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A Missile-Base in Vermont

This week, the Vermont news media published stories stating that the Pentagon is considering building a Ground-based Midcourse Defense base in Jericho, Vermont, a small town near Burlington and Montpelier. When people think about Vermont, Jericho is what people think of; wooded lands, dairy farms, older houses and a blend of Yankee families whose roots go back generations and newer residents looking for tranquility, beauty and a good place to raise their kids. There is no reasonable argument for a missile base in Jericho, Vermont. Indeed, there is no reasonable argument for this missile base to be built anywhere.

It was barely twenty years ago that the United States shut down most of its silos containing missiles because their reason for being no longer existed. Even if someone believes that terrorists or another country will mount a major attack on the United States, the likelihood of this type of missile defense having any use is near zero. There is one big reason for this proposed site. That reason is profit for the corporations involved. The construction of this site is nothing more than a transfer of public monies to private corporations. It is very similar to what sports team owners do when they convince a city to build a new stadium except that missile sites are obviously quite lethal and with no redeeming social or entertainment value.

If one takes a look at the components of the system the Pentagon wants to place in Vermont, they will see that, besides the grotesque nature of the language describing certain parts of the system, the companies that will profit from its construction are quite familiar. Here are the basics:

Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) — Raytheon
Ground Based Interceptor (GBI) — Orbital Sciences
Battle Management Command, Control and Communications (BMC3) — Northrop Grumman
Ground Based Radars (GBR) — Raytheon
Upgraded Early Warning Radars (UEWR) (aka PAVE PAWS) — Raytheon
Forward Based X-Band Radars (FBXB) –Raytheon

According to a March 13, 2012 report in Business Insider, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman rank numbers five and three respectively in the list of the top US defense contractors. Orbital Sciences reported revenues of over a billion dollars in 2012, much of it made in the construction of missile systems components. These companies have yet to mount their campaign in Vermont trying to sell its citizens on the merits of having a missile base in their state, but when they do, it is essential to remember that their primary motivation is profit, not safety, security or Vermonters’ well-being. The amount of money this proposed base will cost to construct has not been published. However, the known costs to this point for the program average out to around $900 million per year. As of this date, only two such missile bases exist; one in Fort Greeley, Alaska and one at Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California. A third base was proposed for Poland and was canceled.

Not only should this missile base not be built in Vermont. It should not be built at all. Its proponents will tell the communities the Pentagon has pinpointed as potential sites for the bases that these missile sites will create jobs and bring revenue to their regions. This is mostly untrue. The majority of the people working at the base will be assigned there from other parts of the country and will be military and or government contractors. The amount of revenue brought into the region is unlikely to offset the costs of the environmental damage the construction and basing of the missiles will cause. Furthermore, the fact that almost a billion dollars a year is to be spent on an unnecessary defense system is obscene in the face of the economic situation faced by so many in the US population.

Vermonters are currently engaged in a fierce debate over the basing of F-35 jet fighters in their state. Like the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the F-35 is an unnecessary weapons system designed primarily to transfer taxpayers’ money into the pockets of Lockheed Martin (the nation’s Number 1 defense contractor). Many supporters of basing the F-35 in Vermont sum up their support with the phrase, “It’s the sound of freedom.” This is patent nonsense. Neither the F-35 nor the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system denotes the sound of freedom. No, the sound they are making is the sound of our hard-earned money being stolen from our children’s schools, our nation’s infrastructure, our hospitals, and our futures. The other part of that sound these unnecessary and fear-mongering weapons systems is the sound of the defense industry CEOs, the politicians in their pockets and the generals at the Pentagon laughing at our gullibility and counting their coin.

Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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