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Pentagon’s War on the Earth

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We are waging war. We are the Nation of War. We destroy. We kill. Everyone fears us.

Fewer and fewer admire us.

But our fighting forces—and their attendant industries which manufacture the bombs, bullets, and ballistic delivery devices—also wage a war on the clean air, clean water, and clean soil many Americans falsely regard as protected by legislation fought for by those trying to protect our environment.

Recent reports from around the country show the party most likely to toxify our land is our own military. These are just a small fraction of the reports from the past couple of weeks:

* California: New model homes are open for viewing in a beautiful canyon west of Los Angeles despite the land there being “stained with radioactive and toxic chemical waste.”

* New Hampshire: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is stepping in to monitor the health and toxic exposure of those living near or on the Portsmouth, New Hampshire former US Pease Air Force base after tests showed terrible contamination.

* Kentucky: There is an ongoing effort to clean up the site of the uranium enrichment facility in Kentucky, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. It is costing hundreds of millions of dollars and the feds are slowly trying to get back a bit of it from responsible parties with settlements, the most recent a $5 million deal with Lockheed Martin for its contamination of the site.

* Maryland: The Army is claiming immunity from its killer pollution from Fort Detrick, with the Army as defendant in a class action law suit claiming numerous wrongful deaths from the site where toxins, biological weapons, radiological materials and hazardous waste contaminated the area for decades. US Attorney U.S. Attorney “Rod Rosenstein, representing the Army’s interests, asked Monday that the case be dismissed. In online court documents, Rosenstein argued that the government has no particular duty to respond to hazardous substances and the Army can use its own judgment to decide whether to clean up.”

* Louisiana: A private contractor will burn 16 million pounds of M-6 propellent, the largest burn of explosives in the history of the world, at Camp Minden in April and May.

* New York: Fort Drum is contaminated. Proposed remedies would inject other chemicals into the groundwater to try to neutralize the “chlorinated volatile organic chemical (CVOC) groundwater plume.”

The Pentagon is relentless in seeking immunity from federal environmental protection laws. One wonders, since the list of environmental disasters created by the military and its contracting producers would extend to multiple current issues in every single US state and dozens of foreign countries with US bases, with friends and protectors like these, who needs enemies?

Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

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