Now that we're seeing the end of the Obama Administration, I wanted to take a look back in time, all the way back to 1983 when Barack Obama was a student at Columbia University, graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in political science. While there, he contributed an essay entitled "Breaking the War Mentality" to the "Sundial", a weekly newsmagazine. Here are some excerpts.
Barack Obama opens with the following:
"Most students at Columbia do not have first hand knowledge of war. Military violence has been a vicarious experience, channeled into our minds through television, film and print...but the case of war - the sounds and chill, the idea bodies are far removed. We know that wars have occurred, will occur, are occurring, but bringing such experience down into our hearts, and taking continual tangible steps to prevent a war, becomes a difficult task." (my bold)
He then goes on to discus two on-campus anti-war groups, Arms Race Alternatives (ARA) and Students Against Militarism (SAM) which took actions to get the American government off its "war track" because they "visualized the possibilities of destruction and grasped the tendencies of distorted national priorities..."
He then comments on the "Freeze" movement, the street and Reagan Administration movements to see the expansion of nuclear weapons stockpiles frozen:
"Generally, the narrow focus of the Freeze movement as well as academic discussions of first versus second strike capabilities, suite the military-industrial interests, as they continue adding to their billion dollar erector sets. When Peter Tosh sings that "everybody's asking for peace, but nobody's asking for justice,", one is forced to wonder whether disarmament or arms control issues, severed from economic and political issues, might be another instance of focusing on the symptoms of a problem instead of the disease itself....the New York City Council may pass a resolution calling for greater social as opposed to military spending. Things like this may dispel the idea that disarmament is a white issue, because how the government spends its revenue affects everyone." (my bold)
A discussion of the Solomon Amendment which was an amendment that conditioned eligibility for federal student financial educational aid with registration with the Selective Service System. It also allowed military recruiters access to address, biographical and academic program information on students aged 17 and older. Here are Barack Obama's comments:
"At this time, the current major issue is the Solomon Bill, the latest legislation from Congress to obtain compliance to registration. The law requires that all male students applying for federal financial aid submit proof of registration, or else the government coffers will close...By organizing and educating the Columbia community, such activities (i.e. promoting non-registration) lay the foundation for future mobilization against the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country."
He closes his missive with this:
"Indeed the most pervasive malady of the collegiate system specifically, and the American experience generally, is that elaborate patterns of knowledge and theory have been disembodied from individual choices and government policy. What the members of ARA and SAM try to do is infuse what they have learned about the current situation, bring the words of that formidable roster on the face of Butler Library, names like Thoreau, Jefferson,and Whitman, to bear on the twisted logic of which we are today a part. By adding their energy and effort in order to enhance the possibility of a decent world, they may help deprive us of a spectacular experience - that of war. But then, there are some things we shouldn't have to live through in order to want to avoid the experience." (my bold)
While I realize that we were all idealists when we were younger, the irony of this essay is stunning, particularly given that Barack Obama has the "honor" of being the only United States president in history to be in a state of war for his entire eight year term, having military operations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan and dropping a total of 26,172 bombs in 2016 alone. Talk about "suiting the military-industrial complex"!
In closing, as "inconvenient truths" seem to have a habit of disappearing from the internet (i.e the Orwellian rewriting of history), here are screen captures from the Columbia University website showing the article in its entirety: