Fortress Oahu: “Some people get paid, but who’s paying the price”

Joan Conrow wrote a feature story in the Honolulu Weekly critically examining the military’s impacts in Hawai’i. Here’s a snippet:

Fortress Oahu

by Joan Conrow | May 23, 2012


Cover image for May 23, 2012

With roots planted in the 1893 overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and a presence that extends through the entire archipelago, the military’s influence in Hawaii is surpassed only by tourism.

The military controls some 236,000 acres throughout the state, including 25 percent of the land mass of Oahu, and thousands of square miles of surrounding airspace and sea. Yet as a branch of the federal government, the Department of Defense (DoD) operates in the Islands with little public oversight and virtual impunity, except when national environmental laws come into play.

Notwithstanding, it’s burned up native forests, dumped hazardous materials into the ocean and killed protected native species. It’s rendered land unusable with its unexploded ordinance, disrupted neighborhoods with its noise, dropped nearly every bomb known to man on the island of Kahoolawe. It’s unearthed ancient burials, launched rockets from sacred dunes, shut off public access mauka and makai. And in the course of a century, it’s transformed Waimomi, once the food basket for Oahu, into Pearl Harbor, a giant Superfund complex comprising at least 749 contaminated sites.

So why do our people, and politicians, allow the militarly to stay, aside from the fact that it is well-armed and deeply entrenched here?

Money is the answer most often given. DoD expenditures in Hawaii totaled some $6.5 billion in 2009 — about 9 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

“Yes, some people get paid, but who’s paying the price of that?” counters Kyle Kajihiro of Hawaii Peace and Justice, a non-profit organization. “There are losers in this, and unfortunately, it’s often native people,” he adds, citing damage to ecology and cultural sites, and Hawaii’s being perceived as “am accessory to the militarization that extends from our shores.”


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