Another chapter in the saga of race-con- scious law enforcement by the Obama administration is unfolding on the island of Guam. There, although all residents are subject to the Constitution and laws of the United States, local authorities are openly denying voting rights to U.S. citizens of white, black and Asian extraction, illegally refusing voter registration to any Guam resident unable to claim “native” or Chamorro racial classification.
Although its failure to take action against this illegal discrimination is neither the first nor the most notorious race-based law enforcement decision by the Obama Justice Department, it is significant because, unlike most others, it threatens not only the rule of law but also our national security. Justice’s Guam inaction is a “twofer,” one that advances the Obama administration’s twin strategies of assault on the rule of law at home and the weakening of America abroad.
The Guam Election Commission proposes to conduct a vote on Guam’s “self-determination” of its future relationship with the United States. The commission has rejected voter-registration forms filed by white citizens on racial grounds. This stance clearly violates Guam’s Organic Act, which forbids any limitation on the right to vote beyond citizenship and residence and explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race.
In addition, local authorities are in flagrant violation of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. Yet they proceed - relying on vague notions of a right to self-determination in an effort to empower the Chamorro minority, which make up about 36 percent of Guam’s population - to determine the territory’s future relationship with the United States.
Any election law with a discriminatory intent or effect, even if disguised as permitting only “natives” to vote, violates federal law. If it effectively excludes white or Asian citizens from ultimate participation, it is illegal under the Voting Rights Act.
One American resident of Guam, retired Air ForceMaj. Arnold Davis, was denied voter registration because he is white. He complained in April 2009 to the Justice Department, which is charged with responsibility for enforcing the Voting Rights Act. The department failed to take any action.
Now, fortunately, the Center for Individual Rights and former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams, author of the book “Injustice,” which details the racial agenda of today’s department, are representing Mr. Davis in a lawsuit to compel Guam to comply with federal law. This lawsuit would have long since been filed by the Department of Justice if it enforced the law in a race-neutral fashion. But, as Mr. Adams and others who have resigned from Justice over these very issues know well, that is not the policy of our president’s Justice Department.
What makes this more ominous is that Guam, a U.S. territory for more than a century, is vital to our strategic posture in the Pacific. As Robert D. Kaplan notes in his excellent book on the U.S. military, “Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts” (Random House, 2007), Guam not only possesses a strategically important location but also boasts “one of the best deep-water ports between Pearl Harbor and Manila Bay.” Apra Harbor, adjacent to Asan Beach (where U.S. Marines landed in July 1944 to retake Guam from the Japanese) is already “home to a forward-deployed submarine squadron.”
The naval presence is important and likely to grow more so. This newspaper reported just last month that the Pentagon “plans to move a carrier strike force to either Hawaii or Guam.” This announcement accompanied Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s recent message to Asian allies and adversaries (e.g., China and North Korea) that the United States “is shifting its focus to the region and bolstering forces and alliances there.”
Guam’s Andersen Air Base is of even greater significance. As Mr. Kaplan notes in “Hog Pilots,” Andersen is “nothing less than the most potent platform anywhere for projecting American military power at great distances” and represents “the future … for U.S. strategy in the Pacific.” All planes in the Air Force arsenal, including the most advanced drones, can operate from Andersen.
As Mr. Kaplan comments, “What Germany, close to the Soviet Union, had been for the U.S. military during the Cold War decades, this little island close to China [is] becoming for the early 21st century: the spoke in the wheel of a constellation of bases that would move the locus of U.S. power from Europe to Asia.” That’s exactly the point Mr. Panetta was making on his recent Asian tour.
As the commander of the 13th Air Force told Mr. Kaplan, Guam “is American soil in the midst of the Pacific.” Because it is a U.S. territory, we have made “huge investments” on Guam without fear that a regime change - much less an illegal plebiscite - will lead to our expulsion.
Yet today, alarmingly, a gaggle of leftist academics and anti-American activists seek, through a vote corrupted by illegal racial discrimination, to give local authorities on Guam a basis for calling into question U.S. sovereignty and undermining our ability to place vital American military assets on this strategically located island.
Today on Guam, the Obama Justice Department is acquiescing in blatant racial discrimination in clear violation of laws the president and his attorney general are sworn to uphold. What’s worse, these violations of our Constitution and laws pose a direct threat to our nation’s forward-looking military strategies and national security.
Ray Hartwell is a Navy veteran and a Washington lawyer.
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