Tag Archives: military

On Choosing Goodness

by Heather Charles, B.A. ’10 + M.A. ’12

I have two siblings serving in our nation’s armed forces. In my case, they both happen to be in the army. They are two radically different people with different personal motivations for why they joined, but ultimately what it came down to was that as working class white kids growing up in a community with an unemployment rate that hovers around 40-50% percent, it was the best option for them to support themselves and their current and future families. My family, like the families of many American families who have been working class for many generations has had a disproportionate number of people who served in the military. No one in my family is particularly keen on our actions abroad, including my late-Great Grandfather who lied about his age and became a Para-trooper in the Pacific Theater during World War Two, because it was best way to ensure that he got to eat. My family lineage on my maternal side is a long line of white folks who were the exception in that like many black share-croppers during the Dust Bowl, they were left out of FDR’s reforms. I have great-great aunts who were sterilized during the Eugenics movement. Continue reading

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Rachel Maddow returns to Stanford: Activism, Arguments and the American Military

by Leslie Wu, PhD candidate

Rachel Maddow came to the Stanford campus today, almost twenty years after graduating with an undergraduate degree in public policy (BS ’94). At Memorial Auditorium, speaking to a sold out audience who invited her warmly with standing applause, Maddow told of growing up in Castro Valley. Jokingly, she reported that this was the first time she received applause for being from Castro Valley in the East Bay.

At high school’s end, Maddow was shocked when she found out she had been accepted to Stanford. Shortly before that, at the age of 16, she had been coming out to herself as a lesbian. A teenager at the tail end of the 1980’s, Rachel started to see her gay friends and community suffer from the AIDS crisis. She began her work on AIDS before coming to the Farm, volunteering and later believing that she would focus on health policy as a Stanford student. Continue reading

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Stanford Students Protest Gaza Offensive, Demand Student Action & University Divestment

 by a coalition of students concerned about the siege on Gaza

Stanford students, faculty and alumni will gather at White Plaza  Friday, November 16 at noon to sit in solidarity with the residents of Gaza currently under siege by Israeli military forces. They will protest the Israeli assault and economic chokehold on Gaza, and will rally students to demand that the University divest from companies implicated in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

A coalition of concerned students have been meeting since  Wednesday, when Israel first commenced the “Pillar of Defense” – a naval, air and artillery offensive on the besieged territory of Gaza. The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated civilian regions in the world.

The coalition has planned a sit-in that will symbolize the Israeli blockade and siege of Gaza. Allied faculty have confirmed their attendance in support.

Given the death of many Palestinian civilians and our complicity in this violence as Stanford students, we have a responsibility to do something about it.

Since  November 8 – when Israel first began violent aggression against Gaza, killing six civilians, including three children – at least 23 more Palestinians have died as a result of Israeli attacks, including another six children. Israeli strikes have injured over 300 Palestinians in this time.  The IDF has attacked over 500 targets in Gaza since the formal Israeli offensive began.

The blockade of Gaza – created by crippling sanctions from Israel and Egypt – limits Palestinian access to the outside world, including access to food and medicine. Such conditions constitute what can only be described as an open air prison.   Continue reading

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Lives Under Drones: Civilian Consequences of Drone Warfare

By Cole Manley and Ebony Childs

“Hayatullah stopped, got out of his own car, and slowly approached the wreckage, debating whether he should help the injured and risk being the victim of a follow-up strike. He stated that when he got close enough to see an arm moving inside the wrecked vehicle, someone inside yelled that he should leave immediately because another missile would likely strike. He started to return to his car and a second missile hit the damaged car and killed whomever was still left inside. He told us that nearby villagers waited another twenty minutes before removing the bodies, which he said included the body of a teacher from Hayatullah’s village.” [1] 

“Because whether we are driving a car, or we are working on a farm, or we are sitting home playing . . . cards–no matter what we are doing we are always thinking the drone will strike us. So we are scared to do anything, no matter what.” [2]

Drone warfare is stressed by government officials as being scientific and precise in its killing of “militants”, but as recent investigative publications reveal, civilians in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and other countries bear the heaviest emotional, physical, and psychological toll. Continue reading

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The Strength of Obama’s Foreign Policy

by Nick Ahamed, ’14


I am not here to make excuses. I recognize that my beloved President Obama has arguably struggled in addressing many difficult, complex issues facing the United States throughout the past 4 years. However, on at least one issue, foreign policy, he has done the best we can expect of a president. As I outline the last 12 years of foreign policy, I would like you to keep two things in mind. First, Obama was not given a mandate to govern. Though he won overwhelmingly in the Electoral College, only 53% of the country voted for him. Presidents represent the whole nation to the world, not just their own party. Second, context is everything. As a student of economics, I view everything as a series of trade-offs. And so while the outcome that occurred may not be our optimal policy preference, we have to ask if it was better than the practical alternative. With these two premises acknowledged, I argue that it is vitally important to reelect President Barack Obama in the context of foreign policy.

The Bush years were a period of militant American unilateralism. In those 8 years, we were not afraid to use our Armed Forces, regardless of international opinion. The most notable cases are obviously Afghanistan and Iraq. Continue reading

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V-day and Militarism

by Pr. Geoff Browning, Campus Minister

We all know what V-Day is, the day that victory was declared in the wars against Japan and Germany in WWII. Eve Ensler, in her book and play, The Vagina Monologues has reclaimed the meaning of “V” to mean “Victory, Valentine, and Vagina” and to build V-Day into a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. Stanford V-Week just presented an extraordinary production of The Vagina Monologues that was profound, hilarious and heart-rending all at the same time. But I would like to call attention to a seldom-acknowledged connection between militarism and sexual violence.

As Stanford V-Week has been working to communicate, violence against women is epidemic. Among the grim statistics, one in three women globally will be the victims of battery and/or sexual abuse sometime in their lives. Somewhere in America, a woman is battered every 15 seconds. Globally, four million women and girls are trafficked into sexual slavery every year.

According to a recent Defense Department report, there were over 3,100 sexual assaults in our professionally trained military in 2011. But these are only the reported assaults; the Pentagon believes the actual number is much higher. Non-Pentagon sources say it may be as much as 10 times this number. Think about that: more than 30,000 sexual assaults. This means that every woman who serves in the military is at greater risk of being assaulted by her fellow soldiers than being killed or wounded by the enemy! Continue reading

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The Danger of a Good Example: US Involvement in 9/11 1973

by Victor Verdejo, ’15

September 11 immediately triggers a deep emotional response within most people in the United States.  It is seen, justifiably, as a terrible tragedy and a horrendous crime.  But as Chomsky writes:

“It is useful to bear in mind that the crimes could have been even worse.  Suppose, for example, that the attack had gone as far as bombing the White House, killing the President, imposing a brutal military dictatorship that killed thousands and tortured tens of thousands while establishing an international terror center that helped impose similar torture-and-terror states elsewhere and carried out an international assassination campaign; and as an extra fillip, brought in a team of economists – call them ‘the Kandahar boys’ — who quickly drove the economy into one of the worst depressions in its history.  That, plainly, would have been a lot worse than 9/11.

Unfortunately, it is not a thought experiment.  It happened.  The only inaccuracy in this brief account is that the numbers should be multiplied by 25 to yield per capita equivalents, the appropriate measure.  I am, of course, referring to what in Latin America is often called ‘the first 9/11’: September 11 1973, when the US succeeded in its intensive efforts to overthrow the democratic government of Salvador Allende in Chile with a military coup that placed General Pinochet’s brutal regime in office.”[1]

In order to understand the nature of the involvement of the United States in the military coup of 1973 in Chile, and the 17-year military dictatorship that ensued, one must look at two different contexts:  the socio-economic and political context in Chile in the late 1960s and early 1970s on one hand, and Chile as a pawn within the global framework of the Cold War on the other. Continue reading

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3 Books for Change

by Janani Balasubramanian, ’12 + Alex Kindel, ’14

Both  of us were involved in the campaign against bringing a discriminatory ROTC program back to Stanford last year.  Many of the incoming students  will remember the demonstration we helped to coordinate the day after the faculty senate vote on ROTC, coinciding with Admit Weekend.  Soon after the decision, we learned of the selection by the Three Books program this year, chosen by Political Science professor and ad-hoc ROTC  committee member Scott Sagan.  We were concerned primarily with the exclusive and normative representation these three books bring to incoming freshmen and transfers, and felt alienated as queer students and anti-racist organizers ourselves.  We tried on the idea of hosting our own Three Books in response, by selecting our own three texts.  We quickly realized, however, that the spirit we were trying to capture was one of community discussion and critical engagement, rather than antagonism.  We decided to work with the ASSU Community Board and residence staff to develop a broad network to spread our core questions.

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Reflections on Military Education at Stanford

by Alex Kindel, ’14

In April 2011, the Faculty Senate of Stanford University approved the recommendations of an ad hoc committee convened to consider the possibility of returning the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program of the U.S. military to Stanford, after its removal from campus during the antiwar backlash of the Vietnam War. The recommendation called for the university to express its interest in bringing ROTC back to Stanford, having considered the arguments for and against return. I was sitting in the back of the room in the Stanford Law School when this vote went through, and watched it happen live. Having been involved extensively with the anti-ROTC side of the aisle, I was very disappointed (to say the least) in this turn of events. Now, months later, I can’t say that I’m any more satisfied with the decision the Faculty Senate has made. However, I think of myself as pragmatic, so I’ve decided to move forward and re-evaluate my thoughts on the issue of military education at Stanford.

Make no mistake; I am now and will continue to be against the return of ROTC to Stanford. But operating under the assumption that ROTC will return to Stanford, I’ve thought a lot about what I’ve seen so far of Stanford’s approach to educating its students about war and the military. I tend to believe that the issues I take with Stanford’s approach arise from one of two things: either the generational gap between the undergraduate population and the faculty and administration, or the administration’s intrinsic lack of (understanding of) diversity. Generally, I would categorize my qualms with Stanford’s endeavors as follows: they underestimate the diversity of experience in the student body, and they are consistently based in a normative, privileged world-view.

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