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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  • Brian McAllister

    How come EVERYTHING that this “people first” group wants they call a “human right”, and suddenly that means that it’s the governments job to pay for it? And everything that you disagree with is a “violation of human rights”?

    I am willing to bet anything that the majority of people in Burlington would fall in to two categories when it comes to this innovative and incredible piece of engineering known as the F-35. They don’t care, or they support it.

    Well, you know what “people first”, your violating my “human right” to be defended from foreign powers by opposing the deployment of the f-35.

  • George Cross

    What a thoughtful and considerate statement. Interesting that the Vermont Workers’ Center creates such a humanistic statement compared to the gobble-gook and political rhetoric spit-out by our congressional delegation, governor, chamber of commerce and GBIC luminaries. Maybe we have elected the wrong folks to office?

  • Brian McAllister

    My Congressional delegation is the same as theirs as we are Vermonters. Same for the Governor.

    When it comes to Schumlin, I agree, we elected the wrong person. He’s owned by Green Mountain Power, and other corporate interests, and he scammed many of us.

    As for “humanistic statements”, it’s all a bunch of crap designed to make them feel good about themselves and to engender class envy. The world doesn’t owe them or anyone anything. Not everything is a “human right” and if something is, that does not mean that it is the governments or anyone else’s job to provide it to you.

  • James Leas

    Human Rights were codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ The principles in the Universal Declaration were also codified in two treaties and are now part of international law, as described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights.

    Article 25 of the Universal Declaration lists rights at risk from vast military spending. The F-35 is the most expensive weapons system in history. And the F-35 is only a small part of that US focus on military spending that is putting other rights at risk.

    Housing is just one of those rights, and it is directly at risk from basing the F-35 in South Burlington. The Air Force says the F-35 is more than four times louder than the F-16 and that thousands of Vermont homes will be in a zone the Air Force and the FAA consider “unsuitable for residential use” because of this noise.

    1400 homes are also at risk because they are located in the crash zones of the F-35. The Air Force says the F-35 is likely to have a crash rate similar to that of the F-22 which the Air Force says is much higher than the crash rate than the F-16.

    The thousands of homes at risk from noise or crash are among the most affordable in Chittenden County. The F-35 basing in South Burlington is an attack on that affordable housing. The chief supporters of basing the F-35 here are political, military, and commercial leaders, some of whom stand to gain monetarily from the displacement of affordable housing. The F-35 basing is an attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our area promoted by some of the most advantaged people here. Commercial real estate developer Ernie Pomerleau is openly looking to replace that affordable housing near the airport entrance with commercial development.

    The human right to housing for thousands of Vermonters living in affordable homes will be violated by basing the F-35 in South Burlington. All of us should speak out to protect those homes and those families, to oppose removing housing to further enrich already rich developers, and to protect all the human rights encoded in the Universal Declaration.

    • Patrick Cashman

      Hmmm…The only threat I see in this to human rights are the fascistic tendencies of those who would seek to subvert our democratic system of representational democracy in order to substitute their own judgement for that of the people as a whole. The go-to move of the drum circle set at the workers center; referring to everything they want as a “human right”, is a perfect example. They cannot achieve their aims through our existing democratic systems, therefore they conclude they must subvert those systems by declaring everything a “right” that is somehow fundamental and exempt from decision by the general population. They pose a clear threat to Article 21 of this non-binding agreement: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

      • Fred Woogmaster

        Mr. Cashman: “democratic system of representational
        democracy” –

        Do we have that, still, Mr. Cashman, with the increased significance of money in elections and the ability of the super rich to influence those elections at all levels? I think not.

        Any subversion of the democratic process has come from the corruption of/by money, let loose by the easing of regulations and by the policies set forth by the international financial power elite, supported by both major political parties.

        Although I do not live in Chittenden County, I have become convinced that even if the F 35 is necessary for the defense of this country, Burlington, Vermont is not the ideal location – for many reasons, jobs and economics notwithstanding.

        Development, profit, commercialization and gentrification appear to be in the subliminal picture; created in the ‘windwake’ of the F 35.

        If only we could trust in the integrity of the process by which such decisions are made – free of dishonesty and corruption. The playing field is tilted. If it were not, Mr. Cashman, I would see things quite differently.

        • Patrick Cashman

          As soon as the “other guys” win via our system, the system must be wrong or comprimised. God forbid the idea that perhaps a majority of your fellow citizens don’t necessarily agree with your viewpoint. And since the system is broken you are then morally allowed to circumvent the system to get what you want, because obviously your viewpoint is the correct one.
          Makes perfect sense.

          • Fred Woogmaster

            Mr. Cashman: Your last comment puzzles me, especially if it was made in response to mine. Would you please elaborate?
            I see challenge, not circumvention.

      • Henry J. Smith

        The only problem I have with our “democratic” system is that when someone other than your party or person wins, we fault the system and automatically claim that the vote was rigged. Now in a two party system, an strong independent like Ralph Nader could suck enough votes away from a Democrat to let the other guy walk in, it is the only way we have other than going to a run off if the winners doesn’t get 50%+1 which I really do favor!

  • timothy price

    McAllister says:”..your violating my “human right” to be defended from foreign powers by opposing the deployment of the f-35. ”

    Right, like you want to feel security within the Empire from the people of the world who suffer so much from US military and economic policies. You have no “human rights” to protection; the Empire can not protect you from the world’s judgment. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Enough tyranny imposed by the Pentagon and the investors in war machinery, enough expansion of the banking cabal, enough militarization of Vermont’s economy, enough waste of resources. Let’s say “no” to the greed of the few and turn our efforts to doing good for the many.

  • peter jonigkeit

    This article lost me as soon as I saw F35 and climate change in the same sentence.

    • Peter,

      If you were to stand anywhere within a quarter mile behind an F-35 (or almost any jet fighter for that matter) while it was taking off; Your climate WOULD CHANGE.

      How’s that?

  • AA Cunningham

    No doubt Wolf received all of her “knowledge” on the Constitution and economics from Barry Soetoro himself.

    This nonsense serves as prima facia evidence that public education is a dismal failure.

  • Al Blow

    What a load of socialistic drivel! Human beings first and foremost have a “right” to freedom and liberty, end of story! And you might start by appreciating that you live in a nation both capable and dedicated to protecting and preserving those rights on your behalf! As opposed to, say, living in anyone of a hundred other nations in this world where your rights would be on par with those of dogs! Particularly if you happen to be born a female!!! Billions of people in this world only dream of the freedoms and liberty you take so much for granted, and gladly would give up every last thing they ever had in a heartbeat to live in an America that has the might to keep them safe and free! Words fail to express my contempt for the left’s incessant loathing of their own nations, including here in Canada.

    And don’t even get me started on the climate change garbage!!!

  • rosemarie jackowski

    The USA Military is the largest polluter on the planet. The Carbon Footprint of the F-35 will only make everything worse.

    BUT the main problem with the F-35 is that it is a weapon system designed to kill. The killing power of the US is already far beyond that of any other nation. This is a dangerous, redundant system designed to enrich Lockheed Martin.


  • Randal Murray

    I work next to the airport, every time the F16’s take off I am reminded of the brave men and women that are risking their lives to protect my family’s freedom. These are not war machines, these machines were built to protect us against the evils that don’t agree with a free country. We should be proud as Vermonters to have the honor to be chosen for the new planes. That says a lot about the men and woman stationed at the base in Burlington.
    The second reason these new planes are so important is that if we don’t win the bid for the new jets, when the F16’s are grounded the base will close. Has anyone been to Plattsburgh since there base closed? Not the best job market. We will loose thousands of jobs in our area that we can’t afford to loose. We need these planes in more ways than one.
    I recently was talking with a gentleman from New Mexico that lives in a town with the current f35’s flying, he listed to our F16’s and said that they sounded louder due to the higher pitch, the F35’s had a lower tone and did not sound as loud as the bad press leads on. Has any one in the article actually heard one? I’m thinking no.
    As for global warming, I think it’s time to find another thing to focus on. We live on a big ball that spins on a changing axis that is spinning around a huge ever changing ball of fire. Do you think weather doesn’t change? Of course it changes! It always had and always will, we have nothing to do with it! And it doesn’t slow down old Al Gore, think he’s driving his Prius to his speaking engagements, nope he’s flying. Air Force one has had some miles put on her as well in the last few years. But that’s different than protecting us from our enemy’s I guess.
    If you don’t like it here leave. I think you will find you have things pretty good.

    • Elsie Gilmore

      Your post was extremely logical right up until you failed to know the difference between weather and climate. Climate is an aggregate of all the weather that happens every day. http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/weather_climate.html

    • Mr Murray,

      The romantic days of the military are over, sorry.

      John Wayne is dead. You should read a little about some of our country’s true heros like Ike Eisenhower. Its too bad we Americans don’t even know our own history. The dumber our government can keep us, the dumber we will be.

      I’m surprised that you really think we are going to be invaded or need to police the world with such costly, loud and obnoxious weapons.

      I have a neighbor who’s in the guard who is undeniably the biggest threat to my safety than guys like you would be willing to admit. I feel sorry for people like VANG Captain Chris Gookin because it puts good people in very bad positions of having to lie, deceive and manipulate the truth just to achieve their political objective, OR in this case escape justifiably warranted discipline. I mean if I were to disclose some of the details of my experiences with Vermont Army National Guard, you might ask yourself “is this guy really telling the truth?” And that’s what this is all about: Telling the truth.

      Truth is Mr Murray Burlington, Vermont is not going to be invaded. We however have been invading PEACEFUL nations under the pretext of “National Security” and “Defence” for over a century now, and its time the American People WAKE UP.

      Your “pride” is based on some kind of romantic notion that Hitler is still alive and that we “Peaceful” and “Free” people will go and save our planet from him with these loud and obnoxious weapons of war. Not feeling any safer over here sorry Mr Murray.

      There is a HUGE difference between “Honoring” those men and women who serve our nation AND disagreeing with HOW our nation is being “served.”

      The MIC or Military Industrial Complex will kill us. There’s is no security in over establishing our military.

      “War” is a mutually sustained conflict between two entities.

      Is any nation (without the help of the CIA or the Pentagon) going to sustain any thing against the most powerful nation on earth?

      Its hard to fathom American Citizens actually believing we need more weapons to make us “secure” when in fact they are creeping us closer and closer towards the calamity of military intervention and killing innocent civilians.

      Please don’t sucumb to the false notion of needing “WAR” to make peace. It will only destroy us in the end.

      You should be planning on a peaceful future, not a future with weapons and “Wars.” Shame on you for being so deceived. No more FOX News for you Mr Murray.

      If the F-35 were truly here to keep the “peace,” it wouldn’t be so loud.

      Thank you Ashley Wolf…

  • Fred Woogmaster

    M. Murray:

    Although I disagree with your analysis and your conclusion, your perspective makes sense – until the last line.

    “If you don’t like it here, leave.”

    I have always experienced such sentiments as being offensive and simplistic. Certainly, you are entitled to say whatever you please; I served in the military so that you and I could enjoy free speech and participate in meaningful dialogue.

    I have no plans to leave Vermont or the United States of America, or Washington County, where I live. Like many other issues, this is a far more complex issue than meets the eye, compounded by the promise of financial gain.

    It IS my love for friends, neighbors, state and country that propels me to challenge bad public policy. I join those neighbors who oppose the siting of the F 35 in Burlington.

  • Randy Koch

    Wow, what an atavistic thread! “If you don’t agree with the government, shut up” “If you can’t shut up, leave the country” It leaves me downright nostalgic for the political dialog of the Vietnam War era.

  • Dave Bellini

    I don’t have anything against the F-35 is a military tool. I do have a concern about noise. I work in Winooski and the current fleet of jets can be extremely loud. Getting louder jets would worry me if I lived in an impacted area. Solve the noise problem and it’s a much easier sell.

  • Alex Barnham

    Noise doesn’t bother me…I’s deaf from all the crock music I’ve been abused by. Bombs don’t bother me, my home town was never blown up. I pledge allegiance to the reptiles that run this country with liberty and justice for all. I have absolutely no control over the check after I write it and dutifully submit and drop it in the pit.

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