Final EIS For SBCT Transformation In Hawai'i

by Milo Clark

June 21, 2004   


Aphorism Number Two: Trying to solve problems using the tools, techniques and thoughts which create them is silly.

(Swans - June 21, 2004)  I have the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Transformation of the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light) to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) in Hawai'i. The issue date is May 13, 2004.

There are now 2,000 pages compared to 1,100 in the earlier DRAFT EIS. More than two pounds are added for a total of fourteen pounds for this ponderous document.

The staff work involved is excellent. The layout, graphics, text and verbiage show a high degree of competence. Cindy S. Barger, Project Manager, has been consistently courteous and prompt in responding to e-mail. Given other circumstances, I suspect we could talk easily, maybe become friends.

Along with the Final EIS, I received, separately, selected replies related to my earlier comments on the DRAFT EIS. Appendix P, in CD-ROM format, encompasses all public comments received to the DRAFT EIS. Were Appendix P printed, it would add more than 1,000 pages overall.

A litany is established: "We thank you for your comment and participation in this public process. Your comment has been considered and has been included as part of the administrative record for this process." Repeated hundreds of times, this litany becomes empty, meaningless with or without context.

Thomas Berry (brother of farmer, philosopher, writer Wendell Berry) is a once Catholic monk who lives in a southern Appalachian monastery of one. Much quieter than his brother, he functions as a beacon of awareness. In his 1999 book, The Great Work, Our Way into the Future (Bell Tower, New York, 1999, ISBN 0-609-60525-9), he asks questions and points us toward introspection underlying positive actions. He knows that, as humans, we have about run our course as dominant species and exploiters.

"While we expect our place to give itself to us, we have no sense of giving ourselves to our place." p. 94

Berry quotes Barry Lopez, "The more superficial a society's knowledge of the real dimensions of the land he occupies becomes, the more vulnerable the land is to exploitation, to manipulation for short-term gain. The land, virtually powerless before political and commercial entities, finds itself finally with no defenders. It finds itself bereft of intimates with indispensable, concrete knowledge."

And he concludes, "Only intimacy can save us from our present commitment to a plundering industrial economy." p. 99

The Final EIS for a SBCT in Hawai'i documents a colossal and additional plundering of a land already largely devastated of soul. There are no words, no excellence of graphics, no technical competence, no weight of verbiage which can measure the soul of a land. The loss is beyond calculation or artifice.

I cry for Cindy S. Barger and her large staff who have buried their humanity, cut off their sense of being here, dropped awareness and connection in so many dimensions for so long a time. For what? Exercise of technical skills, good pay, career progression, absence of other opportunities, idealism, patriotism?

The Final EIS for a SBCT in Hawaii is yet another weighty example of governance gone mad. The message it carries is simple: The needs and demands of the United States Military, as defined and stated by the United States Military, shall have precedence over all other considerations. Try to counter these demands and you will be buried.

"If you don't believe us, ask us!"

Physically, it is impossible to read, much less digest the data involved. Hundreds of Ph.D. holders from prestigious universities would fail to address the actualities buried therein. Within the overwhelming data are references to other data equally if not more stultifying. Each impressive graphic, map, table, and paragraph leads to more of the same buried in other numberless government documents in turn leading further into speciousness, drowning us in irrelevance and circular illogics.

Comments to the DRAFT EIS fall into three general categories. First, there are the form letters distributed by organizations such as the Sierra Club. Second, there are comments from people grinding their personal axes. Third, and fewest, are attempts to deal specifically with a segment of the data. All end up rebuffed.

After repeating the litany above, comments related to Hawaiian issues are dismissed curtly. "We understand that some individuals do not agree with or support the formal annexation of Hawai'i in 1898. However, issues of statehood and Hawaiian sovereignty are outside the scope of the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] process."

Ask about overall military presence in Hawai'i? "There is a relatively large complement of Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force assets in Hawai'i that are more than capable of protecting U. S. Interests from attack. Reorganizing one Army brigade will make relatively few changes to the overall Department of Defense presence in Hawai'i."

Question the need for SBCT? "Section 1.4 - Need for the Proposed Action, describes the relevance of the Stryker Brigade and how it is expected to operate."

Recently, there have been published comments in national media such as Newsweek related to the general failure of Stryker vehicles deployed to Iraq. The Strykers, like other Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), are vulnerable to handheld Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) launchers. Fixes described are pathetic: add more armor at $500,000 per $2,000,000 vehicle. Still not adequate to handle RPGs. A cage of pipes has been installed around the vehicle in a further attempt to deflect RPG missiles.

Strykers are a theoretical improvement over existing APCs such as the tracked Bradley vehicle, itself described by soldiers as a rolling coffin. Strykers are also stated to be more adapted to urban combat conditions. The Bradley, being tracked, can literally spin in place. Strykers, being wheeled, require a measurable and predictable turning radius much wider than narrow alleys or streets. Strykers can get stuck while Bradleys pivot and go. Enemies can easily calculate where a Stryker will be in the next few seconds. Ready, aim, boom!

Strykers, being designed for a mobile light infantry, feature a design speed maximum of approximately 60 miles per hour. The additional armor slows them down some unstated but noticeable amount. Overland speed differentials with the heavier, more armored Bradley vehicle are reduced. The added surrounding cage gets in the way of soldiers attempting to use the outside; to climb on, to move faster or as protection.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is a heavy backer of Transformation to a light, mobile infantry with faster, lighter APCs such as the Stryker. Iraq may prove to be a test of Secretary Rumsfeld's obsessions. The 300 vehicle Stryker Brigade Combat Team now deployed there has been kept far away from Central and Southern Iraq areas which are embroiled in combat. What can we learn from this charade?

Question Transformation logics? "The need for Transformation is described in Chapter 1 -- Purpose and Need and Scope."

Children sing and dance: "Here we go around the mulberry bush, mulberry bush, mulberry bush, mulberry bush, here we go around the mulberry bush, all fall down."

This child's game captures the essence of the Final EIS for SBCT in Hawai'i better than thousands of pages of comment.

As the Hawai'i Congressional Delegation led by Senator Inouye is committed to the millions of dollars already appropriated for Transformation in Hawai'i and the millions to come with succeeding appropriations, only a great change of direction from within the military itself will keep more of Hawai'i from this devastation.

Such a change of direction would be within Thomas Berry's definition of The Great Work.

The Final SBCT EIS is pure sham, weighty pretense, and convoluted speciousness.

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Published June 21, 2004
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