and intentions.

U.S. Congress and President accepted possible loss of Kwajalein in 2003

In the business world we use contracts that define the binding terms for commercial partnership. In government we use laws which are binding based on democratic consent of the governed. In international relations we use treaties that define the obligations of nations that exercise their sovereignty by ratifying treaty provisions.

In 2003 the process for negotiating and ratifying a new Compact of Free Association between the RMI and the USA was coming to an end. The first 15 year CFA had expired, been extended, and the extension was expiring.

The U.S. did not agree to further extension, and the U.S. was prepared for the consequences if a new CFA could not be agreed upon. Thus, the U.S. was prepared to negotiate instead a winding up of free association, including whatever transitional arrangements might be agreed up for U.S. use of Kwajalein.

The RMI was not prepared for the end of free association, but it had not completed its internal process for securing land use rights for the U.S. military pursuant to applicable base rights agreements. That is why the U.S. required a 5 year grace period for the RMI to secure an LUA for the period after 20016, giving the U.S. an eight year period to adapt to the impending loss of Kwajalein if the RMI failed to secure an LUA.

Now as the end of the grace period approaches the Marshall Islands Journal is reporting that Tony deBrum has escalated his bizarre ideology of confrontation, by suggesting that the five years Congress granted for the RMI and Kwajalein chiefs to secure land rights was not long enough. But the people know the 5 year deadline was plenty of time to work something out.

The five year grace period Congress adopted was more than adequate. The 9 months deBrum has been in power has been more than enough. Why would the U.S. agree to postpone the deadline? Why would the U.S. reward bad faith by agreeing to an alternative use of the escrow funding?

The negotiation of U.S. payments ended in 2003, there is no U.S. number and an RMI number based on demands of the land barons that can now be compromised, no payment proposals on the table to be compromised by some splitting of the difference. The difference between the U.S. and RMI agreed amount and what the Kwajalein propertied oligarchy demanded was already split when increased payments were secured from 2003 to 2016, and fro the period after 2016.

Rather than “postponement” or mutual agreement to some “alternate use” that does not secure the base rights for which the escrow funding was provided, the only question now is whether the RMI can propose some other use for the escrow funds that would be more agreeable to the U.S. than reversion. But agreement to such other use would be of no value to the U.S. if it does not also secure the LUA.

Why would some other use be more attractive to the U.S. than recovery of the escrowed amount if it does not secure base rights? If deBrum assumes the U.S. officials with the authority to “otherwise mutually agree” to another use of the escrow funds share an over-riding interest in preventing reversion, he may be mistaken and surprised to find out that is not the case.

Simply stated, if the land barons and the RMI are able to secure an LUA after the deadline, based on U.S. agreement to a use of the escrow funds to prevent reversion, then logically the RMI and Kwajalein rulers could also secure the LUA before the deadline and prevent reversion. If deBrum has some political or ideological compulsion to force the resolution of this matter into the period after the deadline to prove some sort of point, the question is whether the U.S. can or will accommodate that compulsion in light of the current U.S. law ending the process of negotiation.

The answer to that question will come based not on the U.S. reaction to deBrum’s personal negotiating style, but based on whether the U.S. determines that mutual agreement to another use of the escrow funds will secure the LUA on terms agreed to by the two governments in the 2003 base rights treaty. Again, if that can be done after the deadline it can be done before it, and if it is not done before the deadline then the U.S. national interest may be served best by reversion rather than agreement to another use.

If the U.S. agrees to another use to prevent reversion without securing the LUA, and then enters into the kind of negotiations deBrum envisions, there will have been no purpose in the five year grace period and the deadline, which is certainly how deBrum views the entire matter.

If the U.S. views the five year grace period as a meaningful statement of U.S. purpose and intentions, then reversion of the escrowed funds may well be more consistent with U.S. national interests than mutual agreement to an alternate use that does not secure the base rights that are the purpose for which the escrowed funds were appropriated from the treasury, and hence the people, of the United States.

To allow those funds to be released form escrow for some other purpose without securing U.S. rights would be a breach not only of the RMI base rights agreement with U.S. government, but a breach of the U.S. government’s duty to American taxpayers. By December 17 the current Congress will be adjourned forever, a new President-elect will be preparing to take office after a new Congress has convened in 2009, when the issue of a government that failed to meet its obligations to secure base rights fro the U.S. Army will have to compete with thousands of more important issues for special consideration.

If the LUA deadline “explodes,” as deBrum put it, by early 2009 it will be clear to all in Majuro and Washington that it was not because the fuse on the process was too short, or because Congress sought to “coerce” an LUA, as deBrum claims. It will be because deBrum tried to stage a dramatic end-game that has long been a fantasy in his mind, a fantasy in which it is the U.S. that is coerced into paying more for Kwajalein than Congress had provided based on agreements ratified by both governments pursuant to their respective constitutional processes.

That kind of brinkmanship by deBrum reflects something that not even his political bosses may fully understand. Given the tendency of the U.S. not to stay where it is not wanted, given the reluctance of the U.S. to set the precedent of being blackmailed by a supposed ally, Tony’s actions seem crazy only if you assume he actually wants the U.S. to stay at Kwajalein. If you assume he wants the U.S. to leave, his actions make perfect sense.

Thus, the ultimate question is whether his actions faithfully represent the people of the RMI and the members of the national parliament. The terms of the 5 year grace period provided by Congress were not a game or a trick by Congress, but rather a necessary and transparent test of whether the RMI-U.S. alliance is sound and based on true mutuality of interest between our nations.

If the differences between the U.S. view of the alliance and that of the current RMI government is greater than what we have in common after decades of shared history, that will be very apparent on December 17.

Pirates at the helm of the RMI ship of state

September 6, 2008

The predictions this website has made concerning the consequences of failed RMI government policies are coming true one-by-one. The list of bad choices made by the current ruling junta of the RMI government gets longer every day. The people will pay for these bad choices long after the current ruling regime is gone. The RMI government is broken and needs to be fixed.

Because the RMI is a small country that is poor despite large U.S. grants, there will always be hardships and challenges typical of the developing world. But the RMI’s problems are made worse by a government that has been hijacked to serve the feudal lords of Kwajalein, rather than the people of the nation as a whole.

The current ruling party is not a national party, it is the Kwajalein feudalism party. So it can not provide national leadership to advance the cause of the nation, it only provides leadership for the cause of Kwajalein ruling elite. That gives rise to a comparison between the RMI ruling party and a mafia sting operation, in which organized corruption infiltrates legitimate institutions.

The mafia takes over and appears to be doing business as usual, but instead they are really just raiding the treasury for their own enrichment. Once they suck out as much money as they can, they will be gone. That is, unless they are stopped before they can get away with it.

On internal domestic issues as well as bilateral and multilateral issues, the RMI government is, as we predicted months ago, a ship of state captured by pirates and now lost at sea. Let’s look at the trail of folly left in their wake.

RMI Broadcast Dispute

The current edition of the Marshall Islands Journal reports that the Board of Directors of the RMI National Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has rejected a directive by the RMI President and Cabinet to cease development of wireless television broadcasting in the RMI. Since the national government provides many services in the RMI that are provided by the private sector in more developed nations, the Cabinet order to terminate NTA development of broadcasting capabilities was so clearly selective and arbitrary that the NTA refused to comply.

Now it is reported that Tony deBrum and others acting as his surrogates want the NTA to refrain from providing certain broadcast services, so that the “Marshalls Broadcast Company” (MBC) will have a monopoly over wireless television services in the RMI. Yet, it is also reported that Tony deBrum may have a conflict of interest due to a personal financial interest in MBC. In addition, it is not known if MBC has the capability of providing the service, meeting demand, or developing the private sector market for the services to be provided by NTA.

Also, giving a monopoly for the next generation of wireless television in the RMI to a company that deBrum may be able to control raises other concerns that the NTA may want to consider in carrying out its regulatory function to protect democracy and public interest in the use of public broadcasting in the RMI. Using control of the political and legal process to get control of private sector business, and vice versa, is the model Larry Hillbloom was following to become the richest most powerful man in the Northern Mariana Islands, and he reportedly had plans well underway to duplicate that model throughout the Pacific.

Tony deBrum reportedly was Hillbloom’s understudy, and his business as well as political partner in UMDA, through which deBrum now seeks to control MBC.  We also recently learned that deBrum may have been working with Hillbloom in connection with deBrum’s plan to establish an RMI embassy in Vietnam, and have deBrum or maybe even Hillbloom serve there as the RMI ambassador. Given Hillbloom’s controversial political, legal, business and personal lifestyle history, before he was lost at sea in Saipan, and possibly eaten by sharks, it makes one wonder what lessons Tony deBrum learned from Hillbloom that he is now putting into practice in the RMI.

Maybe private sector wireless television broadcasting has promise and should be developed, but instead of establishing an RMI national policy on privatization of this and other government services, the Cabinet has been like puppets, with their strings pulled by the de facto head of state – you guessed it – Tony deBrum. Instead of a fair and impartial policy opening the market to competition in those sectors ready for conversion to private ownership, the Cabinet targeted NTA under pressure from deBrum.

There is concern that many RMI laws and policies adopted while Tony is pulling the strings are all about Tony. As we reported recently, Tony or his surrogates reportedly may have land rights adjacent to certain public landfill projects that may result in government payments that could benefit Tony, and his demands as Foreign Minister for increased U.S. payments for Kwajalein directly benefit Tony by enriching his political godfather Imata Kabua.

Nuclear Claims Compensation

The elected leaders of Bikini, Rongelap and Utirik testified in what they were told were “field hearings” of the U.S. Congress chaired by Congressman Eni Faleomavaega when he visited the RMI at the invitation of Tony deBrum early in 2008. In that testimony the leaders of those atolls urged the RMI ruling party and the U.S. Congress to support passage of S. 1756. Neither Faleomavaega nor deBrum and the RMI ruling party he controls did anything anyone knows about to support S. 1756.

Now RMI Foreign Minister deBrum is trying to blame his ministry’s failure to support S. 1756, the nuclear claims compensation project of the U.S. Senate, on the nuclear test victims. He even singled out Rongelap and Bikini for not signing a letter that the leaders of those atolls thought was not an accurate or smart way to address the S. 1756 problem Tony created by not giving the proposed legislation timely support.

Since the public in the RMI knows that the RMI’s flip-flop support for S. 1756 is too little too late, Tony deBrum is looking around for someone to blame instead of him. He also is using his well-known tactic of confusing the issues and the public so he does not have to answer for his mistakes and bad choices on behalf of the people.

Unfortunately, the Marshall Islands Journal has become the public relations arm of the Foreign Ministry under DeBrum, and so the MIJ just gets Tony’s spin on events and lets the confusion and misinformation erode public understanding. Thus, the MIJ quotes Tony as saying he was “surprised” that the Rongelap Senator wanted the bill and the Senate committee report on it to make it clear the Senate was not committed to further funding beyond S. 1756 in response to the RMI Changed Circumstances Petition.

According to deBrum this would “close the door” to further compensation for nuclear testing claims. That shows how lame and weak deBrum is as a Foreign Minister, and how empty his excuses for failing to lead have become.

The truth is that Bikini and Enewetak requested that language to strengthen their appeal in the federal courts, and RMI should have helped the atolls with NCT award legal cases, because if they win their appeal that would have opened the doors to negotiations for further compensation based on awards of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal. Because the Senate did not move S. 1756 and its committee report forward, any benefit from the committee report statement that Congress has no commitment to further response to the CCP was lost, and the chances of Bikini and Enewetak wining have been reduced.

In addition, if the RMI had sat down with 4 atolls early this year to develop a sound policy and strategy on S. 1756, a statement on the approach by Congress to the CCP could easily have been proposed to limit the scope of such a statement of Congressional intent to the scope of the NCT land awards for Bikini, Enewetak, Utirik and Rongelap. Instead of giving up without a fight like the Tomeign administration has done under Tony’s control, the RMI should have worked with the four atolls to support Bikini and Enewetak.

While such a statement is not binding as a matter of law or policy, it might have helped the four atolls in federal court and it would not have closed the door on anything. Just like Tony’s dishonest claim that the RMI did not support the bill because one Senator opposed in, his claim that the committee report language requested by Bikini and Enewetak and supported by the Rongelap Senator would “close the door” on future compensation is simply dishonest.

Any additional U.S. assistance or compensation under the CCP is ex gratia and discretionary, not a legal obligation, in the view of the U.S. Congress, so unless and until Bikini and Enewetak win their cases, there was nothing to lose by supporting S. 1756. For Tony to make his dishonest excuses shows that he uses misinformation and confusion to mislead and lie to the people, and he must think that the issues are too complicated for the people to know he is lying to them. This reveals that while he pretends to be a man of the people he really views himself as superior, and sees the people as not smart enough to realize that he is tricking them to keep himself in power and make Imata Kabua even more rich and greedy.

Also, it is ironic that the deBrum controlled RMI government refused to work with the four atolls and the additional six atolls that could benefit under S. 1756, because the Kabua-deBrum-Tomeing AKA political party platform promised to empower the local governments in the RMI. That promise has been broken by the RMI ruling party’s refusal to support S. 1756, which would improve the quality of life for 10 atolls.

RMI Land Use Law Issues

As we recently reported, in addition to the RMI ruling party’s failed effort to blackmail the U.S. on Kwajalein land use, we recently disclosed reported expressions of concern from sources within the RMI government about a new land use law that reportedly will require the U.S. and RMI to use public funds for the equivalent of impact “lease” payments to landowners adjacent to public land fill projects. The concern of some familiar with this issue is that Tony deBrum reportedly pushed modifications to the laws through that will benefit him as the owner of adjacent land next to public land fill projects, including the Majuro airport improvement project.

Not only does that need to be investigated by the U.S. and RMI, apparently the FAA and Department of the Interior are already aware of this possible problem. If the land use law deBrum reportedly proposed is another scheme to use RMI land law to force costly long-term leases on the U.S. and RMI, that could be a rip off public funding which might better go to education and health care. Clearly, the entire practice of leasing land in the RMI for public projects may need to be re-examined.

Just as the current RMI ruling party tried to blackmail the U.S. into paying more lease fees to Kwajalien’s feudal lords, the attempt by deBrum’s political party bosses to raid the Rongelap Atoll Resettlement Trust Fund, by demanding lease payments for projects requested by the community, is another example of the abuse of feudal powers over land in the RMI. It also demonstrates how the Kabua-deBrum-Tomeing junta is trying to get rich quick before their corrupt regime collapses.

RMI LEADERS APPEAR CLUELESS ON U.S. POLITICAL PARTY CONVENTION PROCESS

September 4, 2008

Free association and relations between the RMI and U.S. should always be a bipartisan issue in the U.S. Congress, so the RMI can work in a constructive way with both major U.S. political parties to strengthen the alliance and ensure its success for both countries.  That is why having some recognition of free association as a national interest of the USA in the platforms of both parties would have been very important.

U.S. political party conventions are attended by representatives of other nations, who participate in programs to educate and involve the international community in understanding the U.S. two party political process.  In addition, close allies like Israel and Japan or member nations of the European Union often have U.S. based representatives or organizations seek to ensure that the political party platforms recognize shared bilateral or multilateral interests and goals.

Given enactment of the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act by the U.S. Congress and the process of its implementation since the last U.S. national party conventions in 2004, this year was a good opportunity for the RMI and the other FAS to seek recognition of the alliance in the U.S. political party platforms.  Maybe that can be achieved in 2012, now that RMI lobbyist Johnston failed to accomplish it in the 2008 platform of the Democratic Party, even though he is a former Senator in the Democratic Party.

Once again, that was probably because Tony deBrum was at the Kwajalein Kava Club and did not ask Johnston to get the job done in Denver.  Tony was too busy making sure more money for the RMI from the U.S. will go to Imata Kabua, which is the RMI’s top priority with Tony as the de facto head of state.  That is because, as everyone knows, Tony serves at the pleasure of “King Kabua,”  who expects more money if Tony wants to keep his seat in parliament.

FREE ASSOCIATION NOT RECOGNIZED IN DEMOCRATIC PARTY PLATFORM:

The current RMI administration has paid former U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston and his son Hunter a $90,000. bonus, and $1 million to promote RMI interests in the U.S. political process.   Shouldn’t a bonus using RMI funds come after the lobbyist at least gets some results?

According to reports from the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, the retired Democratic Party leader and his son either failed or didn’t try to have inserted in the 2008 Platform of the Democratic Party any policy statement on free association, Kwajalein, nuclear claims or recognizing issues related to RMI citizens living in the USA.

In contrast, the Republican Party convention held in Minnesota adopted language in its platform, under the Asia & Pacific section of the National Security chapter, that identifies relations with the associated states as a national priority.  It reads:

“We cherish our bonds with our freely associated states in the Pacific Islands.”

Even a simple statement like that can be historical in a U.S. national party platform, which is a road map that can be pursued with a new President or members of Congress from that political party.

Why it even matters:   A background analysis for RMI readers on U.S. national political party platforms

As the people of the RMI, the USA and the world know, the Democratic Party held its convention in Denver last week, and the Republicans are holding their convention this week. The conventions are attended by delegates who represent the members of the party from all over America. Every four years the two major national politics parties hold national conventions for two reasons.

First, the party delegates adopt a platform which is a statement of the principles, policies and goals that each party will follow for four years. The platform is what the party will ask the President of the United States and the Congress of the United States to do over the next four years, no matter which party is in power.

The second thing the Republican Party and the Democratic Party delegates do at the national convention is choose their party’s candidate for President and Vice-President. The candidates chosen by the delegates are nominated to be elected in the U.S. national elections to be held on November 4, 2008.

The candidates nominated by the convention become the leaders of their parties, and the candidate who gets elected President will be the leader of his or her political party while serving as President. As President he or she will also be responsible for acting in the best interests of the whole nation, not just his or her political party, and the policies of the USA are defined by the U.S. Constitution and U.S. laws, not by the party platforms.

However, the party platforms are very important, because the political parties and the platforms they adopt are what the candidate promised to their political party and the nation. So the platforms can be very influential on Congress and the President. Each political party holds the President from their party and the members of Congress from their party to the promises in the platform, and if those promises are broken without trying very hard to keep them, then the members of the party may not support the President or members of Congress who did not keep those promises in the next convention and next election.

RMI-U.S. relations take another turn for the worse: Tomeing-deBrum government slowly spins out of control, buffeted by failure-after-failure

September 3, 2008

Reports from within RMI government indicate low morale and confusion as failures add up to a record of gross incompetence:

  • RMI Foreign Minister’s ultimatum to U.S. on Kwajalein base rights payments backfired, U.S. stands firm on Compact law provisions, and landowners want the new level of payments held in the escrow account, even though deBrum called increased payments approved by Congress an “insult.”
  • Minister Tony deBrum’s bungled attempt to impose its ambassadorial appointment on U.S. backfired, leaving embassy top post unmanned at critical moment in bilateral relations.
  • Tony’s incompetent handling of potential $100 million nuclear claims legislation in U.S. Congress (S. 1756) was followed by dishonest explanation to the RMI parliament, and his sloppy attempt to correct his mistake after 9 months of do-nothing attitude, also backfires after deBrum disrespectfully taunts Congress with weak endorsement of bill, seen by all as too little too late.
  • Desperate deBrum attempt to make OTEC alternative energy project for Kwajalein a condition for Kwajalein land use agreement backfires, because OTEC requires private investment that may or may not happen, making U.S. agreement to buy power from OTEC project virtually irrelevant to Kwajalein land use issue.

Now we have reports from sources in RMI government that deBrum pushed new land use law through RMI parliament, reportedly giving adjacent landowners property right over land fill for public works projects and requiring additional compensation. Details are still sketchy, but apparently the FAA and Department of Interior have informed RMI that U.S. will not release funds for public works projects under lease terms that are a rip off, including the much needed FAA project to improve the Majuro international airport.

Apparently the U.S. finally has figured out that land lease system in RMI for public works projects is a rip off of the RMI treasury and the U.S. Treasury. There are even reports that deBrum or someone acting on his behalf may own land adjacent to the airport expansion project site.

Like the Kwajalein land use lease that makes the feudal lords the wealthiest men throughout the entire Micronesian region, and also like the attempt by Imata Kabua and his foreign partners to invade Rongelap resettlement trust fund to pay the feudal lords for use of Rongelap land to benefit the community, the new land fill lease rights law reportedly appears that it may be part of a scheme to use public projects on public lands as a “cash cow” to be milked in order to make the richest men in the RMI even more wealthy.

The U.S. may finally be realizing that the feudal lords under Marshallese do not take care of the “commoners” in a fair way as traditionally required under Marshallese custom, and keep most of the wealth concentrated in the ruling class.

In addition, sources in the RMI government indicate that the U.S. has told the RMI that the recent law to restore the powers of the Kwajalein Atoll local development entity known as KADA does not mean the U.S. will deal with that entity on Kwajalein funding and base rights agreement implementation. The U.S. instead intends to deal with the RMI, and views KADA as the surrogate of the feudal lords who have abused the commoners in the past.

An in depth report on the deBrum role in these matters will appear at this site soon. The failures in RMI policy toward the U.S. under deBrum are exposing the flaws in U.S. and RMI practices deBrum seeks to exploit, and that require reform if free association is to be sustained as a successful alliance.

Good or bad, the RMI gets the kind of government it deserves; Adult supervision needed: Whether Tomeing is in Majuro or globe-trotting again, juvenile delinquent Tony Debrum is running the RMI government

August 24, 2008

The Marshall Islands Journal sunk to a new low this week, burying stories about RMI bungling of it position on supplementary nuclear claims compensation in the U.S. Senate (S. 1756), as well as U.S. rejection of the RMI’s prematurely confirmed appointee for RMI Ambassador to the United States.   These two stories were virtually hidden from readers in easily overlooked corners of the MIJ, but each story speaks volumes about the disarray, confusion and self-defeating policies of the deBrum administration.

Yes, there is no point in calling it the Tomeing administration, because Tony deBrum is the de facto head of government.   Tomeing is down in Niue, with Christopher Loeak, who is taking the long way home after going to the Olympics in China.  Fred Pedro is with Tomeing, so that leaves Tony in Majuro to do really weird things, like blame Ben Graham’s rejection on the U.S. and make a joke about the RMI’s failure to support S. 1756.

Tony deBrum says S. 1756 is not enough money, but he has no plan for how to get more.   So it is really juvenile and disrespectful to mock the U.S. Congress by saying he was “flattered” the Congress needs “RMI endorsement” to pass legislation.    No, Tony, the U.S. Congress does not need the RMI’s endorsement, but the U.S. Congress is not stupid.  It will not approve legislation that could cost the U.S. taxpayers and voters more than $100 million over a 15-20 year period without assurances the RMI supports the legislation.   The RMI should have supported S. 1756 without having to be asked, and the fact that the Congress had to ask shows that Tony deBrum and the Cabinet were asleep at the wheel.

For Tony to say he feels personally flattered to be asked for his endorsement shows that he thinks it is all about him, instead of about the people of 10 atolls who would benefit from and additional $5 million per year.   Instead of educating the people about this issue, the MIJ reported that RMI lawyers in Washington were being paid legal fees to work on an RMI statement regarding S. 1756, which we agree is too little too late.   Paying Tony’s lobbyists to write a statement is a waste of RMI money because all the RMI has to do is send a letter saying it is not enough but it will help and it is appreciated, and the RMI would like to consult on additional nuclear claims issues.

If those RMI lawyers want to help, they should explain to Tony deBrum that U.S. officials in Congress and the Executive Branch and even the U.S. Courts get news from all over the world, and may notice stories about the RMI. What do they think when they see Tomeing threatening to give Kwajalein not to Taiwan, but the PRC?   What do you think comes to mind when they see Tony deBrum mocking and showing his contempt for Congress because it has before it legislation with “only” $100 million?

One thing for sure, the MIJ won’t ask any of these questions.  The MIJ headline this week was about Japanese International Cooperation Agency volunteers.  The story about S. 1756 was in a little box on page 3, and the Ben Graham story was in an even smaller box on page 3, very easy to miss.  We actually did miss it, until it was pointed out to us. That’s too bad, because Ben was a victim of bad mishandling of his nomination by Tony deBrum.

It appears there is a perception in Washington that Tony deBrum was trying to pressure the U.S. to accept Ben by saying the U.S. had sent confusing signals, and that his confirmation before final U.S. agreement to receive him was a stunt by deBrum that hurt Ben more than it helped.   This is seen as more of the same adolescent tactics Tony used on the “pay more or get out” Kwajalein ultimatum.  Like his tactics on Kwajalein, the attempt to influence the U.S. position and policy by making provocative statements in the press backfired.

Clearly, Tony wants to do as much damage as he can, and Tomeing is clueless.   If the representatives of the people let this go on much longer, then they are part of the problem instead of being part of the solution.   If the people stand by a watch then they will get the kind of government they deserve.

In a democracy, you don’t stay silent and it does not show respect to let leaders do the wrong thing in the name of the people.   You show respect for your country by protesting and demanding leadership that protects the people, and serves the nation.

You may not speak up to an Iroij if you still have one because feudal rulers are intolerant, but you show respect for elected leaders by speaking up and telling them what you think.  Of course, since the MIJ does not give the people very much information, that adds to the problem.

This week the MIJ devoted a great deal of attention to the assurances of the U.S. Army that it really likes Kwajalein.  What do you expect them to say, that is their job.   The real question is what is being said in Washington by those whose job it is to decide what to do between now and December.

No doubt the U.S. will try its best to keep Kwajalein if it can do so without paying more than it has agreed to pay. The U.S. wants that option, and it may even throw deBrum a few bones to chew on, like the OTEC power purchase agreement, that may or may not mean anything.

And the U.S. may agree to keep the positive story going as long as possible, because it expects the RMI to act in the best interest of the people and the nation. Many in Washington think Tony deBrum is just another self-absorbed leader with a bad case of political narcissism.

We’ll see about that soon enough.    Many in the U.S. think the Army should find another location, and would like to see Kwajalein returned other landowners, just like the big pull out in Philippines, Puerto Rico and other locations.   But that won’t happen unless the RMI really blows it, which seems more and more possible every day under the deBrum government.

If the people let the current situation with a figure head president and a juvenile delinquent running the government, the people get the government they deserve.

Do people of RMI [or the U.S. government] really understand RMI Foreign Minister Tony DeBrum’s real agenda?

August 18, 2008

This commentary, borrowing some material from an earlier posting on freermi.wordpress.com, was published recently on a local RMI blog site:

“To prolong the current situation (at Ebeye) for another 70 years is insane. If there is to be continued U.S. use of Kwajalein it must be under different circumstances.” Senator Tony DeBrum, Marianas Variety, 25 June 2007.

The efforts to improve conditions at Ebeye reflect the successes and failures of U.S. policy goals and the RMI national and local governments over many decades. Conditions at Ebeye also reflect the fact that some of the traditional chiefs and their lawyers who control payments and funding for Ebeye have invested more money in Hawaii than in Ebeye. Tony deBrum has gotten rich representing the feudal lords of Kwajalein at the expense of the poor in Ebeye. He is not even a true Kwajalein landowner, and he gets big fees from the chiefs, while many people from Kwajalein and born there get little or nothing.

Now Tony claims to be the shrewd, smooth-talking diplomat who is not anti-American? Let’s look at the record.

The high chiefs of Kwajalein who put Tony in power want more money, but a 2005 speech expressing his own ideological views suggest that Minister deBrum may actually want the U.S. out of Kwajalein for personal ideological reasons, which are not friendly to the USA at all. While the high chiefs also have expressed the view that the U.S. should leave Kwajalein, most people assumed that was a negotiating ploy. But the chiefs who put deBrum in parliament to get them more money may find that he is using them for his own goals, instead of vice versa.

Specifically, on May 11, 2005, as a paid lobbyist for the Kwajalein chiefs, the current RMI Foreign Minister, Mr. deBrum, called not for increased lease payments, but for an end to U.S. Army operations at Kwajalein. Speaking to an international audience at the Seventh Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, deBrum stated:

“After years of ICBM testing, the Marshall Islands now has the dubious distinction of hosting the US government’s missile shield testing program. The US government shoots Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) at the Marshall Islands. From an area leased by the US Army on Kwajalein Atoll, the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Test Site, the US launches interceptor missiles at the incoming ICBMs to test the ability of these interceptors to track and destroy incoming missiles…Efforts by the Kwajalein leadership to deal with the realities which face them when the current agreement expires in 2016 have been largely ignored as the US openly and callously discusses the uses of our lands beyond 2016 and into 2086…all without our consent…We call upon the international community to extend its hands to assist the people of the Marshall Islands to extricate themselves from the legacy of the nuclear age and the burden of providing testing grounds for weapons of mass destruction.”

Translation:

First, Tony does not recognize the RMI constitutional process for approval of the Compact and military rights agreement as consent of the governed under RMI law, and he holds the refusal of the Kwajalein chiefs to consent to an LUA over and above the consent of the people of the RMI as a nation to the Compact and MOURA.

Second, he calls on the U.N. and the international community to intervene and help the Kwajalein chiefs to end U.S. use of Kwajalein. The governments of Iran, Libya, North Korea and China know how to read, and “extricate” Kwajalein from the “burden of providing testing grounds” means U.S. out of Kwajalein.

In that context, his recent official statement as a minister quoted above is premised on the conditional terms “If there is to be continued U.S. use of Kwajalein.” This arguably is inconsistent with good faith adherence to the agreements between his government and the United States. His call for “different circumstances” as a condition to RMI recognition of the terms for continuation of U.S. military rights is aruably a de facto declaration that the RMI is not prepared to meet its existing treaty obligations.  In the press he has openly and unambiguously repudiated the base rights treaty.

That is OK, at least it is with the U.S. Congress. The U.S. looked this situation squarely in the face back in 2003, and didn’t blink. The treaty and its U.S. implementing law provide for a procedure to be triggered by RMI non-compliance.

Thus, in one sense the U.S. agrees with Tony deBrum. It really would be insane to continue use of Kwajalein under the present circumstances, in which the feudal lords neglect the needs of the poor people they classify as “commoners,” and blame their neglect on the USA. It would be insane for the U.S. to make discretionary concessions to the RMI government when it is under control of the Kwajalein chiefs, and will not meet its good faith obligations under the treaty which are not discretionary.

Tony deBrum is the paid agent of the Kwajalein chiefs, the current President of the RMI is powerless to control his own Foreign Minister. So it really is insane to continue normal relations with the RMI under the present circumstances. With deBrum in charge, the RMI is not the kind of ally the U.S. wants or needs in the new era we have entered.”