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A Threat to National Security?

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View Tom Turner's blog posts
07 February 2009, 5:53 AM

I never know whether to dignify irrational wing-nut attacks on environmentalists in general and specific organizations in particular by mentioning them in print, but the latest is so over the top that I can't resist.

Something called the Capital Research Center recently published a screed titled, "EarthJustice [sic] Legal Defense Fund [sic]: How Environmentalism Weakens U.S. National Security."

First off, it's a sloppy piece of work, getting our name wrong two different ways, saying that we have 150 lawyers and lobbyists (it's around half that), and saying that we're active "in many state capitals." Not so, though I wish we were.

What raised the author's ire was a series of cases where we had the audacity to suggest that the military services ought to obey the law. The author, using an all-too-familiar rhetorical ploy, suggested that our motives are altogether more sinister: "Environmentalism is being used as a pretext to harm national security." "Their demands often appear to be mere pretexts for legal mischief to hamstring the military." [We're big on pretexts.] You get the idea.

I wrote a long article for Wilderness magazine a long time ago, back when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense. It was quite shocking to find that a considerable fraction of military brass really did believe, like Tricky Dick Nixon, that their mission was so important, their cause so just, that they could ignore the law—the environmental laws in this case. Things have changed for the better on that score, but not enough.

The recent matters that so enraged the CRC fellow had to do with forcing the Air Force not to build a runway in dugong habitat in Okinawa (other sites are available), trying to stop the Navy from bombing rare birds in the Pacific (alternative targets available), seeking to protect whales and dolphins from the effects of immensely loud underwater sonar pulses (the relief granted by the court imposed buffer zones and temporary suspension of the tests).

The article attacks other groups as well, including the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for Biological Diversity; in UCS's case for opposing an intercontinental ballistic missile system and in the Center's for trying to protect habitat along the Mexican border.

All these matters are debatable, of course, but what's galling, if not surprising, about this piece and its ilk is its uninformed and unsubstantiated attack on our motives.

There's not a shred of evidence (or a shred of truth) to the assertion that our aim is to weaken national security.

That's absurd on its face.

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