By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Staff Writer
Saturdays show-and-tell by the Army at Makua Valley was all about simmering emotions. All the obvious scripting and rehearsing didnt stop some of the soldiers from losing their cool over the more challenging community questions. All the hoo-rah military pride didnt overshadow the fact that the Army knows it hasnt done right by the land. All the camouflage didnt hide how mad some of the soldiers are that they have to answer questions from civilians.
Some of the more PR-savvy soldiers squirmed in their boots to hear their cocky comrades bark out, "We know we will not damage Makua Valley."
Some of the skeptics dared to speak up: "How do you know?"
But no answer seemed to satisfy.
The Army wouldnt address questions about human error, misfires and bad aim. Not even possible, the public was told. We only shoot at the targets, and the targets arent near anything sensitive. And all I could think was, gee, they cant even stop some of these guys from misfiring their mouths, how are we supposed to believe their aim is 100 percent accurate?
To look at the slope of the valley walls at Makua, the cradle of splendor, the folds of green and blue, is to see a Hawaii long gone from much of our Islands. Having trucks and guns and weapons so big they come with wheels shooting up the place seems like letting bulls run through a china shop, even if theyre promising to be very nice, respectful bulls.
But it seems the painful reality is that, at least right now, if Makua were out of the Armys hands, the land would suffer more than if the Infantry were shooting up the place. With the Armys presence, theres money to care for the endangered species. Theres also no chance of a resort popping up in the valley. Give the land back to the state and watch the governor hacking Titleists across the fairways of the Makua Grande Golf Course in no time flat.
No, sadly, whats best, at least for now, is to let the Army use the place and live up to its promises to pick up after itself.
The Army is trying, as much as the military can, to make compromises. The Army now readily admits to damaging Makua in the past.
But the Army needs to take the next big step. The balance needs to shift. The military is still calling itself "good stewards" of the land. Theyre not the stewards. Theyre renters who dont pay rent and messed up the place but are promising to do better.
The Army needs to do a full environmental impact statement and not this half-assessment. They need to have the community involved more than a one-Saturday-a-year juice-and-cookie day. And they need to say, "Please can we stay?" and mean it. Especially the "Please."
Lee Catalunas e-mail address is email@example.com
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