America's Green Fifth Column By Tom DeWeese
As America's military deploys troops, armor, planes and ordinance to bases in the Middle East surrounding Iraq, they will do so after years of fending off another kind of attack, one by the massed forces of environmental organizations that have done everything in their power to reduce and restrict the ability of our military to train its soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen.
A Green Fifth Column has waged its own war on this nation's ability to be ready for war on land, sea and air, seeking through legislation and litigation to thwart the training of our military forces and hinder the development of new weapons systems. It is the largely untold and unknown battle of environmentalists versus the U.S. military.
After sixty years as the best and only live-fire training range and training area for amphibious landings for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Vieques, a Puerto Rican island, will be shut down in 2003 by a coalition of environmental groups and politicians that included Hillary Clinton and Robert Kennedy, Jr. Without such training, you can count on "friendly fire" accidents that will cost the lives of American troops in the field.
Late last year, in California, the Navy was pressured to fly fewer bombing runs (using nonexploding dummy bombs) at Fort Hunter Liggett near Big Sur. Environmental radicals claimed that fairy shrimp pools and endangered mint plants had a higher priority than the ability of fighter pilots to hit targets that posed a threat to ground troops or our ships at sea. Lawsuits on behalf of the snowy plover severely restricted the training of Navy SEALs on California's Coronado Island. Marines can train in California's Mojave Desert only during the daytime to avoid endangering tortoises, as if a determined enemy would never fight at night.
Since 1941, the Barry Goldwater bombing range in a desolate area of Arizona, south of Phoenix, has been the training ground for WWII pilots and, in modern times, F-16 and A-10 pilots. Defenders of the Wild, an environmental group, waged a battle of lawsuits forcing the military to be more concerned about so-called endangered lizards and Sonoran pronghorn antelope than on the lives of our troops in combat.
In Florida, the Pinecastle bombing range, nestled in the Ocala National Forest, has been under siege by groups called "Forests Not Bombs" and "Friends of Gaia" who believe gopher tortoises have a greater priority than the ability to wage war swiftly and decisively.
There are restrictions on training for amphibious landings at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, because of limits during turtle-nesting season and because of a rare species of woodpecker. Lawsuits by environmentalists to protect a tree snail shut down Hawaii's Makua Military Reservation in 1998.
In May of this year, a federal court issued a 30-day injunction banning the military from conducting any kind of training on Farallon de Medinilla in the Northern Marianas Islands because the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in 2000 against the Navy and the Department of Defense, to end live-fire training exercises, claiming they violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
One would think that the lives of those who have volunteered to protect America against its enemies in war would be sufficient reason to spare our military these and other restrictions on their ability to train our armed forces, but they are not. So far as the Greens are concerned, human life is secondary to various species of flora and fauna.
As recently as August, an environmental coalition led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, sued the Navy to stop using a powerful new sonar system to detect enemy submarines, claiming that it can harm whales and dolphins.
All this is occurring against the background of the 2001 attack on American soil that killed more than 3,000 civilians, commercial jet passengers, and on the Pentagon itself. It simply does not matter to the Greens, and therein lies the truth of their loyalty to this nation.
The same Pentagon that suffered losses when al Qaeda terrorists crashed a commercial jet into it on 9-11, spends $4 billion dollars a year to comply with the endless environmental laws that have been imposed on this nation to thwart every kind of manufacturing, provision of energy, development of every description, logging, mining, and agricultural activity.
For years now, those laws, particularly the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, have been used as weapons against our military by Greens intent on finding every means possible to limit this nation's ability to train its armed personnel and test new forms of military hardware to fight sophisticated weaponry arrayed against this nation.
Under threat from foreign nations seeking or possessing weapons of mass destruction and by secret Jihad cells of terrorists at home, the Greens continue to wage their own war on our ability to protect our troops wherever they are needed and our civilian population's domestic security.
The time has long passed when all branches of our military should be freed from these environmental restrictions, in order that they need no longer fight the domestic battle against as determined an enemy of this nation as any to be found in far-flung lands across the oceans.
Tom DeWeese is the president of the American Policy Center and publisher/editor of The DeWeese Report, a monthly public affairs