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HOOSER: The most important issue of our time

There’s nothing we can really do about it, the underlying issues are far too complicated, and we have far too many important problems of our own to deal with — said every enabler of every war and atrocity that has occurred through-out history.

The truth is there’s plenty we can do about it. We can and must deal with it and deal with our own local challenges and issues. Complicated? Perhaps, but it’s not too complicated to understand that killing innocent men, women and children is so very wrong.

The other truth is that by looking the other way, acting like we don’t see, and ignoring our active role in providing the bullets, bombs, and bayonets — does not absolve us from our personal responsibility.

The United States is the largest provider of weapons, has more troops, stationed in more bases, in more countries, than anyone else on the planet.

As of September 2022, there were approximately 750 U.S. military bases with active-duty troops stationed across 178 countries. In 2022 the U.S. spent $877 billion on defense and war, spending more than China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., Germany, France, South Korea, Japan, and Ukraine combined.

For perspective, in 2023 China spent approximately $224 billion and Russia was at $100 billion. (Reuters)

Maybe, just maybe we should just match them both, reduce our defense and war budget to $400 billion, and then spend $477 billion on education, healthcare, and affordable housing?

The federal defense and war budget represents 8.9 percent of the Hawai‘i annual gross domestic product with $7.9 billion flowing into the islands annually.

Imagine if that budget was cut in half and $4 billion in federal dollars went instead on affordable housing, homeless shelters, and mental health services.

Imagine Hawai‘i military commissaries and cafeterias being required to purchase at least 50 percent of their food inventory from local farmers, and federal funding to build the affordable housing needed by service members, military contractors, and local residents working on-base.

Stay with me for a second on the imagination stuff.

Imagine if the Navy hadn’t poisoned the drinking water at Red Hill.

Imagine if the U.S. Army paid the state of Hawai‘i more than the ridiculous $1 per year to lease 23,000 acres of State-owned land at Pohakuloa.

Better yet, imagine if the Army was denied use of Pohakuloa and required to clean up the unexploded ordinance, depleted uranium, and various implements of war they’ve discarded over the years. That task alone would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, plus the restored land would then be available for agricultural, watershed or public park use.

It’s well past time our collective community stops looking the other way.

We need to work pro-actively to reduce the militaries footprint in Hawai‘i and around the world.

This is how we think global and act local. This is something tangle and specific we can do to make a difference today.

I am not a pacifist. I believe there are bad guys in the world and we need to maintain a strong military to protect ourselves from aggression. If someone takes a swing at me you can be sure I’ll take a swing back. But I will not strike his wife, mother or children, even if he insists on standing behind them. The ends do not justify the means.

My father was a career Navy man. I’m deeply grateful and honored to have friends and family who are veterans, and who serve now in the U.S. military.

But it’s way past time to say enough is enough.

We must in fact say it over and over again. Enough is enough.

We must shout it out to the stars, and of course to the halls of Congress, the White House and to our own governor, Hawai‘i Legislature, mayors and county councils.

We need to stop the madness, reimagine our future, and take the steps needed to get there.


Gary Hooser served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council. He presently writes on Hawai‘i Policy and Politics at
Source: The Garden Island

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