Friday, August 19, 2011

Musings: Admission of Submission

It’s possible to describe the colors — pearlescent, shell pink, baby blue — but not the full effect when they converge with misty clouds atop the green ridges of a mountain range just as the sun is rising to create a soft sort of light, a muted, golden scene, that is so quintessentially Kauai.

Today, there was all that. And like the cherry on a sundae, Makaleha also was topped with a thick rainbow that arched into a sky that in the east was all slashes of gold and scarlet, with a yellowish band of gray escorting a passing shower.

Lucky we live Kauai.

My neighborhood is generally quiet, and this morning it was even more so, with the school bus and most commuters given the reprieve of a state holiday, which a friend dubbed Submission Day. Though Hawaii’s admission to the union occurred on Aug. 21, 1959, it has been conveniently rescheduled — like so many other “noteworthy” days — to the third Friday of August to make a three-day weekend.

I cannot think of Admission Day without thinking of the military’s legacy in Hawaii, since the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom — a sovereign nation — would not have been possible without the military’s assistance, nor would its continued occupation.

It’s no accident that the military controls more land in Hawaii than other state, with some 14 major installations, or that Hawaii has the highest percentage of armed service personnel in the United States. A whopping 13% of U.S. military active duty personnel deployed Worldwide is stationed in the Islands, which seems like kind of plenty for a place that's not an official "war zone."

It’s not just the military’s presence here that’s a concern, but what it’s done and is doing to the wai, kai and `aina, since it operates pretty much with impunity.

As I reported in the current issue of Honolulu Weekly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave the Army the lightest possible slap on the wrist for possessing toxic radioactive depleted uranium (DU) on two Hawaii bases — Schofield Barracks and Pohakula Training Area – without a license:

The NRC found that the Army had violated federal regulations, but waived the $3,500 civil fine “to encourage prompt and comprehensive correction of violations.” The Aug. 1 notice of violation came some 18 months after Big Island resident Isaac Harp petitioned the NRC to take enforcement action against the Army. Harp argued the Army had no license to possess the radioactive material, which was contained in weapons used for training in Hawaii in the 1960s.

During a May 10 conference call with the NRC and Army officials, Harp termed the agency’s investigation “a farce.”

Bear in mind that for decades the Army denied it had ever used DU in Hawaii until the Earthjustice law firm inadvertently came across emails with contrary information in 2006.

Since the Army is getting a blanket permit to handle DU on all of its American bases, we’ll likely never know exactly how much DU is in the Islands, or where. The NRC has not yet required the military to conduct a thorough search for the material, which its own website acknowledges “poses some chemical toxicity danger to the kidneys if ingested – either through inhaling dust or drinking contaminated water, for example.

It’s that inhalation and drinking part that worries akamai residents, since the DU is in areas used for live fire training, which allows it to become wind- and waterborne.

As for our own PMRF, it’s already the world’s largest military test range capable of supporting subsurface, surface, air and space operations. And as I reported in 2007, when the draft EIS came out on the Navy’s “planned enhancements” for the base:

Among the projects planned for PMRF are research and development in ‘advanced hypersonic’ and ‘directed energy’ weapons, which could include a high energy laser. Other plans call for testing unmanned boats and aircraft, along with air-breathing hypersonic vehicles that cruise at four times the speed of sound. The navy also wants to operate a portable undersea tracking range and increase its antisubmarine and missile defense activities.

The base would be used as well for testing and training in new weapons systems, including electronic warfare; supporting and rapidly deploying naval units and strike brigades; live fire exercises on land and sea; building and operating an instrumented minefield training area; and expanded international Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises.

[T]he Navy plans ‘to increase the tempo and frequency of training exercises’ throughout the state, and particularly at PMRF.

Which includes, of course, all that sonar activity that has been linked to adverse impacts on marine mammals.

But no worries. According to the final EIS, it’s all good:

The Navy is a global environmental leader. The proposed training and RDT&E activities would not adversely affect the biodiversity or cultural integrity within the HRC [Hawaii Range Complex] including the open ocean, offshore, onshore, or human environment.

And despite all the lies, denials, cover-ups and general environmental and cultural trashing associated with more than a century of military activity/occupation in Hawaii, you can take their word for it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So I think when planes start mysteriously crashing or falling out of the sky around Hawaii we may know where to investigate first.