Wolf: Stationing F-35 warplanes in Vermont is incompatible with human rights

Editor's note: This op-ed is by Ashley Wolf, a member of the Vermont Workers' Center Coordinating Committee. She lives in Burlington.

I am writing as a member of the Vermont Workers’ Center Coordinating Committee, but first, and foremost, a member of the Burlington community. As such, I feel it is imperative to address the rudimentary ways the stationing of F-35 warplanes in the Burlington community not only infringes on the fundamental human rights of Burlington community in a myriad of ways but represents more systemic form of oppression that I know does not align with the values of our community. I would like to share the Vermont Workers’ Center official statement we wrote of why we oppose this:

The Vermont Workers’ Center urges our congressional delegation to stand up against the stationing of the F-35 warplane at Burlington Airport and against the wasteful and dangerous military policy of the U.S. government. A great many local residents and community groups have opposed basing the F-35 in Burlington for a great many reasons. Today, the Vermont Workers’ Center is announcing its position in opposition to the warplanes for two core reasons grounded in human rights principles.

The misplaced and wasteful spending on warplanes is a prime example of why we need a People’s Budget that respects our human rights and has the clear purpose of advancing equity and dignity in our communities.

1. Our government is responsible for using public funds for public goods, not for weapons of war. Public funds must be used first and foremost to meet the fundamental needs of our communities. Yet even in this time of economic recession and increasing poverty, the biggest part of the federal budget continues to go toward military spending, including weapons of war such as the F-35. We call upon our government to redirect these public funds toward the public goods that help meet the significant unmet needs in our communities, such as health care, housing, jobs, education, food, and social security. The misplaced and wasteful spending on warplanes is a prime example of why we need a People’s Budget that respects our human rights and has the clear purpose of advancing equity and dignity in our communities. Instead of cutting federal, state and local budgets and eliminating much needed public services and programs, our representatives must review the economically and environmentally unsustainable effects of out-of-control military spending. Burlington must not become another victim of behind-the-scenes deal making that puts special interests before the will and rights of the people.

2. Public development policies and subsidies must benefit our community as a whole. Any development initiative must be grounded in the human rights of our communities and advance equity and dignity among all residents. Among the greatest development needs in Burlington are affordable, safe housing and good sustainable jobs. Stationing of warplanes in a densely populated residential neighborhood has already lead to a loss of over 200 homes and this proposal could lead to thousands more lost, in an area where many people are unable to realize their basic human right to affordable housing. Development initiatives must never be conceived as a trade-off between different community needs, such as housing or jobs, economic development or environmental protection. Moreover, in this case, the military program is not expected to generate sustainable and good jobs for local residents. Yet its potential human rights violations are clear: high noise levels will pose significant health risks for residents, schoolchildren and churchgoers in large parts of our town.The F-35’s excessive fossil fuel consumption will contribute to climate change, jeopardizing our right to a healthy environment and livable planet.

We call on our elected officials to stop the proposed stationing of F-35 warplanes in Burlington or anywhere else in Vermont or the United States. We call for public policies that protect our human rights, meet the needs of our communities, and enable the participation of all people in the policy decisions that affect our ability to live a life with dignity.

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