Crisis was catalyst for
The issue: A common purpose
brings together Malama
Makua and the Army.
For three years, the Army and a community group fought each other in the courts and in the public arena over the use of Makua Valley for live-fire training. With both sides entrenched in their convictions, the dispute seemed destined to continue. On Sept. 11, their differences were uprooted.
Through the dust and ashes of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Army and Malama Makua discovered a clarity of national purpose and mutual respect. They can take pride in their resolution where a deepening of conflict could have easily overtaken them, for in reaching an agreement, both made painful concessions.
The Army urgently needs the valley to prepare its soldiers for potential battle in a war against terrorism. It has not been able to train there since 1998 when it suspended exercises after fires burned through environmental and archaeological sites. When a federal court ruled that the Army would have to study the effects of its training missions, it did, but Malama Makua found the study unacceptable and filed suit. Under a settlement reached this week, the Army will conduct an environmental assessment that will go far beyond what Malama Makua sought. Recognizing that its needs right now are more pressing, the Army sweetened the deal to make it more palatable to the community group.
For its part, Malama Makua's agreement is a bittersweet concession. It had hoped that the valley many consider sacred would be spared further harm. It will yield to the Army in trade for the comprehensive evaluation, the right to enter the valley on occasion and to monitor the training's effects.
"The world changed on the 11th of September," explained Makua Malama board member Sparky Rodrigues. "That clouded the issue. 'Where do our loyalties lie?' people were asking. It was hard to separate Makua from what had happened."
"Sept. 11 has presented us with a whole new set of circumstances," said Maj. Gen. James Dubik, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division. "The issues that once divided us no longer seem as important as the cause that now unites us."
Indeed, if there is a glimmer of silver lining in the ugly fabric of the attacks, it is that Americans can weave a compromise when others try to tear us apart.
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