An open letter to Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
War and the war machine pose the gravest danger to our environment. The US armed forces are exempt from EPA regulations and, whether intentionally or not, needlessly pollute our country and planet. The toxic effects of war are an environmental nightmare. Speaker Pelosi, you voted to increase the Defense budget. A larger Defense budget means more weapons and more pollution. Please support Rep. Barbara Lee’s call for reducing the Defense budget.
The US military is polluting the homeland. One example is the recent fuel leaks from the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility in Oahu.
“Amid a continuing crisis over fuel contaminating the Navy’s tap water at Pearl Harbor, Honolulu’s water utility said Friday it shut off one of its wells so it doesn’t taint its own supply with petroleum from an underground aquifer it shares with the military. The Honolulu Board of Water Supply said it acted shortly after the Navy on Thursday disclosed that a water sample from one of its wells had shown the presence of petroleum. The well is near a giant World War II-era underground fuel tank complex that has been the source of multiple fuel leaks over the years. The tap water problems have afflicted one of the military’s most important bases, home to submarines, ships and the commander of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region. They also threaten to jeopardize one of Honolulu’s most important aquifers and water sources. Nearly 1,000 military households have complained about their tap water smelling like fuel, or of physical ailments like stomach cramps and vomiting. The Navy water system serves 93,000 people. ” (Honolulu utility shuts well to prevent fuel contamination by Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle Dec 5th, 2021).
Not only is the Navy polluting the water of nearby residents, it is poisoning its own personnel and their families. The Pentagon’s incompetence in managing its own facilities is more than worrisome.
Beyond Red Hill, the generals and admirals seem arrogantly indifferent to the consequences of their actions. How else to explain the disastrous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan? What about the biggest failure of all? The US Armed Forces failed to protect us on 9/11. The greatest military and intelligence apparatus in the history of the world was defeated by a small group of Saudi misfits with no experience or training, directed by bin Laden from a hut in a compound in Afghanistan. And you want to give these generals more money?
Tax money that could have been used to create infrastructure, jobs and housing, fund education and prepare for a pandemic went instead to the military-industrial complex. Hundreds of billions of dollars that should have gone to meet the needs of the American people went to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2016, 57% of the federal budget was spent on the Department of Defense, on wars and on weapons programs, according to the American Friends Service Committee; 6% was spent on education. The military spending hasn’t slowed; the Friends Committee on National Legislation estimates the US spends about $750 billion annually on weapons and war. For comparison, Housing and Urban Development got $57 billion in 2020.
A federal report from 2011 shows $60 billion (that’s billions, not millions) lost to war zone contractor waste and fraud alone. Disabled and traumatized veterans return home to their families and they can’t get the support and treatment they need. Homelessness and opioid addiction are the result. “About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively.” — National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “U.S. spending on the Afghanistan nation-building project over the last dozen years now exceeds $104 billion,” (U.S. aid to Afghanistan exceeds Marshall Plan in costs, San Francisco Chronicle, August 2014). Imagine if $104 billion had been invested in preschools, education, job training, healthcare and housing in the US? Now, there’s nothing to show for it.
“Parents sell kids as families face crisis of poverty,” is the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 30, 2021 (Parents selling children shows desperation of Afghanistan by Elena Becatoros, Associated Press.) “Aziz Gul’s husband sold the 10-year-old girl into marriage without telling his wife, taking a down-payment so he could feed his family of five children. Without that money, he told her, they would all starve. He had to sacrifice one to save the rest.” After hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the war in Afghanistan, this is the legacy of America’s occupation.
And you want to give the perpetrators of this debacle more money?