| Napalm: Student Power Crushes
For the past five generations, Dow Chemical, a $35 billion company
and the world’s largest chemicals producer, has been proud
to profit from human suffering and misery. Only once in its corporate
life has Dow’s immoral profiteering been seriously challenged,
and it wasn’t lawyers or governments behind the challenge.
It was a mass student movement, conceived and built during the Vietnam
War, that forced Dow to end its production of Napalm for the US
military. How did they do it?
Dow Chemical developed napalm-b in 1965, in collaboration with
the U.S. Air Force. (1) A petroleum jelly
which burns at excess of 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, Dow Napalm B sticks
to whatever it splatters on. When this is human flesh, the napalm
continues to burn downwards into the body, flameless, feeding on
fat and other tissue.
Kim Phuk, a
9-year-old child burned by napalm
A Vietnam veteran is attributed with this perverse but technically
illuminating quote about the development of Napalm: "We
sure are pleased with those backroom boys at Dow. The original product
wasn't so hot - if the gooks [Vietnamese] were quick they could
scrape it off. So the boys started adding polystyrene - now it sticks
like shit to a blanket. But then if the gooks jumped under water
it stopped burning, so they started adding Willie Peter (white phosphorus)
so's to make it burn better. It'll burn under water now. And just
one drop is enough; it'll keep on burning right down to the bone
so they die anyway from phosphorus poisoning." (2)
May 1966 - Stanford Coalition for
Peace in Vietnam protests outside Dow plant in Torrance, CA,
where napalm is made. Women Strike for Peace obstructs napalm
shipments out of San Jose. Protests outside Dow’s Rockefeller
Center Sales offices in New York.
August 9, 1966 - University
of Michigan students from Students for a Democratic
Society (SDS) and the Voice Political Party picketed Dow Chemical's
headquarters in Midland, MI, demanding that it end the production
of napalm on the grounds that it causes "some of the
war's most horrible suffering."
Oct. 10, 1966 – Students at
the University of California, Berkeley protest
against Dow recruiters, citing Dow’s production of napalm
1967 - Students at the University
of Maine organize
a sit-in at East Annex where Dow Chemical was holding
1967 - Students
at Marquette University picket
1967 - University of California,
Los Angeles students
protest Dow and other war-related companies.
Feb. 1967 - Students for a Democratic
Society at Northeastern University stages
against student recruiting by Dow Chemical Corporation.
February, 1967 - University
of Wisconsin, Madison, students surround the buildings
where Dow placement interviews were being held. Three arrests
spur protests the next day; demonstrators blockaded the offices
of the Chancellor and Dean of Student Affairs, demanding that
the charges are dropped and Dow
banned from campus as long as it made napalm.
Spring 1967 - Students at the University
of Chicago protest
against recruiters from “pro-Vietnam” companies,
including Dow Chemical, the maker of napalm.
Fall 1967 -
Students at Boston University sit-in
to prevent Dow Chemical (makers of weapons of war) representatives
from holding recruitment meetings with students.
Fall 1967 - 47 University
of Illinois students are disciplined after taking
part in a sit-in to protest Dow recruitment on campus.
Oct. 1967 - Students at the University
of Minnesota occupy
Johnston Hall to block access to Dow recruiters.
Oct. 18, 1967 - Hundreds of students
sit-in to prevent Dow recruitment at the University
of Wisconsin, leading to a tense standoff between
students and the police. When students refused orders to disperse,
the police resorted
to their clubs, and bludgeoned their way into the building.
47 students and 14 policemen were left injured and 71 students
Oct. 25, 1967
- 200 Harvard University students barricade
a recruiter from napalm-maker Dow Chemical in Mallinckrodt
Lab for seven hours, until faculty ''worked out conditions
for his release."
Oct. 30, 1967
- After 2 hours of trying to speak with a Dow recruiter,
50 students from the University of Indiana
entered the room peacefully and sat-in
without blocking the office. Police arrested 40; the remaining
ten were clubbed and denied medical attention. Faculty members
raised $9,000 to bail out the students.
Oct. 30, 1967 - 100 students and
faculty members at the University of Connecticut
prevented a Dow recruiter from giving interviews by blocking
Nov. 6, 1967 - More than 70 students
at MIT organize a protest
against the visit of a Dow recruiter. Although the protestors
do not block access to the interview room, they styme recruitment
by signing up for interviews themselves.
Nov. 8, 1967 - The University
of Rochester chapter of Students for a Democratic
Society organizes a sit-in to block
Dow Chemical recruitment; More than 100 students and several
faculty members participate.
November 29, 1967 - More than 200
students at New York University occupy the
University Placement Services Office, forcing Dow Chemical,
the producers of napalm, to call
off scheduled interviews. Students carried signs reading
"Dow Deforms Children" and "Dow Deals Death".
Dec. 4, 1967 - Dozens of University
of Iowa students picketed, fasted, and burned 10
dolls to protest Dow recruiting on campus.
December 6, 1967 - 150 students sat-in
at the Brandeis University Administration
Building while 500 picketed, ignited dummies with napalm and
paraded to tape-recorded war sounds outside. Brandeis agreed
to the student demands, barring Dow Chemical recruiters from
1968 - Oberlin
College students petition the Board of Trustees to
College investments in Dow due to war profiteering.
1968 - When Dow Chemical recruiters
came to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls,
greeted with a three-hour protest against their company
as a producer of napalm.
1968 - Students
against Dow Chemical at Iowa State University.
Jan. 12, 1968 - Protest organized
against visit by Dow Chemical recruiters to Holy Cross.
Spokesman for the Student
Action Committee condemns Dow for the "immoral production
Feb. 21, 1968 -
Students at Wisconsin State University, La Crosse
a protest against Dow during a recruitment visit; collecting
petition signatures, students march to the interview conference
room and tape the petition to the door.
Feb. 22, 1968 - Students, faculty and a Dow
representative participated in an open forum at the University
of Michigan on the moral responsibilities of Napalm
production. Prof. Richard Mann of the literary college questioned
Dow's moral judgment: "If the government starts pouring
napalm down babies' throats, when does Dow say 'That's not
what we had in mind?'" Paul Harsha, speaking for Dow,
replied "We don't think we've arrived at the answer to
that." He conceded that although Dow would supply napalm
for a war against France or Canada, use ofthe chemical on
American citizens, even in a civil war, would be "unthinkable."
March 6, 1968 - More than 500 New
York University students demonstrate
against the reappearance of Dow Chemical Company recruiters
March 12, 1968 - More than 100 students
at Syracuse University barricaded the administration
building with benches, rope and wire to protest Dow recruitment
on campus. Several university officials were blocked from
Spring 1968 - Students at Stanford
University organize a sit-in at the Student Union
(now Old Union) and demand that the college change
recruitment policy to disallow recruiters from Dow Chemical
on campus. For the first time in Stanford’s history,
the faculty vote not to support the administration, and the
policy is changed.
May 8, 1968 - Over 400 protestors,
including several hundred students, protested Dow's manufacture
of napalm at their annual shareholder's meeting in Midland.
Nov. 1968 - Students at Notre
Dame organize a large-scale
demonstration during several days of Dow recruitment interviews.
1969 - Students at the University
of Washington occupy
the Loew Hall Placement Center to block recruitment interviews
by Dow Chemical.
Students at the University of Manitoba throw
chains and locks across the doors and sit in to block the
recruiters from Dow Chemical.
1969 - Forty
students and some faculty at the University of Saskatchewan
Dow Chemical at the Student Placement Office.
February, 1969 - Students at Rutgers
University stage a sit-in at the Newark campus in
University complicity with Dow and the war effort.
March 22, 1969 –
nine activists, including two members of the clergy, break
into the Dow Offices in Washington, burn files with homemade
napalm, and are arrested. The “D.C. 9” are charged
with three federal felony counts - burglary, and two counts
of property destruction.
May 7, 1969 - 250 protestors including
students and religious leaders attended the annual Dow shareholder's
meeting to protest the continued production of napalm. Rev.
John Bailey called Dow Chemical a "merchant of death"
while Father O'Rourke told the shareholders that "We
must stop your company" because of its "exultation
of profit and property over people."
Nov. 7, 1969 – The “Beaver
55” invade Dow Chemical’s data center in Midland,
Michigan, erasing magnetic tapes filled with biological and
Nov. 7, 1969 – Dow’s
Washington offices are vandalized, with files strewn and ink
and chemicals splashed around. A short statement left in the
office said it was wrong to "put profit before people,"
and invoked support for the Beaver 55 and the D.C. 9.
Nov. 18, 1969 - Police in riot gear
break up a peaceful protest against Dow recruiters at Notre
Dame. The students suspended and expelled, the "Notre
Dame Ten," are supported by faculty; Professor Charles
McCarthy resigns in protest. "These protests were about
us as individuals confronting the University and administration
about its moral pretensions," said Mark Mahoney, one
of the "Notre Dame Ten." "It was a big deal
for those folks who were involved because we made a very deliberate
Spring 1972 - Direct Action at the
University of Texas, Austin organizes
demonstrations against recruiters from corporations supplying
the war effort, including Dow Chemical.
In "Medical Problems of South Vietnam," four American
physicians wrote: "Napalm is a highly sticky inflammable jelly
which clings to anything it touches and burns with such heat that
all oxygen in the area is exhausted within moments. Death is either
by roasting or by suffocation. Napalm wounds are often fatal (estimates
are 90 percent). Those who survive face a living death. The victims
are frequently children." (3)
forgets the bewildered eyes of the silent, suffering, napalm-burned
- Dr. Richard E Perry, 1967
Dr. Richard E. Perry, an American physician, wrote in Redbook in
January 1967, on his return from Vietnam: "I have been an orthopedic
surgeon for a good number of years, with rather a wide range of
medical experience. But nothing could have prepared me for my encounters
with Vietnamese women and children burned by napalm. It was shocking
and sickening, even for a physician, to see and smell the blackened
flesh." (4) By 1966, Dow was supplying
4550 tons of napalm per month to be dropped onto Vietnam. (5)
However Dow's President at the time, Herbert D. Doan, described
Napalm as "a
good weapon for saving lives," claiming further that "It
is a strategic weapon essential to the pursuit of the tactic we
are engaged in without exorbitant loss of American lives."
Novelist Robert Crichton, writing in the New York Review of
Books, could have been responding directly to Doan when he
wrote that “the justification for this behavior . . .lies
in the words 'saving American lives.' Any action can be condoned,
any excess tolerated, any injustice justified, if it can be made
to fit this formula. The excessive valuation on American life, over
any other life, accounts for the weapons and tactics we feel entitled
Five years after Doan reaffirmed his company's commitment to Napalm,
on a June morning in 1972, an American air force plane dropped several
thin 120 gallon canisters of Dow-brand Napalm B onto the Vietnamese
village of Trang Bang. Kim Phuk was there, and she was set on fire.
Napalm covered her back, it burned through her clothes, it burned
deep into a third of her body. She was nine years old.
As the Jesuit Daniel Berrigan said 30 years ago when he and his
brother and seven others broke into an unoccupied draft office and
poured homemade napalm onto U.S. draft files: "Forgive us dear
friends, for the crime of burning paper instead of children."
- top -
Students were outraged that Dow would continue to manufacture and
profit from such a repugnant product. They began to challenge Dow
and its presence at their colleges and universities, and Dow recruiters,
research, speakers, and investments were all protested. Across the
country, Dow became a moral outcast.
of Saskatchewan, 1969
The first protests took place in 1966. The Stanford Coalition for
Peace in Vietnam (SCPV) led a protest at the Dow Plant in Torrance,
California, where Dow produced napalm. (6)
And in late May four Women Strike for Peace "housewives"
were arrested after they tried to block napalm shipments out of
San Jose; another group obstructed the loading of a barge with the
napalm for shipment. Both groups were arrested and sentenced. (7)
In May protests also engulfed Dow’s Rockefeller Center sales
office in New York City. They foreshadowed the movement to come.
In 1967, protests against Dow erupted on campuses nationwide. By
December of 1967, more than 500 student protests had been staged
against Dow, including 119 against Dow recruiters. (8)
When Dow Chemical Co. recruiters visited the University of Wisconsin,
Madison, in February of 1967, students
surrounded the buildings where placement interviews were being
held. Three arrests spurred protests the next day; students blockaded
the offices of the Chancellor and Dean of Student Affairs, demanding
that the charges be dropped and Dow banned from campus as long as
it made napalm. Tense negotiations resolved the standoff, and the
charges were dropped.
Dow’s next visit to Madison, on Oct. 18, 1967, famously ended
in a brutal confrontation. Hundreds of students blockaded the room
where interviews were to be held, leading to a tense standoff between
students and the police. When students refused orders to disperse,
the police resorted to their clubs, and bludgeoned their way into
the building. 47 students and 14 policemen were left injured and
71 students were arrested. (Read more in this
excellent three-part series from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).
is not a lack of foresight," Andy Good, a University
of Wisconsin student senator, told students following an October
confrontation with Dow recruiters and police. "Nor is
it whether or not Dow should come onto campus. Our problem
is allowing a company that produces a compound of polystyrene
and other organic materials that reacts with human skin to
melt people's faces onto their chests." (9)
In its February 10, 1969 issue, Business
Week reported, “Not long ago, Jack Jones, Jr., a
reformed newspaperman (Daily Oklahoman, Toledo Blade) bailed
out of a back window on a California campus to escape a howling
mob of students battering down the door. With him were three frightened
IBM recruiters and Hans Beetz, a Dow Chemical Co. lab administrator.
Jones, the West Coast public relations representative for Dow, made
tracks with Beetz for their car, where the students caught up with
them and rocked the locked car until the beleaguered Dow representatives'
The story went on to say that "The situation is such that
Dow recruiters are at least mentally prepared for trouble. In fact,
one of them, W. L. Hendershot, was once locked in a room so long
by University of Wisconsin [Madison] students that he now packs
a sandwich for emergency rations in his briefcase. The current imprisonment
record is held by Dr. Frederick C. Leavitt, a Dow researcher who
like many of his colleagues makes several recruiting trips a year.
He was once cornered in a conference room for seven hours by 200
In May 1968, University of Michigan students organized a march
on Dow's world headquarters in Midland to demand an end to napalm
production. (10) Protests also marred the
1969 Dow shareholder’s meeting. By this time, concerned citizens
were organizing boycotts of Dow products and churches and other
organizations were divesting Dow stock. In January 1969, the Union
Theological Seminary divested itself of 6,000 shares because they
believed that Dow symbolized “a kind of warfare that is morally
repellant.” (11) Five months later,
the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ sold
its shares in Dow at a $15,000 loss because of its manufacture of
- top -
The student movement soiled Dow’s reputation and its share
price slumped. Dow’s chairman of the board, Carl Gerstacker,
confessed to the New York Times in November 1967 that Dow
had been hurt by the protests. (13) Consumer
boycotts, time spent answering questions about Napalm, and divestment
had damaged the company, he explained. About a month later, President
Herbert D. Doan said he was worried the protests were costing Dow
the creative minds which might invent "the next great thing."
(14) In that same year, the Board of Directors
held a meeting to discuss the ethics and morality of Napalm production.
By November 1969, Dow declared that it would stop manufacturing
Napalm for the United States government. Dow’s Chairman of
the Board, Carl Gerstacker, explained, “We may have lost some
recruits that we really would have wanted, we may have lost some
sales that we otherwise would have had, we may have lost some stockholders
that would otherwise have purchased our stock. The number of Dow
shareholders dropped from 95,000 to 90,000 during the Napalm demonstrations
although only a couple dozen stockholders specifically informed
us that they were selling because of Napalm. We suspect a good many
of the 5,000 we lost reacted at least in part to the Napalm stories,
but we have no way of determining just how many.” (16)
It took Dow more than a decade to rebuild its corporate name.
- top -
Dow is afraid of you.
Though years have passed and Dow carries on, reaping more profit
than ever before from its chemical violence – it fears you.
Thirty years ago, the power of student protest and moral outrage
tarnished Dow, forcing it to abandon one of its key products and
forsake a lucrative contract with the US Government. Today, students
are again uniting to demand that Dow’s immoral profiteering
from human suffering and slaughter must end.
- top -
Dow Shalt Not Kill by
Howard Zinn (1967)
The doctrine that the "civil liberties" of corporations
are violated by regulatory laws was predominant in this country
during the age of the "Robber Barons," and was constitutionally
sanctioned for about fifty years, until 1938. Then, a sharply-worded
opinion by Justice Black (Connecticut General Life Insurance Co.
v. Johnson) declared that corporations should no longer be considered
"persons" to be protected by the due process clause of
the 14th Amendment. It soon became established in constitutional
law that the regulation of business was not a deprivation of a civil
liberty, that what is known as "substantive due process"
would apply only to cases where real persons were being deprived
of their rights of free expression. Today, it is well-established
constitutionally that the U.S. government could make illegal the
manufacture of napalm, and charge any persons recruiting for a napalm-manufacturing
company with conspiring to violate the law.
But there is no such law. Indeed, the government itself has ordered
the napalm manufactured by Dow, and is using it to burn and kill
Vietnamese peasants. Should private citizens (students and faculty-in
this instance) act themselves, by physical interposition, against
Dow Chemical's business activities?
To do so would be to "take the law into your own hands."
That is exactly what civil disobedience is: the temporary taking
of the law into one's own hands, in order to declare what the law
should be. It is a declaration that there is an incongruence between
the law and humane values, and that sometimes this can only be publicized
by breaking the law.
Civil disobedience can take two forms: violating a law which is
obnoxious; or symbolically enacting a law which is urgently needed.
When Negroes sat-in at lunch counters, they were engaging in both
forms: they violated state laws on segregation and trespassing;
they were also symbolically enacting a public accommodations law
even before it was written into the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
|To the Editor:
President-designate Fleming's speech at MSU indicates that we
are getting rid of one corporate-liberal hypocrite only to be
saddled with another. Fleming actually had the nerve to claim
that the University's "guarantee" of freedom of speech
gives Dow Chemical the right to recruit on campus. By the same
logic, the mafia must be allowed to recruit gunmen on campus,
and the Nazis had the right to recruit mass executioners at
German universities - all in the name of freedom of speech.
Such absurd conclusions stem from two fallacies: one, Fleming's
failure to distinguish exchange of ideas from conspiracy to
commit murder; second, Fleming's claim that economic freedom
is part of freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech is the freedom to exchange ideas. It includes
the right to argue in defense of genocide, but it does not
include the right to organize machinery for genocide.
I will defend Dow's right to explain and defend genocide,
but I will not allow Dow to use this campus in its perpetration
of war crimes. Dow recruiters had best be prepared for resistence
appropriate to the magnitude of their crimes.
Steve Schlosser, Grad
The Michigan Daily Dec. 6, 1967
Most of us, I assume, would support civil disobedience under some
circumstances: we would commend those who defied the Fugitive Slave
Act by harboring a Negro slave, and those who symbolically enacted
emancipation by trying to prevent soldiers in Boston from returning
Anthony Burns to his master. Otherwise, to declare that the law
in all circumstances is to be obeyed, is to suppress the very spirit
of democracy, to surrender individual conscience to an omnipotent
state. Thus, the issue becomes: under what circumstances is civil
disobedience justified and is the Dow Chemical situation one of
It seems to me there are two essential conditions for the right
to civil disobedience. One is that the human value at stake must
involve fundamental rights, like life, health, and liberty. There
is no real cause, for instance, to disobey a traffic light because
it is inconveniently long. But human slavery, or racism, or war-these
are overwhelmingly important. Thus, the argument "what if everyone
disobeyed the law every time it displeased them" falls before
the observable fact that those who engage in civil disobedience
are almost always law-abiding citizens who on certain very important
issues deliberately, openly, temporarily violate the law to communicate
a vital message to their fellow citizens.
What of Dow Chemical and napalm? Four American physicians, in
a report, "Medical Problems of South Vietnam," have written:
"Napalm is a highly sticky inflammable jelly which clings to
anything it touches and burns with such heat that all oxygen in
the area is exhausted within moments. Death is either by roasting
or by suffocation. Napalm wounds are often fatal (estimates are
90 percent). Those who survive face a living death. The victims
are frequently children." Napalm is dropped daily on the villages,
the forests, the people of Vietnam by American bombers; the saturation
bombing of that tiny country is one of the cruelest acts perpetrated
by any nation in modern history; it ranks with the destruction of
Lidice by the Germans, the crushing of the Hungarian rebellion by
the Russians, or the recent mass slaughter in Indonesia. Dr. Richard
E. Perry, an American physician, wrote in Redbook in January 1967,
on his return from Vietnam: "I have been an orthopedic surgeon
for a good number of years, with rather a wide range of medical
experience. But nothing could have prepared me for my encounters
with Vietnamese women and children burned by napalm. It was shocking
and sickening, even for a physician, to see and smell the blackened
of Wisconsin, October 1967
We are not, then, dealing with trivialities, but with monstrous
deeds. This fact somehow becomes lost in the bland, reasoned talk
of businessmen and university officials, who speak as if Dow were
just another business firm, recruiting for some innocuous purpose,
making radios or toothpaste. The root issue, it should be clear,
is not simply napalm; it is the Vietnam war as a whole, in which
a far-off country is being systematically destroyed, and its population
decimated, by the greatest military power on earth. The war itself
is the object of the civil disobedience; the use of napalm is one
particularly bestial tactic in this war.
This brings us to the second condition for civil disobedience:
the inadequacy of legal channels for redressing the grievance. This
is manifestly true in the case of the Vietnam war, which is being
waged completely outside the American constitutional process, by
the President and a handful of advisers. Congress is troubled, but
follows sheep-like what the White House decrees. The Supreme Court,
by tradition, leaves foreign policy questions to the "political"
branches of government (the President and Congress) but recently
one of its more conservative members, Justice Potter Stewart, said
that perhaps the Court should review the constitutionality of the
war. This, after 100,000 American casualties! Citizens have taken
to the auditoriums and to the streets precisely because they have
no other way to protest; yet both President and Vice-President declare
with the brazenness of petty dictators that no civic outcry will
change their policy. If ever there was an issue which called for
civil disobedience, it is this run-away war.
Then why do we become uneasy when students interfere with Dow
Chemical? Occasionally, we read of housewives blocking off a busy
inter section because children have been killed there as a result
of a lack of traffic lights. These housewives thereby interfere
with the freedom of automobiles and
of pedestrians, in order to temporarily regulate, or even disrupt,
traffic, on behalf of the lives of children-hoping this will lead
to the permanent regulation of traffic by government. (Those are
not the automobiles that killed the child, anymore than this Dow
Chemical representative, or the student he is recruiting, is actually
dropping the napalm bomb.)
Why do we so easily sympathize with actions like that, where perhaps
one child was killed, and not with actions against Dow Chemical,
where countless children have been victims? Is it possible that
we sub consciously distinguish between the identifiable children
down the street (who move us), and the faceless children of that
remote Asian land (who do not)? It is possible also that the well-dressed,
harassed representative of Dow Chemical is more human, therefore
more an object of sympathy, to the well-dressed, harassed officials
of the University (and to us), than the burning, bleeding, blurred
faces of the Vietnamese?
There is a common argument which says: but where will these student
actions lead? If we justify one act of civil disobedience, must
we not justify them all? Do they then have a right to disobey the
Civil Rights Acts? Where does it stop? That argument withers away,
however, once we recognize the distinction between free speech,
where absolute toleration is a social good, and free action, where
the existence of values other than free speech demands that we choose
right over wrong-and respond accordingly. We should remember that
the social utility of free speech is in giving us the informational
base from which we can then make social choices. To refrain from
making choices is to say that beyond the issue of free speech we
have no substantive values which we will express in action. If we
do not discriminate in the actions we support or oppose, we cannot
rectify the terrible injustices of the present world.
Whether the issue of the Vietnam war is more effectively presented
by protest and demonstration (that is, the exercise of speech, press,
assembly) rather than by civil disobedience, is a question of tactic,
and varies with each specific situation. Different student groups
(at Harvard and MIT, for instance) have used one or another against
Dow recruitment, and each tactic has its own advantages. I tend
to favor the protest tactic as keeping the central issue of the
war clearer. But, if students or faculty engaged in civil disobedience,
I would consider that morally defensible.
So much for student-faculty action-but what of the University
administration? The University's acceptance of Dow Chemical recruiting
as just another business transaction is especially disheartening,
because it is the University which tells students repeatedly on
ceremonial occasions that it hopes students will be more than fact-absorbing
automatons, that they will choose humane values, and stand up for
them courageously. For the University to sponsor Dow Chemical activities
as a protective civil liberty means that the University (despite
its courses in Constitutional Law) still accepts the nineteenth
century definition of substantive due process as defending corporations
against regulation, that (despite a library with books on civil
liberties) the University still does not understand what civil liberties
are, that (despite its entrance requirement of literacy) the University
has not read in the newspapers of the terrible damage our napalm
bombs have done to innocent people.
The fact that there is only an indirect connection between Dow
recruiting students and napalm dropped on Vietnamese villages, does
not vitiate the moral issue. It is precisely
the nature of modern mass murder that it is not visibly direct like
individual murder, but takes on a corporate character, where every
participant has limited liability. The total effect, however, is
a thousand times more pernicious, than that of the individual entrepreneur
of violence. If the world is destroyed, it will be a white-collar
crime, done in a business-like way, by large numbers of individuals
involved in a chain of actions, each one having a touch of innocence.
Sometimes the University speaks of the "right of recruitment."
There is no absolute right of recruitment, however, because (beyond
the package of civil liberties connected with free expression and
procedural guarantees, which are the closest we can get to "absolute"
right) all rights are relative. I doubt that Boston University would
open its offices to the Ku Klux Klan for recruiting, or that it
would apply an absolute right of private enterprise to peddlers
selling poisonous food on campus. When the University of Pennsylvania
announced it would end its germ-warfare research project, it was
saying that there is no absolute right to do research on anything,
for any purpose.
The existence of University "security" men (once known
as campus police) testifies that all actions on campus are not equally
tolerable. The University makes moral choices all the time. If it
can regulate the movement of men into women's dormitories (in a
firm stand for chastity), then why cannot it regulate the coming
and going of corporations into the university, where the value is
human life, and the issue is human suffering?
of Wisconsin, 1967
And if students are willing to take the risks of civil disobedience,
to declare themselves for the dying people of Vietnam, cannot the
University take a milder step, but one which makes the same declaration-and
cancel the invitation to Dow Chemical? Why cannot the University-so
much more secure-show a measure of social commitment, a bit of moral
courage? Should not the University, which speaks so often about
students having "values," declare some of its own? It
is writ ten on no tablets handed down from heaven that the officials
of a University may not express themselves on public issues. It
is time (if not now, when? asks the Old Testament) for a University
to forsake the neutrality of the IBM machines, and join the human
- top -
(1) Lumsden, Incendiary Weapons, 43-44.
(2) Quoted in “The Loneliness of Noam Chomsky,”
Arundhati Roy. The Hindu. August 24, 2003.
(3) "Dow Shalt Not Kill" by Howard Zinn,
1967. Available at: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Zinn/Dow_napalm.html.
(5) "Why is Canada in Vietnam?" by Caire
(6) H. Bruce Franklin, Vietnam and Other American
Fantasies (Amherst: U Mass Press: 2000), 75-77.
(7) Who Spoke Up? American Protest Against
the War in Vietnam, 1963-1974 (NY: Holt, Reinhardt, Winston)
(8) “Why Dow continues to make napalm,”
Business Week, 118. Available at: http://moderntimes.vcdh.virginia.edu/PVCC/mbase/docs/napalm.html.
(9) Heck, Jim "Wisconsin Protestors to Mourn
'Brutality'. The Michigan Daily, October 21, 1967
(10) Tom Wells, The War Within: America’s
Battle over Vietnam, 263.
(11) “Dow Stock is Sold by Union Seminary,”
New York Times 11 January 1969: 31.
(12) Associated Press, “Church Unit Sells
Shares Of Dow Chemical Stock.” New York Times 11
June 1969: 58.
(13) “Dow Chief Says Protests Hurt,”
New York Times 18 Nov. 1967
(14) Anthony Ripley, “Napalm Protests Worrying
Dow, Though Company is Unhurt,” New York Times 11
(15) E. Ned Brandt. Growth Company: Dow Chemical’s
First Century. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University
Press, 1997. p.356
(16) E. Ned Brandt. Growth Company: Dow Chemical’s
First Century. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University
Press, 1997. p.361