The Common Good
January-February 2002

How About Your Backyard?

by Rose Marie Berger, Jodi Hochstedler | January-February 2002

After years of sustained international protests against live-fire training exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the U.S. Navy is looking elsewhere to play its war games.

After years of sustained international protests against live-fire training exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the U.S. Navy is looking elsewhere to play its war games. President Bush has said he would order the Navy out of Vieques in 2003, avoiding the embarrassment of a referendum scheduled for January 2002 that would have let residents choose between saying "adios" to the Navy or getting $50 million in public works projects, along with continued live bombing.

Among the alternate sites being considered are Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where analysts speculate that the Navy will reconsider the battle-scale exercises performed on Vieques in favor of smaller simulations using quieter "smurf" bombs. Local residents, including many former Marines, oppose any plans to bomb in their backyard because of the threat of stray shells and the impact bombing likely would have on tourism.

Discontent is spreading to other testing sites. The Navy nixed exercises in Texas after the Sierra Club threatened protests. Maryland and Virginia residents near a Potomac River testing range are raising an outcry about damage to homes from blast vibrations and the ecological and safety hazards posed by unexploded shells—which are showing up in fishing nets.

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