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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.

Ellen Taylor can be reached at

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