Thursday, March 8, 2012

On the ethics of the military coming to a public university and asking for help building weapons to kill peope

Letter by Herbert J. Hoffman, Phd describing the USAF recruitment effort at the University of New Mexico. Forward to the Stop the War Machine members.

So far the Daily Lobo on campus has refused to run this letter from Herb.

Dear Editor:

I saw your article on the Air Force meetings being held at the UNM Engineering Center and attended the last one (Friday, February 24, 2012).  Given the venue, I was appalled at what I saw and heard.

For two hours Air Force Officials gave power point presentations on their projects related to war in space and talked about: the need to harden space electronics against radiation from nuclear weapons explosions; how to solve power and size problems for future space weapons; on the need for new high tech weapons that would allow the war-fighter to get around treaty restraints on the rules of engagement in countries abroad.

In the final presentation one chart presented how successful the Air Force has been in reaching out to get high school students involved in becoming future partners in war research.

At the conclusion of the program, I asked a question about the ethics of the military coming to a public university and asking for help building weapons to kill people.  Then the most amazing thing happened.

The Air Force official on stage and then several UNM officials jumped up to say that was not what they were doing, that they were just trying to build better things like GPS systems and involve the University in basic research [somehow not related to the explicit mission of the Air Force]. Apparently they thought I did not know what I had witnessed and heard.

This is an example of  the corruption of truth that occurs when military research which is based around classified information, secrecy and deception enters a public campus which is by its mission trying to work in a transparent manner to increase the education of citizens and create knowledge.

I was astounded that military and university officials would just outright misrepresent what I had just witnessed them doing.  I thought they might try to use the greater national defense theory argument or the theory there is financial support for the university in doing this war research, but they all just outright tried to deny what they were doing and presenting -- seeming to think that was ok.

When we realize that the new National Defense Authorization Act, just signed by the president, which authorizes the military to detain without a warrant and to hold American citizens without trial for an indefinite time if they are considered a threat to the country, we need to be alert to the danger each of us faces.

In light of this development we have to take even more seriously what the university is doing in this partnership.

When we consider that already existing space capabilities with satellites and drones in use by these military officials have assassinated American citizens abroad along with countless numbers of other people it is not wise to allow this kind of lying, propaganda presence on campus.  It is a short step from what is being done with our endless wars abroad to targeting people on campuses all in the name of national security.  What these research projects involve are building the kind of technologies that could be used to do just that.

It is time that the university community and the civic community had a serious discussion and dialogue about the role of and risks to UNM -- and other institutions of higher learning -- in developing partnerships with the military.

I just came across a quote that frames much of my concern:

"Our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear."
                          General Douglas MacArthur


Herbert J. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Member, Veterans for Peace

Thank to Herb for attending that session, and for sharing with us what you experienced. Thank you, Robert, for forwarding that letter to SWM. I hope you will consider also forwarding that letter to the University President, and each of the UNM Regents. Common Dreams, Counterpoint, Russ Baker, David Swanson might also be interested in giving the public information it should have that a student organization is not (at least yet) willing to help disseminate.

Folks might be interested in what the International Congress for the Education of Engineers, convened at the Technical University of Darmstadt  in the Spring of 1947 had to say on the
"ethics of the military coming to a public university and asking for help building weapons to kill people."

and on recruiting university engineering students for the purpose of developing
"new high tech weapons that would allow the war-fighter to get around treaty restraints on the rules of engagement in countries abroad. "

The possibilities of happiness for human beings through the progress of technical sciences are beyond doubt. But equally real is the memory of the horrors of the recent past, is the worldwide fear of the utter destruction of all life by technical means - two deeply problematic aspects of technical science. The Technical University was particularly concerned with the definition of the task of the engineer in this problem, and this inevitably required the definitive statement that those who do creative work in technical science must be assisted to reach a state of mind and character which enables them to be more aware than in the past of the perils to their work, and to fulfill their moral obligations by learning to understand the exclusively humanitarian aspects of their profession and their grave responsibilities.


What does UNM offer to its students to help them realize their ethical and moral responsibilities to work for humanity, in serving mankind, rather than for autocracy and predation