Report of AFA Arms Bazaar Witness on September 17, 2019

Dear Friends,

On September 17th, from Noon- 1:30 p.m., twelve peacemakers from DMV area held a nonviolent witness to resist, once again, the annual Air Force Association (AFA) “Arms Bazaar” held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. Among those who participated in this witness included members and friends of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Pax Christi and CODEPINK. This witness was in solidarity with Campaign Nonviolence who is sponsoring a week-long series of actions nationwide from September 14-22. Nearly 3,000 actions are taking place in the U.S. and abroad as part of this campaign. For more info see:

As we gathered across the street from the Gaylord, we were greeted by a Prince George Co. police officer.  We stated our purpose for being there and invited the officer to get an injunction barring the AFA from holding its criminal weapons exhibition. Carrying banners and signs, ten of us then processed to the main entrance of the Gaylord where the Arms Bazaar was being held. As we made our way to the entrance we were visible to scores of soldiers who were coming out of the Gaylord. Once at the entrance we vigiled for about ten minutes until we were ordered to leave by Gaylord security and PG police. As we left the entrance, in view of many soldiers and arms contractors, we sang “Down By the Riverside.”
We then set up our vigil and continued our witness on the sidewalk in front of the Gaylord next to the driveway entrance where people attending the Arms Bazaar enter and exit. Last year we vigiled in the same space for the first time. However in the six previous years of our witness we were prohibited from vigiling on the Gaylord sidewalk because it is “private property.”
During this time Paki Wieland and I read our leaflet (see below) and after each paragraph we chanted “STOP THE AFA ARMS BAZAAR — DISARM NOW!” This was followed by a reading of the Beatitudes from Luke’s Gospel. Rev. Chuck Booker then offered a prayer of Exorcism and Conversion. Pat Elder,  Kathy Boylan, Bob Cooke and Jack McHale read selections from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech from 1967.  Mary Neznek led a Litany of Repentance and Conversion which was followed by a song. We then heard from Medea Benjamin who had gone inside the Gaylord. She shared how saddening it was to witness up close this scandalous “Arms Bazaar.” She said she tried to interview a Lockheed Martin representative about the selling of weapons to Saudi Arabia who have used such weapons to bomb school buses and hospitals in Yemen, but the representative would not speak about this subject.
In our closing circle, we remembered the continuing struggle by the people in Vieques, Puerto Rico who are endangered by the deadly waste left behind from decades of U.S. naval bomb testing. We remembered, too, the whistle-blowers and truth-tellers, including Katharine Gun, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Mordechai Vanunu who have endured great suffering as a result of their courageous actions.  And finally, we remembered the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 who will be tried in Federal Court in Brunswick, Georgia on October 21 for their prophetic action at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base on April 4, 2018. They face a maximum 25 year prison sentence.  We concluded our vigil by singing the Vine and Fig Tree song.
In hope for a disarmed world,
Art Laffin
Leaflet for The AFA “Arms Bazaar ” Protest 
“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 16-18, 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.” Last year’s theme for the AFA Arms Bazaar was: “Multi-Domain Operations: Leveraging the Full Spectrum.” This year’s theme is “Expanding the Competitive Edge.” (see below more info) Over 130 exhibitors taking part in this years Arms Bazaar have played a prominent role in U.S. warmaking. Arms contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and BAE, 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.

 As the source of approximately 36 percent of the world’s military exports, the U.S. is the worlds largest arms supplier, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute see:

The U.S. exported arms to at least 98 countries in the past five years; these deliveries often included advanced weapons such as combat aircraft, short-range cruise and ballistic missiles, and large numbers of guided bombs. Of the 25 countries buying the most weapons from the U.S., 10 are either NATO member nations or part of other alliances formed with the U.S. since the Cold War. In 2017 the U.S. set a one year record for clearing weapons sales of $75.9 billion.

The biggest recipient of U.S. arms sales is Saudi Arabia. The Saudi’s have been using weapons from arms contractors like Lockheed Martin to kill innocent Yemenis, including scores of children. On August 9, 2018 the Saudi military used a 500 pound Lockheed Martin made MK 82 laser guided bomb in an attack on a school-bus in the market of Dahyan in Saada province of Yemen, which killed over 50 people, including 40 children. Ali Mohammed Hasssan Da’i–10 years old; Ali Zaid Hussein Tayeb–9 years old, were among those killed. And on September 15, 2018, Aljazeera reported that two more Yemeni children were killed in yet another bombing by the U.S.-backed Saudi-UAE Military Alliance. Three year old Nabil and new-born baby girl Sumood were killed when a bomb struck their home in the Saada Province’s Marran district. Imagine if these children were members of our own families or friends of ours–how would we feel? It is a grave miscarriage of justice that those responsible for this criminal act will never be held to account.

More than half (52 percent) of U.S. arms exports went to the Middle East in 2014–18. 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, proceeds with its military “pivot” in the Asia-Pacific to threaten and contain China, and wages its killer drone attacks. During this past year there have been U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

In its pursuit to dominate space, the Trump Administration is creating a “Space Force,” a new branch of the U.S. military. In an August 29th ceremony formally establishing the Space Force, Mr. Trump called the command’s creation a “landmark moment” in protecting America’s assets in space and said it would help “defend America’s vital interest in space, the next warfighting domain, and I think that’s pretty obvious to everybody. It’s all about space.”

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.

Today the U.S. possess over 6,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are on hair-trigger alert, and proposes to spend an estimated $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its existing nuclear arsenal. The Pentagon also announced in June a new nuclear war doctrine: “Nuclear Operations.” This doctrine is designed to fulfill the Trump Administration’s quest for nuclear-war-fighting “flexibility.”

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has turned its “Doomsday Clock” to 2 minutes before midnight to signify the perilous situation facing the world due to the dangers of nuclear war and the climate crisis. This peril has been exacerbated by contradictory and belligerent comments by a U.S. president who has threatened to attack Iran, as well as by the U.S. conducting a sub-critical nuclear test in February, and withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal and the INF Treaty with Russia. As a leading nuclear superpower, the U.S. practices a double standard by calling on other nations to disarm while, at the same time, it refuses to disarm and instead is rapidly expanding its own arsenal. The U.S. military is also the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels which is directly responsible for destabilizing the earth’s climate.

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 historic treaty to legally prohibit nuclear weapons. To date 26 countries have ratified it. We call on the U.S., the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, to endorse this treaty and to lead the way to total worldwide nuclear disarmament.
During its three day Arms Bazaar, 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. On September 16, the AFA will hold a $300+ per plate banquet honoring outstanding airmen, and on September 18, it will have another similar banquet celebrating the birthday of the AFA. 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 and the environment worldwide!

 The victims cry out for justice, and the earth, under daily assault, groans in travail! 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, racism, oppression and violence–from Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, to Ferguson, Charlottesville, D.C. and elsewhere. Together, let us continue to do all we can to establish the Beloved Community, end the climate crisis, 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, CODEPINK and other peacemakers as we seek to say YES to Life and a resounding NO to the merchants of death and war profiteers.

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

Published in: on September 18, 2019 at 11:29 am  Leave a Comment  

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