Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Confessions of a Military Industrial Complex Conscientious Objector

(originally published by OpEdNews)
A benefit of working for OpEdNews as a line editor is empowerment.

I know, I know, empowerment is a term used by large, multi-national corporations to justify laying off workers. These corporations tell the remaining workers, whose job responsibilities increase significantly with the loss of their work mates, that the new responsibility empowers them.

These corporations have to give the remaining workers some positive feedback since they don’t increase their pay to reflect their additional work load.

However, just as with almost every word, every deed, every discovery and every invention that can be attributed to humankind, the word “empower” isn’t in and of itself a negative entity.

Yesterday, as I was working on the submission queue at OEN, I read the article which follows.

Maybe some of you don’t visit OEN frequently. Many some of you have never visited. It is for this reason that I asked Richard Wilson, the author of “Confessions of a Military Industrial Complex Conscientious Objector”, for permission to share his article in full. He was kind enough to extend that permission to me.

I’m an atheist and Mr. Wilson bases much of the decision he made concerning the Military Industrial Complex on being drawn to the Christian faith. When you read the article, however, you’ll see why spiritual or religious faith isn’t needed for this article to touch you deeply.

This is why I felt empowered to be given the opportunity to publish this article at OpEdNews and I feel empowered to share it with you now.

To friendship,

“Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.” - John F. Kennedy
(originally published by OpEdNews)

I was raised in the military industrial complex. My father was a participant in the Manhattan Project while serving in the Army Corps of Engineers. He was employed by The Dow Chemical Company while Dow was the administrator of the Atomic Energy Commission's Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado. Dad had retired from G.E. in Pinellas, Florida while under the contract of the Atomic Energy Commission. I also worked for Dow at Rocky Flats. Additionally I spent 11 years in the United States Air Force and nearly three years in Vietnam and Thailand.

After graduating from high school in 1962 and facing a draft with no possibility of additional education, I chose the Air Force. The military offered some of the best technical schools and vocational training of the time and many of us who had no real financial means depended on that opportunity to prepare us for life.

The choice to join the military was not a difficult one. I had no reason in my life's experience at that point to doubt the honor of such a decision. The opportunities available were limited with the draft looming over my head.

After serving for six years, I was married, became the father of a wonderful daughter, and had spent 22 months in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. I was discharged "honorably" at McCord Air Force Base and returned to Arvada, Colorado where I attempted to survive civilian life.

My son was born and fortunately I found employment in the general aviation industry. Income was critical as usual for a family so I applied for an instrument technician position at the Rocky Flats Atomic Energy Commission facility managed by The Dow Chemical Company. The Rocky Flats Plant site was responsible for the manufacture of "pits" or the plutonium triggers used in nuclear weapons.

After being unable to adapt to the corporate “cog in the machine” imprisonment I found in the everyday life at that time, I found it necessary to return to the Air Force two years later.

Four more years in the Air Force found me back in Southeast Asia and struggling with marriage and separation from my family. I was again discharged from the Air Force “honorably” and worked several jobs while trying to piece a living together.

Unfortunately during this return experience, my marriage collapsed in divorce. After several years, I found an opportunity to be employed by Lockheed Aircraft Service Company, a defense contractor operating out of Ontario, California.

At that time, my idea of successful employment included wages, benefits, a title and retirement, so this seemed like the American Dream! I made it! I was even flying as a crew member training Air Force personnel. Flying was a lifelong dream. What more could I ask?

After accepting a position to serve as a Technical Representative for Lockheed, training Air Force and supporting their flight operations in Europe, my new friend and wife and I moved to Germany.

Pamela and I had just married in 1983 and through that blessed experience I chose to become a follower of Christ. We chose together to take that journey through her church. My record of follow-through and commitment was not very good and, therefore, I wanted to live up to that challenge and to be clear about what my new commitment entailed.

Through my study I started questioning my participation in the military industrial complex. The more I questioned, the more I studied. I do not know if I was looking to justify what I had been doing or if I was looking for an escape. I did ask several priests about the dilemma and received no consolation or pastoral counsel with regard to a direction either positive or negative.

I found that I had to ignore my spiritual enlightenment to continue my career. After all, I was being “successful” and I had to make a living! All reasons were solid and easily justifiable, especially if I turned my back on the God of nonviolence. While struggling with these two opposing forces -- the manufacture and deployment of weapons systems versus living a life of peace and nonviolence -- I finally erupted with the pain and guilt that I felt.

When the build-up to the first Gulf War began I knew I could not participate. No more weak excuses or compromising my own integrity for money, title, status and ego. During the preparation and build-up of personnel and equipment for the invasion of Iraq, technical representatives at our location were asked if we would participate in the Air Force's missions and deployments. This would be on a voluntary basis. It was like blowing the top off of a capped oil well. I not only told my management that I would not take part in this war but stated that it was the most immoral act we could be involved in!

I suddenly realized I could not support any war anywhere. It was wrong and obsolete. The fraud of war would never produce true peace. All of those involved and many generations following have historically lived and died in anxiety with the shadows of war looming in their past.

Lives are spent as ours are now, and as our children will spend their lives, trying to recover the devastating violence placed in their hearts and minds, as well as recovery of their devastated environment. Impossible! The heart and mind will never intersect. Wars only produce wars!

At this moment I became at peace with being a military industrial complex conscientious objector!

I became enough of a disturbance in the office and in our community that I was relieved of duty and returned to the United States on March 1, 1991. Upon returning to the country, I took a short vacation and then went back to work with no promise of a future position in the company. I was laid off on May 15, 1991, after being offered and turning down a job in Central America in support of more violence.

What have I learned through this experience? I am thankful I have been able to catch a glimpse of the peace we all strive for by not supporting violence. I found that we, as Americans, have been inured to violence. We have become the violence we fight by focusing our limited resources on militarism. We have been duped by the military industrial complex. Its promises of peace are hollow; it only produces insecurity and violence in the name of security.

With all of us well indoctrinated in maintaining a military power and a military industrial complex as a way of life, we pay a high price and will continue to do so. We have sold ourselves short as human beings, as brothers and sisters, as husbands and wives, as neighbors around the world and as those who follow a spiritual life with God of whatever great religion or tradition we belong.

Because of the terror that is looming in our hearts from nuclear weapons, it is a journey with the God of nonviolence that affords us the opportunity to reconcile with ourselves, our children, grandchildren, and with our neighbors throughout the world. Nuclear weapons are like the walls around the cities of Europe. As the author Noah benShea expressed, “Fear put them up and fear maintains them.”

It is we, the employees, ex-employees and supporters of the military industrial complex who hold the knowledge and skills we need to free ourselves from this toxic and threatening death that looms. It is imperative that we turn our careers as physicists, mathematicians, engineers, technicians and support personnel from manufacturers of terror to fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers working for real peace in lieu of this pseudo/false peace we try to accept as the best it can be. All of us are needed to dismantle this environmental disaster. It is our knowledge and work that can get us out of this never-ending buildup looming to take life from us all.

We must go to that sacred space where our heart and mind intersect and listen. We will find that there is only one truth and that is the truth of nonviolence. I encourage all of us to start that journey now! Conscientious objection is acceptance of conscience! If we are to leave a livable future for our young we must stop all development and manufacture of nuclear weapons. We must stop calling war “honorable.” We must stop accepting the robbery of our resources by the military industrial complex. Our work, our knowledge, our gift to the world is much greater than this. They are squandering our financial resource, our hours on earth and our talents.

We must demand an end to war. We must demand leadership that leads and is not bought out by lobbyist and corporate interests. We must demand that our government work for us and our children.

For years I was blind to the cost of my personal perceived success. From the first great movies of WWII to the youthful enthusiasm while listening to my uncle's war experiences, it was easy to become enthralled in the falsely acclaimed “honor” and excitement of militarism. Don't continue the myth of trying to protect our children from violence while building weapons of mass destruction. Someday our children will be asking why we lied.

We can gather together and form safe communities where we can discuss and dialogue about our concerns and approaches to this challenge of truth. We are some of the brightest and I know that with the corporate knowledge that we have used to develop these weapons we have the knowledge and capability and power to reverse this process.

It may require a work stoppage. It may require a strike. It may require quitting and looking for work elsewhere that is not part of the military industrial complex. That is what I had to do to free myself from the guilt and anxiety I felt being complicit in these activities of destruction. The cost has been high. It was not simple to turn my back on a six figure income, perfect medical insurance, life insurance and retirement.

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