Several U.S. veterans and their allies were arrested outside the nation’s Capitol building on Wednesday as they protested the military’s role in driving the climate crisis, from its massive greenhouse gas emissions to its large-scale release of toxic chemicals overseas and at home.
“The U.S. military is responsible for an unprecedented amount of climate disasters.”
Veterans for Peace (VFP), a national anti-war group that organized the demonstration, said that at least seven veterans and supporters were arrested at the Capitol Hill protest, where advocates demanded cuts to the Pentagon budget, transparency from the military on its carbon emissions, an end to all U.S.-led wars, and a climate emergency declaration from President Joe Biden.
“The military has done next to nothing to reduce their carbon footprint, either ignoring the climate mandate completely or just focusing on creating more advanced weapons systems that can continue to operate under worsening climate conditions,” said VFP executive director Garett Reppenhagen, a U.S. Army veteran.
“From the burn pits to nuclear waste to water contamination in Hawai’i, the U.S. military is responsible for an unprecedented amount of climate disasters,” Reppenhagen added. “It is past time for Congress and the president to hold the U.S. military accountable for their catastrophic effects on the planet.”
The Pentagon is the biggest consumer of energy in the U.S. and the world’s “single largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases,” according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project. Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University, has estimated that the U.S. military emits more carbon dioxide than entire countries, including Denmark and Portugal.
“I chose to risk arrest today because as a Marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, I saw firsthand the devastation that the military has wrought on countries around the globe, including just 48 hours ago when the U.S. military issued yet another drone strike on Afghanistan,” said veteran Chris Velazquez.
“The U.S. spends unprecedented amounts of money on an ever-expanding U.S. military, using veterans like me as pawns in their justifications for more money,” Velazquez added. “We need to be reducing U.S. militarism and redirecting that money towards climate solutions like renewable energy and resources that meet human needs.”
The demonstration came weeks after the U.S. House passed legislation authorizing $839 billion in military spending for the upcoming fiscal year, rejecting amendments that would have modestly cut Pentagon funding. The Senate, meanwhile, is poised to approve a bill greenlighting an even larger military budget—$847 billion in total.
The U.S. currently spends more on its military than the next nine countries combined.
“The money needed to avoid the worst results of climate change, as well as many other social issues that lack adequate funding, is the wasteful and bloated military budget,” Joshua Farris, a U.S. Army veteran, said Wednesday.
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