We Don't Need a Bigger Army
by Doug Holdread

Tuesday January 30, 2007
As the bipartisan chorus rises to grow the U.S. military into an even bigger, more lethal juggernaut, Colorado ranchers find themselves threatened by an invasion by their own army.

Generals at Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs say that an increased training burden leaves them with a 5 million acre shortfall in training ranges. They claim that they need to triple their 237,000 acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site any way they can, including the use of eminent domain. Ranchers, who have worked their lands for generations, ever since ancestors homesteaded in the 1800s, are threatened with being forced from their homes.

Ranching in Southeastern Colorado is tough under the best of circumstances. In order to avoid overgrazing the fragile short grass prairies, cowboys distribute their cattle widely across the vast plains, while trying to avoid losing them in the canyons that have been cut deep into the landscape by the Purgatoire and Apishapa Rivers.

But these days ranching is especially difficult. Not only are they battling to survive a series of record breaking blizzards which have decimated their herds, but they find themselves fighting to defend their land against the U.S. Army.

Ranchers tend to be independent and self-sufficient. It’s not easy for them to ask for help. But they have learned from experience that they are going to need help in order to prevent the military from transforming Southeastern Colorado into the largest live-fire training range in the world.

Back in 1983 when the current Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site was established they didn’t have much help. They put up a tough fight, but finally failed to stop the military from taking their land. This time they’ve reached out to others to form the Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, (PCEOC.) Ranchers have joined forces with Native Americans, peace and justice advocates, environmentalists, archeologists, historians, paleontologists, educators and private property advocates, as well as business people and local government officials in surrounding communities.

There is no need for a bigger military and there’s no need for the military to gobble up another 5 million acres on top of the 25 million acres that the Department of Defense already has. There’s no need for the military to condemn ranch land and seize private property from American citizens.

The military’s claim that it needs more land is based on wrong-headed suppositions. Army documents secured through the Freedom of Information Act argue that the Piñon Canyon expansion is necessary because they expect the war in Iraq to continue for many years to come. It looks like we’re going to continue to lose more young Americans as they police Moslem neighborhoods of Baghdad. The prospect of a protracted war and occupation of Iraq is a bad reason to build a bigger military.

Tough talk by President Bush suggests that he may be planning to invade more countries in order to take control of oil resources, making it necessary to maintain armies of occupation in the wake of more pre-emptive invasions. He may see the need for a bigger military to achieve such objectives, but it represents an expansion of an already flawed policy.

If Bush is planning on inserting U.S. troops into more regional conflicts without seeking the support and cooperation of neighboring nations and allies, then he probably thinks he need a bigger military.

If his intention is keep feeding the military-industrial complex billions of dollars for high-tech weapons and awarding no-bid contracts to Halliburton so that it can continue to parasitically feed off of war, a bigger military will help.

But if we would return to the traditional mission of the military to defend the homeland, then we wouldn’t need a bigger military. We wouldn’t need to take land away from American citizens or turn Southeastern Colorado into a huge militarized zone.

If we would just give Iraq back to the Iraqis and bring our troops home, then we wouldn’t need to grow a bigger military and we wouldn’t end up destroy the fragile short grass prairies ecosystems of Southeastern Colorado. We wouldn’t need to decimate and displace the plant and animal species that live there.

If we would engage in diplomacy and cooperation with other countries to solve problems, we wouldn’t need to make those problems worse by imposing a bigger military, and we wouldn’t end up destroying the thousands of pre-historic and historic archeological sites along the Purgatoire and Apishapa River.

If we would work to free ourselves from Middle East oil we wouldn’t need a bigger military to seize and control oil fields. Instead of transforming Southeastern Colorado into a life-fire maneuver range, we could use the prairies to produce alternative energy from its abundant sun and wind.

The ranchers of Southeastern Colorado and their coalition partners urge that we use our military for defense, that we curtail corporate greed, that we practice diplomacy and that we devote our resources and ingenuity to solving the energy crisis. Then maybe we can keep our military from growing out of control and swallowing up the ranchers who live around Piñon Canyon.