August 10, 2007 - ZNet
David Swanson -
There is something else we can try. If you've given up on staging marches and rallies, or if - like me - you haven't but you want to try something else as well, and if you've given up on lobbying Congress as pointless, or if - like me - you haven't but you want to try something else as well, and if educating your fellow citizens as to exactly how completely corrupt the whole system is seems like an incomplete answer, and if staging a general strike or taking over the capital only seems like a good idea if you can get millions of others to join you, there is another approach that can be taken right away by a single person, a small group, or a crowd.
You can counter recruit, counter the corporate war profiteers, and counter the media. Talking to high school and college students and career counselors about the reality of the military, done at the smallest or largest scale, helps to deny the military the troops it needs to occupy foreign lands and kill. Of course, the military pushes back, raising the top age for recruits (now at 42), promising bigger bonuses (now at $50,000), and lowering various qualifications. Ultimately, the military can push back by instituting a draft. But that could also lead to much greater resistance. Corporations profiting from the pretended "reconstruction" of Iraq, from the control of Iraq's oil, and from the use of weapons and mercenaries, can be protested and influenced. Bechtel chose to stop bidding on contracts in Iraq rather than endure further protest. And the media can be resisted through the creation and promotion of independent media, through criticism and protest, and through campaigns targeting advertisers.
A guide to engaging in these tactics and training others to do so is found in a new book called "Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War, and Build a Better World," by Aimee Allison and David Solnit: http://ww.couragetoresist.org/armyofnone They present this approach, as everyone on the left always presents their approach, as the only one of any use. I disagree. I think the various approaches work together. I think the marching and lobbying help move the public to the point where more people will resist recruitment. I think countering recruitment helps recruit peace activists of all sorts. And I think that we have to model democratic behavior as part of defining a vision for the future, if nothing else. We have to publicly demand the behavior we want from our elected officials if only to deny them the argument that we never asked. And we have to envision a world in which one day citizens are able to influence politicians directly.
Most of "Army of None" is devoted to counter recruitment, and the book makes an ideal guide for anyone interested in that project. Among other things, it provides the basic facts about the usual lies recruiters tell. For one thing, most recruits won't actually get $50,000 or anything close to it. In fact, nothing a recruiter promises a recruit means anything at all, because every military contract includes these lines:
"Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice to me. Such changes may affect my status, pay allowances, benefits, and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces REGARDLESS of the provisions of this enlistment / re-enlistment document."
In other words, the rest of the contract means nothing, and only those two sentences and a signature actually matter. The rest, like much of what comes out of recruiters' mouths, is lies. The New York Times reported that one in five U.S. Army recruiters was under investigation in 2004 for offenses ranging from "threats and coercion to false promises that applicants would not be sent to Iraq."
In addition to educating potential recruits and assisting them in finding more positive career options, citizens can actively counter recruitment by protesting or impeding recruiting operations. One of the more creative ways to do this is for that dwindling portion of the population that is not qualified for recruitment to attempt to enlist. Raging Grannies and other groups of women have tied up recruiting stations and attracted attention by attempting to sign up, refusing to leave, and risking arrest. What are the raging grandfathers waiting for?
Although "Army of None" does not suggest it, I would recommend another tactic as well. Get to know the recruiters and offer to help them with their job. Take a stack of brochures and blank contracts from them. And whenever you encounter a pro-war demonstrator, offer to help them sign up. "Hey Hey What about you? You look under 42!" is a chant that has been known to silence the most obnoxious voices. The point is not, of course, to actually recruit anyone, but to expose the hypocrisy of war proponents and call attention to the question of exactly who is being recruited.
If you want to get involved in countering recruitment and in supporting members of the military who refuse to serve in illegal wars of aggression, go to http://www.couragetoresist.org
April, 17 2008 - Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice
David Swanson -
Citizens in a number of school districts around the country have dramatically reduced military recruitment through simple procedures that anyone can do. No marching or civil disobedience is required. You might, however, have to chat with a principal at a football game or write a couple of letters. Why aren't more of us doing more of this?
That's the question I came away with after interviewing Pat Elder for an hour (here's the audio: http://www.thepeoplespeakradio.net/audio/2008/#april ). Pat is a member of the coordinating committee of the National Network Opposing Militarization of Youth: http://www.nnomy.org
In Pat's view, we shouldn't stop marching in the streets or pulling stunts for media attention or any of the other tactics employed by the peace movement, but far and away the most useful thing we can be doing is changing school policies to block military recruiting efforts in high schools.
Laws provide military recruiters equal access to students, equal to the access granted colleges and employers. But often the military gets greater access. Colleges and companies have to make appointments with the guidance office to speak to students. The military sets up a table in the cafeteria to push its sales pitch on every student who comes to lunch. Why not talk to your local high schools about changing that policy and complying with the law?
The No Child Left Behind law makes school funding dependent on providing students' names and contact information to military recruiters, but parents can opt-out of including their children in that list. With a little bit of organizing and persuading you can convince your school and your school district to follow through on allowing families to opt-out, and to opt-out of military recruitment without removing names from databases used for other things (like college recruitment), and to send all parents a letter letting them know that they can opt-out.
Take a look at this website: http://www.asvabprogram.com Smiling kids, happy colors, and free career guidance. Would you have any idea that this was a military recruiting tool? The ASVAB is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Some high schools allow students to take it, others require every student to take it. You can persuade your school to not require it, and/or to not send the results to military recruiters, and/or to inform students and parents that the test is a military recruiting tool.
These and similar steps can deny the military tens of thousands of names and the accompanying contact information. Without cannon fodder, not even today's high tech military can fight aggressive wars. If the need for a defensive war ever arises, recruitment won't be hard. Sure the military can simply spend billions of our dollars to increase recruiting, but school districts that have taken the steps described here have blocked recruitment regardless.
I recently interviewed Dave Meserve as well (audio here: http://www.thepeoplespeakradio.net/audio/2008/#february ) who is promoting an ordinance in Arcata, California, that would ban military recruitment in locations where there are large numbers of minors. That sort of approach, if possible in your town, would work as well to keep recruiters out of schools.
Schools that provide space in their cafeterias for military recruiters are also required to provide equal access for alternatives, and that includes you. You can set up a table at which veterans tell the truth about the military and at which you offer alternative career choices. But, in Elder's informed view, the more effective (and measurable) success comes from keeping the recruiters out all together. You don't have to keep them out of town. You can't ban their advertising, their movies, their video games, their toys. But you can keep them out of the cafeteria of a school and keep their souped up vans and simulated weapons off school grounds.
And if you can keep their numbers too low, you can shut down ROTC units in high schools and JROTC units in junior high schools.
You can take your message to recruiting stations as well. Grandmothers can try to enlist, or knit stump socks in front of the entrance. You can dress up as Bush and Cheney and try to enlist, since you missed your chance in Vietnam. Such stunts may have a use if they bring more people into your organization or change the media discourse, but - says Elder - the bulk of the recruitment is not happening at recruiting stations. It's happening in schools. And it can be stopped where it's happening. And it's not hard to do.
To get involved in this work, go to: http://nnomy.org
Published in the November/December 2009 Humanist
David Swanson -
“This is so cool! This is so cool!” a thirteen-year-old boy repeated as he squeezed rounds from a real M-16, picking off “enemy combatants” in a video game while perched atop a real Army Humvee. “I just came to the mall to skateboard but everyone said this was pretty cool. I just had to try it and it’s great!”
The person reporting on this youthful enthusiasm was Pat Elder, who serves on the Steering Committee of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth. Elder also described young teenagers congratulating each other for “killing ragheads” and “wiping out hajis.”
All of this fun went on at the Army Experience Center (AEC), a 14,500-square-foot “virtual educational facility” in the Franklin Mills Mall in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The U.S. Army opened the center in August 2008 and planned to run it for two years as a pilot program. If the center proved able to recruit as many new soldiers as five ordinary recruiting stations, the Army planned to build them nationally. The AEC cost more than $12 million to design and construct, but of course the Army spends several billion dollars a year on recruitment.
Peace activists and concerned citizens from the surrounding area and up and down the East Coast quickly formed a campaign dubbed “Shut Down the AEC” (shutdowntheaec.net). Through a series of nonviolent protests and demonstrations, some of them involving arrests, protesters raised concerns and generated a flood of negative media attention for the Army’s latest recruitment tool. As a result, the Pentagon called on Donna Miles, a writer for the American Services Press Service, the Pentagon’s propaganda arm. Miles had already published soothing articles following scandals at Abu Ghraib, Walter Reed, and various incidents involving civilian casualties. As Elder points out, “Either Miles is incredibly prolific, with 229 articles attributed to her this year, or she’s a pseudonym for several under the employ of the Pentagon.”
Miles reported on the AEC thusly: “Thirteen-year-old Sean Yaffee, for example, doesn’t see himself joining the military. But he’s becoming another regular at the center, where he can play the same computer games he has at home, but in the company of his buddies. Yaffee said he’s learned a lot about the Army at the center. ‘It just tells you about the Army experience, but it doesn’t pressure you,’ he said. ‘I’m really just here to have a good time.’”
Sweet, but the public wasn’t buying it and the protests continued. On September 12, 2009, a crowd of 250 activists marched to the AEC in opposition to the use of public dollars to teach children—in a quasi-public-space—that killing can be fun, while also recruiting eighteen-year-olds to engage in the real thing. This time, police arrested six protesters and one journalist. The journalist, Cheryl Biren, wasn’t with the protesters but was picked out of the crowd, apparently because of her professional camera.
Days prior to this long-planned and publicly announced protest, the Army preemptively announced that it would likely close the AEC and not open any others in shopping malls, as had been planned. The reason? Are you ready to hear this?
By their own admission, the Army doesn’t need any more recruits because the bad economy has driven up recruitment significantly.
Now, the truth is that the economy is lousy, unemployment is rising, and the military has cut back on other recruitment expenses, the stated reason being the rise in recruitment that comes with a lousy economy.
The whopper of a lie is that the Army could ever be satisfied with its recruitment numbers. And the glaring omission was the protests. While the Army is cutting back in recruitment on some areas, it’s still spending billions of dollars per year, and it is spending those billions where they’ll be most effective, which means, in part, where they will generate the least opposition and negative attention. Early reports, prior to the protests, were that the AEC was succeeding in its recruitment goals. Following the protests, the AEC mysteriously became ineffective.
Stories in the Associated Press and other news services reported the Army’s likely decision and transcribed the Army’s explanation, noting the protests as an afterthought lower in the reports. Media outlets that support the spread of democracy, as opposed to the spread of militarism under the banner of democracy, would have told this story quite differently and used it as a lesson showing that citizens can have an impact on what their government does.
The Army won’t announce our victories for us. We have to claim them. We the people drove Alberto Gonzales out of town, made the Iraq War illegal by turning the United Nations against it, and we may have scared George W. Bush away from pardoning his subordinates’ crimes. We the people have turned many Americans against wars of empire, and we have made the Army Experience Center a bad experience for the Army.
Seven people were arrested on September 12, six of whom were risking arrest: Debra Sweet, Elaine Brower, Sarah Wellington, Joan Pleune, Beverly Rice, and Richard Marini. The seventh was Biren, who was covering the event for OpEdNews. She didn’t have a shirt or a sign or anything associated with the activists. She made it clear that she was a journalist. Then she and the other five women spent the night in the Roundhouse, the central jail in Philadelphia, from which they were released into the street at 5 a.m. the next morning, denied permission to use their cell phones until after the doors had slammed behind them.
Biren told me: “The images that are most critical to me as a photographer and reporter are those at the end, of protesters being arrested. Trying to prevent me from (or punishing me for) taking them reminds me of Bush not allowing photos of the caskets of dead bodies coming home from war. The way in which they try to prevent us from recording this kind of news in the making is shameful. It’s anti-democracy.”
The reporter continued: “The action against me was violent and vengeful. A police officer rushed me from the side suddenly…and pulled me forcefully into the line of protesters. Later, another officer had to physically pull this officer off of me because he was so incredibly aggressive and enraged. I’m convinced it was because I was taking pictures of the arrests.”
An arraignment for charges of criminal conspiracy and failure to disperse was scheduled for September 23 for the six women. Restoration of our rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and press hangs in the balance. But we can nonetheless chalk up a victory against the mighty war machine.
David 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.
Pat Elder -
The mainstream peace and justice movement is beginning to see that countering military recruitment deserves a higher priority and should be viewed in strategic, rather than tactical terms. Resisting the unprecedented and relentless militarization of American youth transcends the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Countering military recruitment confronts an ugly mix of a distinctively American brand of institutionalized violence, racism, militarism, nationalism, classism, and sexism. It gets to the root of the problem.
Confronting the work of military recruiters, particularly in the nation’s public schools will provide a catalyst for activists to shift gears from the traditional antiwar tactics of vigils, protests, sit-ins, and CD actions to the long-term strategy of opposing the militarization of youth. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. One however, treats symptoms; the other addresses causes.
Simply put, the strategy of the counter-recruiting movement is to put the imperial armed forces of the United States into a kind of vice that squeezes new recruits from the ranks. One end of the vice is the near universal rejection of the return of the military draft. Remember how the House voted 402-2 against reinstating the draft back in October of 2004? Bringing back the draft is unthinkable. Conscription would result in demonstrations of millions that would ultimately end the war and result in a political revolution. The crushing steel on the opposite side of the vice is the counter-recruitment movement, aided by an American public that increasingly recognizes illegal and immoral wars.
Counter recruitment activists are putting on the squeeze. They’re doing it by learning about high school policies that favor military recruiters and they’re organizing their communities to change it. They’re providing youth with training, employment and educational alternatives to military service. They’re engaged with community leaders and the press in promoting a greater awareness of encroaching militarism. And they’re being successful across the country.
Mar.-Apr. 2003/ Nonviolent Activist Magazine - War Resisters League
Asif ullah -
Ostensibly a training program, JROTC—the U.S. Army’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps—is actually a recruiting device for the Army. Unlike the college ROTC program, which actually trains participating cadets to be officers when they graduate, JROTC “trains” high school students only to be privates, exactly as they would be if they never joined the program at all.
In the winter of 2001/2002, ROOTS (Revolution Out Of Truth & Struggle), the War Resisters League’s youth program, decided to launch a major campaign to counter JROTC. Chosen after many meetings and discussions, the campaign, as members of ROOTS saw it, would serve as one of the most concrete and grassroots forms of doing antiwar work.
To begin with, ROOTS focused on researching the ins and outs of JROTC: the history, the players involved, the demographics of those being targeted, the number of established and prospective units, and the costs. Since then, ROOTS has worked across the country to reduce the effectiveness of JROTC as a recruiting tool in the hope of some day ending the program entirely.
June 29, 2008
Nick Kreitman -
Reviewing Five Years of Counter Recruiting in Chicago
Counter recruitment is shorthand for a strategy by the peace movement to make the military withdraw from the occupation in Iraq and other countries through impacting the enlistment levels of willing soldiers. Countering military recruitment involves dissuading people who might interact with the recruiters from doing so and removing the public presence of military recruitment altogether.
Over the past five years of counter recruitment in Chicago there have been roughly four areas of struggle; confronting the military presence inside high schools, the military recruitment at public events, recruitment at universities and confronting military recruitment centers directly. Unfortunately there have been few moments to pause and allow ourselves to review our accomplishments and setbacks. Hopefully those engaged in counter recruitment and those who want to know more will be helped by this work which looks to outline some of the questions that need to be asked in order to help benchmark our progress.
Before discussing the individual arenas where counter recruiters have acted in Chicago, we have to acknowledge the fact that there will probably never be reliable statistics published on our efforts. Most likely the military will never keep statistics on counter recruitment, and if some government agency did receive a budget to track counter recruitment there would be a number of serious issues about reliability. This dearth of information on the regional and national levels however, does not prevent us from collecting information and drawing conclusions about our efforts at the city level. Although the need to collect data of more quantity and quality from actions is universal to the social justice movement, it is particularly necessary in our case because such data could help us choose between a number of possible strategies towards ending the war.
- Just say No: Organizing Against Militarism in Public Schools
- Military Service in the United States of America: Issues of Conscience and Human Rights
- Student – Teacher Unity is the Only Way Forward!
- Another Cover for Army Recruiting
- Military Recruiting Vans Draw Fire
- Congress Plants Another Pentagon Virus in Public Education
- Jr. ROTC Contributes to the School Funding Crisis
- A Strategic Blind Spot for Progressives
- Surprise Attempt to Force Military Training into High Schools Fails — for Now
- 2005 Could Be a Turning Point for the Antiwar Movement
- In Need of a Proactive Peace Movement
- Counter-Recruiting the "Hispanic Market"