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"The 51st State"

The Taos News
Published Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lila Garrett is the radio talk show host of “Connect the Dots” on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles. When she saw a map of the U.S. military’s plan to join an area of southern Colorado to northern New Mexico for a total of 60,160,000 acres of land or 94,000 square miles, as Not One More Acre ( has calculated them, Garrett cried, “My God, this is the Pentagon’s 51st state!”

The Peaceful Skies Coalition in Taos (  protests the plans of  the U.S. Air Force to use the 51st State for Low Altitude Training Navigation (LATN) of the CV-22 Osprey and C-130 Hercules aircraft out of Cannon Air Force Base. Pilots of the Osprey and Hercules want to practice flying over our heads at night at 300 feet altitude 688 times a year. Some Taosenos are concerned that if Cannon gets its foot in the door with the Osprey and Hercules, soon drones will be flying over the same area. The southern Colorado portion of the 51st State has a new worry.

Pam Zubeck, a reporter for the Colorado Springs Independent, describes Fort Carson as planning to bring in a heavy Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), which will include “113 helicopters and 2,700 soldiers to train more than 20,000 hours a year.” The helicopters are comprised of “UH-60 Black Hawks (medium lift helicopters), AH-64 Apaches (attack heavy), and  CH-47 Chinooks (heavy lift helicopters)” as well as 12 Grey Eagle Drones, which, although not listed, one commenter sites as being part of the heavy CAB package. Also, supporting aviation operations will be between 600 to 700 wheeled vehicles and trucks. The estimated annual flight hours of this CAB is 14,880.

The sham Environmental Assessment (EA) of Cannon’s LATN pilots practicing over northern New Mexico asserts that they would make little impact on the environment. Similarly, a separate EA, released on January 3, on the effect of Fort Carson’s combat aviation brigade, also claims that in all categories—including land use, air quality, noise, geology, soils, water resources, cultural resources, biological resources, hazardous and toxic substances—the impact to the environment is “less than significant.”

Zubeck points out that “with the CAB will come new construction of facilities for brigade, battalion and company headquarters operations, replacement and additional aircraft maintenance hangars, vehicle maintenance shops, and storage units.” The EA says the CAB soldiers will need new barracks, a physical fitness facility and a dining facility near their operations. And, of course, this construction will require new roads, new sewage and water systems, as well as a new central energy plant for heating and cooling CAB facilities.

One commenter sees the low-level flight training route between Fort Carson and Pinon Canyon--sometimes as low as 50 feet or “as low as vegetation and obstacles permit”—as a possible “unconstitutional taking of private property.” Not One More Acre also sees threat to America’s last intact short grass prairie.

Is this how we want to live—in the 51st state? Do we want our golden silence, our peace commandeered by the military? Do we want ourselves, as well as earth’s animals, both wild and domestic, subjected to the stresses of war? Do we want our land torn up and air and water polluted?

What nation has attacked us? What nation could conceivably compete militarily with the U.S.? Iraq’s best weaponry were roadside bombs made of fertilizer. The Osprey, Hercules, attack helicopters, drones and boots on the ground are already pitifully obsolete instruments of war compared to nuclear weapons; and if life is to survive on this planet, everyone knows that nuclear weapons should never be used again by any nation. War itself has become obsolete.

With President Obama calling for cuts in the military budget, why does our nation squander its wealth on supporting more and more lethal military research? Nick Turse, author of “The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives,” says the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for example, spends some $3 billion a year not only developing such things as the Hellfire-missile-equipped Predator drone but studying the use of “insect-cyborgs, possibly enabled by…integrating microsystems within insects during their early stages of metamorphoses,” that is, changing dragonflies into spy drones and weaponizing moths. Really.

Not One More Acre recommends calling Colorado's Senator Mark Udall (202-224-5941) to tell him to stop pushing for the new Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Carson.

Occupy Wall Street, come occupy the 51st State!

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