Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Military and Environmental Protection are Apparently Incompatible

The Supreme Court ruled that the Unite States Navy can use sonar during its anti-submarine training off the coast of Southern California in spite of the environmental protection policies that state that use of sonar devices is prohibited when there are marine mammals nearby. In its written opinion the court stated that, "Even if the plaintiffs have shown irreparable injury from the navy's training exercises, any such injury is outweighed by the public interest and the navy's interest in effective, realistic training of its sailor." It upheld the case brought by the government which argued that President George W. Bush has the constitutional power to exempt the US Navy from environmental laws curbing the use of long-range sonar in the Northern Pacific Ocean.

The purpose of this sonar equipment is to look for hostile submarines lurking beneath the Pacific. Environmentalists argue that such sonar devices have a serious and detrimental effect on marine life. There are numerous studies that support this contention.

The lower courts ruled in favor of the whales and dolphins, but the Navy took the case to the Supreme Court. This case was previously adjudicated by both a Los Angeles federal judge and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco; these courts decided that the sonar use should be restricted during Navy training sessions.

In response to this restriction, George W. Bush issued an order in January that effectively exempted the Navy from the environmental policies, not only when it comes to sonar use, but in regards to all environmental-related laws. A Los Angeles judge ruled that this order was invalid. The Navy subsequently challenged two restrictions on sonar use, out of the total six mentioned in the environmental laws. One of these states that it is illegal to use sonar devices within less than 12 miles of the coast.

This ruling on the part of the Supreme Court and the position held by the administration of the now defunct President, George W. Bush, is a clear demonstration of how backward and destructive the conservative agenda can be. The idea that the military is somehow exempt from practices that are clearly harmful to the natural environment is indicative of the kind of arrogance and faulty judgment that is a direct consequence of an imperialistic world view that holds the needs of power and empire above all other considerations. This is particularly distressing since the disastrous human impact on the marine environment has been thoroughly documented.

We can do better than this.

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