October 10, 2010
Dimitrina Semova, Joan Pedro, and Luis Luján (Complutense University
Ashley Jackson-Lesti, Ryan Stevens, Chris Marten, and Kristy Nelson
(Sonoma State University)
Christopher Lue (Indian River State College)
Cassie Barthel (St. Cloud State University)
Ana I. Segovia (Complutense University of Madrid)
Julie Flohr and Mryna Goodman (Sonoma State University)
Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)
Julie Andrzejewski (St. Cloud State University)
The US military is responsible for the most egregious and widespread
pollution of the planet, yet this information and accompanying
documentation goes almost entirely unreported.
In spite of the
evidence, the environmental impact of the US military goes largely
unaddressed by environmental organizations and was not the focus of
any discussions or proposed restrictions at the recent UN Climate
Change Conference in Copenhagen.
This impact includes uninhibited
use of fossil fuels, massive creation of greenhouse gases, and
extensive release of radioactive and chemical contaminants into the
air, water, and soil.
The extensive global operations of the US military (wars,
interventions, and secret operations on over one thousand bases
around the world and six thousand facilities in the United States)
are not counted against US greenhouse gas limits.
“By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional
user of petroleum products and energy in general. Yet the Pentagon
has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.”
While official accounts put US military usage at 320,000 barrels of
oil a day, that does not include fuel consumed by contractors, in
leased or private facilities, or in the production of weapons.
US military is a major contributor of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse
gas that most scientists believe is to blame for climate change.
Steve Kretzmann, director of Oil Change International, reports,
Iraq war was responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of
carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) from March 2003 through December
2007... That war emits more than 60 percent that of all
This information is not readily available...
because military emissions abroad are exempt from national reporting
requirements under US law and the UN Framework Convention on Climate
According to Barry Sanders, author of
The Green Zone - The
Environmental Costs of Militarism,
“the greatest single assault on
the environment, on all of us around the globe, comes from one
agency... the Armed Forces of the United States.”
Throughout the long history of military preparations, actions, and
wars, the US military has not been held responsible for the effects
of its activities upon environments, peoples, or animals.
Kyoto Accords negotiations in December 1997, the US demanded as a
provision of signing that any and all of its military operations
worldwide, including operations in participation with the UN and
NATO, be exempted from measurement or reductions.
this concession, the
Bush administration then refused to sign the
accords and the US Congress passed an explicit provision
guaranteeing the US military exemption from any energy reduction or
Environmental journalist Johanna Peace reports that military
activities will continue to be exempt based on an executive order
signed by President
Barack Obama that calls for other federal
agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
“The military accounts for a full 80 percent of the federal
government’s energy demand.”
As it stands, the Department of Defense is the
largest polluter in
the world, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest US
chemical companies combined.
pesticides, defoliant agents such as
Agent Orange, and lead, along
with vast amounts of radiation from weaponry produced, tested, and
used, are just some of the pollutants with which the US military is
contaminating the environment.
Flounders identifies key examples:
Depleted uranium: Tens of thousands of pounds of microparticles of
radioactive and highly toxic waste contaminate the Middle East,
Central Asia, and the Balkans.
US-made land mines and cluster bombs spread over wide areas of
Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East continue to spread
death and destruction even after wars have ceased.
Thirty-five years after the Vietnam War,
dioxin contamination is
three hundred to four hundred times higher than “safe” levels,
resulting in severe birth defects and cancers into the third
generation of those affected.
US military policies and
wars in Iraq have created severe
desertification of 90 percent of the land, changing Iraq from a food
exporter into a country that imports 80 percent of its food.
In the US, military bases top the Superfund list of the most
polluted places, as
trichloroethylene seep into the
drinking water, aquifers, and soil.
Nuclear weapons testing in the American Southwest and the South
Pacific Islands has contaminated millions of acres of land and water
with radiation, while uranium tailings defile Navajo reservations.
Rusting barrels of chemicals and solvents and millions of rounds
of ammunition are criminally abandoned by the Pentagon in bases
around the world.
The United States is planning an enormous $15 billion military
buildup on the
Pacific island of Guam.
The project would turn the
thirty-mile-long island into a major hub for US military operations
in the Pacific. It has been described as the largest military
buildup in recent history and could bring as many as fifty thousand
people to the tiny island. Chamoru civil rights attorney Julian Aguon warns that this military operation will bring irreversible
social and environmental consequences to Guam.
As an unincorporated
territory, or colony, and of the US, the people of Guam have no
right to self-determination, and no governmental means to oppose an
unpopular and destructive occupation.
Between 1946 and 1958, the US dropped more than sixty nuclear
weapons on the people of the Marshall Islands.
The Chamoru people of
Guam, being so close and downwind, still experience an alarmingly
high rate of related cancer.
On Capitol Hill, the conversation has been restricted to whether the
jobs expected from the military construction should go to mainland
Americans, foreign workers, or Guam residents. But we rarely hear
the voices and concerns of the indigenous people of Guam, who
constitute over a third of the island’s population.
Meanwhile, as if the US military has not contaminated enough of the
world already, a new five-year strategic plan by the US Navy
outlines the militarization of the Arctic to defend national
security, potential undersea riches, and other maritime interests,
anticipating the frozen Arctic Ocean to be open waters by the year
This plan strategizes expanding fleet operations, resource
development, research, and tourism, and could possibly reshape
While the plan discusses “strong partnerships” with other nations
(Canada, Norway, Denmark, and Russia have also made substantial
investments in Arctic-capable military armaments), it is quite
evident that the US is serious about increasing its military
presence and naval combat capabilities.
The US, in addition to
planned naval rearmament, is stationing thirty-six F-22 Raptor
stealth fighter jets, which is 20 percent of the F-22 fleet, in
Some of the action items in the US Navy Arctic Roadmap document
Assessing current and required capability to execute undersea
warfare, expeditionary warfare, strike warfare, strategic sealift,
and regional security cooperation.
Assessing current and predicted threats in order to determine the
most dangerous and most likely threats in the Arctic region in 2010,
2015, and 2025.
Focusing on threats to US national security, although threats to
maritime safety and security may also be considered.
Behind the public façade of international Arctic cooperation,
Rob Heubert, associate director at the Centre for Military and Strategic
Studies at the University of Calgary, points out,
“If you read the
document carefully you’ll see a dual language, one where they’re
saying, ‘We’ve got to start working together’... and [then] they
start saying, ‘We have to get new instrumentation for our combat
officers’... They’re clearly understanding that the future is
not nearly as nice as what all the public policy statements say.”
Beyond the concerns about human conflicts in the Arctic, the
consequences of militarization on the Arctic environment are not
even being considered. Given the record of environmental devastation
that the US military has wrought, such a silence is unacceptable.
Update by Mickey Z.
As I sit here, typing this “update,” the predator drones are still
flying over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, the oil is still
gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, and 53.3 percent of our tax money
is still being funneled to the US military.
Simply put, hope and
change feels no different from shock and awe... but the
mainstream media continues to propagate the two-party lie.
Linking the antiwar and environmental movements is a much-needed
As Cindy Sheehan recently told me,
“I think one of the best
things that we can do is look into economic conversion of the
defense industry into green industries, working on sustainable and
renewable forms of energy, and/or connect[ing] with indigenous
people who are trying to reclaim their lands from the pollution of
the military industrial complex. The best thing to do would be to
start on a very local level to reclaim a planet healthy for life.”
It comes down to recognizing the connections, recognizing how we are
manipulated into supporting wars and how those wars are killing our
We must also recognize our connection to the natural
world. For if we were to view all living things, including
ourselves, as part of one collective soul, how could we not defend
that collective soul by any means necessary?
We are on the brink of economic, social, and environmental collapse.
In other words, this is the best time ever to be an activist.
Update by Julian Aguon
In 2010, the people of Guam are bracing themselves for a cataclysmic
round of militarization with virtually no parallel in recent
Set to formally begin this year, the military buildup comes
on the heels of a decision by the United States to aggrandize its
military posture in the Asia-Pacific region. At the center of the US
military realignment schema is the hotly contested agreement between
the United States and Japan to relocate thousands of US Marines from
Okinawa to Guam.
This portentous development, which is linked to the
United States’ perception of China as a security threat, bodes great
harm to the people and environment of Guam yet remains virtually
unknown to Americans and the rest of the international community.
What is happening in Guam is inherently interesting because while
America trots its soldiers and its citizenry off to war to the tune
of “spreading democracy” in its own proverbial backyard, an entire
civilization of so-called “Americans” watch with bated breath as
people thousands of miles away - people we cannot vote for - make
decisions for us at ethnocidal costs.
Although this military buildup
marks the most volatile demographic change in recent Guam history,
the people of Guam have never had an opportunity to meaningfully
participate in any discussion about the buildup. To date, the scant
coverage of the military buildup has centered almost exclusively
around the United States and Japan.
In fact, the story entitled
Residents Organize Against US Plans for $15B Military Buildup on
Pacific Island” on Democracy Now! (below video) was the first bona fide US
media coverage of the military buildup since 2005 to consider, let
alone privilege, the people’s opposition.
The heart of this story is not so much in the finer details of the
military buildup as it is in the larger political context of
real-life twenty-first-century colonialism. Under US domestic law,
Guam is an unincorporated territory.
What this means is that Guam is
a territory that belongs to the United States but is not a part of
As an unincorporated territory, the US Constitution does not
necessarily or automatically apply in Guam. Instead, the US Congress
has broad powers over the unincorporated territories, including the
power to choose what portions of the Constitution apply to them.
reality, Guam remains under the purview of the Office of Insular
Affairs in the US Department of the Interior.
Under international law, Guam is a non-self-governing territory, or
UN-recognized colony whose people have yet to exercise the
fundamental right to self-determination.
Article 73 of the United
Nations Charter, which addresses the rights of peoples in
non-self-governing territories, commands states administering them
“recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants
These “administering powers” accept as a “sacred
trust” the obligation to develop self-government in the territories,
taking due account of the political aspirations of the people.
matter of international treaty and customary law, the colonized
people of Guam have a right to self-determination under
international law that the United States, at least in theory,
The military buildup, however, reveals the United States’ failure to
fulfill its international legal mandate. This is particularly
troubling in light of the fact that this very year, 2010, marks the
formal conclusion of not one but two UN-designated international
decades for the eradication of colonialism. In 1990, the UN General
Assembly proclaimed 1990 - 2000 as the International Decade for the
Eradication of Colonialism.
To this end, the General Assembly
adopted a detailed plan of action to expedite the unqualified end of
all forms of colonialism. In 2001, citing a wholesale lack of
progress during the first decade, the General Assembly proclaimed a
second one to effect the same goal.
The second decade has come and
all but gone with only Timor-Leste, or East Timor, managing to
attain independence from Indonesia in 2002.
In November 2009 - one month after “Guam Residents Organize Against US
Plans for $15B Military Buildup on Pacific Island” aired - the US
Department of Defense released an unprecedented 11,000-page Draft
Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), detailing for the first time
the true enormity of the contemplated militarization of Guam.
peak, the military buildup will bring more than 80,000 new residents
to Guam, which includes,
more than 8,600 US Marines and their 9,000
7,000 so-called transient US Navy personnel
1,000 US Army personnel
20,000 foreign workers on military
This “human tsunami,” as it is being called,
represents a roughly 47 percent increase in Guam’s total population
in a four-to-six-year window.
Today, the total population of Guam is
roughly 178,000 people, the indigenous Chamoru people making up only
37 percent of that number. We are looking at a volatile and
virtually overnight demographic change in the makeup of the island
that even the US military admits will result in the political
dispossession of the Chamoru people.
To put the pace of this
ethnocide in context, just prior to World War II, Chamorus comprised
more than 90 percent of Guam’s population.
At the center of the buildup are three major proposed actions:
the construction of permanent facilities and infrastructure to
support the full spectrum of warfare training for the thousands of
the construction of a new deep-draft wharf in
the island’s only harbor to provide for the passage of
nuclear-powered aircraft carriers
the construction of an
Army Missile Defense Task Force modeled on the Marshall
Islands - based Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, for
the practice of intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles.
In terms of adverse impact, these developments will mean, among
the clearing of whole limestone forests and the
desecration of burial sites some 3,500 years old
the restricting of
access to areas rich in plants necessary for indigenous medicinal
the denying of access to places of worship and traditional
the destroying of seventy acres of thriving coral
reef, which currently serve as critical habitat for several
the over-tapping of Guam’s water system to
include the drilling of twenty-two additional wells
the likelihood of military-related accidents will greatly increase.
Seven crashes occurred during military training from August 2007 to
July 2008, the most recent of which involved a crash of a B-52
bomber that killed the entire crew. The increased presence of US
military forces in Guam also increases the island’s visibility as a
target for enemies of the United States.
Finally, an issue that has sparked some of the sharpest debate in
Guam has been the Department of Defense’s announcement that it will,
if needed, forcibly condemn an additional 2,200 acres of land in
Guam to support the construction of new military facilities. This
potential new land grab has been met with mounting protest by island
residents, mainly due to the fact that the US military already owns
close to one-third of the small island, the majority of which was
illegally taken after World War II.
In February 2010, upon review of the DEIS, the US Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) rated it “insufficient” and “environmentally
unsatisfactory,” giving it the lowest possible rating for a DEIS.
Among other things, the EPA’s findings suggest that Guam’s water
infrastructure cannot handle the population boom and that the
island’s fresh water resources will be at high risk for
contamination. The EPA predicts that without infrastructural
upgrades to the water system, the population outside the bases will
experience a 13.1 million gallons of water shortage per day in 2014.
The agency stated that the Pentagon’s massive buildup plans for Guam
“should not proceed as proposed.”
The people of Guam were given a
mere ninety days to read through the voluminous 11,000-page document
and make comments about its contents. The ninety-day comment period
ended on February 17, 2010. The final EIS is scheduled for release
in August 2010, with the record of decision to follow immediately
The response to this story from the
mainstream US media has been deafening silence. Since the military buildup was first announced in
2005, it was more than three years before any US media outlet picked
up on the story.
In fact, the October 2009 Democracy Now! interview
was the first substantive national news coverage of the military
For more information on the military
We Are Guahan, http://www.weareguahan.com
Draft Environmental Impact Study Guam & Commonwealth of the Northern
Mariana Islands Military Relocation, www.guambuildupeis.us
Center for Biological Diversity Response to DEIS,
EPA Response to Guam DEIS, www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=68298
For more information on Guam’s movement to resist militarization and
The Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice: Lisa Linda Natividad,
email@example.com; Hope Cristobal, firstname.lastname@example.org; Julian
Aguon, email@example.com; Michael Lujan Bevacqua, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, email@example.com
We Are Guahan - We Are Guahan Public Forum: www.weareguahan.com
Famoksaiyan: Martha Duenas, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Sara Flounders, “Add Climate Havoc to War Crimes: Pentagon’s Role in
Global Catastrophe,” International Action Center, December 18, 2009,
Mickey Z., “Can You Identify the Worst Polluter on the Planet?
Here’s a Hint: Shock and Awe,” Planet Green, August 10, 2009,
Julian Aguon, “Guam Residents Organize Against US Plans for $15B
Military Buildup on Pacific Island,” Democracy Now!, October 9,
Ian Macleod, “U.S. Plots Arctic Push,” Ottawa Citizen, November 28,
Nick Turse, “Vietnam Still in Shambles after American War,” In These
Times, May 2009, http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/4363/casualties_continue_in_vietnam.
Jalal Ghazi, “Cancer - The Deadly Legacy of the Invasion of Iraq,” New
America Media, January 6, 2010, http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=80e260b3839daf2084fdeb0965ad31ab.