NNOMY

Covid and Militarism: Challenges and Controversies

 
Fabiola Cardozo / NNOMY /  español  - It’s widely recognized that the Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly affects the economy and, as a result, also negatively affects healthcare, education, and culture. However, in the face of hard times like the ones we’ve experienced this year, national priorities are oriented through the policies implemented by political leaders.

A recent article by the Washington Post highlights how The Pentagon diverted taxpayer money originally meant for masks and cotton swabs to make jet engine parts and body armor.

"The Cares Act, which Congress passed earlier this year, gave the Pentagon money to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” But a few weeks later, the Defense Department began reshaping how it would award the money in a way that represented a major departure from Congress’s intent.

 The payments were made even though U.S. health officials think major funding gaps in pandemic response still remain. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in Senate testimony last week that states desperately need $6 billion to distribute vaccines to Americans early next year. Many U.S. hospitals still face a severe shortage of N95 masks. These are the types of problems that the money was originally intended to address."

Reflections from the Monster Factory

Gary Ghirardi / NNOMY - First disclosures: This Op-ed is being offered up by myself, Gary Ghirardi,  for the September 2020 newsletter of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, themed: Teaching Kids to Kill, a vehicle of NNOMY's communications efforts to give voice to the few who stand up to endless wars and largely public ignorance and indifference to what is done in their names. It in no way reflects the opinions of the diversity of those organizations that collectively represent the bulk of groups, large and small, who offer up youth demilitarization efforts nationally in the not so United States of America.

This Op-ed is short and not so sweet, like the Psychology Today Op-ed proceeding this in our lineup of offerings for the September NNOMY Newsletter. Short seems to be the new formula because people are adverse to reading long articles now and actually prefer videos where they only need to watch and maybe listen. Those have to be short also. Attention spans have shortened.

What has been stirring in my mind is not a popular idea likely to be supported by many if even a few. Yet I cannot escape this prescient thought about what is the business of the USA and its global military in this seemingly culminating moment of the November Presidential election in a few weeks time; kind of a not so calm thought before the storm that is likely coming.

If I am to take the rhetoric of the election as a guide to informing my thinking about our culture, I can only surmise that the televised back-and-forth serves only to maintain the status-quo with a faux battle over which dressing will be applied to coat the business of defending a dollarized global economy. After-all, isn't that what the project of the U.S. military really is?

I think back to all I have seen and those I have known in my intervening forty-two years of legal adulthood and the best formula for succeeding in this success driven culture is the endless and uncritical pursuit of wealth creation and the little power that can be acquired over others along the way with no holds barred.

Surveying the nativist and immigrant propensities to follow this path, I now believe the United States of America is a monster factory, and now franchised to a country near you. It seems like a harsh characterization on the surface to explain so many places and lives spread out over generations but those most successful adherents to the pursuit of the rewards of worshiping money and power above all other priorities, if we take those constant ques from our 24/7 media's talking heads, surely identifies us as cultural monstrosities.  

Progressives Applaud AOC Proposal to Ban 'Insidious Practice' of Military Recruiting in Schools

"It's important that our youth understand that joining the military isn't the only way to pay for college or find stability in life."

Eoin Higgins / Commondreams -

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday proposed blocking the military from recruiting in schools, describing the practice as a predatory attack on disadvantaged children who already suffer from underfunded resources in their learning environments. 

The proposal follows an amendment to the defense spending bill from Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, last week that would ban military recruiters from using video game streaming platforms to reach impressionable young people. 

The US Military Is Using Online Gaming to Recruit Teens

Gamers with the Army, Navy, and Air Force are spending hours on Twitch with children as young as 13.

 

Jordan Uhl / The Nation - Have a nice time getting banned, my dude,” Army recruiter and gamer Joshua “Strotnium” David told me right before he booted me from the US Army’s Twitch channel. I had just reminded viewers of the United States’ history of atrocities around the globe, and helpfully provided a link to the Wikipedia page for US war crimes.

Was I undiplomatic? Sure. But if the military is going to use one of the world’s most popular platforms to recruit kids, then it shouldn’t be able to do so without some pushback. Right now, with the support of Twitch, gamers with the US military are spending hours with children as young as 13, trying to convince them to enlist.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force all stream on Twitch using dedicated e-sports teams. These teams are comprised of skilled gamers who compete in tournaments for cash prizes. While members of military e-sports teams offer the regular gaming skill set, they’re also on-screen talent and recruiters. Instead of approaching a recruiter behind a table in a school cafeteria, kids can hang out with one who is playing their favorite video games and replying to their chat messages for hours on end.

Twitch, a livestreaming platform owned by Amazon, boasted more than 5 billion hours watched from April through June. (For comparison, Netflix claims that during quarantine people have been viewing around 6 billion hours of its shows and movies a month.) A typical military stream looks something like this: A recruiter, usually a man in his 30s, sits comfortably in his gamer chair inside a dimly lit room illuminated by a monitor and the colorful LED lights of his computer tower. An American flag hangs on the wall behind his right shoulder, an oversized stuffed animal sits to his left. He’s playing Call of Duty or Valorant. He’s friendly, and talks about how much he loves being in the Army. Despite being older than most of his young viewers, he speaks like them. “It do be like that sometimes. We do have some great comms,” said a recruiter in one recent session.

The practices employed on Twitch by military e-sports teams are part of a system by which recruiters target children in unstable and/or disadvantaged situations. Recruiters take advantage of the poor seeking steady income, the vulnerable longing for stability, and the undocumented living in fear because of their citizenship status. Now, at a time when all those factors are magnified by a pandemic that has left half the country out of work and over 30 percent unable to afford their housing payments, conditions are ripe for recruiters to prey on anxious youth.

COVID-19 Has Forced The Army To Rethink And Step Up Its Virtual Recruiting Efforts

Carson Frame / The American Homefront Project - Listen to the Report

Image Department of DefenseThe Army is holding its first nationwide virtual recruiting campaign, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to scale back face-to-face interactions and revealed gaps in its digital outreach strategy.

As the coronavirus pandemic bloomed this spring, the Army reduced staff at many brick-and-mortar recruiting stations across the country. Enlistments slowed, fueling concerns that the service would have to extend the contracts of current soldiers in order to meet total force requirements.

Recruiters took their work remote, but lost out on some of the major recruitment opportunities that normally boost their numbers.

"That last moment before a senior leaves their high school-- typically we're there," said Staff Sgt. Kara Wilson, a station commander in West Texas. "We're helping them with support, finding them different avenues."

"However, we didn't have that moment this year, she said."

So Wilson and her team have had to build an online recruiting environment to reach those same young people. Apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have proven the most effective, and Wilson has designed new campaigns for each.

But not without a little help.

Dismantling the School-to-Soldier Pipeline

AN INTERVIEW WITH
Nancy Cruz, Barbara Harris, Rick Jahnkow, and Seth Kershner | Originally Published in Jacobin Magazine on October 18, 2019

 

SK
The National Defense Act of 1916 created the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (rotc), which operates at the university level, along with Junior rotc, which operates at the high school level. At first, JROTC was kind of like rotc’s unwanted stepchild. There were only a couple hundred JROTC units across the country until the mid-1960s.

The program really started to expand in earnest once the draft ended in 1973. Between 1971 and 1974, enrollment in Army JROTC increased by 21 percent, Air Force JROTC increased by 50 percent, and Navy JROTC increased by more than 100 percent. High schools became the answer to the Pentagon’s manpower problems.

BH
Anyone under the age of eighteen should not be recruited or be part of the military system. I believe this is a United Nations protocol, and in my view the United States doesn’t follow it.

Once Again, the US Military Wants Your Kids

Jonah Walters / Jacobin Magazine -

240 High school students attend a two-day challenge designed to heighten Marine Corps awareness. Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Military recruiters understand that widespread joblessness is good for enlistment. They celebrate the arrival of “Sergeant Hard Times,” recognizing that misery is the best motivator.

The corona virus crisis has been a double-edged sword for military recruitment in the United States. On the one hand, the tightening of the labor market contributed to higher rates of retention than the Army brass expected, meaning that many soldiers decided to reenlist this spring rather than pursue civilian employment when their terms of service expired. On the other hand, recruiting stations across the country have had to shut down to comply with social distancing guidelines, limiting recruiters’ access to young people and inhibiting the “kneecap-to-kneecap” conversations recruiters widely acknowledge to be essential to their work.

Less than one percent of the Armed Forces’ target demographic — seventeen- to twenty-four-year-olds — is actively interested in a military career. After a “kneecap-to-kneecap” encounter with a recruiter, whether at a recruiting station or a school event, probability of enlistment climbs to more than 50 percent, according to the Army.

The reasons for this have been well-documented by anti-recruitment activists for decades. Recruiters, who are expected to meet regular enlistment quotas, aggressively pursue young people who express interest, generally attempting to separate them from parents, teachers, counselors, and others who might advocate for civilian careers.

Subcategories

The NNOMY Opinion section is a new feature of our articles section. Writing on youth demilitarization issues is quite rare but we have discovered the beginning articles and notes being offered on this subject so we have decided to present them under an opinion category.  The articles presented do not necessarily reflect the views of the NNOMY Steering Committee.

General David Petraeus' rocky first days as a lecturer at the City University of New York Though the United States of America shares with other nations in a history of modern state militarism, the past 65 years following its consolidation as a world military power after World War II, has seen a shift away from previous democratic characterizations of the state.  The last thirty years, with the rise of the neo-conservative Reagan and Bush administrations (2), began the abandonment of moral justifications for democracy building replaced by  bellicose proclamations of the need and right to move towards a national project of global security by preemptive military force .

In the process of global military expansion, the US population has been subjected to an internal re-education to accept the role of the U.S. as consolidating its hegemonic rule internationally in the interest of liberal ideals of wealth creation and protectionism.

The average citizen has slowly come to terms with a stealthly increasing campaign of militarization domestically in media offerings; from television, movies and scripted news networks to reinforce the inevitability of a re-configured society as security state. The effect has begun a transformation of how, as citizens, we undertand our roles and viability as workers and families in relation to this security state. This new order has brought with it a shrinking public common and an increasing privatization of publicly held infrustructure; libraries, health clinics, schools and the expectation of diminished social benefits for the poor and middle-class. The national borders are being militarized as are our domestic police forces in the name of Homeland Security but largely in the interest of business. The rate and expansion of research and development for security industries and the government agencies that fund them, now represent the major growth sector of the U.S.economy. Additionally, as the U.S. economy continually shifts from productive capital to financial capital as the engine of growth for wealth creation and development, the corporate culture has seen its fortunes rise politically and its power over the public sector grow relatively unchallenged by a confused citizenry who are watching their social security and jobs diminishing.

How increasing cultural militarization effects our common future will likely manifest in increased public dissatisfaction with political leadership and economic strictures. Social movements within the peace community, like NNOMY, will need to expand their role of addressing the dangers of  militarists predating youth for military recruitment in school to giving more visibility to the additional dangers of the role of an influential militarized media, violent entertainment and play offerings effecting our youth in formation and a general increase and influence of the military complex in all aspects of our lives. We are confronted with a demand for a greater awareness of the inter-relationships of militarism in the entire landscape of domestic U.S. society.  Where once we could ignore the impacts of U.S. military adventurisms abroad, we are now faced with the transformation of our domestic comfort zone with the impacts of militarism in our day to day lives.

How this warning can be imparted in a meaningful way by a movement seeking to continue with the stated goals of counter-recruitment and public policy activism, and not loose itself in the process, will be the test for those activists, past and future, who take up the call to protect our youth from the cultural violence of militarism.

The "militarization of US culture" category will be an archive of editorials and articles about the increasing dangers we face as a people from those who are invested in the business of war. This page will serve as a resource for the NNOMY community of activists and the movement they represent moving into the future. The arguments presented in this archive will offer important realizations for those who are receptive to NNOMY's message of protecting our youth, and thus our entire society, of the abuses militarism plays upon our hopes for a sustainable and truly democratic society.

NNOMY

 

The Resources section covers the following topics:

News reports from the groups associated to the NNOMY Network including Social Media.

Reports from counter-recruitment groups and activists from the field. Includes information about action reports at recruiting centers and career fairs, school tabling, and actions in relation to school boards and state legislatures.

David SwansonDavid Swanson is the author of the new book, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, by Seven Stories Press and of the introduction to The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush by Dennis Kucinich. In addition to cofounding AfterDowningStreet.org, he is the Washington director of Democrats.com and sits on the boards of a number of progressive organizations in Washington, DC.


Charlottesville Right Now: 11-10-11 David Swanson
David Swanson joins Coy to discuss Occupy Charlottesville, protesting Dick Cheney's visit to the University of Virginia, and his new book. -  Listen

Jorge MariscalJorge Mariscal is the grandson of Mexican immigrants and the son of a U.S. Marine who fought in World War II. He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego.

Matt GuynnMatt Guynn plays the dual role of program director and coordinator for congregational organizing for On Earth Peace, building peace and nonviolence leadership within the 1000+ congregations of the Church of the Brethren across the United States and Puerto Rico. He previously served a co-coordinator of training for Christian Peacemaker Teams, serving as an unarmed accompanier with political refugees in Chiapas, Mexico, and offering or supporting trainings in the US and Mexico.

Rick JahnkowRick Jahnkow works for two San Diego-based anti-militarist organizations, the Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities and the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Pat ElderPat Elder was a co-founder of the DC Antiwar Network (DAWN) and a member of the Steering Committee of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, (NNOMY).  Pat is currently involved in counter-recruitment projects in a dozen jurisdictions in the DC metropolitan area.  Pat’s work has prominently appeared in NSA documents tracking domestic peace groups.

 

Documents:

audio Pat Elder - National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth

NNOMY periodically participates in or organizes events(e.i. conferences, rallies) with other organizations.

The Counter-recruitment Essentials section of the NNOMY web site covers the issues and actions spanning this type of activism. Bridging the difficult chasms between religious, veteran, educator, student, and community based activism is no small task. In this section you will find information on how to engage in CR activism in your school and community with the support of the knowledge of others who have been working to inform youth considering enlisting in the military. You will also find resources for those already in the military that are looking for some guidance on how to actively resist injustices  as a soldier or how to choose a path as a conscientious objector.

John Judge was a co-founder of the Committee for High School Options and Information on Careers, Education and Self-Improvement (CHOICES) in Washington DC, an organization engaged since 1985 in countering military recruitment in DC area high schools and educating young people about their options with regard to the military. Beginning with the war in Viet Nam, Judge was a life-long anti-war activist and tireless supporter of active-duty soldiers and veterans.

 

"It is our view that military enlistment puts youth, especially African American youth, at special risk, not only for combat duty, injury and fatality, but for military discipline and less than honorable discharge, which can ruin their chances for employment once they get out. There are other options available to them."


In the 1970's the Selective Service System and the paper draft became unworkable, requiring four induction orders to get one report. Boards  were under siege by anti-war and anti-draft forces, resistance of many kinds was rampant. The lottery system failed to dampen the dissent, since people who knew they were going to be drafted ahead of time became all the more active. Local draft board members quit in such numbers that even I was approached, as a knowledgeable draft counselor to join the board. I refused on the grounds that I could never vote anyone 1-A or eligible to go since I opposed conscription and the war.

At this point the Pentagon decided to replace the paper draft with a poverty draft, based on economic incentive and coercion. It has been working since then to draw in between 200-400,000 enlisted members annually. Soon after, they began to recruit larger numbers of women to "do the jobs men don't want to". Currently recruitment quotas are falling short, especially in Black communities, and reluctant parents are seen as part of the problem. The hidden problem is retention, since the military would have quadrupled by this time at that rate of enlistment, but the percentage who never finish their first time of enlistment drop out at a staggering rate.

I began bringing veterans of the Vietnam War into high schools in Dayton, Ohio in the late 1960s, and have continued since then to expose young people to the realities of military life, the recruiters' false claims and the risks in combat or out. I did it first through Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization, then Dayton Draft & Military Counseling, and since 1985 in DC through C.H.O.I.C.E.S.

The key is to address the broader issues of militarization of the schools and privacy rights for students in community forums and at meetings of the school board and city council. Good counter-recruitment also provides alternatives in the civilian sector to help the poor and people of color, who are the first targets of the poverty draft, to find ways to break into the job market, go to a trade school, join an apprenticeship program, get job skills and placement help, and find money for college without enlisting in the military.

John Judge -- counselor, C.H.O.I.C.E.S.
 
Articles
References:
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