Learning from Afghanistan – pushing back against an expanding military presence in Hawaii and everywhere

The U.S. war in Afghanistan began on Oct. 7, 2001, with airstrikes against the terror group Al Qaida in retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks on the twin towers in New York City. That attack killed 2,976 American civilians. 

Per the Associated Press (AP) the resulting 20-year war in Afghanistan has to date killed 172,390 people: 47,245 Afghan civilians, 2,448 American soldiers, 3,846 U.S. contractors, 66,000 Afghan national military and police, 1,144 NATO allies, 51,191 Taliban and other opposition fighters, 444 aid-workers, and 72 journalists. 

In 2011 Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in neighboring Pakistan. 

The financial cost of the Afghan war ranges from an $824.9 billion estimate provided by the pentagon, to over $5 trillion estimated by Harvard and Brown University researchers. 

The current situation, the threats to personal safety, and the emotional trauma unfolding today in Afghanistan are beyond our comprehension. While continuing occupation of the country is not an option, we must somehow fulfill our promise to those of assistance to those who were made that pledge.

Each of us who claim America as our home is responsible to some extent for this 20-year tragedy. We let it happen.  

While some stood up and spoke out in opposition, most were cowed into silence by the pervasive outrage and calls for retribution following the tragedy of 9/11. 

Just days after the Sept.11, 2001, terror attacks, California U.S. Representative Barbara Lee cast the lone “no” vote on a resolution to authorize military force in Afghanistan against those responsible for 9/11. The vote was 420 to 1. In the Senate the vote was unanimous. 

We cannot avoid this historic stain on our legacy, but we can say never again.  

And we can start here at home by pushing back against ongoing attempts to expand the military’s presence in Hawai’i. At some point, and that point is now – we must say enough already. No more military expansion in Hawaii. We need to reduce the military’s footprint in our islands, not expand it.

Here on Kauai, there is a push to grow the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) even larger via the construction of a multi-billion dollar radar facility. The Pentagon itself says they don’t want it and it isn’t needed. Unfortunately, our Congressional delegation has found it necessary to force the item into the defense budget.

The Kauai system is being heavily promoted by the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) a 501c4 nonprofit whose mission is to “make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.”

You can be sure that defense contractors General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, BAE, Raytheon, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin to name just a few are big supporters of MDAA as they were undoubtedly also major profiteers from the 20-year Afghan war. You can also be sure that these same entities are generous contributors to the political campaigns of those with decision-making authority over this project, and the technology and machinery of war in general.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex…” 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president – farewell address. Think about the wisdom in these words.

In addition to expanding its war machine on the Garden Island, the U.S. military is seeking to renew its activities on the Big Island and on Oahu.

In Hawaii County, the Pohakuloa Training Area covers nearly 36 square miles and is the largest contiguous live-fire range and maneuver training area in Hawaii. The Army paid $1 for the original 65-year lease which is set to expire in 2029.

On Oahu, the Army leases 4,370 acres at Poamoho Training Area in the Ko’olau Mountains in north-central Oahu and 1,170 acres of state land called the Kahuku Training Area.

Makua Military Reservation in northwest Oahu has been used for military training for almost a century, and the Army has leased 760 acres from the state for the past 57 years. These leases also are set to expire in 2029. The Army is soliciting oral or written public comments on the proposed renewal of leases for three sites at bit.ly/armyoahu through Sept. 1.

My father was a career Navy man, a chief boatswain’s mate who served honorably for over 30 years. I have friends and relatives who are veterans and who have served in the Middle East. I am proud and thankful for their service, and I believe the United States must maintain a strong defense.

However, enough is enough.

America has the largest military presence on the planet with 800 bases located in 70 different countries, on all 7 continents. US special forces operations have been active recently in over 138 nations. For context Russia has 8 bases located in former Russian republics and China is now considering its first overseas base. (The Nation)

We must learn from Afghanistan and reverse the path we have been on for far too many years that has destroyed far too many lives.

What can we, just simple citizens living simple lives actually do to stop this madness?

Emulating California Representative Barbara Lee would be a good place to start. Have the courage of your convictions and reach out and share your concerns with those members of Congress that you elected to serve you in Washington DC. Tell them to please learn from Afghanistan, reverse the path of endless war and destruction, and starting beating our swords into plowshares.

Yes, it’s complicated and no it’s not really that complicated. I get it that the path forward is not simple, nor easy but it starts with simply saying no more.

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve now as a volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am also currently the Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In a past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator and Majority Leader and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my web site AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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3 Responses to Learning from Afghanistan – pushing back against an expanding military presence in Hawaii and everywhere

  1. Denis Johnston says:

    Aloha Gary,
    this so called war on terrorism has always been another Vietnam for me. Senseless, expensive and without any end until recently. When Ashraf Ghani bailed, the country collapsed into the mess it is today. Their call to arms was met with save your ass.
    Thanks for your thoughts and courage to stand up for what is right.

    Aloha nui,
    Denis Johnston

    • garyhooser says:

      Agree Denis. Mahalo for taking the time to read and comment.

    • garyhooser says:

      Reader note: This piece was edited about 24 hours after initial posting by adding one paragraph that had inadvertently been left out of the original. “America has the largest military presence on the planet with 800 bases located in 70 different countries, in all 7 continents. US special forces operations have been active recently in over 138 nations. For context Russia has 8 bases located in former Russian republics and China is now considering its first overseas base. (The Nation)”

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