The Superferry Chronicles: A Book Review by James Heddle

I just noticed this book review of “The Superferry Chronicles” by James Heddle:
—-

“The sleek, aluminum mega-catamaran streaksacross the sea swells at forty miles an hour. Powered by jet engines, it rides high, skimming the surface on twin hulls that slice sharply through the water…and also, incidentally, accidentally through any dolphins, whale pups, sea turtles or, for that matter, human protesters that happen to get in the way.

Five stories high and a football field-and-a-half long, the superferry can carry 866 civilian or military personnel, 282 civilian cars and trucks…or an unknown quantity of Stryker Depleted Uranium-firing military tanks across the high seas and into shallow water on any island chain or continent. China, and other potential US rivals, please take note.

It’s the prototype for a new generation of US Navy attack craft. The superferry is designed as part of the Pentagon’s Littoral Combat Ship and Joint High Speed Vessel programs as their contribution to ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ power projection policy in the Pacific… not to mention all around the watery globe in pursuit of ‘American [Business] Interests.’

The superferry, which was apparently started as an quasi-idealistic business venture by small-time Silicon Valley software entrepreneur Timothy Dick, is now the pet project of John F.(for First Nuclear Strike) Lehman – a Nixon-Kissinger-Reagan-Bush-Pearl confidant, Project for a New American Century (PNAC) fellow traveler – and CEO, Admiral Thomas Fargo (former head of the U.S. Pacific Command). Both are major players in the American ‘defense community’ and its attendant, mucho-lucrative industries.

Poor Timothy was squeezed out long ago as the profitability potential – not to mention the military advantages – to be gained from the project came clear.

Light Bulb! Dollar Signs! This baby can become the catamaran that laid the golden egg – if the Navy contracts to mass produce it for world-around oceanic power projection.

Yet, in Hawaii the superferry is being spun as a benign, almost selflessly humanitarian, local inter-island transportation effort on behalf of (you guessed it) The People.

As such, it should be exempt from state and federal environmental impact laws. Right?

It should exclude from any democratic choice the local populations most affected by the sudden influx of tourists-and-their-trash, tourist car exhaust fumes, and practice invasions by Depleted Uranium-firing tanks. Right?

The US Government should underwrite the project with a $140,000 loan. Right?

Anyway, that’s what Hawaii’s counterpart to Alaska’s Sarah Palin, the ambitious Republican Governor Linda Lingle and longtime military maven Sen. Daniel Inouye , not to mention Norman Mineta, head of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) are using their considerable leverage to advocate.

Trouble is, The People aren’t buying it. And there’s the rub.

Turns out it’s The People’s ardent, courageous, and (so far) effective opposition to the project that has slowed it down and prevented the planned deployment of the superferry from its Honolulu hub throughout the islands. The authors report that, “…there is no sure victory yet…. [ but ] At least for now, the Hawaii Superferry does not go to Kaua’i, and the …protests have achieved legendary status on the islands.” As the book goes to press in the Fall of 2008, “…the boat is still running to Maui, as the legal battles continue. The so-called Environmental Impact Statement mandated last year by a special session of the state legislature is in process, though it is merely a disclosure document (unlike a real EIS under federal or state law), one that will not require the company to actually mitigate any environmental concerns.” But the resistance continues to be fertile. Ironically, the plan to link the islands by superferries has, instead, united the islands in grassroots opposition.

That’s the outrageous, galvanizing, empowering, unfinished story told in the just-published SUPER FERRY CHRONICLES by Koohan Paik and Jerry Mander.

Co-author Paik is a journalist, media educator and award-winning filmmaker based on the island of Kaua’i, the first target of the invasion.

Mander is a former progressive ad man, author (Four Arguments for the Abolition of Television, In the Absence of the Sacred, among other books), and director of the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), a San Francisco-based ‘think tank’ dedicated since 1914 to exposing the negative impacts of economic globalization.

SUPER FERRY CHRONICLES tells the global story behind the local headlines and scant national media coverage of this micro/macrocosmic struggle. It documents a new front in Hawaii’s long-term, on-going, unstoppable indigenous sovereignty movement. This movement has continued since US sugar-growers, backed by US fire power, deposed the indigenous government and land-grabbed via military annexation, a chain of pristine islands that would later become a state and a launch pad for US power projection smack dab in the middle of the Pacific.

As co-author Paik puts it, “ From an American geopolitical perspective, Hawai’i’s purpose has always been to function as mission control [her italics] for its military endeavors.” As this book makes clear, in this struggle, as in so many others around the planet, the local is the global and the global is the local.

The SUPER FERRY CHRONICLES weaves together a moving mosaic of informed commentary and in depth reporting by the co-author/editors with the voices of local activists and investigative reporters – including celebrated indigenous rights activist Haunani-Kay Trask – to lay the complex backstory bare. Forget about the latest 007 pseudo-thriller Quantum of Solace. This actuality investigative expose’ rocks!

As co-author Jerry Mander points out, the interlaced high geo-political v. local drama, the cast of heavies and heros, and the narrative ironies involved in this story make it ‘Hollywood Material’ for a block-buster feature film along the lines of Wall Street, Michael Clayton or Syriana. This is a real-life action-intrigue drama, he points out, even without (as yet) any murder or sex (that we know of so far).

Like indigenous and local rights movements in Africa, South American and Asia; like California’s so-far-successful citizen Stop-the-Spray movement to ban the rural and urban aerial and ground spraying of toxic pesticides; like the national grassroots Election Protection movement that helped prevent yet another stolen election in the U.S. this November, Hawai’i’s grassroots campaign against the ‘Invasion of the SuperFerries’ is one of a growing number of deep democracy eruptions that signal a new era of progressive planetarian politics.

Never before, in so many places – local, national and international – on every continent, have so many grassroots people, able activists, cultural creatives, progressive business leaders and elected officials been at work on so many issues. This timely book is one of a proliferating number of reminders that, rest assured, the immune system of the planetary body politic has kicked in and is rising to the cosmic occasion

Kudos and appreciations to co-creators Paik and Mander for completing the massive task of bringing this complex local/global drama in eminently readable form to the wide audience it deserves.

Given President-Elect Obama’s deep personal connection to the Islands, one can’t help but hope that this book will find its way into his hands and mind and heart and that he will use his good office to ‘do the right thing’ on this issue.”

One Response

  1. Just one correction:

    “The US Government should underwrite the project with a $140,000 loan. Right?”

    Actually that’s 3 more zeros, a $140,000,000 federal loan guarantee plus untold other Hawaii state expenses for this project starting with $40,000,000 by the state to build the barges for this.

    This does not include the additional millions of dollars of federal and state grants for facilities in Alabama to the Australian firm Austal-USA to build this prototype and related ships for the DoD in Mobile, including the just recently awarded DoD contract for a JHSV which was awarded at least 10 to 20% over budget by the Bush Administration on it’s way out the door.

    Aloha, Brad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I do this to keep the spammers away * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.