Volume 13, Issue 10 ~ March 10 - 16, 2005
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Over the Bay, Bombs Away

In the government’s ongoing search for new methods of Chesapeake restoration, the Navy has taken on an odd job: Bomb the Bay.

The Navy has disclosed in an “environmental assessment” that for the first time in nearly a decade, it wants to bomb and strafe Bloodworth Island and tiny surrounding isles with modern instruments of war.

We’re talking Hellfire missiles, cluster bombs, live fire and amphibious landing craft.

It’s not that the Navy is mad at the Chesapeake Bay. At least they haven’t said so.

And as far as we know, the new plan wasn’t hatched to rid the islands of pesky nutria.

No, Navy wants to resume bombing in the name of national security, we’re told.

Give us a break.

Better yet, give the Bay a break.

The Patuxent Naval Air Station is what they call an economic engine in that region of the Chesapeake. But that doesn’t give it the right to be a force of destruction.

National security? Aren’t we supposed to be on our way out of Iraq now that they’ve held elections? And isn’t the Navy playing a relatively small role in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The Navy’s A-10 Warthog (think flying Gatling gun) is advertised by its manufacturer as capable of instilling “fear in the eyes” of enemy forces.

Well, there’s fear in the eyes of boaters, crabbers and charter captains thinking about the arrival of those noisy beasts for a little target practice.

Unfortunately, bombing the Chesapeake is not the Navy’s only bad plan. The Navy also is opposing international efforts to restrict its use of sonar despite research pointing to a link between sonar use and mass strandings of whales.

In North Carolina, the Navy wants a practice landing field adjacent to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, home to 100,000 tundra swans and snow geese. We Marylanders know about these majestic birds, for they visit here, too.

Thankfully, a federal judge recently ruled that the Navy’s plan tramples on environmental law.

The Navy isn’t alone in its environmental aggression. The Pentagon, never a fan of environmental laws, is invoking national security in its new drive for immunity from clean-air and hazardous-waste laws in legislation called the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative.

We recall words of Stephen Ambrose, the late author and military pal who wrote a pile of best-sellers about soldiers and war.

Four years ago, at lunch with a few reporters, he remarked that the time had come to pay vastly more attention to the environment. “We’ve got a generation that wants to know before we do anything how it is going to affect our water, our air, our food and our ability to get outdoors. The politicians that don’t see this aren’t going to remain in office for very long,” he said.

Before lunch, Ambrose had stopped by to give Vice President Dick Cheney an earful about one of the administration’s misbegotten anti-environment schemes.

Too bad Ambrose isn’t around now to help the Navy straighten out its aim.

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