The people of Madison and Wisconsin say…
“That the F-35 is a first strike, offensive weapon designed to carry the most dangerous weapon in our nuclear arsenal, the B61-12 guided nuclear bomb. By virtue of housing the delivery vehicle for this nuclear bomb and training pilots to fly it, Madison becomes a target.
That the F-35 project will have a disproportionately negative impact on low-income people, people of color, and children. The Air Force has admitted this in its own Environmental Impact Statement.
That there will be an expected 135% increase in CO2 emissions. Long-term exposure to CO2 creates breathing complications and respiratory illness, decreased cognitive decision making and problem-solving, and heart disease.
That Truax Field will require more PFAS and chemicals to put out an F-35 fire, compromising the safety of Madison’s drinking water, which is already severely, and possibly irreversibly, contaminated.
That this project will cost taxpayers $1.7 trillion over its lifetime, and more than $30,000 per hour to fly one F-35.
Therefore, with all these concerns in mind, we call on you, our senator, to reverse your support of the deployment of the F-35 at Truax Field. We also ask that you pursue a new mission for the Air National Guard at Truax, one that aligns with our humane values of peace, equity, sustainability and overall concern for the health and security of our residents.
“Despite testing that found “forever chemicals” at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport two years ago, the Department of Defense has yet to move forward with a plan to address the contamination, putting nearby residents with private drinking wells at risk.
The Department of Defense was notified by the state Department of Natural Resources that it was the responsible party for contamination from PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — in ground and surface water near the airport in 2019, but no action has yet been taken, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.
The environmental advocacy group looked at publicly available data related to PFAS testing at DOD sites across the Great Lakes region and found that several sites, including Mitchell Airport, could be contaminating not only groundwater but the lakes that give the area its name.
Some of the highest levels of the chemicals were found in private drinking wells along the borders of the Milwaukee airport, said Jared Hayes, a policy analyst with the Environmental Working Group. And because no aggressive action has been taken since the discovery of the compounds, some residents in the area may not even know they’re at risk.
The department ordered that the airport needed to determine the source of the contamination, prevent future discharges and develop a cleanup plan. At the time, levels were not high enough to be considered a public health concern, but the department wanted the water utility to monitor levels.
Included in the testing results in 2019 were about six compounds, including PFOA and PFOS, two of the most researched PFAS chemicals.
Though recommendations at the time called for wastewater utilities to start measuring for PFAS, no such rules have yet been instituted, because the utilities are not the source of chemicals but merely a receiver as the chemicals are washed down drains across the state.
Milwaukee isn’t the only city to face a PFAS contamination stemming from its airport. In Madison, contamination stemming from the Dane County Regional Airport — where the 115th Fighter Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard is stationed — has been linked to high levels of PFAS in a nearby lake and some nearby wells.
On French Island, which is home to the La Crosse Regional Airport on one side and the Town of Campbell on the other, over a thousand people are receiving bottled water after PFAS were found in private drinking water across the island. Research into the airport’s past has shown that ongoing testing of PFAS-containing firefighting foam and foam used to put out blazes caused by plane crashes are likely responsible for most of the contamination.
PFAS are a family of man-made chemicals used for their water- and stain-resistant qualities in products like clothing and carpet, nonstick cookware, packaging and firefighting foam. The family includes 5,000 compounds, which are persistent, remaining both in the environment and the human body over time.
“It was 8 a.m. and the sleepy Afghan sergeant stood at what he called the front line, one month before the city of Kunduz fell to the Taliban. An unspoken agreement protected both sides. There would be no shooting.
That was the nature of the strange war the Afghans just fought, and lost, with the Taliban.
President Biden and his advisers say the Afghan military’s total collapse proved its unworthiness, vindicating the American pullout. But the extraordinary melting away of government and army, and the bloodless transition in most places so far, point to something more fundamental.
The war the Americans thought they were fighting against the Taliban was not the war their Afghan allies were fighting. That made the American war, like other such neocolonialist adventures, most likely doomed from the start.
Recent history shows it is foolish for Western powers to fight wars in other people’s lands, despite the temptations. Homegrown insurgencies, though seemingly outmatched in money, technology, arms, air power and the rest, are often better motivated, have a constant stream of new recruits, and often draw sustenance from just over the border.
Outside powers are fighting one war as visitors — occupiers — and their erstwhile allies who actually live there, something entirely different. In Afghanistan, it was not good versus evil, as the Americans saw it, but neighbor against neighbor.
When it comes to guerrilla war, Mao once described the relationship that should exist between a people and troops. “The former may be likened to water,” he wrote, “the latter to the fish who inhabit it.”
And when it came to Afghanistan, the Americans were a fish out of water. Just as the Russians had been in the 1980s. Just as the Americans were in Vietnam in the 1960s. And as the French were in Algeria in the 1950s. And the Portuguese during their futile attempts to keep their African colonies in the ’60s and ’70s. And the Israelis during their occupation of southern Lebanon in the ’80s.
Each time the intervening power in all these places announced that the homegrown insurgency had been definitively beaten, or that a corner had been turned, smoldering embers led to new conflagrations.
“U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan is a voice of sanity amidst all the partisan wrangling over the messy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Of course, he’s been frustrated by the disorderly evacuation process, and he has been outspoken in arguing for the rapid resettlement of refugees.
“The United States has a duty to honor its commitment to the Afghanis who helped our efforts, such as guides and translators,” he said. “We must ensure these refugees are allowed to reach our shores as safely and as quickly as possible.”
Yet he remains a thoughtful supporter of the decision to end the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
A longtime critic of U.S. military adventurism, Pocan supports the withdrawal as an acknowledgement of the reality that nation building of the sort that was initiated almost two decades ago by the administration of Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush was never going to work.
“You can’t go into a country like Afghanistan and expect to leave it with Dunkin Donuts and Disneylands,” he said. “And too often I think that that is what we try to do.”
What should we do?
While neocon hawks like Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney argue that the United States must remain a global police officer, occupying distant lands — including Afghanistan — conservatives of a more isolationist bent, such as Tucker Carlson, are warning against welcoming refugees from Afghanistan with the crude claim of, “First we invade, then we’re invaded.”
Pocan rejects each approach as wrongheaded and proposes an enlightened internationalism. He wants to use this moment to begin shaping a new approach to foreign policy that moves the United States away from reactive militarism and toward the diplomatic and humanitarian responses that forge a safer and more secure world.
The former Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair, who now co-chairs the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus, has introduced the COVID Defense Act, a plan to transfer 1.3% of U.S. military spending to global vaccination efforts.
The $9.6 billion shift in spending priorities, while small in the context of the Pentagon’s $740.5 billion budget, would more than double the amount of money available for vaccine production, procurement and distribution internationally. This move, Pocan explains, could enable perhaps another 30% of the world’s vulnerable population to have access to a COVID-19 vaccine. Doing that would curtail the spread of variants that threaten everyone.
“We can’t bomb our way out of a global pandemic,” the congressman said. “Right now, COVID is the greatest risk to our national security, as well as the world’s security. Shifting funds from weaponry and military contractors to producing COVID vaccines will save hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of lives around the world. At a time when America spends more on its military than the next 11 closest nations combined, we should be able to sacrifice a little over 1% of that to save lives, build global goodwill and actually make the world a safer, healthier place.”
The building of global goodwill is no small matter. By signaling that the United States is prepared to help the planet’s most vulnerable countries to address a global crisis, U.S. policy makers can increase their influence with regard to the pandemic fight and other challenges — including the climate crisis, poverty and regional conflicts.
“I can think of no effort,” Pocan said, “that would do more to positively position the United States around the world than distributing vaccines.”
– John Nichols
Yes. Cut the spending on profiteering waste and fraud. It is wrong for the US government to violate the rights of other people.
The US government is a gangster, not the world police. Murdering people to steal their resources or other reasons is a violation of their natural rights, human rights and likely their legal rights. Americans are not the only people who enjoy liberty.
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.