My turn: Assembly the right place for action

Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Juneau Empire's editorial addressing Juneau's involuntary participation in the anti-missile defense testing at Lena Point (On Oct. 11) stated that "getting the Juneau Assembly involved in what is a national defense policy would be a wasted effort for everyone involved." A far more deserving admonishment should be directed toward Mayor Bruce Botelho, Rep. Andrea Doll and Sen. Kim Elton who, after being informed of the Pentagon's plans for Lena Point earlier this year, failed to properly notify the public and convene a timely forum for citizens' input.

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That irresponsible act of complicity in President George Bush's nuclear brinkmanship by failing to provide for a transparent and democratic process demands further investigation by the Empire and a public accounting from these elected officials. If all this sounds hyperbolic, please refer to Bush's Oct. 23 speech to the National Defense University about the "urgent" need to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and Russian President Vladimir Putin's subsequent declaration that such a deployment would be a provocation comparable to the Cuban missile crisis.

In addition, what your editorial implicitly assumed was that simply stating what is or is not germane to local government without explanation or historical context was sufficient rationale for your readership to swallow. What it clearly expressed was a contempt for residents using the Assembly to debate weighty issues of state. What followed this scolding was a rather naive suggestion that Juneauites focus exclusively on state and national politicians as agents for change.

As far as I'm aware, corporate America's preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, who can't even promise to be out of Iraq by 2013 or rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Iran, hasn't mentioned, let alone condemned, Bush's plan to build a de-stabilizing Star Wars system. Likewise, no Alaskan Democrat considering a race against Rep. Don Young has taken a stand against the testing. At the belated community meeting hosted by the Missile Defense Agency in mid-September, even our house "liberal," Elton, proudly voiced that he "would not publicly oppose it."

When state politicians from Sen. Ted Stevens to Elton are either too afraid to confront the military industrial complex or too much in their back pocket, then it seems that local assemblies are exactly the right place for a populist surge. After all, American history is flush with examples of towns and cities rising up to address critical national concerns when there existed a vacuum in political leadership. From the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott to campaigns to establish "nuclear-free zones" after the Three Mile Island accident to the various local movements to impeach Bush/Cheney, ordinary people have always demonstrated grassroots initiative when faced with immoral or dysfunctional leadership from main street to the White House.

What was most surprising was your unwarranted fear that the Juneau Assembly would even feel pressured to take a stand against the madness being constructed out at Lena Point. To the best of my knowledge, Juneau People for Peace and Justice and Veterans for Peace have, for some inexplicable reason, failed to muster the decency and courage to put out a simple press release denouncing the testing let alone build a resistance to stop it. Is the Empire privy to an individual on the Assembly poised to launch a crusade pointing out how this "defensive" system is actually a critical component of a first-strike weapon, guaranteed to re-ignite the arms race at a time of incredible global instability? Is some member about to make the patently obvious case that our preciously few tax dollars would be better spent on the human needs of housing, health care and education rather than dishing out corporate subsidies to Lockheed/Martin and Raytheon?

In closing, your editorial board can probably sleep tight knowing it's highly unlikely that any effort will surface to challenge our local leadership's collaboration in Bush's use of Juneau to facilitate nuclear terrorism. After all, our so-called progressive politicians and organizations only seem desirous of peace in the abstract but not in their own backyards.

• Albert Petrarca is a Juneau resident.

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