Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The Navy’s War on the Pacific Ocean


It was clear, from the rigid, entrenched postures of the U.S.Navy officers, during the public comment segment of their NEPA-mandated presentation of the Northwest Testing and Training Plan (NWTT) last month, that similar appearances in other cities along the coast had prepared them to get slammed.

Most of the crowd shuffling through the dark rabbit-warren of the Red Lion Inn in Eureka, California knew the whole process was rigged.  Anything they could say would have no more effect on the Navy’s implacable expansion cycle than it did on the last one 5 years ago. Even though in September Judge Magistrate Nandor Vadas had determined, in the Eureka Federal District Court, that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Endangered Species Act by permitting the Navy’s plan, there had been no injunction. Just a few miles west of the Red Lion the deafening sonar, mines, bombs and extensive testing of new weapons systems were continuing to blast on toward the Navy’s objective. The NWTT show-and-tell presentation seemed to have no intention to persuade, and basic questions addressed to the public-relations people manning the booths such as the location of the continental shelf at different latitudes, effect of sonar on salmonid migration, and damage to the hearing mechanisms of marine mammals, could not obtain answers.

Yet the crowd recognized this meeting as a unique occasion though a mere procedural requirement where a small community had an opportunity to cross the bows of the largest geopolitical force on the planet . So it delivered an eloquent, comprehensive and unanimous rejection of this five-year plan.

The Navy ‘s response exhibited a characteristic famously portrayed by Alec Guiness as Colonel Nicholson in “Bridge Over The River Kwai”: so total an absorption in and obsession with the project’s progress that he lost consciousness of who the enemy was. We’ve been practicing out there for 50 years, said the Navy reps. Most of you wouldn’t even know about the sonar, mines, explosions and nuclear submarine games happening over the horizon if we hadn’t been gracious enough to tell you. We’ve been brutally honest about our proposed takes of endangered species, and, for you landlubbers, aren’t these issues a bit of an abstraction anyway?

The Navy is right. Whales, orcas, leatherbacks and salmon runs are no doubt fatally damaged species already, and thus, minor catastrophes on the death road down which the U.S. military mania is driving  us. Greenhouse gasses  and toxic emissions are making marine environments uninhabitable. The Navy has a command role in the human war on the oceans.

The Armed Forces of the United States are the largest single polluter on the planet. They consume 93% of the U.S. government fuel budget. The military produces more greenhouse gas than all but 35 countries in the world, or about the same as Nigeria, with 140 million people. However, because of stipulations demanded by the U.S. when the Kyoto Protocol was being negotiated, the Pentagon is exempted from all measurement or reporting requirements, and its emissions are not included in U.S. totals. Congress passed legislation exempting the military from such restrictions on the grounds of “self-defense, peacekeeping and humanitarian relief.” More recently in an executive order directing federal agencies to reduce their emissions, President Obama again exempted the military.

Added to toxic runoff from Navy bases, underwater mines, submarine dumps and sunken nuclear submarines, the Navy’s unregulated CO2 emissions are making life more difficult for each generation of sea creatures. Phytoplankton, the base for the ocean’s entire food chain, and producing the oxygen for two out of every three breaths we take, has diminished by 40% since 1950. The ocean is 30% more acidic than a century ago, and is predicted, at this rate, to become 2 ½ times more acidic by the end of the century. Acidification of course affects the lives of marine species at many stages of their development, particularly in vulnerable egg and larval states. For crustaceans, mollusks and corals, it’s harder to form shells. One third of the world’s fisheries have been depleted, which affects large numbers of the world’s human population dependent on fish as their sole protein source.

Like the Obama Administration, which proposes more funding for nuclear weapons, the Navy is blind to environmental destruction, the real threat to our national security. Instead, as U.S. geo-politicians execute their imperial pivot, it has titanic plans for the Pacific . $15 billion has been allocated for a giant buildup on Guam and the Marianas. The Navy is obtaining additional base privileges from the Philippines. “Valiant Shield” naval exercises in the South China and Yellow Seas have alarmed the Chinese government into increasing its military budget and defining its Economic Exclusion Zone. This, in turn, has disturbed Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, among whom there have been petty conflicts over island jurisdictions. Mutual defense agreements with the U.S. are triggered, which the war-makers can invoke at their leisure. In a recent publication of the Naval Institute, a strategy employing submarines to mine Chinese harbors and interdict trade routes is discussed in tactical detail.

The Arctic, predicted to be open water by 2030, is the object of a Navy roadmap for militarization.

Furthering and perfecting these military strategies, then, are the objective of the NWTT . Confronting the Navy in the Red Lion, listening to local peoples’ speeches unyieldingly regulated by a minute hand, it all of a sudden seemed as if the speakers were dressed in the solemn regalia of the northwestern tribes, in deerskin robes, and decorated with dentalia, eagle feathers and whalebones. Here was the Great White Father again, sailing down the coast, enforcing treaties he had no intention of keeping. You could almost hear waves lapping, feathers rustling, and the faint echo of words on the wind like Chief Seattle’s.

In Fairhaven, on the other side of Humboldt Bay, an inspirational project is underway. The local Veterans For Peace discovered and raised from the bottom a world-famous boat, which had been lost to history for fifty years. In 1958 four men set sail from California aboard a small ketch, The Golden Rule, in an attempt to halt atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the western Pacific. Their heroic effort resulted in the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, passed in 1963.

Veterans for Peace is restoring the boat, with the goal of a ten-year voyage in opposition to militarism, “nothing less than to abolish war as an instrument of national policy”. It plans to be on the sea by October. What better target, then, than

this menacing corridor of weapons testing which wraps our shores? The Humboldt Baykeeper could be recalled, fishing boats engaged, then an entire flotilla could be mustered up and down the coast!

In the words of Chris Hedges, “The most daunting existential struggle our time is to accept the awful truth intellectually and emotionally, that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, and to rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us”.

Ellen Taylor lives in northern California.

Ellen Taylor can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party
Ramzy Baroud
The Many ‘Truths’ on Syria: How Our Rivalry Has Destroyed a Country
David Rosen
Was Bill Clinton the Most Sexist President?
Laura Carlsen
Plan Colombia, Permanent War and the No Vote
Aidan O'Brien
Mao: Monster or Model?