POSTED: 17 MAY 2007 - 8:00am HST

The military presence in the Hawaii

"Military Aprreciation Day" ceremony on 24 May 2001at dock of USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

by Kyle Kajihiro 8 May 2007 in The Haleakela Times
Kanaka Maoli activist Kaleikoa Kaeo described the U.S. military in Hawai’i as a monstrous he‘e (octopus), its head represented by the Pacific Command Headquarters, its eyes and ears the mountaintop telescopes, radar facilities, and underwater sensors, and its brain and nervous system the supercomputers and fiber optic networks that crisscross the islands. The tentacles of the he‘e stretch from the west coast of North America to the east coast of Africa, from Alaska to Antarctica.

Today the enormity of the U.S. military presence in Hawai‘i is staggering:

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the combined military branches in 2004 have 161 military installations in Hawai‘i. The military controls 236,303 acres in Hawai‘i, or 5.7 percent of the total land area. On O‘ahu, the most densely populated island, the military controls 85,718 acres out of 382,148 acres, or 22.4 percent of the island. The military also controls vast stretches of ocean, including Defensive Sea Areas in Kane‘ohe Bay, from Pearl Harbor to Koko Head, and off the west shore of Kaua‘i. The entire Hawaiian archipelago is surrounded by 210,000 square miles of ocean military operating areas and 58,599 square miles of military special use airspace.

Combined with the 116,000 retired military personnel living in Hawai‘i, the military-connected population totals 217,030, or 17 percent of Hawaii’s total population. The 2000 U.S. Census found that Hawai‘i has the largest percentage of its population in the military among the states.

Taking Land
The military land grab is a major source of conflict in Hawai‘i. In 1898, the U.S. seized nearly 1.8 million acres of government and crown lands of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. These so-called “ceded lands” are held in a quasi-trust status by the Federal government and the State. In 1959, when the U.S. incorporated Hawai‘i as a state, the military retained control of approximately 180,000 acres of the “ceded lands”, while the rest reverted to the State as trustee. Approximately 30,000 acres of the land returned to the State were simultaneously leased back to the military for 65 years. In most cases, the rent paid by the military was a token one dollar for the term of the lease. Today, more than 112,173 acres, or roughly 54 percent of military-controlled land in Hawai‘i consists of the former government and crown lands of the Hawaiian nation. During World War II other private parcels of land were seized by the U.S. to further its war aims.

Threats to Native Hawaiian Cultural Survival
The displacement of Kanaka Maoli from their ancestral lands has resulted in the loss of subsistence and cultural resources. The cultural conflict over ‘aina (land) goes much deeper than a simple matter of property rights or land use. There is a fundamental contradiction between Kanaka Maoli and western world views about the environment itself. In the Kanaka Maoli cosmology, the ‘aina is the ancestor of the people, the physical manifestation of the union between the gods Papahanaumoku (Papa who gives birth to islands), the earth-mother, and Wakea, the sky-father. As a living ancestor, the ‘aina could not be owned, sold or defiled. By severing the genealogical ties between Kanaka Maoli and their ‘aina and by disrupting their ability to practice and transmit their culture to future generations, the military seizure of land continues to have profound impacts on the cultural survival of Kanaka Maoli. Military destruction of land is a form of violence against the people themselves.

Forced cultural assimilation of Kanaka Maoli has contributed to cultural disintegration. Statistics illustrate the legacy of this occupation: Kanaka Maoli have the highest rates of homelessness, poverty, disease and crime in Hawai‘i. They have the lowest educational achievement and life expectancy in Hawai‘i. Kanaka Maoli make up 36.5 percent of persons incarcerated for felony charges. In the century since the U.S. occupation began, the flood of settlers stripped Kanaka Maoli of their self-determination. The scenario resembles the population crises of other occupied nations like Tibet, East Timor, and Palestine. A combination of economic, cultural and political pressures has pushed nearly one third of Kanaka Maoli into diaspora.

By generating population transfer of U.S. nationals to Hawai‘i, the military has also had a profound impact on Hawaii’s culture and political demographics. Between 1900 and 1950, migration to the Hawaiian Islands from the continental U.S. and its territories totaled 293,379.

Environmental Contamination
The U.S. military is arguably the largest industrial polluter in Hawai‘i. The 2004 Defense Environmental Restoration Program report to Congress listed 798 military contamination sites at 108 installations in Hawai‘i, 96 of which were contaminated with unexploded ordnance. Seven of the military contamination sites were considered “Superfund” sites. According to the Navy, the Pearl Harbor Naval Complex alone contains approximately 749 contaminated sites and is treated as a giant superfund site. numbers are low because they do not include contaminated sites that have not yet been listed for cleanup responses. Military installations made up five of the top ten polluters in Hawai‘i responsible for releasing persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals, which include lead, dioxins mercury, and polycyclic aromatic compounds. Military contamination hazards include unexploded ordnance, various types of fuels and petroleum products; organic solvents such as perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene; dioxins and PCB; explosives and propellants such as RDX, TNT, HMX and Perchlorate; heavy metals such as Lead and Mercury; napalm, chemical weapons, and radioactive waste from nuclear powered ships.

Cobalt–60, a radioactive waste product from nuclear-powered ships, has been found in sediment at Pearl Harbor. Between 1964 and 1978, 4,843,000 gallons of low level radioactive waste were discharged into Pearl Harbor. 2,189 steel drums containing radioactive waste were dumped in an ocean disposal area 55 miles from Hawai‘i. The military recently disclosed that from 1941 to 1972 it had dumped more than 8,000 tons of chemical munitions, including blistering agents mustard gas and lewisite, in the shallow seas off O‘ahu island.

Fishermen have been burned when they accidentally raised this toxic catch. For many years, the military denied ever using depleted uranium in Hawai‘i. However in January 2006, activists forced the Army to admit the presence of depleted uranium contamination on O‘ahu. Military contamination sites are concentrated in and pose the greatest threat to Kanaka Maoli, immigrant Asian and Pacific Islanders and other low income communities. Many Asians and Pacific Islanders subsist on fish and shellfish from Pearl Harbor’s contaminated waters. The Wai‘anae district, where a third of the land is occupied by military installations, has the largest concentration of Kanaka Maoli and some of the worst health, economic and social statistics in Hawai‘i. In the late 1980s, powerful Navy radio transmitters in Lualualei valley were suspected to be the cause of a childhood leukemia cluster in the nearby Hawaiian Homestead.

As with other military base towns, prostitution in Hawai‘i is fueled by the large military presence. During World War II, the military regulated prostitution in designated red-light districts. In recent years, prostitution has become more decentralized. A proliferation of strip clubs, massage parlors, escort services, hostess bars as well as street prostitution caters to military, tourist and local customers. One former prostitute estimated that in the downtown area at least 60 percent of those seeking prostitutes were from the military, and in Wahiawa, near Schofield Barracks, she estimated that the percentage jumped to 70 to 80 percent. She recounted how she was strangled by a military client until she hit him and escaped. According to an agency that helps prostitutes to get out of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), Hawai‘i is particularly susceptible to CSE and the trafficking of women and children due to the large tourism industry and military presence.

Threats to Native Ecosystems and Endangered Species
Hawai‘i is considered the endangered species capital of the world. Because of its geographic isolation, unique species and ecosystems evolved in Hawai‘i over millions of years. More than 1,100 species, which represents around 82 percent of all native species in Hawai‘i, are endemic to the islands. Military training activities threaten native ecosystems with fires, erosion, the alteration of habitats and the introduction of alien species. Makua valley, for instance, where the military has conducted live fire training for more than 70 years, is home to over 40 endangered species. More than 270 military fires over the last 10 years have destroyed most of Makua’s dryland forests except for the highest ridgelines.

Militarization of Youth
Hawai‘i has historically had a high rate of military recruitment. In 2006, Hawai‘i ranked 13th among states in the number of Army recruits per 1,000 youth. Military recruiters have targeted low income communities of color who lack educational and career opportunities and are especially vulnerable to the economic enticements offered by recruiters. Military recruiters now have unprecedented access to students through the military recruiter access provisions and student personal information disclosure requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Furthermore, the Pentagon has hired private data mining companies to compile a database on students. In Hawai‘i, the militarization of youth through reserve officer training corps (ROTC) programs, the proliferation of military imagery in popular culture and aggressive recruitment practices have also functioned to accelerate the assimilation and Americanization of local populations. In the 1920s, Commanding General Summerall of the Army Hawaiian Department created Hawai‘i’s second Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC) unit at McKinley High School, which was nicknamed “Little Tokyo” for its predominantly Japanese student body. Summerall wrote, “There is no better way of securing the loyalty of such people than to incorporate them in our military forces.”

Economic Dependency
Hawai‘i’s extreme economic dependency on military spending has distorted the social, environmental and cultural priorities of policy makers, a condition some have likened to an addiction. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. military spending in Hawai‘i has increased. As a result, in 2003, military expenditures, the second largest “industry” in Hawai‘i behind tourism reached $4.5 billion, a 13 percent increase over 2002. “In 2003, Hawaii ranked second in the United States, with $2,566 in per-capita defense spending…. behind only one other state, Virginia, home of the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense.” The high rate of federal spending in Hawai‘i has boosted industries like construction which have been detrimental to the preservation of cultural sites and natural resources. Housing subsidies for military personnel are indexed to market values, which tends to inflate the cost of housing, exacerbating homelessness in recent years. Military personnel in Hawai‘i do not pay state income taxes. So the costs of public services are subsidized by local residents. This adds particular strains on the public school system which depends on state general funds. Federal Impact Aid that is supposed to offset the cost of providing services for military families, only makes up one tenth of the actual cost of educating military children.

Past Resistance to Militarization in Hawai‘i
Kaho‘olawe measures approximately 128,800 acres and is the smallest of the eight major islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. The island is sacred to Kanaka Maoli as an embodiment of the sea god Kanaloa. Kaho‘olawe was also key to Polynesian navigation and settlement of Hawai‘i. Kaho‘olawe contains some of the richest cultural sites in Hawai‘i. Originally part of the government lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the Navy seized the entire island for target practice on December 8, 1941. In 1976, the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana launched the first of several rescue landings on Kaho‘olawe to protest the bombing. After years of direct action, demonstrations and lawsuits, President George H.W. Bush stopped the bombing in 1990. $400 million was appropriated for the clean up unexploded ordnance and restoration of the cultural sites and native ecosystems of the island, but the Navy failed to clean up the island to its stated goals. Instead only one tenth of the island is now safe for human use. The movement to protect Kaho‘olawe was seminal to the Hawaiian cultural renaissance, the emergence of the contemporary Hawaiian sovereignty movement, and other demilitarization struggles.

Makua Valley
The Kaho‘olawe movement helped to inspire resistance to the Army in Makua valley on the west end of O‘ahu. The name “Makua” means “parents.” It is believed to be one of the places where Papa and Wakea came together to create life on Earth. Makua has been used as a military training area since 1929. In 1942, the remaining residents of Makua were forcibly evicted by the military. Their homes and a church were used as targets. All types of munitions have been fired and disposed of in Makua. As a result the valley is littered with unexploded ordnance and toxic chemicals. The rich cultural sites and native forest have been destroyed or seriously damaged. Since the 1970s Kanaka Maoli have fought for the clean up and return of Makua valley. The struggle continues today as the Army pushes for expanded training in Makua.

Halawa Valley / H-3 Freeway
The H-3 Freeway project was conceived in 1963 as a defense highway to connect the Marine Corps Base in Kane‘ohe with Pearl Harbor. Although activists successfully asserted cultural and historic preservation laws to block the freeway from passing through Moanalua Valley, the project was realigned to Halawa Valley instead. Despite initial successes at challenging the new route, activists were trumped by Senator Daniel Inouye who passed legislation that exempted the H-3 project from applicable environmental laws. The Halawa Coalition, which was led by Kanaka Maoli women, occupied the Hale-o-Papa heiau – a women’s temple in the path of the freeway from April 1992 until their arrest in August of that year. Hale-o-Papa was saved but other sacred sites were destroyed. After a 37-year struggle, the H-3 was completed at a cost of $1.3 billion, or $80 million-a-mile, the most expensive roadway ever built.

Nohili / Pacific Missile Range Facility
In the early 1990s, a coalition of Native Hawaiian and environmental organizations mobilized to block the Army Strategic Target System (STARS) missile launches at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF). At issue were Kanaka Maoli burial sites in the sand dunes of Nohili, endangered species and contamination and accidents from the missiles. Thirty-five protesters were arrested for civil disobedience during the first two missile launches. Although the STARS program was de-funded by President Clinton in 1996, new threats emerged as PMRF’s capabilities were expanded and as work on missile defense programs later accelerated under George W. Bush. Post-September 11 security measures have blocked cultural, subsistence and recreational access to beaches at Nohili and have sparked new activism. The Navy is expanding ocean training maneuvers and intensifying its use of sonar, which would be extremely dangerous to marine mammals.

Waikane Valley
Waikane in windward O‘ahu contains many Kanaka Maoli sacred sites and traditional agricultural production. During World War II, the military leased 1,061 acres in Waikane and adjoining Wai‘ahole for maneuver and live fire training until 1976. The Kamaka family, which owned 187 acres of the most heavily impacted areas, asked the Marines to clean up the unexploded ordnance as stipulated in the original lease. Instead, the Marine Corps condemned the parcel over the objections of the Kamaka family. In 2003, the Marine Corps announced plans to conduct “jungle warfare” training in Waikane as part of its war on terrorism in the southern Philippines. This triggered strong protest from the community. In a public meeting held in March 2003, the community demanded that the Marine Corps cleanup and return the Kamaka family lands in Waikane. Another important development was the solidarity from Filipinos/Kanaka Maoli youth protest against a Marine Corps amphibious landing at Bellows Air Force Base in Waimanalo. Many of those living in Hawai‘i challenged U.S. intervention in the Philippines as well as the training in Waikane. The Marines eventually cancelled their plans for training in Waikane citing safety concerns, but they have not cleaned up the unexploded ordnance.

Pohakuloa on the island of Hawai‘i is a vast plain of lava fields and native dryland forest located on the “saddle” between three sacred mountains – Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai. Established in 1956, the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) encompasses 116,341 acres, of which 84,815 acres are “ceded lands.”
PTA is the largest U.S. military training area in Hawai‘i and the largest outside of the continental United States. Although the range is used for all types of live fire training, thousands of cultural sites have been identified within the PTA. It is the home to 21 endangered species of plants and animals. With Army proposals to expand the training area by 23,000 acres, Pohakuloa has again become a focus of resistance.

Current Military Expansion Threats
The U.S. strategic rivalry with China, its hostility toward North Korea, the “second front” war on terrorism in Southeast Asia and the realignment of U.S. military forces and bases in East Asia has created added pressures to militarize Hawai‘i.

Stryker Brigade
The Army is proceeding with plans to station a Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) in Hawai‘i that would bring 328 Stryker vehicles, 800 additional soldiers plus their dependents, and 28 construction projects to upgrade training, maintenance and housing facilities. One reporter called it “the biggest Army construction project in Hawai‘i since World War II.”

Strykers are 20-ton light armored combat vehicles designed for rapid deployment and suppression of urban unrest. They will be stationed along with a new squadron of C-17 cargo aircraft and new high speed attack ships to provide transport for the brigade.

The Army plans to seize an additional 25,000 acres of land – 1,400 acres in Central and Northern O‘ahu and 23,000 acres adjacent to the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawai‘i Island. The extent of the Strykers’ impacts would stretch the entire length of the North Shore of O‘ahu. On Hawai‘i Island, the Stryker trail would go from the port at Kawaihae on the western flank of Mauna Kea to the Pohakuloa Training Area.

Despite the discovery of numerous hazardous chemicals from live fire training, proposed munitions use in Hawai‘i would increase by 25 percent. The Army’s own studies concluded that cultural sites will be destroyed and that there will be serious impacts due to fire, erosion and other environmental damage. Navy University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) The University of Hawai‘i (UH) administration wants to establish a Navy University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) at UH.

The proposed Navy UARC would conduct Navy weapons related research, including development and testing of various components of the “star wars” missile defense program and other advanced military research programs. This would have harmful impacts to Mauna Kea and Haleakala where astronomy and astrophysics research is conducted, and the sand dunes of Nohili and the oceans off the north shore of Kaua‘i, where missile launches and undersea warfare and sonar experiments are conducted. A coalition of students, faculty and community launched a series of actions to protest the UARC that culminated in a week-long occupation of the UH President’s office demanding cancellation of the UARC. The UH Administration has continued to pursue the UARC, but contract negotiations have been delayed due to the continued protests.

“Star Wars” Missile Defense
Hawai‘i used to test a number of missile defense programs including the Groundbased Midcourse Defense, the Aegis Missile Defense, and Theater High Altitude Area Defense programs. U.S. officials have continuously demonized North Korea as an “axis of evil” country that poses a threat to Hawai‘i in order to generate fear and justify the expansion of these missile defense programs.

The ‘star wars’ facilities span the island chain: Pacific Missile Range Facility in Nohili, radar tracking stations at Koke‘e, Makaha Ridge, and Ka‘ena Point, the Air Force Optical Tracking Station on Haleakala mountain, and the supercomputer at Kihei, Maui. Lasers are tested on Haleakala. Target missiles are launched from Kaua‘i.

Aircraft Carrier Strike Group
One of the largest militarization threats facing Hawai‘i is the proposal to homeport an aircraft carrier strike group in Hawai‘i or Guam. A carrier strike group would include a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, a cruiser, two destroyers, an attack submarine and a fast combat support ship and aircraft. In addition to the 3,000 officers and crew of the carrier, the air wing would bring 2,600 persons. Overall, the carrier strike group could increase the population by as many as 20,000 military personnel and their family members. Because Pearl Harbor is not large enough to homeport an aircraft carrier, major dredging and construction would be required, causing adverse environmental impacts. Due to the insufficient air base facilities to house the fighter air wing, politicians have offered to turn over the recently closed and transferred Barber’s Point Naval Air Station back to the military. The final decision will be determined in the near future.

Ku‘e: Current Resistance to Militarization
DMZ-Hawai‘i / Aloha ‘Aina is a network of organizations and individuals working to demilitarize and reverse the negative impacts of the enormous military presence in Hawai‘i. The network was conceived at the Rethinking Militarism in Hawai‘i Conference in 2000, organized by American Friends Service Committee that brought together activists representing various movements and communities in Hawai‘i as well as international resource people. The DMZ-Hawai‘i / Aloha ‘Aina network united environmental, peace, anti-nuclear, womens’, religious and Kanaka Maoli sovereignty and independence groups for the common purpose of demilitarization.

The term “DMZ” stands for Demilitarized Zone, a term reclaimed from its usual military context. “Aloha ‘Aina” expresses the core Kanaka Maoli value of “love for the land” and places Hawaiian cultural and political struggle at the center of this diverse grouping.

The main campaigns of DMZ-Hawai‘i / Aloha ‘Aina are: opposing the Stryker Brigade, opposing the Navy UARC at the University of Hawai‘i, and supporting the struggle for clean up and return of Makua valley. Actions have included pickets, marches, civil disobedience, lawsuits and Kanaka Maoli cultural forms of resistance.

see also:
Island Breath: Stryker Brigade News
Island Breath: American Imperialism
Island Breath: Superferry and Military 10/13/2006
Island Breath: Compromise on RIMPAC
Island Breath: Limites of Imperial Power
Island Breath: Stryker Brigade Siting
Island Breath: RIMPAC Hanalei Whale Stranding
Island Breath: Growing Militarism after 911