Women for Genuine Security
Home About Us Projects Partners Resources Store Donate  

A WGS Quarterly Publication

country highlight march 2008

10,459 Miles From the Hot War: How Hawai`i Is Impacted During Militarized “Peace”
By Annie Fukushima

“Militarism means that a system of governance relies on the use of violent force to defend national borders and enforce foreign policy” – Darlene Rodriguez

“Militarism is a melding of socio-economic-political interests that operates as a nationalist engine, known as the military-industrial-media-congressional complex… It is a culture with tenets of patriarchy, hierarchy” – pete shimazaki doktor

A mini-survey [1] of different Hawai`i residents and their perceptions of how militarism impacts Hawai`i students/people resulted in a diversity of definitions of what militarism means: it is the exploitation of one nation-state over another that includes the exploitation of the indigenous/locals, it is a part of the everyday, it impacts families, it depends on notions of “protecting” the dominant nation and occupied territories, it is an expression of imperialism, and it is an institution.

91% of participants felt that the current war does not keep us/U.S. safe where the “‘war against terror’ in fact breeds terror” and another interviewee conveyed, “They only keep political & economic & patriarchal values ‘safe’ in a non-sustainable manner”. Those that felt safe responded that it was because the war was not in our own backyard; they were also part of the 55% who knew less than 4 people recruited into the military.

How far is militarism from Hawaii’s own backyard? Recruitment tactics have made their way into the everyday through the methods of: family, campus recruiters and tablers, the local recruitment center, “Drill Team” members of the JROTC, Junior ROTC, pizza parties sponsored by recruiters, ad campaigns, in-class presentations, and recruiting stunts that include, but not limited to: rock climbing, push-up/pull-up contest giveaways, hallway banners, military band concerts, memorials, video games, and commercials.

Survey questions were divided to direct inquiries at educators as well as at the person in the everyday. While the educators surveyed knew at least 4-5 students that were recruited or “more than I know”, the racial diversity of students recruited ranged, with Asian and Pacific Islanders (PIs) the most heavily targeted with white students close behind [2]. Such a statistic is not surprising for Asians (40%) and Whites (28%) that constitute majorities in Hawaii, however, PIs only constitute 9% of the local population suggesting that these populations are heavily targeted. But the tactics are not merely innocent. One interviewee shared his experience: “I’ve sat in and observed recruiting pitches: they actively employ tactics of fear and intimidation. For example, the recruiter calculated the realities of a minimum wage paycheck compared to a list of monthly expenditures that clearly exceeded the capacity to survive on a minimum wage paycheck.” While the benefits are promoted, what is at stake is clearly not. Another interviewee shared: “I think that while the military promotes the benefits of the military, they don’t say what the long-term effects will be for people deployed. And there is not enough support for the families.”

Families impacted by militarism often have a long genealogy of members serving in the military [3] where family members or friends in the military, in which those who knew someone in the military, 27% knew “too many to count” or estimated that 75% of the people that they know have been recruited into the military or discharged. While the numbers are based off a particular survey based on networks, what these numbers suggest is that those who are impacted by militarism from having a range of family members recruited into the military, are people heavily affected: 82% of those surveyed knew of an immediate family member in the military [4].

While anyone and everyone is targeted for recruitment, the recruiters are not racist in who can join, what do the statistics of who does join say? Similar to the findings on educators and their students, a majority of those heavily targeted by the military are PIs (including Filipinos). 36% of those surveyed conveyed that those they knew who were recruited, were recruited out of high school (27% were 17-18 years old when recruited). A younger interview informs us: “Most kids are forced into it because they leave High-school without a plan, and have no way to make money, so why not go to the military and serve our country?” PIs are also the most economically disenfranchised group in Hawai`i.

The linking of race and class with recruitment is necessary in order to understand why more PIs join the military. The military promotes benefits, in which 82% of those surveyed conveyed the reason for their family/friends joining the military were economic, other reasons included personal beliefs, a sense of “honor”/patriotic duty, and limited career choices. Although some conveyed that the military made family/friends more “disciplined” and for some, even more “adventurous”, or they met their wives, others experienced increased secrecy, the breaking a part of families (divorce), members suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the inability for fathers to be fathers, and for Kanaka Maoli [5] increased displacement of their people in which many that join the military do not return. One interviewer conveyed, “Overall, 90% of them are not pleased with it, or the way the military treats them. A few guys who were released from the reserves are still under contract, and can be called back in. They were also deployed for over a year, and it doesn’t help them find work, or return to their previous situations.”

In order to understand how militarism is a complex institution that makes its way into our homes on the television and newspapers, and even into our leisure time as advertisements exist in theater, for the people of Hawai`i, “Hawai`i’s economy is based off the military, tourism, and a tiny bit of exports, it affects everyone.” And the long term effects it has are generational, where an interviewee conveyed: “If we do not support and educate our youth, it will perpetuate another generation saturated with militarism.”

And while the cycles are astounding, this survey is only a beginning of conversations that are to be had. While 100% of those surveyed also knew of someone deployed to the Middle East, other countries included: Cuba, Germany, Guam, Japan, Korea, Philippines, UK, Vietnam (72% knew of someone who had been deployed to Asia, and 18% to the Pacific Island). We can not understand what is going on in the Middle East without recognizing the role the Asia-Pacific plays in militarism.

Myla was a migrant from the Philippines who migrated to Hawaii at the age of 16 years old. Soon after graduation she enlisted herself to join the army reserve in spite of her dreams of becoming a nun at the Daughters of St Paul. Because of her language capabilities of being able to speak both Tagalog and Sebuano the military targeted her. Myla is in a family where there are “too many to count” that have been recruited into the military, starting as early as the Vietnam War. Myla joined the military because of the benefits.

In 2005, Myla was deployed to Iraq. E-mails from the sisters at St. Paul shared with Myla’s family conveyed that she was scared about going to Iraq and was surely going to enter the order as soon as she finished serving her duty in Iraq. She had also been in school for years working on her Associates degree that she never acquired.

Before Myla was deployed to Iraq, her cousin said, “The day she was deployed she called us and her voice was very different. She sounded as if had aged 20 years as her voice had dropped several pitched. Her voice was almost unrecognizable and I suspect she was very scared.”

Myla served the Army Reserve Military Intelligence Unit in Iraq. When asked by family, ““from what it says in the news, that sounds really bad”, Myla responded: “not that bad… just interview people”. She was in Iraq for only for a month. On December 24, 2005, Myla was killed by a Rocket Propelled Grenade that struck the armored humvee she was riding in. She was 24 years old. She died on the way to the hospital on the road to Kirkuk. Her family doesn’t know what her mission was.

We thank the family of Myla for sharing this story with us.

DMZ Hawaii
Maui Peace Actions

[1] Method of snow-balling was used to conduct survey, 11 interviews total. Of those surveyed, 36% were students, 36% were teachers/educators, and 27% were other occupations including coordinators, Information Technology workers, or workers in social services. 64% of the participants are female, and the age range was from 18 to 45, with 28 years old being the average age. Their race is diverse, Asian (27%), Pacific Islander (27%), White/Anglo-Whites (9%), Mixed (27%), and unknown (10%). All participants are kept confidential.
[2] See diagram “Race of Students Recruited”
[3] Air Force (12%), Army (35%), Army Reserves (6%), Marines (6%), National Guard (23%), Navy (18%),
[4] Extended family member (54%, includes: Grandfather, Uncle, Nephew, Father's Partner's Children, Cousins, brother in-law); Peers (73%); and neighbors (18%). Numbers do not add up to 100% because the number is based on the percentage of interviewees that know extended family member, immediate family member, peer, or neighbor in the military.
[5] Indigenous Hawaiian.






Home About Us Projects Partners Resources Store Donate