Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The military-industrial university

In my latest column for the Huntington News, I upset the whole Northeastern community for condemning their close corporate ties with "merchants of death" -- my phrase -- who Eisenhower portended would corrupt our society destroying our ability to ensure that "security and liberty may prosper together."

For your amusement, here's select criticism left on The News comment board.

From Bob: Defense contractors provide good jobs. The person who wrote this is an idiot. The defense companies in the area do a lot of high tech research that do great things for everyone.

Moberg: As soon as I read the title of the article, I knew it was you, Marc.

Bruce Kaufman: Ahhh...liberal idealism at its finest. Maybe we shouldn't build any weapons to defend ourselves and shoot flowers at the terrorists!

Matt: Judging by the picture of this kid in the Huntington News and his general demeanor, perhaps he should work at one of Northeastern's biggest co-op employers--Gillette. Then he could manufacture the very razors he uses to slit his wrists every night.

Liam: I am a veteran of the war in Iraq. The editor conveniently left that crucial bit of info out of the article. For the misinformed guy who commented about needing to defend ourselves from terrorists and therefore justifying raytheon and other war corporations ("defense contractors") as integral to our "safety," I would point out that in the last 10 years it would be VERY generous to say 10,000 Americans were killed by terrorists. In that stat I am including the nearly 5,000 soldiers and Marines killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, which, let me tell you from experience, are being killed mostly by regular people who don't want their countries occupied by foreign troops, they are not terrorists. Compare that to almost 5 million deaths from heart disease in that timeframe. Hmmm? The U.S. spends over $600 Billion per year for raytheon and companies like it thrive from war, and we spend less than $3 billion per year to address a problem that has killed millions of people? Terrorists do not deserve that much of our tax dollars or attention because they are not even close to a significant threat to us. In 2004 you had a better chance of dying of peanut allergies than from terrorism! The government needs to make you scared by telling you these boogiemen are out there so people will consent to all this money being forked over to the weapons industries while they steal our rights. Fear makes us easily manipulated. Don't let ANYBODY, news anchors, politicians or activists scare you into believing terrorists are the people to worry about. In the Marine Corps they gave us a definition of terroriism: "The use of violence or threatended use of violence to intimidate civilian populations to further political, ideological, religious or financial objectives." Guess what!? That is what the war in Iraq is? Our government is a terrorist organziation by ANY definition. And Raytheon is who these terrorists go to for weapons and advice. How can we tacitly support this as students of this university? It is morally dispicable for an academic instituion to openly marry itself to a war profiteering racket. Does anybody think that Northeastern is inclined to teach political or economic students the critical perspectives of these war profiteers if they have such a cozy relationship with them? They would be crazy to threaten their relationship by teaching their students that these industries help perpetuate war. So... not only does NEU's tie to Raytheon allow them free access toour fellow student's for recruitment and research, but we are in effect paying to be lied to instead of receiving education worth teh name. So, make fun of "liberal idealists" all you want, but please examine your own logic, because your rationale is tantamount to "status quo idealism" which expects that we can keep doing this insane shit which has justified the worlds largest military budget, and blatanly fraudulent and illegal wars in hand with the world's largest debt. Who is being idealistic? Him for thinking it is clearly unsustainable to fight wars based on lies and paying these conmen to do our intellectual dirty work, or you for thinking war solves problems without creating 10 more? And for the guy who called the author of this article an idiot and the one referring to Gillette. That is frustratingly childish to resort to that type of discourse. On top of the ad hominen attacks that do not address the issue at all, your arguments consited of "mercanary firms pay well." Great! So did being a slave owner! So too does being a mafia hitman! If it poivides good pay then it must be good? Does that make your argument sound? If you value money that much, you should be worried that our government has put us in the most debt any nation has ever been in and if we don't do someting about this system you and the next 10 generations will be slaves unable to escape taxes, loans, and gas prices. Peace.

Christopher Knighton: Thank you for writing this article. As an undergraduate engineering student at Northeastern, I was very upset to find that many of the most encouraged coop positions were for these so called "defense contractors." Raytheon is probably the company that is most promoted by this school for engineering coops. At nearly every coop related event there is a spokesperson from Raytheon. It's rather sad. There are crucial problems that exist today and supporting aggression and war profiteering, which Northeastern so promonately does, is disgusting. I have not once heard any discussion in my three years here about whether or not working for these companies is a moral thing to do, but I am certainly told "Raytheon is a good job, it'll be a good experience, you should do it, you'd learn a lot," just about everywhere I look. Even when applying for coops, I specifically told my advisor that I DID NOT want to work for any company involved with the military, but I was still recommended for some of these "defense contractors." I don't think people realize what "defense contractor" really means. Oh and while I was writing this.. I just got another email about a wonderful event brought you us by the likes of GE and Raytheon where they will be displaying the latest in homeland security technology. Don't we have better things to be studying for than war? It's a shame these corporations are on our campus.

Katie: Marc, I appreciate your article. A lot of the employees from Northeastern that work at Raytheon are engineers. I am not an expert of the ethical codes of all the branches of engineering, but I do know that the M.E. code explicitly states that nothing that an engineer works on should cause any known harm to fellow humans. This has seemingly fallen through the cracks, as defense contractors not only hire a lot of Northeastern co-ops, but offer their co-ops permanent positions when they graduate. It would be beneficial to the Northeastern community if instead of taking Raytheon jobs, engineers tried to get into the burgeoning renewable energy sector. I am an alumni of the class of '08 living in California and the solar energy producers cannot keep up with the demand they are receiving (which means jobs!). Biofuels and wind are two sectors that need minds willing to help solve this problem, as well. If only a small percentage of engineers used their brain power to start solving the problem of how America receives and uses energy, we could eliminate many of the problems causing our need for ridiculously large defense contracts. An independent renewable energy sector spells out great success for our economy with the promise of many new and permanent jobs. Unlike the tech bubble, an American-run energy industry is highly sustainable. Hardly "idealism." If you didn't notice, the War on Terror isn't all that sustainable of an economic policy....unless you're Raytheon.

BK: So reading over this, I just want to say while Raytheon is a defense contractor... not everything they do is military related and I suggest people reading their history books as many of today's technology comes from military research (some of it even done at *gasp* University such as NU). Next time you use that microwave to make your mac+cheese, cruise the internet to check your email, or use your cell phone for wireless communication remember one thing, much of the technology that started the basis for alot of that came from military research. Also last note, remember our country was founded by war and not everyone who works at Raytheon is building bombs. I think that needs to be cleared up. I have friends there that are IT people. They fix computers for people. Also, don't blame people for taking money when they can at a defense contractor. Some people have to pay bills, I don't blame them for that. Grow up kids, get out of your dream world.

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