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The Pentagon Gets What It Wants (Again)

A couple months ago, the Pentagon announced it would proceed with its plan to base the F-35 death planes at Burlington, Vermont’s airport. The news was met with surprise by many Vermonters. After years of fighting the basing, these Vermonters believed that the democratic process which Vermont prides itself on would win over the military and a political system bought and sold by the industry that beds down with that military. Those in favor of the planes’ basing stated that businesses around the Vermont National Guard base would fail if the planes were not based in Vermont. This was simply not true. Also not true was their claim that the basing will provide a massive influx of jobs. Despite the projections of pro-basing advocates (who claimed over a thousand jobs might be at risk), the number of jobs in play was never more than a couple hundred. Of those jobs, several were military and will probably be filled not by Vermont residents but by military members temporarily stationed in Vermont.

The amount of money spent to design and build the F-35 is incredible. Each plane costs millions of dollars. Literally. Tens of millions. In an economy whose primary attribute is the exponentially expanding difference between the wealth of a few versus the growing poverty of the many, the plane’s continued funding is inexcusable. If your name is Senator Bernie Sanders, supporting the plane’s construction is inexcusable in itself; to demand that it be based in the state you represent in Congress is telling the people of that state you do not care about their heating costs, their children’s schools, or the fact that their dollar buys less every paycheck. To support that basing when many people voted for you precisely because you ran against military boondoggles, war, and the ever expanding corporate state is just plain insulting. Questions about this contradiction are something Senator Sanders must answer in his next election campaign. Given his recent suggestion he might run for President, he may well be answering those questions on a much bigger stage than that afforded him in Vermont. No matter what, the questions should be asked—until he answers them.

The support of Vermont’s other senator, Patrick Leahy, comes as no surprise. After all, among his top campaign contributors one can find at least two of the world’s largest war profiteers: General Dynamics and General Electric. Furthermore, his former top Senate staffer, Daniel Ginsberg, is an assistant secretary of the Air Force. In addition, Leahy’s seat on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense and its power in determining how much money the Pentagon gets every year, may well have influenced the Pentagon’s decision. According to a Boston Globe story, however, even Leahy has something of a problem with the overall cost of the plane.

In what can only be described as a cynical decision that illustrates the nature of a political system dominated by an unholy bond between Wall Street and the Pentagon, that same story reported that Leahy’s office said that, since the development of this plane was going to happen, then Vermonters should get their fraction of the war machine’s silver. Like the majority of the Burlington City Council’s support of war criminal Lockheed Martin’s “green plan” to set up shop in Vermont a few years ago, it seems that almost every Vermont politician has their price.

There is an alternative to the cynical attitude that rationalizes taking blood money since, after all, somebody will and it might as well be Vermont. Instead of accepting the status quo that bleeds taxpayers dry in the name of national security, citizens can demand politicians work towards creating genuine security that is not based on a constant threat of war. Monies demanded by corporations whose interest lies in the creation and maintenance of fear could be used to rebuild communities, beginning with those ravaged here by the corporate search for greater and greater profit. The transference of taxpayer monies to profiteering arms manufacturers and their cohorts in the Pentagon should end. Despite the overwhelming mainstream media message telling us otherwise, such a scenario is possible.

The nature of our political system does not even require politicians to be corrupt in any legal sense of the term. The domination of that system by what Dwight Eisenhower termed the military-industrial complex is so complete even supposedly antiwar representatives will rationalize their acceptance of the status quo. Consequently, Vermonters saw Bernie Sanders support the funding of Washington’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. Earlier, voters in Vermont were subjected to his vocal, insistent and even combative support for Bill Clinton’s bombing of Yugoslavia. While both Sanders and Leahy decry elements of the National Security Agency’s surveillance of hundreds of millions of people around the world, they lend their support and signature to a plan to base elements of the armed wing of the warfare state in Burlington.

The NSA surveillance and the F-35s are part of the same machine. They are all included in the umbrella known as national security and they are all part of a system that manipulates the public with fear and nationalism. To make it worse, this is all done in the name of freedom; a freedom that is chipped away each and every time a phone call is recorded, an email logged, a fighter plane flies over, and a dollar given to the Pentagon. There is a reason big business supports the basing of the F-35s in Vermont. They hope to get a piece of the supposed bounty those planes will bring. The health of their lesser customers is irrelevant. The Pentagon and its corporate buddies are moving in. If it is in their way, they will take your house (if it’s in their flight path), your tax money, and someday, maybe even your child.

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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