"THE GODS PUNISH US BY ANSWERING OUR PRAYERS"
(A Play in Four Acts)
Act One: (On the Island of Vieques. The time is present)
LOCAL VENDOR: "Vieques is free! The Navy is gone."
CUSTOMER: "Well, almost."
(The sound of war planes streaking overhead)
NARRATOR:"After the protests and political posturing, a pouting U.S. fleet is marking charts for its final long voyage home. For the last time, Viequenses are hearing the thud of dummy bombs penetrating their sacred soil."
PASSERBY #1: "The turtles will be saved."
PASSERBY #2: "The fishermen will roam free for the catch."
(The sounds of aircraft firing
NARRATOR:"But wait! There are other sounds. They are new and troubling sounds. They are wafting across the waters of Vieques Sound from Ceiba, Puerto Rico, the direction of the mother that provides the logistical umbilical cord for the Navys training activities on Vieques.
OFF-STAGE VOICE (It is the voice of a Navy Admiral): "Pack up men." We will soon deploy out of here. If they dont want us on Vieques, we dont need them at Roosevelt Roads."
* * * * *
Act Two: (Washington. One day later. A Committee in the U.S. Senate.)
AIDE: "But Senator, if we close that base, it could mean the loss of work for as many as 4,000 civilian employees."
SENATOR:"Well, let their government take care of them!"
AIDE: "They are American Citizens, Senator. WE are their government. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. If Roosevelt Roads closes it would mean a 250 million dollar annual loss to the islands economy."
SENATOR: "Thats not my problem. That 250 million will now be going to a state of the union that supports the readiness of our forces, that is loyal to our government and that understands our need to defeat terrorism."
AIDE: "Well, Senator, you know that the Governor of New York was one of the Vieques protestors."
SENATOR: "Then, by god, hes not getting a pennys worth of new defense spending if Ive got anything to say about it!"
AIDE: "But can we legally close that base?"
SENATOR:"No problem. The National Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal year 2002 stipulates that, if the Navy pulls out of Vieques, all facilities specifically related to supporting Vieques training must be removed."
AIDE: "Well, what about the other functions? Theres other stuff going on there."
SENATOR:"Well figure out a way to stop it. Well squeeze them out. Roosevelt Roads is H I S T O R Y!"
* * * * *
Act Three: (Six months later. An office at La Fortaleza, the Governors office in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Three of the Governors aides are in discussion.)
AIDE #1: "The Governor has received over 1000 letters from constituents that might lose their jobs if Roosevelt Roads closes. Weve got to give the Governor a plan to save that base."
AIDE #2:Well, what do states do in cases like this?
AIDE #1:"They notify their congressional delegations. Their voters write letters to their elected representatives."
(There is puzzled silence. The aides look at one another, pondering the problem.)
AIDE #3:"O.K., How about independent countries?
AIDE: #1: "Their Foreign Minister appeals to the American Ambassador."
(The aides shuffle about in silence. Finally, Aide # 2 speaks.)
AIDE #2:"What about other uses
Air National Guard?
stuff like that?"
AIDE #1:"How do we get that done?"
AIDE #2:"We get agreement from all the Puerto Rican political parties and send a letter to Washington!"
AIDE #1:"Thats great, whos going to approach the Independentistas?"
(Another silence comes over the group. Finally, Aide # 3 writes a hurried note on a memo pad and hands it to Aide #1)
AIDE #1: (Referring to the note) "Why didnt we think of this before? Yes, thats it
well request a resumption of Navy training on Vieques."
AIDE #3: "With live fire?"
AIDE #1:"Whatever it takes!"
AIDE #2:"But why would they now want to do that?"
AIDE #1:"Well say that there are extraordinary circumstances. Well say that were under the threat of attack."
AIDE #3:"By whom?"
AIDE #1:"The Statehooders!"
AIDE #2:"It wont work. Theyre all in Washington, telling Congress how to answer our emails."
(An air of desperation falls over the group. One aide leaves the room. One sits silently at a table and another walks over to a window and stares out Northward at the calm Atlantic Ocean.)
* * * * *
Act 4 (Washington. Three years later. A Conference room of the Military Base Closing Commission)
CHAIRMAN: "Will the meeting come to order? We are here today to consider the case of Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Puerto Rico. We are to decide if it will be included on the list of U.S. military bases to be closed in the next round. Could I first hear the case for closing the base?"
MEMBER #1:"Mr. Chairman, since the Navys departure from its training facility on the island of Vieques in 2003, 1/2 of the civilian work force and of the military personnel at Roosevelt Roads have been furloughed or reassigned. Whats left is ancillary use and a large community of retirees. The Navy doesnt want it, Homeland Security doesnt need it and it has little support in Congress, except among Hispanics
CHAIRMAN: (interrupting) "Certainly not Hispanic members from Florida, Texas and California! They are busy lobbying for bases in their own districts."
MEMBER #1: (continuing) "Good point, Mr. Chairman
Well, to conclude, except for a number of citizens groups from the island, there is very little political support for keeping that base open."
CHAIRMAN: "Thank you. Now lets hear the case for retention."
MEMBER #2: "Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Well, the base is strategically located in the Caribbean and we do have certain obligations to the military retirees
CHAIRMAN: "Excuse me for interrupting. (Directing his remarks to a member at the end of the table who has dozed off.) Sir, I realize that its early, but, if you could remain alert to the arguments, it could help inform your decision!"
SLEEPER: "Sorry, Mr. Chairman."
MEMBER #2: "
As I was saying, there will be serious consequences to the island economy if we close that base. For the 4 million U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico, loss of the base will exaccerbate an already serious economic stagnation."
SLEEPER: "Where were those U.S. citizens when the Navy needed Vieques?"
CHAIRMAN: "Well, well! Youre wide awake! Please remember that we have agreed to remain neutral regarding the Vieques issue. It was closed by the due process of Congressional legislation and Presidential action."
MEMBER #2: "To conclude, if we keep the base open, the Department of Defense will find uses for it
they always do. Also, in spite of the comments of our drowsy colleague, Puerto Ricans have traditionally supported the military and have volunteered to join the armed services in numbers proportionally higher than their percentage of the general population. In short, the United States Government needs the future availability of Roosevelt Roads and we close it at potential risk to our national security."
CHAIRMAN: "Any other comments?"
MEMBER #3: "If we close it, developers will turn it to productive use and thereby contribute much more to the Puerto Rican economy than will its continued use as a military base."
MEMBER #4: "The United States should spread its military presence throughout its states and territories. We shouldnt allow a few anti-American protestors and a handful of reactionary bureaucrats and Members of Congress dictate the closing of a facility that has served this nation well since the Second World War."
CHAIRMAN: "Very well, its time to vote. By the way, Readers of the Puerto Rico Herald will be voting with us on this issue via the internet [above, right]."