Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, is officially closed. It is 1,126 acres of prime real estate just five miles from the Atlantic Ocean, with the Shrewsbury River on the east boundary just 45 miles south across Raritan Bay from Brooklyn. Now the locals are wondering what is to become of it and what it will mean, since it was closed as of September 15.
Base closures are a big issue in many ways. Closing a base is sometimes pure political punishment. Frank Pallone is the congressional representative from the district and has been since 1993. He is a Democrat.
But the larger issue and the one often under most radar is the clean up of bases. They are usually environmental disasters, toxic, hazardous, poisonous, often radioactive and scary to anyone contemplating making the land habitable, recreationally attractive, tourist-friendly, or even commercially available. That land is often a booby prize.
This is a daily concern in most states as a direct result of the impunity and immunity sought by and granted to the US military with regard to any pesky environmental laws, most of which originally flowed from the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The military has always considered itself above those laws and Congress and the courts almost always agree.
The opinions of the public are not always so sanguine. It takes many years, lots of grassroots fundraising, and a huge amount of people power to get good environmental protection passed, funded and enforced in a democracy. Then, after we've made the democracy work for all of us, and work to protect our children from poisonous air, water, soil and food, the military usually fights against the people, rips apart democracy, and pollutes as much as they like. If the Chinese or Iranians polluted the New Jersey groundwater, we'd think about nuking them. With 'protectors' like the US military, who needs foreign invaders?
The solution? Nonviolence. Learn to govern using nonviolence. Learn to involve the entire citizenry in nonviolent defense against invasion and occupation. Learn to live with other nations instead of rattling sabers at them. Nonviolence won't pollute your rivers and lakes. Nonviolence won't make your drinking water unsafe, nor will it contaminate your food or air.
So the citizens of New Jersey are hoping for the best. Very costly bioremediation has helped in some of these cases. In others, the groundwater is actually flammable and poison. The military has a long and inglorious ecological history. Democracy needs a better friend than violence and the preparation for war.