- A Better World community
Protesting for Peace
Updated: Mar 15
McNair and Ken talk about the military industrial complex, and Raytheon moving into Asheville. Protesting the war machine, the war in Ukraine and increased military spending, nuclear concerns and the prospects for peace.
Guest: Ken Jones, from Veterans for Peace and Reject Raytheon Asheville.
Podcast Transcript - click to expand
McNair Ezzard 0:14
Hello, and welcome to A Better World on WPVMFM. Today is Sunday, February 5, 2023. My name is McNair Ezzard. And I'm your host for today's show. We come to you every Sunday morning at 103.7 on your FM dial, or you can stream us at wpvmfm.org. A Better World features interviews with people who are making a difference. And our guest today is Ken Jones, who is with the local chapter of Veterans for Peace, and the Reject Raytheon coalition. Ken has been with us before on the show. So Ken, I want to welcome you back. Thanks for coming.
Ken Jones 0:56
Thank you, McNair for having me.
McNair Ezzard 0:57
Sure thing. I wanted to start out the show today by having you tell us a bit about Veterans for Peace. What is it?
Ken Jones 1:06
Well, Veterans for Peace is a national, or I should say international organization that started some 30 years ago. And it has over 100 chapters all through the US and Japan, in Britain and Canada. Some other countries too. And we have a local chapter. One of many. And the national organization has various things like a national conference, and they get grant money. And they do things at a national level. But local chapters are pretty free to do what they want locally. Now ours has been around, we're chapter 99, which means we're the 99th one into the franchise, if you will, I guess we've been around 20-25 years, we have probably 20 to 30 very active members. And there are members who are not so active but are connected to us in various ways through social media or email. And that probably runs up to 100, I think. So the idea is these, you don't have to be a veteran, to be part of the organizations. I'm not a veteran. There are what we call associate members. And we are people who affiliate with Veterans for Peace because we are anti war people and we are activists against wars of all kinds. And then there are other veterans who have served. Veterans for Peace actually is an older, kind of mostly Vietnam vets, but there are some younger in our chapter, not many, but in other chapters more so, who are you know, post-9/11 veterans. Anyway, it's a mix of veterans and non veterans, all of whom agree that we're against war.
McNair Ezzard 3:01
So tell me a little bit about your background, and how did you end up coming to Veterans for Peace?
Ken Jones 3:09
I was a draft resister in Vietnam, I didn't go into the military, I actually ended up going to Canada, resisted the draft. So Veterans for Peace is fine with that. In fact, they welcome people who have been draft resistors, or conscientious objectors, because all of us are acting from conscience, some of us started acting on conscience before we went in the Army. And some of us acted on conscience after they went into the military. So you know, getting drafted for Vietnam, really opened my eyes to the nature of war. Of course, back in those days, it was on TV and reported and lots of people you knew who were going in and so forth. And so you could see it, you could see the nature of war, and you could see the nature of imperialism, and the nature of our country in the world. And especially when I went to Canada, I got a very good look at the United States from outside the United States, which since traveled to all, a number of other countries and people really ought to see how the rest of the world sees us. Because if you, if you only see the way we see ourselves, it's a problem. You're not really seeing how we behave in the world. Anyway, so I became an anti-war activist, and I got associated with Veterans for Peace when I lived in Maine. That was actually the very first chapter. The founding member, founding person of Veterans for Peace, lived in Maine, and still does and so I got involved with people there. I mostly just stood on corners holding signs with them. I was not the activist I am now. I was a university professor in those days. And you know, I'd go out and and join them. Now here in Asheville, I'm retired. So I can put myself more into anti-war activities. So I'm much more active, moved here eight years ago and much more active here in Asheville than I was in Maine.
McNair Ezzard 5:09
Are there certain groups around the country that are more active than others?
Ken Jones 5:14
You know, that's, I've been to a couple national conferences and been on webinars and actually presented to Veterans for Peace. So I've sort of rub elbows with people from around the country. And, yeah, there are some chapters that seem to be more active maybe at a certain period of time, more so than another. The San Diego chapter is known for being strong. Trying to think where the chapters are, that I've run into. The one in Minnesota is a strong, Minneapolis. Comparatively speaking, we do well here in Asheville for our size. We're a small number of activists, but you can see us on the streets every week, we're out Tuesday doing a vigil, an anti war vigil at the former, you know, Vance monument. And now with Reject Raytheon, there's a real activist, sort of arm of Veterans for Peace, there's a number of us and we affiliate with a number of other people who are not Veterans for Peace. So that's a coalition, a local coalition. And we're pretty active and have been for a couple of years in terms of getting out on the street and writing letters to the editor and, you know, showing up to, to not only speak against the plant that's built, the Pratt & Whitney plant, which is the division of Raytheon, but to speak against the military industrial complex and the way it's driving us into war all over.
McNair Ezzard 6:46
Yeah, and I want to get into that in a little bit. Before I go to the Reject Raytheon coalition, I want to ask, do you ever, does the organization ever get pushback from other veterans about your activities?
Ken Jones 7:02
To the extent that we members, our members go to meetings with other organizations? Yes, I think so. I don't go to those meetings. But, you know, Veterans for Peace is probably a minority of the veterans in the world. And in this country, and the veterans, other veterans organizations tend to be very patriotic. And not that Veterans for Peace people aren't, many of them are, some are, but patriotic in terms of supporting US imperialism and wars, is more of the nature of other veterans, for veterans groups, I think than Veterans for Peace. So, push back? I don't know that it's like, it gets to that level, rises to that level. Disagreement? Most certainly.
McNair Ezzard 7:57
Let me ask you about Reject Raytheon. You, I think it was maybe a couple of years ago, you... you were on the show talking about that, in fact, Reject Raytheon was named Peacemaker the year for 2021 by WNC For Peace. So can you kind of give us a summary of what Reject Raytheon is about?
Ken Jones 8:18
We started I guess about two years ago, a little more over two years ago and how, when they first announced, when the Buncombe County Commissioners first announced that they had given these tax incentives to Pratt and Whitney. It was the first time and there was a letter, there was a sorry, article, in the Citizen Times about it. Up to that point, it had been a secret deal working for 18 months. And so a lot of people in the community not just Veterans for Peace, went to the hearing at the Buncombe County Commission and spoke against having a war profiteer, like Raytheon coming to our community and especially giving the tax incentives, a $27 million tax incentive package. And during that meeting, we met each other, people who came to, to argue against it. People from Sunrise, people from Democratic Socialists of America. And so we came together and formed a group. Veterans for Peace with them. And it's Reject... one of the younger members came up with a name, Reject Raytheon, just it alliterative, and it also names Raytheon as the primary focus. Pratt and Whitney is an iteration or division I should say, of Raytheon, but Raytheon is the second largest work corporation in the world, major war profiteers that make every conceivable thing about war and profit from it. So from two years ago, we started together and you know, we started doing the actions in the streets from, you know we did a peace walk, we did a die-in, we did demonstrations at the site of the plant, we uh... demonstrations around town. Lots of letters to the editor, op eds, things of that kind, and have kept at it pretty well. So at this point, we can still there probably 15 active members, but we can still put together 40 to 50 people on any given occasion if we call them out for an action that we intend to do. So with, you know, now that the Pratt Whitney plant is just about complete, you know, people say, Well, you know, it's a done deal, why are you still out there. And it's because of what it represents. You know, for one thing, we want to serve as watchdogs for what's going on at that plant and have heard a number of rumors, even though it's not even open yet. Things like there was a small explosion there that didn't make the news, heard a rumor that they got 30 million extra dollars, because they're revamping the design of the plant. We know that they'd haven't met their performance goals that were in the tax incentives, and anyway we were trying to be watchdogs about it, listen to what people are saying about what's going on there. And we are concerned about the next step, this, this plan was meant to be the first step in the development of 1000 acres on the Biltmore Farms holdings out there. So there, there was 100 acres given to Pratt Whitney to build this plant. If your listeners don't know, Pratt and Whitney makes jet engines, parts, components, and many of them probably as much as as many as half of them go to fighter jets, like F15's, F16's, F35's, things like that. They're a military contractor, but they also produce engine parts for commercial airlines. Anyway, the idea that we've heard from the Chamber of Commerce, and from Biltmore Farms, from Jack Cecil at Biltmore Farms, is that the remaining 900 acres for development, they are now recruiting other businesses to come in. And they are hoping to have, in a sense, an aerospace, industrial park. They want to pull in other firms that, you know, maybe, you know, supply chain or ancillary distances to Pratt Whitney, or other aerospace industry firms like Pratt and Whitney. So we are working on making that clear to people of what's going on out there. It's it's the first, it's like an anchor store in a mall, and now they're getting the looking for other businesses. And we've proposed a plan for the extra 900 acres that was basically green in nature, don't take down all the trees and, you know, let's work with local businesses and not bring in multinationals. Anyway, we have a list of criteria that we've submitted to Biltmore Farms and made public in a letter to the editor. And so we're trying to think through the future of this whole thing.
McNair Ezzard 12:48
Well, I saw on the website where, I think it was in December, a letter signed by 40 of you asking the CEO for a meeting to discuss his plans. Did that... was that meeting granted?
Ken Jones 13:00
No. [laughter] No, they didn't respond to us at all, is why we sent it then, almost an identical letter that we sent to Jack Cecil, we sent it to the Mountain Express and got it published. We copied it to a lot of people, people... we are like the dissenters, right? We're the minority dissenters. And we don't have enough numbers, probably for them to pay a lot of attention to this. And they're not going to respond to us unless, you know, some kind of pressure comes to bear on them that we'd like to make it that kind of pressure. But you know, we haven't yet.
McNair Ezzard 13:36
If you just joined us, you're listening to a conversation with Ken Jones from the local chapter in Asheville of Veterans for Peace. And he's with, also with the Reject Raytheon coalition. I wanted to ask you, the local government probably has been supportive of it all along from the beginning... Is the main reason... Am I correct in that? And then and I guess, is the main reason, economic?
Ken Jones 14:04
Yes, I think that's what they would tell you. You know, they talk about the jobs and economic development, you know, there'll be spin off benefits to the economy. I mean, that's the argument from the county commissioners and the chamber of commerce and certainly Biltmore Farms. Economic is the reason. We have a difference of opinion about what would be good economic development, even if you're only talking about jobs. It's sort of a well known research finding, at least among people who do the work to find out, that there are many more jobs that can be had if money is invested in almost anything other than the military industrial complex, especially high tech businesses, like aerospace industry, for the same amount of investment, say in education or healthcare or clean energy infrastructure, or even just giving people money back on their taxes, any of that actually generates a better effect on the economy. The Cost of War project that Brown University did this research maybe 10 years ago. And so the argument that it's maybe the only way or the best way to have economic development here in the county, is, it's a fallacy. Now, that leads you to believe that there's something other than economic development going on. And we think there is, we think there's political pressure. We think the military industrial complex is huge. And, you know, Raytheon is just one piece of it. And they have a long history of getting themselves into every congressional district, you know, they pay money into people's campaigns, political campaigns. You know, they lobby to the max, they have a lot of influence. In fact, people will argue that the military industrial complex, has more influence over politicians than the other way at the national level. And true local level, if any politicians have ambitions to rise, they're not going to go anywhere, if they buck the powers that be and that, in this case, is the people who are supporting Raytheon. You know, the business community, the... Jack Cecil, all of those people. So it could be that commissioners, for example, you know, they see through the jobs argument, as you know, we could get jobs a different way. But in order to run up against the power structure that exists that generates these factories in this industry, it would take quite a bit of courage. So I think that's in play, too.
McNair Ezzard 17:01
Do you feel like the general public here in... in Western North Carolina is even aware of Reject Raytheon, and the issues surrounding them coming into the area?
Ken Jones 17:14
You know, no, I don't McNair, not very many people. I mean, that's sort of what we're trying to do is educate people about the nature of this industry, not just this one business, that's coming to our town. We get a lot of people, when we pass out flyers, if we're able to talk to people, we get a lot of people, people who don't know, even that the plant exists much less what the plant's about. If they do know the plant exists, it might be 50/50. People who understand that it's a danger to be part of a, you know, the war machine in this country. And there's a climate issue as well. Right, the military's the biggest contributor to carbon in the world. And factories like this also produce toxins and carbon. So there are issues that some people are aware of, but there are others who just what they see is basically what they read and what they're told, which is that this is economic development. And this is jobs, and why would you be against that? So it's a mix. There's also indifference, I think, you know, a lot of people you know, they're busy make a living, the economy's tough, and they're raising their kids and they're putting food on the table and, you know, its day to day existence, and they're not tuned in or maybe concern about an issue that doesn't directly affect them. So I think there's a lot of that trying to help people see that this will affect them and most certainly will affect their children and grandchildren.
McNair Ezzard 18:51
Pratt Whitney, they they're known for making jet engines, right for commercial aircraft as well. How, how do we know that is not the extent of what's being manufactured here?
Ken Jones 19:03
Well, they acknowledged, they said when they first came in that they would make... they lowballed the percentage. They said they would make probably up to 30% military engines, and they sited the F35. But they, Pratt Whitney, also makes other military engines, engines for other fighter jets as well. So we actually, there's a researcher, her name is Miriam Pemberton, she's a scholar, and she did a book called Six Stops on the National Security Tour, just came out. And I have discussed with her, had her on a webinar, the nature of Pratt Whitney and other industries. She interviewed in her book, she documents that she interviewed the shop foreman in the Pratt Whitney plant that's in Connecticut. You know, Pratt and Whitney is moving here from Connecticut, in part because we're a Right-to-Work state, we're a non-union state and Connecticut as a union state. So we will see what happens with these salaries. But um, what she was told by the shop foreman was that it was 50/50. What they were producing in Connecticut was 50% military, 50% commercial. So I mean, it's not unusual for a military contractor to come in town and, you know, not tie the... tell the entire truth about what they're up to. So we believe it'll be 50% at least, especially now, we hear that there's a big push to finish this plant real fast. Like there's a pressure on the workers there to get this thing done. They're behind schedule as it is, it's probably some bonuses involved. But it's also a case that what's happening with the war in Ukraine is the buildup of the military industry and the pressure to produce more missiles, more bombs, more fighter jets. So I suspect that there's some pressure to crank out some more fighter jets and some more jet engines coming out of Pratt and Whitney, and it might even be more than 50% military, who knows, we're moving into wartime now, it looks like.
McNair Ezzard 21:20
You mentioned earlier about the military industrial complex and I wanted to ask, Do you think there's a basic fault in the capitalist system that lends itself to such complexes developing in the economy? Or? Or is it a fault of those in power, both politically, economically, who, who use the system to their own advantage as a way to get rich and wield power?
Ken Jones 21:44
Yeah, yes. And yes. You know, after World War II is when the military industrial complex really took off, because World War II was basically what brought us out of the depression, more than anything, and all these industries were cracked up. There's a great book by this guy, Bill Hartung, it's called Profits of War. And he tracks the history of Lockheed Martin. And Lockheed Martin came out of World War II as, you know, someone who... as an industry that had provided all these war planes, and they were also providing commercial planes at that time, but there was a lot more money coming through the Pentagon than in the commercial industry. So bit by bit, the military industrial complex, started to become sort of the Keynesian approach to keeping our economy going, you know, more money spent by the government to generate, you know, the prosperity that existed in the 50s and the 60s. Of course, what happened was more and more, they got larger, they consolidated. They had more power, they, the revolving door of people going from industry, into the Pentagon and into these think tanks, and it started to evolve into this sort of octopus that had tentacles in our media and, you know, just started becoming larger and larger, and the profits generated... You know, it's capitalism, that's the systemic problem with it, is that they are bound and determined to make more and more money. And, of course, if what you're doing is making weapons, if that's your business plan, then your marketing plan is war. Right. So... So what they do is not only make profits, but they promote conflict in the world. The military industrial complex is credited, especially Lockheed Martin, is credited with the expansion of NATO. You know, after James Baker promised Gorbachev, you know, when they united Germany that they would not go one inch further east, NATO would not expand at all. And then Clinton came along. And of course, they did expand this, let us write in bit by bit that's, you know, evolved into the war in Ukraine. But what what happened was, Lockheed Martin and other industries went and saw the market that was available in Eastern Europe. You know, like, you could expand NATO and of course, when a country joins NATO, they have to buy weaponry that are that is so called inter operable with US weapons. So that basically means they're going to buy US weapons, and US manufacturing weapons. So this market opened up and NATO expanded. And, you know, that's the story that the military industrial complex has driven us further and further into, you know, conflicts and wars. And now to the point where we're facing off against another nuclear armed power which is horrifying.
McNair Ezzard 25:01
But is there a way do you think, to change this trajectory that we've been on for so long in this country towards greater and greater defense budgets, you know, towards more militarism? Can... Can that be changed? And how?
Ken Jones 25:19
Yeah, well, that's what we hope for, you know, you got to have hope. And, you know, I heard someone say recently that there's a psychology in the United States and... and it has to do with thinking that you know, our we're the exceptional nation, right? We're the one that police's the world, we... all have our bases, some 800 military bases around the world are forces for the good. And, of course, we are the most propagandized society, maybe ever, you know, we all believe this sort of thing. Is that our military establishment, not only is the defense operation, right, really the rest of the world sees us as offense, not defense, you know, who's going to attack the United States, right, as the United States is busy, you know, intruding into other countries. So the United States public is, it believes in the myth of, you know, the uni polar world, if you will, you know, like we, we are the hegemony, we are the Empire, and we should be, and it's a good thing. Now, how do you change that around? I mean, I don't, I don't know that you can change the vested interests that are making money on this right? Can we break the hold of capitalism? I think it might have to crash and burn first. I don't know. We're all gonna go down the tubes before we decide that that's not working. How do you change people's perspective, their worldview, their understanding of what's going on in the world and the danger? I don't think people understand the danger of the nuclear threat that we're facing, you know, with this thing in Ukraine, or the danger of climate emergency, I just, you know, it's something that's hidden, it's kept hidden, because people are making money from exploiting it. I don't know. I mean, that's sort of what we are doing as activists is trying to, you know, sort of somebody once called a prophetic work, right. Your, your, your voice out there trying to raise sort of the vision of what it is that's real and what, where it is we're going, but you're doing it in, you know, kind of wilderness, right? You're doing it in an environment where people not only don't understand it, but they don't appreciate what you're trying to tell them.
McNair Ezzard 27:42
Yeah, I heard this week that the doomsday clock has been moved closer to midnight than it ever has been before.
Ken Jones 27:50
Yeah, 90 seconds. I would make it closer than that. I don't want to be alarmist, I'd sort of live with a sense of dread because this thing in Ukraine, neither side is de escalating. Right? It's a proxy war. It's US against Russia. I mean, Ukrainians are, you know, they're, I feel horrified by what's happening to the Ukrainians. But the US is there, they plan for this war, they wanted this war, they provoked this war, and now they're fueling this war, you know, US and NATO, and Russia see this as an existential challenge and crisis to them, they are not going to back down. And so they... we send more weapons, Russia sends more weapons, we send advanced stuff, they send advanced stuff. You know, some but somehow, the escalation ladder has to stop because, yeah, 90 seconds to midnight. I think it's closer than that. I, I see, you know, these two nuke... there are 13,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and 90% of them are in the US and Russia. The minute I mean, the minute one of these gets used, they all tumble down, and we're done for.
McNair Ezzard 29:05
I think you're right, I think it's all over then if that happens. If you just joined us, you're listening to a conversation with Ken Jones from Veterans for Peace and Reject Raytheon coalition. And you're listening to us on A Better World at 103.7 WPVM in Asheville, North Carolina.
Okay, welcome back, and you're listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM and our guest today is Ken Jones with the local chapter of Veterans for Peace in Asheville, and he's also with Reject Raytheon. Ken, let me ask you what, what's the reason for Western North Carolina and the Asheville area for, for this plant?
Ken Jones 30:06
You know, Pratt and Whitney was recruited to come here from the state level. The story is that the Chamber of Commerce and local Chamber of Commerce, went to a arms fair in Paris, and intentionally sought out Pratt Whitney, because they knew they were looking to relocate from Connecticut. Pratt Whitney had several places in mind, I believe all of them were in the South: Georgia, Tennessee, maybe South Carolina. Because the south are, are the states that have right-to-work laws. And that's typical of capitalism, not just the defense industry, but to go where they can pay labor less. So they got recruited. And then Jack Cecil at Biltmore Farms sweetened the deal by offering 100 acres for free to come here. And of course, Asheville is a beautiful location. It's in the mountains. And it's also located in what I've been told, is a regional hub, southeastern United States, and especially around Atlanta, have a lot of aerospace industry. Lockheed Martin has plants in Atlanta, and probably all the other contractors do to. Huntsville, Alabama is big, too, that way. So it's located close to other like industries. That was a draw. The, like I say, the labor situation was a draw, they got recruited, they got this tax incentive, $27 million tax incentive from the county, they got over, all told, from the state, county and private foundations, they got $100 million in subsidies to come here. They got a bridge built for them across the French Broad River up to the plant, they are going to get, in fact it is in process, an exit exchange off of interstate 26. A-B Tech got money to train their workers. So they got a pretty nice package to come here. Like I say they got recruited, and then they... Yeah, they got what they wanted and came here.
McNair Ezzard 32:21
Let me switch, switch gears just for a few minutes here. You before the break, you were talking about the war in Ukraine being a proxy war between America and NATO and Russia? And of course, you know, the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons exists with this war. Do you see that as a serious possibility?
Ken Jones 32:44
Oh, I do. Yeah. And, you know, people will tell you that it's Russia that's going to use them, you know, because the, the myth, I think, is that Putin is a madman, and, you know, he could kill us all, well, you know, Putin's a president at war, and he's defending his country, you know, he's got an 80% approval rate, in Russia. So he's is not entirely a madman. He is waging a war. And, and they are not going to lose it. The war was actually instigated by the danger of nuclear weapons. You know, we have nuclear weapons in Romania, and in Poland, and also in other... in Germany and other places in Europe, but they are so close to the border of Russia, that it's a danger to them already. And then to come in and say we're going to make Ukraine a NATO country, and we're going to put more nuclear missiles right there on your border, like seven minute flight time for these missiles to hit Moscow. You know, it's a reverse Cuban Missile Crisis.
McNair Ezzard 34:02
Well, exactly. I heard someone speaking this week, that posed the question, what if the reverse were happening and Russia or China were building or wanting to put installations in countries like Mexico or Venezuela? What, what would our response be?
Ken Jones 34:20
We know what it would be, don't we? You know, well, look at what happened in Cuba. Right? We came to the brink. I was alive at that time, we came to the brink you know, look like we all thought we were gonna get nuked, both sides. And, and so now this war that was instigated by Russia saying no, you can't, you can't, you can't put your stuff, your NATO stuff in Ukraine. This war is terrible. There's hundreds of 1000s of people being killed, displaced refugees, all this going on. And yet this global chess game of dominance, getting played out that, you know, it's a game of nuclear chicken. Because I mean, this conventional war, you know, keeps going on keeps getting escalated, keep getting escalated. At what point do we say, wait a minute, you know if, if this keeps escalating even an accident, even accidentally, could a nuclear weapon be used? It's just a danger to the world. It's not just Ukraine at stake. Yeah, I'm afraid that we, you know, it could very well spill into a nuclear war. And apparently that Bulletin of Atomic Scientists see it too.
McNair Ezzard 35:43
So do you, I mean just kind of a hopeful question, do you see any peaceful resolution to this war? How do you see it ending?
Ken Jones 35:53
Well, the only way it can end is with negotiations, right? I mean, that's the way wars always end one way, sooner or later, there was a negotiation. So let's do it sooner. You know, there was a peace deal on the table, like within the first month of the... after the invasion, Ukraine, Zelensky, and Ukraine met with Russian diplomats in Turkey had a 15-point plan, they were moving ahead to try to come to peace terms, and it would have only meant that Crimea, and those, those separatist Donbas republics would be excluded, there would be no more land taken, that would be the extent of Russian incursion. And the United States put the kibosh on it. They sent Boris Johnson in there. And Boris Johnson told Zelensky under no circumstances can you sign a peace treaty, we won't guarantee your security. And we think we can beat the Russians. Right. And, and so this is part of the grand plan, right? This is the, the NATO countries want to defeat Russia, you know, Lloyd Austin said it, so they can weaken Russia. And, you know, if you follow the logic through, you know, China is the next in our sights, you know, if you get rid of Russia, you know, our global domination will you know, we already are provoking them over Taiwan. So here we are, we're, we're refusing to have these negotiations because we think the war, I don't think we think it's a winnable, we think it's serving a purpose, the United States, I say we, the people who are ruling and running the military policy of the United States, foreign policy, think it serves their global hegemonic interest to keep the war going against Russia. Now, I have been keeping up with this every day reading all kinds of alternative sources. And Ukraine, as much as the New York Times and The Washington Post and our media say, Russia is losing this war, it ain't so. Russia is winning this war. They're gaining more and more land, they're destroying, they're destroying the military of Ukraine, they're gonna keep marching into Ukraine. And lately, you've seen a couple of whisperings from the United States, the RAND Corporation just put out a study and it's called Avoiding a Long War. Now, the RAND Corporation is like the number one think tank for Congress and the White House and all that and part of the revolving door people come in and out of it, and then into leadership positions in the government. And they are the ones in 2019 who provoked, or I shouldn't say provoke, who gave the intellectual grounding for provoking a war with Russia, by... they wrote a paper called Overextending and Unbalancing Russia, like we should, you know, we should provide them with a war so that we could drain them all the resources, and then the sanctions will come into place and will ruin their economy. So the game plan was there. But now Rand is saying, Maybe this isn't working out, right, we should avoid along the war. So that's actually good news. If RAND Corporation is saying, let's find a way to end this war, you know, it's... we don't have a large anti war movement in this country or almost anywhere in the world. The Germans are rising up a little bit. The French are, you know, because it's Europe. That's, you know, they're in the crosshairs and their economies already gone down the tubes because of these economic sanctions.
McNair Ezzard 39:35
If you've just joined us, you're listening to a conversation with Ken Jones from the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. You're listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM and can be streamed at wpvmfm.org. Ken, we were talking about the anti war movement being practically non existent. And I guess to follow up on that I wanted to ask is, is there... I mean, to me, that means there's a sense of complacency in our society and other countries around the world where this isn't a concern. Why do you think we're not more active? Or why? Why do you think we're so complacent about war?
Ken Jones 40:15
I wish I knew. I have a couple of ideas about it. For one thing, it's not, the bombs aren't hitting us here in this country. Right? They're hitting Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia and Ukraine. And yeah, the wars are over there. So, aside from 9/11, which certainly did get everybody in an uproar, the wars don't happen here in our country. And everything you see on the media, makes it look like a) it's a good idea, b) we're winning, you know, it's, it's not immediate enough for people to rise up, there's no draft, like, there was in Vietnam, where, you know, people, US young people went away and got killed. It's our envolve.... You know, here's the nature of this proxy war, right. It's the Ukrainians being killed. You know, we provide advisors and technology and weaponry. But here we are, basically, we're the ones provoking and managing this war. You know, the Ukrainians are the ones getting killed. So, so that's part of it, that it's, you know, we don't have skin in the game as a population where it will come back, if people can connect the dots, where it will come back is you see the militarization domestically, you see the militarization of our policing. And we have so many examples of that with the killing of black people, and most recently, the killing of this young man down in Atlanta and cop city. So if people can connect the militarization here to the militarization around the world, if they see the money that's spent, you know, half of the discretionary federal budget goes into the Pentagon, you know, then half of that goes to the defense contractors, the $848 billion, the Pentagon budget, and the other the other money that's going to Ukraine, over $100 billion, that money if people could just rise up and in this economy, where we're so many people are suffering, the austerity of neoliberalism, if they could see that this money needn't go over there. It could be right here, you know, creating jobs. Yes, indeed, and building infrastructure and addressing the climate emergency, which is the real danger. But that's the connect... that see, we were trying to make those connections for people, when we're out there saying, you know, this, you know, where do you see the money going here? You know, like to Pratt Whitney, or to Raytheon could be going somewhere else. And then guess what, there's a climate emergency that is just bearing down on us. Young people see this. Young people are just passionate about not so much about war, they, I mean, I think most of them feel that, but their passion, what they see is no future for themselves because of this climate emergency. And the economy. Of course, you know, they're struggling just to make ends meet.
McNair Ezzard 43:21
I came across a sobering fact this week, I was looking at the website, Global Citizen website, and they had a piece on there from the Council on Foreign Relations from the from the global conflict tracker. And these conflicts, there's 27, actually 27, live conflicts going on around the world, not just... it's not just the Ukrainian war, that's, that's an issue. And of these, they divide these conflicts into three groups, worsening, unchanging and improving, and there wasn't a single conflict that was described as, as improving. In fact, the UN warned that peace is more under threat around the world than it than it has been since World War II. So if that doesn't, that sort of numbers doesn't wake people up. It's hard to know what will.
Ken Jones 44:11
Yeah, yeah, I... so many of us who can see what you're talking about, I mean, wars and refugees, because of the wars and because of the climate emergency, you know, see the disasters going without being addressed by our government, right, the government's really serve the wealthy, you know, they don't really operate to protect us and, you know, nurture us and care for the planet or anything like that. It's, it's a struggle to keep hope alive. You know, when you look at all this going on is so how do you... how do you have hope for the future, you know, for your children, for your grandchildren? You know, to me, it's, it's, you know, the only thing I know how to do is just, you know, be an activist. You know, it's about identity. It's like, the world's... the world's burnin' up here. And what are you going to do about it? I'm not going to sit and just watch it, that's for sure.
McNair Ezzard 45:05
Well, you've mentioned that you, you have to have hope if you're going to be involved in this kind of activism, and do you find yourself ever getting discouraged about working for peace?
Ken Jones 45:15
Oh, yeah, absolutely, of course. It's very discouraging. We have each other, you know, the thing about the peace community. And we have friends, and you know, dear ones, right here in Asheville, but also around the country. I mean, there are networks of people who are working together all over the country and communicating with each other. Not only saying, Let's get together, and let's, you know, fight this beast that we're up against. But um, let's help each other, let's sustain each other. Let's keep our hope alive. Let's love each other. Yeah, who's very good at that, is young people. The way they care for each other in the midst of, you know, hardship, and, you know, sort of bleak view of the future is really, you know, it's not just heartwarming, it's something to take as a model of how we should, you know, keep each other going.
McNair Ezzard 46:09
So what do you get out of the work you do?
Ken Jones 46:11
Well, that's a good question. I think it does sustain me, in a sense to keep me hopeful, like, there's a chance, right, there's a chance that the Ark of Justice will bend our way, as Martin Luther King said, maybe not in our lifetime, I get the sense that I'm doing what needs to be done, McNair, you know, it's like, almost without thinking about, Oh, what effect is this going to have? What impact? Is this going to have? You know, are you going to be able to change the world, you're going to be able to stop all this craziness. You know, it's like, Okay, nevermind the impact. I'm doing what my conscience tells me to do. I'm doing what I believe to be the right thing to do. And so are all these other people who are, you know, in my circle in my community of activists, and, um, that is, in a sense, keeps us sane. It's like, we're in an insane world. And so just knowing that, we see what it is that we're up against, and we're not willing to say okay to it, we're saying no to it, you know, that, that just maintains our sense of, in a sense, our sense of well-being, our sanity, our hope, our sense of identity, of who are we in this... in this world?
McNair Ezzard 47:33
And I heard about something called I believe it was the War Industry Resistors Network. And I was wondering, do you know about that? And could you could you tell us a little bit about that?
Ken Jones 47:45
Yeah, I'm glad you've heard about it, McNair, I'm the person who organized it. I and a couple other people did a workshop at a Veterans for Peace national conference about a year and a half ago now, about Reject Raytheon, and we presented Reject Raytheon as, you know, our our struggle here in Asheville as kind of a case study for you know, how you can look at what the military industrial complex does when they come into your town. And somebody in the Q&A during that session said, you know, there are a lot of organizations around the US and probably world that are like Reject Raytheon. They're local, they're struggling against one of these military corporations like Lockheed Martin, or Boeing, or Northrop Grumman, or one of those, and you all to get together and have a network. And I thought yeah, well of course we should. And so I started calling friends of mine around the country and friends of friends. And Veterans for Peace said they would sponsor us to national organization, a couple other national organizations jumped in to help us to Code Pink and World Beyond War. And we put together a coalition at this point, there's 38 different locations around the country with organizations like ours, like Reject Raytheon, who, you know, are affiliating together as this network, the War Industry Resistors Network, we have a website. It's housed on the Veterans for Peace site WIRN, on the Veterans for Peace website. We do monthly webinars, we have, if you go to our one website, you will see all these past recordings that are an hour long. There's some 13 or 14 of them now that get people who are national experts at one aspect or another of the military industrial complex. So we're sticking together, we're doing actions together. You know, it's great to have a network like that of people around the country.
McNair Ezzard 49:38
Just coming up to the end of the show, but I wanted to give you ask you one last question. If people are interested in getting involved what what do you recommend as some kind of first steps for people?
Ken Jones 49:51
Well, read. I read every day and I watch Youtube videos. Find something outside of mainstream media. Because it's all one sided. You have to look at alternative media. I could recommend, I mean, I could go down a list of things for people to look at. But if they had a starting place of going, let's just say they're local here in Asheville, and they want to know, okay, what can I do to kind of contribute to making this a better world there is not only the Reject Raytheon coalition, we've just joined together... Reject Raytheon walked in the holiday parade with 16 other social justice organizations. We call ourselves Only One Earth. And the idea was to make a bigger coalition of people with multiple concerns. So that, that coalition, Only One Earth coalition, we're going to walk into Mardi Gras parade too. Its, you know, we've got Beloved Asheville, Brass Your Heart Marching band, the Green Grannies Healthcare For All, two churches, ah three: Land of the Sky, UCC church, Friends Meeting in Swannanoa, Sunrise is in it, Veterans for Peace is in it, Poor People's Campaign is in it. Physicians for Social Responsibility, so it's a big umbrella. And so I'm thinking this Only One Earth coalition could bring, you know, even if you don't think oh, what you know, Pratt Whitney, or it's Raytheon. There's a larger coalition that we're building now. That is about social justice and, you know, living in a harmonious world with the planet and with each other. So, come to the Mardi Gras parade. Join us Only One Earth. Yeah, just come. It sounds February 19. It's a Sunday. Come join us. We'll talk.
McNair Ezzard 51:35
You've been listening to a conversation with Ken Jones from the local chapter of Veterans for Peace and the Reject Raytheon coalition. Ken, thank you for all the work you do and all the best.
Ken Jones 51:47
My pleasure, McNair. Thanks for having me.
McNair Ezzard 51:50
You've been listening to A Better World at 103.7 WPVM. And we've been streaming live at wpvmfm.org. This is McNair Ezzard. Thank you for joining us and hopefully we'll see you next time on A Better World.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
A Better World radio show
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Intro music: 'Love Still Remains' by Lucis Flux.
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