During the 1991 Gulf War, after we learned that US pilots were taking amphetamines to keep them alert during bombing runs into Iraq and Kuwait. I called it our “War on drugs.”
Last week’s US Air Force revelations prompted an updated version. According to records obtained by the Associated Press, Air Force guards in charge of protecting Minuteman III long-range nuclear-armed missiles in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska bought, distributed and used LSD “and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months.” Call it, “Nuclear war on drugs.”
The other drugs included ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana, and altogether, 14 Air Force personnel at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base’s 90th Missile Wing near Cheyenne, Wyoming were disciplined for their off-duty drug use, and six were court martialed for LSD use, or distribution or both.
Remember, these people trained to race out to the remote missile silos from their posts in remote Launch Control Centers and “force their way into and regain control of a captured missile silo.” Adding insult to addiction, it was a similar team of Air Force missile silo guards from the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota that recently lost a 42-pound box of grenades for their grenade launcher. Driving between two missile silos, the back hatch of their APC popped open and it fell out. After two weeks, 100 AF searchers couldn’t find it, so the Air Force has offered a reward.
The AP got hold of transcripts of seven court martial proceedings in the Wyoming cases and they show that the airmen who used the illegal drugs were “supplied by colleagues with connections to civilian drug dealers.” According to the AP, Airman 1st Class Nickolos Harris testified that he had no trouble getting LSD and other drugs from civilian sources. Reportedly the leader of the drug ring, Harris pleaded guilty to using and distributing LSD and using ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana” and was sentenced to 12 months in jail.
While none of the 14 including Harris was accused of using drugs while in duty, Air Force prosecutor Capt. C. Rhodes Berry argued that Harris should be jailed for 42 months for “using hallucinogens and other drugs on a nuclear weapons base.” Air Force investigators found those implicated in the drug ring “used LSD on base and off.”
Another Airman 1st Class, Devin Hagarty, admitted in court to using LSD four times in 2015-16 and distributing it once, the AP said. “He also admitted to using cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana multiple times.” He was sentenced to 13 months in a military jail.
The AP reported that one airman’s blunder on social media (posting a pic of himself smoking pot) alerted investigators to the illegal partying, and they were then able “to crack the drug ring at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in March 2016.”
Tedium of mission-free service
It’s an old story that “missile field” duty in the Great Plains states is known as a “backwater” assignment, a string of months or years filled with boredom, tedium, and monotony with little chance for advancement. The cow town outposts of the country’s 450 land-based missiles offer little to Air Force personnel who see their counterparts assigned to US war zones in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Libya where their “betters” can even earn hazard pay.
The fact that the land-based, Cold War missiles have no mission partly explains how drug use could become a means of escape. Airman Kyle Morrison testified at his court martial that “… colors seemed more vibrant and clear. In general, I felt more alive,” the AP reported. For his part, Harris said to a military judge, “I absolutely just loved altering my mind,” according to the AP.
Morrison admitted distributing LSD on the missile base in February 2016, and with a plea deal involving ratting out 10 other druggies, Morrison was sentenced to five months in jail, 15 days of hard labor and loss of $5,200 in pay.
Full disclosure: I was sentenced to three weeks in jail in 1981, two months in prison in 1982, and six months in prison in 1987 for separate misdemeanor trespass protests at Offutt Air Base in Omaha. Offutt controls all the Minuteman missile bases (FE Warren, Malmstrom, and Minot) and chooses the cities and bases that are targeted by the weapons guarded by the drug-addled Air Force.
Having known prison, I don’t advocate it as punishment for anyone, but both Harris and Morrison “avoided punitive discharges” from the service. What message does the Air Force send when drug ring leaders in the nuclear missile fields aren’t slapped with a less-than-honorable discharge?
What Airman Morrison told the judge must be true. Lying about prior drug use was “normal” in the Air Force. — John LaForge
US Wasting Billions on Nuclear Bombs That Pose Threat to NATO – Experts
German Foreign Minister Calls for Ouster of US Nukes from Germany
Dismantling the EPA: 700 Flee Agency As Trump Nixes Regulations, Enforcement
2nd US Delegation to Join Peace Actions at German Air Base that Hosts US H-Bombs
Library image: US Marines fire a Howitzer in northern Syria on March 24th 2017 in support of Coalition operations. (Photo: Airwars.org, via USMC/ Cpl. Zachery C. Laning)
A June 27 Pew Research Center poll says world opinion of the United States has plummeted since Donald Trump took office. Surveying people in 37 countries, 49 percent held a positive view of the United States, down from 65 percent at the end of 2016. Maybe we could cancel the fireworks this 4th of July considering the insensitive symbolism of vicariously enjoying war.
With the Pentagon’s rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air smashing seven majority Muslim countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — negativity toward the United States is easy to understand. US drone attacks originating in Nevada, 7,200 miles from Iraq, and jet fighter-bomber strikes launched from super-carriers in the Persian Gulf are killing hundreds of frightened bystanders month after month. At least 25 civilians were killed in Mosul, Iraq on Sat., June 24 when US bombs destroyed four houses.
Every child killed or maimed by US-made weapons inevitably creates enemies among survivors. President Obama (pronounced “Oh-Bomb-Ah”) made the point himself May 23, 2013 in a speech to National Defense University. He said drone attacks “raise profound questions: about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies…” And Obama warned that, “US military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies.”
Whether bombing civilians only “risks” creating enemies or can be positively guaranteed always to do so, is a matter of opinion. But one need only consider the globalized, mechanized, mass US military reaction to 9/11 — and the country’s demonization of whole groups and religions — to know that demands for revenge, retribution, and retaliation always follow the deaths of innocents.
If your business is peddling weapons, you could be smugly satisfied about every civilian wedding party, funeral procession, hospital, or Sunday market hit by US drones, gunships or F-18s. One StarTribune headline on April 2, 2017 directed attention away from our arms dealers. It read, “Civilian deaths a windfall for militants’ propaganda.” Never mind the windfall for war profiteers.
US offers $6,000 for each dead civilian [sarcasm alert]
In the world of weapons sales, nothing is better for business than TV footage of the anguished and grief-stricken after civilians are indiscriminately attacked by “foreigners.” In the countries being bombed, we are those foreigners, occupiers, and militarists accused of cheapening human lives. You decide: when a US gunship obliterated the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan Oct. 3, 2016 killing 42, the Pentagon offered $6,000 for each person killed, and $3,000 for each one injured.
The government and munitions makers say our bombs are saving people by killing terrorists, and — being a world away from the torn limbs, the burning wounds, the screaming parents — Americans want to believe it. The US dropped 26,171 bombs across the seven states during 2016, according to Jennifer Wilson and Micah Zenko writing in Foreign Policy. Each explosion is guaranteed to produce enough newly minted militants to insure steady orders for more jets, bombs and missiles.
Even with a stockpile of 4,000 Tomahawk Cruise missiles, some in the military say the store could be run low by the bombing of Syria, Iraq and the others. “We’re expending munitions faster than we can replenish them,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told USA Today in December 2015. “Since then, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has asked Congress to include funding for 45,000 smart bombs in the [Pentagon’s] 2017 budget,” Public Radio International reported in April 2016. And now Trump’s SecDef, Gen. James Mattis has asked for far more in the 2018 budget for what he calls an “annihilation campaign.”
Lockheed Martin Corp. was paid $36.44 billion for weapons in 2015, and $47.2 billion in 2016, according to the Stockholm Int’l Peace Research Institute’s February 2017 report. SIPRI says that half of all US weapons exports in 2015 went to the Middle East. Last May’s $110 billion US sale to Saudi Arabia alone is bound to bring peace and stability to the region. Obama’s $112 billion in arms to the Saudis over eight years certainly did. The Kingdom’s fireworks in Yemen will cause “oooohs” and “ahhhs” of a different sort than our holiday firecracker fakery.
This cheering of faux bombs on the 4th while denying that our real ones produce enemies and prolong the war is why terrified villagers, refugees and the internally displaced of seven targeted countries will go on cringing and crouching over their children as US drones and jets howl overhead. But “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto — ‘In God is our trust’ — And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” —John LaForge
Spring 2017 Quarterly
In our winter fund appeal, we highlighted Nukewatch’s engagement with the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) led by Indigenous Water Protectors at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Since then, we have reflected on our position—as a mostly white organization—in relation to a Native-led struggle, and we realize we made some mistakes that perpetuated, rather than resisted, the forces of colonialism that continue to oppress and work to erase the presence of Native people in our society.
The letter included a photo of one of our members at a Standing Rock camp holding our Nuclear Heartland banner, which shows the location of US nuclear missiles deployed throughout the Great Plains. We referenced the intersection of our anti-nuclear mission with the No DAPL movement in an appeal for funds, excerpted here:
“The combination in North Dakota of nuclear-armed missiles, dangerous oil pipelines, and 3,000 active hydraulic fracturing wells, has created a literally explosive conflation of the worst environmental threats faced by rural communities anywhere. Help us relieve the region of at least the military leg of this terrible triad by donating to Nukewatch today.”
Simply put, we used the success of a Native-led struggle for justice to draw attention—and money—to our own issues and organization. This was wrong, and we deeply regret it. Because in doing so we failed to prioritize the concern of the Indigenous people who are leading this difficult battle: the fact that they have a fundamental right to exist on the land that white colonizers have been trying to take from them for generations. Native rights are the main issue here and should not be obscured by the concerns of more racially privileged activists.
We are grateful to writer and organizer Kelly Hayes for her piece, “How to Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective,” published October 27 on her blog transformativespaces.org, which helped us realize our mistakes. Here is an excerpt:
“In discussing #NoDAPL, too few people have started from a place of naming that we have a right to defend our water and our lives, simply because we have a natural right to defend ourselves and our communities. When ‘climate justice,’ in a very broad sense, becomes the center of conversation, our fronts of struggle are often reduced to a staging ground for the messaging of NGOs.
“This is happening far too frequently in public discussion of #NoDAPL.
“Yes, everyone should be talking about climate change, but you should also be talking about the fact that Native communities deserve to survive, because our lives are worth defending in their own right—not simply because ‘this affects us all.’
“So when you talk about Standing Rock, please begin by acknowledging that this pipeline was redirected from an area where it was most likely to impact white people. And please remind people that our people are struggling to survive the violence of colonization on many fronts, and that people shouldn’t simply engage with or retweet such stories when they see a concrete connection to their own issues—or a jumping off point to discuss their own issues. Our friends, allies and accomplices should be fighting alongside us because they value our humanity and right to live, in addition to whatever else they believe in.”
Rather than referencing Standing Rock’s relationship to our anti-nuclear work in our fundraising letter, we should have amplified the voices of Native Water Protectors and called for our fellow white activists to support their efforts. We acknowledge these mistakes here as part of an effort to improve the way we work in solidarity with those fighting for racial justice. We hope our white readers in particular might be reminded by our reflections to avoid similar pitfalls through truly listening to the voices of people of color and more critically analyzing our ally roles, as we intend to do.
Nukewatch is committed to amplifying and supporting calls for justice from marginalized groups not just because they are related to our anti-nuclear work, but because they need to be heard. We will continue to take action in ways that reflect the priorities of disenfranchised activists, such as answering calls from Standing Rock to organize local protests that target banks funding the DAPL. We will also send a portion of the donations received as a result of our fund appeal to the legal defense collective at Standing Rock. If you are not already involved, please join us in defending Native rights at Standing Rock and beyond.
For more about the continuing struggle at Standing Rock go to LastRealIndians.com.
To learn more about being an ally, see the Standing Rock Solidarity Toolkit from Showing Up for Racial Justice.
—Arianne Peterson wrote this piece, representing the views of the Nukewatch staff.