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Striking a Blow for Disarmament in Maine Shipyard

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Let us pause to honor Charles Fury.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have protested America’s bloated, out-of-control military, and millions more are outraged that the US spends upwards of $1 trillion a year on war and preparing for war. The protests and the opposition to military spending have had little effect, as the military continues to grow in size and cost, backed by a Congress whose members are bought by the arms industry, and a ruling elite that wants its global investments protected–at taxpayer expense.

Fury, 25, while perhaps not an opponent of the US military, with one little action, managed to do more to damage the US war machine than all those protesters and war opponents put together.

Reportedly suffering an anxiety attack in the cramped torpedo room of the USS Miami, a 361-foot-long nuclear attack submarine that he and a group of fellow maintenance workers were renovating at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, and wanting to get sent home early, Fury, a civilian painter and sandblaster, lit a small pile of rags on fire. His plan was to create a small conflagration that would force an early end to work that day. Instead, the fire he set spread and raged out of control for 12 hours, destroying the whole forward section of the massive vessel. Only one man, who fell through an opening on the deck breaking a couple of ribs, was injured by the 2012 fire.

The sub was destroyed as effectively as if it had taken an enemy torpedo. There was talk of repairing all the damage, but in the end, Congress has decided it is not worth the estimated $750 million needed to fix everything, and so the Miami is being scrapped.

A federal court, rejecting a prosecutor’s call for life in prison, sentenced Fury to 17 years for arson, but also ordered him to pay $400 million in restitution, a ridiculous sum that will leave him indentured to the federal government for the rest of his life.

But the real question is, why was the government in the first place spending hundreds of millions of dollars refurbishing the Miami, one of 41 Los Angeles-class attack subs that patrol the world’s seas and that, during America’s endless wars like Afghanistan and Iraq, actually launched cruise missile attacks? Why, more broadly, does the US have to maintain, at staggering expense, a fleet of 72 submarines — part of a navy that is larger by itself than the next largest 13 of the world’s navies combined?

The answer is that there is no justification for such a huge naval war machine, except to support a global empire. All those ships, including huge country-destroying Trident missile subs, 12 aircraft carrier battle groups, 22 cruisers and 62 destroyers and over 320,000 sailors in uniform, don’t make the US safer, and were unable, fighting along with the US Army, Marines and Air Force, to defeat rifle-toting insurgencies in Iraq or Afghanistan, or to stop terror attacks at home or abroad.

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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