40 years of VIETNAM WAR protest
By: Gabriel Matthew Schivone 3/4/09 Section: Opinions
Forty years ago today, classes were suspended at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology surrounding disastrous circumstances which over a decade earlier Albert Einstein had warned as "stark, dreadful, and inescapable." The paroxysm that called the day off for students and scientists alike was not a snowstorm or natural disaster of sorts; it was a catastrophe that was utterly human in all its cruel dimensions and unnatural constructions.
On March 4, 1969, in efforts mainly organized and spearheaded by students, scientists at MIT and elsewhere throughout the country halted their research activities in a "practical and symbolic" expression of protest of U.S. government violence in Southeast Asia. At the time, America's war on Vietnam raged a terrible, though not yet exhaustive, campaign of atrocity and mass destruction that would eventually inflict more tons of firepower upon the area of Cambodia alone than all the bombing theaters by all sides during WWII. The line of technology and technical planning for the war was directly tied to America's finest minds of science and innovation, much of which came out of MIT.
At the insistence of the students, MIT Emeritus Professor Noam Chomsky was, in his own words, "quite centrally involved" in the negotiations with the administration while the planning of activities was going on. "(March 4) was the first time that these issues - uses of technology and the goals of science - had been discussed outside small groups at MIT," Professor Chomsky told me last week in a phone interview from his office at Cambridge.
A statement of purpose, known as the "March 4 Manifesto," originally written by students, and begins with the premise that through America's actions in Vietnam, the "misuse of scientific and technical knowledge presents a major threat to the existence of mankind."
There is a profound sense of urgency in the language and proposals of March 4 so striking as to appear as though they had been written earlier today. One of the central themes was bent on "turning research applications away from the present emphasis on military technology toward the solution of pressing social and environmental problems."
Observing the state of the world today, eminent scientists, intellectuals, military specialists - and just common sense knowledge of our own behavior in the world - all remind us that we are by far the most violent and militaristic society on the face of the earth, and that serious alternatives are needed if we want to avert disaster.
Our way of life (a euphemism for "way of war and business") is a leading example after which many of the world's most terrifying elements are modeled, often with our training (called a "strategic partnership"), our provisions (euphemized as "direct aid"), and our direction (i.e. "U.S. blessing").
Quite apart from the fact that our military expenditures outweigh all the militaries of the world combined, the way we've arranged as open for business what George H.W. Bush called the "new world order" demonstrates the unparalleled levels of organized crime which we command and profit from on a world scale.
The New America Foundation reports that "U.S. arms and military training played a role in 20 of the world's 27 major wars in 2007," raking in $23 billion in receipts. Investments in violence and terror proved even more profitable in 2008 with $32 billion. The "best guys" for the job include Pakistan ($3.7 billion), Turkey ($3.0 billion) and Colombia ($575 million) - all of whose depraved human rights records are consistently deplored by groups like Amnesty International along with denouncing our crucial support base for them.
Like a smart but ruthless bully, America rules the neighborhood of the world. And the array of brute thugs, such as the above, who are in our service follow orders, whether by extending our power in their assigned regions, or paying tributes for our protection, as in the case of Saudi Arabia.
The racket is well-packaged. The mafia boss - in our case the leading minds of science, the business and policy planners - organizes the world web of crime while continually staking supreme legitimacy through fear, and by force when necessary.
This kind of racket is wonderful business and a virtual golden age for the small group of people who own and run the U.S., but for the rest of the world, and for the American people by and large, starkly dreadful prospects and enraged fears are not exaggerated as they demand world safety and security away from that of "a few big interests looking out for themselves" (to quote a standard Times/CBS public poll) who continue to increasingly and vitally threaten to bring about what Einstein and others in the years following WWII gravely warned as an imminent extinction of the species.
March 4 critically demonstrated that these destructive prospects are tendencies only. As the privileged segments of the United States, particularly as students at the threshold of professional development and social and cultural management of the nation, these alarming prospects are dependent on our will and choice whether we will, again to paraphrase Einstein, embrace our own destruction, or renounce war and conquest.
- Gabriel Matthew Schivone is a junior majoring in art, literature, and media studies.Stumble It!