Monday, September 26, 2005

University Of Oregon's Only Peace Studies Student Strikes Against War

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 When I came to Eugene, Oregon in 1991 after working 15 years in Silicon Valley, I thought I was as far as I could get from weapons research.  The last thing I thought about was the Pentagon having a presence here.  Then, after the events of September 11, 2001, I began my Peace Studies program and learned a whole lot more about America's addiction to war.


Since January 1950, our country's top industry has been the manufacture and sale of weapons, and there have been more than 200 wars in the world.  When the Cold War ended, this industry faced a crisis called peace.  So, the Pentagon began outsourcing every aspect of war, from bombs and bullets to fried chicken and underwear, and that's why we are so deeply invested and entrenched as companies, communities, and citizens in the business of war.


The Army used to make its own tuna sandwiches, but today Bumble Bee has a lucrative Pentagon contract, and therefore a stake in conflict and a good reason not to speak out against war.  The Navy used to make its own soup, but today Campbell's has a Pentagon contract, and therefore a stake in conflict and a good reason not to speak out against war.  The Base Realignment and Closure hearings were not only designed to deploy our forces and bases around the world -- read the Pentagon's National Defense Strategy -- but the sentiments stirred up among workers here who want to keep their jobs create that many more reasons for Americans not to speak out against war.


Americans are being hired and trained as cogs in the war machine, paid to be silent workers and accomplices, paid to participate in the industry of war while being influenced to ignore the violence and wastefulness of war.  (US military budget, $1 trillion a year; education budget $59 billion a year.)


The Pentagon's plan for the next 20 years is an arms race when we're already at the top.  We're telling the rest of the world to build up for war because we're the world's WalMart of weapons.


Foreign policy is what a few men make it, and that is terribly wrong.  Today the Pentagon is pressuring Japan to rescind Article 9 of its constitution.  The first nation on Earth to use weapons of mass destruction, the United States, is urging the only nation to suffer nuclear attacks, Japan, to re-establish a military and arm itself with nuclear weapons.


On Wall Street, war is good for business, but America's business should be its people's prosperity; our global business should be life's prosperity. 


310,000 companies supply the Pentagon; 56 in Eugene, 300 in Portland, 3600 in San Diego.  Even a small town such as Lowell, Oregon, with a population of 750, pulls in $1.5 million a year from the Pentagon.  These business contracts would not be so disturbing were the Pentagon interested in a reasonable defense rather than total global domination at the expense of domestic prosperity.


At least 50% of our taxes support the war industry, not counting Homeland Security, Army Corp of Engineers, NASA, and education programs for defense, foreign policy, and national security.  America has 6000 military bases domestically and nearly 1000 bases overseas.


But the sorriest example of our priorities -- aside from poverty, a crumbling infrastructure, and a world full of weapons -- are the more than 350 schools serving as weapons laboratories.  Just two of these, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Johns Hopkins University, take in a combined $1 billion a year and rank among the top-50 defense contractors.


Resource sharing or resource warring is a choice that rests in the hands of the American public.  With the Pentagon willing to kill on a massive scale to secure world domination, and with conventional mechanisms for citizen control of the government broken, universities have an opportunity and an obligation to do whatever they can to facilitate restoration of democratic control.  Universities can start by announcing that they will no longer serve the Pentagon.


Making just one part of a weapon 10,000 miles from conflict contradicts the core meaning of education.  America cannot be just, or truly know freedom, or ever learn peace while making war in its schools.


Beginning at noon on Monday, September 26, the first day of the new academic year, I will refuse to study inside the classroom of any school that sells itself to war, and I will deliver my Petition for Peaceful Priorities to University of Oregon's President Frohnmayer at the same time it's being delivered to the White House by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink and Global Exchange.  Then I will speak against war all year from noon to dusk, to focus public attention on statistics that reveal America's obscene war-for-profit economy and my university's deepening participation in it.


It's time to change our disordered priorities, and we can only do so by popular demand -- and that requires an information outreach campaign.  The CampU.S. Strike for Peace Campaign and will strive to meet this need.



Brian Bogart worked in the defense industry for 15 years, turning down security clearance opportunities three times before leaving Silicon Valley.  In 1997, he earned a B.A. in Japanese History from the University of Oregon, and is now entering his final year as its first graduate student in Peace Studies.



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