As the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports, despite the Pentagon’s announced budget cuts of $78 billion, the message from the 10th annual Hawaii military partnership conference is that “Hawaii is of extreme strategic importance” to the United States because of our location in the critically important Asia Pacific region and because of the rising economic and military power of China, which the U.S. hopes to contain.
The military-business love fest was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the same organization that conspired with U.S. elites in the 19th century to obtain a Treaty of Reciprocity, which allowed the U.S. to use Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (aka Pearl Harbor) in exchange for dropping tariffs on Hawaiian sugar imports to the U.S. The Treaty of Reciprocity was opposed by many Hawaiian citizens because it was rightfully seen as an erosion of Hawaiian sovereignty and a threat to one of the richest food resources for the island of O’ahu. This treaty, which could be considered a precursor to modern neoliberal trade agreements, was a key event in the U.S. takeover of Hawai’i. Today, Hawai’i is still hostage to the economic and military interests that engineered the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the U.S. occupation of the islands. The Hawai’i military partnership conference and upcoming APEC summit in Honolulu only confirms this fact.
According to the Star Advertiser article, the U.S. military population in Hawai’i is approximately 110,000 (50,000 active-duty military members and 60,000 dependents), which is around 8.5 percent of the total population of Hawai’i. Large scale military-driven population transfer of Americans to Hawai’i have had major negative social and cultural impacts on Kanaka Maoli, not the least of which is the loss of self-determination. The international community understands that the influx of settlers to an occupied territory, such as Palestine, Tibet and East Timor, constitute serious human rights problems. However the influx of American settlers in Hawai’i or Guam have not gotten the same attention.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary said “There’s no question in my mind that the importance of this region, the Asia-Pacific region and in particular Hawaii, and the vital role it will play in the future is not going to diminish.” This means that the threat of militarization will continue or worsen for places like Korea, Okinawa, Guam and Hawai’i. Peace and justice movements in this region will have to grow our movements and strengthen our networks within the region and with allies in the U.S. We need to call on peace and justice movements within the U.S. to understand developments in the Asia Pacific region, and especially the importance small island bases in the expansion and maintenance of U.S. empire, and to step up their own efforts to dismantle the oppressive “empire of bases” (to borrow a phrase from the late Chalmers Johnson). Now that fiscal realities are finally forcing some in Washington to consider the taboo subject of cutting the military budget, the U.S. peace and justice movements have an opportunity to advocate for the reduction of the military troops and bases around the world.
The article also reports:
Lt. Gen. Benjamin “Randy” Mixon, head of the U.S. Army in the Pacific and headquartered at Fort Shafter, said the Army is looking at shifting Makua Valley away from its past use as an intensive live-fire training facility and bringing in “more relevant” training focused on roadside bomb detection.
Due to a lawsuit, there has been no live-fire training in Makua Valley since 2004.
Another focus would be unmanned aerial vehicle training using Makua, which has unrestricted airspace, Mixon said. In conjunction with those changes, the Army is planning to move some live-fire training to new facilities it would build at Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island.
So the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement being prepared for construction at Pohakuloa is related to the shifting of training activities from Makua to Pohakuloa.
The language coming out of these kinds of conferences also reveals a lot about how the military and businesses view Hawai’i. Hawai’i is used to serve certain interests. Our lands, seas and skies are used. Our people are used. The entire Pacific ocean is used. It reveals the arrogance of empire. Empire never asks permission of the people in its far flung possessions. It imposes, announces, decides.
Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander in chief of the Pacific Command said that the Pentagon is focusing its attention on the Asia Pacific Region. Willard said. “We’ll be discussing Pacific Command’s vision for a future posture that is an improved posture in the region — not a lessening posture by any means, but rather a reorienting of some of our forces.” “Improved posture”? As in stop slouching? Interesting language. It sounds like a bit of spin on possible budget cuts. We’ll see.