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Man held on $1M bail in alleged assault of infant in Kailua

February 16, 2013 

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (“Man held on $1M bail in alleged assault of infant in Kailua”, February 16, 2013) that a 21-year-old man, a resident of the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kāneʻohe Bay (probably the spouse of a Marine), was arrested and charged with the assault of a 3-month-old infant this past week:

Billy Groce was charged with first-degree assault and is being held at the police cellblock in lieu of $1 million bail.

Police said Groce allegedly caused serious bodily injury on the infant girl Tuesday and arrested him Wednesday on suspicion of first-degree assault.

[. . .]

A Police Department spokeswoman said Groce is not a Marine.

 

3 hovercraft close to sandbar churn up complaints

July 17, 2012 

 

PHOTO COURTESY CARROLL COX

Navy hovercraft participating in RIMPAC were out near the sandbar in Kaneohe Bay on Monday.

The Honolulu Star Advertiser published another article3 hovercraft close to sandbar churn up complaints” (July 17, 2012) about the Marine Corps hovercraft – LCACs – that were churning up sand and coral in Kāneʻohe Bay as part of RIMPAC exercises:

Some big Navy hovercraft got a little too close for comfort for some at the Kaneohe Bay sandbar Monday.

Three of the craft kicked up cascades of sand and water and raised environmental concerns at the popular destination for boaters.

But the director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said the reports he received — including from a DLNR harbor agent on site — indicated there was not “a huge environmental impact.”

[. . . ]

Environmental activist Carroll Cox said he received phone calls about the hovercraft “churning up coral and everything else.”

[. . . ]

“There were three LCACs, and they were right there on top of the sandbar, and the people were just concerned about the impact on the fish and coral,” Cox said.

[. . .]

The LCACs, nearly 88 feet long and 47 feet wide and capable of carrying 60 to 75 tons, are used by the Navy and Marines to transport equipment and troops ashore.

The hovercraft, operating off the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, were near the sandbar as Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicles operated at Pyramid Rock at the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps base.

Although the state denies that the LCACs were a threat to the environment, the disturbing bit of information is that:

No notice was given to the DLNR that the LCACs would be operating near the sandbar.

 

 

9000 Marines to move off Okinawa to Hawaiʻi, Guam, Australia, etc.

May 1, 2012 

As reported in the Washington Post, the Obama administration announced that the U.S. will move 9000 Marines off Okinawa to other locations in the Pacific. While this may have sidestepped a politically volatile issue in its relations with Japan, the problem of the Futenma Base still remains, and the expansi0n of troops and bases in other locations in the Pacific may be spreading the seeds of opposition:

The U.S. and Japanese governments said Thursday that they will move about 9,000 Marines off Okinawa to other bases in the Western Pacific, in a bid to remove a persistent irritant in the relationship between the two allies.

The Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa has been seen by both sides as essential to deterring Chinese military aggression in the region. But the noisy air base’s location in a crowded urban area has long angered Okinawa residents, and some viewed the Marines as rowdy and potentially violent.

This plan will relocate 2700 Marines from Japan to Hawaiʻi.  The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported “Hawaii must prepare for move of up to 2,700 Marines, Inouye says”:

The U.S. will move as many as 2,700 Marines from Japan to Hawaii as the Pentagon scales back a $21.1 billion blueprint for Guam, U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye confirmed today.

“This troop movement will occur after extensive discussions with the leaders of Japan and it highlights Hawaii’s importance as the focus of our national defense shifts to the Asia-Pacific region,” Inouye said.

The Pentagon is expected to announce as soon as tomorrow that it intends to send about 4,700 U.S. Marines now stationed in Japan to Guam, as previously reported, as well as the contingent going to Hawaii, according to two people familiar with the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan hasn’t been made public.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done (in Hawaii) to prepare for their arrival,” Inouye said. “We must build more housing, secure more training areas and improve and expand infrastructure while working with the counties and the state to make certain the Marines transition easily into their new duty station in Hawaii.”

This decision is being leaked in advance of a formal announcement. However, no environmental/social/cultural impact analysis has been done to address securing “more training areas” and develoment to “improve and expand infrastructure”.  This is typical of the military decisions in Hawaiʻi: plans are made, studies (when they are done) are written to order to justify the decision, and political bosses make pronouncements as if they were commandments from God.  And, just in case anyone had objections or doubts about these plans, Senator Inouye made clear how the people of Hawaiʻi are supposed to respond:

The one thing I am confident of, is that the people of Hawaii will welcome these brave men and women and their families with Aloha,” said Inouye.

In other words, the profoundly sacred Kanaka Maoli concept of “aloha” has been hijacked and turned into a kitsch tourist slogan, whose flip-side is a weapon to silence dissent and suppress political protest.

Jon Letman’s latest article, “Without question: US military expansion in the Asia-Pacific” discussed the U.S. military’s Pacific ‘pivot’:

As Noam Chomsky wrote in this two-part essay, America’s “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific region is in response to what it calls “classic security dilemmas” posed by the rising influence of China and Russia. Reacting with military programmes and strategies it says are “defensive”, this US “pivot” is perceived as bullying, threats and intrusion - in other words more of the same - by those most impacted by America’s foreign military presence.

The “classic security dilemma makes sense”, Chomsky argues, if one operates under the assumption that the US has “the right to control most of the world, and that US security requires something approaching absolute global control”.

As Letman noted:

Hawaii’s role in all this is enormous. Hawaii represents a fraction of one per cent of the United States’ land area and has just 1.37 million people, but is home to 119 total military sites, making Hawaii effectively a giant floating military garrison from which troops and military hardware are dispatched around the world.

Not a dozen miles from tourist-packed Waikiki Beach is Camp HM Smith, headquarters of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) which oversees military operations in roughly half the world from the Bering Sea to the Antarctic and across the entirety of the Pacific Ocean as far west as Central Asia, Pakistan and the southern Indian Ocean. Over half the world lives within USPACOM’s “area of responsibility” including China, India, Indonesia, Japan and 32 other countries.

The military bases in Hawaiʻi and the bloated U.S. defense budget has been justified as a jobs creation program: military Keynesianism.  But it is a myth that military spending is the best way to create jobs. Letman explored this contradiction:

Rather than question an economy based on weapons, violence and control, the American public largely forfeits any protest in favour of the holy four-lettered word, JOBS. But the argument that the military and defence industry is an indispensable source of jobs is deflated when one reads a study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst which finds that $1 billion spent on military production creates 8,600 direct and indirect jobs. But that same amount of money invested in clean energy, health care or education could produce between 12,000 and 19,000 jobs.

This, however, is not a debate that is being waged by the wider American public. In fact, like the subjects of our foreign bases, drone warfare and the US military’s impact on people in the Asia-Pacific, it’s largely overlooked. In general, Americans spend little or no time considering the plight of people in other nations - especially small islands - whose land, sea, ports and resources are used to test, train and store US military hardware and personnel. Whatever the costs may be to local populations in terms of environmental damage, social disruption, economic coercion and an increased danger simply by hosting US bases goes undiscussed.

Curiously, despite the fact that in 2011 the US defence budget was well over $700 billion - far exceeding the combined defence budgets for China, Russia, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, the UK and Japan - a recent Rasmussen telephone survey reveals one in four Americans believe the US is still not spending enough of its military.

But as the Asia-Pacific “pivot” brings more testing, training and deployments to accommodate weapons and warriors fanning out across half the world, Americans would do well to pay closer attention to the vast human and financial resources its government demands. The time is long overdue to consider that what we call “defensive” is to so many around the world seen as offensive.

As Bruce Gagnon said just prior to going to Jeju island, “This has nothing to do with defending the United States or its people against attack. It has everything to do with corporate profits and power.”

Relocating U.S. bases and troops is like BP spraying chemical dispersants on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: it only makes the problem sink, spread out and persist. As peoples movements of Ka Moana Nui (the Vast Ocean) have demanded, we demand a reduction of U.S. military foces, the removal of bases and the restoration of people to military-occupied lands.

U.S. military’s Pacific ‘pivot’ and Okinawa drawdown unsettles the region

February 14, 2012 

After several weeks of speculation and anonymous ‘leaks’ about possible changes to the U.S.-Japan plan to relocate the Futenma Marine base to Henoko, Okinawa, government officials announced that the U.S. would begin moving some troops out of Okinawa, independent of the base relocation to Henoko. But the news is having an unsettling effect across the entire region.  Here are a sampling of the articles.

The AP reported “Okinawa Marines going to Guam, Australia, Hawaii and Philippines” (February 7, 2012):

Japan and the United States agreed Wednesday to proceed with plans to transfer thousands of U.S. troops out of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, leaving behind the stalled discussion about closing a major U.S. Marine base there.

The transfer, a key to U.S. troop restructuring in the Pacific, has been in limbo for years because it was linked to the closure and replacement of the strategically important base that Okinawans fiercely oppose.

The announcement Wednesday follows high-level talks to rework a 2006 agreement for 8,000 Marines to transfer to the U.S. territory of Guam by 2014 if a replacement for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma could be built elsewhere on Okinawa.

That agreement has been effectively scuttled by opposition on Okinawa, where many residents believe the base should simply be closed and moved overseas or elsewhere in Japan. More than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan, including 18,000 Marines, are stationed on Okinawa, taking up around 10 percent of the island with nearly 40 bases and facilities.

The two governments said in a joint statement that the transfer of thousands of U.S. Marines to Guam would not require the prior closure of Futenma, as the original pact required. Details of the realignment will be discussed further, but about 10,000 troops will remain on Okinawa, as in the original agreement.

The reduced number of troops projected to move to Guam may be encouraging to grassroots groups who have fought against the military expansion in Guam. However the Governor of the U.S. colony, and the many businesses that hoped to cash in on the boom, were disappointed:

Guam, meanwhie, has pushed hard for the troop buildup because of the potential economic boom.

“We are the closest U.S. community to Asia. We are very patriotic citizens. And unlike many foreign countries and even some U.S. communities, we welcome an increased military presence,” Gov. Eddie Calvo said in a statement last week.

Guam, which is being built up to play a greater role in Washington’s Asia-Pacific strategy, could also stand to get far fewer Marines than expected if the new plan goes through. The tiny U.S. territory had been counting on a huge boost from the restructuring plan, and may have to revise its forecasts.

But officials said the revised number could be more manageable.

A smaller contingent of Marines would alleviate concerns on Guam that the swelling military presence would overwhelm the island’s infrastructure and environment.

Mark G. Calvo, the director of Guam’s military buildup office, said the territory has been briefed by the Department of Defense about the talks with Japan and supports the transfer, even if it is smaller than expected. He said the idea of reducing it to about 4,000 Marines had been discussed after an environmental impact assessment two years ago pointed to possible problems.

“There are concerns about a loss of economic benefits, but it puts us in a better position to adjust our infrastructure,” he said.

The AFP reported “US Marines may leave Japan before base closure” (Febraury 8, 2012):

Thousands of US Marines could leave Japan’s Okinawa island before a controversial American base is closed, Washington and Tokyo announced Wednesday, in the latest twist in a long-running saga.

In a densely-worded joint statement, the two sides said they were talking about “delinking” the redeployment of 8,000 Marines from a 2006 agreement to close the base in the crowded urban area of Futenma.

It has been widely reported in Japan that Washington has now set its sights on shifting 4,700 Marines to Guam without waiting for Japan to stop its foot-dragging over the accord, which would see a new facility built in a sparsely populated coastal area.

The original agreement offered the carrot of a Marine drawdown in exchange for Okinawans allowing the construction of an airstrip at Henoko.

The Washington Post headline was “U.S. likely to scale down plans for bases in Japan and Guam” (February 8, 2012):

The U.S. military will probably scale back plans to build key bases in Japan and Guam because of political obstacles and budget pressures, according to U.S. and Japanese officials, complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen its troop presence in Asia.

Under a deal announced Wednesday with Japanese officials, the U.S. government said it will accelerate plans to withdraw 8,000 Marines from the island of Okinawa. The decision came after several years of stalled talks to find a site for a new Marine base nearby.

Washington’s inability to resolve its basing arrangements on Okinawa, as well as the rising price tag of a related plan for a $23 billion military buildup on Guam, underscore the challenges facing the Obama administration as it seeks to make a strategic “pivot” toward the Pacific after a decade of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Japanese government said it is still committed to a 2006 accord with the United States to find a new base location for other Marines who will remain on Okinawa. But officials in Tokyo acknowledged that they had made little progress in the face of fierce resistance from islanders opposed to the long-standing U.S. military presence there. Bleak public finances in the United States and in Japan have also undermined the effort.

The article also described the proposal to rotate troops to different locations in the Asia-Pacific region, including an expanded U.S. military presence in Singapore:

The administration has moved on a series of fronts to bolster the U.S. military presence in Asia and the Pacific recently. Officials reached a deal with Australia to deploy a small number of Marines to Darwin and are holding talks with the Philippines about expanding military ties.

Those moves, along with an agreement to station Navy ships in Singapore, are part of a broader strategy aimed at countering China’s rising influence in the region. Although the Obama administration wants to retain the bulk of U.S. forces in South Korea and Japan, where they have maintained a heavy presence since World War II and the Korean War, officials said they are looking to expand their presence in Southeast Asia.

An Asia Times article Okinawans see duplicity in US withdrawal” (February 11, 2012) was more critical and emphasized the Okinawan reaction to the announcement:

With the United States shifting its axis of security toward the Asia-Pacific by expanding its military footprint in Australia, the Philippines and Vietnam, it may be high time for the United States Marine Corps to leave Japan’s Okinawa.

A shifting security dynamic in the region, most notably due to China’s enhanced strike capabilities, will likely marginalize the marines’ presence on the island.

The Asia Times article explored how the U.S. strategy is directed at countering China’s rise, but it tended to overemphasize the military threat from China as the reason for moving troops from Okinawa:

The planned transfer of thousands of marines to Guam without progress on the Futenma relocation is also part of an ongoing US strategy to counter China’s military build-up, especially its growing naval power in the West Pacific.

The Pentagon is closely watching China’s “anti-access/area denial” strategy, which envisions blocking freedom of movement for US ships. By creating two lines of coastal defenses in the region, military analysts believe Beijing aims to nullify the capabilities of US aircraft carriers and air defenses within the zone.

The so-called AirSea battle concept combines US air and naval strengths. It departs from the Cold War-era AirLand Battle doctrine drafted to prepare for an invasion by the former Soviet Union.

The AirSea battle concept meant to combat China’s growing military might doesn’t fit with high troop levels on Okinawa, since the latter cannot be moved swiftly and could be easily targeted by China’s middle-range ballistic missiles such as the DF-21.

The new battle strategy forces the Pentagon to keep key US forces out of China’s strike range.

“It’s better for US Marines to keep at a safe distance from China,” Japanese military analyst Toshiyuki Shikata told Asia Times Online. “I expect the US to fortify Guam as a strong military base from now on.”

The Asia Times also revealed that in addition to shifting troops to Guam, Hawai’i, Australia and the Philippines, there have been talks about moving Marines to South Korea or other parts of Japan:

Japanese media have reported that apart from moving 4,700 marines from Okinawa to Guam, the Pentagon is also considering rotating 3,300 to other overseas bases in the Pacific such as Hawaii, Australia and the Philippines.

Of the 3,300 marines, media have reported that 1,000 will be deployed to Hawaii and 800 to the US mainland. Meanwhile, other media have said 2,300 will go to Darwin in northern Australia and 1,000 to Hawaii.

It’s also been reported that the US has sounded out Tokyo on transferring about 1,500 marines to the Iwakuni marine base in Yamaguchi Prefecture – the only Marine Corps Air Station on mainland Japan – with central and local governments flatly rejecting the idea.

Some US Marines stationed in Okinawa will likely move to South Korea, Chosun Ilbo also has reported. Pentagon spokesperson Leslie Hull-Ryde on Friday denied the South Korean newspaper’s report by saying, “there has been no discussion between the US and the Republic of Korea [South Korea] on this issue”.

Unclear figures on how many US Marines are actually on Okinawa – due to expeditions and rotating shifts – has also aggravated the Japanese public. While both the US and Japanese governments claim 18,000 marines are normally based on Okinawa, the Okinawa prefectural government says only 14,958 marines were based on the island as of September 2009.

Military experts estimate the number at 12,000-14,000 at best in recent years because of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Then Japanese defense minister Toshimi Kitazawa said in February 2010 that there were only 4,000 to 5,000 marines stationed on Okinawa due to Iraqi and Afghanistan deployments.

The US and Japanese governments say there will 10,000 marines in Okinawa even after shifting 8,000 marines around the island. But the claim could be just a pretext to avoid military budget cuts.

Plans for deep US defense cuts are another major likely reason why moving the marines out of Okinawa has been disconnected from the relocation of the Futenma airbase.

The Marine Corps Times published an article “More Marines may deploy to South Korea” (February 14, 2012) expounding on the possible stationing of more Marines in South Korea:

Recent South Korean media reports have highlighted two items of interest. The first was a Jan. 19 meeting in Seoul attended by the commanding generals of Marine Corps Forces-Korea and the Republic of Korea Marine Corps. There, the two sides agreed to expand combined training exercises, including a large joint-landing operation planned for the first half of this year.

The second report is potentially more sensitive. Two articles, one Feb. 8 and another Feb. 10, published in the Chosun Ilbo, a national daily newspaper, indicate that as part of the planned move of U.S. Marines from Okinawa, an undetermined number may end up going to South Korea on a rotational basis.

A Defense Department spokeswoman, Lt. Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, had no immediate comment on either of the South Korean media reports, saying no decisions have been finalized concerning the scope of planned personnel shifts in the Pacific.

Reuters published an interesting article “Exclusive: U.S. military seeks more access in Philippines” (February 9, 2012) on the proposed expansion of the U.S. military presence and activities in the Philippines. Calling it “access, not bases,” the Philippines government hopes to deflect public protest for violating the 1987 constitutional ban on any permanent foreign military presence. The Philippines has been a laboratory for new types of basing arrangements, where U.S. troops, equipment and supplies are “temporarily” stationed in the country for training missions:

The United States is seeking more access to Philippines ports and airfields to re-fuel and service its warships and planes, diplomatic and military sources said on Thursday, expanding its presence at a time of tension with China in the South China Sea.

But it is not trying to reopen military bases there.

Washington’s growing cooperation in the Philippines, a U.S. ally which voted to remove huge American naval and air bases 20 years ago, follows the U.S. announcement last year of plans to set up a Marine base in northern Australia and possibly station warships in Singapore.

It also coincides with diplomatic and military friction in the South China Sea and its oil-rich Spratly Islands, which are subject to disputed claims by China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.

Last month, senior Philippine defense and foreign affairs officials met their U.S. counterparts in Washington to discuss ways to increase the number and frequency of joint exercises, training, ship and aircraft visits and other activities.

“It’s access, not bases,” a foreign affairs department official familiar with the strategic dialogue told Reuters.

“Our talks focus on strengthening cooperation on military and non-military activities, such as disaster response and humanitarian assistance, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation. There were no discussions about new U.S. bases,” he said.

These activities would allow the U.S. military more access in the Philippines, stretching its presence beyond local military facilities and training grounds into central Cebu province or to Batanes island near the northern borders with Taiwan. (Emphasis added)

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported “Admiral Seeks Freer Hand in Deployment of Elite Forces” (February 12, 2012) that the Commander of the Special Operations Command wants more autonomy for special forces, which as Filipino activists point out, is the main branch of the military involved in counterinsurgency operations in Mindanao:

The officer, Adm. William H. McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command, is pushing for a larger role for his elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy. The plan would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed.

It would also allow the Special Operations forces to expand their presence in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Filipino reactions to the news has ranged from outrage to sarcasm.  Erick San Juan wrote an opinion piece in the Zamboanga Today Online,Let’s get our acts together! (February 14, 2012), in which he suggested that Senator Inouye’s visit to the Philippines last year was a prospecting mission for expanding the U.S. military presence:

Americans are our friends. But, let us all be wary every time Uncle Sam’s top officials and representatives visit the country. . .

In May of last year, I wrote about the “visit” of US Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and William Thad Cochran (R- Mississippi) to the country for a “possible return of the US naval base in Subic.” Of course, the US embassy here denied this and that the visit was “to see the economic progress in the Subic Freeport area that has been made over the years and to ask how the US can collaborate.”

And, could it be that the said visit of the two elder senators from the US Senate Appropriations committee was to test the water, so to speak of what could be the reaction of the populace?

[...]

US troops never left and they are using our military camps as portable bases via the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). In this way, they are actually saving a lot of dollars because in reality the annual joint military exercises has benefitted them a lot more than our Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Actually that “smaller base” in the south has been there as the aftermath of Bush’s synthetic war on terror. And now, according to reports, Uncle Sam will send its marines and navy men in Subic Bay on rotation with its other allies.

*Floating Base

Speaking of portable base, Washington has plans of deploying of what they call “floating base”, first in the Middle East this summer. According to news release from the New York Times online dated 1/27/2012 – The conversion of the Ponce, which had been scheduled for retirement, would be an interim step to providing the military with its first afloat staging base.

The Pentagon’s new budget proposals, unveiled Thursday, included money to turn a freighter hull into a full-time floating base that could be moved around the world for military operations or humanitarian missions.

Seriously? That familiar line again – for humanitarian missions?

Video depicts Marines urinating on enemy corpses

January 12, 2012 

Rob Burns of the AP reported “Marines probe video showing troops urinating on enemy corpses”:

The Marine Corps said today it is investigating a video depicting what appears to be four Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.

In a statement, the Marine Corps said it has not verified the origin or authenticity of the YouTube video. But it also said the actions portrayed are not consistent with Marine values.

If verified the video could create a strong backlash in the Muslim world and beyond for the disrespectful actions it portrays.

The military has distanced themselves from the crime:

Marine Corps headquarters at the Pentagon said, “The actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps. This matter will be fully investigated

But this is dishonest.  The military’s training regimen relies on the dehumanization of the enemy and desensitizing troops to killing.  According to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” the “improved” training methods instituted since the Vietnam War have dramatically increased the rates at which troops fire their weapons and kill people, which has also coincides with increases in post-traumatic stress disorder and anti-social behaviors among returning combat veterans.

Military studies Waikane Valley bomb cleanup

June 21, 2011 

The Honolulu Star Advertiser published an article about the progress of unexploded ordnance (UXO) cleanup in Waikane valley in Ko’olaupoko district of O’ahu.

Waikane is a lush valley that is very significant in Hawaiian legend and history.  The name refers to the waters of the great deity Kane. Sites in the valley are referred to in ancient chants about creation. As this is a land of flowing streams, there are extensive lo’i kalo (taro fields).

Waikane was granted to the Kamaka family during the Mahele. But land speculators like Lincoln McCandless acquired vast amounts of land in Waikane and other areas like Makua, allegedly through illegal or unethical means.

During World War II, the military leased Waikane lands for training and promised to return the land in its original condition.  When the lands were returned to the Kamaka family, Raymond Kamaka began farming and working with youth.   But the bombs kept turning up.  Instead of cleaning up as promised, the Marines condemned the land over the objections of the family.

In 2003, the Marines announced that they planned to conduct jungle warfare training in Waikane and held community meetings.  The community turned out in large numbers to protest the plan and to demand that the military clean up the land and return it to the Kamaka family. The Marine corps abandoned its training plans for Waikane.  Several years later, it began the administrative process for closing and cleaning up the range.

The surrounding lands were also affected by training, but since they are currently in private hands, a different program called the Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) program under the Army Corps of Engineers has the responsibility to conduct the ordnance removal.

The very fact that the munitions are being studied and removed is a win for the community.  What was once “too dangerous” and “too costly” is now within reach.  But the level of cleanup depends on the cost and feasibility analysis as well as the final land use.   This is where continued pressure is needed to ensure that the land is returned to Mr. Kamaka or to an entity that he designates to carry on the kuleana (responsibility) he solemnly swore to fulfill to his ancestors.

The Hawai’i congressional delegation can ensure that the cleanup is conducted to the highest level possible by ensuring that there is adequate funding to achieve the highest level of cleanup.

There are currently two cleanup operations underway in Waikane.  Under the Army Corps of Engineers FUDS program, a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) has been established to oversee its portion of the cleanup. Under the Marine Corps, a separate Restoration Advisory Board has been established.  These RABs include military, government regulators and community members and provide input to the military on the cleanup process.   The meetings are open to the public.

The Army Corps of Engineers FUDS RAB will meet Wednesday, June 22, 2011 from 7-9 pm in the Waiahole Elementary School Cafeteria.

Below are excerpts from the Honolulu Star Advertiser article. The time line at the end has an error: the Marine Corps did not fence the Kamaka parcel in 1992 after it condemned the land.  It installed a fence some time after 2003, only after the community blasted the Marines for being hypocritical, i.e. claiming that the land was so dangerous it had to be condemned but never enclosing it with a fence.

Military studies Waikane Valley bomb cleanup

A Windward Oahu area littered with old munitions is being looked at by both the Marines and the Army

By William Cole

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 19, 2011

WILLIAM COLE / WCOLE@STARADVERTISER.COM
Marine Corps officials and an ordnance removal technician view Waikane Valley in the vicinity of the ordnance impact area.
WILLIAM COLE / WCOLE@STARADVERTISER.COM
The Marine Corps said it is spending $1.37 million to investigate the 187-acre impact area in Waikane Valley where the majority of the munitions are located and to develop a feasibility study for cleanup options that is expected to be released in the fall. Here, a warning sign is posted at the edge of the Marine Corps’ impact area

More Photos

Up a rutted road in jungly Waikane Valley, past the old Ka Mauna ‘o ‘Oliveta Church, through a locked gate and beyond a security fence is the former Kamaka family farm, the now-defunct military training range that replaced it, and the long-held hope — going on decades now — that the land can be returned to the agricultural and cultural place it used to be.

Waikane Valley is one of dozens of former military training sites in Hawaii undergoing the slow, arduous and sometimes painful process that goes along with demilitarization.

Among those many sites, Waikane is considered by some to be a special place, and there’s been momentum in recent years to clean up the munitions that litter it.

The Marine Corps and Army Corps of Engineers are each conducting studies on removing ordnance from a total of 1,061 acres in Waikane Valley. Citizen advisory groups are asking Congress for millions in cleanup funds.

“Things seem to be moving in a good direction — at least things seem to be moving, which is a good direction,” said Windward resident and attorney David Henkin, who is on the two restoration advisory boards for the land.

Land in and around the former training area is valued as a cultural and natural resource. The city thought highly enough of the land in 1998 to spend $3.5 million for 500 acres to the southeast of the Marine Corps land that are intended to become the Waikane Valley Nature Park. A private landowner, Paul Zweng, bought 1,400 acres — part of which is in the former training area — for a proposed Ohulehule Forest Conservancy to preserve and restore the endemic flora and fauna in the valley, officials said.

[...]

Despite the potential risk, off-road vehicles tear up Waikane Stream, and pig hunters cut through the fence that surrounds the 187 acres still owned by the Marine Corps.

Between 1943 and 1953 the Army leased more than 2,000 acres in the Waiahole and Waikane valleys for jungle training; small arms, artillery and mortar fire; and aerial bombing, according to a recent Navy investigation.

In 1953, the Marine Corps took over, leasing 1,061 acres for live-fire training. The report said live fire “apparently” stopped in the early 1960s, and that the lease was terminated in 1976.

A Marine Corps clearance effort in 1976 removed 24,000 pounds of practice ordnance and fragments, and 42 unexploded munitions.

In 1984 the Marines came back and recovered 480 3.5-inch rockets from what is known as the Waikane Valley Impact Area. A 2009 site inspection turned up 66 shoulder-fired rockets, one 2.36-inch rocket and three rifle grenades.

The unexploded ordnance, or “UXO,” as it’s known, was so thick the Marines abandoned in 2003 a plan to conduct blank-fire jungle training in the valley, saying it was too dangerous.

Despite that, community members working with the military on continuing studies say there’s progress and hope that Congress will provide cleanup funding.

[...]

Two remediation efforts are taking place in Waikane Valley. The Marine Corps said it is spending $1.37 million to investigate the 187-acre impact area where the majority of the munitions are located and to develop a feasibility study for cleanup options that is expected to be released in the fall.

The Army Corps of Engineers, meanwhile, is working on 874 adjoining acres that contain fewer munitions as part of the FUDS program. In addition to a $1.34 million study, the Army Corps said it has a $1.94 million ordnance clearance effort under way with Environet Inc. focusing on two parcels totaling 44 acres.

Among the decisions the Marine Corps will have to make is whether to clean up the 187 acres it still owns and to what degree, as well as what to do with the land afterward.

While some community members have complained about the number of plans put forth and the length of time for the Marine Corps to address the issue, an email response from Marine Corps Base Hawaii to the Star-Advertiser said the latest “munitions response program,” which began in 2008, “is detailed and takes time to ensure potential risks to human health and the environment are thoroughly identified and appropriate cleanup action is selected.”

People have been injured and killed by mishandled munitions in Waikane Valley, though there have been no incidents recently, according to the Navy “remedial investigation” draft report issued in March.

In 1944, two people were killed and two others were injured when a 60 mm mortar discovered in the valley accidentally detonated, the report said.

Three children were injured in 1963 when a “souvenir” rifle grenade reportedly discovered in Waikane Valley exploded after it was thrown against a wall. There have been no other reports of injury attributed to munitions found in the valley, the report said.

Raymond Kamaka, 72, said his family owned and farmed the Marine Corps land as far back as 1850 through a deed from King Kamehameha III, and he still lays claim to it.

His great-great-great-grandmother, Racheal Lahela, who came from Waikane, was a half sister of Queen Liliuokalani, Kamaka said.

Kamaka recalled playing in the valley as a kid. “It was our playground. Up there we used to swim,” he said. He remembers three ancient heiau.

The government later said it needed the land for wartime training, leased it from the Hawaiian family, and said it would clean it up and return it afterward.

The lease was terminated in 1976, and the Marines conducted several cleanups. Kamaka, a one-time professional wrestler, returned to farm in the early 1980s. He grew taro and raised pigs and brought in schoolchildren for visits.

When munitions were found on the property’s higher reaches, the military condemned the land in 1989. Much of the family settled for $2.3 million in 1994 — but not Raymond Kamaka.

“Nobody settled with me,” said Kamaka, who claims to be the only rightful heir.

The ensuing years have been “hell,” Kamaka said. “I lost everything.” He went to jail for two years in disputes with the government over the land, he said.

He still expects to farm on the family land again one day.

“Am I gonna come back? Yes,” he said.

Kajihiro, who also is program director for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that supports Native Hawaiian rights, said “there is some political will to do some cleanup (on the Marine Corps land). To what level is a question of cost.”

“We’re saying it should be cleaned up to the highest level possible to allow the broadest number of uses,” Kajihiro said. He added that those uses “need to be mindful of, and consistent with, Uncle Raymond Kamaka and his family’s vision and uses of the land — which were agricultural and cultural uses.”

LOOKING BACK

Waikane Valley’s history as a military training range:

Early 1940s
U.S. Army leases more than 2,000 acres in Waiahole and Waikane valleys and uses the property for jungle training, artillery, mortar, small arms fire, maneuvers and as a bombing range for air-to-ground fire.

1944
Two people are killed and two are injured by a 60-millimeter mortar discovered in the valley.

1953
Marine Corps leases 1,061 acres. Training includes small-arms fire, 3.5-inch rockets and medium artillery.

Early 1960s
Marines stop use of live fire.

1963
Three children are injured when a “souvenir” rifle grenade is thrown against a wall and explodes.

1976
Marines conduct ordnance clearance sweeps.

1984
Marines conduct additional ordnance clearance sweeps and remove 480 3.5-inch rockets.

1989
U.S. government acquires title to the 187-acre ordnance impact area.

1992
A perimeter chain-link fence is installed around the impact area.

2002
Marines propose conducting blank-fire training on the site.

2003
Marines abandon the idea when a study finds too much danger from unexploded ordnance.

2010
Marines conduct a “remedial investigation” on the 187-acre Waikane Valley Impact Area.

2011
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating ordnance on 874 adjoining acres and removing munitions from 44 acres within that parcel.

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Marine Corps

 

Pågat ‘sweeteners’ leave a bitter taste

May 25, 2011 

The Navy has displayed its arrogance and hostility towards the people Guahan (Guam) once again with a leaked email that basically calls for bribing the local residents in order to “isolate” opponents of military expansion plans in the Pågat cultural area.   See the article below from the Marianas Variety and the incriminating email.

Here’s a copy of the email:

In March, I wrote about contract anthropologists JKA Group who wrote several op ed pieces in favor of the military build up in Guam and the Pacific.   This same outfit was hired by the Marines in 1997 to counter community opposition to Marine Corps training in Makua valley in Hawai’i.

At the time they described their assignment on their website:

Prior to JKA’s involvement, the NEPA process was being “captured” by organized militants from the urban zones of Hawaii. The strategy of the militants was to disrupt NEPA by advocating for the importance of Makua as a sacred beach. As community workers identified elders in the local communities, the elders did not support the notion of a sacred beach-”What, you think we didn’t walk on our beaches?” They pointed to specific sites on the beach that were culturally important and could not be disturbed by any civilian or military activity. As this level of detail was injected into the EA process, the militants were less able to dominate the process and to bring forward their ideological agenda. They had to be more responsible or lose standing in the informal community because the latter understood: “how the training activity, through enhancements to the culture, can directly benefit community members. Therefore, the training becomes a mutual benefit, with the community networks standing between the military and the activists.

Now compare that passage to this excerpt from the Navy email regarding Guam:

Groups opposing Marine relocation are successfully seizing on Pågat as a means to gain legitimacy with the public – need to take the issue off the table to isolate them. “Sweeteners” will be needed to garner GovGuam/Legislature support to remove firing range restrictions on Rt. 15 properties and to obtain Legislature approval of Chamorro Land Trust lease of properties below the cliff-line. Some members of the Legislature will attempt to block all land acquisition until other issues with Fed Govt are resolved – need to give Legislature a deal they can’t refuse.

These disclosures come on the heels of the derogatory statements about Okinawans by State Department official Kevin Maher.  Maher’s statements caused an uproar in Japan and Okinawa and forced his resignation.

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http://mvguam.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18256:pagat-sweeteners-discussed&catid=59:frontpagenews

Pågat ‘sweeteners’ discussed

Thursday, 26 May 2011 04:16 by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

LOCAL activists and many island residents continue to question the sincerity of military and federal officials who speak of the buildup, even after officials assured them that discussions and plans on the Pågat issue are aboveboard and transparent.

A September 2010 email correspondence obtained by Variety among former Joint Guam Program Office Executive Director David Bice, Joe Ludovici, who has since taken over Bice’s position, and Capt. John Scorby, executive assistant to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Energy Installations & Environment, gives a glimpse of the strategies and mindset of the military with regard to the Pågat issue.

Scorby emailed Ludovici on Sept. 27, requesting that Ludovici provide a brief of Pågat to include “sweeteners” the Undersecretary needed for a briefing.

“At the DON staff meeting today with the Under, he asked that JGPO develop a brief on possible ‘sweeteners’ to get us over the Pågat issue. He indicated that this was going to be briefed at the next GOC, currently scheduled for Oct. 21. I don’t have a due date, but he indicated he was looking for the brief ‘soon.’ I’ll get more fidelity on that one.”

Bice responded, stating he had a discussion with “Ms. P last week,” and believed a “successful Route 15 acquisition strategy will require elimination all impacts to Pågat historic village in the near term, and finding mutual accommodations with race track until expiration of land use license; ‘book end’ COA.”

Bice further wrote, “We can get all of the land eventually, including an SDZ (surface danger zone) over Pågat; we have to be patient and build trust with the community first.

“Groups opposing Marine relocation are successfully seizing on Pågat as a means to gain legitimacy with the public – need to take the issue off the table to isolate them.

“Sweeteners will be needed to garner GovGuam/Legislature support to remove firing range restrictions on Rt. 15 properties and to obtain Legislature approval of Chamorro Land Trust lease of properties below the cliff-line. Some members of the Legislature will attempt to block all land acquisition until other issues with Fed Govt are resolved – need to give Legislature a deal they can’t refuse.”

Speaker’s reaction

When Variety shared the email with Speaker Judi Won Pat, her reaction was quick, pointed, heated and then, resigned:

“This shows how disingenuous they are, and it seems they are engaging in some type of covert activity. … They say they are being honest and upfront with us, yet, here’s proof that they are conniving behind our backs.

“We respond to the DEIS and FEIS, because they asked us to. We play by their rules and this is what they do to us. It’s very hurtful. We’ve been very trusting. They tell us that they’re listening to us. Perhaps this is the problem. We’re so trusting, we’re so welcoming; and yet, this is what we get from them.”

The Speaker said she was reminded of a past incident when We Are Guåhan member Cara Flores Mays was having lunch at a local restaurant and overheard a conversation between military personnel and Guam residents, one of them, Lee Webber.

“They treat us like we are the enemy and we’re not. We want this to work for our people too. Is that too much to ask. I’m very upset about this,” said Won Pat.

Won Pat was referring to a November 2010 conversation that Mays overheard, which included then-Joint Guam Program Office Director of Communications for Washington D.C. and Guam Paula Conhain, Lee Webber, a former Marine, and Lt. Col. Aisha Bakkar of the Marine Force Pacific Public Affairs Office. Conhain has since been removed from this position.

 

 

Former Marine admits to beating man and raping his daughter

March 29, 2011 

From the Honolulu Star Advertiser: http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/118821734.html

Former Marine admits to beating man and raping his daughter

By Nelson Daranciang

POSTED: 07:07 p.m. HST, Mar 28, 2011

A 29-year-old former Marine accused of beating up a Washington man he met on the pool deck of a Waikiki condominium-hotel then raping the man’s 10-year-old daughter has agreed to a 30-year prison term.

Christopher Cantrell pleaded guilty in state court today to five counts of first-degree sexual assault, one count of third-degree sexual assault, promoting child abuse, kidnapping, burglary and assault in a plea deal with the state. The child abuse charge is for recording pornographic images of the girl.

[...]

Police said Cantrell met the girl and her father Sept. 17, 2008 on the pool deck of the Waikiki Banyan and accompanied them to their 12th-floor hotel room. They said Cantrell asked the man if he could take nude pictures of the girl then punched him repeatedly until the man was unconscious.

He then took the girl to the 10th-floor laundry room where he raped her, police said.

Cantrell is originally from South Carolina.

He was court martialed while in the Marine Corps and sentenced to three years of confinement for missing duty, being drunk on duty, stealing a big screen television from the barracks’ common area and setting fire to one of the rooms, according to his military record. Cantrell recently completed his confinement when he met the man and girl visiting from Washington.

Another rape in Okinawa: U.S. Marine arrested

August 4, 2010 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-04/japan-police-arrest-u-s-marine-for-sexual-assault-in-okinawa-kyodo-says.html

August 4, 2010

Japanese Police Arrest U.S. Marine Suspected Of Sexual Assault In Okinawa

By Yumi Otagaki, Bloomberg News

Japanese police arrested a U.S. Marine for the alleged sexual assault of a woman on the island of Okinawa, where similar incidents in the past have led to protests against the American military presence.

Marine Sergeant Phillip Edward Sawyerr, 28, was taken into custody in the capital of Naha early this morning on suspicion of breaking into the house of a woman in her 20s and sexually assaulting her, police spokesman Motoki Haneji said by phone. The U.S. serviceman has denied the charges, Haneji said, adding that American authorities in Japan had been notified.

READ MORE

Marine convoy gets stuck in the sand in Wai’anae

July 2, 2010 

A Marine convoy took a wide U-turn and got stuck in the sand at Kahe (on the Wai’anae coast) by accident?  Here’s what the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported:

Honolulu police directed the miniconvoy to make a U-turn, and because the vehicles are much bigger than most cars, their wider turning radius took them onto the beach and they got stuck, Crouch said. There was “absolutely” no wrongdoing, he said.

This is absolutely ridiculous. The highway has four lanes with a wide median strip.  These vehicles could have easily made a U-turn.  The driveway into the beach area runs perpendicular to the highway about 30 yards, across an old train track and into a parking area.  Cars would have to go through the parking area to get to the sand. There is no other entrance or exit from the sand.   There is no way the convoy could have missed the turn and ended up on the beach by “accident.”   This was an intentional and illegal act of four-wheel joyriding.

It gets better.  The police have no record of an accident on the highway.   Did the military make up the story to cover their rears?

View the photos here:

http://media.staradvertiser.com/images/20100702_newsMARINES1.jpg

http://media.staradvertiser.com/images/20100702_newsMARINES2.jpg

http://media.staradvertiser.com/images/20100702_newsMARINES3.jpg

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http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/20100702_Marine_convoy_beached.html

Marine convoy beached

Two armored vehicles get stuck in the sand during convoy training on the Waianae Coast

By William Cole

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 02, 2010

The Marine Corps found itself explaining yesterday how two of its armored vehicles got stuck on the beach for several hours after some driver training near the Kahe Point power station took a decidedly wrong turn.

“They have no business being on the beach. There is at least one burial in that area. Fortunately, they were away from it,” said Waianae Coast activist William Aila Jr.

Aila said he spotted one of the big vehicles at about 2 p.m. stuck up nearly to its floorboards in the sand, another with its front wheels partly buried, and a third vehicle attempting to pull them out.

The stuck vehicles were a good 50 yards off Farrington Highway, had driven another 50 yards on a dirt road and traveled 75 yards more on the sand before getting stuck about 30 feet from the surf, Aila said.

Adding further embarrassment to the mired misery were the red caution signs on the front of the vehicles that said, “Student Driver.”

READ MORE

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