Lt. Governor Molly Gray touts human rights--but her record shows otherwise
Molly Gray worked in Iraq in behalf of the private military contractor industry, covering for some of the most vicious of the human rights violators on the planet
This is the second part of a two-part open letter to Molly Gray. Read the first part here.
Dear Molly Gray,
Your campaign website associates you with a human rights champion: “Always inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s belief that fighting for human rights starts at home.”
Roosevelt chaired the UN Commission on Human Rights that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948.
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. --- Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958
A state-sponsored human rights violation is indeed close to home. In fact, the F-35 invades in thousands of Vermont homes. With ear- and mind- blasting 115-decibels hundreds of times a month. The state-sponsored F-35 violence targets Winooski, Burlington, and S. Burlington—cities full of children. Plus Williston and several other towns in the flight path.
Concerned citizens have been acting to uphold human rights for more than 10 years, persistently building a campaign to halt the F-35. Marches, rallies, letters, pickets, town meeting votes. Countless actions to stay the abusive hands of top state officials who deliberately foisted F-35 training in Vermont cities, in violation of multiple provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights championed by Eleanor Roosevelt.
o F-35 training in cities violates Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Repeated exposure to the noise, that reaches 115 decibels even without use of afterburner, causes injury to bodily organs, including inner ears, heart, vascular system, and brain. Also, the PFAS poisoning, the use of the cities for human shielding, and the catastrophic consequences of an F-35 crash in a cities.
o F-35 training in cities violates Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Routine training with F-35 jets in cities inflicts cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on thousands of families in their own homes.
o F-35 training in cities violates Article 7: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” The F-35 disproportionately inflicts pain and suffering on low income and minority populations, as admitted by the US Air Force in in Volume I of EIS. Especially to use the state’s military forces to routinely assault the City of Winooski and the Chamberlin School neighborhood of S. Burlington—with their high proportion of black, brown, immigrant, and people living in poverty—with F-35 jets hundreds of times a month is a particularly sickening injustice.
o F-35 training in cities violates Article 8: “Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.” The failure of the responsible Vermont public officials, including yourself, to even meet with citizens concerned about the pain and injury, the failure of legislative leaders to hold hearings, and the failure of federal, state, and military prosecutors to do their jobs to enforce Vermont laws, constitutional rights, and the military’s own regulations that protect civilians, flagrantly violates “the right to an effective remedy.”
o F-35 training in cities violates Article 12: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home . . .” The US Air Force admits that F-35 training in Vermont cities subjects 6,663 Vermonters in 2,963 households to such “arbitrary interference” with privacy, family, and home.
o F-35 training in cities violates Article 17: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” F-35 training in populated areas causes thousands of families to suffer an “arbitrary” deprivation of use of their yards and a diminution in the value of their property. A taking of property without due process of law.
o F-35 training in cities violates Article 21: “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.” F-35 training was foisted against the town meeting votes of the deeply affected cities of Burlington and Winooski. The F-35 training flights in cities is both a violation of democracy and a gross denial of human rights.
o F-35 training in cities violates Article 25: “Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.” The state-sponsored violence targets the 1,300 Vermont children who live in the Air Force designated F-35 noise target zone, and their parents, in blatant contradiction of that “special care and assistance.”
Putting lipstick on a pig
A bright red flag was raised by your website statement that you worked “with the US government” in Iraq, “to launch the International Code of Conduct Association; the first global initiative mandated to oversee compliance of private security contractors with human rights.”
War on Want, a UK human rights organization founded in 1951, issued a 20-page report, “Mercenaries Unleashed, The Brave New World of private Military and Security Companies,” January 2, 2016, about the organization you worked for. The War on Want report states: “The International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers (“the Code of Conduct”) and the International Code of Conduct Association (“the Association”) act as fig leaves for the private military and security company industry to legitimise its actions.”
The War on Want report provides data showing that the Association that you served is actually “dominated by the private military security companies” themselves.
The War on Want report states:
· “Because of the dominance of private military security companies and military figures in the governance of the Association, many civil society organisations have refused to participate.”
· “The Association is reliant on the grievance mechanisms of the companies themselves.”
· “The Association is not empowered to decide on a complaint or to award any reparations. In practice this means that the victims of private military security company human rights violations are unable to seek redress via the Association.”
· “The only requirement is for a state to ‘communicate their intent to support the principles of the code of conduct and participate in the activities of the Association.’ In the absence of a commitment not to use private military security companies that are not certified under the Association, states can continue to contract companies which violate human rights with impunity.”
The criticisms in the War on Want report were supported by a scholarly article, “Becoming Legitimate: How Private Military Security Companies are Seeking Legitimacy in the International System,” that provides evidence showing that the Code of Conduct and the Association were created for mere “rebranding” and “self-regulation.” And that their purposes were “to counter the negative perceptions created by media coverage and controversial incidents involving private military security company personnel” and to achieve “legitimacy” for the companies.
Another scholarly article "Private Security Companies and Shared Responsibility: The Turn to Multistakeholder Standard-Setting and Monitoring through Self-Regulation-'Plus'" warns that enabling self-regulation “lets states off the hook in terms of ensuring that private security companies abide by their obligations, but in doing so this allows states to evade their own obligations to protect human rights.”
A Center for Constitutional Rights factsheet, “Accountability for Torture by Private Military Contractors,” September 22, 2017, states:
Currently there is no effective U.S. system of contractor accountability and oversight in place. Generally speaking, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) is responsible for investigating and prosecuting these incidents. However, the DoJ has too often failed to prosecute even the most serious of human rights abuses by contractors, including but not limited to the torture that took place at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers in Iraq. Several investigations into torture, including by the military itself, have concluded that CACI and L-3 contractors participated in “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses.” But no contractors have been charged with these crimes by the DoJ.
The facts demonstrate that by helping launch the Association in 2014 you were actually working for the private military security companies and against human rights. By working with the US Government to promote the creation of such a bogus public relations operation, you actually worked against the call by genuine human rights organizations, including War on Want, for “a complete ban on the use of private military security companies in conflict zones.”
Furthermore, by going to Iraq to promote formation of an organization dominated by the private military security companies, you actually established a credential for yourself contrary to your website self-promotion: You worked to legitimize an industry that contains some of the most vicious human rights violators on the planet.
The public has reason to be skeptical.
US politicians have long used democracy, human rights, and—as you accurately suggest on your website—blatant lies, to justify getting the US into disastrous wars and keeping those wars going for decades. Hiring mercenaries (the so-called “private security contractors”) was part of a strategy to shift blame for human rights violations from the US military.
Vermonters vividly remember wars supposedly implemented to defend democracy and advance human rights that did nothing of the kind: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Wars that taught the world the meaning of carpet bombing, napalm, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, Agent Orange, drones, rendition, torture, and massacres that killed or wounded millions of civilians. Wars during which hundreds of billions of tax dollars were transferred to private military corporations while providing absolutely nothing good for Vermont families.
A bitter taste of the vicious human rights abuses inflicted by US forces, mercenaries, and proxy forces in those wars and in dozens of other disastrous US interventions is now being mercilessly directed against Vermont cities with F-35 training. With the lockstep support of the state’s political and military leadership. Especially hitting cities with large black, brown, and white working-class populations.
One difference is that the F-35 noise is so obviously horrendous that the governor and his collaborators just try to avoid the subject. If pressed, they falsely pass blame on to an unspecified “federal mission.” But no federal mission requires F-35 takeoffs and landings for training to be conducting in cities. The athority of training the Vermont Air National Guard is with the state, as expressly provided in the US Constitution.
Statewide political and military leaders refuse to answer whether the F-35 training in Vermont cities is justified by human rights law or by the military’s own regulations. They have good reason not to answer.
US military regulations and International Humanitarian Law
The F-35 training flights in cities violate US military regulations, which go further in protecting civilians than International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which only applies during armed conflict.
For example, Air Force Policy Directive 51-4 “Operations and International Law,” 24 July 2018 states: “1.7. Law of War. The Air Force and its personnel comply with the law of war at all times.”
Department of Defense Directive 2311.01, “DoD Law of War Program,” July 2, 2020 states that it is DoD policy that “members of the DoD Components will continue to act consistent with the law of war’s fundamental principles and rules,” including “the principles of military necessity, humanity, distinction, proportionality, and honor,” both during armed conflicts and outside of armed conflicts.
DoD Directive 2311.01 further states that “the DoD Law of War Manual serves as the authoritative statement on the law of war within the DoD.” That manual says that adherence to the law of war standards is required “in all circumstances,” — “even in situations that do not constitute ‘war’ or ‘armed conflict’” — including “during military operations outside the context of armed conflict.” It emphasizes that the law of war continues to apply during peacetime: “‘elementary considerations of humanity’ have been understood to be ‘even more exacting in peace than in war.’ Thus, these legal standards, at a minimum, must be adhered to in all circumstances.” (p. 72).
That means that the five law of war principles, which are also fundamental principles of International Humanitarian Law, must be adhered to during Vermont National Guard F-35 training operations in Vermont.
Instead, those DoD law of war directives and Air Force instructions, and those law of war principles, are being ignored by the governor, the adjutant general, and the wing commander who continue to order F-35 training in cities. As a consequence, Vermonters are suffering hurt and injury. Not at the hands of attacking enemy forces. At the hands of their own governor and their own Vermont Air National Guard. And in violation of the military’s own regulations and human rights law.
The F-35 training in cities trains pilots to commit war crimes
As the Air Force EIS said that the training in Vermont cities at 115 decibels can hurt or injure civilians, including children, the training in such a location inherently trains members to violate the military regulations that protect civilians. None of these illicit flight hours should be counted toward training requirements. Those responsible for the violations should be investigated, prosecuted, and incarcerated.
Such illicit “training” knowingly and deliberately demolishes respect for the fundamental principles of the law of war that protect civilians.
While Vermont Air National Guard pilots are being openly trained to ignore the law of war and to disobey military regulations, each US ally and adversary is receiving the message that the US has abandoned the rules imposed by the law of war that protect civilians. That the US is an outlaw state, even assaulting its own Vermont citizens.
The training with F-35 jets in Vermont cities must stop now. And those responsible held to account no matter how high in office they may be.
I hope you will distinguish yourself from other statewide leaders and indeed prove yourself to be “a champion for human rights” as Lt. Governor. That you will agree to meet soon with those hurt by the violent assaults on civilians with F-35 jets in Vermont cities. And that you will use both your current high office and your campaign for Congress to call for a stop to the illegal, immoral, and unjust F-35 training in any populated area, including the Cities of Winooski, Burlington, and S. Burlington.
Thank you for considering this. I look forward to your response.
James Marc Leas
Write or call your public servants:
Governor Phil Scott 802-828-3333 Chief of Staff <Jason.Gibbs@vermont.gov>
Vermont National Guard's Complaint Line: 802-660-5379 (Note: the Vermont Guard told a reporter that it received over 1400 noise complaints. But the Guard won’t release what people said).
Instead or in addition, submit your report & complaint to the new online F-35 Fall 2021-Winter 2022 Report & Complaint Form: https://tinyurl.com/5d89ckj9
See all the graphs and in-your-own words statements on the recently-completed F-35 Spring-Summer 2021 Report & Complaint Form (513 responses): https://tinyurl.com/3svacfvx.
See links to the graphs and in-your-own words statements on all four versions of the F-35 Report & Complaint Form since Spring 2020, with a total of 1670 responses from 658 different people.
Senator Patrick Leahy 800-642-3193 Chief of Staff <email@example.com>
Senator Bernie Sanders 800-339-9834 <Senator@sanders.senate.gov>
Congressman Peter Welch 888-605-7270 Chief of Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Burlington City Council <email@example.com>
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott <email@example.com>
S. Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Williston Selectboard Chair Terry Macaig <email@example.com>
VT Senate President Becca Balint <firstname.lastname@example.org>
VT House Speaker Jill Krowinski <email@example.com>
Attorney General TJ Donavan <DonovanTJ@gmail.com>
States Attorney Sarah George <Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org>
Vermont’s Federal Prosecutor <email@example.com>
Adjutant General Brig Gen Gregory C Knight <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Major J Scott Detweiler <email@example.com>
Wing Commander Col David Shevchik firstname.lastname@example.org
Vermont National Guard Inspector General Lt. Col. Edward J Soychak <email@example.com>
US Air Force Inspector General Lt. Col. Pamela D. Koppelmann <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall <Frank.Kendall@us.af.mil>