The Politics of Militarization and Corporatization in Higher Education

July 6, 2011 

The military in Hawai’i is a destructive shape-shifting kupua.  In The Politics of Militarization and Corporatization in Higher Education, Henry Giroux discusses the creeping militarization of U.S. society and its costs and consequences.   In Hawaiʻi we have had a preview of this process with the intense militarization that his everywhere, but hidden in plain sight.  Hereʻs an excerpt:

The values of militarization are no longer restricted to foreign policy ventures; the ideals of war in a post-9/11 world have become normalized, serving as a powerful educational force that shapes our lives, memories, and daily experiences.  The military has become a way of life producing modes of education, goods, jobs, communication, and institutions that transcend traditional understandings of the geography, territory, and place of the military in American society. Military values, social relations, and practices now bleed into every aspect of American life.  What is distinctive about the militarization of the social order is that war becomes a source of pride rather than alarm, while organized violence is elevated to a place of national honor, recycled endlessly through a screen culture that bathes in blood, death, and war porn. As democratic idealism is replaced by the combined forces of the military-industrial complex, civil liberties are gradually eroded along with the formative culture in which the dictates of militarization can be challenged.

The threats of military encroachment into the University of Hawai’i are intensifying via the Navy Applied Research Laboratory (a classified military research center), homeland security research, and militarization of the social sciences such as anthropology, linguistics and psychology.

New UH-military partnership symptomatic of the militarization of education

May 3, 2011 

The AP reports that the University of Hawai’i and the Pacific Command are forming a partnership:

The University of Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Command have agreed to work together in the areas of health care, alternative energy, water and waste management.

University President M.R.C. Greenwood and Pacific Command Commander Adm. Robert F. Willard are due to sign an agreement at a ceremony on Tuesday.

The Pacific Command says the deal is a result of a January conference on enhancing security throughout the Asia-Pacific.

The institutions plan to send nursing students on military humanitarian missions to countries in the Asia-Pacific region. They also plan to expand an internship program at Pacific Command headquarters that gives students first-hand experience working on strategic security initiatives.

The establishment of the Applied Research Laboratory, a Navy UARC (classified military research laboratory) at UH, in violation of the ban on classified research, was a precedent for further encroachment of the military into a public university.

How militarized are we?

Procuring Academics for Empire: The Pentagon Minerva Research Initiative

May 8, 2010 

I just came upon this article about the recruitment of social scientists to support military programs such as the Human Terrain System.


Procuring Academics for Empire: The Pentagon Minerva Research Initiative

The Pentagon’s military strategists have recognized that they have suffered political losses, with strategic consequences in their recent military invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.


US military support for the Israeli invasions of Lebanon and Gaza, the US-sponsored Ethiopian occupation of Somali, the coup attempts in Venezuela (2002) and Bolivia (2008), have also failed to defeat popular incumbent regimes. Worse still, civilian, family, community and national networks have reinforced the anti-colonial movements providing essential logistical support, intelligence, recruits and legitimacy.

Pentagon strategists, recognizing the socio-political bases of their failures, have turned to willing accomplices in the academic world to provide intelligence, in the form of ethnographic accounts of targeted peoples, tactics and strategies in order to divide and destroy local and national loyalties. The Pentagon is contracting social scientists to develop ‘social maps’ to identify leaders and groups, susceptible to recruitment in the service of the empire. For example, Pentagon-contracted academic ‘field research’ is designed to demonstrate ways in which traditional religious practices and rituals can be harnessed to facilitate imperial conquest through cultural warfare discouraging subjugated peoples from giving their support to national liberation movements. Rather than confront the imperial occupier with a goal of re-establishing national sovereignty, ‘cultural warfare’ strategies direct people to focus on ‘local concerns’. These are a few of the Pentagon funded “research projects” taken up by the ‘academics in uniform.’

The Pentagon is seriously engaged in this military-academic empire building strategy, allocating almost 100 million dollars to contracting academic collaborators and funding multiple ‘research’ projects throughout the world against targeted states, movements and communities.

The “Minerva Research Initiative” (MRI)

The biggest, but not the only, Pentagon-funded empire building research program in the social sciences is dubbed the Minerva Research Initiative (MRI). The MRI has contracted scores of academics from the usual prestigious academic brothels, including the veteran academic hookers and ambitious neophytes among post-doctorates and graduate assistants. These ‘scholars for empire’ are currently engaged in at least fourteen projects. MRI money has attracted a wide assortment of university affiliated psychologists, political scientists, anthropologists, economists, professors of religious studies, public affairs specialists, labor economists and even nuclear physicists from MIT, Princeton, University of California at San Diego, and Arizona State University among others. This Pentagon largess provides what Science (Jan 30, 2009 p 576) (official journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) calls a “banquet for a field accustomed to living on scraps.”

All of the regions and groups specifically targeted for the ‘Pentagon-academic’ investigation are currently in conflict with the US empire or its Israeli ally and include Southwest Asia, West Africa, Gaza, Indonesia, the Middle East. The Pentagon’s ideological parameter, which defines the MRI, is the “war on terror” or its ‘Overseas Contingency Operations’, new facsimile under President Obama.

The MRI has a special interest in academics who can target the field of Muslim-Arab organizations and activities, in order to study and develop methods to “diffuse and influence counter-radical Muslim discourse.” In other words, the MRI is contracting academic research, which will allow the Pentagon to penetrate Muslim communities, co-opt the leaders and turn them into imperial collaborators.

MRI is not merely a mechanism of “soft power” – a battle of ideas – it engages US academics in some of the more brutal aspects of colonial warfare. For example, the Pentagon-funded Human Terrain Teams (HTT), which operate in Afghanistan, are deeply immersed in the identification and torture/interrogation of suspected resistance fighters, civilian sympathizers and members of extended families and clans. One San Francisco State psychology professor on the MRI payroll, with longstanding ties to Pentagon counter-insurgency operations, is deeply involved in the “study of emotions in stoking or quelling ideologically driven movements.” Covert occupation intelligence operations have been deeply involved in “stoking” hostility between Shia and Sunni communities in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Afghanistan. Torture and harsh interrogation techniques, used in the Middle East and Afghanistan, are based on academic studies of cultural and emotional vulnerabilities of Muslims and are used by US and Israeli military interrogators to “break” or cause profound mental breakdown of anti-occupation activists (“quelling ideological movements”).

Two US professors who solicited and secured major funding under MRI, one Eli Berman of the University of California San Diego and Jacob Shapiro of Princeton are working with Israeli counter-insurgency academics in researching what it takes for the Jewish state to manipulate Palestinian communities “to counteract grass-roots movements such as Hamas” (Science Jan 30/09) .

Berman and Shapiro have their own academic empire building ambitions, feeding off the Pentagon largesse and its military driven empire building. With the Pentagon money Berman claims “I’ll be able to do surveys and experiments around the world, partner with additional organizations and bring postdocs as well as several graduate students. We’ll be able to accomplish things in a matter of years rather than decades.”

This contemporary version of Dr. Strangelove with his version of instant counter-insurgency formulas cooked up by a world network of academics in uniform can poison the academic ambience – in much the same way that the Professor ‘Bermans’ at Michigan State, MIT, Harvard and elsewhere developed techniques for search and destroy missions against grassroots movements during the Viet Nam War. The danger and appeal to academics of Pentagon funding is especially acute nowadays, given the economic depression and the pseudo-progressive image of the Obama regime. Wall Street bailouts and the crash of the US stock market have reduced university endowments resulting in sharp reductions in academic budgets, salaries and research funding especially on non-military, non-business related research. The Obama regime’s double discourse of talking peace and escalating military budgets, increasing troops in Southwest Asia and extending sanctions on Iran may entice academics to justify the latter by citing the former. To procure academic recruits to the MRI stable, the Pentagon organized a workshop in August 2008, under the ideological façade of “complete openness and strict adherence to academic freedom and integrity.” Subsequently the Pentagon claimed to have received 211 inquires from academics seeking a place at the imperial trough.

Notwithstanding the Pentagon’s claim of success in procuring academics, there are counter-signs appearing in the academic world, especially in light of the highly publicized kidnapping, torture and interrogation of thousands of Muslims and activists throughout the world including in the United States, by Special Forces.

Outside the far-right there has been a widespread reluctance among academics to be associated with a government identified with abuses at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo prisons, the shredding of the US Constitutional protections and open ended colonial wars of occupation.

Even in the case where powerful pro-Israel academics and lobbyists have successfully secured the dismissal of highly published professors critical of the Hebrew state, these vindictive purges were openly opposed by scores of professors around the country including several dozen Jewish academics. More recently, hundreds of scholars and researchers in the US, the United Kingdom and Canada, horrified by the Israeli war crimes in Gaza, have called on universities to boycott Israeli academic institutions and individuals who collaborate with the Israeli Defense Forces and the Mossad in the destruction of Palestinian institutions especially the bombing of universities in Gaza.

The principled stand of academics critical of Israel and US policy notwithstanding, distinguished academics who have substantially challenged the empire through their research and publications are not immune from retaliation designed to discourage other intellectuals: A recent case in point is the suspension of academic medical epidemiologist, Dr. Gilbert Burnham of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University. Dr Burnham was publicly reprimanded and suspended from directing any research involving ‘human subjects’ for 5 years because of ‘ethical breaches of confidentiality’(Science, March 6, 2009 Vol 323 page 1278). These ‘ethical violations’ referred to his co-authorship of the first rigorous large-scale epidemiologic survey of mortality in Iraq during the US invasion and occupation. Extensive site surveys throughout Iraq found that upwards of 600,000 Iraqi civilians had died from violence between the time of the US invasion in March 2003 and the summer of 2006. The results of this study of imperialist war-induced death and destruction, published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet in October 2006, was denied by a furious Pentagon but confirmed by subsequent studies. The so-called ‘ethical violations’ referred to a minor technicality: the incomplete coding of some of the names of the Iraqi families interviewed on the Arabic language survey sheets. For imperialist institutions, like Johns Hopkins University, using the phony pretext of ‘protecting the privacy’ of the hundreds of thousands of nameless dead in a US war of aggression to punish a distinguished epidemiologist send a message of intimidation to scholars to refrain from documenting the genocidal consequences of imperialist wars on a colonized people. By publicly punishing Dr. Burnham on these trumped up charges, the Pentagon-John Hopkins University are sending an unambiguous message to academics not to research and reveal the real human costs of military empire building. One thing is clear, the identity of those tortured or dispossessed on the basis of policies developed by the Pentagon sponsored Minerva ‘academics’ will certainly be kept ‘confidential’ –and very likely hidden in mass graves.

The fact that the Bloomberg School of Public Health levied extraordinarily severe punishment on one of its own faculty epidemiologists for a technical methodological error (the usual procedures is a private reprimand) and the fact that the sanctions were given the widest public notice indicates the highly political nature of the entire process. What is not clear is whether the financial backers of the Bloomberg School (with their own Middle East Agenda) may have had a say in the punitive decision.

We can expect the Obama regime, with its ‘missiles for peace’ rhetoric and populist images, will provide a cover for Pentagon recruitment of liberal academics to “work for change from within.” Unmasking the role of the Pentagon’s Minerva Research Initiative as an integral part of Obama’s military escalation is a challenge to all academics who are opposed to empire building and who support the reconstruction of an American republic supportive of international rights of self-determination.

Militarization of UH: New Homeland Security Center

November 25, 2008 

Interesting note: The press release mentions Jay Cohen, Under Secretary for Science and Technology, Dept of Homeland Security, as a key official behind this CIMES. He’s a retired admiral who headed up the Office of Naval Research during the development of the Project Kai’e’e / UARC scandal. He nominated UH to become a UARC and appointed Mun Won Chang Fenton as the Navy point person to work on the UARC. This was before Fenton’s fall from grace when the Navy Criminal Investigation Service uncovered her scheme to use UH/RCUH as the vehicle to establish a Pacific Research Institute (aka Project Kai’e’e), which she planned to fund through her ONR program, so that Admiral Paul Schultz (with whom she allegedly had an affair with and is now married to) could get a private sector job as Executive Director of the Center when he retired from the Navy. Instead, Schultz was forced to retire at the reduced rank of Captain, and Fenton was removed from her contracts portfolio in Hawai’i.


UH NewsExternal Affairs & University Relations
Public Relations

New Homeland Security Center at UH Manoa to Deal with Island Security Issues and Natural Disasters University of Hawaii at Manoa

Posted: September 29, 2008

HONOLULU – A new U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) center of excellence will officially open at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa (UH Manoa). The opening ceremony for the National Center for Island, Maritime and Extreme Environment Security (CIMES) is set for Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at 1:30 p.m. in the Keoni Auditorium, Hawaii Imin International Conference Center at the East-West Center.

The CIMES mission will be to perform basic research in areas that will improve safeguards for key infrastructures in island and extreme environments as well as provide important environmental information in times of natural or man-made emergencies.

“The University of Hawai`i is the ideal institution to conduct multi-disciplinary research vital to the protection of Hawai`i and our nation’s coastal areas from terrorist threats and natural disasters, such as tsunamis and earthquakes. Our university is a part of an outstanding national team due in large part to its research excellence and our location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In the months ahead, it will be critical that strong alliances are made with our homeland security agencies like the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Patrol to ensure that the scientific gains are transferred and realized on the ground and out at sea for the protection of our borders,” stated U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

CIMES is a partnership between UH Manoa, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. CIMES will work closely with the National Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce and Coastal Environments (CSR), a “sister” center headquartered at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. CIMES will also be working with the Maui High Performance Computing Center (MHPCC), the Pacific Disaster Center, the Hawai`i Ocean Observing System, Intelesense (California), the U.S. Coast Guard and relevant federal and state agencies.

“Investments in long-term, basic research are vital for the future of homeland security,” said Jay M. Cohen, Under Secretary for Science and Technology, DHS, who will be present at the opening. “These colleges and universities are leaders in their fields of study. They will provide scientific expertise, high-quality resources, and independent thought – all valuable to securing America.”

UH Manoa was one of 11 universities selected from across the country to lead one of five centers to study border security and immigration; explosives detection, mitigation and response; maritime, island and port security; natural disasters, costal infrastructure and emergency management; and transportation security. Under the agreement, UH Manoa is eligible to receive a grant of up to $2 million per year over the next four to six years.

“The basic science investigations that CIMES will be performing for DHS are all a natural complement to existing earth science and engineering programs at UH Manoa,” said CIMES Director Roy H. Wilkens. “These studies will eventually provide critical data to first responders in times of emergency as well as enhance our general understanding of the ocean and atmospheric environment around the Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Rico and the vast expanse of Alaska. Each research effort is being led by an internationally renowned scientist with an experienced technical team. We look forward to years of productive scientific inquiry with our DHS partners.”

The Militarization of the University of Hawai’i continues

November 16, 2008 

Homeland security center opens on campus

By: Kris DeRego

Posted: 10/16/08

As funding for higher education continues to fall, the University of Hawai’i hopes that a recently launched Department of Homeland Security research center will bolster the college’s bottom line.

The National Center for Island, Maritime and Extreme Environment Security, which officially opened on Oct. 7, is one of five “centers of excellence” created by DHS to study border security, explosives detection, port security and emergency management. UH Mānoa was one of 11 universities selected in February to host a portion of one of the research centers.

“Investments in long-term, basic research are vital for the future of homeland security,” said DHS Undersecretary for Science and Technology Jay M. Cohen, who was present at the institute’s opening ceremony. “These colleges and universities will provide scientific expertise, high-quality resources and independent thought, all of which are valuable to securing America.”

Under an agreement reached between the DHS and university officials, UH Mānoa is eligible to receive a grant of up to $2 million per year over the next four to six years, for a potential windfall of $12 million.

In partnership with scientists at the University of Alaska, the University of Puerto Rico and New Jersey’s National Center for Secure and Resilient Maritime Commerce and Coastal Environments, the homeland security center’s researchers will consider ways to safeguard infrastructure located in island and extreme environmental conditions against natural and man-made emergencies, according to research director Roy Wilkens.

“The basic scientific investigations that the National Center for Island, Maritime and Extreme Environment Security will be performing are a natural complement to existing earth science and engineering programs at UH Mānoa,” Wilkens said. “These studies will eventually provide critical data to first responders in times of emergency and enhance our general understanding of the ocean and atmospheric environment around the Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Rico and Alaska.”

Six faculty members from UH’s Department of Engineering and School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology will spearhead the center’s initial research, which Wilkens says will benefit both the university and the state.

“Our observational expertise will save lives and help protect the environment,” Wilkens said. “As for UH, without the prospect of involvement in high-level science, UH would lose its best and brightest, both students and faculty.”

Defense research expanding

Homeland security contracts were not the only lucrative defense-related grants given to UH researchers in recent weeks. On Sept. 24, two weeks before the opening of the homeland security research center, UH’s Applied Research Laboratory was awarded an $850,000 task order by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Wai’anae Ordnance Reef Remedial Investigation Project.

Approved by the Naval Sea Systems Command, the order instructs scientists to examine the impact of seasonal variations in water quality and sediment composition upon the threat posed by discarded World War II munitions off the O’ahu’s Wai’anae Coast. The survey will be conducted over the course of a one-year period to rectify possible data gaps in a 2006 study performed by the Department of Defense and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“It is important that we examine the impacts from the discarded military munitions at Ordnance Reef to determine the most appropriate course of action,” said U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye in a written release. “I have no doubt that the UH lab will undertake its tasks with professionalism and with environmental and cultural sensitivity.”

The study will involve both private and community partnerships, said UH Vice President for Research Jim Gaines, and could generate funding for similar projects in the future.

“The Army Corps of Engineers is committed to understanding the problems created by discarded munitions and potential impacts on the health of the people of Hawai’i,” Gaines said. “This project could lead to more clean-up operations of the discarded munitions by local businesses, which would have its own positive effect on the economy.”

Researchers for the Applied Research Laboratory, a Navy-sponsored science and technology laboratory, will complete additional sampling, biotic-substance testing and risk-assessment analysis as part of their review.

Critics unconvinced

While the National Center for Island, Maritime and Extreme Environment Security and Applied Research Laboratory enjoy broad support among university administrators, many members of the UH community remain opposed to the two research centers, arguing that prospective financial gains are outweighed by the threat posed to core educational values.

“The National Center for Island, Maritime and Extreme Environment Security and Applied Research Laboratory are increasing and intensifying the militarization of UH,” said Kyle Kajihiro, program director for the American Friends Service Committee. “This is part of a trend nationwide, in which universities are becoming agents of the military-industrial complex, instead of independent institutions dedicated to expanding and sharing knowledge.”

Michael D’Andrea, a professor of counselor education at UH Mānoa, agrees, noting that both the Mānoa Faculty Senate and the Associated Students of the University of Hawai’i passed resolutions condemning the expansion of military research on campus.

“This type of research not only undermines education at the university,” D’Andrea said, “but also the democratic principles that govern our society.”

Of particular concern to opponents of the research centers is the execution of classified weapons research at UH, which Kajihiro believes is being hidden from public purview.

“The ocean ordnance research task order is chum to lure the public into biting the Applied Research Laboratory hook,” Kajihiro said. “It masks the true purpose of the ARL, which is the development of weapons systems for missile defense, sensor integration, anti-submarine warfare, high energy lasers and other weapons technologies to be tested at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kaua’i.”

University officials maintain that classified weapons research is not the primary focus of either project.

“Once we get involved in classified areas, the free exchange of knowledge and information is inhibited, exactly the opposite of our mission,” Wilkens said.

Activists like Kajihiro are unmoved by the university’s reassurances, however, citing contractual loopholes as reasons for continuing their challenge.

“Remember that the Applied Research Laboratory’s voluntary no-classified research clause only applies to the first three years of operation,” Kajihiro said. “Do not let these institutions become Trojan horses for the expansion of secret research at UH. Do not let these invasive species dig their roots deep into UH.”

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