Articles

An Interview with Clint Coppernoll - Counter-Recruitement: Preventing the Military from Getting More Youth for Their Wars

June 25-27, 2005

Keven Zeese -

The Army and National Guard have been failing to meet their recruiting goals for the last four months. Summer is typically the time they have their greatest success in recruiting and they are counting on this summer to make up for their shortcomings in the previous months. They are increasing their efforts and making more promises to get America’s youth to sign up for war. As a result those of us who oppose the war need to step up our efforts in counter-recruitment as well. Below is an interview with a counter-recruitment activist from Washington State that provides directions on how to get started and documents to assist in your efforts.

Clint Coppernoll is the father of two, a son who is a lawyer and a daughter who is an activist and student in San Francisco. He is the husband of an activist organizer and midwife, Belinda Coppernoll. He has been a peace activist and organizer since 1969 and has worked with many organizations on a range of issues including immigrant and farm workers rights, prison reform, and open access to the political system for all Americans.

Most recently his work has led him to work with a number or organizations on ‘Telling the Truth Behind the Sales Pitch’ that the counter recruiters are giving the young people of this country and their parents. One of the great outcomes of this work is his contact with young persons of Washington State and around the country. Any young people interested should contact him or Carrie Hathorn at 206-963-4873.

Zeese: Describe the counter recruitment project you are involved with.

Coppernoll: Kevin, Our counter recruitment effort is a ‘Direct Action, Direct Contact’ effort. We are a group of concerned people and organizations that have become sick and tired of the half truths and outright lies that are being told to young Americans by military recruiters. We are focusing on three areas; opt Out, Get the Truth and How to Deal with Delayed Enlistment.

Opt Out: Hidden in the No Child Left Behind Act is a provision known as section 9528 that requires public high schools to hand over private student information to military recruiters. If a school does not comply, it risks losing federal education funds. This breach of privacy gives recruiters access to addresses and phone numbers, allowing them to actively call and visit teens at home. A parent or student can present a letter to the school board or superintendent exercising the right to request that the school does not turn over the name, address, telephone listing and other school records to the Armed Services, Military Recruiters, or Military Schools. Information like exit test scores, assisted lunch programs and other information allow recruiters to target low income students and students that are being affected by the pressures of the high stakes testing for graduation. The No Child Left Behind Act has turned up an ugly card in this high stakes game of our children’s lives. The ugly card is exampled in our state as the WASL test. This is a test, like testing in most other states, that requires a student to pass an exam to graduate. After 6 years of WASL administration, we are still telling over 70% of our 4th graders, over 75% of our 7th graders and just under 70% of our 10th graders that they are sub-standard in at least one of the 4 WASL subjects. This means they would not graduate. When the children of already stressed communities are faced with this kind of threat, the drop out rate drastically raises. These communities of immigrant, color and lower economic status become a target for recruiters. The recruiters get the scores and lists of drop outs and start their Sales Pitch. The No Child Left Behind Act thus becomes a tool for the military to implement an ‘Economic Draft’ That is why students and parents must protect themselves and OPT OUTThis is how the Students and Parents “OPT OUT:” fill out a letter to OPT OUT the student or contact Carrie or I and we will send you a form that can be reprinted in English or Spanish filled out be pen for those without computer access.

Get the Truth: This involves giving the students a chance to speak with a Veteran for Peace and Get the Truth.

We give the student at least three opportunities. First, the Veterans for Peace have been great at having at least one Vet on hand at the schools for direct first contact. Secondly we try to have a general informational meeting with a Veteran for Peace the week after a school action for students and parents.

Third, we give out the GI Rights Hotline 800-394-9544 or in our area Washington Truth in Recruiting local number. The student can then speak with a veteran on the phone and Get the Truth. We also promote Career Councilors, Principals, PSTA’s and Teachers to always give an equal opportunity for a Veteran for Peace or any of the other Veterans organizations working for peace and against war to present the truth when Recruiters have access to students.

Dealing with Delayed Enlistment: Most young people enter the military through the Delayed Enlistment Program (sometimes called the Delayed Entry Program). This program allows youth to sign up with a military recruiter for one of the service branches, but receive a report date for basic training for up to a year later. When entering the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP), youth sign an enlistment agreement and take an oath of enlistment.

It is very common for young people to change their minds after enlistment in the DEP. A young person may re-evaluate their decision. It is important to realize that up until a young person actually reports for basic training, they can be released from any military obligation.

The official way to gain release is to write a letter to the commanding officer of the recruiting station, explaining one’s decision not to report to basic training.

The young person may or may not receive an official response before the date to report for basic training. Military recruiters are instructed to be understanding of these changes in plans. Nonetheless, in some cases military recruiters may and have used intimidation or threats to persuade the young person not to withdraw their commitment to serve. However, not reporting for basic training will result in release from any further obligation. (for more information http://www.objector.org/girights/)

Zeese: What made you get involved in this effort?

Coppernoll: The Peace Movement in the United States is stagnant. It seems stuck in a loop that started in the 2004 election cycle, even though we have nearly six in ten Americans saying the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq according to the June 2005 Gallup Poll. Yet the peace movement continues to not be able to generate the energy to do much.

Sadly, some of this, it seems to me, comes from rivalries between organizations that are still arguing over what position or standing in leadership of the movement they should have. Position doesn’t mean a damn to me. The last couple of years I’ve slept on couches and basement floors with other activist organizers, because the mission far outweighed the position.

I got involved because I had to. My mission; end the wars that the United States is waging against countries of the world, now. All who care, about stopping our government, that is supposed to be representing us, from conducting the Iraq War and all the other wars of oppression that it supports around the world, must do something direct and immediate. This project begins that.

Zeese: How does it work? What materials do you give to youth or parents?

Coppernoll: Kevin, it’s pretty straight forward. You get in contact with your local Veterans for Peace group. This can be just one individual in your small town or a neighboring town if you’re not in a big city. You then reach out to anyone you know. Ask them the questions “Do you think the military has the right to not tell our young people the whole truth? Do you think military recruiters have the right to our children’s school records?” Then you ask student or parent or any one concerned; “if they would committee just one hour of their time a week and a couple of dollars for printing some information, to hand out, for saving a young persons life?”

Then you schedule one meeting for one hours worth of business, that business will cover organizing, the time for the first hand out of information to the students. The best time is after school when students are going home. Tell the people and organizations that after the business part of the meeting is over they can have a discussion period. But you’ve told people that the meeting is set for an hour to actually plan and set a date for your action.

Plan the first action if you can for the first day of school this fall.

This is very important. The first week we want as many students and parents to sign an OPT OUT letter as possible. On September the 24th we will announce while the first national protest are going on all the OPT OUT letters that have been signed. We will then demand our legislators support the “Student Privacy Protection Act” that would turn current policy around, allowing the military to talk only to students whose parents approve of such contact. Instead of having the responsibility of opting out, Parents should be asked to opt-in. Critics charge that this will make it far harder for recruiters to discuss military careers with the nation’s high school students, so be it.

If you have a group that wants to start this summer, at events that high schools students might attend. Print out an OPT OUT letter that can be filled out by pen and does not require a computer. (See earlier example or contact us.) Have some literature that you or your group has studied to hand out. If possible have a Peace Veteran at hand to speak to the students. Have a leaflet that has the next time and place a meeting is available, and where a student and their parents can speak with a Veteran. Also have on the meeting leaflets the GI Rights Hotline 800-394-9544. You have the right to stand on a public sidewalk in front of your school and hand out this information to students or any public place.

This direct contact may be out of some peoples comfort zone. However, this is the most important part. The only way to reach these students is eyeball to eyeball. You must show them that you care enough about their lives to stand there and talk with them. If they say they don’t care if they die in war you must tell them “you care for them and that’s why your there.” You don’t tell them that they can’t join the military. This is a free country and they have the right to do as they wish. These young people are smart, once you get them past the propaganda, which they are constantly bombarded with they will make the right decision.

Just ask them would they buy something important on a slick sales pitch or would they want the truth about what they are getting into before they make a life changing decision?

The week after the school action you have the meeting you called for in your leaflet you handed out. You have a Peace Veteran there. Keep it informal, this is a time the student, their parents and the veteran should have to dialogue with each other. It is important to have a sign up sheet. Ask students if they would like to start a club on campus that talks about peace and alternatives to war?

I also want to say that many groups are doing a number of things for counter-recruitment. I think it is great what they are doing. You will notice we use leaflets from other groups around the country and we support you getting material that they print and pay for it if they request it. The material we have developed is free to use.

Zeese: What has been the result of your efforts?

Coppernoll: They have been really good. We have incorporated a street theater group that come out at our campuses. They really got a buzz going with the students. It was great to see the actors and students interact. Kevin, I get goose bumps when I think of different moments I’ve had and observed between students and activists. The young people get it. They are a lot smarter than the government thinks. The government uses Slick Sales Pitches with Trained Recruiters. We use the Truth and People Who Care about Young Peoples Lives.

We started now before the fall because this time is what the Recruiters call "Christmas in July". Students are getting out of school in a dismal economy with pressures to get a job and find away to get training or go to school. The Chicken Hawk Recruiters are circling them with lies and false promises. We also started now so we could prepare for an all-out push for OPT OUT this fall.

The first day we had an organized effort at a high school we got 18 OPT OUT letters signed. That was 18 young people that the recruiters were told to keep their hands off their records.

We now have a coalition of groups like Veterans for Peace, Washington ACORN, Stand Up Seattle, The Green Alliance (national), Youth Against War and Racism (from Franklin High School an U of W) to name a few and more are coming aboard daily. Many individuals are coming forward and showing solidarity such as parents, students, teachers, councilors, school board members, and people of the community. However this is a call for more help to people that care.

Most importantly we have parents who are coming forward to work on getting a speaker to speak to their Parent Teacher Student Association about the recruiting situation. Students that are planning to set up clubs on campus around the military and peace. We are working on a packet for social studies teacher with resources so they can have debates in classes on military recruitment.

Zeese: What is the goal of your efforts?

Coppernoll: Quite simply, to have one or more activists, on every high school side walk, in every community, that has one person who cares for our youth and peace, when school starts this fall.
Some may say that it’s a huge undertaking. However, it all can happen, when we the people, who believe in peace, decide to stop war. When we the people say, I won’t let them lie to my children any more. When we the people say, I want our next generation to build a country that is a place that cares for all the people in it and doesn’t waste life subjecting others around the world for power for the few.

Zeese: Do you have any future plans you can share?

Coppernoll: Well, we are going continue our actions here in Washington State focusing not only on the cities but also on the rural and suburban areas. We are open and available for anyone or an organization that need some help in the country to get started with direct action on the counter-recruitment and OPT OUT program. We are already contacting groups that may want to help around the country. But don’t wait to be contacted, individuals and groups that want to tell our youth the truth need to start now and contact us.

We want to see students and teachers form ‘Peace Clubs.’ We want all the many organizations and individuals working around the country on counter-recruitment to come together this summer and work with each other.

We are also working toward a coalition of organizations and peace advocates who want to work now instead of waiting for the next war.

The young people that I have come in contact with and seasoned organizer are forming to build on this action. The youth of today have been given a bad rap a lot of them care and want to do something. But they need to be organized by other youth that they fell connected with. The youth need some help with training and once they get it watch out. They have the energy to make change.


KEVIN ZEESE is Director of Democracy Rising. You can read more of his interviews and columns at http://www.DemocracyRising.US

 

U.S. Military Takes Education Hostage

Resist newsletter, May 1999

Rick Jahnkow -

Military Industrial ComplexIt used to be understood in this country that the key to securing and protecting our democratic rights was to exercise strict control over the military. One of the prerequisites for this control has always been maintaining a strong, protective buffer between civilian society and the armed forces. Clearly, this buffer has been eroded over the years, and now very few components of our society-especially government and the economy-have escaped the powerful influence of militarism.

One key institution that is currently under intense attack from the military is public education. This assault is not being accomplished using tanks and helicopter gun ships-though bringing them to campuses is, in fact, one of the Pentagon's goals-but rather by using the weapons of economic coercion and legal threats. It reflects a developing trend that could have broad, long-lasting implications for social change work but, unfortunately, has received relatively little attention from even some peace organizations that have traditionally concerned themselves with such issues (see resource listing on page seven for some of the exceptions).

The Erosion of Educational Autonomy

Ten years ago, colleges and universities were able to set their own policies on accepting ROTC units or granting armed forces recruiters access to campus facilities and students, and a number of schools exercised their right to restrict or prohibit the military's campus presence. Also, in most states college students who resisted draft registration by not signing up with the Selective Service System could still apply for and obtain state and locally funded financial aid (federal student aid has been unavailable to them since 1983).

In the last few years, this ability of educational institutions to assert their independence from the military has been severely curtailed. Former-Representative Gerald Solomon, a conservative Republican from New York who recently left Congress, led the attack by introducing federal legislation which compels schools to cooperate with Selective Service and punishes campuses when they refuse to cooperate with ROTC and military recruiters. Proposals modeled after his legislation have also been introduced and passed in some states, including laws which make draft registration resisters ineligible for state civil service jobs, state student aid and, in some cases, admission to state colleges and universities.
From a practical standpoint, the state laws are an act of overkill, since the threatened loss of just the federal funds is already enough to force the vast majority of students and schools to comply. The true significance of the state laws is to establish a higher status for the military on a local level by conveying to young people that deference must be paid to the armed forces, and failure to concede this point will result in punishment-in this case, additional economic hardship for schools and students.

As a result of Solomon's most recent efforts, post-secondary schools now stand to lose substantial funds if they try to restrict the military's campus presence. Under provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1995, National Defense Authorization Act for 1996, and the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, schools can lose funds-including some funds used for student aid-from the departments of Defense, Transportation, Labor, Health and Human ~ Services, Education, and Related l Agencies. This loss of federal support can be triggered by any school policy or practice (regardless of implementation date) which either prohibits, or in effect, prevents, military recruitment representatives from obtaining entry to campuses, access to students on campuses or access to directory information on students, or which prevents the establishment and effective operation of a senior ROTC unit. Campuses with a "long-standing policy of pacifism based on historical religious affiliation" are still allowed to exclude military recruiters, if they wish, but the number of qualifying institutions is very small.

This change in law came about, in part, because a growing number of schools had adopted campus policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation. In line with these policies, campuses asserted their right to refuse to allow homophobic organizations access to school facilities; and since the Pentagon is the largest employer that fires people solely for being lesbian, gay or bi-sexual, many of the schools decided to ban armed forces recruiters and military programs like ROTC.

After the passage of Solomon's legislation, these schools faced the loss of significant, irreplaceable funds. Most, if not all, succumbed to the economic coercion and have been forced to accept violations of their nondiscrimination policies: ROTC cannot be banned, recruiters must be guaranteed access to the physical campus, and recruiters must be able to obtain directories of students names, addresses and phone numbers. (A few narrow exceptions are allowed, but they generally will not significantly limit the military's access to campuses and students.)

First Colleges, Now Grade Schools

Given the success of legislation forcing post-secondary schools to accept military training programs and recruiters, and the growing willingness of state legislators to pass parallel laws, it should not be surprising that the Pentagon and its supporters are now aiming their sights at grade schools. In March, military recruiters testifying before a House Armed Services Committee military personnel subcommittee complained that their efforts are being hampered by parents and teachers who view the armed forces as a "last option" for students who can't get into college or find good jobs. One recruiter said, "We have parents out there that forget what made America America. We have a lot of walls to break down."

One of the walls they want to break down is the right of citizens to protect their schools and homes from unwanted intrusions by the military. Air Force Sgt. Robert Austin, an Oklahoma City recruiter, complained that high schools will often give lists of students names to college representatives but not the armed forces. And he noted that individual school districts and principals can decide whether recruiters can go on campus. "I think that if they're federally funded, they shouldn't be able to tell us we can't come into the schools," said Austin.

At the time of the testimony, no members of the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee indicated whether they would introduce a law mandating military access to high schools, but the ranking Democrat, Rep. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, said, "l think that's a good idea."In fact, such a law was once introduced unsuccessfully by Solomon, and there have been similar attempts at the state level. When several California school districts banned recruiter access to student lists during the Persian Gulf War, a reactionary bill almost made it through the legislature which would have mandated military access to high school campuses and student directory information. At the last minute, it was amended to become only a statement of legislative intent without the force of law. At least one state, Ohio, succeeded in passing a law which prevents high schools from limiting recruiter access to student addresses.

Even without a federal law mandating high school access, the Pentagon has significantly expanded its presence in schools. More recruiters are now invading both secondary and lower grade schools, where they give youths the false impression that the military is their best hope for obtaining the training and college financial aid that will later give them a chance at economic security. The view students have of viable civilian alternatives is being obliterated by the overwhelming marketing resources being employed by the armed forces. In many cases recruiters are being received with open arms by school counselors and vocational advisors who feel unable to deal with the problems facing today's young people problems which, ironically, are exacerbated by the huge diversion of national resources to the military.

Another recruiting device, the Junior Reserve Officers' Corps program, actually puts the Pentagon in a position to directly rob schools of local educational funds. The military tricks a growing number of school officials into accepting this curriculum by leading them to believe that JROTC is a cost-effective way to offer students a beneficial elective. The federal government shares in the cost of JROTC, but in actuality, schools wind up paying more than they would for a regular academic class, and they are essentially subsidizing military training and indoctrination.

Grassroots opposition to the military's invasion of public education has produced some important victories by community and student organizations. Court rulings have upheld the right of counter-recruitment activists to have equal access to schools, JROTC has been defeated in a few communities, and some educational institutions have been persuaded to adopt policies which limit or restrict armed forces activities on campuses. However, some of these victories-especially at the college level- have recently been reversed by the new legislation, and others are being threatened with talk about making military access mandatory at high schools.

Implications for Social Change Activism

The military establishment understands the key role that schools play in the shaping of people's values and attitudes, and they know that the deeper they penetrate into education, the greater their influence will be on society as a whole. Their goal is not just to attract enlistees; it is also to strengthen the position of the armed forces, in general, by teaching military values to a larger segment of the population and affecting people's worldview. If allowed to continue, the result will be a more conservative political climate and, in the long term, a breakdown in the protective barriers that prevent further military encroachment on civilian rule.

All of this underscores the importance of grassroots efforts to challenge the economic coercion and other legislative attempts to impose military recruiters and programs like JROTC and ROTC on our schools. Organizing against military intrusion is a way to resist a trend which, if allowed to continue unchecked, will affect a wide range of issues in future years. When it comes to subjects like economic justice, health care, women's reproductive rights, racial equality, the environment and other concerns of progressives, social change activists will have much more difficulty organizing when more young people have been persuaded that (in the words of one JROTC textbook) "the same qualities that make a good leader in the military services are equally helpful to the civilian leader," and being a good citizen means loyalty and obedience to leaders, "whether or not you agree with them." Militarism instills a conservative attitude toward life that children then carry into the community.

It is crucial that more social change activists realize the stake we all share in this issue. If we are to stop the trend toward greater militarization of society-and, by implication, the drift toward greater conservatism-more groups and individuals will need to join the effort to resist the military's encroachment on our civilian educational system. It's an immediate problem that we cannot afford to ignore if we hope to advance the cause of progressive social change in the future.


Rick Jahnkow is active in the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft and the Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (Project YANO), both of which are based in San Diego, California and have received grants from Resist. For information, contact Project YANO, PO Box 230157. Encinitas. CA 92023.

When the World Outlawed War

26 September 2011 - War Is a Crime - David Swanson's blog David Swanson - Remarks at Lynchburg College on September 26, 2011 I'd like to thank Dave Freier for inviting me, and all of you for being here.  I think I was invited to speak about my most recent book, War Is A Lie, but I asked Professor Freier if it would be all right to speak about my next book, not yet finished, and he agreed.  So, the following is a relatively very short summary of a forthcoming book that is not yet finished, and which I need your help with.  It would be very helpful to me if you let me know when I've finished these opening remarks what was unclear, what didn't make sense, or what didn't persuade you, as well as what -- if anything -- seemed useful or inspiring.It would also help me a lot if you would raise your hands to show your views on a few questions.  First, raise your hand if you believe that war is illegal.  I don't mean particular atrocities or particular types of wars, but war.  And I don't mean bad or regrettable, but illegal.  If you're not sure or think it's not a good question don't raise your hand.  OK, thank you.  Now, raise your hand if you think war should be illegal.  OK, thank you.  And now raise your hand if you know what the Kellogg-Briand Pact is.  All right, that was very helpful.  Now, let me tell you a little story, or at least a few pieces of it.

Resistance of One

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

Source: http://mobile.zcommunications.org/resistance-of-one-by-david-swanson

 

 

Wars Begin in High School Cafeterias

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

Source: http://www.charlottesvillepeace.org/node/1538

Army Experience Center’s Bad Experience: Turns out Training Kids to Kill Not Popular with Public

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.

Source: http://davidswanson.org/node/2238

Counter-recruitment is crucial to anti-war movement

 Pat Elder -

Patrick ElderThe 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.

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