A great continuing concern

A Feb. 19, 2016, article published in the Saipan Tribune, titled “The US military plan for live-fire exercises in the CNMI by the numbers,” begs for more questions and more discussion two years later. 

The Mariana Islands represent the only home island chain of the ancient Chamorro and Chamolinian people. The absolute landmass of our islands is tiny, unique, and of ancient origins.  The proposed CJMT land use hold for an already small and ancient island chain civilization, in my opinion, is too much to ask for because not only is 25 percent an already large amount of land to control, but the nature of activities proposed will inherently produce damage and destruction beyond domains that are not included in the 25 percent figure provided.

The MITT is, I believe, the largest armed forces range in the world.  It includes all war-fighting domains: information, cyber, maritime, land, air, space and land.  The MITT is also a construction of Pentagon and national security planners and did not fully include the concerns, wishes, desires and anxieties of the Pacific islanders from the Marianas.  

FDM is already damaged and compromised and it must be remembered that the Marianas is one geographical formation of 15 or 16 tiny landmasses. Once it is gone or damaged, it cannot be reversed.  

In my opinion, the total stated number of artillery shells, mortars, rockets, hand grenades, air delivered bombs, small munitions, and other weapons cited in the Feb. 19 article, which approximates 315 million separate items, is an understatement because the assumption that Tinian and Pagan will be used for up to 20 weeks per year is wrong.  I believe the more accurate week count sought is close to 46, if not higher, over the long term.   

One piece of information that was not included in the Feb. 19 article, which is equally important to know, is what is the total weight equivalent of the hundreds of millions of ammo, bombs and ordnance items expected to be used?  

The sheer amounts of ordnance used on Tinian or Pagan will create an environmental waste island domain that cannot be cleaned up. In my opinion, this is unacceptable and wrong because it is too much to bear for a small island chain population that relies on limited landmasses and surrounding ocean areas to practice their culture and daily living patterns.  

The Marianas is an island chain located in a part of the world that has regular extreme weather patterns. Typhoons, heavy rains, and winds will spread hazardous and toxic chemical substances and distribute these substances into the surrounding maritime domain. This fact alone is of great environmental and cultural concern.  

References made to Vieques in the Feb. 19 article cannot be understated. Vieques was used as a location for mock invasions and weapons training including land mines being buried after beach assaults were completed.  The tiny island north of Vieques, Culebra, was also heavily exploited for military training.  

Close to 200 different kinds of weapons were used on Vieques over a 50-year period.  The U.S., along with the Germans, British, and French, used Vieques to practice all aspects of beach invasion tactics. Vieques was visited by hundreds of thousands of troops over time.  The environmental nightmare of Vieques lingers without much fanfare and focus because the island remains a contaminated island of waste that most people don’t know or care about, except for the people from Vieques.  

My biggest worry for the Chamorro and Chamolinian people of the Mariana Islands should the Pentagon and allied militaries use Tinian and Pagan as proposed, is related to the continued and total human health and environmental wellbeing of our tiny island chain.  

The bombs and ordnance used by the military will introduce many toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, which are known to be persistent neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors and carcinogens and nothing in tort law can prevent these poisons from harming our tiny islands and tiny islander civilization.  I worry about the future of young islanders contracting rare diseases such as neuroblastoma and I worry about damaged beach and coastal and undersea ecosystems being ravaged beyond repair.  I worry about fish and marine mammals being poisoned and I worry about the haggan in the region.  

Guam is part of the Marianas Island chain and this cannot be disputed.  I view the lack of one comprehensive EIS produced by the Pentagon on total environmental and human health impacts on the Marianas Island chain from total training aspirations as egregious, and because of this, I oppose the Pentagon’s desire to train on Tinian and Pagan. 

Rick Perez (Special to the Saipan Tribune) Author

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