ACTION ALERT: Stop the World’s Largest Naval Wargame to Battle COVID-19

May 16th, 2020 - by Jon Letman / Honolulu Civil Beat

The Time For RIMPAC Training In Hawaii Is Over

Instead, these militaries could shore up hospitals, testing centers and morgues that are being pushed to the breaking point.

Jon Letman / Honolulu Civil Beat

HONOLULU, Hawaii (March 30, 2020) — Although things may change before you reach the end of this column, at the moment I am typing these words the Rim of the Pacific 2020 international maritime exercise remains scheduled to be held in Hawaii and Southern California this summer.

With residents and visitors to Hawaii under curfew, quarantine, and stay-at-home orders, it’s hard to imagine the world’s largest international maritime exercises will take place here this summer.

In 2018, RIMPAC was conducted between the end of June and early August.

A spokesperson for the Navy’s Third Fleet confirmed that RIMPAC 2020 dates will be roughly the same which means that in three months some 25,000 military personnel from at least 25 countries are expected to converge in Hawaii for more than a month of firing rockets and mortars, launching missiles, sinking ships, flying drones, urban combat training, and amphibious landings.

Hawaii’s politicians and business community exhibit almost universal enthusiasm for RIMPAC. Welcoming military personnel, support staff, and other visitors associated with the event generates a lot of money and brings increased visibility to the state.

Ships at Pearl Harbor during RIMPAC exercises on Oahu in 2017. Is it time to halt the annual exercise?

Once services, supplies, fuel, and transient accommodation taxes are factored in, RIMPAC infuses more than an estimated $100 million into certain sectors of Hawaii’s economy.

But at a time when residents have received orders to stay home except for essential activities, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines call for gatherings of no more than 10 people, the idea of hosting RIMPAC this summer borders on the absurd.

Viral Enemy

RIMPAC began in 1971 with three countries: Australia, Canada, and the United States. Today, as planners prepare for the 27th iteration, RIMPAC has grown to include more than two-dozen countries from Asia, the Pacific, the Americas, and beyond.

In 2018, France, Germany, Israel, and the United Kingdom were in attendance alongside US allies and regional partners South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand and others. Turkey and Ecuador were also on hand as observers (a requirement before a country can participate).

RIMPAC truly is the Olympic games of military exercises and perhaps, like the International Olympic Committee — which this week postponed the 2020 Tokyo games — RIMPAC planners may have found it difficult to accept that their hard work and planning may be dashed by the coronavirus.

But, like the IOC, RIMPAC needs to get real and acknowledge that all of the countries that were invited to participate in this year’s RIMPAC, save for one (Tonga), have confirmed cases of COVID-19. It’s hard to imagine that the postponement or cancellation of RIMPAC is anything but a matter of time.

Even if the number of COVID-19 cases falls dramatically by June, this is not a time to invite tens of thousands of military forces for war games in Hawaii. The coronavirus has already begun to spread within the Pacific Fleet, but the Navy has announced it will stop naming affected ships.

History provides important lessons about how the movement of highly-concentrated military forces played a significant role in the spread of the 1918-19 influenza pandemic that killed at least 50 million worldwide.

Faced with a viral enemy that is bolstered by large crowds and can’t be vanquished with bullets and bombs, other military exercises in EuropeAfrica, and the Middle East have been scaled back or canceled. RIMPAC should do the same.

Meanwhile, the militaries of RIMPAC nations have an important contribution to make. With nearly four decades of multi-national training and “building capacity and interoperability” among RIMPAC partners, this is an opportunity to put what they have learned into practice.

RIMPAC, which is quick to emphasize the humanitarian aid and disaster relief aspects of the exercise, has spent four decades training partner nations for contingencies and rescue operations.

With the unmatched resources provided to national militaries and the capacity built over 40 years, each of these militaries can put its hard work and capabilities to work by shoring up civilian institutions such as hospitals, testing centers, and morgues that are being pushed to the breaking point.

If ever there was a time to put all those years of RIMPAC training to good use, this is it.

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Stop the Largest Naval War Practice in the World that with COVID19 Endangers Hawaii and the World

Roots Action

Petition Text

To: US Congress and Pentagon: Stop the international Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval war practice in Hawaiian waters originally scheduled from June through August 2020 but due to citizen activism and COVID19 is now scaled back to the middle to the end of August. Even this shortened war practice is provocative on a regional level and with the COVID19 virus, military personnel arriving in Hawaii will endanger citizens of the isolated island state of Hawaii.

Why Is This Important?

More than 25,000 military personnel from 20 countries will gather from June through August 2020 in Hawaii waters for the 27th Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, the world’s largest international maritime exercises, The international naval war practice in Hawaiian waters is provocative in regional affairs and with the COVID19 virus, military personnel from 20+ countries arriving in Hawaii will endanger citizens of the isolated island state of Hawaii.

Since 1971, RIMPAC has been held in Hawaii where in 2018 military personnel from 24 other countries, including Australia, Canada, India, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam came to Hawaii.

With COVID19 virus rampant around in all countries around the world, the isolated islands of Hawaii must be protected from military visitors.

This petition is sponsored by Hawaii organizations: Hawai’i Peace and Justice; Veterans for Peace-Chapter 113-Hawai’i; Malu Aina Center for Nonviolence Education & Action-Big Island; Maui Peace Action; Kauai Alliance for Peace & Social Justice; Catholic Worker Honolulu; Campaign Nonviolence-Hawaii; Democratic Socialists of Honolulu; Young Progressive Demanding Action (Hawaiʻi); Hawaiian Unity and Liberation Institute; Malama Makua; 

US National Organizations: Peace Action; United for Peace & Justice; United National Anti-War Coalition; Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; CODEPINK, San Francisco Bay Area chapter; Veterans For Peace chapter 69-San Francisco; Donald and Sally-Alice Thompson Veterans For Peace Chapter #63-Albuquerque, New Mexico; Shut Down Creech campaign;

International Organizations: Jeju Committee for the Inter-Island Solidarity for Peace of Sea (South Korea); Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND-UK); Vrede vzw (Belgium); International Coalition for a Ban on (depleted) Uranium Weapons (Berlin Germany); Activists for Peace-Sweden; VD AMOK (Netherlands); Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILFP)-Italy; Peace & Neutrality Alliance in Ireland; CNGNN Italy; “No to War — No to NATO”; Center for Encounter and Active Non-Violence, Bad Ischl, Austria; Swedish Peace Council; Roma Social Forum; Teatroinnatura-Italy; Frente Antiimperialista Internacionalista (Spain); Dutch section of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF NL); WILPF Germany; Mouvement de la Paix (France); Gangjeong Peace Network; Inter-Island Solidarity for Peace of the Sea; Jeju Comittee People Making Jeju a Demilitarized Peace Island; Association of Gangjeong Villagers Against the Jeju Navy Base; Seongsan Committee against the Jeju 2nd Airport Project; Jeju People Living in the Main Land of Korea; TID TIL FRED – aktiv mod krig, Danmark (TIME FOR PEACE – active against war, Denmark);

How It Will Be Delivered

Have a press conference about the petition and then personally deliver the petition to the members of the Hawaii Congressional delegation as they return to Hawaii and to their offices in Washington, DC.

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