Boswell: These Jets Will Harm the People & the Pollution Needs to Be Cleaned Up

Dear Madison Alders, Please vote in favor of the Common Council resolution being consider this evening: “Responding to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Air National Guard F-35A Operational Beddown.”

You have all heard the obvious reasons to support this resolution, enumerated in its third paragraph: the impact the F-35 project will have in substantially reducing the quality and quantity of affordable housing; the decreased value of the property tax base; reduced opportunities for transit-oriented development; the ongoing soil, ground and surface water contamination violations by the Air National Guard and Air Force, which will be exacerbated by this project; and the significant adverse health impacts that will disproportionately affect children and low-income and minority residents.

These should be ample reasons to reject this ill-conceived project. But there are other broader reasons to be concerned about this latest attempted incursion of the military industrial complex into our community. When Pierre Sprey, the fighter jet designer and defense analyst, visited Madison several months ago, he told us with certainty that no F-35 in the country is presently equipped for nuclear weapons but every one would be in the future. The bomb that the F-35 is designed to carry is the B61-12, sometimes called the most dangerous nuclear weapon in America’s arsenal because its “dial-a-yield” capability allows it to be dialed down to “only” a third of a kiloton, making it a “usable” nuclear weapon.

John LaForge, a writer and anti-nuclear activist from Luck, Wisconsin wrote in the latest issue of the Nukewatch Quarterly that the U.S. plans to build and deploy 200 of these B61-12 bombs in Europe by 2022. Germany already has an older version of the bomb, against the wishes of 90 percent of the German people, but the U.S. plans to replace them with the newer weapon. (Do you think the people of Dane County will have a say in the matter when the Air Force decides to bring the bomb here, when the people of Germany do not?) Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey will be the other countries to get this “gift.”

And here’s the catch: Yes, the plane that carries the bomb is the most expensive weapon the world has ever known, but the bomb is hardly a bargain-basement deal. They will cost at least $25 million each, according to LaForge. I barely got through my math classes in high school, so I’m not even certain how to compute this, but I believe 200 X $25 million adds up to $5,000 million, if there even is such a number. And that’s only enough nuclear bombs for a few of our friends in Europe. Please let this sink in for a moment.

Our opponents at the Badger Air Community Council argue that this plane is good for our economy, with the paltry jobs the project will provide for a few active-duty Air Force and Lockheed Martin technicians. Meanwhile, we are in the midst of a pandemic where we find the richest country on earth can’t even scrounge up enough ventilators and masks and Personal Protective Equipment and doctors and nurses to save the lives of its own people.

Something is seriously out-of-kilter here. What the Badger Air Community Council calls an “economy” is nothing other than a modern form of mass lunacy. I write this as I hear the F-16s roaring over my head this Tuesday morning. Our opponents claim they are making us “safe.” How many Madison residents will die from the virus while these jets continue to make us safe by polluting our air and shattering our skies with their abhorrent noise?


In an article posted online yesterday, William Astore reminds us that the current pandemic is just the beginning. “Climate change promises yet more upheavals, more chaos, more diseases. America’s wanton militarism and lying politicians promise more wars,” he writes. Astore is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who has taught at the Air Force Academy and Naval Postgraduate School.

Astore questions our “massive and wasteful military spending” and asks what sense there is in investing $1.7 trillion to “modernize” our nuclear arsenal “to exterminate humanity when the old ones still work just fine.” He adds that “hundreds of stealth fighters and bombers–it’s estimated that Lockheed Martin’s disappointing F-35 jet fighter alone will cost $1.5 trillion over its life span–do nothing to secure us from pandemics, the devastating effects of climate change, or other all-too-pressing threats.

“To respond to COVID-19, climate change, and the staggering wealth inequities in this country that, when combined, will cause unbelievable levels of needless suffering, what’s needed is a drastic reordering of our national priorities,” Astore maintains. Major disruptions like the current pandemic create opportunities for dramatic change, he says.

This change can start with you. You can choose to continue down this road of lunacy and self-annihilation that some people call an economy. Or you can take a different path and show the rest of the world what is still possible. We have two options. Together we can choose to create an economy that serves people and helps to restore our battered planet. Or we can choose one that serves only the merchants of death.

Please choose the first option and vote in favor of the resolution this evening.


Tom Boswell