There never was a good war or a bad peace. ~Ben Franklin
Edwin A. Martini, ed. Proving Grounds: Militarized Landscapes, Weapons Testing, and the Environmental Impact of U.S. Bases. Donald R. Ellegood International Publications Series. Seattle University of Washington Press, 2015. 320 pp. $60.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-295-99465-9.
Reviewed by Tony Nuspl
To be fair, "the demilitarization of landscapes" (introduction, p.13) is a large topic, and the nine essays within Edwin A. Martini's edited collection provide a slice, but the book is not a compelling read. Part of the problem is the editor's preference for what he calls "the detached perspective" (intro., p.5), which makes for some bloodless writing, in the policy vein, as opposed to the "resistance school," (pp.4-6) writings that do not shy away from value judgments about U.S. militarism and imperialism. As a result, the latter is sorely underrepresented and instead, on the whole, this collection seems to strive for what might be called a veneer of objectivity, an academic tone of detachment that tends to reinforce the status quo. Perhaps this even bleeds into providing apologia for past U.S. military mistakes, or the current refusal to own up to environmental disasters caused, both at home and abroad, by U.S. military forces and/or "militarized landscapes" incidental to U.S. bases. For example, Chapter 2 relies so much on official sources and the writing is so dry that likely few readers will make it any further into the book. Yet the introduction promises discussion of "charges of ecocide" (p.14) made against the U.S. military. Instead we get a tendentious argument that the U.S. military is capable of acknowledging "nature's integral role" (intro, p.8) --even as that same organization went about blowing up atolls in the Pacific with its nuclear bombs, pock-marking the sea-bed floor in the process, and/or creating artificial aurora in the upper atmosphere, with radioactive particles raining down (mentioned in Chapter 4).
Bikini Atoll, Pacific Proving Ground: data from sonar, first map of underwater nuclear battlefield, or proving ground (2019 December, copyright Arthur Trembanis). This illustration NOT included in the book.
Chapter 1, by Brandon C. Davis, addresses the illegitimacy of the land acquisitions made by the U.S. military using "national security" (p.20) as the excuse. An "unbound" (p.21) system of executive withdrawals from the commons, for the sake of creating military lands, "gradually became formalized as World War II ended" even though originally intended only as a "temporary wartime emergency" (p.21). How unbounded was it? There was an "800 percent increase in military real property holding within three years of the outbreak of World War II." (p.35) "From the start of World War II to the mid-1950s...nearly twenty million acres of 'jealously guarded' public land was rapidly withdrawn from the public domain and put under the control of military interests." (p.29). And thereafter, "[b]etween 1954 and 1955 alone, the Defense Department made requests amounting to nearly thirteen million additional acres of public land." (p.31) The WWII-Cold War era assertion of executive authority (think 'imperial presidency') was double-edged: Not only was the presidency construed to have a constitutionally-granted prerogative to defend the nation, involving autocratic powers albeit temporary and applicable only in times of emergency --with a "return to constitutional normalcy" (p.21) built in to such emergency powers-- but what is more, and in a novel spin on "R2P" (again, not an acronym used in this volume), the president also was understood to have a 'responsibility to protect' public lands, and this teponsibility was both independent of emergency and time limits. On the one hand, without any statutory authority behind it, military land-grabs under presidential decree "have disempowered and dispossessed local peoples from land and resources" (p.23) to which they would otherwise enjoy some customary claim to benefit from, as public domain or as private lands free from applications of eminent domain, or emergency powers. (Although the details of public land users with long-standing interests in the land are not covered here, see for example, the discussion in Montrie, A People's History of Environmentalism in the U.S., chapters 1 & 2, or Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History, chapters 4, 5 & 7). On the other hand, the purported "stewardship duty of the executive" (p.23) has been subject to judicial review, using the public interest as a crucial touchstone. Although a 1909 ruling created a dangerous precedent legitimizing presidential land-grabs, creating an implied power for the executive branch to define impoundment of property in the public interest (aka 'national interest', or 'national security'), fortunately Congress stepped in with a statute in 1910 limiting executive powers in this regard, restricting presidential ambitions to lay claim unchecked to lands for the purposes of the U.S. military, creating specific delegated powers to do so only, and reasserting public land laws (p.26). It is supposed that 'necessity knows no law' but the presidency's emergency powers were limited even during WWII, and emergency impoundment of land for war purposes was subject to a sunset clause; demilitarization of the land was to occur just 6 months after the end of that conflict, by executive order of FDR (pp.29-30). One is left to conclude that the newfangled doctrine creating a responsibility to protect public lands in the public interest, or according to national security as defined by the executive, is really a creeping authoritarianism, contrary to the spirit of the law. The danger of arbitrary enclosures of land by the executive branch was a concern at least as early as the late 19th century (p.27), the idea of a president creating permanent reservations being contrary to the will of Congress. Under Truman, the illegitimate enclosures were allowed to continue, the military essentially squatting on lands without any statutory authority ("became routine", p.31). In the vacuum, there being no statutes to contend with, the military made bare assertions about its land needs, and seemed to make the same mistake that the public often makes, assuming its property holdings were privileged, holding complete jurisdiction over its land reserves ("unique status", p.33); but these holdings relied on "indeterminate sources of executive power" (p.35), and therefore did not enjoy the protection of legal statute or law code. Congress, in 1958, stepped in again to formalize powers delegated to the executive branch regarding its 'duty to protect' public lands, laying out a legal mandate for the management of wildlife on military reserves, so that they could not be construed as 'implied powers' of the executive branch; but as late as circa 1983, there were still questions about the "legal adequacy" (p.35) of DoD claims to control lands, including the prospect of much "illegal public land control by the various armed forces" (ibid.) The harm that this militarized land has inflicted (e.g. on private landowners evicted from their property) is somewhat obscured in this legal treatment of the issue. There is mention later in the book (in Chapter 9) of "farmlands condemned by the army" (p. 266), and internally displaced persons (d.p.'s), that is, "farm families who worked the land, then found themselves evicted on less than one month's notice to make way for army munitions" (p.266). But in addition to this color that could have been included, Chapter 1 misses perhaps an even greater opporunity to mention that such land grabs continued in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a movement afoot to enlarge at least three U.S. domestic training bases: at Fort Hood (Texas), an expansion intended to compensate, ironically, for the 62,000 acres of firing range already contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO); Fort Riley (Kansas), where commanders intended to double the size of the land under their control; and Fort Carson (Colorado). All three of these proposed land confiscations reportedly encountered public opposition from local residents, who somehow effectively lobbied Congress to prevent them. These stories would be worthwhile re-telling in detail. e.g. When Fort Carson acquired a substantial slice of Colorado near the New Mexico border, it acquired 235,000 acres (367 sq.mi or 951 km2), in the early 1980s. Unsatisfied, from 2007 to 2013, the U.S. Army intended to expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado, so as to triple its size, by adding 418,000 acres (653 sq. mi, or 1,690 km²) of private ranch land, for a total land area of 650,000 acres (1,015 sq. mi, or 2,630 km²). It was opposition from ranchers, and from a U.S. senator leading the charge against the expansion --in other words, a popular protest movement-- that thwarted the expansion plans, not legal constraints (see mention of Fort Carson, in a different context, Chapter 9). e.g. "When word surfaced about the Army's intentions, the ranchers mobilized quickly, forming a coalition called Not One More Acre! They lobbied 15 county commissions to pass resolutions opposing the Piñon Canyon expansion and won votes in the Colorado legislature and in Congress." ("Ranchers angry over army site expansion", Washington Post, 2007) Similarly, in Wyoming, in a land grab by the U.S. air force, one rancher explained "they want more land, more water, more everything" (quoted, Chapter 8, p.252). There are reportedly millions of acres (between 2 million and 5 million acres) still at risk of impoundment, withdrawal, or seizure, due to Army ambitions (the DoD already has some 25 million acres of land at its disposal, currently); but not to worry, the "Army will be a good steward" of the land as it runs its tanks on maneuvers, the Navy will avoid causing harm to turtles' nests on the beach while practicing tracked amphibious landings, and the Air Force is studying how to mitigate those sonic booms from flights overhead. It was in the early 1990s, apparently, that civilian/environmental opposition to military land withdrawals got organized enough to present "unified opposition" to the U.S. military branches, to the point that "national security was no longer a trump card to gain land concessions [at least in] the West." (Chapter 8, p,253) By the end of the Cold War, "American citizens were no longer willing to accept that environmental destruction was an acceptable cost for national security." (ibid., p.255). Here, the two chapters, Chapter 1 and Chapter 8, are working together to round out a change that took place over a broad arc of time. The legitimacy of military control over lands, that would otherwise be part of the national territory or the commons, is being questioned, and the military's claim to be a steward of the land is being subject to increasing scrutiny.
The extent of the lands affected by military interests is surely even larger than the vast tracts under discussion so far: Missing from any consideration here is whether the contracted third parties supplying the U.S. military can continue to write-off portions of the domestic U.S., and/or parts of the world further afield, as they injure lands, water, people, flora and fauna in their relentless pursuit of profits by resource extraction. Consider, for example, what the uranium supply for the U.S. arsenal of atomic and thermonuclear bombs has done to the Four Corners area.
Four corners, domestic U.S.: map of about 1,000 abandoned uranium mines in Navajo Nation, including contaminated unregulated wells. Image courtesy TommyRock. This map NOT included in this book.
Aren't we better off just sticking to the term "landscapes of contamination" (intro, p.9) rather than debating "the refuge effect" (p.249) for the fauna that happen to be guests of military-controlled lands? Chapter 2, by Neil Oatsvall, opines that the military is capable of a "deep sensitivity to the natural world" (introduction, p.8) because of a nod in the direction of protecting charismatic species (in this case, the sea otter; also see Chapter 8 on the red-cockaded woodpecker, the brown pelican, the Hawaiian stilt, the manatee, the leatherback turtle, etc.).
Chapter 3, by Leisl Carr Childers, attempts to reconstruct people's reactions to nuclear testing, and their consciousness (or lack thereof) that bombs going off upwind means that they--and their livestock--are in turn downwinders "under the shadow of the fallout cloud" (chp. 3, p.84; "downwind" pp.81,90). The essay discusses the popular epidemiology used by non-experts outside the military proper to understand the degree of risk from nuclear bomb tests that they or their livestock might be exposed to. Using inductive reasoning, the average citizen is capable of concluding that "contact with radioactive fallout seemed the most likely explanation" (p.103) for some of the health problems being experienced. (This chapter is reminiscent of other work, monographs such as Sarah Elisabeth Fox's Downwind: A People's History of the Nuclear West, 2014, or Harvey Wasserman's Killing our Own: the Disaster of America's Experience with Atomic Radiation, published three decades ago, and now PDF available online free download, 250 pages.) But frustratingly, none of this realization prompts much of any popular protest, or resistance to nuclear testing (it's the 1950s in Albuqurque, NM). Although there's "near panic" (p.78), "mounting public apprehension" (p.87), "intensified public uneasiness" (p.92), and "increasing concern" among the exposed public (p.93), this degenerates into "lingering public fear" (p.93), and not some bout of raised consciousness or determined opposition. The domestic populace takes no action, at least as far as this chapter is concerned, and instead it's left to 'international public pressure' (p.105) to insist on a moratorium and then an outright ban on above-ground atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons --with no mention, however, of SANE, organized by civil society in the U.S., the group that was instrumental in the passing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty. And in keeping with the detached perspective, it's impossible to say what the author's views are about low-level radiation (LLR) exposure from the testing regime that occurred in the continental U.S. The closest we get to a position statement is in the last paragraph: "It was now [in about 1956] impossible for the public to believe in the harmlessness of low levels of exposure." (p.105)
Meanwhile, chapters 4 and 5 are concerned with how the biological and chemical weapons used by the US military for aerial defoliation can be the subject of "spin." Chapter 4, by Martini, argues that the more-or-less responsible destruction of Agent Orange stocks, in the 1970s --even if this involved using the Johnston Atoll in the Pacific as a dumping ground-- constitutes sufficient evidence for a wonted "military environmentalism" (p.113). The area of contamination in this remote U.S. base --where the remaining stocks were finally incinerated-- was in addition to the 2.6 million acres of SE Asia where the U.S. military had already dumped the dioxin-laced herbicides (p.112). But as the author explains, if it was a responsible way to destroy the environmental hazard, aka "the mess that war left behind" (p.121), the U.S. military only did so because it "was compelled to deal" (p.113) with an increasingly complex set of environmental laws and regulations. (Martini downplays the role of protesters in Vietnam, and omits any details of their opposition, let alone from any domestic U.S. protests, if there were any, even though he alludes to "the public's growing anxieties about the dangers these chemicals posed" p.116.) The passive voice of "forced to deal with the newly implemented environmental regulatory appartus" (p.112) argues for something less than active, enthusiastic pursuit of the goal of responsible disposal, and possible tone-deafness to the public outcry about military practices, let alone conscientious remediation of soils or any contrition over having used the herbicide so extensively in the Vietnam War. At issue were 25,000 drums of Agent Orange in Vietnam, plus another 1,400 drums in Gulfport, Mississippi, after the end of operations in theatre. (At this latter site, the chapter reveals that some 240 drums were lost, contributing to the contamination of the Gulf Coast. The long-term storage of Agent Orange at the site in Mississippi ran from 1969 to 1977, and clean-up continued up to 2013, apparently.)
The ultimate incineration of the Agent Orange stocks, laced with dioxin, likely involved 500 lbs per day of hydrogen chloride emissions (environmental impact statement, or EIS, cited by Martin, p.117) The incineration was contrary to law prohibiting dumping into ocean waters--but the 'burn zone" just like the Johnston Atoll itself "was essentially an extrajurisdictional area" (p.125). Out of sight, out of mind: the burn-up at sea was deemed "the most politically viable way to destroy Agent Orange" (p.125, emphasis added). Downwinders in Hawaii, 800 miles away, were not so sanguine about it (p.127). Finally, what seems like a major admission, albeit pronounced in passing, despite the fact that it contradicts the thesis that there was such a thing as 'military environmentalism,' Martini explains that, with the 1970s disposal of Agent Orange stocks at least, "there is little available documentation to determine the degree to which military personnel were themselves thinking in increasingly environmental terms." (p.128); and in contrast, the majority of those involved in the clean-up "saw the safety precautions as unwelcome and superfluous"(p.136). In sum, "the USAF seemed to grudgingly undertake the tasks involved" (p.133) in scrupulously following safety guidelines against spillage, human exposure, or environmental contamination, so Martini admits there was "no change of heart" (p.136) in the military, in this chapter of its history. Indeed, there was spillage of the herbicide and seepage of the dioxin into the soil, both at the Gulfport site on the U.S. mainland, and at the Johnston atoll, far off in the Pacific; at the latter, as much has 30,000 gallons of Agent Orange may have spilled (p. 135), creating yet another PSZ. In the footnotes, Martini also points to another domestic hangover from the Vietnam War, since Deer Park, Texas, hosted the facility for the destruction of yet another hazmat from the war: the napalm used (stocks finally destroyed in 2001, fn.13, p.139 --ironically, now a place where they bottle 'natural spring water').
The academic approach dominates chapter 5, by Daniel Weimer, with its discussion of "post-environmental movement discourse" (p.148). The institutional bias in the discussion is clear, with the emphasis on "how U.S. officials in the mid-1970s negotiated a seemingly inhospitable atmosphere" regarding herbicide programs, with their desire to continue using Vietnam-style defoliants, based on Monsanto corporation's product glyphosate (p.144). In sum, Weimer argues that American officials aimed "to thwart critics who argued that drug crop defoliation posed a danger to the environment and public health" (p.147) for the sake of pursuing the drug war. U.S. tests of drug crop defoliaton in Jamaica and Mexico provided for the "rehabilitation of aerial herbicides in U.S. foreign policy" (p.145), resulting in the go-ahead for 27K hectares of marijuana eradication in Columbia, as part of U.S. drug policy "with defoliation accounting for much of the destruction." (p.153). With U.S. assistance, the Columbian government then fumigated 140K hectares of coca, in 1995, and similar areas every year, up to a peak of 172K hectares in 2007, and the fumigation continued at least until 2012, when 100K hectares were sprayed. "Neither protests (official or civilian) nor official legislation concerning the environment prevented the aerial defoliation program." (p.160) Again, this chapter tends to undermine the idea that there's such as a thing as "military environmentalism." It would even appear that the risks from the use of Monsanto's Roundup, and its glyphosate, have been downplayed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to satisfy U.S. priorities in the drug war (infra, p.161). Nonetheless, the chapter brings up the worrying "cycle of dislocation and deforestation" (p.163) in the "defoliation programs" of U.S. foreign policy. And it acknowledges that Ecuadorians tried filing a court case, as "downwinders," albeit to no avail.
Chapters 6, 7, and 8 address the role of civil society in opposing militarized landscapes. Chapter 6, by Jennifer Liss Ohayon, involves a promising discussion of "citizen advisory boards" as part of the civilian oversight of U.S. military Superfund sites, i.e. the hundreds of environmental disaster zones designated as priorities for rehabilitation by the EPA. This touches on issues of environmental injustice done to minority communities forced to bear the brunt of the pollution and contamination in their communities due to U.S. military operations, U.S. bases, or U.S. munitions production. It should come as no surprise that "military-related activities are responsible for the majority of the contaminated federal lands in the United States." (p.177) Given that the Superfund Act "passed in part as a response to public advocacy," continued public participation is needed to ensure DoD accountability in the requisite environmental cleanup or remediation efforts: "[so-called] 'lay' judgments are important because of the chronic uncertainty of risk calculations" (p.172). Unfortunately, as the chapter explains, the citizen advisory boards--up until they were disbanded--did not really afford the public a chance to shape decisions or influence priorities for specific sites, according to the case studies addressed here; one infers that historically, they have just provided political cover. Again, rather than long-term stewardship, these boards have been shut down, disbanded at the insistence of the military, in the three cases addressed here, namely, at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, adjacent to the San Francisco Bay, shut down after 16 years of citizen oversight; at the former Fort Ord, shut down after only 5 years of citizen oversight (p.180); and at the former McClellan Air Force Base, dissolved soon after its creation "due to extended diagreements between community members and base officials." (p.195). Instead, the military now prefers "top down" public outreach, in which it can control the message about the remediation, if any, going on at the sites for which it is responsible. With regards to the first site, Hunters Point, there is still "etiological uncertainty regarding the relationship between the health issues [of the affected, resident population] and specific environmental efflluents originating from the Shipyard," (p.183) even when this was the location of decontamination of irradiated warships, ships contaminated by plutonium from bomb tests in the Pacific. In the light of the failure of citizen advisory boards to provide sufficient oversight, public interest groups (PIRGs) have had to sue the Navy over remedial strategies at the Bay-area shipyard (p.183); a San Francisco grand jury report cited a cluster of illnesses among nearby residents as a contributing factor to community distrust of the cleanup (p.201); an investigative report (published 2001) discovered that the Navy had been "mishandling radioactive waste on a scale greater than previously revealed" (ibid.); and, finally, the Navy had failed to do a formal radiological assessment of the site as late as 2002 (ibid.). With regards to the second site, at Fort Ord, lawsuits initiated by community members were also necessary, in particular about two concerns: lead-contaminated soil and, particulate-matter (PM) due to airborne exposures from UXO cleanup. Whatever deliberation or political challenge these citizen advisory bodies provided, the U.S. military has learned only to revert to a one-way "transmission of information to the public rather than providing oppotunities ... for debate about environmental risks," that is, "one-way communication from the navy to the community." (pp.185-6). The advisory board with a steady complement of 10-to-25 dedicated individuals boning up on the local environmental risks and providing public stewardship of public resources by means of "multiyear tenures" seem to be a thing of the past in civilian/military relations in the U.S; instead, public relations spin and PR lectures to large groups of passive citizenry appears to have taken its place. (p.186) One of the last holdouts appears to be Camp Ridley, MN, where there was still a citizens' advisory committee, at least as late of 2015, perhaps the exception that proves the rule that such two-way communication between a military base (or camp) and its host community is rare-to-non-existent. So whither "military environmentalism" in the United States, when it comes to minority input in affected neighborhoods? What of the fate of surrounding low-income residents fearful of being made into displaced persons (d.p.'s) as a result of abandoned base redevelopment? "Current methods of public participation in these sites often mobilize a more passive participant than deliberative forums." (p.187) As to the historical examples treated in this chapter--fearful of dissenting opinions, and a political response with more legitimacy than the military's own cleanup plans, or its pet redevelopment projects, the military stacked the membership of these boards, tried to enforce self-serving agendas for their meetings, and when this wasn't enough to control them, ignored public input from these boards, forced the citizen-stewards to appeal to the media and/or the courts to have any effective influence, and generally resorted to decisions made "in closed meetings of the base cleanup team" (p.193). In the case of the third site, at McClellan AFB, soon after the citizens advisory board was disbanded "the air force discovered barrels of buried radioactive waste" (p.195). The community fears about the risk the base represented seem to have been justified; the former McClellan Airfield (on the National Priorities List since 1987) was still a Superfund site in 2015, in part because of hexavalent chromium, which is a known carcinogen, leaching into groundwater off site. The Superfund Act created "mandates for public openness after decades of secrecy surrounding base operations and little experience in cooperating with the public" (p.200), but there is now much hand-wringing about the "risk distribution" (p.203) that each of the U.S. military's former bases, or remedial sites overseen by it, represent to the American public. Lacking here is some sort of comparative government context. e.g. In the United Kingdom, there is a standing practice of civilian-military cooperation in the management of military land, for which there is today, arguably, no counterpart in the U.S. ("Defending Nation, Defending Nature? Militarized Landscapes and Military Environmentalism in Britain, France, and the United States" by Peter Coates, Tim Cole, Marianna Dudley, Chris Pearson. in <i>Environmental History</i>, Volume 16, Issue 3, July 2011, pages 456–491, available online
Chapter 7, by Heejin Han and Yooil Bae, discusses civil society as the source of pressure to change the Status of Forces Agreenent (SOFA) in South Korea. Essentially, the problem is that the SOFA is a paper tiger when it comes to environmental protections, basically providing cover for the negligence of USFK (U.S. Forces in Korea). Much like the previous chapter, the discussion here is limited to a couple of cases only, but one wonders if this is an insufficient survey, when there are at least 23 possible cases to choose from in South Korea (p.217), where civil sector organizations have found instances of environmental pollution around U.S. bases in S. Korea, or as many as 29 possible cases, according to the investigation undertaken by a committee of South Korea's National Assembly (p.221). This leads to criticism of cherry picking of evidence to make a case, presumably, to address the most egregious instances of environmental contamination, even if this means making the worst case possible against USFK. At any rate, the focus is on "allegations of dioxin contamination at Camp Carroll and an oil spill at Camp Kim" (p. 213). With all due credit for the legwork done, the agent orange allegations raised look to remain unproven, but as the authors underline, there is still no explanation for the higher incidences of cancer, as well as high blood pressure and asthma, among local residents of a village close to Camp Carroll; there is public distrust of the investigation done (p.227), although the chapter does not go so far as to claim the investigation was an outright greenwash of military misdeeds. The main takeaway is that the oil spill and/or jet fuel spill on base at Camp Kim has been very expensive for the Koreans, all the costs to mitigate the damage done being at their expense, and that the USFK has externalized the cost of its operations, foisting them on the Koreans so as not be bourne by the USFK. The bill that came due for cleaning up the mess at Camp Kim amounted to almost $3 million, paid by the city of Seoul (eventually reimbursed by the S. Korean government, p.229). The larger context is the collapse of the Cold War system justifying the presence of U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula, and the prospect of a peace dividend, that could entail the return of yet more American bases to S.Korea. "The environmental footprint of U.S. miltary bases in Korea and the damage created" has been a source of anti-Americanism in S. Korea. "As more environmental polllution cases were reported in the 2000s...Koreans began to realize the severity of the damage caused by U.S. forces in Korea." (p.217) e.g. Formaldehyde dumped into the Han River. The sheer size of the American footprint became an issue by the 2000s, as by that time S. Korea "suffered a shortage of land available for its growing economy and population" (p.220). Some 30 bases and 60 training sites were returned to the Koreans, following an agreement in 2002/2004 to relocate and redeploy USFK. Back in 1966, it turns out, the U.S. signed an M.O.U. (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Koreans that the U.S. would undertake remedial action in cases of contamination that presented "known, imminent; and substantial endangerment" (KISE) to human health. (p.218). The non-binding agreement was honored more in the breach than in the observance, the USFK instead invoking the relevant article of the SOFA according to which the U.S. "bears no duty of restoring to the original state" any of the lands it has occupied in S. Korea (p.223). Although not covered in this chapter, or in this volume, the same is true for US bases in Japan: "the Japanese government pays any costs [related to environmental disasters] rather than requiring contributions by the US military. Therefore, the US military has no incentive to control pollution. Rather, the Japanese government relieves the US military of its financial burden." (Hayashi Kiminori, Ōshima Ken’ichi and Yokemoto Masafum, "Overcoming American Military Base Pollution in Asia," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 28-2-09, July 13, 2009. available online) When it came time to hand over USFK bases in S. Korea (some 30 bases now closed, with 23 of them returned by 2007), the Korean government demanded compensation in lieu of remediation; but USFK "crawfishing" allowed it to side-step responsibility for the damage done (pp.220-1). Even worse, rather than accept the princple of "polluter pays," USFK is looking for an ROI (return on investment), claiming that the United States has improved the land values and that this improvement "will offset the expense of the cleanup" (p.223, estimated cost of the cleanup US$290 million). The intransigeance of the USFK on this point, and the reluctance of the S. Korean government to rock the boat, as host nation, means that it will remain largely in the hands of investigative journalists to raise public awareness about "the environmental externalities produced by U.S. military bases." (p.230) Ultimately, it will depend on a movement that demands environmental safety, because the USFK is not interested in "military environmentalism."
Chapter 8, by Katherine M. Keirns, addresses the use of landmark legislation by the citizenry as a kind of domestic "insurgency" against at least three types of militarized landscapes, DoD land grabs, Cold War nuclear standoff weapons parked beside farm fields, and biologocial weapons labs intended for the Midwest. The experiece at Ft. Bragg, NC, where the civilian U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service --a relatively underfunded agency-- went up against the U.S. Army and won its case for species conservation, is re-told here, but the story had already appeared elsewhere (see Benton, N., J. D.Ripley, and F. Powledge, eds. Conserving Biodiversity on Military Lands: A Guide for Natural Resources Managers, Arlington, Virginia: revised and updated, published by NatureServe, 2008 [originally published 1996 by the Nature Conservancy and the Department of Defense in collaboration] 256pp.PDF available online) What's not explained here is how the DoD has since learned how to turn such landmark legislation to its advantage, in carving out yet more lands as 'buffers' around bases, ostensibly for the sake of species conservation, but really playing a long game in setting aside territory into which the military can expand later (see above discussion of its huge appetite for base expansion). This happens in a two-step process: Having learned from suits and threats against it using the power of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or other such landmark environmental legislation the protection of critical habitat or wetlands, to constrain military activities on base, the Army (and other armed services to a lesser degree) now use "encroachment issues" on protected species' habitat, near the military's land, to rebuff civilian invasions and instead to buttress the military's authority to oppose urban development (again, by claiming the DoD is a better steward); then, in a kind of environmental jiu-jitsu, the Army makes deals with the Nature Conservancy (and other such interest groups?) to buy up lands as buffer zones around military bases, so as to stave off such encroachments, effectively putting private money idown to protect lands abutting military bases. The Army "enters into cooperative agreements with partners to purchase land or interests in the land and/or water rights from willing sellers as part of a comprehensive approach to protect its testing and training requirements..." while the Navy strives "to acquire a recordable interest in property in the form of a restrictive use or conservation easement or deed covenants similar to a real estate civil easement, in which one party grants permission for a road or utility right-of-way." (Benton. N. et al., 2008/1996, chapter 3, pp.55-6; also "using partnerships to prevent incompatible land use," 71-7; and chapter 4.) The land around Ft. Bragg is again the example here but there are other examples of such public/private (military/conservationist) cooperation, such as for the lands around Camp Pendleton, California, where another environmentalist group, the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) is creating a conservation buffer zone by buying up abutting private land (expensive! this is California coastal land) --but then it turns around and sells development rights to the army, confirming suspicions that such buffers are really a creeping expansionism, under a different cloak (P. Coates et al., 2011). So while public openness about risks lurking at military sites is avoided (see above on the lack of citizen oversight committees), the military has conjoined with civil society (or at least one or two of its well-funded interest groups) to secure these buffer zones, and situate itself as defender of the land, rather than as a threat to it, underlining the buffer strategy with fancy public relations efforts (Benton. N. et al., 2008/1996, chapters 3 & 4). The effective result is a 'no-development zone', more or less offensive to civilian business and real estate interests, as well as municipal ambitions, because the land is withdrawn from circulation, but that's how pluralism is working today. In comparative context, its an American variant on what the British are doing with their 'defense estates'. As put elsewhere,"militaries became more alert to the value of military environmentalism as a way of legitimizing their control over land at a time when environmentalist policies and diction had thoroughly suffused Western societies" (P. Coates et al., 2011). A public dubious about the sincerity of such environmentalism, given the instrumental goals that could be hiding behind it, does not seem all that out of step.
What kind of 'wilderness' is it, when, due to human hazards left behind, you have to sign a waiver before entering? The last chapter in this volume, chapter 9, by David G. Havlick, recommends a visit to the refuge in southern Indiana, carved out of the Jefferson Proving Ground (JPG), even though there's a radiological hazard lurking from so-called 'depleted' uranium rounds (some 154,000 to 165,000 lbs of DU is distributed throughout the refuge, the detritus from 1.5 million penetrating rods or darts made of the radioactive metal, fragments that are still in the ground or laying on the surface, out of the 220,462 lbs of DU ordance test-fired at the site), not to mention the non-radiological hazard from another 3 million to 5 million unexploded conventional shells. As a "militarized landscape", the nature of the site in southern Indiana as "severely degraded" (p.266) is readily admitted. But we get more of the detached perspective, with this "hybrid landscape" described as an "integrated cultural and ecological production" (ibid.). Rather than admit that certain things useful to the military have no utility in the state of nature--such as genotoxic radioactive fragments and UXO-- the argument here would rather turn the concept of ecological restoration on its head, in order to "interpret the relationship between militarism and the environment more broadly." (p.267) This is the thin edge of the wedge, leading to the argument that man (to wit, militarized man) is the measure of all things. Again, despite the laudable efforts carried out in the person-to-person interviews, interviews that should have perhaps kept discussion grounded in public perceptions of the place, the argument is instead tendentious, and inordinately academic, "pointing more widely to important conceptual claims about military-environmental compatibility." (ibid.) The skeptic might aver: such compatibility is unlikely, and that instead, there is no satisfactory resolution to the environmental problems created by the military. By some measures, DU is 85 tiimes more radioactive than naturally-occuring uranium, due to the presence of transuranics that give DU the unusual property of becoming more radioactive over time, not less so. (IEER 2004, pp.37-41) The cynic might sniff at the greenwashing involved in re-labeling major military installations as 'national wildlife refuges' --nearly two dozen of them now created in the U.S. in this fashion, by repurposing military lands. (The prospect that this is mere rhetorical cover is explicitly mentioned in this volume as a possibility, Chapter 9, pp.268, 277, and 282; also see Chapter 8, p.256, penultimate paragraph). Again, the fact that "many of these sites have seen heavy impacts" (p.267) or that the "bootprint" (p.279) is still heavy from the likes of concrete ammunition bunkers left behind to rot (p.275, with photo), doesn't prevent --at least the periphery around the core military-contaminated or built-up area-- these grounds from being re-cycled as a buffer zones, areas ostensibly welcoming to wildlife. We're back to the essential distinction between "litter" and nature. The fact that civilization is to leave its detritus behind in these 'buffers' is, perversely, an argument used here in favor of creating more of such "hybrid landscapes" (p.268). Another site contaminated with DU, that of Vieques, in Puerto Rico, is again a landscape (or seascape) burdened with UXO (intro, pp.4, 16; ch.8, pp.247-9; and ch.9 p.269). Why should Jefferson/Big Oaks be held up on some pedestal of military-into-wildlife-refuge transition rather than Vieques, when the public awareness of the enviornmental risk at Vieques was so great that it has a storied protest movement around it? (See the short video "Punishing Vieques: Puerto Rico Struggles With Contamination 10 Years After Activists Expel U.S. Navy" from Democracy Now! May 2, 2013 (run time 14min 21sec) videolink.) The essential point at Vieques is that the bombing only stopped after a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience. Therefore it's odd in the extreme that an argument in favor of 'remembering history' at militarized landscapes all across the U.S. wants to de-emphasize protest at these sites and instead use a quiescent public at other sites as the example to be celebrated. Yes, the DoD would like you to believe in the "military's environmental stewardship" (p.270, citing an official publication), and have you sign the hold-harmless agreement as you enter their sites, but what we're really looking at are "mutant ecologies" (Joseph Masco's term, from a paper cited in this chapter, p.285, fn.18), a term of art that is particularly apt where radiological contamination is involved, such as from DU ordnance tests, or plutonium contamination (such as Rocky Flats, in Colorado). If, when signing the hold-harmless agreement in order to enter a refuge (on land or sea), you were told that you would henceforth be part of a longitudinal study, with follow-ups 5, 10 and 25 years after your visit, to check for long-term health ramifications, due to LLR (low-level radiation) exposure, would you still enter the forest/slip into the water? And if the public health implications of temporary human visitors to such a refuge aren't enough to cause concern, try putting yourself in the skin of a different species, that lives there 24/7, these species not being capable of knowing that it's an "involuntary park" (lands or waters that have been discarded because no longer technically useful to man-- "with, perhaps, many genetically altered species" living within them, according to Bruce Sterling, who coined the term). It's hard to see how uncleared minefields (such as the DMZ in Korea, or the "death strip" of the Iron Curtain Trail) can be called "defacto wildlife refuges" (p.271): that certainly isn't what the layman means by 'wilderness.' At best, perhaps, these can be called puzzlesites of the anthropocene —"sites at which it has become impossible to disentangle the natural from the built environment" (Infrastructure, Environment, and Life in the Anthropocene, by Kregg Hetherington et al. Duke University Press, 2019). But the discussion of nature is getting unmoored, increasingly subject to post-structuralist or post-modern academic speculation, in the "discourse of ecological militarization." (p.283) with its disjunctures and simulacra; an ersatz nature of brownfields seems to be all that the DOD lands can provide as de facto protected areas, the military's land base often being "in dire need of cleanup and remediation" (p.276) before it can be given back in some shape or form to the civilian world, and even then, the environmental benefits appear as "accidental by-products" (p.282). For the army, "the most severe sites of contamination and subsequent remediation areas will remain their obligation in perpetuity." (p.274) Notwithstanding this limitation, the DoD "has ample incentive to encourage all the military-to-wildlife transfers it can. Cleanup of these lands, when it occurs, need only meet a safety standard for a refuge worker exposed on site forty hours a week, not a more stringent level that would apply for a residential or commercial development. Obsolete or contaminated military holdings can therefore be relatively cheap to off-load as wildlife refuges..." (pp.276-7) The chapter ends with an open-ended question whether or not "the military is, in fact, going to go beyond rhetorical posturing or greenwashing"; yet, in the same breath, the argument seems to be that it's not oxymoronic to expect the Pentagon to somehow "achieve a more ecological form of militarization." (p.282) Reading this volume as whole, the conclusion is forced upon the reader that the wonted "military environmentalism" is a chimera; meaning not that it's some strange half-breed, but that it doesn't exist.
Can the U.S. Army be "sustainable" (p.278) when it leaves the detritus of DU rounds behind (whether on proving grounds domestically, or on battlefields abroad--potentially a genocidal, intergenerational crime); or when it leaves behind the ammunition bunkers and depots at proving grounds as so many "military relicts" (p.276)? Chapter 9 does begin to provide treatment of all the concrete poured (usually by private sub-contractors) on behalf of the U.S. base array, but sticks to a few domestic examples only. e.g. The U.S. Army's Sudbury Annex Ammunition Depot, in Massachusetts, left "fifty massive concrete ammunition igloos scattered throughout the woods" (p.275). The site was also added to the EPA “Superfund” list in 1990, as the site was contaminated with arsenic, pesticides and other chemicals, the clean-up taking about a decade. What about all the concrete poured by the U.S. army/navy for the protecting of pipelines abroad, shipping points, and other infrastructure for the fossil fuel economy, or as part of war efforts in theatre? e.g. During the Vietnam War: "At peak, the United States contractors operated enough earth-moving, construction, and concrete plants to dig the Suez Canal in 18 months and surface the New Jersey Turnpike every 30 days" (Seymour Melman, <i>Pentagon Capitalism</i>, Mcgraw-Hill, 1970, pp. 143-144). A general discussion of the concrete pollution created by U.S. proving grounds and military bases (both at home and abroad) would be appropriate, especially with this volume's cover jacket featuring one of these concrete bunkers (photo also reproduced in the text as part of Chapter 9, p.275). Also missing is any discussion of the U.S. military's role in the petroleum-industrial-complex, the military might being used to protect the profligate use of fossil fuels at home, and the projection of its might abroad entangling it in perhaps one of the most egregious carbon footprints on the globe. Do we really want to concede that the U.S. Air Force can achieve anything close to "carbon neutrality" (p.278), when it uses copious amount of jet fuel?
In defense of U.S. military practices, there is mention of what might be called ecological recovery occurring at (some) militarized landscapes, by means undertaken intentionally to reverse the demise of nature where possible, providing "ecological restoration" to damaged lands or contaminated waters (Chapter 9, p.269-70, 272, 280-3). It's not clear that the historian's idea of restoration is the same as that understood by an ecologist. The idea behind the recovery of an eco-system is usually that nature can only recuperate when humanity retreats, or somehow gives the ecology a break from the stresses imposed by human civilitity --or incivility, as the case may be. (cp. Gilbert LaFreniere, <i>The Decline of Nature</i>, ch.1 on humanized systems, i.e. dominantly artifactual systems, or "anthropogenically altered environments" p.17, "dangerous ambiguity used to rationalize the development of dwindling ecosystems into humanized environments" p.18; on afforestation where humans retreat ch.2, p.68, ch.4 pp.100-101, pp.112-113). The instituting of dozens of transitional military-to-wildlife refuges ("M2W" --although the acronym is not used in this volume) is not necessarily progress; it might just be false progress, resulting in merely managed landscapes (gardens, not eco-systems, that is, human artifacts that are sterile hybrids, infertile beings). Where there is ecological regress because of military technology run amok over the land and seas, the “process of ecological restoration,” as understood in this collection, seems to want to blur the distinction between "militarized landscapes" (in the title of the book) and land recuperating from previous military uses ("the bomb crater as habitat"). The essays are at cross-purposes, in this regard: whereas Chapter 1, by Brandon C. Davis, argues that wilderness conservation on military-claimed lands was largely "an unintended or ironic consequence of locking up land" (p.35), essentially accidental and incidental, Chapter 8, by Katherine M. Keirns, argues that this kind of benefit to nature is now wired into the military's land management policies, because of lessons learned: "During the 1990s the Pentagon came to understand their conservation responsibilities as important to their war-fighting mission, in part because of their experience with endangered species citizen-initiated lawsuits." (p.241, emphasis added; also see Chapter 5 on such use of the courts by civic groups). With this category of "military-into-wildlife refuge" (and their attendant 'buffer zones'), there is a tendency to anthropomorphize nature, resorting to cultural excuses for incompletely restored land, unintentional "gardens." The overall claim seems to be that this kind of hybrid landscape is the new reality we have to accept, or the best of futures-possible. And yet, if there is a unifying theme for all these essays in this volume it is that the U.S. military and its "empire of bases that continue to litter the planet" (intro, p.15, paraphrasing Havlick chp.9, pp.265-87) should not be permitted to treat any part of the land or sea as a Permanent Sacrifice Zone (PSZ), whether at home or abroad, whether in the plains or in the forests, whether along the coast or in a deep sea trench. It would be more intuitive to reserve the term "militarized landscapes" for land distorted (permanently?) by war, bombing runs, artillery tests, dumping of ordnance (artillery shells, ammunition, etc.), abandoned equipment, abandoned infrastructure, etc, There's no convincing argument here that the environmentally-destructive land-use and water-use practices of the U.S. military will diminish, nor that the U.S. military is being forced to transform itself in the light of the ecological degradation that it has caused in the past ("the environmental impact of U.S. bases" in the book title); rather, it seems to be stuck in a condition of cultural petrification, at the expense of nature. Certainly there's no evidence of a consensus within the U.S. military suddenly valuing the environmental.
Although the focus of this collection is not on U.S. bases abroad, there is at least an acknowledgment of Chalmers Johnson's <i>Blowback</i> series (2000. 2003, 2007, 2010; mentioned here in the introduction, p.5), an author who argued, among other things, that the U.S. empire had to remove its bases from Germany where the standards of environmental protection were too high, and find space instead in other more easterly countries such as (the formerly communist) Bulgaria and Romania, where the U.S. military said, in effect, 'we can be dirty'; the SOFA imposed on these and other countries exempted the U.S. from having to clean up any mess the military made (interview with Chalmers Johnson on C-Span book tv, 18 Feb 2004, in Los Angeles. videolink). In many respects, Chalmers Johnson renovated the venerable perspective of the late 19th/early 20th century U.S. Anti-Imperialist League. So, in addition to the one chapter addressing the SOFA in S. Korea, could there not have been one arguing more forthrightly for the rollback of the U.S. military's extensive network of overseas bases, say, like the those in Okinawa? And given that the volume is willing to acknowledge depleted uranium ('DU' weapons, or uranium weapons UW, aka 'dirty bombs') as an issue, related topics for U.S. bases or U.S. operations abroad involved in nightmarish environmental episodes should be included, notably, the DU contamination in Albania perpetrated by "Allied" forces; and, the DU contamination of Fallujah perpetrated by U.S. forces in 2004 --with the concomitant epidemic(s) of birth defects. viz. Martini himself does ask: "What will the cancer rates be in Fallujah, Iraq, two generations from now?" (introduction, last paragraph, p.16). The reader is also left hanging wondering about environmental damage at other U.S. bases abroad, for example, in the Philippines (mentioned only in passing, p.223); etc. As to the underlying causes for the 'empire of bases' around the globe. the reader will have to look elsewhere: Not discussed at all here (nor cited anywhere in the endnotes) is the 'Wisconsin school' of William Appleman Williams (1958, 1962, 1969, 1980) and Seymor Melman (1970, 1971, 1985), with which Andrew Bacevich (2002) identifies today, nor is there any mention of Noam Chomsky (1986, 1991, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005) or Howard Zinn (1967, 2000, 2003, 2008). The authors of this volume eschew these critics of U.S. military and foreign policy.
What of the prospect of de-miltarization as a project, or at minimum, the possibility of further domestic base closures, the next round of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure)? At the time this volume came out there had not been a BRAC exercise for a decade, even though the Pentagon itself ackowledged that some of the proving grounds in its control were not needed, that arguments for further military occupation of some its bases had been disproven, and territory could therefore be returned to the commons, whether for environmental conservation purposes or for the sake of economic development. (On May 10, 2012, the House Armed Services Committee rejected Pentagon calls for base closures planned at regular 8-year intervals, by a 44 to 18 vote. And Congress specifically prohibited, in the 2014 NDAA, any authorization of funds towards future BRAC rounds, effectively cancelling the Pentagon's planned 2015 round of closures.) Many huge topics are not even broached in this volume, such as the economic distortion created by spending inordinate federal funds on the nuclear weapons industry, when U.S. arms production is arguably only serving to make some people rich at the cost of de-naturing the U.S. economy as a whole. This blindness to the distorted economy is a sign of what Spengler might call cultural sterility, with blatantly maladaptive behaviors of the military being incapable of reform, even where past conduct has led to ecocatastrophes. Discussion could have been pursued in the direction of the attendant underdevelopment of civil society and the way the civil economy has been de-natured over the course of a long century, by the "necessities" of military production. By way of contrast, see the benefits of to be had from a demilitarized society and what landscapes could look like if spared the scars of war and wartime production, as laid out by Seymour Melman in various of his works, Disarmament; Its Politics And Economics, 1962; Our Depleted Society, 1965; The Defense Economy: conversion of industries and occupations to civilian needs, 1970; and, The Demilitarized Society: Disarmament & Conversion, 1988 (although, the author is nowhere cited in this volume). The problem of militarism (or fascism, to use an old-fashioned term for it) is raised (intro, p.4, 14) but discussion, let alone a remedy for it, is omitted.
To close, let us briefly consider U.S. attempts to colonize the skies. The Strategic Air Command (SAC,1947-1992) was keen to keep its nuclear-armed bombers in the air around-the-clock, as part of Operation Chrome Dome (1960-68), effectively attempting to prove that the skies could be a 'base' of operations. Notwithstanding the madness involved in circulating nuclear bombs over our heads 24/7 and the excessive amounts of fuel involved in keeping this wing aloft, there were accidents (none of which gets any mention in this volume). A glaring omission here about contaminated sites abroad and at home is the lack of any discussion of the 'broken arrows', or failed attempts to keep nuclear weapons aloft or safe while on patrol, perhaps most notoriously with the four nuclear bombs dropped accidentally in Palomares, Spain, in 1966 (two of those four bombs were purposely exploded) that have left considerable contamination, even after so-called 'clean up': "About a fifth of the plutonium spread in 1966 is estimated to still contaminate the area." ("Decades Later, Sickness Among Airmen After a Hydrogen Bomb Accident" by Dave Philipps, June 19, 2016, The New York Times available online. For a full account of broken arrow incidents, see the ironically entitled book by Eric Schlosser, Command and Control, 2009) But the militarized skies hardly stopped there. Earlier, in 1962, the failed launches of 4 nuclear missiles intended for exoatmospheric tests resulted in the radioactive contamination of the Johnston Atoll and nearby Sand Island, in the Pacific Proving Grounds (tests Bluegill, Bluegill Prime, and Bluegill Double Prime all failed, as did the first of the Starfish tests). The plutonium contamination in the Johnston Atoll from the failed nuclear launches, in which plutonium-carrying rockets blew up on the launchpad, spread radioactive material in a radius around the base (mentioned in passing, Chapter 4, p.124). Two of the four failed tests of Operation Dominic, in 1962, at the Johnston Atoll, contaminated the whole atoll with plutonium. In the case of the July 1962 failed launch, Martini explains that only 1% of the weapons-grade plutonium was recovered, and that the remaining 99% was left in the lagoon, on the island's northwest corner. This looks like opportunism, not environmentalism, skirting the spirit and the letter of the law about environmental protection, to take advantage of a loop hole created by what Martini admits is the "liminal jurisdiction" (p.124) of the far-off and remote Johnston Atoll. The U.S. military has proven adept at finding such loop holes. Further aloft still, the U.S. military has been keen (and still is) to put miniaturized nuclear plants on platforms in orbit around earth. At least one of these failed experiments is still in polar orbit around earth, SNAP 10A, built for the U.S. Air Force, as part of the Systems Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP) program; this piece of space junk, or military hardware, will be in orbit for 4,000 years. (Built by Lockheed/Martin, and launched in April of 1965, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, the satellite had to be shut down after only 43 days of operation.) And in a worrisome pattern for the future, the technocratic state used the moon as proving grounds, each lunar mission involving the leaving behind of the radiothermic generators (RTG) employed. A full reckoning of the environmental impact of U.S. attempts to prove itself militarily in near-earth orbit is required, before any change in attitude towards this kind of sloughing off of unused technology will change. In conclusion, on the basis of the treatment in this volume, military environmentalism appears so far to be a crock.
You can find a shorter version of the above review published on H-Net (Humanities Net): https://networks.h-net.org/node/19397/reviews/6229675/nuspl-martini...