Military recruiters have felt the pressure from citizen attacks in the past year, and they are responding with fear. The resistance is coming from all segments of society and from all over the political spectrum. On inauguration day students in Seattle surrounded and forced recruiters off their campus, and similar events have occurred all over the map, resulting in increased security by recruiters. Traveling in pairs, caller ID and dark blinds at offices are among the measures implemented this winter. (1) However, it’s not only roving mobs and molotovs that threaten recruiters; high schools and colleges are finding ways to expel recruiters, military families are speaking out, and enlistment is down. The pressure is making folks at ArmyTimes rethink their recruiting strategies, but oddly, they don’t seem to be rethinking the war.
Although the military spends $3 billion a year to recruit young people, it’s becoming less effective (2). While the draw of college money has long hooked people from both poor urban and rural areas, the truth of its elusiveness is setting in. African Americans are enlisting at half the pre-war rate (14% instead of 23%) and women of all ethnicities are scorning the service. (3) The Pentagon refuses to publish numbers about AWOL soldiers, but the fact that Canada considered granting refugee status to some former soldiers indicates a significant presence. Military families are speaking out about the atrocities and trauma of soldiers, about the lack of training and gear, and about health problems that will result from exposure to radioactive munitions. It’s getting harder to sell death to kids these days, but Uncle Sam is still trying.
Speaking out against the war machines is not enough. Schools won’t be safe until recruiters are afraid to enter campuses (middle school to college) and until parents & communities destroy draft records and recruiting stations. Kids need access to information about the atrocities committed by our military to open up markets and destroy independent societies, so that they support Veterans for Peace instead of ending up amputee veterans. The army has described the future of its marketing & it’s petrifying. Knowing that “Army of One” is a load of shit, they’ll try to convince mothers of 17 to 24 year-olds why their kids should enlist and ask Iraq vets to sugarcoat the occupation in TV ads (3). But will they tell stories about how ignorant soldiers shoot carfuls of people because the American hand gesture for “stop” means “hello” in Iraq?
Besides targeting recruiters and stations, finding sites where the ASVAB (test for Army career “options:) is given could be fertile ground. My high school just reversed its policy of testing all juniors & 5/6 opted not to test. (4) How different would some people’s lives be if they could learn a trade at community college instead of enlisting? Besides, most people don’t get the job of their choice after enlisting and half never get any of the college money promised by recruiters.
The Armed and Coercive Forces have gotten into schools other ways as well. Besides ROTC and JROTC, the No Child Left Behind Act mandates that the personal information of every student be available to recruiters or the schools lose federal money. (5) While some districts have sent home letters so parents can refuse to release the info, most districts haven’t notified parents of the privacy invasion. It’s bad enough that the CIA tracks our library habits—but the Marines dialing up kids on their cell phones?
On the good news front, Yale and Harvard Law Schools challenged the Solomon Act last year, which formerly required that recruiters have equal access to students as other potential “employers.” However, based on the fact of gay discrimination in the military, the law was declared unconstitutional. Universities, which receive federal funding, may not discriminate and therefore can exclude any agency that does. (6) It puts joy in your step to know that bigots dig their own holes, huh?
In Slingshot issue 85, “Strike the War’s Achilles’ Heel,” PB Floyd offered some great ideas on how to organize a campaign against military recruiters. There were even lists of recruiting stations in the article and some have been targeted since then! While signs and crowds are good, creativity is great.
Students are the most publicized protesters of recruiters and military action, and dozens of colleges have seen recent disturbances. Besides Seattle, students in San Francisco; Madison; New York; Binghamton, NY; Bloomington, MN; Chicago; and Berkeley have all hassled recruiters off the stage. The irony is, college students are more likely to have the resources to avoid enlisting. We need to protest at the hopeless job fairs where half of all employers are military and follow around recruiters who go out and casually ensnare kids who are just hanging out. What if every pair of recruiters had shadows? What if you got information to people who were cashing their GA checks or outside the welfare office? Chances are, the folks at Eastmont Mall in Oakland need support more than the kids at Berkeley High. Flyer outside churches, where duty and fear can be molded into patriotism. Because recruiters are everywhere, we can be everywhere too. Even if the recruiters believe the lies they sell, we don’t have to.
The Army is at least 6% behind in meeting its recruiting goals for 2005. (3) Let’s all help make it a record year. 20%? 50%? Just how much can you reasonably disrupt your local station? And after you immobilize recruiters, might as well turn boot camp into a temporary autonomous zone. There’s just so much to be excited about. What are you waiting for?
(1) NY Times, February 21, 2005
(4) Manchester Union Leader
(6) from Knight Ridder