How do we cultivate the 'aina (land), these magnificent island ecosystems, while maintaining their inherent natural wealth in perpetuity? Hopefully we will make righteous choices.
With the widespread public knowledge of the history of
US nuclear bomb testing in
America�s relatively recent past, the fact that radioactive munitions have been used on military bases and nuclear test sites throughout the nation since the 1940s may come as no surprise to most Americans. What has been kept hidden, however, is the use of dangerous, lethal biological, chemical and radioactive materials, in the open air, on the tropical islands of Hawaiian Paradise.
As any fifth grader knows, the Japanese bombed the US Naval Pacific Fleet in
Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. What the public did not know about the
Hawaiian Islands - until recently - is that formerly-classified, clandestine, and illegal �Depleted� Uranium has been used there. These are the same munitions that the
US uses on �the enemy� in the
Middle East � and that the United Nations considers a weapon of �indiscriminate effect.�
Radiation Levels and Leuren Moret
In April, 2007, internationally reknown radiation expert, environmentalist, and geoscientist, Leuren Moret, was invited by activists in
Hawaii to come and bring her expertise - and Geiger counter - with her. During her stay, Ms. Moret spoke with Hawaiians, educating around the issue of uranium munitions as a lethal, toxic, and radioactive poison. The elevated radiation readings Moret and citizen activists recorded were carried by ABC-TV news on April 29 and 30, 2007.
Moret brought international attention to the military�s use of Depleted Uranium in
Hawaii when she exposed high environmental radiation readings levels there. Use of radioactive materials � even in weapons �training� and �testing�- and are prohibited in the
U.S. without Nuclear Regulatory Commission involvement.
In a recent interview, I asked Ms. Moret how it felt to discover high radiation readings in
Moret responded, �It was not so bad when I was driving around the island and measuring the DU in the air because the levels were only up to about 30 or 40 counts per minute. Background when the wind is blowing off the ocean is about 3-9 CPM.
When we were upwind of Pohakuloa, the readings were the highest where bulldozers were scraping brush and soil away to build a new road. We rolled up the windows of the car and stuck the radiation monitor in the air vent of the car. But when we went downwind towards Kona in the evening, the readings went up again. And about one mile or so from the border of the military range we stopped and I collected sheep dung to get an idea how radioactive the downwind area is between the firing ranges and Kona. I shook up the baggie with sheep dung in it to get some radioactive dust into the air and stuck the Geiger counter into the baggie. The readings tripled!�
Why Sheep Dung?
Ms. Mortet continued, �When I worked at the nuclear weapons lab at
Livermore and was in charge of sampling for the Super Fund project there (3,000 samples a month), we would collect things like animal dung to measure radiation levels at a site. It is a way to sample the levels in the grass, water and air where the animals are living and are chronically exposed to elevated levels of radiation.
But � when I turned on the Geiger counter 35 miles down the Kona coast from Pohakaloa and got readings up to 93 CPM, I panicked! The readings should not have been over 20 CPM. I really panicked and realized we were all inhaling those particles and I started calculating how many particles were going into our lungs. It was horrible. I was also watching the faces of the people with me, because they live there.
It is one thing having an abstract idea that a bombing and gunnery range is contaminated because you think it does not affect you because it is 35 miles away, but it is quite different when the Geiger counter is in your hand, the wind is in your face and you know that everyone is being exposed. The readings remained high for two hours until I finally turned off the meter. That night the readings were very low when the wind direction changed and it was coming off of the ocean.
I can tell you it was a horrible realization and experience! Those red flags were up at the perimeter of the Pohakuloa facility that day and the day before and after... and that means they are doing live firing. In this case it was with Depleted Uranium.
I don't want to ever go anywhere that is contaminated with DU - I don't want Gulf War Syndrome. People should get away from any radiation contamination even if it means selling their house and moving. There is no safe level, and once your health is damaged? There is no reversing it. It [DU] is a slow mutilator, killer, and death machine... a radioactive nanoparticle Doomsday machine.�
My last question for Ms. Moret involved the current plan to keep the Stryker Brigade Combat vehicles stationed in
Hawaii. I asked: What do you think about the fact that the Army wants to station the Stryker Brigade Combat Team in
Hawaiian Islands are a complex and patchwork quilt of inter-connected and interdependent fragile microclimates. When you damage one, the damage spreads to all even though it may not be immediately obvious. Military vehicles do not belong in fragile eco-sensitive environments!
Already, the military, the greatest destroyer on this planet of the environment, has done terrible damage to the Paradise of Hawaii over the past century. They are ramping up now to destroy it all and make
Hawaii a DU-chemical-bioagent sandbox for the final assault on the oceans, the continents, the atmosphere of this beautiful planet.
Very soon there will be nothing left... living. Aloha to Mother Earth...�
In a June 15, 2007 interview with Uranium weapons expert and correspondent, Bob Nichols, Moret talked about going face to face with the Army itself: "I told General Lee on March 19 to stop lying to the [Hawaiian] Legislature. And, I told him I would get him and I did on April 21 in south Kona with those high radiation monitor readings from Pohakuloa. And it wasn't just me, the citizens who have supported and followed through are the real strength of all of this. The media has to deal with these global voices now because they are the 'shot heard round the world.'"
The History of Nuking
Although the US Army had for decades denied any use of Uranium in munitions inside
Hawaii, the first actual confirmation of its use was made by an Army contractor clearing a range filled with unexploded ordnance at the Schofield Barracks military base on the
Oahu in August, 2005.
Confirmation of the first DU discovery was originally found within an email dated September 19, 2005, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, written by Samuel McManus of the US Army Engineering and
Alabama, to Ronald Borne, an Army employee involved with preparations for the Stryker Brigade at Schofield Barracks. In this memo, the high cost of removing unexploded ordnance was mentioned as a requirement for the 2/25th Stryker Brigade expansion. The email message from McManus also stated, "We have found much that we did not expect, including the recent find of Depleted Uranium."
With 18,000 acres, Schofield is the largest Army post in
Hawaii and critical to the desired placement of the 2/25th Stryker Brigade Combat Team inside the state. The find of Depleted Uranium among the unexploded ordnance at Schofield Barracks was � and still is - a very big deal. This is demonstrated by a statement by an organization focused on demilitarizing
Hawaii, DMZ Hawai'i/Aloha 'Aina, that stated its belief that the email was cause for great concern because it meant �either the records are inaccurate or the U.S. Army's representatives misled the public" in repeatedly denying Depleted Uranium (DU) use in
The Army confirmed in January, 2006 that in August, 2005, 15 tail assemblies from spotting rounds made of Uranium-238, the prime component of Depleted Uranium, were found by Zapata Engineering while the contractor was clearing a range area of unexploded ordnance and scrap metal on the Schofield grounds. Eager to put the past behind them, the top military honchos in
Hawaii claimed that these tail assemblies were remnants from �spotting� rounds associated with an obsolete nuclear weapon system called the �Davy Crockett,� used in
Hawaii, as well as in
Nevada throughout the late 1950s and the 1960s.
Adding insult to injury of the now badly tarnished military integrity in Hawaii, in February, 2006, chemical weapons and an additional 138 munitions were recovered from the Schofield Barracks, including munitions from WW1 and WW2, including 4.2-inch mortars; 155mm projectiles; 81mm mortars; 75mm projectiles; 4-inch Stokes Mortars; a Livens Projector; and a 105mm projectile. It would appear the discovery of the �Davy Crockett� Depleted Uranium rounds and this laundry list of munitions is only the tip of the toxic iceberg (or shall we say steamy nuclear cauldron?) called the Aloha state.
In May 11, 2007 the Army informed the Honolulu Adviser that the rifle's "spotting rounds," which were reportedly fired in order to aim the trajectory of the nuclear device, were used at Schofield Barracks and possibly at Makua Military Reservation as well as at the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) on the Big Island.
The Army�s stated position was that they �suspected� Depleted Uranium had been used at Pohakuloa after research stemming from the 2005 discovery at Schofield led to records showing that 714 �spotting� rounds were shipped to
Hawaii sometime in the early 1960s. Not surprisingly, Army contractors from Cabrera Services found Depleted Uranium rounds as well as several firing pistons in the northeast quadrant of PTA. Cabrera had been hired to conduct an aerial survey at the PTA, where live-fire military training is conducted on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Ostensibly, the Army, playing as if it has no idea where it has used radioactive materials, private contractor, Cabrera, was tasked to help determine �if� Depleted Uranium had been used at Pohakuloa as well on the
Oahu. Hawaiian anti-militarization groups more than shared this concern for decades, as 7.1 million live rounds of various weapons have been fired annually on the 109,000 acres of sacred land at Pohakuloa, the military site with the largest military groundspace in
Reportedly, the then hush-hush use of Davy Crockett weapons systems that fired Depleted Uranium �spotting� rounds as a trajectory was actually quite commonplace between 1961 and 1971. A total of 2,100 of the Davy Crockett Weapons Systems were reportedly produced beginning in 1956, packing the powerful punch of as much as 20 tons of TNT explosives� and a far more deadly effect in terms of radioactive fallout.
While it is unknown whether or not the Davy Crockett�s 51 pound, thirty-one by eleven inch in diameter W54 nuclear warhead was ever used in
Hawaii, their DU �spotting� rounds are the only type of Depleted Uranium munitions that the Army admits to using in their long military �occupation� of the fiftieth state.
What the military calls �Depleted � Uranium is a radioactive heavy metal which, after firing, emits alpha, beta and gamma rays. These lethal munitions are blasted from various weapons systems on proving grounds and �test� sites throughout the
United States � as well as in war zones of
Uranium, when used as ammunition, is a highly chemically toxic as well as nuclear by-product creating massive destruction when fired, with what is described as a �flash and burn effect.� In simulated combat testing conditions, a federal testing laboratory demonstrated that Depleted Uranium yields up to 70 percent ceramic Uranium oxide, an aerosol that forms a �high density metal dust cloud.� This form of weaponized Uranium is an easily inhaled, nanoparticle-sized, deadly poison gas illegal under several international treaties.
Instead of bestowing Hawaiians with tropical leis for their warm hospitality for over 100 years of allowing the US Military to turn their sacred ancestral lands into the federal government�s private, noxious dumping ground, Uncle Sam has thoughtfully �gifted� the islanders with Depleted Uranium � the gift that truly does �keep on giving� to the tune of more than 4.5 billion years. As Epidemiologist Sister Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D. states, �conservatively, ceramic DU may contaminate the human body for roughly 70 years.�
The Strykers Are Coming! No, The Strykers Are Already Here!
In order to prepare for training, the Army has already stationed its $1.5 Billion Stryker Brigade inside
Hawaii and is in the process of completing thirteen of its 28 construction projects. Preparations for the Stryker Brigade upon its return to the
Iraq, will rack up a total construction bill to the tune of $700 million - plus an additional $49.1 million in delay-related costs.
Considered by many Hawaiians to be a mere formality, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 2/25th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) has been drafted and is now in the public commentary process. According to the Draft EIS, the SBCT is a �maneuver brigade� which includes roughly 4,000 Soldiers (infantry, artillery, engineers, and other Army specialties) and 1,000 vehicles (including about 320 Stryker Vehicles).
In addition to the personnel and vehicles named in the Draft EIS, in November, 2006, the Honolulu Advertiser mentioned an additionally formidable cost � that of transporting the Stryker Brigade both on inter-island trips and across the ocean for use in war. The types of transportation mentioned include a C-17 cargo aircraft, a F-22 Raptor aircraft, and the possibility of an aircraft carrier or carrier-like amphibious assault ship.
With regard to transporting the Stryker vehicles from island to island, a business deal apparently went successfully �afloat� with regard to the now highly-controversial Hawaiian Superferry. Sold currently to the public as merely a better method of transporting up to 250 people and 866 cars per trip between the islands, the Superferry is a pet project of John F. Lehman, the former Secretary of the Navy. The Superferry is being currently challenged by many environmental groups outraged over the lack of consideration given to the Hawaiian environment.
More than merely providing a convenience for tourists who wish to bring their cars with them while island-hopping, the Superferry has the potential for being another Stryker-related military-contracted expense, as Lehman, who invested $58 million of his own firm�s equity capital in the inter-island ferry, explained years back, "The Superferry is strong enough to take Stryker vehicles.� Tim Dick, president and chairman of Hawaii Superferry, has also been quoted as revealing the true purposes for the transport vehicle, "The ferry will save the military dollars and take 25 percent of the time."
Adding to activists� opposition to the Superferry and passionate protests that involved islander activists and families with children actually blocking the Superferry on surfboards and canoes a heated battle has been underway to block what may prove to be more than merely a nightmare for dolphins and whales. What many Hawaiian activists fear most is the spread of radiation from the Stryker vehicles contaminated with Depleted Uranium while traveling on the same vessel used to transport the military, tourists, and native Hawaiians alike.
In a statement to the press made by peace activist, co-author of a book on the US Military�s use of radiation in Hawaii, and Director of the Malu `Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action, Jim Albertini, when told that DU had been confirmed at PTA said, �I wasn't surprised in the least that the Army found DU at PTA. Citizen monitoring detected radiation levels adjacent to PTA on May 29, 2007 several times background. The winds with dust devils clearly visible were coming directly off the live-fire ranges at PTA. All live-fire training at PTA, Schofield Barracks and other military ranges in
Hawaii should be stopped immediately. Live-fire can result in the further dispersal of DU small particles which are especially hazardous when inhaled.�
According to Albertini, �"I think this is a major issue that's going to make Agent
Orange dwarf in comparison," Albertini said of the chemical defoliant the
U.S. used during the Vietnam War. It's going to be a nightmare."
The current draft of the Environmental Impact Statement is not the first for the placement of the 2/25th SBCT in
Hawaii. In July 2004, the Army released its decision to transform the current (light) infantry brigade to an apparently more heavy-duty one: a live-fire Stryker Brigade to be permanently stationed in
Hawaii. The Army began its Stryker transformation promptly after completing its 2004 Final EIS.
The Army prepared this latest draft after a U.S. Federal Court ruled in 2006 that the Army had not complied with federal environmental law because it failed in its 2004 EIS to adequately analyze alternative locations outside
The newly revised 595-page study released in July weighs the possibilities of returning the Stryker unit to Hawai'i after an upcoming deployment to Iraq, or permanently basing it at Fort Richardson in Alaska or Fort Carson in Colorado.
Apparently quite cozy in tropical paradise and with no evidence of expecting another alternative to be named over
Hawaii as the permanent home for the Strykers, the current Draft EIS for the 2/25th SBCT states, �as of May 2007, the Brigade had completed approximately 90 percent of its training and equipment fielding in
Hawaii. The Brigade is scheduled to fully complete training and equipment by Fall of 2007. By November of 2007, the Army requires that the SBCT be ready for deployment to meet the ongoing operational requirements.�
In other words, the Army went ahead with its plans, proceeded full steam ahead on various conversion construction projects, and transported the equipment and soldiers to begin training the 2/25th Stryker Brigade inside Hawaii - without even giving serious consideration to locating the SBCT in other locations.
It would seem that playing war games in tropical paradise is a good gig if you can get it. No doubt, convincing soldiers and their families to come to
Hawaii to conduct their pre-war preparations in a lush, jungle-like, tropical weather environment is an easy �sell,� a veritable military�s recruiter�s wet dream. To be stationed in
Hawaii? Well, as far as military assignments go, a young recruit being sent from Midwestern farm country to a veritable paradise to play �soldier� between enjoying off-duty tropical sun, surf and fruity libations is undeniably Sweet!
To hell (apparently) with training in a climate and terrain that approximates conditions resembling wars currently being fought in Middle Eastern �theatres,� which include dry, oppressive heat, sandy, scorched, barren deserts, and urban settings (for which Stryker vehicles are, after all designed). To hell with training in conditions which would, without question, better prepare soldiers for more appropriate and realistic previews of actual combat situations!
In discussing the two alternative sites for the Stryker Brigade in private correspondence with David Henkin, Esq. of Earthjustice, the crusading leader in past environmental battles against the militarization of
Hawaii , Henkin stated, �Bear in mind that the Army also conceded (finally) that it can accomplish its goals through options that do not involve stationing a Stryker brigade in
Hawai�i. As alternate locations are environmentally preferable, the Army has no justification for permanent stationing here.�
Henkin�s reference was to the October 5, 2006 ruling by the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in favor of Earthjustice�s clients, the organizations 'Ilio'ulaokalani Coalition, Na 'Imi Pono, and Kipuka. The U.S. Court of Appeals stated that the Army had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the transformation of the 2/25th when it had failed to consider any location other than
Hawaii for conversion of the 2nd Brigade of the U.S. Army's 25th �Light� Infantry Division into a brigade involving Stryker vehicles. The court declared the action illegal as the Army had not conducted the required analysis of the environmental impacts of stationing a Stryker brigade in
Hawaii nor carefully examined other locations for the transformation and training of the unit.
The 320 Strykers named in the Draft EIS are 8-wheeled, 19-ton (before ammunition and soldiers) tank-like vehicles that travel up to 62 mph and are ideally suited for urban warfare (think cities in Iraq). Strykers are outfitted with a Mobile Gun System armed with a 105mm tank cannon capable of firing Depleted Uranium munitions � which Army Public Affairs representatives continue to deny are used on military bases in
Hawaiian activists, however, are accustomed to deception from the US Military since 1893 when the US Marines helped force Hawaii�s last Monarchal ruler, Queen Lili�uokalani, out of control, enabling the US government to eventually seize Hawaii in an 1898 joint resolution in Congress. Wary of the US Military�s further seizure and destruction of their deeply sacred �Aloha Aina,� the love of the land � for well over 100 years, Hawaiian citizens are justifiably concerned that Depleted Uranium may have been used not only during the 1960s with the Davy Crockett nuclear weapons testing, but also in live-fire training over the decades.
Despite Army assurances they will not use Depleted Uranium in training in
Hawaii, many citizens fear these radioactive munitions still may be used anyway by the Stryker Brigade. Like indigenous Americans now dumped on reservations on nuclear-contaminated lands throughout the mainland
United States, Hawaiians have been deceived by the US Military on more than one occasion.
Many Hawaiian Islanders, in fact, are losing their characteristic hospitality for the uniformed invaders that have trampled over sacred cultural and historical areas and brought gross, widespread contamination to most of their islands. And even for those who wish to give the Army the benefit of the doubt, it is widely acknowledged that the barreling behemoths - the Strykers vehicles - as well as other off-road vehicles, will disturb the current Uranium already contaminating the soils of military firing ranges, rendering the radioactive particulate matter airborne - and capable of being easily inhaled.
As concerned activist and retired nurse from the organization �Protect Hawaii,� Lindafaye Kroll, RN, wrote recently, �The Stryker Brigade Combat Team SEIS published July 2007 Chapter 3 page 7 states: �Forty-five separate locations showed Gamma levels higher than background�. This military admission proves Schofield Barracks is contaminated with uranium products. I seriously doubt that these 45 contaminated areas were caused by DU spotting rounds used back in the 1960�s. Many residents here suspect that the military is using uranium products in live-fire training in
Kroll continues, �The military wants to continue this contamination by locating the Stryker Brigade Combat Team here and increase live-fire training from 16 million rounds to 20 million fired rounds a year�Depleted uranium is the most persistent of all military toxins with a half-life of billions of years! Disrupting the depleted uranium contaminated artillery ranges is a crime against Hawaiian people� Military actions prove the military is in violation of their own regulations. All elevated radioactivity above background radiation on the artillery ranges is because the military put the radioactive material there!�
In a January, 2006 strong letter to Major General Benjamin R. Mixon, Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division of the US Army at Schofield Barracks, Kyle Kajihiro, spokesperson for the American Friends Service Committee which was founded by Quakers in 1917 represented a total of eight local organizations while speaking passionately for Hawaiian islanders:
�The U.S. Army refuses to be forthcoming about past and present trespasses against the public�s health and safety. From the secrecy and failure to clean up the chemical weapons dumped in our nearshore waters, to the insistence of a Stryker Brigade in Hawai�i despite the intolerable environmental and cultural destruction it causes, to this discovery of depleted uranium, it is clear that the U.S. Army puts military readiness above the health and safety of the communities it claims to protect.
The U.S. Army�s destructive and secretive nature compels our communities to provide for their own protection. We demand that this depleted uranium site be cleaned up immediately. Regardless of the risk assessments and cost-benefit analyses, it is better to be certain that this potentially lethal contamination site is fully recovered before the community�s health is jeopardized.
We call for an open and public clean-up effort to ensure that the damage caused by this depleted uranium site is completely and properly neutralized, including the provision of health care for potentially affected communities, which includes military personnel and dependents. We expect an independent investigation of the extent of depleted uranium and chemical weapons contamination at Schofield and at other Army ranges in
Hawai�I and full disclosure of the amount, location, and extent of the contamination.
We request copies of all information and documents related to unexploded ordnance removal efforts in Schofield, Makua, Pohakuloa and other Army training areas in Hawai�i in the last five years, including documentation of the amounts, types, locations and final disposition of munitions discovered. Clean-up must begin as soon as possible and include full public participation.
We demand a moratorium on all military expansion projects and the return of wrongfully acquired Hawaiian government and crown lands, what is often referred to as �ceded lands�, to Hawai�i�s people. The
U.S. military cannot assume Hawai�i will continue to give freely of itself after all of this needless destruction and unwarranted risks to the public�s health. We expect your full cooperation in this movement towards a healthier and safer Hawai�i.�
Even by its own admission in the current Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Army�s stationing of the Stryker Brigade inside Hawaii will have �significant� impact on: soil erosion, water resources, wildfire management, cultural resources , land use and recreation, hazardous materials/ hazardous waste, noxious weeds , threatened and endangered species of plant and animal life, air quality, and noise.
Regarded as a lovely treasure � a tropical paradise and one of the world�s favorite vacation sports,
Hawaii desperately need�s massive assistance in order to protect and preserve its uniquely sensitive, fragile ecosystems and unspoiled places from further military degradation and contamination. Public comments are now critically needed in order to put a halt to the further destruction of the pristine tropical Hawaiian environment, and prevent further harm to the endangered and threatened species and public health.
Public comments should address the need for the military not to choose
Hawaii for its placement of the Stryker Brigade and they should be urged to stop the destruction of the environment and endangerment of public health on the
Hawaiian Islands. Send comments before October 30, to: PublicComments@aec.apgea.army.mil.
Cathy Garger is a freelance writer, public speaker, activist, and certified personal coach who focuses on the dangerous consequences of the use of Uranium weapons. Living in the shadow of the national District of Crime, Cathy is constantly nauseated by the stench emanating from the nation's capital during the
DC, federal work week. Cathy may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Army�s Stryker Brigade Environmental Impact Study
Easy Ways to Stop the Military Radioactive Contamination of Hawaii
Map of Military-Occupied Hawaii
How Depleted Uranium Damages the Human Body