FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Navy’s War on the Pacific Ocean

by

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 ellenetaylor@yahoo.com.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail