Editor’s note: Paul Fleckenstein lives in Burlington and is a member of the Stop the F-35 Coalition.
When several hundred people turned out to the Air Force’s draft environmental impact statement (EIS) hearing on basing the new F-35 bomber at Burlington’s airport (May 14), things didn’t begin well. For the first 20 minutes Sens. Sanders and Leahy, Rep. Welch, Gov. Shumlin and others issued statements declaring their unconditional support for the basing.
What about the nice flow chart laid out by the Air Force showing the environmental review process? Clearly, it didn’t matter. With contempt for the basic democratic process of a legally required review, Vermont’s political establishment confirmed that “Whatever the cost, environmental or social, it’s worth it.”
They were joined by an entourage of the local 1% who agreed that costs don’t matter. Another 20 minutes were taken up by the CFO of Fletcher Allen Health Care, the owner of Engelberth Construction, IBM spokespersons, college presidents, and other assorted Chamber of Commerce and business leaders invoking purported possibilities of economic calamity, protecting freedom, patriotism, the “war on terror,” 9/11, and the Vermont Guard’s role in Tropical Storm Irene response last year (although I missed the part where the F-16s aided flood victims) to push all recognition of F-35 environmental and social impacts off the table.
After this scripted attempt to intimidate anyone who dared to address the EIS, there were many great statements from people who actually read the document and care about what it says, and what it fails to investigate. Even with the poor F-35 data (the bomber’s development is not completed yet) used in the EIS, many things are clear: The F-35 will be significantly louder (maybe four times louder) than the current F-16s that bring classrooms to a halt and leave children cowering in their yards. The effect on affordable housing and working class neighborhoods will be significant, yet the EIS barely explores the subject. That the bomber’s mission is actually not wonderful, but as a plane designed to bomb the Middle East and Asia and potentially carry nuclear weapons, its function is widely unpopular. In fact, the F-16s have played a major role in the colonial occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here is a video from the U.S. siege of the city of Fallujah early on in the Iraq war showing the F-16 indiscriminately bombing a couple dozen Iraqis walking down a street. (http://globalresearch.ca/articles/BUN410A.html) Be prepared for your stomach to drop, but let’s be honest about the role of U.S. bombers like the F-16 and F-35.
This hearing was the “dog and pony” show that some F-35 basing opponents warned about. The next time the Air Force and the congressional delegation hold a “public” meeting on the F-35, a protest is in order.