Hawai’i Presentation given at the International Conference For a Nuclear Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World
By Kyle Kajihiro, Program Director, American Friends Service Committee – Hawai’i Area Office, member of DMZ-Hawai’i / Aloha ‘Aina network
April 30, 2010
Aloha kakou. Warm greetings from Hawai’i.
For more than a century, the U.S. has treated the Pacific ocean as an “American Lake” and Pacific islands as stepping-stones to extend the march of “manifest destiny” westward to the Asian prize.
The peoples of the Pacific were merely an afterthought. Henry Kissinger’s remark about nuclear tests in the Marshall islands exemplified this attitude: “There are only 90,000 people out there. Who gives a damn?”
The independent Kingdom of Hawai’i was one of the first overseas casualties of the American empire. In 1893 Hawai’i was invaded and occupied by U.S. troops in order to establish a forward military base in the Pacific. As Stephen Kinzer noted, the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom was the prototype for the recurring tactic of “regime change”, all the way up to and including the invasion of Iraq.
The U.S. military occupation of Hawai’i enabled America to defeat the Spanish Empire in 1898, acquire its colonies, and emerge as a global power. During WWII, U.S. military bases in Hawai’i were crucial to America’s victory over the Japanese empire and its rise to global, nuclear armed superpower status.
After the war, America established the Pacific Command in Hawai’i, the oldest and largest of the unified commands. It has an area of responsibility that encompasses most of the world’s surface and a majority of its population.
Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa, the true name of what is commonly called Pearl Harbor, was once a marvel of aquacultural and agricultural engineering. It was the food basket for O’ahu. But the U.S. military wanted to turn it into a naval base. Today, what was once a life-giving treasure has become a toxic superfund site with more than 740 contaminated sites identified thus far.
Pearl Harbor also serves another function as the iconic war monument. It is a factory to valorize and reproduce the myth of America’s redemption through militarization and war. Hawai’i and America are still held hostage to this myth.
The military presence in Hawai’i can be imagined as the head of a monstrous he’e or octopus, with tentacles that grab at our brothers and sisters in the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, Korea, Kwajalein. Hawai’i is simultaneously a victim of American empire and an accomplice in the building of that empire.
America’s bid for “full spectrum dominance” extends from the bottom of the sea to the heavens above, from space to cyberspace. Sensor grids on the sea floor off Kaua’i and radar, antenna and optical tracking stations on the peaks of our sacred mountains are the eyes and ears of the he’e. Supercomputers and fiber optics are its brains and nervous system. To stop a he’e, you must neutralize its head.
According to the 2009 Base Structure Report, the U.S. military operates a total of 139 installations and facilities in Hawaii, with a total area of 239,000 acres. In addition the Hawaii National Guard has 13 installations occupying 858,000 acres. The main islands are completely surrounded by military defensive sea areas, and the entire archipelago is surrounded by 2.1 million square miles of temporary operating area.
The process of militarization destroys Native Hawaiian culture and sacred sites and imperils native ecosystems. It has poisoned our environment and threatened our health with a toxic cocktail of depleted uranium, lead, dioxins, radioactive cobalt 60, chemical weapons, and a host of other substances. It creates economic dependency that verges on addiction and distorts our sense of cultural identity and social priorities.
After 9/11, Hawai’i experienced the largest military expansion since WWII. Despite protests and devastating environmental and cultural impacts, the Army seized 25,000 acres of land and stationed 328 Strykers in Hawai’i. Missile defense programs and congressional earmarks fuel a military-industrial gold rush, cutting off access to some of our best beaches at the missile range on Kaua’i. Even economic stimulus funds have been hijacked to boost construction of military housing and other facilities.
Despite overwhelming odds, people continue to resist. In 1976, the first of several waves of activists landed on Kaho’olawe island to protest the Navy bombing of that sacred place. This movement eventually ended the bombing and forced the clean up and return of the island.
In Makua decades of protest, lawsuits and the assertion of traditional Kanaka Maoli cultural practices have halted Army live fire training for the last five years. There is fierce community opposition to the Army’s plans to resume training in Makua.
In 2003, the community defeated a proposed Marine jungle warfare training facility in Waikane valley. The marines have now begun a process of cleaning up unexploded ordnance.
On Hawai’i island, activists have called for the end of live fire training in Pohakuloa, the clean up of depleted uranium and the cancellation of the lease of state land to the military.
In 2002, the DMZ-Hawai’i / Aloha ‘Aina network was organized to unite the various local struggles against the bases in Hawai’i. Our four demands are: 1. Stop military expansion, 2. Cleanup and return military occupied lands. 3. Develop sustainable economic alternatives and 4. Pay just compensation for the damages caused by the military in Hawai’i.
The arms of the he’e can grow back when they are cut off, as we are seeing with the return of U.S. troops and “lily pad” installations in the Philippines and the relocation of bases from Ecuador to Colombia. We need a different paradigm of peace and security based on meeting human needs and environmental sustainability, not the imposition of order through the threat of overwhelming violence.
We are inspired and encouraged by the emergence of a global network against foreign military bases. In Hawai’i we have organized actions to support Vieques, Okinawa, Guam, Korea and the Marshall Islands.
I’d like to make a special appeal and challenge to our comrades in peace and justice movements to please pay attention to and support the justice struggles on our small islands. The Pentagon wants to rule the planet from a network of strategic island military hubs. To end the present wars and prevent future wars, we must dismantle the architecture of this empire of bases, and the solidarity of people in the heart of the empire to push for the withdrawal of these bases is more important than ever.
In contrast to the imperial vision of the American Lake, peoples of the Pacific have a different vision of peace and security for our region. The Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement popularized the concept of Ka Moana Nui, the great ocean that connects the Asia Pacific through solidarity rather than hegemony. To borrow a Hawaiian concept, let us “haku”, that is braid our struggles into an unbreakable cord much stronger than its individual strands to restrain the powerful forces that make wars and rule through nuclear and military terror.