I remember my “oh shit!” moment vividly. It was in the spring of last year, and I was walking to class on a warm sunny day. A fellow student stopped me on the main path that passes by Storke Tower with a flyer and this provocative question: “Did you know there’s a missile factory just two miles that way?” Her arm pointed north toward Goleta. The question stunned me. I took the flyer but didn’t believe her about the missile factory.
I went on the bike ride with a couple friends. It was March 17, I think. There were several hundred of us in the “critical mass” against war. We rode through Isla Vista and up through Goleta chanting slogans against the war in Iraq. We were on our way to meet up with a peace rally downtown. But not even 20 minutes into our ride we stopped at an unassuming suburban office park somewhere off Hollister Street, not even two miles removed from UCSB. Straddling our bikes we were surrounded by low-rise buildings encompassed with beautifully landscapes of grass, flowers and palm trees. A small, simple sign at the entrance of one office complex read, “Raytheon: Electronic Warfare Division.”
It was then I learned there is a “missile factory” within a stone’s throw of campus. In fact, I later learned there are several dozen factories and offices north of UCSB in the Goleta Valley where corporations like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, ATK, Northrop Grumman, FLIR and others manufacture weapons and weapons components. Organizers of the bike ride handed out flyers listing over a hundred corporations with military contracts in Santa Barbara. Many of the weapons technologies they research and build are used in Iraq and elsewhere.
The bike ride against war shattered my impressions of UCSB as a liberal campus with no connection to the so-called “war on terror” and the Bush administration’s horrible policies. It was an “oh shit” moment because I had an awakening that my surroundings were not what I thought them to be. Since then I have learned UCSB itself is the largest weapons researching corporation in Santa Barbara. According to the National Science Foundation, UCSB does tens of millions in contracted research for the Army, Navy, Air Force and other military agencies every year. Late last year on several of the “weapons inspection tours” of UCSB conducted by Students Against War, I learned about the various institutes on our campus dedicated entirely to military research. Among these are UCSB’s Center for Nanoscience Innovation for Defense, which includes research and fabrication facilities to create nanotechnology ultimately to be used to create weapons. I also discovered the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnology, run by UCSB for the U.S. Army to create biotechnology for warfare.
UCSB also has a Department of Military Science in which students take courses listed as “Evolution of Western Warfare,” “Military Management” and “Terrorism and Asymmetric Warfare.” Attached to this department is the Reserve Officer Training Corps, a program that trains and funnels UCSB students into the military.
Add to this the fact that the UC system operates two nuclear bomb labs for the federal government, and you begin to get the picture: UCSB and the UC system aren’t “ivory towers.” UCSB and Isla Vista aren’t detached from the so-called “real world” that awaits us on graduation. Instead, our campus and community are intimately connected to the war in Iraq. Most important to me is that over the past year I have come to appreciate the meaning of a word my vocabulary previously lacked: militarization.
Militarization is the process by which a society organizes itself for the production of violence. This increasingly describes our society, our university, our Santa Barbara. It is a dangerous process. It must be opposed. Why? Someone once said when all you have are hammers, every problem begins to look like a nail. When all your research universities make weapons, every problem begins to look like a war.