The City of Seattle describes Discovery Park on its official website as “a place of peace and tranquility for all to enjoy.” However, the park and King County’s adjoining West Point sewage treatment plant are on a list of locations proposed for realistic combat training by Navy SEAL Team 3 at “68 sites more or less” in western Washington, according to unclassified U.S. Navy documents leaked to American journalist Dahr Jamail and published by Truthout.org last month.
The SEALs are one of the government’s special operations forces (SOF), which, as Matt Gallagher wrote last month in The New York Times, “often function as highly trained kill squads.” Gallagher, a former Army cavalry officer and Iraq war veteran, notes that SEALs and other commando units serve as a sort of Praetorian Guard, insulated from congressional oversight. Operating largely in secret, they help keep “the nonmilitary public wholly disconnected from the armed violence carried out in our name,” while enabling a “state of perpetual warfare.”
In Discovery Park, the Navy proposes to have SEALs conduct “Direct Action” training, simulating armed combat six to eight times per year. Other proposed training exercises include “Combat Swimmer,” “Insertion and Extraction” and “Special Reconnaissance.”
In 1961, President Eisenhower, a former Army general, belatedly warned of the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” whose “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the Federal government.” Fifty-five years later, with hindsight denied to Eisenhower, we can say that “the councils of government” — Democrats and Republicans alike — have acted largely to abet rather than “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence ... by the military-industrial complex.”
In the words of Eisenhower, we have witnessed “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” that menaces “our liberties” as never before and has given the lie to our “democratic processes.” Americans never voted for massive NSA data collection targeting U.S. citizens, deadly drone attacks on foreigners and Americans alike, or for torture to go unpunished. There’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that contemplates the deployment of U.S. SOF into 135 countries in 2015, as documented by seasoned journalist Nick Turse.
Of course, military service can be honorable. Gen. Douglas MacArthur perhaps said it best (though he did not always meet his own standard): “The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason for his being. When he violates this sacred trust, he not only profanes his entire cult, but threatens the very fabric of international society.” However, American elected officials have long betrayed the trust of our fellow citizens in and out of military uniform.
Indeed, the missions given to the U.S. military in recent decades are cloaked in the mere facade of protecting the vulnerable while representing a real threat to both American and international society. Presciently, in 1969, Gen. David M. Shoup, former commandant of the Marine Corps and a Medal of Honor winner, wrote that “America has become a militaristic and aggressive nation.”
The price paid in blood by foreigners and members of our “all-volunteer force” has seemingly been reckoned cheap by most of us. Now, perhaps with Americans subject to blanket surveillance in the name of national security, the slow, steady growth of military operations on U.S. soil, and a massive war-fed national debt, Americans will aspire to become the “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” Eisenhower called for to ensure that “security and liberty may prosper together.”
Proposed commando combat training in Seattle is the latest evidence of ever-growing “poisonous weed,” to quote Shoup, of U.S. militarism. Hopefully, Seattleites and other Washingtonians will soon join together to send the message to officials that military combat training exercises don’t belong in our parks. More importantly, perhaps the proposed invasion of sorts of Discovery Park/West Point will prompt some Americans to shake off the lethargy (partially induced by the election of President Barack Obama) that has enabled continuous U.S. warfare with its deadly, destructive and counterproductive global consequences.
Michelle J. Kinnucan is an honorably discharged U.S. military veteran. She lives about a mile from Discovery Park.