Report of September 20, 2017 Air Force Association Arms Bazaar Protest

Dear Friends,

Last night, from 6:00-7:30 PM, eight peacemakers vigiled outside the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at the National Harbor, ten miles south of D.C.,  to decry the scandalous Air Force Association (AFA) annual “Air, Space and Cyber Conference,” what we call an “Arms Bazaar.” Some 130 arms contractors took part in this year’s Arms Bazaar. Our vigil coincided with a $300+ per plate banquet honoring outstanding airmen. The vigil which was organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. The action was held in solidarity with Campaign Nonviolence (CN), a long-term movement to build a culture of peace and nonviolence free from war, poverty, racism, the climate crisis, and the epidemic of violence and injustice. This week CN is sponsoring over 1,000 actions in the U.S. and worldwide.

As we arrived at the Gaylord,  a contingent of Gaylord security and Prince George Police were on hand to greet us. I was able to give security and police our leaflet (see below), shared with them for our protest and invited them to join our prayer service for peace. A police vehicle stationed inside the Gaylord main entrance remained at the site for the duration of our vigil.

Our witness began with the reading of our leaflet (see below). Sr. Megan Rice then read the Gospel account of the Beatitudes (Lk. 6:2-28). This was followed by Mike Walli, Malachy Kilbride and Steve Bush reading a selection of Dr. King’s Riverside Church April 4, 1967 speech about why he opposed the Vietnam War. We then sang “Down By the Riverside.” I then offered a prayer to exorcise the evil of militarism and convert our lives to God’s command to love. This was followed by the song “Peace Before Us.” A Litany of Repentance and Hope was then offered by Marja Hilfiker, Eve Tetaz and Anne Feczko. We then lit candles as each person offered a brief reflection. Hope emerged as a central theme of this inspiring reflection time. Remembering all victims of violence and war, hurricanes and earthquakes, the holy cloud of witnesses past and present, as well as all who are working today to bring about God’s reign of justice, love and peace, we proceeded to sing “This Little Light of Mine.” We concluded our witness with a closing circle.

One thing we all noticed during this witness was that more people took our leaflet or gave a positive response than in previous vigils in year’s past, including bus and taxi drivers, several people coming out of the Gaylord, pedestrians and people who drove by. Even a general took our leaflet!

The times are perilous, yet hope abounds in the actions of countless people worldwide. Let us redouble our efforts to do all we can to nonviolently resist the forces of violence, racism and death and witness to the God of Life and Love as we strive to create the Beloved Community.

With gratitude,

Art

 

Stop the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber “Arms Bazaar!”

War should always scandalize the faithfulThink of the children starving in refugee camps, these are the fruits of war. And then think of the great dining rooms, of the parties held by those who control the arms industry, who produce weapons. Compare a sick, starving child in a refugee camp with the big parties, the good life led by the masters of the arms trade.”                       — Pope Francis, February 25, 2014 Mass at the Vatican’s Santa Marta Chapel                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”                                                                                       — Pope Francis, September 24, 2015 Speech to the U.S. Congress

From September 18-20, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is once again playing host to the Air Force Association (AFA) “Air, Space and Cyber Conference” what we call an “Arms Bazaar.” The AFA, according to its web site, is “the voice for aerospace power and the Air Force family.” To mark its 70th anniversary the theme for this year’s AFA Arms Bazaar is: “Breaking Barriers: Heritage to Horizons.”

The 130 arms contractors taking part in this years Arms Bazaar have played a prominent role in U.S. warmaking. Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, among others, are profiting from war and literally are making a killing! But that’s not all. The Pentagon and numerous arms dealers are committed to U.S. nuclear/military/cyber superiority and militarizing and controlling space.

During its three day conference, the AFA is sponsoring over 30 forums addressing how the U.S. can refine its warmaking apparatus and cyber capability so it can dominate earth and space. Tonight, the AFA is holding a $300+ per plate banquet honoring outstanding airmen. We decry the AFA Arms Bazaar for what it is: a scandalous affront to God, a theft from the poor, and a threat to people worldwide!

As the world’s preeminent military superpower, the U.S. secured $33.6 billion in foreign military sales for 2016. The U.S. supplies weapons to much of NATO and Middle Eastern allies like Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. U.S. arms sales in the Middle East are fueling widespread wars in the region as the U.S. continues its quest to destroy ISIS. In concert with weapons contractors participating in the AFA Arms Bazaar, the U.S. is engaged in direct military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, continues its military support for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the Saudi war in Yemen,  proceeds with its military “pivot” in the Asia-Pacific to threaten and contains China, and conducts killer drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

 

The U.S. government also continues with its “Missile Defense” deployments encircling China and Russia, constituting a flagrant violation of its Anti-Ballistic missile treaty with Russia. Moreover, the U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion over the next thirty years to modernize its own nuclear arsenal. The U.S. military is also the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels which is directly destabilizing the earth’s climate. The victims cry out for justice, and the earth, under daily assault, groans in travail!

 

On July 7, 2017, at the conclusion of a special “UN Conference To Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons,” 122 countries voted in favor of a historic treaty to legally prohibit nuclear weapons. The “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” bans nuclear weapons and establishes a framework for the elimination of nuclear weapons programs – including warheads, materials, delivery systems and facilities. Today, in a special ceremony at the UN, 122 countries officially signed this treaty.

Tragically, the U.S. and other countries that bear nuclear arms, and as well as those nations that either come under their protection or host weapons on their soil, boycotted this conference and have thus far refused to endorse this treaty.

It is hypocritical for the U.S., the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons and the leading nuclear superpower which refuses to disarm, to call on any other country, including North Korea, to give up their nuclear weapons. The U.S. can never request that another country disarm until it first apologizes and atones for the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, endorses the treaty on the “Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” and totally dismantles its nuclear arsenal. Only then can the U.S. legitimately ask other nuclear nations to disarm.

 

Who will speak for the poor and the victims, as arms dealers reap huge profits from their lethal weapons and death technology? Who will protect our sacred earth and environment? We urgently need, more than ever, to nonviolently resist all war, violence and racism–from Iraq to Charlottesville. Together, let us continue to do all we can to establish the Beloved Community, end the climate crisis, abolish war, eradicate poverty and create a world free of nuclear and conventional weapons, killer drones, war, racial hatred and oppression. In the name of God, who calls us to love and not to hate, demonize and kill, it’s time to end this Arms Bazaar!

 

Please join with members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Pax Christi and other peacemakers as we seek to say YES to Life and a resounding NO to the merchants of death and war profiteers. We act in solidarity today with Campaign Nonviolence, who is sponsoring over 1,000 nonviolent actions for peace and justice nationwide during the week of September 18-25.

For more info contact: Dorothy Day Catholic Worker: 202-882-9649

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Published in: on September 21, 2017 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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