Protesters Crash USS Intrepid Homecoming

 
While hundreds gathered to welcome the return of the USS Intrepid to its Manhattan pier on October 2, not everyone present was there to celebrate. More than a dozen peace activists carried banners and leafleted along the waterfront to protest what one demonstrator called “an obscene monument to war.”

While hundreds gathered to welcome the return of the USS Intrepid to its Manhattan pier on October 2, not everyone present was there to celebrate. More than a dozen peace activists carried banners and leafleted along the waterfront to protest what one demonstrator called “an obscene monument to war.”

The Intrepid – which deployed during World War II and the Vietnam War – has served as a military and space museum since 1982.

Nearly two years ago, the warship was hauled to Staten Island for extensive repairs. Despite being a privately run enterprise, virtually every cent of the $60 million that was originally deemed necessary for the overhaul of both the aircraft carrier and the dilapidated pier was paid for by federal, state and local governments. Before it was all over, the already exorbitant cost of the project ballooned to $120 million.

“I’m appalled that my taxes are being used for this. It’s outrageous and offensive,” said Jim Moschella, a member of Brooklyn for Peace, as he carried a sign noting that the date also ironically marked Gandhi’s birthday. “It’s a really sad tribute to him.”

Paying for these repairs, however, does not mark the first or the only time taxpayer dollars have been allocated for the museum. Back in 1982, the Intrepid received a $4.5 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help establish the museum – money that should have gone to low-income housing for the city’s poor.

“The public money used to renovate and rehab what is essentially a war propaganda museum could be better spent on many things, particularly given the last week in this country,” argued Matt Daloisio, a member of the New York Catholic Worker, alluding to the risk of foreclosure faced by millions of homeowners due to the recent financial crisis.

Drawing more than 750,000 visitors per year, including 50,000 schoolchildren, the Intrepid has become one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. According to the museum’s website, its mission is “to honor our heroes, educate the public, and inspire our youth.” On display are 30 aircrafts, the once nuclear armed USS Growler submarine, and a variety of other military hardware used in America’s many wars.

“They talk about it as being educational,” said longtime member of the War Resisters League, Ed Hedemann, “but really it’s a glorification of war and a recruitment tool to get young people interested in the military.”

“Many of the exhibits are ahistorical in the way they portray the wars that the Intrepid has been involved in,” remarked Daloisio, who has toured the museum on more than one occasion. “There is no mention whatsoever of the victims of war, or the victims of the planes and armaments that they celebrate on the boat.”

On his most recent visit to the Intrepid, Daloisio went on a ride that simulated a bombing run over a country specified as Iraq. He was later asked to leave, after politely inquiring about the civilian death toll from the bombs on the planes that were being described during a tour.

“It’s not simply a museum, it’s a warship that takes taxpayer money and uses it to put out propaganda to children that war is something that is not only acceptable, but entertaining and fun,” said Daloisio, who brought his 16-month old baby to the protest.

So what should be done with the Intrepid? One protestor who served in the Navy thought it should be used for scrap metal, while others thought it could serve a more useful function. “The best thing that could be done with the Intrepid,” Hedemann said, “would be to convert it into a peace museum showing the horrors of war rather than glorifying the battles that it has been in and people that have been killed.”

The next protest at the Intrepid will be held on November 8, when the museum will officially open its doors to the public.

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