Rick Jahnkow -
Some important stories have appeared recently about disagreements between military commanders and the Bush administration over whether to begin a significant withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2006. A related development is the recent call for an immediate withdrawal by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA). Murtha is a decorated combat veteran who is also considered a military hawk and one of the closest congressional allies of the high-level officer corps.
Peace organizations have been quick to add Murtha’s name to the growing list of those calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but they’ve given scant attention to the true significance of his voice and the very potent implications of stories about military commanders’ dissatisfaction with their mission.
A more in-depth analysis of these developments and related issues can offer some important lessons on how the peace movement can hasten the end of the occupation and move proactively beyond the limited goal of ending one war.
Military Generals and the Peace Movement
For a couple of years now, some of us have been arguing that the turning point for the peace movement will come when it recognizes that counter-recruitment organizing is the most practical way to tangibly affect current U.S. foreign policy.
The argument is based on simple but compelling logic: The Bush administration and conservative-dominated Congress can continue to ignore anti-war demonstrations and other symbolic forms of protest, but they cannot ignore the fact that without enough soldiers, it is impossible to sustain a large, long-term occupation in a country like Iraq.
An additional assumption is that if the recruitment climate becomes sufficiently hostile, the military leadership will foresee serious, long-term damage to both the functionality and influence of their institution and will act to protect its interests. The combined criticism of military leaders and their allies in Congress could then produce a crisis that would force an accelerated withdrawal from Iraq and also diminish the likelihood of other U.S. invasions in the region. In essence, an “Iraq syndrome” would replace the deceased “Vietnam syndrome.”
In recent months, some elements of this equation have begun to come together. After an ominous shortfall in first-time enlistments last fiscal year, re-enlistment rates are now falling below quota, and some parts of the armed forces, especially the Army, continue to fall behind in overall recruiting. The prospects for turning this trend around look extremely poor for 2006, and according to reported comments by military insiders, the Pentagon is beginning to panic. This is apparently forcing the Bush administration to budge on its “stay the course” approach and begin talking about troop reductions in the near future.
Journalists Paul Richter and Tyler Marshall wrote the following in a Los Angeles Times article titled “U.S. Starts Laying Groundwork for Significant Troop Pullout From Iraq”:
The problem for military leaders wishing to express themselves publicly about this issue is that as long as they are still commissioned officers, they are discouraged by military convention and law from doing anything that could be seen as undermining the authority of their commander-in-chief, George W. Bush. If they wish to avoid legal and professional risks for speaking out, they have to find indirect ways to communicate their criticisms. This, in fact, is what some Pentagon insiders say was being done through Rep. Murtha. As noted by Alexander Cockburn in a piece posted at CounterPunch.org, “The immense significance of Rep. John Murtha's November 17 speech calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq is that it signals mutiny in the U.S. senior officer corps.” (See “The Revolt of the Generals,” Counter Punch, Dec. 3, 2005.)
Included in Murtha’s speech was the following statement, undoubtedly based on briefings he received from his Pentagon confidants:
One thing the Army has done to temporarily try to keep the recruiting crisis from snowballing is lower its recruiting quotas for the early part of fiscal year 2006 (33% less than the same period in 2005). This and the acceptance of larger numbers of less qualified recruits have allowed it, so far, to claim success in meeting its quotas; but it is really only a temporary public relations move, since the reduced numbers will have to be made up later in the year. One can only assume that the Army is hoping that the recruiting climate will change by then, and more young people will be willing to enlist. But short of another major attack on U.S. soil, the only thing that is likely to bring such a change is a significant withdrawal of troops from the war zone.
The Peace Movement’s Perceptions of the Issue
All of this is important for the peace movement to understand because it corrects the simplistic assumption often made on the Left that Bush, Cheney and the neocons are totally in control and will have their way. As this view holds, the occupation of Iraq will last at least a decade, Iran and Syria will be attacked, we'll probably have a draft, and, on the extreme side, some even say fascism will be the inevitable result. However, the reality illustrated by the differences between the generals and politicians is that the U.S. government is not as monolithic as many people think, and the power structure has factions that are often seriously at odds with each other.
As we are seeing right now, there are limits to how far Bush and the neocons can go with their plan for global hegemony when the resources for it are running low. Fortunately, we are in a position to help diminish those resources more IF we apply our own efforts with a sharper focus and stronger commitment to countering military recruiting. It would further limit the government’s capacity to wage other aggressive wars and, at the same time, give the generals more motivation to become, essentially, our short-term allies.
A hopeful sign is that college and community peace activists have been giving military recruiting more attention lately. Over the last two years, for example, membership in a key discussion list for counter-recruitment organizing (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/counter-recruitment) has approximately doubled to 573, and the list's message traffic has tripled to 334 postings per month. All across the country, small grassroots efforts are springing up – sometimes attached to existing anti-war organizations, sometimes independent of any other local group. Their effectiveness can be seen in accounts of schools that have tightened up recruiter access and opened their doors to counter-recruiters, and in reports of more frequent protests at recruiting stations and during recruiter visits to colleges.
Nevertheless, there are two weaknesses in what has developed so far. One is that the peace movement in general, including its financial support base, is still focusing primarily on vigils, rallies and other symbolic forms of protest that are not directly related to military recruiting and are having no material effect. And second, among those who are turning their attention to recruiting, many activists see it only as a tactic for opposing the occupation of Iraq, and they would cease their counter-recruitment work as soon as the troops came home.
It is imperative that this issue be given a higher priority and be seen as strategic rather than tactical. The larger context that surrounds it goes well beyond Iraq and relates to, among other things, economic class, race, ethnicity, immigration status and other socio-economic factors that help determine who winds up being sacrificed in our country’s wars. Responding to this aspect of the problem necessitates, for example, compiling information at the grassroots level on employment and educational alternatives that can lessen the pressure on non-affluent youths to join the military. Taking that step, as some of the more thoughtful counter-recruitment groups have done, is an important way to forge links with communities that have traditionally not been reached effectively by the peace movement.
Another important aspect of the problem that needs to be understood and addressed by the peace movement is the ongoing militarization of the educational system that is being driven by the military’s push to recruit. The ideal of democratic, civilian control is literally under assault as our schools are increasingly invaded by programs that teach military values, instead of critical thinking, to future generations of voters and government leaders. Programs like Jr. ROTC have taken over entire high schools in some cities and now have 500,000 students enrolled as “cadets” nationwide. Units of the Young Marines have spread into hundreds of middle schools, and there is a growing network of other military/school partnerships that propagandize students throughout the K-12 system.
Teaching military values in civilian schools is not just grooming a few children to become future soldiers. It is already affecting the general public’s increased acceptance of war as a valid response to the perception of attack. It is numbing the minds of civilians so that they do not ask even the most obvious questions when the government says we must invade another country. It is turning the country further to the right and making it difficult for people to see the direct link between such choices and the lack of healthcare, safe housing, rewarding jobs, and good educations for everyone here at home.
The challenge for the peace movement, then, is to recognize the critical nature of counter-recruitment and the position of strength it offers us if we devote more attention and resources to it. Furthermore, counter-recruitment should be embraced as an important opportunity for addressing the disproportionate impact of war on those who are politically and economically less privileged than the traditional membership of the peace movement. And finally, the full scope of the problem – including the general militarization of schools and youth culture – should be taken up for the long term, not just until the present military crisis subsides. By working as long as it takes to reverse militarization at this level, we can become a proactive peace movement that is capable of preventing war instead of only reacting when it becomes inevitable.
Information sources: Los Angeles Times, November 26, 2005; www.CounterPunch.org; Christian Science Monitor, December 15, 2005.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org)
The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY)
Jorge Mariscal -
The 2000 census teaches us two interesting facts about the way in which Latinos are contributing to the changing face of the United States. First, more legal immigrants arrived in the decade of the 1990s than in any previous decade in our history. The economic boom (or bubble) of the Clinton years attracted large numbers of people from around the world. Second, the majority of these immigrants came from Latin America (approximately 51%; 26% are from Asian countries). For the most part, the new arrivals are workers searching for a better life, without much education, and deeply attracted by the promise of economic opportunity north of the border. The overwhelming majority of them will work hard, their children will become educated, and they will make significant contributions to our society.
Because these new immigrants have yet to experience the disconnection between the promise of democracy and equality in this country and what the country has actually delivered to working people of color over time, many of them will adopt an uncritical view of current events. If local and national authorities proclaim that war against Iraq is necessary and the mass media reinforces that message, many new arrivals will accept it as fact. Some will even join the armed forces or encourage their children to join. What better way, they ask, to show our gratitude to the United States? What better way to prove our patriotism and show that we too are real Americans?
Add to this scenario the fact that Mexican American or Chicano/a youth — that is, the children of families who have been in the U.S. for many decades, if not centuries — continue to have a relatively limited range of life opportunities. More than one-third of all Latinos are under 18 years of age. With a high school dropout rate around 40% and high rates of incarceration (in California, Latinos are 36% of the prison population but only 32% of the state population), many Latino youth see little hope for the future. The cost of a college education in California is rising sharply. Even at community colleges, where most Latino college students are found, there are proposals to double the fees. Among high school graduates attending graduate and professional programs, Latinos make up only 1.9% (compared to 3% Black, 3.8% Whites, and 8.8% Asian).
Across the board, conditions for Latinos have deteriorated since the 2000 election. After four consecutive years of increases, the median household income for Latinos decreased between 2000 and 2001. Although Latinos have a high rate of participation in the labor force, over 11% of Latino workers live in poverty. About 7% of Latinos with full-time jobs were still living below the poverty line in 2001 (compared to 4.4% of African Americans and 1.7% for Whites). What is clear from this data is that Latinos and Latinas are working extremely hard but are trapped in minimum-wage jobs. Many hold multiple jobs at low wages.
Military recruiters are well aware of this situation and have targeted Latino youth as the primary objective for their efforts in coming years. A recent "Strategic Partnership Plan for 2002-2007" written by the U.S. Army Recruiting Command notes: "The Hispanic population is the fastest growing demographic in the United States and is projected to become 25% of the U.S. population by the year 2025." The plan goes on to state: "Priority areas are designated primarily as the cross section of weak labor opportunities and college-age population as determined by both [the] general and Hispanic population."
Given the overall economic context and the military's continued interest in Latino youth — a trend initiated by Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera, who once declared that the Army could "provide the best education in the world" — we can be sure that the enlisted ranks will fill up with increasing numbers of Latinos and Latinas. (Very few Latinos make it into the officers' ranks. Among all Latinos in today's Marine Corps, for example, only 3% are officers.)
Visit any high school with a large Latino population and you will find JROTC units, Army-sponsored computer games, and an overabundance of recruiters, often more numerous than career counselors. Recently, at Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles, a group of students was so appalled at the intrusive behavior of recruiters that they formed "Students not Soldiers" and demanded that real job counselors be hired.
Such acts of resistance to the ongoing militarization of U.S. culture, however, are rarely reported, so many Latino students and parents will fall prey to a limited range of opportunity and the Pentagon's propaganda blitz. As progressives involved in counter-recruitment work, we must struggle to understand the pressures on Latino communities. It will not be enough to shake our heads in disapproval at their displays of uncritical patriotism.
With war looming in the Middle East, Latino communities are slowly awakening to the fact that a permanently militarized economy and culture will not benefit them or their children. Our message to them should be that they can serve their country by excelling in work and study, by speaking out for peace and equality, and by joining the struggle to bring economic justice to all people.
Jorge Mariscal is a UC San Diego professor, a Vietnam veteran, and a member of the counter-recruitment organization Project YANO.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org)
Rick Jahnkow -
Over 100 activists were present in Philadelphia the weekend of June 25-27 to officially christen the new National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY). Born from a proposal made at the "Stopping War Where It Begins" counter-recruitment conference held a year earlier in Philadelphia, NNOMY is an effort to bring together the growing number of organizations and activists who are working against the militarization of young people in communities across the country. Participating in this first NNOMY conference were people from California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawai'i, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
Most of the conference participants represented organizations that have officially become network members or are considering doing so. Approximately 30 local, regional and national groups have joined so far, some of which are: Veterans for Peace, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Youth Activists/Youth Allies (NY City), Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, Pax Christi USA, CHOICES (D.C.), Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (San Diego), American Friends Service Committee, Madison Area Peace Coalition, Teen Peace in Port Townsend (WA), Los Angeles Coalition Opposed to Militarism in Our Schools, Not in Our Name, Resource Center for Non-violence in Santa Cruz (CA), and Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft. Additional memberships are pending from various other organizations.
To promote more effective networking and organizing, caucuses were formed at the conference around issue and identity themes, such as women in the military, Latinos, draft-related issues, rural organizing, people of color, youth of color and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning). To broaden representation in decision-making, caucuses were invited to apply for membership status that is equal to regular organizations, and some were included in a NNOMY steering committee. Ten organizations and six caucuses were unanimously approved for the steering committee, which will make between-meeting decisions that are subject to review by the larger body of voting network members. Also adopted was a proposal from the youth caucus to have at least two steering committee members younger than 25, and to pursue the goal of majority representation by both youth and people of color.
NNOMY will continue to grow and develop plans, but an immediate course was set at the conference to pursue two goals: facilitating further development of organizing and educational resources, and promoting regional training of counter-recruitment organizers. For the near future, conference participants volunteered to collaborate on some specific resource development projects, and regional caucuses met to discuss what they could do to carry out networking and training in their geographical areas. Progress in these and other areas will depend on additional post-conference communication, so the contact information for participants will be incorporated into the Stopping War email list that was established after the national conference held in 2003. Caucuses will have their own communications networks and will, hopefully, continue to work on the special issues that brought them together.
One important facet of NNOMY is its commitment to including and supporting the various communities that are especially affected by military recruiting and the violence of militarism, including people who are victims of the military's homophobia. And since the conference dates overlapped with gay pride celebrations nationally, special materials were given to conference attendees on issues relating to militarism and sexual identity. An exciting music/spoken word event was also organized and hosted by the Attic Youth Center in Philadelphia, one of the few Queer youth centers in the country.
The NNOMY conference itself was co-hosted in Philadelphia by the American Friends Service Committee and Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors. Conference planning and other tasks were shared by a number of groups that had served as an ad hoc steering committee, but the AFSC Youth and Militarism Program office provided the bulk of the on-site resources and logistical support, including the Friends Center where the conference was held.
It was especially appropriate that the founding meeting of this network occurred in a city where some of the most important revolutionary events occurred in U.S. history and within days of the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. While some of the decisions that went into the formation of the U.S. government over 200 years ago were tragically inconsistent with the ideals of liberty and justice for all, one thing that many of the country's founders got right was their perception that the growth and influence of a large military establishment would undermine civil society and progress toward democracy. Over the last 60 years, this lesson has been largely forgotten, and the traditional controls over the military that were once seen as necessary and even taken for granted have greatly eroded. In addition to the considerable influence that the Pentagon has over government decisions (including economic ones), our most important institutions of socialization, the public schools, are being overrun by people in uniform teaching military values, and popular culture is being saturated with messages that popularize soldiering and war. We are rapidly approaching a point where the long-term effects of militarization will be extremely difficult to reverse. A massive effort is needed to turn the trend around, and NNOMY is a crucial step in that direction.
The conference in Philadelphia was a time of sharing, discussing, strategizing and planning that left us at the end with an important opening to build a movement that speaks to the needs of constituencies that have traditionally not been reached very well by the U.S. peace movement. And because it focuses on interrupting the flow of human resources and challenging the mechanisms of propaganda that are needed to wage war, it is an effort that also offers people an effective way to move from war protest to war resistance, while at the same time working for long-term social transformation.
For more information, contact NNOMY c/o AFSC Youth and Militarism Program, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102; 215-241-7176; http://www.youthandthemilitary.org.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org)
Deborah Davis -
Latino teenagers, including illegal immigrants are being recruited into the military with false promises.
In 1996, Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar was a 13-year-old boy, up from Tijuana on a family shopping trip, when he stopped at a Marine Corps recruiting table at an open-air mall in Chula Vista, Calif.
Jesus had been an easy mark for the recruiter—a boy who fantasized that by joining the powerful, heroic U.S. Marines, he could help his own country fight drug lords. He gave the recruiter his address and phone number in Mexico, and the recruiter called him twice a week for the next two years, until he had talked Jesus into convincing his parents to move to California. Fernando and Rose Suarez sold their home and their laundry business and immigrated with their children to Escondido, where Jesus enrolled at a high school known for academic achievement. But the recruiter wanted him to transfer to a school for problem teenagers, since its requirements for graduation were lower and Jesus would be able to finish sooner. He was 17 and a half when he graduated from that school, still too young to enlist on his own, so his father co-signed the enlistment form, as the military requires for underage recruits.
Three years later, at the age of 20, his body was torn apart in Iraq by an American-made fragmentation grenade during the first week of the invasion. In the Pentagon’s official Iraq casualty database, his death is number 74.
Now Jesus is in a cemetery in Escondido, and his parents, who blame each other for his death, are painfully and bitterly divorced. While his mother bears her loss as a private tragedy, Fernando, who has dual Mexican and American citizenship, is working tirelessly to protect other young immigrants from being manipulated by U.S. military recruiters—the way he wishes he had protected his son.
In the Iraq war, citizenship is being used as a recruiting tool aimed specifically at young immigrants, who are told that by enlisting, they will be able to quickly get citizenship for themselves (sometimes true, depending on what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the Department of Homeland Security finds) and their entire families (not true; each family member has to go through a separate application process). Nevertheless, with the political pressures on Latino families growing daily under this administration, many young Latinos are unable to resist the offer, which immigrants’ rights activists see as blatant exploitation of a vulnerable population.
From African American to Latino
Jesus, like the large majority of new military recruits, was signed up through the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), which operates in high schools, GED programs and home-schooling networks across the nation. The well-crafted messages on the DEP website have been in development ever since the draft ended and the all-volunteer military was initiated after Vietnam. The DEP’s persuasion campaigns originally targeted black teenagers with the message that military service equaled jobs that promised equal treatment regardless of race. DEP recruiters were able to easily meet their quotas until the early ’80s, when enlistment rates of young African Americans began to decline and the rates for Latinos began to rise for reasons the military did not understand. A 1995 article in Marketing Science, “The Navy Enlistment Marketing Experiment,” noted that “a surprising development was the emergence of the Hispanic population as an important variable contributing to the pool of … contracts. Further investigation of the phenomenon is warranted.”
Over the next decade, the military commissioned a number of studies on the relationship between race and ethnicity and the “propensity to enlist.” For example, the Youth Attitude Tracking Survey, conducted between 1975 and 1999 and published by the Defense Technical Information Center, found a correlation between the rising educational achievement of blacks and lower enlistment rates; and between the low educational achievement of Latinos (particularly if their first language was not English) and rising enlistment rates. As Latinos became a more important source of recruits, the Pentagon hired market research firms to design advertising campaigns that addressed the issues they cared most about—pride in family, children in school and citizenship.
Today, the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force recruitment campaigns focus largely on education and benefits to families. The Army’s campaign, created by Cartel Impacto, a cutting-edge firm from San Antonio, uses the firm’s proprietary “barrio anthropology” and grassroots “viral and guerilla marketing” techniques to “go deep into the neighborhoods and barrios” in order to tell Latino families how the military can help them have the kind of life they want in America. “We address the core issues of why they left their country in the first place,” says a Cartel Impacto spokesperson, who did not want her name published. “You have to conduct your outreach carefully,” she says, “using PTAs as an entry point,” as well as “local Hispanic groups that the newly arrived would look to.”
Recruit friends, earn bucks
These marketing campaigns support the work of recruiters who—as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act—must have free access to students in every one of the country’s public schools. Recruiters operating in high schools try to get children as young as 14 to sign up for the military’s DEP, which allows them to finish high school before going on active duty. Under the program, these young “men and women,” as recruiters are trained to call them, are targeted, tested, gifted, video-gamed, recruitment-faired and career-counseled into enlisting before they turn 18. They are also paid $2,000 for every friend they talk into signing up with them, and, until recently, were paid $50 for every name they brought in to a recruiter. The DEP website provides tips on how students can assist recruiters in signing up their friends. The student can:
- · Provide your recruiter with names and numbers of anyone you know who is considering joining the military.
- · Obtain the names and numbers of people who work with you or attend places you frequent and the best time to talk to them.
- · Obtain the names and numbers of friends or acquaintances who sit with you in classes.
- · Help your recruiter by screening his/her lists.
- · Accompany your recruiter to places your friends normally hang out and make introductions.
In addition to cash, students who help recruiters to enlist their friends are promoted to a higher military rank, from Private E-1 to Private E-2, even before they are out of high school. The rewards are commensurate with the quality of the friends they recruit, as measured by their friends’ ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) scores. “You will get promoted to Private E-2,” promises the DEP website, if your referrals lead to the enlistment of “one soldier who scores 50 or higher on the ASVAB,” or “two soldiers who score 31-49.” Private E-1s are paid $1,301 a month, while E-2s earn $1,458 per month. Further, getting a second high-scoring friend or two more low-scoring friends to enlist earns the student another promotion, to Private E-3, and kicks the entry pay up to $1,534 per month.
Another way DEPs can earn extra money is to volunteer for hazardous duty. Students who sign up to be in a combat unit, or to dismantle explosives, or to handle toxic chemicals, get an additional $150 per month on top of their basic pay. Volunteering for hazardous duty, however, is a relative concept. Since DEP recruits do not, by definition, have a college education, there are few other military occupations open to them, except if their ASVAB scores are high enough for them to qualify for advanced training. But with the greatest need in this war being combat soldiers—so much so that even highly trained Air Force personnel are being sent to work with Army ground troop units—the chances of any DEP recruit getting out of combat duty and its attendant hazards are slim. The ASVAB is also administered only in English; and any job requiring even a security clearance cannot be held by a non-citizen. The implications of these conditions for young immigrants can be deadly.
The Department of Defense’s casualty database (http://icasualties.org) doesn’t publicly break down the dead and injured by ethnic group, but a tally of Latino surnames found that between January 10 when the surge began and July 1, 20 percent of the 174 young people (aged 18-21) who died were likely to have been Latino (the military does not keep public data on the race or ethnicity of casualties). With the intensification of DEP recruiting efforts in largely Latino high schools since the invasion began, this is no surprise.
Legal illegals vs. illegal illegals
How many of these young Latino recruits are illegal immigrants? “Nobody knows,” says Flavia Jimenez, an immigration policy analyst at the National Council of La Raza. “But what we do know is that recruiters may not be up to speed on everybody’s legal status. … We also know that a significant number of [illegals] have died in Iraq.” The recruitment of illegal immigrants is particularly intense in Los Angeles, where 75 percent of the high school students are Latino. “A lot of our students are undocumented,” says Arlene Inouye, a teacher at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, “and it’s common knowledge that recruiters offer green cards.” Inouye is the coordinator and founder of the Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools (CAMS), a counter-recruitment organization that educates teenagers about deceptive recruiting practices. “The practice is pretty widespread all over the nation,” she says, “especially in California and Texas. … The recruiters tell them, ‘you’ll be helping your family.’ “
Inouye referred me to Salvador Garcia, a student whose father had been deported, and who had been approached by a recruiter when he was a freshman at Garfield (He is now a senior). Garcia says the recruiter told him: “If you need papers, come and fight for us and we can get you some, and then you’ll never have to mess with immigration.” When he told the recruiter that he was born in this country, the recruiter responded, “Do you have anybody in your family that needs a green card, needs papers?” Salvador told him that his father, who had entered the country illegally from Mexico, had recently been deported. “If you join the military you can get your father back,” the recruiter said. “It’s not a problem, we can get him his papers and nobody will ever bother him again.” Salvador almost signed the enlistment form right then, but says he was stopped by the realization of “how it’s all connected—the war and Mexico and immigration.” He is now active in the counter-recruitment movement.
Recruiters in other parts of the country are making the same promises. In Chicago, for example, Jorge, whose entire family was illegal, joined the military because a high school recruiter promised that he and every member of his family would get a green card. Jorge actually did get a green card while he was in Iraq, but he became so angry and disillusioned when the military did nothing for his family that he went AWOL.
He is now back in Chicago, where a counter-recruitment activist named Juan Torres, whose only son was killed in Afghanistan, is working on getting him discharged from the military. Torres works with a number of counter-recruitment groups, including Gold Star Families for Peace and Military Families Speak Out, but mostly he works on his own, speaking at churches and schools around the country. He estimates that in the past year, close to 200 students have told him that they have been offered green cards for enlisting, and he says he personally knows of “five or six illegal families who have kids without papers in Iraq.” Torres talked one teenage girl into changing her mind just as she was about the sign the enlistment papers. He says that the recruiter told her, “Now you’re in trouble, you and your family, you will have to leave.” And Torres says he once asked a recruiter, the son of one of his friends, “How can you lie to the kids like that?” The recruiter told him, “Sorry, it’s my job, and I don’t want to go back to Iraq.”
Despite the mounting evidence of these recruitment practices, the Pentagon denies that illegal immigrants are in the military. “If there are any,” says Pentagon spokesman Joseph Burlas, “then they have fraudulently enlisted, and when they’re caught, they are discharged.”
That is what happened to Army Pvt Juan Escalante, whose illegal status was discovered while he was serving in Iraq. He was discharged and shipped home, and ICE began deportation proceedings against him and his parents, who had smuggled him into the United States from Mexico when he was four years old. However, Escalante’s unit commander wrote a letter on his behalf, saying he had served with distinction, so ICE reversed its decision and accepted his citizenship application. The deportation case against his parents, who also have two U.S.-born children, is still pending.
Another illegal immigrant serving in Iraq, Jose Gutierrez, was not so lucky. He was one of the first members of the U.S. armed forces to die during the invasion. Gutierrez had made his way to this country from Guatemala in 1996, at the age of 15, to escape the violence perpetrated by the death squads, only to be killed in Iraq by friendly fire. When the Pentagon announced his death, it came in the form of a carefully managed PR campaign that included a posthumous award of citizenship for Gutierrez, presumably to show that if an illegal immigrant manages to enlist and make it to Iraq, he will be rewarded. However, Gutierrez remains the only illegal alien on the U.S. casualty rolls whose real hometown is listed, while others who die are reported to be from Boston or Los Angeles, or wherever a recruiter finds them. In New York City, according to counter-recruitment activist Melida Arredondo, whose young stepson was killed in Iraq, DEP recruiters instruct illegal immigrants to write “New York City” as their “home of record address” on the enlistment form, and to write “pending” for their Social Security number.
Why is all of this happening, when the enlistment and expedited naturalization of illegal immigrants serving in the armed forces is specifically authorized in U.S. law? An Executive Order signed by President Bush on July 3, 2002, provided for the “expedited naturalization for aliens and noncitizen nationals serving in an active-duty status in the Armed Forces of the United States during the period of the war against terrorists of global reach.” Under this order, any noncitizen in the military can apply for expedited citizenship on his first day of active duty. Not only is this order still in effect, but it has been codified in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2006, that authorizes the enlistment of (1) nationals of the United States; (2) aliens who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence (green card); (3) residents of several former U.S. territories; and (4) any other person “if the Secretary of Defense determines that such enlistment is vital to the national interest.”
With the law so clear on this issue, the treatment of illegal immigrants in the military, both by the Pentagon and by ICE, is difficult to understand. “Apparently,” says Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, a nationally known immigration attorney and professor of military law at West Point, “nobody at the Pentagon reviewed the [regulations] on immigrants when the war started.” She adds, “If the Pentagon has any immigration attorneys, I haven’t met them.”
Stock speculates that if the Pentagon is aware of the law, it might be “afraid there would be a political backlash” if the use of immigrant labor for the war were discussed openly. In a later e-mail, she added, “And by the way, the Pentagon has ALWAYS had the authority to recruit foreigners in wartime. … The only thing that changed in January 2006 [when Bush signed the NDAA] was that Congress made it HARDER for the Pentagon to recruit foreigners who are not Lawful Permanent Residents. It used to be that ANYONE could join the military in wartime—even undocumented immigrants—but now the Service Secretaries have to find that an undocumented person’s enlistment is ‘in the vital interest’ of the United States.”
To illustrate her point, Stock noted that a section of the 2006 Immigration and Nationalization Law locates the naturalization of immigrants serving in Iraq firmly in the tradition of naturalizations “during World War I, World War II, Korean hostilities, Vietnam hostilities, [and] other periods of military hostilities.” During these wars, citizenship was granted solely on the basis of three years of honorable service or honorable separation from service (discharge), whether or not the person ever lived in the United States.”
“Recruiters trying to fill slots have historically pressed vulnerable people into service,” says Dan Kesselbrenner, director of the National Immigration Project, a program of the National Lawyers Guild. “But for some people it’s the only way they are ever going to get citizenship.”
What recruiters do not tell their targets, however, is that the military itself has no authority to grant citizenship. It forwards their citizenship applications to ICE, which will then scrutinize them and their entire families for up to a year. Created under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 as the successor to the law enforcement arms of both the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the U.S. Customs Service, ICE has been tasked “to more effectively enforce our immigration and customs laws and protect the United States against terrorist attacks.” ICE does this, as its website explains, “by targeting illegal immigrants: the people, money and materials that support terrorism and other criminal activities.”
Recruiters also do not tell their targets that citizenship can be denied for the very same past criminal offenses that the military may have overlooked when admitting them—such as being in the country illegally. Nor do they tell recruits that citizenship can be denied for any kind of dishonorable behavior, which includes refusing to participate in combat. The immigrant law that provides for the naturalization of illegal immigrants in the military clearly states, “No person who … was a conscientious objector who performed no military, air, or naval duty … or refused to wear the uniform, shall be regarded as having served honorably or having been separated under honorable conditions.” This means, according to Stock and other military law experts, that while applying for conscientious objector status is not, by itself, grounds for a dishonorable discharge, attempting to act on one’s beliefs by refusing to fight, wear a uniform or carry a weapon, constitutes disobeying an order, which is dishonorable behavior.
As the war in Iraq drags on and recruiters step up their efforts to enlist high school students—even demanding the right to come into classrooms—teachers, parents, and students themselves are doing what they can to slow the rate of enlistment of young immigrants who believe that military service is their path to citizenship. But as long as American citizenship remains a kind of salvation myth for the Latino community, military recruiters will be able to exploit their longing for it.
The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S 1639), which failed to pass the Senate in June, proposed to give legal permanent residency to any “alien who has served in the uniformed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, has received an honorable discharge.” In other words, illegal immigrants have been in the military all along, and the government was getting ready to admit it. Now, with the bill’s defeat, they will be forced to remain hidden, and the sacrifices they have made for this country will continue to go unacknowledged.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I would like to thank Melida Arredondo for all of her assistance to this article.
- document Global Histories: a New Repertoire of Cities
- default Alternatives to Military Service by State
Jorge Mariscal -
Santiago v. Rumsfeld
It is an axiom among activists working in the area of counter-recruitment that the enlistment contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. What this means in practical terms is that whatever a recruiter promises to deliver to a new recruit-specific jobs or assignment, length of service, benefits, or even citizenship-can be withdrawn or changed at any time.
Section C, Paragraph 9(b) of the enlistment contract states:
"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/reenlistment document."
While this loophole is well known in counter-recruitment circles, it obviously is not something recruiters emphasize to young people and their families. Major David Griesmer, public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command based in Quantico, Virginia, for example, recently described the recruitment process to the San Francisco Chronicle:
"If you don’t like what you’re hearing, you can walk away. And I can tell you that everything is spelled out in a contract when the applicant signs."
But the Pentagon’s stand down of all recruitment activities on May 20 was a warning flag signaling widespread recruiter deception and unethical conduct. More important, the recent case brought by a National Guard soldier against the Pentagon puts the lie to Major Griesmer’s claim and sheds new light on the true nature of the military enlistment contract, a contract that according to this recent court decision is no contract at all.
In Santiago v. Rumsfeld, the curtain concealing the realities of military service is pulled back to reveal the literal meaning of G.I. (government issue) or the soldier as property. Emiliano Santiago, the young Mexican immigrant who brought the case, was not a political activist and did not oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The son of migrant farmworkers, he enlisted in the Oregon National Guard for one of the more intangible reasons young people sign up-the lure of the uniform. He recalls his recruiter telling him that the National Guard would never leave the United States "unless there was World War III."
For almost eight years, the recruiter’s partial truth held up for Santiago even though thousands of National Guard troops already had been sent to Afghanistan and Iraq. With only two weeks left in the Guard, Santiago was ordered to report to Fort Sill where his unit was prepariing for deployment to Afghanistan.
Because his term of enlistment was technically over Santiago decided to challenge the government. Currently more than a dozen soldiers affected by the so-called stop-loss policy have filed similar lawsuits. Between 40,000 and 50,000 active-duty, reserve, and National Guard personnel have had their terms extended under the policy since 2001.
Santiago and his attorneys lost the first round in the U.S. District Court in Oregon, and immediately appealed to the U.S. Ninth Circuit. On May 13, 2005, a panel of three judges upheld the lower court’s ruling and thereby validated the government’s position.
In their opinion, the judges invoked Title 10 § 12305(a) of the U.S. Code which reads in part:
"the President may suspend any provision of law relating to promotion, retirement, or separation applicable to any member of the armed forces who the President determines is essential to the national security of the United States."
According to Santiago’s lawyers, such presidential power is granted only when Congress has declared war or a national emergency. President Bush declared a national emergency on September 14, 2001 but Congress has yet to do so. The presidential decree has been renewed each year since 2001 even though U.S. Code Title 50 § 1622 reads:
"Not later than six months after a national emergency is declared, and not later than the end of each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated.."
The Ninth Circuit Court’s decision underwrites the almost unlimited power of the executive branch in national security situations, affirming the government’s contention that "threre is no basis for the notion that principles of construction drawn from commercial contract disputes can be invoked to transform a vital federal statute into a dead letter, especially in the crucial area of the President’s power to command the military and protect this Nation’s security."
Of greater interest to counter-recruitment activists are the arguments made about the legal status of military personnel. In both the district court case and the Ninth Circuit case government lawyers argued that contractual obligations did not apply in the Santiago case because upon entering the military the status of a "citizen" shifts to that of "soldier."
Basing its argument on Bell v. United States (1961), itself based on an 1890 decision, the government stipulated: "Enlistment in the armed forces does not constitute merely a bargain between two parties, but effects a change of status by which ‘the citizen becomes a soldier.’" Under this new status, "common law contract principles yield to federal statutes and regulations." The government further argued: "The terms of an enlistment contract certainly cannot circumscribe the authority of the Presidentto conduct the nation’s military policy."
The Ninth Circuit’s ruling reiterated that the military enlistment contract "provides notice that changes in federal law-even if inconsistent with the written terms of the contract-would apply" given that "the contract itself specifies that unlisted contingencies may cause an alteration in the agreed upn terms." In short, every recruit who signs an enlistment contract has just signed away his or her fundamental rights as a U.S. citizen.
Acknowledging the "disruption, hardship, and risk that extension of his enlistment is causing Santiago to endure," the Ninth Circuit nevertheless upheld the original decision and in effect sent Santiago packing to Afghanistan. Post-trial comments by the Pentagon spokesmen denied that the purpose of stop-loss orders was to compensate for recent recruitment shortfalls.
Rather, argued Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, "It’s about teams I think most Americans would prefer that, even if they’re opposed to the war, that they fight together as teams." Apparently, as Emiliano Santiago learned the hard way, the U.S. military is a "team" that recruits young men and women under false pretenses and then never allows them to quit. Santiago’s new estmated date of separation from the National Guard is December 25, 2031. The government has assured him that the date is simply an "administrative convenience."
Erasmo Magoulas/Rebelión -
Entrevista a Jorge Mariscal, activista anti-reclutamiento de la organización YANO (Oportunidades No-militares para los Jóvenes) Los hispanos que optan por alistarse en el ejercito usamericano para combatir en Iraq
Jorge Mariscal es profesor del Departamento de Estudios Chicanos y Latinos de la Universidad de California en San Diego
La inmensa mayoría de los jóvenes hispanos en Usamérica tiene la posibilidad de abrir tres puertas hacia sus futuros. Una es la de los empleos de poca monta, mal pagados, donde serán discriminados continuamente. La segunda puerta que pueden abrir es la de la cárcel. La última los lleva de frente con el reclutador. Llenan los formularios mientras escuchan promesas sobre la tierra de las oportunidades. Sólo tienen que “defender su patria” en Irak.
“Muy pocos latinos que viven en los Estados Unidos llegan a la universidad. El 40% no termina el nivel de escuela secundaria. El crecimiento demográfico de la comunidad hispana en este país es muy alto, pero por otro lado, las oportunidades de mejores empleos son cada vez menores. La verdad es que algunos, pero muy pocos, logran terminar sus estudios, gracias a haberse alistado en el ejercito y muchos pierden la vida en lugares como Iraq. En 20 años tendremos en los estados del sur de la Unión un verdadero “Apartheid”, como el que sufrió Sudáfrica.” Jorge Mariscal
Cuéntanos cómo es un día de reclutamiento en una escuela de San Diego. ¿Qué factores psicológicos, económicos, sociales y políticos entrar en juego para que los reclutadores del ejército llenen sus planillas con jóvenes hispanos?
Primero, permíteme decirte que trabajo para una organización cuyas siglas en ingles son «Project YANO» (Proyecto de Oportunidades No-militares para Jóvenes). Este proyecto ha venido haciendo trabajo de contra reclutamiento mediante la concientización, a los mismos jóvenes que son blancos de los reclutadores, de lo que significa alistarse en el ejército de los Estados Unidos y también charlas y talleres con sus familias.
Ya en 1980 nos dimos cuenta que el gobierno no concedía prestamos para estudios a los que no se alistaban. Esto nos dio la pauta que, desde el vamos, la guerra y todo su aparato tiene un componente de discriminación de clase social y económica. La guerra es una herramienta de perpetuación y profundización de las diferencias económicas.
Durante la administración Clinton, esta se dio cuenta de la poca representación en el ejército de nuestra comunidad y a su vez de las pocas oportunidades de mejoría económica y social que tienen los hispanos en los Estados Unidos.
Un porcentaje muy bajo de nuestros jóvenes llega a la universidad, más del 40 % no termina la escuela secundaria. Entonces se presenta todo un nuevo esfuerzo, por parte del gobierno, en mostrar al ejército como una oportunidad de ascenso económico y social para nuestros jóvenes.
Los programas de reclutamiento son en español, los reclutadores comienzan a manejar los signos y símbolos de los jóvenes hispanos, penetran su cultura, para poder convencerlos de los beneficios de alistarse en el ejército. La escuela se convierte en el lugar ideal para los reclutadores. Ellos comparten con los jóvenes el almuerzo, los recreos jugando al baloncesto y las charlas sobre los beneficios de alistarse, pero también existen programas de estudio, como por ejemplo "la versión militar de la Historia«,»valores patrióticos" y demás. El mismo manual de los reclutadores dice que estos deben «tomar control» de la escuela. En San Diego tenemos escuelas donde los maestros llevan a los estudiantes a las bases militares o a una graduación del Cuerpo de Marines. A veces los mismos militares llegan a las aulas con afiches y diapositivas para hablar de la vida militar.
¿Cuáles son las tres principales razones que llevan a los jóvenes latinos a decir «Pero yo necesito hacer esto ahora», alistarse como Infante de Marina?
J. M. La razón principal es "Quiero estudiar y mi familia no puede pagar por mi educación." Es decir, se alistan para poder estudiar en el futuro (otra versión del deseo postergado y desviado, típico de la clase trabajadora en EEUU). La verdad es que algunos, pero muy pocos, logran terminar sus estudios, gracias a haberse alistado en el ejercito y muchos pierden la vida en lugares como Iraq. Segundo, los jóvenes dicen «Quiero ser alguien» o "Quiero hacer orgullosos a mis padres,«o»Quiero hacer una diferencia," lo cual es el resultado de la alineación creada en las comunidades pobres y minoritarias dentro del sistema capitalista en EEUU. Puesto que a los jóvenes les falta un sentido de pertenencia o voluntad personal, para poder tener un impacto en el mundo como individuo buscan la pertenencia ofrecida por los militares (otra ilusión, desde luego). Y tercero hay que admitir que muchos jóvenes hispanos operan dentro de un patriotismo o nacionalismo ciego, producto de un lavado de cerebro, en el cual reproducen las ideologías de la clase dirigente diciendo bobadas como «EEUU, somos el número uno» y cosas por el estilo.
¿Qué respuesta tiene la campaña anti-reclutamiento del Proyecto YANO? ¿Cómo responden los jóvenes latinos a esta campaña?
J. M. Proyecto YANO provee información a los jóvenes sobre las realidades de la vida militar. La guerra en Irak va a acabar algún día. Nosotros tratamos de parar la próxima guerra, por medio de un movimiento de base contra el militarismo, sobre todo contra la militarización del sistema escolar en EEUU. El hecho de que los Infantes de Marina tienen un programa para los niños de ocho años indica hasta qué nivel ha llegado la militarización en este país. Pero no cabe duda, de que lo que necesitamos es una agenda sobre las prioridades nacionales totalmente diferente a la actual. Si las cuestiones de educación, salud y justicia económica no se resuelven, las masas de los hispanos y otros grupos no privilegiados van a estar empujados hacia las fuerzas armadas, los trabajos menos deseables o la cárcel. Muchos jóvenes hispanos se dan cuenta de que su futuro está en juego y responden muy positivamente a nuestra campaña. Sobre todo las familias inmigrantes recién llegadas nos han apoyado.
La emigración de un determinado país implica una negación y la inmigración a otro un reconocimiento a valores culturales. ¿Cómo es afectado, inclusive el joven de segunda generación usamericano (latino) en este proceso de transculturación?
J. M. Depende mucho de donde está ubicado el individuo. Hay algunos jóvenes hispanos que se asimilan totalmente a la cultura dominante. Es decir, se identifican a-críticamente con los valores del sistema, del poder, del establecimiento. Algunos de ellos llegan a alto niveles de poder como el fiscal Alberto González (hijo de campesinos mexicanos del sur de Texas) «comprobando» el mito de «Horatio Alger» o de la movilidad vertical para todos. Estos funcionan como ejemplos no significativos pero si justificadores de la agenda de la clase dirigente. Hay otros que reconocen que hay que hacer cambios para que se logre algún avance en lo que respecta a justicia social y democracia. Estos de origen mexicano se conocen como chicanos y chicanas.
La imagen colonialista del «buen salvaje» (el indio Tonto de la serie «El Llanero Solitario») es quizás la que mejor encaja en figuras representativas de la vida política usamericana como Alberto González (Fiscal General) y militar como Ricardo Sánchez (Teniente General y Jefe Máximo de Operaciones en Iraq entre el 03-04). Los dos son hispanos, a los dos el establishment los presenta como modelos, paradigmas, ejemplos. Sin embargo son todo lo contrario. ¿Por qué?
J. M. Son todo lo contrario para nosotros que queremos promover una sociedad más justa, no para unos «elegidos» sino para todos. Para otros, Gonzáles, Sánchez y Rice son modelos positivos. Sobre este tema hay que regresar a los estudios clásicos del colonialismo (Memmi, Fanon) que explican como el colonialismo fabrica ?unos individuos ejemplares? sacados del grupo oprimido para demostrar las buenas intenciones de sus amos. De verdad Bush ha sido brillante en su cooptación de una política basada en «la raza» y la demanda por los grupos minoritarios de que haya más gente de color en el gobierno. Los casos de González y Sánchez son fascinantes, no solo porque los dos han subido a rangos altos del gobierno de Bush, pero también porque sus familias empezaron como campesinos en los campos del sur de Texas. Ahora bien el choque se hace evidente cuando sabemos que los dos han apoyado las prácticas más reaccionarias y más crueles de Bush y los suyos, la tortura, los ataques contra la protección de los derechos constitucionales, etc. Para mi el hecho de que Sánchez autorizó el uso de perros contra los prisioneros iraquíes (igual como lo hicieron los españoles contra los antiguos mexicanos en el siglo 16) es un dato impresionantemente repugnante.
E. M. La sociedad americana en su conjunto es una gran maquinaria de adoctrinamiento. Uno de los más promocionados dogmas en la actualidad es la “lucha contra el terrorismo” y la defensa de la «patria». ¿Qué papel ha jugado y lo sigue haciendo la prensa corporativa en el alistamiento de jóvenes para la guerra de las corporaciones?
J. M. Los medios juegan un papel importante en la militarización de la cultura-Hollywood de este país. La presencia de los militares en todos los eventos deportivos, los juegos electrónicos (el más popular actualmente fue diseñado por el Ejército), etc., todo contribuye a una inclinación pro-militar entre los jóvenes y mucho más a partir del 11 de septiembre 2001. En términos del reclutamiento más abierto, el Pentágono tiene un presupuesto de billones de dólares para la propaganda y estrategias complejas para infiltrar el ambiente escolar empezando con los jóvenes de 8 a 18 años.
E. M. Explícanos la diferencia semántica y socio-antropológica de los términos latino, hispano, chicano e «hispanic».
J. M. «Latino» es un término genérico que se usa para poder incluir a todos los grupos en EEUU de origen latinoamericano desde los México-americanos con orígenes en el suroeste del país, empezando desde los que llegaron en siglos anteriores hasta los inmigrantes más recientes. «Hispanic» es otro término genérico inventado por el gobierno federal en los años 70s y promulgado por las corporaciones a través del los 80 hasta hoy. De ahí que ha tenido significados negativos para mucha gente porque se asocia con posiciones políticas conservadoras. «Hispano» es el termino preferido por los inmigrantes recientes de habla española y no conlleva ninguna de las connotaciones de «Hispanic.» «Chicano» nació en los años 60s como producto del Movimiento Chicano, una insurgencia en pro de los derechos civiles y un internacionalismo en solidaridad con los movimientos anticoloniales en Cuba, Vietnam, Puerto Rico y otros lugares. Actualmente conlleva connotaciones de una política militante y progresista (con la excepción de algunos grupos xicanos (con ’x’) que promueven una especie de nacionalismo estrecho basado en las identidades indígenas).
E. M. ¿Cuáles son los síndromes psico-traumáticos para un veterano de origen hispano de Iraq o, bajo tu experiencia, de Vietnam, a diferencia de los que puede sufrir un anglo?
J. M. Los efectos psicológicos impactan a cualquier veterano según su red de apoyo, o sea, los recursos que le son disponibles según su clase económica. Los veteranos de la guerra de Vietnam que viven en las calles de las grandes ciudades, por ejemplo, son de todos los grupos étnicos. Hasta cierto punto los estudios sugieren que los veteranos hispanos de Vietnam sufrieron menos que los anglos por la mayor contención y fuerza de lazos familiares y comunitarios que existe en nuestra cultura. Se me hace que vamos a ver los mismos fenómenos con los jóvenes que regresarán de Iraq y Afganistán.
E. M. ¿Aun sobreviviendo a la guerra y superando el síndrome de stress postraumático, haberse enlistado te abre oportunidades de futuro si eres latino o aun un blanco pobre?
J. M. En algunos casos sí. El servicio militar ha servido a los hispanos de EEUU como vía hacia la clase media, desde que los primeros mexicanos se alistaron después de la conquista del Suroeste en 1848. Esto pasó sobre todo después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. La ausencia de opciones, hace que el servicio militar sea una de las pocas puertas abiertas para una comunidad que está considerada por la clase gobernante como mano de obra barata. Para muchos veteranos, sin embargo, las oportunidades no se incrementan después del servicio y para muchos disminuyen. Muchos de los hombres que viven en las calles de EEUU sin domicilio son veteranos de guerra.
E. M. Si desde el año 1991 más de 11 mil veteranos de la Guerra del Golfo han muerto de enfermedades desconocidas o poco claras (uranio empobrecido) y más de 160 mil sufren postrados o en forma crónica, como ves tú la repercusión que tendrá en la sociedad usamericana en general y en las comunidades latinas en particular el retorno de los veteranos de esta guerra?
J. M. Ya estamos viendo el impacto de la guerra con los veteranos, física y psicológicamente enfermos, los muchos que han perdido un brazo o una pierna, los que están llenos de resentimiento y odio y los que ya se han suicidado. Para las comunidades latinas es una trágica pérdida de talento, que necesitamos tanto o más que otras comunidades más privilegiadas. En cuanto a los efectos a largo plazo del uranio empobrecido y las vacunas experimentales vamos a ver consecuencias similares a las que vimos después de Vietnam, así como las enfermedades causadas por armas químicas como el Agente Naranja.
E. M. En el caso del alistamiento de la mujer latina, existen tres niveles de subestimación y racismo por parte de la sociedad militar dominante usamericana. A los factores de inmigrante y latina se le agrega el factor de género. ¿Qué es lo que sufre una mujer latina con el alistamiento militar? Tomemos como ejemplo una mujer boricua y una mexicana pobre.
J. M. Primeramente hay que reconocer que todas las mujeres experimentan altos grados de acoso y hostigamiento en las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses. Los estudios recientes indican que más de un 80% de las mujeres han recibido comentarios insultantes y hasta actos de violación. Ahora bien, la mujer de color siempre es más vulnerable a este tipo de conducta. En cuanto a las razones por las cuales las mujeres latinas se enrolan son las mismas razones que dan los hombres, aunque a veces la mujer está buscando salida a una situación doméstica negativa. Las boricuas tanto como las mexicanas se alistan por razones económicas, con la diferencia de que algunas boricuas de la Isla heredan las tradiciones anticolonialistas, de modo que su presencia en las fuerzas armadas de EEUU es dolorosamente irónica. Por otro lado, una mexicana pobre está más vulnerable a las ideologías de Horatio Alger y del nacionalismo ciego.
E. M. ¿El deseo de ser reconocido, deseado y necesitado por la "cultura hegemónica del poder" es mas fuerte en las mujeres latinas que en los hombres?
J. M. En mi experiencia no es así. Todos los jóvenes a los que les falta una conciencia crítica frente a los mitos dominantes van a querer asimilarse. De hecho, los hombres muchas veces son más agresivos en su patriotismo a-crítico, por ejemplo del colonizado que se identifica con el colonizador.
E. M. ¿No te parece que hay mucha hipocresía en el movimiento anti-guerra usamericano? Ahora que están cayendo «sus muchachos» es que quieren que la guerra se termine. ¿Qué diferencias, a tu criterio, existen entre este movimiento anti-guerra y el de Vietnam?
J. M. El movimiento anti-guerra en EEUU está compuesto de muchos sectores distintos. Algunos sectores son pacifistas con orígenes en las iglesias norteamericanas, otros son liberales o socialistas de tipo anti-imperialista, otros incluso son conservadores pero pro-aislamiento en la política extranjera. No veo ninguna hipocresía en estos sectores. De hecho, estos grupos formaban un movimiento anti-guerra impresionante antes de la invasión de Irak. El problema es que para la gran mayoría de la gente esta guerra es distante precisamente porque «sus muchachos» no están afectados, sino los muchachos y las muchachas de la clase media baja o trabajadora. La gran diferencia entre hoy y la guerra de Vietnam es el hecho de que actualmente no tenemos la conscripción o el servicio militar obligatorio. La «draft» siempre es capaz de movilizar millones de jóvenes que se ven amenazados por las guerras imperialistas.
E. M. ¿Por qué el movimiento anti-guerra usamericano no hace mas hincapié en reforzar el concepto de Fuerzas Patriotas, Guerreros Heroicos y Pueblo Mártir a todos los iraquíes que dan sus vidas en defensa de su país, de su cultura, soberanía y libertad?
J. M. Sería difícil reforzar este tipo de solidaridad puesto que en EEUU no sabemos los detalles de la resistencia iraquí. Suponemos que hay un sector de la resistencia que sea socialista y secular, pero ¿quiénes son? Los medios en EEUU no dicen ni una palabra sobre ellos, pero hablan constantemente sobre los islamistas fundamentalistas, los restos del Partido Baath, etc. Mientras que durante la guerra de EEUU en Vietnam era bastante fácil promover la solidaridad con el campesino vietnamita. Ahora la complejidad de la situación en Irak hace esto más problemático.
E. M. El «núcleo duro» de la oligarquía yanqui (las 500 familias) está librando dos encarnizadas guerras en la actualidad, una tiene un frente externo, en Iraq y la otra uno interno, contra las minorías, los inmigrantes y los pobres en general que viven en Usamérica. ¿Qué papel juegan los jóvenes latinos en estas guerras?
J. M. Claro, la oligarquía en EEUU no funciona de manera monolítica. Por ejemplo, en el caso de los inmigrantes hay nativistas racistas tipo Ku Klux Klan, por ejemplo, los llamados Minutemen (cazadores de inmigrantes ilegales en la frontera Mexico-EEUU), apoyados por intelectuales conservadores de alto rango como Samuel Huntington de la Universidad de Harvard, que dicen que el inmigrante hispano es la amenaza más grave a la cultura, las tradiciones y la identidad usamericanos. Ahora bien, hay otro sector más corporativo representado por Bush y los suyos que se dan cuenta que el inmigrante es una necesidad económica que hay que manejarlo para poder explotarlo mejor. Actualmente, los jóvenes hispanos forman la vanguardia de la resistencia a las nuevas olas anti-inmigrantes y el resurgimiento del racismo. Sobre las guerras imperialistas la comunidad hispana todavía no ha dicho lo suficiente. Históricamente, nuestra comunidad siempre ha llegado tarde a una política internacionalista a causa del miedo creado por las presiones racistas (ejemplo, la guerra usamericana en Vietnam).
E. M. La política fascista de Bush tiene una gran resistencia por parte de grupos de jóvenes latinos. ¿Cómo son reprimidos estos grupos? J. M. Desafortunadamente no existe hoy en día un movimiento coordinado de jóvenes latinos y latinas aunque en todas las regiones del país hay grupitos de activistas que siguen agendas locales como reacción defensiva a los efectos de la política reaccionaria de Bush y Cia. Estos grupos se forman alrededor de cuestiones de la oportunidad educativa, la migración, la solidaridad con los Zapatistas y con Venezuela, etc. Sin embargo faltan, tanto una resistencia coherente a Bush, como líderes hispanos a nivel nacional que no estén comprados por el sistema.
E. M. Para la sociedad usamericana en general y posiblemente para los jóvenes en particular y más especialmente para los jóvenes latinos, es muy difícil «ver», interpretar la sociedad en términos dialécticos. Bueno, esto no es casual. El Proyecto Yano explica en sus campañas anti-reclutamiento que los ejércitos imperialistas, como el usamericano, tiene como único objetivo proteger los intereses económicos y por lo tanto políticos de la oligarquía usamericana?
J. M. En nuestras campañas tenemos que pensar estratégicamente para el largo plazo. Si queremos entrar en las escuelas públicas para debatir la propaganda de los reclutadores militares, no podemos incluir un análisis anti-imperialista en nuestra presentación o en nuestra literatura. Al hacerlo nos hacemos inútiles porque perdemos acceso a los grandes agrupamientos de jóvenes. Sin embargo, en nuestros escritos mediáticos y en los foros comunitarios sí podemos entrar más en cuestiones de este tipo, tratando de vincular la cuestión del servicio militar con la totalidad del contexto político en una era del neo-imperialismo.
E. M. La cultura retardataria del poder ha tratado de pintar una figura del chicano más folclórica que política. ¿Cómo ha sido la lucha de los chicanos contra la guerra de Vietnam y contra la de Iraq?
J. M. Los chicanos y las chicanas montaron su propio movimiento anti-guerra en el 69. Muchos fueron inspirados por el ejemplo de la Revolución Cubana, el movimiento estudiantil en México y por la lucha del pueblo vietnamita. Había importantes manifestaciones anti-guerra de chicanos y puertorriqueños durante esa época y en la más grande del 29 de agosto de 1970 en Los Angeles, California, la policía mató a tres personas incluyendo el reportero méxico-americano Rubén Salazar. Las fuerzas reaccionarias, sobre todo, durante el gobierno de Ronald Reagan han tratado de borrar esta historia y han tenido éxito. Muchos jóvenes hispanos, sobre todo los que llegaron como inmigrantes en la última década, no conocen esta herencia de militancia y resistencia. Actualmente no tenemos un movimiento hispano contra el neo-imperialismo. Sin embargo, es importante notar que algunos de los objetores de conciencia más destacados son latinos como el ex-sargento Camilo Mejía de origen nicaragüense. Mejía luchó en Irak, regresó y se negó a volver a la zona de combate. Fue sentenciado a nueve meses en la cárcel y ahora habla contra la guerra. No es nada fácil tomar una posición radical como hispano hoy en día cuando el ambiente anti-hispano y racista en EEUU está creciendo cada día más.
E. M. La doctrina del Destino Manifiesto no sólo tiene un frente imperial, más allá de las fronteras de Usamérica, sino también un frente interno que es el Destino Manifiesto de los Anglosajones, Blancos y Protestantes sobre el resto de la población. ¿Cuál es el análisis que hacen las minorías sobre este frente interno de control y dominación y si este análisis se basa en principios revolucionarios.
J. M. Claro está que el primer caso del Destino Manifiesto fue la invasión y ocupación del norte de México por parte de EEUU durante los 1840s. Así es que los ciudadanos usamericanos de ascendencia mexicana y con conciencia «chicana» sabemos muy bien que esta ideología sigue vigente a principios del siglo 21. Para darse cuenta de esto se pueden leer unos estudios recientes del Pentágono que reproducen los mismos estereotipos raciales sobre «el latino» inventados en el siglo 19. El análisis de la gran mayoría de los hispanos, sin embargo, se ubica dentro del pluralismo de la democracia liberal, es decir, dentro de la demanda por los derechos civiles, igual acceso a la educación y otros recursos, etc. Con la excepción de algunos grupos de la izquierda revolucionaria, no hay ningún análisis revolucionario por parte de los hispanos. Pero al pensar con los ojos abiertos hay que admitir que no existen las condiciones objetivas en EEUU para un movimiento revolucionario. Según le dijo el Che a un estudiante usamericano en el año 63, su libro sobre la guerra de guerrillas no fue diseñado para usarse en las Montañas Rocallosas.
E. M. ¿Cuál es tu apreciación sobre el pasado militar y la entrega patriótica de George W. Bush?
J. M. Eso es muy tragicómico y si no hubieran tantas muertes y tanto dolor de por medio, sería para desternillarse de la risa. Como todo el mundo sabe, ni Bush, ni la gente que está a su alrededor, comenzando por el vicepresidente Cheney sirvieron en el servicio militar. Debido a que todos ellos provienen de familias ricas e influyentes, con conexiones y enchufes lograron ?salvarse? de cumplir con la patria. Se escondieron los muy valientes durante su guerra de Vietnam. Lo más hipócrita de todo esto es que son estos señores los que mandan a Iraq a nuestros jóvenes para matar y morir, en una guerra que beneficia sólo a sus empresas petroleras. Tal vez Cheney, ahora, luego del día de caza de perdices y del escopetazo al amigo, haya experimentado algo de la vida militar.
¿Quién sabe? Con esta administración todo es posible.
* Productor de medios radiales alternativos en la Provincia de Ontario, Canadá.
Jorge Mariscal -
In a 1958 CIA information report on revolutionary activities in Cuba, the agent in charge wrote "Che [Guevara] is fairly intellectual for a Latin." A racist assertion such as this was not uncommon in government documents. Throughout the Cold War, official bureaucratic language and content continued to be influenced by long-standing"scientific" theories about national character and racial psychology.
Those of us engaged in anti-racist activism and research are well aware that many racial stereotypes with origins in earlier centuries persist in corporate boardrooms, universities, and shop floors across America. But although we know the conservatives’ claims about "level playing fields," "the end of racism," and "post-civil rights society" are hollow rhetoric, we can still be stunned to find 19th century images and assumptions being reproduced in public spaces at the beginning of the 21st century.
As has been widely reported in the media over the last two years, the Pentagon’s interest in young Latino men and women peeked in the late 1990s when demographic indicators revealed that Latino youth would be the largest pool of military age youth in coming decades. Because Latino youth were (and continue to be) underrepresented in the military and because their educational and economic opportunities are limited compared to other groups, recruiting strategists have been busy concocting a series of well-funded "Hispanic initiatives."
For almost a decade, the Pentagon has thrown millions of dollars at Spanish-language recruitment campaigns and promoted fast-track naturalization procedures for non-citizens. Even laudable proposals that would provide provisional residency for non-citizen students so that they could attend college (the DREAM Act) have been salted with covert military options (see note below).
The Return of "Scientific" Racism
One of the founding documents of modern racism is Count Arthur de Gobineau’s The Inequality of Human Races (1853-1855). This remarkable manual of racist thinking found its most enthusiastic audience in the German Reich but also exerted its influence over all Western racisms, especially their North American mutations.
In the conclusion to his chapter on the "Inequalities of languages," Gobineau writes: "All the facts, however, mentioned in this chapter go to prove that, originally, there is a perfect correspondence between the intellectual virtues of a race and those of its native speech; that languages are, in consequence, unequal in value and significance as races are also that their qualities and merits, like a people’s blood, disappear or become absorbed, when they are swamped by too many heterogeneous elements Hence, though it is often difficult to infer at once, in a particular case, the merits of a people from those of its language, it is quite certain that in theory this can always be done."
Today, Gobineau’s name is known to only a handful of scholars. But the racist logic that informed his writings lives on deep in the structures of U.S. society.
During a 2005 training session for employees of the Department of Defense’s Joint Advertising and Marketing Research and Studies program (JAMRS), representatives of the New York-based Michael Saray Hispanic Marketing firm made a power point presentation designed to upgrade the military’s campaign to attract Latino youth.
The mission of JAMRS, according to the official website, is the following: "Our marketing communications programs help broaden people’s understanding of Military Service as a career option, while our internal government market research and study programs help bolster the effectiveness of all the Services’ recruiting and retention efforts." The presentation by the Saray group, whose clients include major corporate players such as Allstate and Geico, was designed to explain "Hispanics" to JAMRS employees in order to facilitate the military’s niche marketing efforts.
This kind of activity belies the Pentagon’s frequent contention that recruiters do not target by ethnicity. In fact, reports such as the one prepared by the CNA Corporation in 2004 reveals that the Marine Corps recruiting station in San Diego, California, collects detailed information on "economic and race/ethnic distributions in its fifteen substations and eleven contact areas." The report notes that "Hispanics" make up 31% of the population in this station area that stretches from the U.S.-Mexico border to southern Utah.
In the "Language and Cultural DNA" section of the Saray group’s presentation, we learn three important assumptions: 1) "Latinos are culturally ‘hard wired’ differently," 2) "Hispanics" are "right brain" and thus "emotional, intuitive, creative, and visionary" (unlike "left brain" groups who are "intellectual, sequential, analytical, logical"), and 3) "America’s system of education was built on a strong cultural bias toward the left hemisphere of the brain."
Citing a study by the influential Yankelovich, Inc., public opinion research firm, presenters showed audience members a typology of consumers composed of four basic types: "Fervents, Indifferents, Practicals, and Emotionals." According to the study’s authors, "Hispanics are twice as likely to be Emotionals."
Simply put, JAMRS trainees were taught "the Spanish language has not favored intellect over emotion. It’s [sic] bias or thought process has not favored the left brain over the right brain. This is a real cultural difference." Therefore, the Saray group’s advice to Pentagon ad men devising Hispanic campaigns for military recruitment is to "avoid blatant overuse of numbers. You want to reach the heart, not the left brain." To sum up, "the traditions of Hispanic culture are not necessarily in-synch with the concept of ‘mainstream society’ or the ‘American Dream.’ In general, Hispanics are right brain thinkers. The marketer must ‘acculturate’ or risk losing relevancy by continued reliance on left brain thinking."
The Fastest Growing Segment of the Population-Hispanic Right Brain Emotionals
What is not at all clear is the extent to which Pentagon officials subscribe to the Saray’s group language-based system of racial types. One can only assume that the consequences for diversifying the officer corps, to take one area where Latinos are grossly underrepresented, would be quite negative since undoubtedly no one wants "right brain" non-logical and emotional officers leading troops into battle.
A cursory examination of recent recruiting advertisements, however, suggests that the JAMRS audience, like other government and corporate policymakers, was already in tune with the contents of the Saray presentation. Ads featuring adoring Latina mothers and slogans like "¿Estás listo para lo que te espera?" ("Are you ready for wait awaits you?"-emotional and painfully ironic given the war in Iraq) have proliferated since the "war on terror" began.
As journalists Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, authors of One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century, told Amy Goodman on a recent "Democracy Now!" program, Republican planners in the 2004 election operated from a set of stereotypes similar to those promoted by the Saray and Yankelovich marketers: "George W. Bush won 40% of the Hispanic vote nationally, which is a pretty remarkable number for Republicans and they did this with a strategy that some strategists call the "I love you" strategy, where they manage to appeal to a sense of emotion, rather than issues, in the case of Latinos."
According to this racializing model, "right-brain" irrational Hispanics, unsuited for "America’s system of education," will vote their way into Karl Rove’s projected Republican majority, and for decades to come fill the ranks of the lowest echelons of the service sector, the prison system, and the combat units of America’s imperial army. Were he alive today Che Guevara, whom a CIA operative once described as "fairly intellectual for a Latin," would undoubtedly be asking progressive Latinos what they plan to do about it.
- What Veterans See
- Growing the Military
- Military Recruitment and the Immigration Debate
- Youth Activists Demand Military-Free Schools
- Still Waiting, Still DREAMing
- Fighting the Poverty Draft
- The Poverty Draft
- A Call To All Activists to Shut Down the "Army Experience Center"
- Counter-Recruitment Deserves Higher Priority on the Peace Agenda
- How Peace Activists Can Win Access to Schools Equal to that of Military Recruiters
- Notes Toward More Powerful Organizing: Pitfalls and Potential in Counter-recruitment Organizing
- 3 decline to take military test