Wesleyan University’s sponsorship of war and violence through its investment in General Dynamics and Raytheon (two of the world’s largest weapons contractors) is strikingly inconsistent with its stated claim to be a “socially responsible” institution. Among other weaponry, these companies manufacture warships, tanks, nuclear submarines, cluster bombs, air-to-ground missiles, and nuclear weapons delivery systems. Many of their products are at work now in the illegitimate and increasingly disastrous occupation of Iraq. For the sake of students and alumni who do not want their financial contributions going towards war, on behalf of all those who value peace and want to take pride in their affiliation with Wesleyan, and in the name of the humane values whose advancement liberal education supposedly serves, we renew our demand that Wesleyan divest all holdings in General Dynamics and Raytheon.
The moral case for divestment is overwhelming. Investing in weapons implies that we find the manufacture of devices designed solely to kill and destroy to be acceptable as a way of making Wesleyan possible. By funding and profiting from death machines, we run the risk of becoming complicit in the killings of innocent people which war always entails, a possibility illustrated tragically by the Raytheon “smart” missile, which crashed into a Baghdad marketplace in 2003 and killed at least 62 bystanders (Independent 04/02/03).
Investing in weapons manufactures also cannot be politically neutral, since weapons manufacturers are themselves embedded in politics. In 2000 alone, General Dynamics spent $4.7 million on lobbying fees, while Raytheon spent $2.3 million on lobbying fees (worldpolicy.org/projects/arms/reports).
Furthermore, funding weapons companies does not promote the security or defense of the United States. Even aside from the fact that the U.S. has not fought a defensive war in recent history, our government has been doling out weapons all around the world for decades at a profit to military contractors, but to the detriment of U.S. security. In 2003, for example, the U.S. transferred weaponry to parties in 18 of the 25 existing war zones. In that year, 20 of the top 25 developing-world recipients of U.S. weapons were designated by the State Department as undemocratic or as major human rights abusers (“US Weapons at War 2005,” worldpolicy.org). Companies like Raytheon and General Dynamics may profit from supplying weapons to war zones and repressive governments, but such activity usually doesn’t turn out to be good for the United States: just consider that in the 80s the U.S. armed and funded the Mujahideen of Afghanistan fighters who later put their guns and training to use by forming the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
We can never seriously expect our government to behave in a less militaristic fashion unless our communities and we are willing to take a concrete step showing that we insist on peace. If Wesleyan divested, it would make big news and send a strong message to similar institutions and like-minded people about taking socially responsible investment seriously. We can make a difference, and we have no excuse not to.
Last year, Students for Ending the War in Iraq (SEWI) gathered over four hundred signatures from Wesleyan students (some of them now alumni), prospective students, members of the Middletown community, and faculty in a petition supporting divestment. The WSA, acting in the name of the student body, passed a resolution demanding divestment from Raytheon and General Dynamics. SEWI members met with Tom Kannam, Wesleyan’s Chief Investment Officer, and demonstrated with allies for divestment at North College. The burgeoning divestment campaign gained the attention of other Universities and the local news media, including the Hartford Courant (“Wesleyan Taking Look at Iraq Ties” 5/11/07).
The struggle continues this year: SEWI is continuing to circulate the divestment petition and has officially requested a meeting with President Roth to ensure that the desires of the Wesleyan Community as expressed through the petition and WSA resolution are being taken seriously. We hope President Roth will use the office of the President (as he did during the South African divestment campaign) to press for socially responsible investment at Wesleyan.