Does National Security Trump the Blue Whale?
On March 6, Navy representatives will be coming to coastal town of Eureka, California to hear what we locals think regarding their Northwest Training and Testing Plan expansion. They’ve visited us twice before in that capacity.
They probably do not expect to be popular: in 2010 there was an overflow crowd of rambunctious demonstrators in costumes and with guitars who compelled them to abandon the booth-with-visual-materials format, and instead have a proper hearing. We have a lot of marine mammal and fish lovers in Humboldt, and the Navy PR people were obliged to listen to why its important not to wipe out blue whales (largest animal ever on this planet), how the salmon runs used to provide a living for our communities, etc.
Nevertheless they were courteous, though imperturbable, probably knowing, as public affairs specialist Liane Nakahara observed regarding the upcoming meeting, ”The most important thing is to let the public know they are able to comment. It really helps us to make a stronger document”.
In other words, let them vent.
Eloquent appeals to the Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service from our Board of Supervisors and Congressmen have succeeded no better in slowing down the Navy’s war on the ocean. Environmental groups got a federal judge to rule last September that NMFS had to modify regulations to limit the effects of sonar and live ammunition on marine mammals. However a similar ruling was rejected back in 2008 by the Supreme Court when the Navy appealed it: the judges ruled that environmental concerns are “ outweighed by the public interest in effective and realistic training of its sailors”. National security trumps the blue whale.
Public venting, formal comments , law suits and court decisions tend to piously defer to the Navy’s expansionary plans.. They do not question the Navy’s need for the development of ever-more-sophisticated weaponry, such as nuclear powered drones in the air on the land and in the sea, and far-ranging sonar. It is a taboo subject when conversing with any government agency. Questioning the demands of U.S. world domination get a glassy stare from our Navy visitors. Yet it is to tighten this control on the ocean, which covers over 70% of earth’s surface, that these exercises off the coast are designed.
The Navy has fleets and bases all over the world. It’s developing “forward staging bases” which can be set afloat anywhere and make land bases almost unnecessary.
Naval exercise in the Pacific. Photo: US Navy.
40 cruisers transited the straits of Hormuz in the last 6 months, within sight of Iranian farmers. U.S. bombers are now conducting overflights of disputed islands off China to stir up trouble. “Presence matters a great deal, it’s a deterrent in its own right. It helps you build relationships”, observes Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval operations in Bahrain, where his base is getting a $580 million expansion.
What kind of relationships? Try to imagine our fury if 40 foreign warships cruised in and out of Humboldt Bay pretending to protect trade. Staging worldwide war games on the coasts of nations the Navy chooses to intimidate is not designed to create peaceful relationships, but to incite fear, paranoia, suppression of freedoms and civic discord, which can be tipped into revolution and chaos with a little well placed cash.
On February 24th Defense Secretary Hagel detailed his reduced military budget of $496 billion. Although troops and bases were cut and ships mothballed, high-tech weaponry and Special Forces benefited. In announcing this expansion Hagel emphasized the objective of “protecting the nation’s security in an era of unprecedented uncertainty and change”.
Much of this uncertainty and change has been conjured up by these Special Forces and high-tech weaponry. What we have done in the Middle East defies description. A recent study showed that one in four Afghani families had lost a member in just the last year.
The Navy is a mischief maker. The blue whale and all it represents will never survive its endlessly expanding exercises unless 300 million people discard their sanctimonious allegiance to the national security state, tell it to go shove its infernal toys, then open its eyes and see what it has been doing to the world.
Ellen Taylor lives in northern California.