F-35s, Toxic Sludge, and PFAS – Oh My! The Sorry Legacy of the Military Industrial Complex

John E. Peck, executive director, Family Farm Defenders writes on 8/13/21: As I write this article, the “sound of freedom” (to paraphrase our former Republican WI Governor, Scott Walker) is roaring over my home as F-16 fighter jets practice their take-off maneuvers from the nearby Truax Air Base. None have crashed (yet) in my neighborhood, though one did go down killing the pilot in a remote area of the UP of Michigan just last Dec.

I recall how when I arrived at UW-Madison for grad school back in the 1990s that Amish farmers had submitted an unprecedented petition to state elected officials, requesting the end of low level military flights (100-300’) in WI’s Driftless Region. The number of livestock miscarriages, buggy accidents, and cattle stampedes were almost too many to count. For a community built around pacifism, the ominous presence of such infernal war machines must be a constant spiritual challenge.  (photo: FFD joins anti F-35 rally in Madison)

The latest proposal to base F-35 fighter jets in Madison and other communities across the U.S. has renewed the public debate over the utility of our military, as well as its legacy. As part of his 1961 farewell address at the height of the Cold War, Republican Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the insidious influence of the military industrial complex. In another speech he lamented excessive military spending as a waste of scarce public resources – “the jet plane that roars overhead costs three quarters of a million dollars. That’s more than a man will make in his lifetime. What world can afford this kind of thing for long?” Half a century later, the F-35 has now become the most expensive weapon system ever developed – $1.7 trillion and growing, a final price tag per plane of $100 million. It costs twice as much ($40,000 per hour) to fly a F-35 compared to a F-16. Some branches of the military have already balked at this boondoggle and cancelled their Pentagon orders.

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