The issue over military sponsorship of the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) has hit a flash point over the past week since its conference at UMass Amherst in mid-February. Despite expressed public concern from some activists (reposted at this site) previous to the conference, the issue didn't mushroomed until keynote speakers at the conference brought up the issue.
Both Lai Wa Wu of the Student Immigrant Movement, the morning speaker, and V.J. Prasad, the afternoon speaker, criticized or raised concerns about the signficant support from the Coast Guard, the Navy, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Since that time, the ECAASU Board of Directors has sent a public letter apologizing for Lai Wa Wu and V.J. Prasad to attendees who "are in the military, or have family and friends in the military" and expressed appreciation for "all that you, your friends, and your family has sacrificed for our country." Wu and Prasad responded with a joint statement posted in Counterpunch that pointed out ECAASU's anti-war origins that contradicted its current sponsorship. Bloggers on Fucking Loudest Asians and Asian Nation have also responded to the issue. There are also threads on Facebook around the issue and many, many e-mails. The issue remains to be resolved.
Lai Wa and Vijay have raised a legitimate question. Should ECAASU be raising money primarily from the military, which is overtly trying to recruit people into various branches, including through official workshops?
Wu and Prasad are right in characterizing the history of ECAASU; ECASU, its original name, was anti-War. It was not born as a "non-nonpartisan non-profit organization," without political affiliation. ECAASU's current stand at any rate is misleading? Isn't endorsement of the military through sponsorships, workshops and tables a political affiliation?
Why is this? Consider this question. Since the end of World War II, how many countries has the U.S. Military invaded to support a particular social system? Hmmm.. off the top of our heads - Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Phillipines, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan ... but if you consult wikipedia (we did), the list of military "interventions" since 1950, partially based on the congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs list, is 5 screens long. The number of major military "interventions" is "only" in the dozens. How about the CIA? Hmm... let's see, Chile, Iran, the Congo, but it also turns out the Dominican Republic, Guatamela, Bolivia among many others. Compare that relative to other countries that we call "crazy" ones such as North Korea (it's invaded one country, if you consider South Korea a separate country).
The ECAASU board has a legitimate concern about funding its conferences, and it needs to be figured out. Student conferences have become high-budget events because of the need to fund performances and pay for expensive venues like hotels. ECAASU needs to judge what they want to accomplish from the conference. We recently looked at a ECASU conference brochure from 1987 (we'll post a scan at soon). The advertising was from small businesses and community groups, but the focus was on the contents of workshops. They also had parties scheduled. Maybe that's living too small for today's ECAASU, but they don't have to explain why they're selling access to their attendees so they can also do "collatoral damage" on civilians.