Open letter to Vermont Lt. Governor Molly Gray, candidate for Congress
Campaign website says she is "Fighting for Human Rights." But as Lt. Governor, did she oppose the state-sponsored F-35 assaults on the human rights of thousands of Vermonters?
Dear Lt. Governor Molly Gray,
Your just-launched campaign website for the open congressional seat is awash with your impressive human rights credentials. You declare that you “will continue to be a champion for human rights.”
You note that while you were working in Congressman Peter Welch’s Office, you “watched as Congress investigated false reports of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq, reports of detainee torture at Guantanamo Bay, and allegations of civilian killings by Blackwater.”
Fortunately, as Lt. Governor, you have the opportunity to do much more than watch: you could take meaningful action to put a stop to the state-sponsored F-35 abuse of thousands of Vermont families.
Your website says that you worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross “to promote U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions and humanitarian principles.” Right now, as Lt. Governor, you can do similar work here to promote compliance by the Vermont Air National Guard with the military’s own law of war regulations. Regulations that include those humanitarian principles. By training with 115 decibel F-35 jets in cities, the Guard is in violation of each and every one of those principles and its own regulations, as further described in the second part of this letter that will be published on Saturday.
Protect the Vulnerable in Winooski
Your website goes on to state that you graduated from Vermont Law School and then got “a Masters Degree in the protection of vulnerable groups.”
As Lt. Governor, you can put that degree into action to protect vulnerable groups. The ongoing state-sponsored assault with F-35 jets is directed at some of the state’s most vulnerable in the City of Winooski.
Just 1760 yards in direct line from one end of the runway at Burlington International Airport (BTV), Winooski is the most densely populated city in Vermont. With the state’s most ethnic diversity.
23% of Winooski residents are people of color, nearly four times the ratio for Vermont as a whole. 22% are foreign born and more than 20 languages spoken, while for Vermont fewer than 5% are foreign born. Nearly 30% of Winooski’s population lives in poverty, triple Vermont’s 10% poverty rate. 63% of Winooski’s 3,259 homes are rental, close to double the rate for Vermont. In Winooski 17% of people under 65 have a disability, while for Vermont 11% have one. 98% of the 774 children in Winooski’s K‑12 public schools are on free or reduced-price lunch, while for the state 38% of the children are.
More than half the city is within the US Air Force designated 5.2 mile by 1.2 mile oval-shaped F-35 noise target zone centered on the runway. By contrast, none of the area’s wealthy communities are within the F-35 noise target zone.
Sickeningly, the governor and his collaborators in state government hit Winooski hard by ordering the 115-decibel F-35 training flights in Vermont’s most densely populated cities in September 2019. Punching down on the state’s most vulnerable with military forces.
Any quest to improve housing, schools, or opportunity for Winooski’s low-income, ethnically diverse, and immigrant populations was thwarted by invading homes, yards, schools, workplaces, playgrounds, and sidewalks. Repeatedly exposing families to the ear- and brain-damaging F-35 takeoffs 8 to 16 times a day, four days a week. Plus one weekend a month. Plus night flights. Plus just as many F-35 landings low over the city.
F-35 + COVID-19
Then, in March 2020—just after the COVID-19 pandemic arrived—the governor ordered a vast increase in those F-35 flights over Winooski as reported on VTDigger, “Pandemic isolation and increased flights spike F‑35 noise complaints.”
A petition signed by over 2,100 Vermonters called “on the Governor to halt the F‑35 practice flights and mobilize the full Vermont Guard to stop the spread of coronavirus.” The Burlington City Council adopted a resolution 11 to 1 “asking Vermont’s governor to stop Air National Guard training flights and divert all Guard resources toward the COVID-19 epidemic.” The governor said no.
Your campaign website further states that you served as an Assistant Attorney General “while teaching night classes on human rights at Vermont Law School.” As Lt. Governor, such experience is particularly useful, as investigation and prosecution of those responsible for abusing vulnerable families with state military forces is needed now.
Consistent with your statement that you “will continue to be a champion for human rights” as both Lt. Governor and candidate for Congress you are ideally positioned to speak out and campaign for an immediate halt to F-35 training over Winooski and any populated area.
The US Air Force stated in Volume II of its F-35 Environmental Impact Statement that repeated exposure to 114 decibel military jet noise can cause hearing damage (p. C-25) and impair the learning and cognitive development of children (p. C-29). Online surveys, to which 658 Vermonters so far responded, confirmed pain, injury, and suffering on a mass scale.
These devastating survey results were further confirmed by independent reporting on VTDigger, “Panic attacks. Ringing ears. Shaking walls. Happy 1‑year anniversary to the F‑35s,” September 27, 2020. On a Seven Days cover story, “Sound “Effects: In the F‑35’s Flight Path, Vermonters’ Lives Have Changed, July 7, 2021. In the 12-minute film, “Jet Line, Voicemails from the Flight Path.”
Further confirmation came with testimony of 30 residents at a Winooski City Council meeting on September 7, 2021, as recorded on the 30 minute ABC Café Podcast, “The People of Winooski Share Their Pain and Suffering Under F‑35 Operations;” as reported on Channel 5, “F‑35 forum in Winooski brings out residents to voice concerns about jet presence,” September 8, 2021; as reported on VTDigger, “Winooski area residents voice their opposition to F-35 training flights,” September 9, 2021; and as video recorded in full on Channel 17, “Winooski City Council F-35 Forum.”
Hypocrisy on steroids
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, for whom you interned while a student at UVM, also touts democracy and human rights in speeches and as part of his website. Yet it was Leahy who abused his power as the most senior of all US senators to pressure the Air Force to foist the F-35 on Vermont’s most densely populated cities, as revealed by internal Air Force emails and by Leahy’s admission to a VTDigger reporter on March 5, 2018.
Burlington votes down the F-35
Burlington voted at town meeting in 2018 to urge “cancellation of the planned F-35 basing” at the city’s airport by over 55% (6,482 to 5,238) notwithstanding a lavish campaign by opponents, who spent $100k to defeat it.
Leahy nevertheless continued his longstanding refusal even to meet with citizens concerned about training with F-35 jets in Vermont cities. Along with the governor and the mayor of Burlington, Leahy disparaged the vote and continued the pressure for F-35 basing at BTV.
Winooski votes for halting the F-35 training by a 2 to 1 margin
Then came the 2021 town meeting vote in Winooski, which by a 2 to 1 margin called on “the State to halt the F-35 flights in a densely populated area.” No more can there be doubt that the F-35 training in cities lacks public support. Nevertheless, the 115-decibel F-35 training flights over 2,963 Vermont homes continue.
The state has the authority and the obligation
While the US constitution empowers Congress “To provide for organizing, arming [which includes “basing”], and disciplining, the Militia,” it “reserv[es] to the States respectively … the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” Consistent with this provision, the federal government had control of the F-35 basing decision. But now that the jets are here, the state has full control of the training. This even though, under Title 32, the federal government provides the pay and the benefits. This control of training means that Vermont has the constitutional power to halt the F-35 training in a city. And no federal law can preempt the state’s authority over how, when, where, or whether to conduct the training. Except regarding the “discipline.”
But that discipline requires the state to halt the F-35 training in cities. The “discipline prescribed by Congress” includes US laws that outlaw military assaults on civilians, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the US War Crimes Act [18 U.S. Code 2441] .
That discipline also includes senate-ratified treaties that prohibit military assaults on civilians, including the Hague Convention IV, the 4th Geneva Convention, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Each of these treaties includes provisions violated by the F-35 training in cities.
Under a Vermont law, the Vermont National Guard must also adhere to regulations for the US armed forces that protect civilians from military operations, such as DoD Directive 2311.01, “DoD Law of War Program.” The Guard must also adhere to Vermont criminal laws, including reckless simple assault, reckless endangerment, and reckless disorderly conduct.
The violation of each of these rules with F-35 training in cities is described in a 62-page “Complaint to the Inspector General of the Vermont National Guard,” signed by 657 Vermonters, and submitted on October 22, 2020.
The constitutional requirement to conduct the training “according to the discipline prescribed by Congress,” the military regulations, and the Vermont laws each obligate the state to use its power to halt that F-35 training in cities.
Won’t get fooled again
In view of the experience with statewide politicians who tout democracy and human rights while punching down on white, black, and brown working class and immigrants with F-35 jets, Vermonters have every right to be wary of politicians touting human rights.
In your present office as Lt. Governor of Vermont you are perfectly positioned to defend the vulnerable groups hurt by the F-35 training. You have the the high office, the legal and human rights training, the knowledge, and the experience. As you campaign for Congress, you also have a statewide platform from which to speak out and defend the 6,663 Vermonters in Winooski, Burlington, S. Burlington, and Williston who are daily hurt by the state-sponsored 115-decibel F-35 human rights abuse.
During your time as Lt. Governor, what have you done to oppose the state-sponsored F-35 violence routinely assaulting thousands of Vermont families in their own homes and yards hundreds of times a month?
In your role as President of the Senate did you ever call for hearings in the various legislative committees where F-35-affected citizens could be heard? And where top political and military leaders could be questioned and held accountable?
Did you question the governor or the wing commander about the Vermont and US law violations, the violation of military regulations, and the human rights abuses they are routinely committing on thousands of Vermont families on a daily basis?
Has anyone in state government even identified a legal basis in military regulations for assaulting thousands of Vermont civilians in their own homes with Vermont military forces?
Just the opposite. If enforced, military regulations provide strict protection for civilians from military operations. By contrast, the civilian environmental law, which commanders repeatedly use to divert from their own military regulations, only require the government to disclose such negative effects as injuries. If properly disclosed, the environmental law is satisfied. No court is permitted to review the decision. No matter the extent of injury.
Vermonters have a right to expect you to use your human rights experience and training, and your platform as Lt. Governor, to push for a halt in the state-sponsored F-35 violence targeting Vermont cities. To make good on your promise “to be a champion for human rights.”
This is the first part of a two-part letter. The second part of this letter will be published on Saturday, so the two parts bracket Human Rights Day, December 10.
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).
Add your own 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Senator Bernie Sanders 800-339-9834 <Senator@sanders.senate.gov>
Congressman Peter Welch 888-605-7270 Chief of Staff <email@example.com>
Burlington City Council <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger <email@example.com>
Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
S. Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle <email@example.com>
Williston Selectboard Chair Terry Macaig <firstname.lastname@example.org>
VT Senate President Becca Balint <email@example.com>
VT House Speaker Jill Krowinski <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Attorney General TJ Donavan <DonovanTJ@gmail.com>
States Attorney Sarah George <Sarah.email@example.com>
Vermont’s Federal Prosecutor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Adjutant General Brig Gen Gregory C Knight <email@example.com>
Major J Scott Detweiler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wing Commander Col David Shevchik email@example.com
Vermont National Guard Inspector General Lt. Col. Edward J Soychak <firstname.lastname@example.org>
US Air Force Inspector General Lt. Col. Pamela D. Koppelmann <email@example.com>
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall <Frank.Kendall@us.af.mil>