RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Boardman writes: "Opposition to basing the F-35 in a residential neighborhood is at least as old as the mindless official support, and the opposition has been much more articulate, thoughtful, and detailed."

F-35 fighter jet. (photo: U.S. Air Force)
F-35 fighter jet. (photo: U.S. Air Force)

Democrats and Progressives Push US War Machine in Vermont

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

01 February 18

Donald Trump loves the F-35 and so does Burlington City Council – that is the real state of the union

his is a story primarily about corrupt practices by the Burlington City Council, in its headlong determination to force a neighboring city to be the base for a weapon of mass destruction, the nuclear capable F-35 fighter-bomber (in development since 1992, first flown in 2000, still not reliably deployable in 2018, at a cost of $400 billion and counting). Yes, the premise itself is corrupt: Burlington owns the airport in South Burlington, so South Burlington has no effective say in how many housing units Burlington destroys in South Burlington to meet environmental standards for imposing the quiet-shattering F-35 jet on a community that doesn’t want it and won’t benefit from it. The entire “leadership” of the state of Vermont, mostly Democrats, has spent more than a decade making this atrocity happen, with widespread media complicity. And you wonder how we got Trump as President.

Opposition to basing the F-35 in a residential neighborhood is at least as old as the mindless official support, and the opposition has been much more articulate, thoughtful, and detailed. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat and Burlington native, has been enthusiastic about militarizing his hometown from the start, treating it as if it should be seen as an honorable piece of pork from the military-industrial complex. Independent senator Bernie Sanders, like Democratic congressman Peter Welch, has hedged slightly in his support, but neither has come close to a cogently articulated position, much less opposition. Governors of both parties have been cheerleaders, especially Peter Shumlin, who took a junket to Florida to listen to an F-35 and decided it wasn’t all that loud (which was shortly before he decided universal healthcare wasn’t all that necessary). Democratic mayor Miro Weinberger, a self-described person-who-builds-things, capsulizes the ostrich view of the F-35, saying, “I think this decision was made a long time ago, and I have not heard a compelling reason to reopen it.” He’s like everyone else in Vermont leadership who has chosen to challenge the Pentagon’s Big Muddy argument (“the big fool said to press on”), regardless of how bogus Pentagon claims have become and despite their lack of compelling reasons to base the F-35 in Vermont.

After decades of falling behind schedule, the Air Force still doesn’t have an F-35 ready to deploy in Vermont before September 2019, if then. With this in mind, F-35 opponents at SAVE OUR SKIES FROM THE F-35s decided to try to get the F-35 question on the ballot for the Burlington town meeting on March 6, 2018.

After drafting the petition, the SOS organizers presented it for approval as to form by the Burlington City Attorney Eileen Blackwood. Blackwood approved it. Volunteers gathered almost 3000 signatures in support of the petition, as approved by Blackwood. In the ordinary course of event, an approved petition with sufficient signatures goes on the ballot as presented.

That’s true even for petitions like the one from the Burlington Anti-War Coalition in 2005 calling for Vermont to bring US forces home from Iraq:

Full Resolution: “Shall the voters of the City of Burlington advise the President and Congress that Burlington and its citizens strongly support the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces in Iraq and believe that the best way to support them is to bring them home now?”

The city council supported this resolution, it passed in every ward in the city (as well as in 46 other Vermont towns), and it had 65.2% voter support in Burlington. That was easy in 2005, but thirteen years later, with a city council dominated by people calling themselves Progressives and Democrats, the idea of resisting the war machine became, somehow, troubling to at least three city councilors: Republican Kurt Wright, up for re-election, Independent David Hartnett, and council president Jane Knodell, a Progressive whose re-election to the council in 2013 was based in part on opposition to the F-35. She later voted against Progressive proposals to bar the F-35 from Burlington International Airport or to delay any basing decision. A tenured professor of economics at the University of Vermont, Knodell is considered by one fellow councilor “probably the smartest person at the table.” She has acknowledged a desire to be mayor.

Confronted with a resolution that they opposed, Wright, Hartnett, and the “smartest person at the table” decided to abort the democratic process, and to do it dishonestly. They decided, without getting a single citizen’s signature, to put their own petition to the voters, with diametrically opposed effect. They made the city attorney wobbly. The process could hardly have been more corrupt in its intent. None of the three councilors responded to an email inquiry asking, “What are you thinking?”

The SOS petition endorsed by almost 3000 voters is simple and direct:

“Shall we, the voters of the City of Burlington, as part of our strong support for the men and women of the Vermont National guard, and especially their mission to ‘protect the citizens of Vermont,’ advise the City Council to:

1) request the cancellation of the planned basing of the F-35 at Burlington International Airport, and

2) request instead low-noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record appropriate for a densely populated area?”

The SOS website offers 20 support notes and eight citations supporting the rationale of the petition. The Vermont National Guard mission – “protect the citizens of Vermont” – comes from the Guard’s website. SOS argues that “citizens of Vermont” includes the people, mostly poor and/or immigrant, whose houses are being destroyed and lives disrupted for the convenience of a warplane with no relevant mission in the region.

Knodell, Wright, and Hartnett started their hatchet job by chopping out the clause about the Guard’s mission protecting Vermonters. They didn’t say why, just let the collateral damage lie there. They lied by adding a clause at the end, “recognizing there may not be alternate equivalent equipment,” a lie of intent saved from being bold-faced by the inclusion of “may.” This is the Pentagon’s position, that there is no Plan B, but that’s absolutely dishonest. The only reason there’s no Plan B is because the Pentagon has stalled on the issue for years. They could make a Plan B tomorrow if they so chose. The Knodell amendment looks like a deliberate poison pill added in perfect bad faith. That impression is reinforced when you get to the preambulatory “whereas-es” the Knodell team put before the resolution to weaken it further, but enough already.

The Knodell team didn’t just run afoul of honest behavior and reasonable democratic practice. Their plan to put their own resolution in place of a properly prepared one looked to be illegal as well as unconstitutional.

This set up a confrontation for the city council meeting of January 29, at which F-35 opponents were prepared to object to Knodell chicanery loudly and strongly. The outcome was an anticlimax. The council voted 10-2 (Knodell for it) to accept the SOS resolution as presented. Only Wright and Hartnett dissented. Media coverage of the triumph of reasonable due process varied from straightforward to vaguely mocking to somewhat peevish to rather trivializing. None of the coverage talked about the attempted corruption procedure leading up to the vote, much less the corrupt cultural morass that the F-35 successfully masks with its stealth capability. As currently assessed by the Pentagon, the F-35 can’t shoot straight and has more than 200 other deficiencies, but Australia is going ahead buying 100 of them. An Australian military strategic thinker observed dryly: “It’s disappointing that there’s still deficiencies turning up fairly regularly in an aircraft that we’re already going to get about ten years later than we originally thought.”

The March 6 vote on the resolution is only advisory, so even if there is overwhelming support for an alternative to the F-35, what are the odds of such a democratic choice prevailing? This is the Trump era. He’s asking for the next budget to have $716 billion in military spending, and Vermont seems to think getting some of that money is more important than anything else.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

-32 # skylinefirepest 2018-02-01 18:55
What a crock of crap misleading story! The airbase was there before the housing...the housing built up around the airbase, as happens pretty much all the time. There are faults to be found in any new weapons system and they will be tweaked and corrected.
0 # economagic 2018-02-01 21:16
True, but not the point.
+11 # WBoardman 2018-02-01 21:17
skylinefirepest has a half-truth that distorts reality.

Even now BIA is NOT an "airbase," it is a commercial airport
with a National Guard VTANG installation. Technically a
"joint-use civil-military airport."

Ii 1920 it was a cornfield on a farm, leased to developes for a year.

During WWII, usage jumped with militarty training, then dropped off after the war.

In 1969, Burlington aldermen changed it from a "municipal" airport to an "international" (Canada) airport. South Burlington, where the airport is located, had no say. Ever.

BIA flight activity is only 6% military. Commercial growth has come to the profit of Burlington and private interests, not so much South Burlington.

VTANG was created in 1946 and based at the airport that August with F47D Thunderbots (prop planes).

VTANG is technically under the control of the governor of Vermont, but there's no record of any governor ever exercising significant control to protect the citizens of his/her state.

The airport is in the most densely populated area of Vermont. That did not happen yesterday.

VTANG and the USAF are advancing what amounts to military imperialism. Like any imperialism, it destroys what's in its way. In this case the destruction includes more than 200 affordable housing units and counting.

The destruction also includes increased health and safety risks.
VTANG has become a social predator without noticeable empathy for anyone else.
-4 # skylinefirepest 2018-02-02 17:09
Boardman, your comment proves my point rather nicely. Seems I didn't put out a "half-truth that distorts reality" at all, now does it?
+19 # Texas Aggie 2018-02-01 23:54
"they will be tweaked and corrected."

When? Development started on it in 1992. That's 25 years ago, and it still is a FUBAR in the works. If it could be tweaked and corrected, don't you think by now it would have been done? And since it is intended to serve all the different armed forces, it isn't adapted to any of them. It's primary purpose is to be a conduit for taxpayer dollars to end up in the pockets of the MIC. Any other purpose it might serve is tertiary and totally beside the point.
+41 # REDPILLED 2018-02-01 19:06
TRUE progressives OPPOSE militarism and imperialism.

These faux progressives are a disgrace.

Imperialist, corporatist Democrats have always been a disgrace.
+11 # Saberoff 2018-02-01 20:17
I'd also really like to thank our "progressive" senator, Tammy Baldwin, for her hand in getting those (badly needed) F-35s stationed right here, at our little Dane County Regional Airport! Every time those current F-16s strafe my house, and I hear my windows rattling and nearly fall off the ladder I'm using to clean my downspouts, I am so filled with pride; such a sense of well-being, and I just feel so safe.

Tammy, you have lost your way; not only in this matter but others I've been hearing of. And as you are up for re-election this year, in our purple rising state, I think you're done-for. (But, what the hell, once in Congress you receive your full annual pay for the rest of your life; so who gives a fuck?)
+10 # economagic 2018-02-02 08:56
Why are "our" representatives so reluctant to question anything the Pentagon proposes, no matter how costly or unneeded? Oh yeah: "That's the way we always done it."
+1 # Sam Seaman 2018-02-02 14:13
Given the need to recycle money through the military/indust rial complex, I`m all for the F-35 because it recycles billions of dollars through the American economy and it can`t kill anybody - bravo!
+5 # bsimpich 2018-02-04 01:03

This story is the story of our times. We can build on the lessons of the past decades - and start again in places like Vermont and California. We can - and will - stop the war machine. Stories like yours will make it happen. We will get our priorities straight. We will build a nation dedicated to peace, not war. Our numbers have never been greater. One by one, we will push the war machine out of the 435 Congressional districts in this country.
+1 # elkingo 2018-02-05 01:07
in Vermont - home of the town meeting? In Burlington, formerly Bernieville? Sheesh!
+2 # intheEPZ 2018-02-07 13:54
Time for Leahy to start packing. Bernie and Peter Welch need to listen to the people of South Burlington. I assume they are waffling because pork brought home plays well to some voters. But to the people most affected? Kinda doubt it.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.