Saturday, February 11, 2017

When The Fire Is Happening, I Have A Responsbility To Say So

Image: Wikipedia Commons "A map of all Superfund sites. The red dots are active sites, and the green dots are clean sites."

Today I continue with the third in a series of posts expanding on the rich discussion between Sherri Mitchell, Rivera Sun and Professor Tom Hastings "War On Earth: Militarism and Environment" linked below (go here to read posts #1 and #2 in my series.)

I was inspired by the testimony of Zumwalt 12 defendant Cynthia Howard, on trial for blocking a public road in front of General Dynamics' weapons of mass destruction plant in Bath, Maine:

I know that my first amendment rights do not extend to yelling "Fire!" in a building, but when the fire is happening, I have a responsibility to say so.

So, where's the fire?

Image from Politico's 2015 article "Where in the World is the U.S. Military?" by David Vine, author of Base Nation

Sherri Mitchell: "Worldwide..there's an incredible amount of land that's under the control of the military. How do we address those issues and try to clean up some of the lands?"

Then there's the problem at home on what were once and in some cases still are Native territories. According to Alexander Nasaryan's 2014 article "The US Department of Defense is one of the world's biggest polluters" in Newsweek

about 900 of the 1200 or so Superfund sites in America are abandoned military facilities or sites that otherwise support military needs.

The US Department of Defence is one of the world’s worst polluters. Its footprint dwarfs that of any corporation: 4,127 installations spread across 19 million acres of American soil. Maureen Sullivan, who heads the Pentagon’s environmental programmes, says her office contends with 39,000 contaminated sites.

A list of military Superfund sites runs to 142 and is always expanding. Superfund sites are toxic waste locations prioritized for federally funded clean up operations.

The government cannot be relied upon to solve the problem they continue creating. According to Professor Hastings: "It is 100% up to civil society to address." He was part of a coalition that successfully sought an injunction against a military base in Wisconsin that "had a very faulty environmental impact statement... Then it took the Navy about ten minutes to go down to the circuit court in lift the injunction." Hastings reported the Navy's rationale for lifting the injunction consisted of approximately two sentences that amounted to this: national security.

This is an amazingly short sighted view of real security for the future of people residing on our planet. I think in this instance "national security" can be read to mean: securing continued business opportunities for the super wealthy who profit from the manufacture of weapons systems we all pay for.

For example, real security would necessitate cleaning up superfund sites at home and contaminated lands abroad that have been pulverized by missiles made from depleted uranium. Cecile Pineda argues convincingly in Devil's Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step that we need not fear nuclear war in our future because it is already upon us

Since the US began slowly killing its own soldiers present at the testing of a nuclear bomb in 1945, radioactive military waste that will outlive you and the next 777 generations of your family has continued to pour into our soil and oceans.

Veterans and their families continue to struggle with health issues that stem from their exposure to toxins decades ago. Mothers in countries the U.S. has bombed with DU continue to bear children with severe birth defects

Still, Hastings remains optimistic about the power of the people to fight polluters in uniform: "Whichever administration is in power, we're still able to do things at the civil society level ... As long as we  continue to build bigger coalitions on the ground, we can win." His view is shared by organizers like Sun and Mitchell, and by groups like Popular Resistance who build coalitions around national health, opposition to militarism, and urgent concern for the environment.

Time to yell "Fire!" yet?


Tom H. Hastings said...

Another helpful post. Thank you. When Americans ratchet out to the meta-view we may see some serious civil resistance. You are helping toward this.

Anonymous said...

After looking at the map, I see US forces everywhere in the world BUT the US. I can only interpret this to mean that our military does not even exist to defend us. Pete Sirois

Lisa Savage said...

As you know, Pete, there are plenty of military bases in the U.S., too. I think the map was created to show people where all our bases on other nations' soil. And would the U.S. welcome a military base of another nation within its borders? No, but we are so very exceptional!

Your comment also reminded me of the first in this series based on the podcast of an interview with Prof. Tom Hasting. He pointed out that a group of retired military leaders used to put out an alternate budget each year giving their estimate of a price tag for just defending the U.S. It was dramatically lower than the cost of keeping 800+ outposts all over the planet.