Healing Our World: Weekly Comment

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

Kill a Few Hundred Whales, Soldier? No Problem!

"There's no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war. Except its ending."
-- President Abraham Lincoln

"War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off;
next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off;
then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off;
and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off."

-- Karl Kraus”

"Every gun that is made,
every warship launched, every rocket fired
signifies, in the final sense, a theft from
those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed."

-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Most Americans assume that wildlife and the environment are protected by laws designed to, at least, protect those species and habitats that are the most threatened and endangered. Even marine mammals are afforded protection to prevent them from being harassed. Sandra Bohn of British Columbia found this out first hand this week when she was arrested and fined $72 for petting a three year old male orca known as Luna, who was separated from his family group and now lives in waters on the remote west side of Canada's Vancouver Island.

Marine mammal experts say touching or petting a whale could result in a change in its behavior patterns and could ultimately lessen its chances of returning to its pod.

Do you feel comforted hearing this? Does it seem like this must mean that our Earth's wildlife are being well taken care of by the authorities? Well, if Congress and the President have their way, private citizens will be the only ones from whom wildlife will be protected.

The United States military, an organization that may be impacting more of the Earth than any other, will soon be exempt from major provisions of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Versions of legislation have cleared both the U.S. House and Senate and if passed, thousands of animals on both land and sea will die each month.

ship

The USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23) currently, the only `Loud' Active/Passive SONAR `SWATH-A' Small Water plane Twin-Hull Active SURTASS ship (Photo courtesy Public Cause)
At sea, there will no longer be prohibitions against the military using their new sonar which emits a sonic blast so loud that is deadly to marine mammals. It is generally believed that the many whale and dolphin strandings of the last few years can be attributed to sonar blasts that result in massive hemorrhages in the animals' brains. And no one knows how many hundreds of animals die and sink to the bottom of the ocean during these sonar episodes. Some of these sonar blasts can literally be heard by whales on the other side of the globe.

On land, military bases will be able to pollute and kill wildlife without penalty. Not only do the many munitions tests scare and harass wildlife, the tons of lead and other metals left in the ground from the ammunition will continue to kill. Barrels of toxic substances will be dumped in areas that are now designated as sensitive and protected.

President George W. Bush directed Congress to make exemptions like these when he submitted the 2004 defense spending bill. Clearly basking in the manufactured and contrived glow from an Iraq "victory," Bush asked that the military be exempted from five major environmental laws.

This action is particularly bizarre because, as reported by the Environment News Service today, the General Accounting Office, the investigative branch of Congress, released a report in June 2002 that found "the Pentagon had failed to show any evidence that environmental laws had compromised military readiness and even contradicts the statements of Bush administration officials."

ENS also reported that Christie Whitman, who just announced her resignation as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in February 2003 that she was unaware of "a training mission anywhere in the country" that had been delayed or cancelled because of environmental regulations.

And in a memo from March 2003, Department of Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz, no friend to the environment or wildlife, wrote that "in the vast majority of cases, we have demonstrated that we are able both to comply with environmental requirements and to conduct necessary military training and testing."

planes

Two F/A-22 Raptors based at Edwards Air Force Base, California on a developmental test flight (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)
And to make these bills even more ludicrous, a recent poll found that four out of five voters say that government agencies should have to follow the same environmental and health laws as everyone else. The poll even found that two out of three Republicans and those who described themselves as conservatives oppose exempting the military from environmental laws.

So what is the motivation behind these bills to further decimate our Earth? And where is the backbone of the United States Congress, a body of men and women elected to represent the will of the people and to protect our wild and natural heritage?

I can understand the motivation of President Bush, who has made it clear that anything which impedes the unrestricted flow of business is to be eliminated. He is using the military to open up the richest parts of the world to American business interests, so anything that makes the military's job easier will be on his agenda.

But where are our elected representatives? Why have they conceded to the unrealistic demands of this President? Why do they refuse to challenge him? Or are they just revealing what we have feared all along - that their primary concern is to protect their office and the privileges that go along with it? Do they feel that opposing a president who is doing well in the polls could be political suicide?

Endless evidence exists suggesting that if the military is not governed by the rules and regulations that apply to everyone else, unprecedented destruction of our natural resources will result. Contact your representatives today and remind them of why you put them in office. Ask them how they can justify authorizing the destruction of our own nation so that we may go to war with others?

RESOURCES

1. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. Tell them that exempting the military from these key environmental pieces of legislation is ludicrous. If you know your Zip code, you can find them at: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html

2. See the ENS report on this issue at: http://ens-news.com/ens/may2003/2003-05-23-10.asp

3. Read the story of the woman who was fined for petting the orca at: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apfeature_story.asp?category=1120&slu g=Whale%20Petting

4. Visit the Center for a New American Dream and see that another way is possible at: http://www.newdream.org/

5. Learn about the civilian death toll in Iraq from Iraq Body Count at: http://www.iraqbodycount.net/

6. See the “Frontline” report on the new Bush U.S. world doctrine at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/iraq/themes/

7. See more about the effects of military sonar on marine life in the Healing Our World commentary, “Naval Sonar: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” at: http://ens-news.com/ens/sep2002/2002-09-27g.asp

8. See another commentary about the military’s impact on the environment called, “Missing the Target - Green Bullets,” at: http://ens-news.com/ens/jun2001/2001-06-27g.asp

{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle and the author of "Healing Our World," A Journey from the Darkness Into the Light," available at: http://www.xlibris.com/HealingOurWorld.html and “Of This Earth, Reflections on Connections,” available at: http://ofthisearth.org. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at: jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his website at: http://www.healingourworld.com}