War: Made in Texas?

Flier for the ISS lecture
Flier for the ISS lecture

The South -- especially Texas -- does big business as a major exporter of weaponry, and is a major facilitator of the current violence in the Middle East, according to the Institute for Southern Studies.

Representatives of the North Carolina-based Institute and local activists will try to drive that point home at the ISS's Peace Through Justice Road Tour, which comes to UT this Friday, May 3. The ISS promotes "research, education, and action for a progressive South," especially through its 25-year-old magazine, Southern Exposure. The latest issue focuses on "Missiles and Magnolias: The South at War."

Sixty-six percent of all the weapons sold to Israel come from the South, said ISS Economic and Environmental Justice Program Director Dr. Rania Masri, and 96% of those come from Fort Worth, from companies like Raytheon and Boeing.

Masri believes the military-industrial complex took root in the South in large part due to the economic effects of the Civil War, which negatively impacted the already weak Southern economy. Weapons companies "came in and saw this opening and came in to capitalize on it," she said, "and the South really welcomed them, and we still feel right now in the South, more than we see in other parts of the country, this race to the bottom. There's a neglect of all kinds of workers' rights and environmental rights to try to get companies to come to their specific locale." Military-industrial money has polluted Southern politics, she added, bringing military bases and even greater access to Southern officeholders.

The ISS advocates campaign finance reform to help root out war-minded politicians ("Texas elects one of the most hawkish, pro-military Congressional delegations in the nation," according to ISS literature), and institutional divestment, much like the campaign against Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. Masri claims that supplying Israel with weapons is a violation of the Arms Export Control Act, which only allows U.S. allies to use American-made weapons for defensive purposes, and not invasive or occupational operations.

In addition to Masri, speakers on Friday's bill include ISS Director Chris Kromm, Southern Exposure writer Jordan Green, and Austin activist and Green Party Texas gubernatorial candidate Rahul Mahajan from 7 to 9pm, in room FAC 21, on the bottom floor of UT's Undergraduate Library. For more info, call 458-8635.

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