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The Militarization of Penn State

Penn State Nittany Lion Shrine ... on a bomb.
At Penn State, nationalism doesn't just mean waving flags; it also means building bombs. I got forwarded a great, in-depth article showing the obvious -- and hidden -- influences of the Pentagon on Penn State University.


Militarized Campuses: a Bipartisan Affair

rotcLast week, Barack Obama confirmed what many had hoped was a misstatement made in the primaries. Washington Post:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took the occasion to chide Columbia for its lack of on-campus ROTC. "I don't think that's right," Mr. McCain said. "Shouldn't the students here be exposed to the attractiveness of serving in the military, particularly as an officer?" Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) readily agreed, calling Columbia's anti-ROTC stance a "mistake." 

Flash back several months:

From last night's Democratic debate, as reported by The Hill:
Obama and Edwards both said that they supported withholding funding from higher education institutions that do not provide ROTC programs to students. Clinton initially said she would enforce laws to stop funding but later said of prominent schools that do not have ROTC programs that "there are ways they can work out fulfilling that obligation."
What they were talking about is the Solomon Amendment — a law passed in 1996 (and upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court) that allows the Secretary of Defense to strip a college or university of all Federal funding if the school bans/prohibits ROTC or any other military recruitment on campus.

If you recall, the LGBT and anti-war communities flipped out at this, and rightfully so.

Having ROTC and military recruiters on campus violates many university non-discrimination regulations. To create sympathy for their argument, the Post casts it in classist terms of elite universities being the only ones without recruiters. But the long shadow of the Pentagon does reach these institutions, in the form of "defense" research into everything from smart bombs to spy satellites to bioweapons. 

And the Post wraps it up with a bit of flag waving:

"Don't ask, don't tell" is a misguided policy. For the time being, though, it is the law of the land, and we see no sign that the Ivies' protest is having any impact on it. Meanwhile, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines defend all Americans, gay or straight.

But it is having an impact, as all boycotts do (to a greater or lesser extent). They're also serving as an example to others. As more and more universities refuse to bow down and subsidize Empire, we'll see reduced capacity for another set of Middle East (or South American) adventures, which is, scarily, still a possibility nomatter who wins in November.

Counter-Recruitment and Supporting Military Resisters

To all of you who want to end the war and bring the troops home now...

For Student Power has kindly agreed to host a zine that I worked on entitled "Don't Sign Your Life Away: Some things to consider before or after joining the military." I've included two versions:

--One has the pages in sequential order
--The other is formatted to be copied as a double-sided pamphlet.
Feel free to makes copies and distribute it.

The zine's purpose is to both counter-recruit and support soldiers who resist. Many student anti-war groups have instinctively gravitated toward these tactics, but I thought it might be helpful to summarize them here:

Counter-Recruitment: Counter-recruitment means not only talking people out of the joining the military but also making life hard for military recruiters themselves. Actions have included demonstrations, student walkouts, handing out information in front of recruiting centers, opt-out parties (for high school students to keep the military from getting their personal information), and giving classroom presentations.
What it does:
--Stops the supply of new recruits to Iraq and Afghanistan.
--Keeps recruiters from feeling comfortable at college and community college campuses, and especially high schools. Recruiters work very hard for this kind of easy access. They are taught to woo teachers, the administration and guidance counselors into giving them the freedom to roam the halls whenever they want.

Supporting Soldiers who resist: There are a variety of ways to support the many GIs and officers who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Groups have held rallies, organizing anti-war veterans groups, and created GI coffeehouses
What it does:
--short-circuits the famous "We support the troops" slogan because it draws distinctions between troops who blindly follow orders and those who refuse.
--Makes clear the various obvious point that soldiers can make choices even when placed a in war zone
--Can highlight the ongoing conflict in the military between enlisted men and women and their commanding officers.
--A war cannot continue to be fought with consistently disobedient soldiers. Some have argued that the behavior of soldiers brought a quicker end to the Vietnam War (see the documentary Sir, No Sir! for more on this point) Soldiers are not completely cut off from the outside world and their ideologies are not set in stone. Soldiers can gain confidence when they hear about others like them who have who have chosen to resist.

These are only two current tactics, but both of them involve direct action. Instead of pleading for politicians to do us favors or hoping and praying for an end to war, you can use what's right in front of you to stop enlistment and sabotage the war machine. As it gets closer to election season it's important to remember that we cannot expect a single politician to do all of the work for us. Five years for Iraq and and Afghanistan has already been too long to wait.

For further information:

The Dems Get it Wrong on ROTC (w/video)

I expect something like this from the GOP crowd, but from all three top-tier Dems?

From last night's Democratic debate, as reported by The Hill:

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