Is this Iraq you ask? Italy, Guam, Australia, Okinawa, South Korea, Africa, England, Czech Republic, Latin America? No, this battle is happening right here in the good ole USA. Colorado in fact.
The Army base at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs is a big base. But the Army maintains they need to dramatically expand their training operation - nearly tripling the size of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, and have said they might have to take private ranch land by forced condemnation - a process called eminent domain. The Army says that 10,000 more troops are expected by the end of the decade and that it needs more land to simulate the modern high-tech battlefield conditions of future combat zones.
The cattle ranchers, most of whom are conservative and pro-military, are furious. Yesterday at a public meeting in Trinidad, Colorado more than 500 ranchers turned out for another meeting to confront the Army.
"When are you going to get it through your head that we don't want you here!" one rancher yelled at the Army representatives. The debate was often filled with screaming and profanity.
What we are seeing is that as U.S. militarism grows the appetite for land also multiplies like a cancer. People around the world have been experiencing this phenomena for years but now the chickens are coming home to roost in a big way.
Not long ago, citizens in the panhandle of Florida had to fight to keep the Air Force from taking over huge tracks of land near the conservative rural town of Perry for a bombing range. Leaders of this effort invited me to come down and speak with them about the consequences of depleted uranium (DU) contamination that would result from the military operations. Studies have shown that at a similar bombing range at Eglin AFB in northwest Florida the military had used over 220,000 pounds of DU munitions. After a so-called "clean-up" effort by the military, a public health assessment at Eglin estimates that 90-95% of the DU remains in the soil.
The Florida folks forced a local referendum and won the vote by a margin of 75-25% opposing the range. For now they are happy with the results but fully understand they must remain on guard as these things tend to pop up again.
This Colorado fight is a classic battle between Mr. Big and the people. Our friend Bill Sulzman in Colorado Springs, one of the co-founders of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, has been working to support the ranchers. It's an example how local peace activists can come to the aid of those who are feeling the boot, here at home, of the ever expanding military industrial complex.