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Money for Education, Not for Empire!

Joint statement by Ben Burgis (Green candidate for Michigan State University Board of Trustees) and Margaret Guttshall (Green Candidate for Wayne State University Board of Governors)

As Green candidates for the governing boards of Michigan’s Universities, we refuse to limit our campaigns to “University-specific” issues. The United States government is currently engaged in a criminal war for oil and empire against the people of Iraq. Since March 2003, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, soldiers and guerilla fighters and more than 900 young working-class Americans in uniform have died for the sake of Halliburton reconstruction contracts, oil profits and regional dominance. While this has lined the pockets of some wealthy business-owners, it has been disastrous for ordinary Americans in and out of uniform.

Even as flag-draped coffins containing the bodies of American soldiers—many of whom came from miserably impoverished backgrounds and had the military sold to them as a college scholarship program, enticed with promises of future job opportunities and lies about wars for “freedom and democracy”—those of us on the home front are also bearing the brunt of this obscene war. As more and more billions of dollars are poured into counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq, education and desperately needed social programs are cut in the United States. As Michigan goes through one of its worst budget crises ever and all 15 of Michigan’s public universities have had their budgets slashed and slashed again, we note bitterly that only a small slice of the money being used to colonize Iraq would suffice to provide enough federal aid to balance the budgets of all 50 states. Every new allocation of money to the war in Iraq takes money away from the job prospects, social welfare and educational opportunities of workers and students in Michigan.

There is something that we could do to help stop this criminal war if we were elected to the governing boards of our respective universities. Both in our own self-interest as Michigan residents interested in jobs, health care and progress in our state and as a moral imperative stemming from the recognition that the occupation of Iraq is not a mistaken policy to be corrected but an atrocity to be resisted, we would do everything in our power to immediately and unconditionally sever all ties between our public universities and the war machine. Right now, Michigan’s public universities perform military research for this wretched colonialist death machine, ROTC trains the next generation of officers to oversee the continued rape of the third world and military recruitment is allowed on campuses. At MSU, the University’s President even took a leave of absence (with, scandalously, the unanimous approval of the Board of Trustees) to take a high-level position in the U.S. colonial administration in Iraq, helping to oversee Iraq’s “transition to a free market economy.” All of this is unacceptable.

This stems from our recognition that the U.S. military is not some fundamentally benevolent force in the world that is sent out to bomb, invade and occupy third world nations in order to spread freedom, democracy and happiness, as we have all been taught in our schools and by the corporate-owned media. Quite the opposite. It is more like a security force for multinational corporations, a despicable institution that feeds off the poverty of the most oppressed layers of the U.S. population to lure them into it’s ranks, to sacrifice their lives in the colonialist interest of the same ruling class of corporate owners that is responsible for their poverty. Both because education is a basic right and to deprive the military of the ability to use the carrot of college scholarships along with the stick of poverty to drive working-class kids into it’s ranks, we support free tuition at all of our public universities, financed by an increase in taxes on corporations. Any society that can even begin to claim to have an equitable educational system must have free tuition from pre-school to graduate school.

Obviously, the University Board candidates of the corporate-financed parties will accuse us of using our campaigns to promote an “extraneous” agenda when we raise these points, of failing to have a “University-specific” agenda. This is nonsense. For the sake of the students at our public universities whose scholarships are being cut to fund the war effort, for the sake of University employees whose wages and benefits are being cut, and for the sake of the educational opportunities of all Michigan residents, there is no greater imperative than grinding this criminal war to a halt. By raising these demands for an end to military research, for the abolition of ROTC, for making military recruiters unwelcome on our campuses for fighting for free tuition at all of our public universities, we can use our campaigns as part of the movement to end the war, to reallocate our resources to education, jobs and social needs instead of imperial war-making, and ultimately to bring about a society that more closely approximately approximates what we were always told as children we were living in: a democracy of, by and for the people, the sort of society where the children of the poor would never again be sent off to die for the profits of the rich.

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