Welch Questioned about the F-35
Fighter Jet During Public Radio Debate
James Marc Leas / SubStack
(June 25, 2022) — A US Senate candidate asked a brilliant question of candidate Peter Welch during the VPR debate on Wednesday, June 8, 2022:
“Congressman, the people of Burlington, South Burlington, and Winooski have voted multiple times against the F-35 fighter jets. The Burlington City Council voted 9 to 3 to have them removed. You took tens of thousands of dollars from Lockheed Martin and other military contractors, weapons manufacturers that were backing and servicing those F-35s. Shouldn’t we listen to the Vermonters, the people who are most affected, and get those out of our state?”
“I was not involved in the decision about where those F-35s were located.” (You can listen to all his diversions from the actual question at approximately 34:25 on Youtube].
The Air Force Times, Senator Leahy’s website, and Bernie Sanders’ website all stated that Vermont’s senators and lone congressman issued joint statements pushing for the F-35 basing at BTV. VTDigger reported how the congressional delegation divided their roles to foist the F-35 on an unwilling public: “While Leahy has been the chief backer of the F-35 basing within the delegation, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Rep. Peter Welch supported from the sidelines and helped to deflect any public criticism.”
The false statement by Peter Welch on VPR denying any role in the F-35 basing decision serves as an admission that he is not proud of his role.
Long before the F-35 jets arrived in South Burlington, the US Air Force wrote in its 2013 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that 2,963 Vermont households would find themselves in the oval-shaped target zone blasted by the 115-decibel F-35. Among them, some 1,300 children.
In Volume II of the EIS, the Air Force wrote that repeatedly exposing children to that level of military aircraft noise can cause hearing damage (p. C-25) and impair learning (p. C-30) Since the arrival of the F-35 in 2019, more than 600 Vermonters have filed reports of pain, injury, distress, hearing damage or suffering.
No Successes — Except to Hurt Vermonters
The “success” of Vermont’s leading politicians at foisting the F-35 basing on Vermont cities was in sickening contrast to their failure on a long list of critical items that includes the green new deal; Medicare for all; abolish student and medical debt; expand social security and Medicare; housing for all; care for Veterans; abolish police misconduct; card check and the right to organize a union; workplace democracy; abortion rights; tax the rich, abolish money in elections, end gun violence, free public education from child care through college; slash the Pentagon budget; end mass surveillance; no censorship; and abolish regime-change wars.
Nuclear-bomb-delivery Vehicles in Cities
The 2018 DoD Nuclear Posture Review said that “The United States is incorporating nuclear capability onto the forward-deployable, nuclear-capable F-35.” Right now 8 Vermont F-35 jets are forward-deployed, armed with missiles, and “policing” countries in Eastern Europe while the US conducts a proxy war against Russia in the Ukraine. Such use of the F-35 inevitably makes the airport in South Burlington a legitimate military target for Russian and Chinese nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.
Human Shielding Is a War Crime
Peter Welch’s decision to join with other top Vermont politicians to base such a high value weapon as the F-35 in a densely populated city was a knowing, deliberate, and intentional abuse of thousands of working class Vermonters as human shields — which is a war crime.
A congressman or senator who served the people instead of the war-makers would take action to stop the mass suffering. He or she would tell commanders that F-35 basing in cities violates US law and the Pentagon’s own regulations, including DoD Directive 2311.01, that requires units to “act consistent with the law of war’s fundamental principles and rules” in all military operations.
Violations of the Law of War
Training with the F-35 in cities violates the law-of-war principle of “distinction,” which expressly requires separation of military forces from populated areas. It violates “military necessity,” as the training can equally or better be accomplished from a runway remote from cities.
Commanders violate “humanity,” as for training in cities they use the F-35 in a manner for which it was not designed causing unnecessary suffering (p. 68). And they violate “honor” by using cities full of civilians as human shields for the F-35.
A genuine representative of the people would tell commanders to get the F-35 the hell out of the Burlington Airport now. And out of any other populated area.
Along with Governor Phil Scott, Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, Peter Welch is among the chief purveyors of state-sponsored violence against thousands of working-class Vermonters in Burlington, South Burlington, and Winooski.
Keep Asking Ouestions
So during this election campaign, when you have the chance to question Peter Welch, Phil Scott, or any other politician, ask whether he or she will take action to stop training our airmen with F-35 jets in Vermont cities? Tell them the Constitution (Art. 1 Sec. 8 Cl. 16) expressly gives the states full authority over Guard training — so Vermont has all the power it needs to halt the F-35 training in populated areas.
Tell them that under US law and US military regulations the training in cities is illegal. And that training our airmen where they hurt and injure civilians is actually training to violate the law of war. The election is the time to hold all elected officials to account. Keep raising the F-35 question.
ACTION: Write or call your public servants and demand an immediate halt to F-35 training in cities.
• Governor Phil Scott 802-828-3333
• Chief of Staff <Jason.Gibbs@vermont.gov>
• Vermont National Guard’s Complaint Line: 802-660-5379 (Note: the Vermont Guard told a reporter that it received over 1400 noise complaints. But the Guard won’t release what people said).
• Submit your report & complaint to the still-active online F-35 Fall 2021-Winter 2022 Report & Complaint Form: https://tinyurl.com/5d89ckj9
• Graphs. See all the graphs and in-your-own words statements on the F-35 Spring-Summer 2021 Report & Complaint Form (513 responses): https://tinyurl.com/3svacfvx.
• Links. See links to the graphs and in-your-own words statements on all four versions of the F-35 Report & Complaint Form since Spring 2020, with a total of 1670 responses from 658 different people plus 70 more on the still-active form.
- Senator Patrick Leahy 800-642-3193
- Chief of Staff<email@example.com>
- Senator Bernie Sanders 800-339-9834 <Senator@sanders.senate.gov>
- Congressman Peter Welch 888-605-7270
- Chief of Staff<firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Burlington City Council <email@example.com>
- Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott <email@example.com>
- S. Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Williston Select Board Chair Terry Macaig <email@example.com>
- VT Senate President Becca Balint <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- VT House Speaker Jill Krowinski <email@example.com>
- Attorney General TJ Donavan <DonovanTJ@gmail.com>
- State Attorney Sarah George <Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Vermont’s Federal Prosecutor <email@example.com>
- Adjutant General Brig Gen Gregory C. Knight <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Major J Scott Detweiler <email@example.com>
- Wing Commander Col David Shevchik firstname.lastname@example.org
- Vermont National Guard Inspector General Lt. Col. Edward J Soychak <email@example.com>
- US Air Force Inspector General Lt. Col. Pamela D. Koppelmann <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall <Frank.Kendall@us.af.mil>
James Marc Leas is a Vermont patent attorney and activist who has published on Truthout, Counterpunch, VTDigger, NY Times, LA Times, Vermont Law Review, and the Vermont Bar Journal.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.