F-35s, Drone Aircraft, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and UVM Honorary Degrees

Most Vermonters were shocked to learn a few weeks ago that Progressive Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss had signed a letter of agreement with mega military contractor Lockheed Martin calling for the development of a so-called “Carbon War Room” in Burlington to create market based solutions to climate change problems.  What they did not realize was that this was just the first visible shot across the bow aimed at tiny Vermont by the world’s largest defense contractor.  The worst was yet to come.

The real purpose of the proposed collaboration between the City of Burlington and Lockheed Martin was to pave the way for a much larger project being spearheaded by Senator Bernie Sanders and University of Vermont President Daniel Fogel.  Sanders and Fogel want the U.S. government-owned Sandia National Laboratories to open a satellite laboratory in Vermont.  Sandia, whose historical origins can be traced back to the Manhattan Project in World War II, designs, builds, and tests weapons of mass destruction.  The Vermont laboratory envisaged by Sanders and Fogel would not be involved with nuclear weapons but rather would be engaged in projects related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric grids.  Sandia, interestingly enough, is operated under contract by Lockheed Martin.

An unexpected third piece of the Vermont Lockheed Martin puzzle fell into place last week with the surprise announcement by the UVM Board of Trustees that it planned to confer an honorary doctorate on Adjutant General Michael Dubie at the University’s May commencement ceremony.  Major General Dubie heads up the Vermont National Guard.  In that position his primary responsibility is to recruit and train young Vermont men and women for deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq where Uncle Sam is currently engaged in illegal wars.

Not unlike Mayor Kiss, Senator Sanders, and President Fogel, General Dubie also has his own Lockheed Martin connection.  Dubie is a staunch supporter of replacing the Vermont Air National Guard’s aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets with new, state-of-the-art F-35 jets which cost a cool $115 million a pop.  F-35s are manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

Last April General Dubie expressed the hope that the Vermont National Guard might be morphed into a center for unmanned aircraft, otherwise known as drones.  This would mean that Vermonters could become directly involved in killing civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran through the use of pilotless drones controlled by well-trained, high-tech, gutless assassins seated in air conditioned comfort in front of sophisticated instrument panels at the Burlington International Airport.  This form of neat, clean, precise, risk-free, sanitized, bloodless, desktop warfare could be waged by those who have never set foot on a battlefield or smelled the stench of death.  Lockheed Martin is a major player in the drone aircraft market.

General Dubie’s qualifications as a candidate to receive an honorary doctorate at UVM are not immediately obvious.  He is primarily a Pentagon apparatchik who is responsible for teaching young Vermonters how to wage war and then sending them to faraway places to do so.

Does the decision by the UVM Board to honor General Dubie imply that its members endorse the two illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in which he is currently involved?  Alternatively, are they signaling their approval of the F-35 or possibly sending Burlington based unmanned aircraft half way around the world to kill innocent women and children?  Is that what a UVM honorary degree is all about?  Or is it something else?  What role does Lockheed Martin play in all of this, if any?

Thomas H. Naylor

February 1, 2011

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.