Saturday, July 4, 2009

Musings: Toxic Shadows

The high-pitched whine of aerials last night and a couple of pre-dawn firecrackers this morning served as warning of the fireworks free-for-all in store tonight. Koko isn't keen on snap, crackle, ka-boom and pop, so we’ll dig out of here before things get too wild and she turns into a trembling, slinking, miserable little pup.

Then come tomorrow, we’ll see the remains of the frenzy in the red paper, pieces of wire and other debris littering the roads, yards and beaches, washing into the ocean, settling on the reef.

It seems that everything connected with the military, even the observance of our nation’s independence, has its toxic residue.

Kyle Kajihiro, program director of the American Friends Service Committee and DMZ Hawaii, and Bob Nichols, a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, outlined the extent of the military’s dirty footprint on Hawaii on the recent KKCR show that Jimmy Trujillo and I hosted.

The U.S. has some 161 military facilities throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and as Kyle noted, they create “a toxic shadow that affects the surrounding communities.” Hawaii has 800 to 1,000 military-contaminated sites, many of them around Pearl Harbor.

While the contaminants at these sites all have environmental and human health implications — none of them good— what I found especially alarming was the revelation that the military also has introduced so-called “depleted uranium,” or DU, to the Islands.

For a more thorough understanding of just what this is all about, check out Bob’s article on the radioactive uranium that American weapons have unleashed in Iraq. The piece won a 2005 Project Censored award.

When weapons made with uranium components are shot or exploded, they create Uranium Oxide Dust (UOD). And as Bob explained on the radio show, the particles are so tiny, they can penetrate our skin and clothing, even protective gear that is intended to prevent radiation exposure.

Kyle said that documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and through litigation indicate the military engaged in classified weapons testing in Hawaii, including the Davy Crockett, one of the smallest nuclear weapons ever built.

These weapons were possibly used at the Army’s training facilities at Makua on Oahu, the island of Kahoolawe (which served as a bombing target for some 50 years) and the Big Island’s Pohakuloa, where “DU” has been detected. Additionally, Kyle said, evidence has come to light that the Army used weapons with uranium components at Schofield, also on Oahu.

“This goes against what the Army has said for many years,” he said. In other words, the military has consistently denied using these materials in Hawaii — until it got busted and the truth was revealed.

But just because the military’s dirty little secret is now public doesn’t mean that anything has changed. Kyle has attempted to learn more about the extent of radioactive contamination by filing numerous FOIA requests. They've all been ignored by the military, which is meanwhile seeking permits to avoid cleaning up its radioactive mess.

And that raises a key question: can microscopic particles that are easily blown about by the wind ever be cleaned up? And even if they could be, how much is being re-introduced by the troops and equipment returning from Iraq, where we know this stuff has been used?

That leads to another question: what is UOD doing to the health of American troops, the people of Iraq and the citizens and visitors of Hawaii? Bob said these particles cause cancer wherever they settle in the body, and other maladies as well.

But the military is using the same strategy of denial it followed when confronted with veterans sickened by Agent Orange — tested years ago in Wailua and used extensively in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia — and suffering from Gulf War syndrome.

What’s more, Kyle said Hawaii’s Congressional delegation has expressed absolutely no interest in the DU issue, and a bill that would have called for DU monitoring in areas around military installations died quietly in the state Legislature.

Meanwhile, even though the military has made numerous messes in Hawaii, most of which have never been cleaned and likely never will, it is still seeking to expand its presence in the Islands, especially on Kauai, which I wrote about for the Honolulu Weekly.

And why? Who is the big enemy we’re facing? It’s not Russia any more, and China could bring us to our knees simply by refusing to buy any more of our bonds.

Our huge standing military, and the activities it’s carrying out all around the world, is costing taxpayers a fortune. It’s also taking a huge toll on human lives, both our own soldiers, who are killed and maimed in combat and committing suicide at unprecedented rates, and the civilian populations that are increasingly being targeted.

So on this, the day set aside to celebrate America’s freedom from the tyranny of the British colonial power, it seems appropriate to re-examine the true price we're paying for having the world's largest military and remember the words of John Quincy Adams:

“We are friends of freedom everywhere, defenders only of our own.”


Anonymous said...

the US is, surprisingly, still much loved internationally

as to "[w]e are friends of freedom everywhere, defenders only of our own"...rather than correct that assertion, it seems better to other some other words of his:

"I must not write a word to you about politics, because you are a woman"


Anonymous said...

"A despotic government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, invent and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper." --Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp, Oct. 13, 1785. (*) ME 5:181, Papers 8:632

Anonymous said...

Mahalo nui ia oe e Joan for writing a fitting piece on this Independence Holiday. I don't celebrate this is merely another day in the life of Kanaka Maoli being deprived of their own independence. I am sure Native Americans have their own feelings about a day that recognizes the independence of European settlers in their native land, that resulted in mass genocide of their tribes and their land taken away.

Mahalo also for some of the latest data regarding military activities in Hawaii. I regretfully missed your program with Kyle. Keep on writing Joan.

Me ke aloha,

Roger said...

Bob Nichols is not a journalist and I am really sorry to hear that a long respected organization like the American Friends Field Service Committee has been taken in by Nichols. Nichols is a propagandist; he is the mouthpiece for two pseudo scientist con artists who make their living off of depleted uranium. Nichols apparently does too. If any of you want to know about the real Bob Nichols, write to me, -

Anonymous said...

RE: Helbig

Anonymous said...

Roger is a whack job; google him.

Anonymous said...

united states air force lieutenant colonel roger helbig does all that he can to prevent any uranium munitions exposed individual or their family members from knowing about ignored health effects and about mandatory requirements to provide medical care to all exposed individuals and mandatory but ignored Army regulations mandating through environmental remediation. LTC Helbig will attack / threaten and lie about person or group who reveals the truth or who attempts to ensure medical care is provided and environmental remediation is completed by claiming that uranium munitions pose no harm and that only he has the truth even though he was never involved in any aspect of uranium weapons research or recovery operations and has never been involved in providing any medical care to DU casualties. LTC Helbig's actions are a deliberate act to prevent compliance with directives, orders, and regulations in violation of law.

Major Doug Rokke, Ph.D.
former Director U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Project.

Marya Mann said...

Mahalo nui loa for bringing a new spotlight to an old problem in Hawaii. Surveys of air and water as well as adequate testing on affected people need to be done. Otherwise, no one really knows what the damage is.

I've seen Mr. Helbig attempt to sabotage people who seek the truth, engaging in character attack rather than speaking about issues. I'm glad other respondents have called him on this.

Pono ke ala!
Marya Mann, Ph. D.

Anonymous said...

Bob Nichols, Roger Helbig, and Marya Mann all appear to be a little sketchy in the sanity department.

Anonymous said...

"Bob Nichols, Roger Helbig, and Marya Mann all appear to be a little sketchy in the sanity department."

Thanks for your totally unsupported opinion and calling into question 3 people without a scintilla of proof. Very helpful to an informed dialogue. NOT!

Anonymous said...

What about the sanity of the guys who are thinking up these weapons and firing them off?

Anonymous said...

Marya Mann is the Co-Author, with the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, and Helen Caldicott, of HEALING OUR PLANET, HEALING OURSELVES. Producer, author, performer of nationally celebrated DVD’s “Yoga Dance” and “Wave Yoga,” Marya has taught Modern and Sacred Dance, Yoga, and Quantum Leap Creativity to thousands of people, groups, and children around the world. A novelist, humorist, activist, and public speaker, she is currently working on ways to unlock the secrets of PMM -- Post-Millennial Mastery.

Enough said

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan for your willingness to contribute to our better understanding of critical issues we face on Kauai, Hawaii and how they relate globally. I am sure that I am not alone in appreciating your expansion into radio. Mahalo nui loa for that; I look forward to your show this afternoon. Peace :)

Anonymous said...


the "all appear to be a little sketchy in the sanity department" comment seems not without some "scintilla of proof" per their writings here

but i do like the part where in this DU-centered discussion we are asked to give some deference to a person with a degree in "creative arts"

ill hold out for aquifer studies by trained and qualified technicians showing threshold levels of DU, and then consider it some