by Jack Gilroy, published on CovertAction Magazine, August 26, 2023
Yes, this is a drop in the bucket. We need hundreds and thousands and millions of drops to reach our goal of ending war….. so please join the UNAC call for activities between September 30 and October 7. [jb]
Cluster Bombs Have Killed at Least 67,000 Vietnamese Since the Vietnam War Ended
One of President Joe Biden’s biographers, David Hagan, author of No Ordinary Joe, tells the story of a 10-year-old Joe Biden taking a $5 bet to climb a burning coal pile in his hometown of Scranton. Young Joe took the bet and scampered up the mountainous mound of fiery fissures and won the bet. Biden had the $5 bill framed and it hung in his Senate office for decades.
As a boy, Joe Biden was a risk-taker of his own life. Now, President of the United States and leader of NATO, he has taken all of us to the fiery brink of nuclear war.
Just off Interstate 81 near Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden’s hometown, is Exit 185 to what is now called the President Biden Expressway.
On July 22, multiple peace and justice organizers went to Scranton to focus on what the Ukrainians and the President of the United States say is the most important weapons needed: artillery shells, and now the added dimension of putting bomblets inside artillery shells for use as cluster bombs.
Drive down the steep slope of the President Biden Expressway to find the #4 Merchant of Death in the U.S., General Dynamics, operating the Army Ammunition Plant just a chip-shot away from the central shopping center of downtown Scranton.
During the Vietnam War students from the nearby University of Scranton protested outside the 155 mm artillery slaughterhouse. There is no record of any protests at the General Dynamics facility in decades. That changed on Saturday, July 22, when anti-war activists drove to Scranton from Vermont, Virginia, New Jersey, Long Island and New York City, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and upstate New York.
The Haunting Nightmare of Children’s Screams
The Biden administration has agreed to sell Ukraine cluster bombs which were known in the Vietnam War for their lethality because they are designed to maximize human suffering by exploding once they penetrate the skin.
Also, at least 67,000 Vietnamese have been maimed by unexploded cluster bombs since war’s end, along with thousands more people in Laos and Cambodia.
Scott Bennett, a former U.S. Army psychological warfare officer and State Department counterterrorism analyst, told Sputnik that the results of the introduction of cluster bombs in Ukraine will be “nothing but violent, indiscriminate civilian deaths, destruction of property, [and] the haunting nightmares of children’s screams. The supreme danger of the cluster bombs the U.S. is intending on sending to Ukraine is that they are 20 years old, which means they will have a very high ‘dud’ rate—probably 10-20% or more. This means these bomblets will be left unexploded all over the landscape waiting for unsuspecting civilians to detonate them—which seems to be the objective: terror.”
Even if the group that came out to protest on July 22 in Scranton was small, they made an important political statement and may yet help to spark more anti-war protests.
You are welcome to watch the whole thing, or skip through and find the speakers you may know. I set the video to start at the beginning of Joe Lombardo’s introduction by Nick Mottern and his speech. Joe is the UNAC Coordinator.
One of the speakers said that, while people working at the artillery shell plant had to feed their families like everyone else, they should consider the victims of the bombs they help build and work with others in their community to build a peace economy instead of the war economy that now exists.
Of course, to question the region’s embrace of militarism by focusing on the largest artillery shell maker in the United States may have been sacrilegious to a region steeped in a religious embrace of militarism.
The University of Scranton, a Catholic university just a few minutes’ walk from the Army Ammunition Plant, trains college students in the art of killing via its ROTC program. Ten colleges in northeastern Pennsylvania send students to train at the University of Scranton.
A 20-minute drive from downtown Scranton to the largest military electronic storehouse in the nation is the U.S. Army Tobyhanna Depot, the biggest industrial employer in northeastern Pennsylvania employing more than 3,000 workers.
Scrantonians are just one of many Merchant-of-Death brainwashed and money-washed populations in the United States. The region is historically Democratic and their present congressional representative, Matt Cartwright, is a member of the House Progressive Caucus.
Cartwright is always ready and willing to praise new military contracts coming to northeastern Pennsylvania and always votes each session for more military spending.
Having lived in this coal-mining Lackawanna Valley for many more years than Joe Biden, and as a graduate of the University of Scranton, I knew well our reception by locals would not be with open arms. In Scranton, and in every little town and village north and south, are street lamps adorned with photos of their heroes, military veterans.
Our estimate of Scranton participants at the rally was fewer than ten, and two of them were Trump supporters who parked their tractor-trailer alongside our gathering. Local television stations were asked to cover our event—none did—and a lone Scranton Times-Tribune photographer snapped a shot of the rally that was buried in its Sunday edition.
We will not give up on Scranton, The good people there deserve better than a house of death in the center of their town. President Biden repeats how he wants to renew passenger train travel to New York City from Scranton. Why not a more meaningful proposal like converting the ammunition plant into a rail production center?
In 1855, Scranton was the leading iron producer in the United States. Later, Scranton became known as the Electric City.
Amtrak Joe could leave a proud legacy by focusing on the building of electric trains in his hometown. The Steamtown National Historic Site is a block away from the Scranton Army ammunition maker of artillery shells.
Organizers of the Rally for Ukraine asked Scranton area Catholics to petition their Bishop Joseph Bambera to speak at our rally. Six women from Bishop Bambera’s hometown of Carbondale sent him a request to attend and speak. The women did not receive a response.
So, Pope Francis (in mask) and President Biden (in mask) did stand in. Biden spoke high praise for the 155 mm plant in his hometown and as he spoke Pope Francis appeared and advised the President that he needed to confess to his historic murderous deeds from the Middle East to Ukraine.
The Pope took the President by hand and led him across the street to the Army Ammunition Plant and lied on the concrete entrance to the 155 mm factory where the President confessed his sins as others lied down and blocked the entrance way.
No arrests were made. Armed guards did not leave their duty shack.
If Pope Francis was really in attendance he would likely have said the same words he spoke to the United States Congress in September of 2015: “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.”
Americans must demand economic conversion from designing and producing tools to kill into serving the real needs of health, housing, climate, and transportation. Are Americans ready to accept that they have been scammed by what Pope Francis told the U.S. Congress “The arms industry is drenched in blood”?
*Featured Image: Activists standing outside the fence at the Tobyhanna Arms Depot. ~Vera Scroggins; All photos ~Vera Scroggins
Jack Gilroy is a retired school teacher and a long time antiwar activist. People in the countryside often have more access to military installations than those in larger cities. While only in his 80s, Jack spent months in jail for participating in a die-in at Hancock Drone base. Most recently, Jack, who hails from Binghamton NY has organized several protest against arms dealers in the southern tier of NY and Pennsylvania. He is also a supporter of the Merchants of Death Tribunal coming up in November.