Ann Wright wrote an excellent article in Op Ed News on the RIMPAC exercises in Hawaiʻi, the Pacific “pivot” and protests from Okinawa to Pohakuloa:
Green-Washing War, Sinking Ships, Drones from Submarines — Largest International War Games around Hawaii
Reflecting the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia and the Pacific, the United States military is now hosting in the Pacific waters around Hawaii, the largest and most expensive international maritime war games in the history of the world.
Called Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, war games, for 36 days during July and August, 22 countries, 42 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are conducting amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, counter piracy, mine-clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, diving and salvage operations and disaster-relief operations in the Pacific.
Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States are participating in this year’s RIMPAC exercise.
RIMPAC began in 1971 and is held every two years. According to the US Navy the purpose of RIMPAC is to “provide a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.”
22 Countries in RIMPAC War Games — But Not China
This year, pointedly excluded from the Pacific war games, is China, the largest country in Asia and the Pacific. China was invited in 2006 to observe part of the Valiant Shield war games off Guam and in 1998, a small Chinese contingent observed the RIMPAC military exercises. However, since 2000, direct military to military contact by the U.S. with China has been prohibited under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000.
The Chinese Communist Party newspaper, the Global Times, wrote, “Watching from afar, China is feeling uncomfortable. But it should be forgotten soon. The exercise is nothing but a big party held in the U.S. which is in a melancholy state of mind due to difficult realities.”
However, China was concerned in early July, when the U.S., South Korea and Japan conducted three-day joint exercises in the area of Jeju island, south of the Korean peninsula, where the Korean government is constructing a controversial naval base to homeport Aegis missile destroyers, a part of the US Missile Defense System. According to Hawaii’s Star Advertiser, a Chinese navy representative said those exercises were aiming to “threaten North Korea and keep China in check.”
Russia included for first time; but Kiwi vessels not allowed into Pearl Harbor
America’s cold war rival and major Asia and Pacific player, Russia, is participating in RIMPAC for the first time. Three Russian naval vessels, a destroyer, tanker and salvage tug, initially were allowed to dock inside the huge U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.
However, the U.S. ally, New Zealand, had to dock its two naval vessels outside U.S. naval facilities. For 30 years, New Zealand has had a “no nukes” policy and has refused to allow U.S. naval ships into Kiwi waters as the United States will neither confirm or deny whether its military ships carry nuclear weapons. In a tit-for-tat move, the U.S. refused to allow New Zealand military ships into Pearl Harbor. New Zealand sailors are not upset by the U.S. decision to exclude them as the two Kiwi naval ships are docked at Aloha Towers in the commercial harbor of Honolulu in midst of a busy tourist area.
Green-Washing War Games Extremely Expensive
In an attempt to green wash the largest naval war games in the world, the United States is using 900,000 gallons of 50/50 biofuel and petroleum-based marine diesel or aviation fuel blend and calling the armada the “Great Green Fleet.” The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz carried some of the biofuel to refuel aircraft and Destroyers Chafeee and Chung-Hoon, Cruiser Princeton and Oiler Henry J. Kaiser used bio fuel. E-2C Hawkeye early-warning radar aircraft and helicopters gassed up with biofuel.
In support of the 2012 RIMPAC “green” war games, in December, 2011, the Pentagon purchased 450,000 gallons of biofuel for $12 million, the largest US government purchase of biofuel in history and the most expensive. While the Navy generally pays $4 per gallon for petroleum bases fuel, biofuel ended up costing $26 per gallon but dropped to a mere $15 per gallon when blended with petroleum. The difference in price between petroleum bases fuel and biofuel had some Congressmen challenging the rationale of “greening” of war games during times of economic stress. U.S. Representative Randy Forbes told Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus that “I love green energy, but it is a question of priorities.” Most of the biofuel came from restaurant cooking oil, through a contract with Tyson Foods, Solazyme and Dynamic Fuels.
SINKEX — Environmental groups protest sinking of three ships in target practice
As a part of the mammoth war game, despite outcries from the environmental community, including the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, the Center for Biological Diversity and Basel Action Network, the US Navy resumed using old war ships for torpedo and bomb target practice and sinking them. On July 22, the last of three ships to be sunk as a part of the RIMPCAC exercises was sent to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The USS Kilauea, a decommissioned ammunition ship, was sunk by a torpedo from an Australian submarine, in 15,500 feet of water, 63 miles off the coast of Kauai. The USS Niagara Falls and the USS Concord were sunk off the northwest coast of Kauai earlier in the war games.
The EPA gave the US military an exemption from Federal pollution laws that prohibit dumping in the ocean, under the proviso that the military “will better document” toxic waste left on the ships. According to EPA guidelines, the ships had to be sunk in at least 6,000 feet of water and at least 50 miles offshore.
US Navy sinks twice as many ships as recycles them
The U.S. has six approved domestic ship-breaking facilities, but since 2000, the Navy has gotten rid of 109 US military ships by sinking them off the coasts of California, Hawaii and Florida. During that period only 64 ships were recycled in domestic facilities. The Navy claims that only 500 pounds of PCBs were on the ships that were sunk.
Submarine Launched Drone
During the war games, the U.S. Navy will test a submarine-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) and blue-laser underwater communications technology. The Navy will attempt to launch a drone called the “Switchblade,” which has previously been used by US Army and US Marine ground troops in Afghanistan. The Navy’s version of the “Switchblade” drone is enclosed in a special launch canister and fired from one of the submarine’s trash chutes at periscope depth. The canister floats to the surface, opens up, the electric-motor unfolds the folded-wings and the drone launches itself.
“Tiger Balm” Army War Games on Land in Hawaii
Not to be left out as the huge naval war games take place off Hawaii, the U.S. Army is training Singaporean soldiers on Oahu in a military exercise called “Tiger Balm.” Using the U.S. Marine’s $42 million Infantry Immersion Training facility on Oahu built to simulate a southern Afghanistan village, the joint US-Singaporean task force practices clearing the village of enemy fighters.
The U.S. Army Pacific command plans on 150 multi-lateral military engagements with Pacific and Asian countries in 2012.
U.S. Marines in Hot Water in Hawaii and Japan over Osprey Helicopter
While a battalion of U.S. Marines from Hawaii were sent recently to Okinawa and a smaller detachment sent to Australia, those remaining in Hawaii are in hot water. Increasing administration emphasis on Asia and the Pacific has emboldened the Marines to attempt to increase the number of MV-22-tilt-rotor Osprey, Cobra and Huey attack-utility helicopter training helicopter flights in the Hawaiian Islands
Last week, Hawaiian activists on Molokai forced the Marines to back down from increasing from 112 to 1,383 the number of helicopter flights into the tiny airport that serves the National Park at Kalaupapa and the home of the surviving patients of Hansen’s disease.
The activists also build a “kuahu,” or stone alter on July 15 on the site of the proposed Marine helicopter fuel depot at Hoolehua, next to the Molokai airport “topside,” on the mesa above Kalaupapa. “It’s a statement that we have cultural significance there, that they cannot disregard what the people have been telling them. We represent people who do not want any military presence on Molokai,” said Molokai resident Lori Buchanan.
On the island of Oahu, residents around the Marine base in Kaneohe on July 16 at a Windward Neighborhood meeting, opposed flights of the Osprey from the base citing safety and noise concerns.
Protests in Japan over the arrival of the Osprey
In Japan, on July 23, the first 12 Osprey’s arrived to protests. The Ospreys will be on the Japanese mainland at Iwakuni Air Base only briefly, but opposition there has been “unusually strong, with both the mayor and the governor saying they do not support even temporarily hosting the aircraft. Opposition to the large military presence on Okinawa is deep-rooted. Protesters on July 23 held a sit-in outside the base where the Ospreys are to be sent.”
The US Embassy in Toyko countered on July 23 by stating that the 12 Ospreys are critical to defending Japan, “Deployment of these aircraft in Japan is a vital component in fulfilling the United States’ commitment to provide for the defense of Japan and to help maintain peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.”The next day, on July 24, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the Japanese Parliament that no Osprey flights would take place until investigations into the Oprey’s April crash in Morocco and the June crash in Florida were completed and Japan was satisfied the aircraft are not a safety hazard.
The deployment of the Osprey to Okinawa is a political headache for Japan because of intense local opposition. Half of the 50,000 US troops in Japan are located in Okinawa. The deployment of the aircraft has become another rallying issue for base opponents.
Protests of RIMPAC on Oahu and the Big Island
On July 2, 2012, activists in Honolulu held their first protest of the RIMPAC exercises. In front of the two New Zealands ships easily accessible at Aloha Tower in Honolulu’s commercial harbor, one activist held a sign saying: “Mahalo (Thank you) New Zealand for anti-nukes; No Aloha for RIMPAC war games.”
RIMPAC protesters in front of two New Zealand ships at a commercial dock at Aloha Towers as US government would not allow Kiwi ships into Pearl Harbor Naval Base
More protests occurred at Pohakuloa military training base on the Big Island of Hawaii
On July 15, 2012, 30 protesters challenged the desecration of Hawaiian lands in a protest against RIMPAC war games. As they gathered opposite the main gate of Pohakuloa Military base, a red flag flew over the base indicating that live fire and bombing was taking place. Concerned citizens from Hilo, Kona, Waimea and Na’alehu, included old time Kaho’olawe Island “Stop the Bombing” activists (Kaho’olawe Island was used for bombing practice for over 50 years and only stopped in 1990 after a decade of protests by the Hawaiian community Members of the Ka Pele family who several years ago led a peace gathering to pray and build an ahu (stone altar) at Pu’u Ka Pele on Pohakuloa in opposition to the bombing found that access to the ahu and pu’u has been blocked by concrete barricades and chain linked barbed wire fence.