Format: video with audio
Running time: approx. 25 min
Summary: Hawaii is the 50th state of the USA, right? (Well, actually "no"...) Pinky zooms through 500 years of the history of imperialism in order to explain why the U.S. has worked so hard to obscure the truth about Hawaii.
Pinky (voiceover): The following presentation is largely based on an analysis of primary documents. For a complete list of resources consulted, as well as a transcript of this episode, please visit our project archive at the Pinky Show website: www.PinkyShow.org/archives. Thank you.
[ On-screen graphic ] A lie told often enough becomes the truth. - Vladimir Lenin
Pinky: Every place has many histories. I can't think of any place that can be described or understood through just one story. In fact, studying all these different histories is one of the things that makes learning about places so fascinating!
On the other hand, we also have places like Hawaii, where there are stories being told about it that are so contradictory, so opposite from each other, that you have to wonder, is it really possible for all of these competing versions of history to all be true?
For example, here are two very VERY different ways of understanding Hawaii. Version Number One: Hawaii is the "50th State" of the United States of America, Hawaii voted to join the U.S. back in the 50's, and now it's just a really nice place to go for your vacation. That's one. Version Number Two goes like this: Hawaii is not a part of the United States, actually it's a nation under illegal occupation since 1893, and a hundred plus years later there's still Hawaiian Nationals fighting the U.S. for independence. Have you heard this version before? No? If you haven't that's understandable because, this story is very well-known - I guess you could say this is the 'official' story - and this one is definitely not nearly as well-known. Can two stories that are almost exact opposites from each other both be true? Or is one of them more substantiated by historical facts than the other?
The short answer is that, based on our research, an overwhelming body of evidence points to the fact that Hawaii really is a colonial possession of the United States. The idea that Hawaii is the 50th State of the U.S. is, literally, just a very popular myth. And the main reason why practically everyone believes this myth is simply because the American establishment has used its resources to have people think this, instead of that. In other words, what people believe often has more to do with interests and power, instead of facts.
In this episode we're going to show you a mini-history of Hawaii, but this time seen through the analytical lens of "imperialism". Once you start seeing how the struggle over Hawaii is connected to a broader, global history of imperialism, I think it'll be a lot easier to understand why the United States has worked so hard to try to destroy Native Hawaiians and take their land. I know that might sound really harsh to some people, but this presentation is only about 20 minutes long so we don't have time to mince words. I hope you'll bear with us.
CONTEXT: IMPERIALISM CREATES TURF WARS
Pinky: When people talk about the moment of contact between Hawaii and The West - namely Captain Cook's so-called 'discovery' of Hawaii in 1778 - what often seems to be missing from this story is the broader context. For example: Captain Cook was from England, but this 'encounter' took place on a beach someplace in Hawaii... why not ask the obvious question: What was this guy doing so far away from home?
To answer a question like this we need to discuss the birth of European Imperialism - the idea that Europeans have the right to control the lands and people in any other part of the world. It's 1452, and the Pope has issued the first of three declarations, which would soon become the conceptual and political foundation of the Doctrine of Discovery, giving rise to the global slave trade and the Age of Imperialism.
Pope Bunny: "I give you permission to invade, capture, and subjugate Muslims and pagans and any other non-Christians, wherever they may be - kill them or make them your slaves. Also, any land, islands, oceans, or rivers, or anything else you think might be valuable - especially if it's shiny, like gold or something - we give you permission to take it or colonize it; up to you. In the name of our lord Jesus Christ, go kick some ass."
Pinky: The land grab... is on. Almost immediately, in the New World, European settlers begin a centuries-long process of exploration, settlement, and extermination of Native peoples. In Native North America, European Imperialism results in the creation of a new settler state - the United States of America. Not surprisingly, this new nation would be imbued with the same spirit of its own creation - what was formerly European Imperialism now becomes Euro-American Imperialism. The industrial revolution has arrived from Europe and the modern corporation is born. A desire for bigger and bigger profits drives an insatiable appetite for land, cheap labor, and raw materials. The nation expands westward - devouring the natural resources of the continent and decimating any and all native people who stand in the way of its own vision of "Manifest Destiny". By the end of the 19th century the new nation now stretches all the way to the Pacific coast. Always wanting more, the corporate elite (and their political allies in the government) now find themselves looking even more westward - this time beyond the Pacific - toward the vast, untapped resources and enormously profitable markets of China and "the Orient". But to cash in on that dream, they know they'll have to challenge the established imperial powers of Europe, as well as an emerging Japan, because those guys want the same thing.
A part of America’s strategic plan to dominate Asia includes establishing a highly militarized colony in the Pacific from which they'd be able to control "all of this". To accomplish this, in 1893 the U.S. military conspires with white settlers from the U.S. and overthrows the government of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The overthrow was an act of war against a friendly and independent nation, and basically totally illegal under all standards of international law. The U.S. starts building immediately - by the start of World War Two the landscape is already filled with military installations. As a footnote: a hundred years later the U.S. did formally apologize to Native Hawaiians for the stealing of their nation, but they didn't give nothing back.
Okay, back to the end of the 19th century - five years after the overthrow, in 1898, the U.S. is at war with Spain - it's the Spanish-American War. They're fighting over control of Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific - and the U.S. really wants to secure its control over Hawaii, because that'll make it easier to fight the Spanish in the Philippines. So, the U.S. uses the war as an excuse to claim Hawaii by "annexing" it. Hm. The only problem is, the annexation itself is totally fraudulent.
See, under U.S. constitutional law, if you want to incorporate a nation into the U.S., you have to ask the people whose nation is being incorporated if they want to become part of the U.S. or not. If both sides want it, you make a treaty of annexation and the Senate votes on it, and if you have a two-thirds majority that say "yes", then the two nations are joined together. Treaties are agreements between nations; it's "a nation to nation thing". But the U.S. bypassed this process because it knew that Hawaiians absolutely did not approve of giving up their lands and sovereignty. Almost every single Native Hawaiian adult had signed petitions against annexation into the United States. Realizing they couldn't annex Hawaii lawfully, U.S. President McKinley and his expansionist friends convinced Congress to ignore their own constitution and instead of making a real treaty; they just made a joint resolution - which is a domestic law thing and doesn't have the power to incorporate other people's nations into the U.S. The whole thing was totally illegal.
The bottom line? The U.S. is not afraid to violate its own constitution, international treaty law, or even basic principles of democracy, as long as it's economically or politically profitable enough to do so.
POST-WW II ERA: IMPERIALISM v2.0
Pinky: Fast forward around fifty years - it's 1945 and World War II has just come to an end. If you think about it, what World War II was, was basically a huge, global struggle between imperial powers over who gets to control most of the planet. The war ends with one group of imperialists (England, United States, Soviet Union, France, etc.) beating out another group of imperialists (Germany, Italy, Japan). The victors give themselves the right to decide what direction, and what kind of rules, the world is going to have to follow. They create the United Nations, and declare that one of the first priorities of this new institution is that it should do something about the problem of colonialism:
President Bunny: Colonialism is a system based on exploitation and violence! [applause] To have peace, colonialism must be brought to an end! [applause]
Pinky: Sounds good, right? Well, in politics, things aren't always as they seem - of course the winners force the losers to give up their colonies. But the winners have colonies of their own, and they don't really want to give them up! They make a very clever loophole: they release their hold of most of their colonies - at least on paper - but at the same time they also create new mechanisms of control - not only within the UN itself, but also international financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund - that allows them to control less powerful nations via economic means. It's not old-school colonialism, this is the new style colonialism! Okay.
But what happens next is really interesting, I'm not sure the U.S. and England and all those guys really saw this part coming - especially so soon. By the 1950s the global political landscape was changing really, really fast. A powerful new wave of independence movements is sweeping over the planet. In Africa and Asia, representatives from all over the Third World are coming together at international conferences to discuss equal rights and justice. Also, as the former colonies gain independence and enter the UN, it's clear that they intend to use their votes in the General Assembly to create new rules that would help secure self-determination for everybody still living under colonial domination. All of this is a huge problem for the U.S., which sees these developments as a threat to being able to keep its most prized colonial possessions, like Hawaii. The U.S. knows Hawaii is stolen property but clearly doesn't want to give it back. So what kind of options do you have if you're trying to make stolen lands look like not stolen lands? The answer: Fake Democracy.
CASE STUDY: HOW THE U.S. USED FAKE DEMOCRACY TO STEAL A NATION
Pinky: Okay, in a nutshell, this is how the United States used fake democracy to create the perception that Hawaii "belongs" to the U.S: It's 1959, and the UN has Hawaii on its official list of places that still need to be decolonized. There's an important new rule that's about to get passed in the United Nations real soon called Resolution 1514. The U.S. knew Resolution 1514 would make it much more difficult for them to maintain indefinite control over Hawaii - it would basically provide a framework by which Hawaii's future political status could be decided by Hawaiians - who obviously might want their stolen lands back. The U.S. decides that the best way to keep Hawaii from being affected by the new UN rules is to make Hawaii look more like one of its other states, instead of an occupied nation. To accomplish this, the U.S. quickly rushes a vote on statehood to ballot, and to make sure that statehood 'wins', it rigs the election. After the election the U.S. tells the UN that Hawaii's questionable status has been resolved and that Hawaii should be removed from the UN's list of colonies. That's basically what happened.
Okay, now, while there's no such thing as an ethical way to keep stolen territory, this is a textbook example of how to use political maneuvering to bypass justice and democracy, so I think it's actually very educational to take a closer look at how the U.S. did it.
[ On-screen graphic ] IMPORTANT: Please note the inherent contradictions - both the U.S. and the United Nations are rooted in the logic of Western Imperialism.
Bunny in a suit: What do YOU want to happen, Hawaii? 1) Would you like to become a U.S. state? Or 2) Do you want to continue being a crappy territory? Hm?
Pinky: It's 1959 - what kind of laws, principles, and factors are the United States obligated to follow, if it's going to try to hold a vote on Hawaii's future? Well, there are several - the U.S.'s own Constitution, obviously, but also the U.S. is a signatory of the UN Charter, so we're supposed to follow everything in that, plus UN resolutions like Resolution 742 and so on. Interestingly enough, the U.S. stages the 1959 "statehood vote" in a way that manages to violate all of the above.
First of all there's the obvious question of suffrage, or "Who gets to vote?" Under the principles of decolonization, if you're trying to undo a historical wrong - like illegally overthrowing somebody's government, you have to ask the people who suffered the violations - the colonized - what they want to happen. You don't ask the people who benefited from the stealing of the land if they feel like giving it back or not - that only makes sense if you don't have any respect for fairness. But guess what - that's exactly what the U.S. did - they opened the vote to everybody who was living in Hawaii at the time, knowing full well that Native Hawaiians made up less than 20% of the population, and that the remainder - settlers from the U.S., plantation laborers brought in from Asia, U.S. military personnel - the U.S. knew all of those guys would vote in favor of statehood.
A second requirement for a "legitimate" vote is - you must offer three choices on the ballot: 1) Independence, 2) Free association, and 3) Integration. But instead of offering the required three, the U.S. essentially only put one choice on the ballot: integration. Integration via statehood, or integration via continued territorial status! What kind of ballot is that?
Bunny in a suit: It doesn't matter which one you choose, I get to own you either way.
Pinky: Leaving "independence" and "free association" off the ballot is clearly a manipulation of the UN-sanctioned voting process. That's strike two.
Okay - third big problem. When holding a vote on Hawaii's future political status - the administering power (the United States) - is required to place the interests of Hawaiians before its own interests. The UN Charter calls this mandate a "sacred trust". Okay, so what does this mean? Well, practically speaking, it means that if you're going to have something like a vote, the U.S. is obligated to conduct it fairly so that Hawaiians would be free to choose what they really want for their future. But instead, the U.S. did just the opposite - before the vote the U.S. initiated an intense pro-statehood propaganda campaign. And just to be safe, a parallel campaign of attacking anyone who spoke up in opposition to statehood. Obviously this is not how an administering power lives up to its "sacred trust" obligations. Strike three.
So yeah, the so-called "statehood vote", was, for several reasons, illegitimate. This is how the U.S. was able to subvert the UN's stated goal of a world free of colonial domination. A process for decolonization was instead turned into a process of assimilation.
The important thing to understand is that statehood was used to keep Hawaiians from getting their nation back. Statehood is not just an abstract concept, it can also be used as a tool for accomplishing concrete political objectives. In the case of Hawaii, statehood was, and continues to be, a strategy for obscuring a history of dispossession and repackaging it to make it look like something good, like "democracy".
1893 TO PRESENT: THE OCCUPATION CONTINUES
Pinky: The fantasy image of Hawaii that everybody knows - you know, the tropical paradise with hula hula girls dancing in front of a pretty sunset - this is basically propaganda that's used to market Hawaii to the world as a tourist destination. It's the perverse reversal of the much darker reality that always has to be kept out of sight - an independent nation seized by the United States via a series of illegal acts, each one built upon another.
Hawaii was America's first experiment in overseas 'regime change' - a practice that over the next 100+ years has been used to bring many more countries under U.S. control. It's a supremely violent process - millions of lives have been claimed. As of today, Hawaii remains an occupied nation - and America's primary staging area for exporting war, violence, and the threat-of-violence throughout the Pacific and beyond. This is how imperialism works.
Our appeal to you is to please examine the documentary record, and then act as your conscience guides you.
writing: Pinky, Bunny & Teacup
research: Pinky, Bunny & Teacup
audio editing: Bunny
sound effects: Bunny
maps & illustrations: Pinky
titles & graphics: Pinky
The 1897 Petitions Protesting Annexation(1998). Noenoe K. Silva.
< http://libweb.hawaii.edu/digicoll/annexation/pet-intro.html >
An Act to Provide for the Admission of the State of Hawaii into the Union, a.k.a. Hawaii Admission Act (Public Law 86-3), enacted March 18, 1959). United States Congress.
Apology Law, a.k.a. U.S. Public Law 103-150, adopted November 23, 1993. United States Congress.
Asian Settler Colonialism: from local governance to the habits of everyday life in Hawaii (2008). Candace Fujikane and Jonathan Y. Okamura, editors.
Blount Report (1893). Section concerning the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the United States House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee Report.
Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Second Edition - 2004). Chalmers Johnson.
Cessation of the Transmission of Information Under Article 73 e of the Charter, communication presented to the United Nations General Assembly from the Government of the United States (September 24, 1959).
Congressional Records, Protests, Petitions, Dispatches, Complaints,
Case Summaries, Legal Opinions, etc. (1893-present), archived at:
< http://www.hawaiiankingdom.org/us-occupation.shtml >
Dum Diversas (1452, Nicholas V), Romanus Pontifex (1455, Pope Nicholas V), and Inter caetera (1493, Pope Alexander VI). Papal bulls, Catholic Church.
Empire as a Way of Life (1980). William Appleman Williams.
Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire Building (1997). Richard Drinnon.
From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii (First Edition - 1993, Second Edition - 1999). Haunani-Kay Trask.
Hawaii Health Survey (2000). State of Hawaii, Department of Health, Office of Health Status Monitoring.
Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen (1898). Queen Liliuokalani.
< http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/liliuokalani/hawaii/hawaii.html >
Hawaii: The Territorial Years (1984). Richard A. Wisniewski.
Hawaii Tourism Authority website.
< http://www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/ >
Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau website.
< http://www.gohawaii.com/ >
Historical Statistics of Hawaii (1977). Robert Schmitt.
A History of Hawaii (Second Edition - 2002). Linda K. Menton and Eileen Tamura/Curriculum Research & Development Group.
Kanaka Maoli Resistance to Annexation. Noenoe K. Silva. From oiwi a native hawaiian journal, December 1998, Vol. 1.
Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II (Updated edition - 2004). William Blum.
A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present (1997). Ward Churchill.
Morgan Report, a.k.a. Senate Report 227 of the 53rd Congress, second session (1894). A report concerning the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, conducted by the United States House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee.
Naked Imperialism: The U.S. Pursuit of Global Dominance (2006). John Bellamy Foster.
Native Land and Foreign Desires: Pehea La E Pono Ai? (1992). Lilikala Kameeleihiwa.
Newlands Resolution (1898). United States Congress.
Non-Self-Governing Territories: Summaries and analysis of information transmitted to the Secretary-General (1947-1959). United Nations Publications.
Non-Self-Governing Territories: Summaries and analysis of information transmitted under article 73 e of the Charter Report of the Secretary-General: Pacific Territories : Hawaii (1959). United Nations Publications.
On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality (2003). Ward Churchill.
Organic Act (1900). United States Congress.
Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (2006). Stephen Kinzer.
Predatory Politics: U.S. Imperialism, Settler Hegemony, and the Japanese in Hawaii (2004). Eiko Kosasa.
Say no to transfer of lands of the Hawaiian Nation. Letter to the Editor, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 3, 2008. Kekuni Blaisdell.
The Umbrella of U.S. Power: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Contradictions of U.S. Policy (1999). Noam Chomsky.
United Nations Cartographic Section, Department of Field Support: The World in 1945
< http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/map/profile/world45.pdf >
United Nations Charter, signed June 26, 1945 at the United Nations Conference on International Organization.
United Nations Document, Uniting for peace, A/RES/377 (November 3, 1950).
United Nations General Assembly session records, re: Resolution 742 (October 1 and November 27, 1953); re: Resolution 1469 (status of Hawaii and Alaska, December 12, 1959).
< http://www.un.org/documents/resga.htm >
United Nations General Assembly session records, re: Admission of new member states (September 20, 1960).
United States Constitution, ratified September 17, 1788 at the Constitutional Convention.
Various tourist brochures, collected at Waikiki, Ala Moana Shopping Center, and Honolulu Business District, 2007-2008.
We Are Who We Were: From Resistance to Affirmation. Kaui P. Goodhue. From oiwi a native hawaiian journal, December 1998, Vol. 1. (note: There is also a video by the Hawaiian Patriotic League and Na Maka O Ka Aina by the same name, on the same subject - "the annexation that never was.")
Yearbook of the United Nations (1959). Office of Public Information, United Nations.
tourists at Waikiki beach: Bunny
shoppers at Ala Moana Shopping Center: Pinky
World War II Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific: Pinky
Flags and McDonald's sign: Pinky
[ photo credits ]