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What I wanted to say…

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Rusty Nelson“If corporate interests cared about ‘creating’ jobs in the U.S., NAFTA and subsequent greased skids for ‘Made in the USA’ would be dismantled, and Americans would be building solar and wind power components for global energy needs.”

Rusty Nelson on Peace and War

It’s exciting to watch PJALS cram meaningful meetings, public events, and activist opportunities into your monthly schedule.  It reminds me that, halfway through our tenure at PJALS, Nancy and I realized Spokane had undergone drastic changes regarding things to do, places to be, and live and interactive education and information.  These days, of course, I have options. Sometimes, I feel free to simply stay home or even be detached about significant issues.  But there are times I miss the action, being in the trenches or on the street.

One week in December, there were two opportunities I couldn’t resist.  Public comment was solicited on the proposed system for sending coal through our front yard to Asia, and Liz invited me to participate in a news conference to try to help Senator Murray understand the costs of war.  I can hardly ever turn down a chance to speak about issues I feel strongly about, but here were two challenges to be brief and poignant.  Neither effort turned out as I planned, so I’m taking a follow-up shot, here in my comfort zone.

Having divided an evening between the Sierra Club workshop on the coal conspiracy and a death penalty meeting, I wasn’t fully briefed when I set out for the Tuesday hearing at the fairgrounds.  Over 100 were in line to claim 75 spots for public testimony.  Visiting with friends, including volunteer place-holders, I learned 35 green-shirted place-holders, hired at a temp agency, had arrived at 10 am to wait in the cold and damp behind four early birds and acquire credentials for supporters of coal exports.  We all were admitted to the spacious building shortly before the 3 pm start.  I found it interesting that the first two places held by the paid place-holders were taken by Rich Hadley of Greater Spokane, Inc. and Beth Thew of the Labor Council, the odd couple doing the most to promote turning our rail corridor into China’s coal chute.  This shows the system is rigged in favor of the moneyed interest, beyond exposing the rest of us, already overmatched by full-page newspaper ads, to the whims of winter.

Even if the fix is on, there was a back-up system, and I read my carefully-timed, two-minute remarks to a stenographer taking oral comments, and dropped a written note into one of several boxes I hope will be examined before the poor panel members become completely unraveled. Perhaps I was heard, after all, but here’s my main point:  “Exporting coal to Asia means we will be a Third World country.  It’s bad enough that we abuse our earth and our human resources by continuing to mine and burn this obsolete fuel, but to send it to China, where we’ve sent so many manufacturing jobs and from whence its considerable pollution will add to our ecological woes, defies fiscal and common sense.  Letting corporations drag us down is a very Third-World thing, and it means we still fail to admit that globalization is devastating American health, jobs, and hope.  If corporate interests cared about ‘creating’ jobs in the U.S., NAFTA and subsequent greased skids for ‘Made in the USA’ would be dismantled, and Americans would be building solar and wind power components for global energy needs.  No one seems to see the irony of multiplying the use of domestic diesel fuel to haul our unwanted coal away.  U.S. consumers of diesel have already borne the brunt of gouging by energy companies because the fuel is in high demand beyond our borders.  Instead of turbocharging the waste of our pitiful rail system to encourage 19th Century pollution in China, we should be going to work to streamline it, catching up with 21st Century transportation in Europe and Japan.”

On Wednesday, I hoped to represent Veterans for Peace by distilling some of the brilliant insights to which I’ve been exposed in the long years since I was a mercenary in the U.S. Army.  I was allotted a generous amount of time, considering there were several other articulate spokespersons for sanity in federal spending, and I hoped to take fewer than five minutes to expand upon Einstein’s declaration that a nation cannot simultaneously prepare for war and peace.  Betrayed several times by my computer and printer, I was armed with a bizarre sample of the speeches I had written, but I was sure I could wing it until I was inspired by Liv Larson-Andrews and Todd Ekloff, who had preceded me.  When I began to tell how I was conned into going to war, I knew I was in trouble, and I went twice as long, and said half as much, as I had planned.

What I wanted to say is that we can all do better, especially members of Congress.  Sensible alternatives to lavish military spending would make our country more secure than war or weaponry ever has.  The American people could still benefit from the Peace Dividend, which was arrogantly discarded by the first Bush administration, if only the president and a few other leaders would risk consulting with peacemakers half as often as they consult with the Military-Industrial Complex.  When I say our country spends on war like a drunken sailor, I know what I’m talking about.  I don’t have a degree in economics, but as the nephew and brother of a couple of swabbies and former commander of a platoon of army boats, I’m definitely an expert on drunken sailors.  Patty Murray touts herself as a champion of wounded and broken veterans, but she has never responded to my suggestions for ending our habit of wounding and breaking these men and women in the first place.

Veterans for Peace of Spokane has begun a campaign to reveal some of the collateral damage of our country’s endless investment in war.  We will help bring the film Semper Fi to the Magic Lantern and document military pollution in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  Chapter #035 will be grateful for any information or sources you can share with us, particularly regarding routine practices at Fairchild Air Force Base which degrade the elements of our environment.  Please give comments or information to anyone in our group or contact us though PJALS or our facebook page, where we recently posted a salon.com article which documents a few of the more outrageous distortions and excesses of our military extravagance.

One comment

I was also at the hearing at the fairgrounds on Dec. 4. Much of my time and attention had been directed toward this hearing, and I was happy to see so many people there to oppose the coal exports. There is still time to make comments until January 21 on the Gateway Pacific EIS, and people can also contact the Surface Transportation Board with regard to the Tongue River rail expansion which is proposed for Montana and is opposed by many people in Montana. There is actually cause for hope with this fight. We have already convinced Rail America not to build a terminal in Grays Harbor, and the proponents of these shipments cannot counter our environmental impact arguments with anything except the mantra that “we need jobs.” Jobs and the economy are not relevant to the issues the EIS is considering, whereas the issues we raised concerned environmental impacts, which are relevant. I am hopeful that we may be able to prevent the damage and will be continuing to follow this issue as it unfolds over the next few years.

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