Monday, May 21, 2007

Can Maine move away from defense profits?

It’s dicey to criticize shipbuilding when you live near Maine’s Mid-coast region. For those readers from away, this area of Maine is where you’ll find one of the nation’s largest shipbuilders, Bath Iron Works, BIW for short, or “the yard,” to locals.

In a state that has a paucity of living wage, benefit rich occupations and employers, criticizing BIW is akin to looking a “gift horse in the mouth” to many a resident of this region. Regardless of jobs and economic benefit however, BIW builds destroyers and these ships are used to kill.

Bruce Gagnon, who is the coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, writes about the recent christening of another destroyer at Bath and his subsequent, regular protest of another BIW “christening.” (Anyone else see the irony in calling it a “christening?”)

Gagnon also writes about the local media’s coverage and spin regarding the launch of the USS Sterett, which oddly, is how I perceived the coverage, when I saw it broadcast on my local TV affiliate. My first thought was why they were spending so much time talking about the rescue mission of the ship’s namesake, an event that happened more than two decades prior, if not to “spin” it.

As Gagnon notes, “these Navy Aegis destroyers are the ships that launched the first cruise missile volley in the U.S. "shock and awe" attack on Iraq in 2003. I know this because Mary Beth and I have made friends with a former Naval officer who was the officer on the deck of the very Aegis ship that fired the first cruise missile in that attack. This officer now suffers from PTSD.We know that these same Aegis destroyers are now being deployed in the Persian Gulf in anticipation of a U.S. attack on Iran. We know that U.S. naval officers, in charge of cruise missile targeting, met with Israel military officials last summer to select targets for a U.S.-Israel attack on Iran.

These Naval destroyers are also now being outfitted with "theatre missile defense" (TMD) systems and are being deployed just off the coast of China. The military mission of these ships is to hit Chinese nuclear missiles after they have been fired in response to a U.S. first strike attack on China.

Oh, you say, the U.S. would never launch a pre-emptive first strike attack on another nation! That would be in violation of international law.

But in fact the U.S. Space Command has been war gaming such a first strike attack on China for the past several years. Set in the year 2016 the Pentagon initiates the attack on China using the military space plane, now under development. The role of the Aegis destroyer, outfitted with the TMD interceptors, is to knock out any remaining Chinese nukes that could still get off the ground after the initial U.S. attack. (Remember that today the Chinese military only has 20 nuclear missiles capable of hitting the continental U.S.) So the Aegis ships would not have to "destroy" very many of China's missiles to make it a successful operation.

These Aegis naval ships are now being sold to, or deployed, in Japan, South Korea, Australia and eventually Taiwan as the U.S. attempts to "contain" China. This aggressive, and provocative, military operation will create a new arms race in the region. Japanese and South Korean peace groups are very concerned about these plans and frequently protest the presence of these ships in their ports.”

Gagnon, who along with his significant other, Mary Beth and members of Maine Veterans for Peace, are unsung heroes, regularly bearing witness to the profits resulting from the death of others that defense contractors like BIW promote.

I’m sure that I’ll be called to task for daring to criticize BIW, Bath’s sacred cow. However, as this article clearly delineates, now is the time to begin moving away from defense-oriented industries. In fact, we should have done this decades ago, as we are now paying a steep price in many ways for our short-sightedness and corporate greed.

It is possible to imagine a sustainable economy, built upon non-defense jobs. Many currently believe that and work towards that end. I hope more of you will join in envisioning a more humane and just way of making a living.

1 comment:

weasel said...

Agreed! You may recall I wrote about BIW back in the fall of 2005 from the defense standpoint. Building those ships is more and more indefensible, wherever you find yourself on the political compass.