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Too Fat To Fight? Obesity, Bio-Politics and the Militarization of Children’s Bodies

From: McSorley, K. (ed.) (2012) War and the Body: militarization, practice and experience - London: Routledge

 

Joseph Burridge and Kevin McSorley - The United States military stands ready to protect the American people, but if our nation does not help ensure that future generations grow up to be healthy and fit, that will become increasingly difficult. The health of our children and our national security are at risk. (Mission: Readiness, 2010: 7)

 

Introduction

 

“The Offi cial Portrait of the Military Junta,” oil on canvas, 173 x 218 cm, 1971. (© Fernando Botero, courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York.)On the 13th of December 2010 US President Barack Obama signed into law a piece of legislation commonly referred to as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The law had passed a vote in the House of Representatives eleven days earlier, with near unanimous bipartisan support, and had been designed to, among other things, move towards provision of more healthy food for school children across the entire United States via establishing higher nutritional standards through a revised National School Food Lunch Program. One prominent organisation that lobbied strongly for this legislation, garnering significant media attention(BBC 2010, Shalikashvili and Shelton 2010), was Mission: Readiness. This campaign group, populated largely by retired senior members of the US military, addresses a range of issues connected with children, but in this case directly addressed itself to their food consumption, its impact upon rates of obesity, and the consequences that they argued this was having upon American military recruitment. Specifically, Mission: Readiness’ contributions to the debate used an anticipatory logic, and were addressed to an alleged need to do something about American children’s bodies because, increasingly, too many such bodies were considered at risk of becoming ‘Too Fat To Fight’ the title of one of the organisation’s reports (Mission: Readiness 2010) and this chapter.

House Hearing on Selective Service

May 19, 2021 / Edward Hasbrouck / Antiwar.com - A House Armed Service Committee (HASC) hearing on May 19th heard from witnesses on only one side of the debate over whether to end draft registration or extend it to young women as well as young men. But despite the one-sided panel of witnesses, questions and comments from members of Congress highlighted the failure of the ongoing attempt to get men to register for a future military draft, and the lack of any feasible way to enforce a future military draft of men or women.

The Chair of the Armed Service Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), opened the hearing by noting a written statement submitted by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). Rep. DeFazio is one of the initial co-sponsors of the bipartisan Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021 (H.R. 2509 and S. 1139), which is pending in the Armed Services Committees in both the House and the Senate.

According to Rep. DeFazio, "President Carter reinstated draft registration in 1980 largely for political reasons. Military draft registration has existed ever since, requiring all men aged 18-26 to register with the Selective Service System (SSS). It should be repealed altogether…. The SSS is an unnecessary, unwanted, archaic, wasteful, and punitive bureaucracy that violates Americans’ civil liberties… It’s beyond time for Congress to repeal the SSS once and for all."

The NDAA for 2021 expands the programs of the Pentagon in our public schools

Gary Ghirardi / NNOMY - A not surprising but concerning feature of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act is the doubling of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps in our public schools and the expansion of DoD STEM and of the STARBASE Program into territories that the United States of America controls in the Pacific.

In the case of the JROTC the following is stated in the NDAA Report for 2021:



Expansion of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program (sec. 547) The committee recommends a provision that would amend section 2031(a)(2) of title 10, United States Code, to insert language expanding the purpose of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) to include an introduction to service opportunities in military, national, and public service. The provision would also require the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a plan to establish and support not fewer than 6,000 JROTC units by September 30, 2031.1



As of 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense cites that JROTC programs associated to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, are taught as elective courses at more than 3,000 high schools nationwide.2 How those expanded programs might be purposed is not totally defined other than a recommendation that there be added a focus within JROTC on cyber security education in schools.

Peace Churches in the Orbit of Youth Demilitarization Activism

Gary Ghirardi / NNOMY – In my years working as a communications consultant to counter-recruitment organizations, now approaching twenty years for the summer of 2021, I have experienced personally and observed the organizing and activism of groups formed by historical peace churches make prolonged and concerted efforts to intervene against the militarization of our youth by departments of defense.

The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth itself is a creation, in part, as a project of the American Friends Service Committee’s National Youth & Militarism Program¹, a Quaker organization that helped organize NNOMY as a network at a conference in Philadelphia in 2003 along with ten other national and regional peace organizations.

In the intervening years, that network grew at its peak in 2011 to over 140 groups nationally and regionally. In recent (post Obama) years the focus of as many as 65% of these groups has shifted to other issues while at the same time the programs of the military in our public schools have expanded.

One of the historic peace churches most active in direct counter-recruiting activism is the Church of the Brethren and their organization, On Earth Peace² which organized the Stop Recruiting Kids campaign with its expansive social media campaign on multiple platforms. On Earth Peace also sits on the NNOMY steering committee as an observing member.

Other historic peace church contributors that have made efforts to intervene against the militarization of youth have been Quaker member groups such as War Resisters’ International in London and Truth in Recruitment in California. These efforts have been some of the strongest representatives of the push-back on programs of the Department of Defense in the United States and the Ministry of Defence in Britain designed to recruit youth into military service.

Supreme Court asked to review Constitutionality of current male-only draft registration requirement

Edward Hasbrouck / Resisters.info - On January 8, 2021 the National Coalition For Men, a men’s rights organization represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Constitutionality — now that women are allowed in all military combat assignments — of the law which requires men but not women to register with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft.

Read below for my FAQ about what this does and doesn’t mean, and what happens next. (Click here for links to the Supreme Court docket, pleadings, press releases, and additional commentary and analysis.)

I’ve been tracking this case up and down through the lower courts since 2015, and I attended the oral argument last year before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that led to the ruling that the Supreme Court is now being asked to review.

I’m actually a footnote (note 3, p. 4) to the petition for certiorari filed today with the Supreme Court, which cites my Web site about the draft as the authoritative source of one of the Department of Defense documents I obtained in response to my Freedom Of Information Act requests to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS). Apparently this document isn’t available from the DoD, the NCMNPS (which removed many files from its Web site before it shut down), or any other government source. The NCMNPS summarily and improperly “closed” almost all of my outstanding FOIA requests and appeals just before it disbanded, and designated most of its records to be immediately destroyed. I managed to get all of the NCMNPS records transferred to the National Archives, which is also threatening to destroy most of those records, but has released some additional files.

Militarization Has Become Our National Religion

Civilians dead after US bombingsAugust 13, 2019 / William Astore / The Nation - When I was a teenager in the 1970s, I looked to the heavens: to God and Christianity (as arbitrated by the Catholic Church) and to the soaring warbirds of the US military, which I believed kept us safe. To my mind then, they were classic manifestations of American technological superiority over the godless communists.

With all its scandals, especially when it came to priestly sexual abuse, I lost my faith in the Catholic Church. I would later learn that there had been a predatory priest in my parish when I was young, a grim man who made me uneasy at the time, though back then I couldn’t have told you why. As for those warbirds, like so many Americans, I thrilled to their roar at air shows but never gave any real thought to the bombs they were dropping in Vietnam and elsewhere, to the lives they were ending, to the destruction they were causing. Nor at that age did I ever consider their enormous cost in dollars or just how much Americans collectively sacrificed to have top cover, whether of the warplane or godly kind.

The MAGA Face of JROTC

January 18 2021 / Gary Ghirardi / Op-ed / NNOMY - With the violence  witnessed in the beginning of 2021 at the nation's capital,  we have been forced to acknowledge the culture war that exists in the United States in full expression. We also witnessed in the subtext of that event, and the emerging crisis that will follow it, the government's promise of increasing securitization as a reaction to it. That process did not start at the "surge on the capital"  but has been in a steady progression of growth for many years. This latest event only provides an additional justification for the need to  increase the militarization of our "democracy."

Nowhere is that trend more evident as in the Junior Reserves Officers Training Corps (JROTC) military cadet program slated for a massive expansion. What is billed by the Pentagon as a character building and good citizenship program designed to instill leadership qualities in young people, now is being funded to expand from 3500 nation-wide units to over 6000. JROTC corps are constructed increasingly of ethnic minority and black youth disadvantaged with a lack of opportunities to jump start their lives. This is not an organic development. Those poorer youth lacking in programs designed to prepare them for college are specifically profiled and targeted for JROTC programs. In Chicago that targeting has gone a step further in configuring actual public schools as military academies complete with military school uniforms, protocols and curriculum.

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