When I heard UCSB students would be holding an anti-war rally at Pardall Tunnel, I did not have an overwhelming desire to attend. Like most students on this campus, I’m against the Iraq war, and I’m very critical of the U.S. government’s extensive history of aggression against other nations. But I was skeptical of another peace rally. I understand exercising our right to dissent is our last barricade against a tyrannical government, but a rally failing to address systemic imperatives for war will not change much structurally. However, my skepticism of the peace gathering’s efficacy was overcome by my desire to see students and community members speaking out against the war. I was really craving a space where young people could stand up together and say, “NO! I don’t want a future full of war and pollution!”

And for the first time throughout my history at UCSB, I saw something very new and very exciting. Students were taking action against their university and community’s ties to the military-industrial complex. I’ve known for a while the UC-Bechtel managed laboratories at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore have manufactured every single nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal, and have been – for six decades – the central institutions in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. But, I was astounded when learning about the existence of the $50 million Army-Industry ICB here at UCSB. And by the end of the rally, we were ready to tell the Army and corporate elites occupying Corwin Pavilion our campus is not for sale. We want UC researchers working directly on science for civilian applications without the military and military contractors as their directors.

Biotechnology has high potential for use in the medical industry and for alternative energy, and most of the researchers at the conference are focusing their efforts with those goals in mind. However, the ICB’s central goal is not the furtherance of human well-being through the development of civilian technology, even despite the individual researcher’s best intentions. Here is a quote directly from the ICB’s Frequently Asked Questions section on its own Web page: “What is the purpose of the ICB? The Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies will improve dramatically the effectiveness of the Army by creating a focused effort for developing, assessing and adapting new products in direct support of the Army’s mission.” That means UCSB researchers are told what to produce in order to fulfill the Army’s needs.

Of course some of the research done through the ICB will fulfill civilian needs. But the Army and the ICB corporate contractors have direct access to any patents held by the University through the ICB. All “unclassified” research will first be filtered through the military, combined with other “classified” research from other institutions, to directly “support the Army’s mission.”

What is that mission? Well, in the year 2008, the U.S. will spend over $1 trillion on military related expenses. The next two largest spenders are China at $60 billion – known – and Russia at $50 billion – known. Compared to the U.S., that’s chump change. They are not threats. The mission of the U.S. military, as an institution, is global hegemony through the acquisition of resources and the establishment of bases and markets. Researchers and soldiers are used by the military to fulfill ends to which they are largely opposed.

The power elite will always argue the best way to incite political change is to elect the right president. But make no mistake, the military-industrial complex is far more powerful and influential in terms of policy then any presidential administration could ever be. The best way to bring soldiers back to their loved ones, support them in jobs where they don’t have to kill families and risk death and dismemberment and to support socially-directed research is by opposing the military-industrial complex where it starts: on our campuses and in our communities. Through nonviolent, direct action on Feb. 12, the students shut down a conference representing one of the many tentacles of the military-industrial complex. That’s something no presidential administration or congressman could or would ever do.