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Can Charlottesville Love Both Peace and War?


If I told you I would support women's rights as long as I didn't have to oppose rape, you’d think I needed lessons in both logic and basic human decency. If I said I would favor freedom as long as I didn't have to be against slavery, you might start backing away slowly.


Yet on September 1st, in a statement that's anything but out of the ordinary, the Daily Progress reported Charlottesville School Board Member Ned Michie's objection to a resolution in support of events celebrating the International Day of Peace:

"I'm all in favor of peace and non-violence," Michie said, "but, for instance… to the extent that any of the events are really sort of anti-war events, I'm not necessarily comfortable with supporting that."

It's a funny thing about peace and war: you really do have to choose between them.  They don't mix any better than freedom and slavery. You can't favor peace without opposing war. In fact, you can't support peace without opposing the machinery that makes wars likely.  And that machinery is all over Charlottesville, where it provides many local residents with jobs. 

Nonetheless, job creation is something else you can't support without opposing what President Dwight Eisenhower 50 years ago warned of as the "military-industrial complex."

How can that be? Let me explain.

Charlottesville is home to the National Ground Intelligence Center, now north of town but previously downtown in what became the SNL Financial building. The new location for NGIC also accommodates the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency and the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency. The University of Virginia has built a research park next door. There's a Judge Advocate General's Legal Center attached to UVA Law School as well. Then there's the Virginia National Guard, which does tend to guard nations, just not this one. 

Local want ads offer jobs "researching biological and chemical weapons" at Battelle Memorial Institute (located in the UVA Research Park) and producing all kinds of weaponry for all kinds of governments at Northrop Grumman. Then there's Teksystems, Pragmatics, Wiser, and many others with fat Pentagon contracts.

Employers also recruit here for jobs in Northern Virginia with Concurrent Technologies Corporation, Ogsystems, the Defense Logistics Agency, BAE Systems, and many more. BAE, which often runs a green full-page ad in the Progress, paid a $400 million fine last year to the U.S. government to settle charges of having bribed Saudi Arabia to buy its weapons.

From 2000 to 2010, 161 military contractors in Charlottesville pulled in $919,914,918 through 2,737 contracts from the federal government. Over $8 million of that went to Mr. Jefferson's university, and three-quarters of that to the Darden Business School. And the trend is ever upward.

The 161 contractors are found in various industries other than higher education, including: nautical system and instrument manufacturing; blind and shade manufacturing; printed circuit assembly; real estate appraisers; engineering services; recreational sports centers; research and development in biotechnology; new car dealers; internet publishing; petroleum merchant wholesalers; and a 2006 contract with Pig Daddy's BBQ.

Back in March, the New Yorker magazine noted that DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, "invited interested literary theorists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, political scientists, and related "ists" to the Boar's Head Inn … to answer a question frequently posed to junior-high-school students: 'What is a story?'"

DARPA is the same agency that has moved on from mechanical killer elephants and telepathic warfare to exploding frisbees, cyborg wasps, and Captain America no-meals and no-sleep soldiers. The DIA, also in on this side of "intelligence" work, used to train "psychic spies" (men who'd stare at goats if they could find one) at a place in Nelson County called the Monroe Institute.

Jobs, jobs, military jobs everywhere you look. And yet, every billion dollars our government spends on the military produces (directly and indirectly) fewer jobs, and lower paying jobs than would the same billion dollars invested in a number of other industries or even in tax cuts for working people.  Redirecting a fraction of our military spending to education, green energy, healthcare, and tax cuts would create a job for every unemployed or underemployed person in this country (29 million of them) as well as for those losing war industry jobs during this conversion. Such a shift would leave the military with more funding than it had 10 years ago.

Do we have a debt problem?  An unemployment problem?  Or just a war problem?

U.S. military spending across numerous departments has increased dramatically during the past decade and now makes up about half of federal discretionary spending. Yet the Defense Department has not been fully audited in 20 years, and as of 2001 it could not account for $2.3 trillion out of the $10 trillion or so it had been given during that time. The United States could reduce its military spending by at least 80 percent and still be the world's top military spender.

A move away from the military industrial complex would also reduce warfare. Our country is right now fighting drone wars that create enemies by killing innocents, in large part because the Central Intelligence Agency created a bureaucracy for drone wars and wants to use it. Experts from around the country and within the military will gather in Charlottesville from September 16 to 18 to chart a different course, one that supports peace even if it means opposing war. Any member of the public can sign up to attend at MIC50.org.

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David Swanson is helping to organize the MIC50 conference in Charlottesville. His previous essay in the Hook was a 2008 look at the hazards of voting machines, and his latest book is "War Is A Lie."

  

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