The predatory tactics used by military recruiters to lure in youth from our schools and universities feed on desperation by offering dreams of cash for college, marketable skills, a signing bonus, and promises of cushy desk jobs. “Green card” soldiers fight for the hope of citizenship. Recruiters have been known to deceive by offering that which they cannot guarantee.
The recruiters, as a tangent, are doing little more that what George W. Bush did. They both invent reasons to persuade us to kill and die. Where the recruiters paint visions of a better life for the recruits, Bush offered us the opportunity to defend ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. Then, after the proof could not be found in the pudding, he shifted it to establishing the first democratic domino in the region. Later, it became about taking on Al-Qaeda in Iraq. This shifting logic is the equivalent of the shifts a new recruit experiences when he or she enlists. Instead of training as a medic in sunny Florida as promised, the bright-eyed recruit ends up on the front lines in sunny Iraq.
Obviously, then, this is more than just about the dishonesty of quota and bonus-driven recruiters, this is about the politics of the war these recruitment efforts are part of. Thus, military recruiters are predictably becoming the lightening rod for the anger of the betrayed public. On schools and universities, student activists who confront recruiters are facing expulsion, arrest, and other attacks.
Thanks to the Solomon Act universities lose some government funding if they deny recruiters access to our future leaders. Those student-activists trying to boot the recruiters off campus face more than the Department of Defense, they have a budget-obsessed university administration to work against. The danger is that they will prioritize free money from the government over free speech for the students.
Before we can talk about whether campus recruiters should leave, we have to make sure there can be a debate. At George Mason University, specifically, the students have to fight for the freedom of speech just to protest the presence of the recruiters. Last Thursday, Tariq Khan, a student there who served for four years in the Air Force, simply stood inside the student center with a handful of pamphlets and a small sign taped on his chest. He shared on the sign his personal experiences with the recruiters: they lie. It said, “Recruiters lie. Don’t be deceived.”
Khan just stood there, mostly silent. He offered his literature to anyone who asked for it. Before he knew it, a ROTC student and his side-kick, a lumpy right-winger, were yelling at him. With foam coming out of their mouths, they called him a “pussy.” They talked with enthusiasm about the thrill of getting to kill Iraqis. The ROTC student grew angry with Khan’s calm demeanor. Several people tried to intervene by joining the debate. Finally, the ROTC student grabbed the sign and ripped it. Khan calmly began to write another notebook paper-sized sign.
Campus security arrived and told Khan he was violating school policy by being there. Instead of arresting the ROTC student for assault and the willful destruction of property, the officer sought to remove Khan for “tabling” outside of the area where tabling is permitted. Khan did not even have a table with him.
Khan refused to leave, believing the Constitution protected his right to just stand there. The officer began to handcuff him. Khan did not resist, but he did not comply. He saw it rightfully as an unjustified arrest. Soon, some freedom-loving students were chanting “kick his ass,” and a few actually helped the officer subdue Khan. Though he was non-violent the entire time, they caused him several injuries. A witness saw the officer “putting him in a headlock, choking him, and then proceeding to throw him against the stage.” He was later charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.
I wonder if the recruiters who reeled in Khan fresh out of high school fed him the fancy talk about defending our freedom–the same freedom that got him a gash on his forehead. They probably just told him about the great marketable skills he would learn, and all the money he would get for college. Instead, they had him cleaning bathrooms and doing menial labor–the type of work that requires no skills and no plans for comfortable living. And the money his four years of service brings him is not quite enough to pay for four years of college.
We could blame the officer for acting improperly, like we could fault Lyndie England and other bad apples. Clearly, the problem here is a policy framework that criminalizes free speech and those who practice it. If universities want to benefit from recruiters telling students about the freedoms they have to fight for, at least let those freedoms be practiced on campus. Otherwise, students might just realize that the biggest threat to freedom is not foreign enemies, but those claiming to protect them.
Please sign this petition calling on the university to drop the charges: http://fawcettweb.com/peace/
WILL YOUMANS has a blog: www.kabobfest.com. He contributed a chapter to ‘The Politics of Anti-Semitism.’
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005