Monday January 21, 2013

In a 1967 speech against the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King Jr. said: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

President Eisenhower first warned about this in his 1961 farewell address when he said: "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed Š In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."

Yet, in spite of these warnings, the military-industrial complex continues in control of our state of permanent war. As evidenced by the Fiscal Year 2013 discretionary budget (source: Wikipedia), over 52 percent is allocated to military programs including the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, National Intelligence and nuclear weapons; 5.


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3 percent is allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education is allocated 4.4 percent. Yet each day we read in our papers how federally funded programs for health care are to be cut; nutrition support in schools and food stamps are to be cut; farm subsidies are to be cut; grants and loans for college education are to be cut and three million more homeowners are facing eviction as their mortgages are foreclosed.

Even our beautiful green mountain state of Vermont is not exempt from the power of the military-industrial complex because the federal government is planning to base its new Joint Force F-35 interceptor aircraft at the Burlington International Airport. The F-35 reflects the "cutting edge" of aircraft design by combining speed three times the speed of sound with state of the art defensive weapons systems and electronically incorporating weapons and instrument displays on the pilot’s helmet visor.

In addition, the latest stealth technology renders the airplane invisible to enemy radar. The F-35 also happens to be the most expensive weapons system ever bought by the Pentagon. It is estimated that the 2,441 aircraft to be ordered will cost, at today’s prices, a total of $396 billion. Do the math: each one of these planes will cost $162 million. EACH. Vigorous opposition to the F-35 basing is being led by the "Stop the F-35" consortium, a group of citizens led by The Peace and Justice Center of Burlington, The Vermont Coalition for Peace and the Vermont chapter of Veterans For Peace.

"A time comes when silence is betrayal" is what Martin said about ending the war in Vietnam. He continued with: "The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world." Now is the time to speak out against the obscenity of our national addiction to permanent war by blocking the F-35 basing at Burlington.

Let us not only hear but act on what Martin said: "A time comes when silence is betrayal."

ANDREW SCHOERKE

Shaftsbury