In February, the Army missed its recruiting goal for the first time in nearly five years. The Army missed its March goal by 32 percent while the need for soldiers is on the rise. The United States Armed Services have announced a new plan to solve their recruiting problems–convincing parents to get their children to enlist. At the same time, parents are organizing to ensure the military draft does not return. The battle lines for the bodies of America’s youth are beginning to take shape.
The military has a tough road ahead. Polling of 1,200 potential recruits conducted by Millward Brown shows that parents are a problem: “Opposition to–military service is increasing significantly among both moms and dads.” According to USA Today, “GfK Custom Research found that the biggest influence in candidates’ decision to join were mother, named by 81 percent of respondents, followed by fathers at 70 percent.” GfK urges the Army to “Reach the parents.”
As unlikely as it sounds, the Army is planning to try to convince parents that sending their beloved children to war is good for them. How? They are going to use slick marketing and propaganda, including:
* Television advertisements focused on mothers, fathers, coaches, and ministers–people the Army sees as “influencers.”
* Sending vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on home visits with recruiters to tell parents “the Army story.”
* Producing a video that highlights the voices of parents who tell viewers how joining the Army was good for their children.
* A direct mail campaign to high school juniors and seniors requesting visits to discuss the benefits of joining the Army.
This seems like a bit of a “Hail Mary” pass by the Army. Convincing parents to send their children to war or join the military while the U.S. policy is one of preemptive war is going to be a tough sell. The propaganda they are planning will have to be pretty convincing.
Parents see the failing recruitment and are worried that the inability to sign up recruits is going to lead to reinstatement of the draft. Groups of parents are forming to fight the return of the draft.
Terry McCarthy of Parents Against a Draft told me: “It is up to us to convince those politicians advocating an increase in the military, especially by reinstating a draft, that this position will lead to their defeat at the polls. These politicians are completely out of touch with Americans.” Their Web site includes ideas about how parents can get organized to prevent the return of the draft.
On the discussion group of another organization, Mothers Against the Draft, described how recruiters are figuring out whom to recruit:
“Recruiters are giving our kids a special ‘aptitude’ test (ASVAB) WITHOUT parental consent, thanks to No Child Left Behind; at my daughter’s high school in Nashville, the guidance counselor said ‘this is not for recruitment,’ yet a uniformed recruiter was in charge. Kids were told that this test was merely ‘a great way to learn what your talents are, and what kind of career might be best for you in the future.’
“Guess what? Her friends who felt they couldn’t say no ended up getting called by recruiters, and kids with certain aptitudes–especially mechanical or computer–got aggressively recruited. This is nationwide.
“My daughter saw through it and asked not to take the test. Most of her friends were afraid to refuse something that SOUNDED mandatory. You can read more about this testing trick in the article, ‘Enlist Today! Luring Kids into the Military Behind their Parents’ Backs,’ on www.JesusontheFamily.org.”
Another parent active with Parents Against a Draft, Diane Fosse, said what is probably on a lot of parents minds in an interview with me:
“What is most important to me is making all Americans aware that a draft is a very real possibility and that more and more young Americans will be sacrificed if there is a draft, not in a war like World War II that had to be fought, but so the U.S. can attack other countries and force democracy on those countries. True democracy and freedom cannot be forced on countries. What we are doing now is not creating friends and allies, but making more and more enemies for the U.S. This certainly does not make us safer from terrorists.”
So parents are figuring out what they can do to protect their kids from dishonest recruiters and Army propaganda as well as organizing to prevent a return of the military draft. There is a lot people can do to protect their kids. In a recent interview, J.E. McNeil of The Center on Conscience & War (CCW) told me that when youth register for the selective service, they should:
* Find a post office for their registration that has an accessible photocopier.
* Print in legible black ink on the face of the registration card in the center (not on the edges):?”I am a conscientious objector.”
* Make a photocopy of their registration form for their own records before they submit it to the postal clerk for date stamp and initials.
* Prepare a statement of their beliefs and get it on file with their church or other religious body, CCW, or other counseling agency. Such a statement could be helpful in getting the government to recognize their CO beliefs.
Another thing parents and youth can do is organize. An excellent organizing tool is the No Child Left Behind Act. The Act gives military recruiters access to the names and contact information of students. But students or parents can request that they not be given those names. So one organizing opportunity is for students and parents to organize a petition drive in their school seeking parents and children to sign a statement requesting that their school not provide recruiters with this information. Taking this approach will educate both students and parents.
Such an effort can be brought to your local PTA. As Terry McCarthy told me: “Parents can try to get their state PTA to pass a resolution against the draft.? This is in concert with the PTA’s national position for promoting world peace and for spending money on educating our children.” If parents across the country began to organize against the return of the draft through their local PTA, it would put pressure on policymakers nationally–you can’t get much more mainstream than the PTA!
Of course, Congress is the key arbiter. Staying in touch with your member of Congress in the House and Senate is critically important. One opportunity will be an anti-draft lobby day on May 16 in Washington, D.C.
As pressure continues to mount, it will be more important than ever for parents to be organized to protect their kids. The time to act is now, before the draft steamroll begins.
KEVIN ZEESE served as the Press Secretary to the Nader-Camejo campaign in 2004 and currently works with the Stop the War’ campaign at DemocracyRising.US.