Environmentalists Against War
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War, Militarism and People of Color

Gopal Dayaneni, Oil Campaign Coordinator, Project Underground

I’m here today to speak about the resolution that was written and passed by the Second People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in October of this year. Incidentally, the first People of Color Summit was held in 1991, when there was a President named George Bush who insisted on bombing a country called Iraq – for its oil.

At that time, when the Environmental Justice Principles were established, there was a clear commitment to citing militarism and war as grave environmental abuses and human rights abuses. We now find ourselves in the eerie parallel world of George Two.

I will tell you why people from across the country, from all nine environmental justice networks, representing hundreds of communities and thousands of individuals decided to take a position against this war. It is because they recognized the inextricable relationship between war and environmental abuse – and not just environmental abuses in Iraq but the environmental abuses that militarism wreaks on people of color across this country and around the world.

For example, the oil from Iraq will end up in refineries in Louisiana, Texas and California where they will be processed in communities of color, spewing dioxins and other chemicals on those communities. Dioxin bioaccumulates and bioamplicies and is a neurotoxin. They recognize that the US puts its military toxic waste dumps on indigenous lands in Alaska, California and throughout the United States.

People of color across this country recognize that depleted uranium comes from uranium mined on indigenous lands. And the radioactive waste gets dumped on indigenous lands. People of color recognize that the war against Iraq and the unending war on terrorism means increased bombing on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico and increased military activity in the Philippines, increased military aid and troops in Colombia to protect the oil infrastructure there. In means decreased resources to support our communities across this country that suffer disproportionately from the placement of powerplants, refineries, medical waste incinerators, military toxic waste dumps, and military facilities.

It is based on this recognition that this war has broad-reaching and vast implications for people within Iraq and outside Iraq that people at the environmental leadership summit wrote this declaration.

I am going to point out a few of the principles on which this resolution stands:

We recognize that the Bush administration’s war on terrorism and the impending invasion of Iraq and the blanket declaration of unilateral military action on the part of the United States has caused and will continue to cause enormous human suffering and environmental damage.

I want to point out that unilateralism on the part of the US is a cover for dubious intentions. If we were truly honest about the intentions for which we seek to invade Iraq, we would be willing to build a multilateral, multinational coalition over it. But it is because the intentions cannot be explicitly stated — because the intentions are about controlling the world’s second largest oil reserves and because the intention is to militarize oil resources globally — the US cannot and will not build an international coalition.

The intentions obviously are not to disarm Iraq — or global disarmament of weapons of mass destruction — given that the US is fully aware of the fact that there is a nuclear power in the Middle East that has admitted its willingness to bomb other countries. It is called Israel and it is funded by the United States.

If we were concerned about weapons of mass destruction, we would be concerned about our aid to Israel as well as our weapons of mass destruction facilities across the United States. Which, by the way, are placed in communities of color and on indigenous lands.

For example, the Western Shoshone lands in western Nevada are the site of mining that is used for to drive the military, nujclear weapons testing facilities, and radioactive waste dumping.

I would also like to bring attention to something that is rarely spoken about. It is that war and militarism directly intensifies violence against and exploitation of women and their labor, particularly through the sex trade that explodes around US military installations around the world. This is a huge problem now in Central Asia. It is a huge problem in the Philippines and it will be a huge problem anywhere US military installations are placed.

We stand in solidarity with our sisters in Afghanistan and around the world who have been resisting the abuse and we hope that this makes it into the broad discourse about war and militarization.

I will finally bring it to the things we decided we decided we are going to do as communities of color. First of all, we are mobilizing within our organizations and within communities. We are not just making statements. We are out there training ourselves, participating in mass mobilizations, educating our communities and connecting our local struggles with the struggles of communities with the broader US agenda of militarization.

We are also demanding that the US stop all military training exercises in Vieques, Puerto Rico. This has been a huge problem and has been increased and intensified in the name of the war on terrorism without any regard to the communities that are impacted by these operations.

We are also demanding that we begin the process of a full phase-out with a just transition out of fossil fuels and into renewable and clean sustainable energy with jobs for ourselves and the environment. And that struggle has to begin with stopping fighting resource wars over it.


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