FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Lies Military Recruiter Tell

Growing up as a military dependent on the 1960s and early 1970s, I developed an especially cynical opinion about the institution and its hype. I knew that the life of a GI stunk. Hell, my dad was an officer and I knew the men and women of that ranking were not much better off when it came to their personal autonomy. By the time my father left for Vietnam in 1968, I knew I would never join the military of my own free will. Furthermore, I figured that if they tried to draft me, I would leave the country or go underground. There was no way I was going to be in Uncle Sam’s military even if all I had to do was type forms in triplicate. Besides opposing the war in Vietnam, my friendship with half a dozen GIs during high school convinced me that military life had nothing to offer me. Even then, though, my opinion was in the minority. A few of my friends enlisted or went into ROTC in college. Some even stayed in for twenty and thirty years. Many others who did not get drafted or join up are now proud to paste bumper stickers on their cars telling the world about their children who enlisted. As for me, I continue to organize against the military and its wars.

Like those wars, my organizing comes and goes. When wars are “hot” and taking bodies at a vicious rate, that organizing takes priority over every other aspect of my life (except for my children when they were at home.) Even in today’s climate of drone wars and Special Forces death squads, I try to maintain some level of antiwar activity. However, as Scott Harding and Seth Kershner’s newly-published book Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools makes clear, there has been an ongoing movement against military recruitment in the United States for decades. This campaign is composed of parents, students, military veterans and others, all of whom find the predatory practices of military recruiters reprehensible enough to actively oppose them.41Yyyb23GZL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

Harding and Kershner’s text utilizes a social sciences approach to explore the contemporary movement against military recruitment in US middle schools and high schools. They explore different approaches counter-recruiters take in their work and discuss the rationales for each approach and their effectiveness. Numerous examples of individuals and groups involved in counter-recruitment are provided, with explanations of their motivations, histories and the activities they have undertaken in their various campaigns. A broader history of the movement underlies these individual stories, providing a political and philosophical context.

As I hinted at before, the US military is one of the few governmental institutions that have overwhelming respect from almost all residents of the United States. This phenomenon is largely due to a very concerted campaign by the ruling elites of this nation to place the Pentagon and its troops above reproach. This can be seen in the ever-constant presence of the military and its advertising at sporting events, civic festivals, and even some music concerts and festivals (especially country music.) As the authors point out, this barrage of advertising, or (let’s be honest) propaganda began almost immediately after the military draft was ended in 1973. As of 2012, direct recruitment advertising by all branches of the military stood at around 667 million dollars. This figure does not include the cost of buildings and staffing of actual military recruitment offices around the country, nor does it include the money spent on recruitment efforts in schools and other places youths congregate.

When my son was in high school (late 1990s-early 2000s), he received a number of calls on the home landline from an Army recruiter. He had not knowingly provided his name to any military representative and, as far as I know, the school he was attending did not provide students names to the Pentagon for any purpose. I suppose one of his friends had given the recruiter his name. Anyhow, at first my son liked the attention he received from the recruiter. The guy talked to him like an adult, etc. However, after a couple such calls, he told me about them and, to put it plainly, I got pissed off. Not at my son, but at the recruiter. After verifying that my son was not interested in the military, I asked him if he had told the recruiter not to call. He told me he had not. I happened to answer the phone the next time the recruiter called. I made it very clear to him (without swearing or otherwise being abusive) that he should not call my number again. As far as I know, he never did.

Other recruiters are less ethical. Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools includes a few examples of such behavior. Beyond these individual acts of questionable ethics, though, lies the entire question of the ethics involved in targeting boys and girls for recruitment into the military. The ages targeted are 15-18 year old youths. In most of US society, young people in this age group are not allowed to drive after dark, if at all. They are not considered old enough to know whether or not they should use tobacco or drink alcohol. In some states, they are not allowed to work after dark. Yet, the Pentagon wants us to believe they can make a decision about committing several years of their lives to a profession whose fundamental raison d’etre is killing other humans or being killed.

To get their quotas of troops, military recruiters have invaded high schools. When combined with cutbacks affecting schools systems around the country, the omnipresence of military recruiters in school lunchrooms, as teachers, in JROTC programs, and even as de facto career counselors in schools where the cuts have eliminated traditional counseling staffs, has given them a profile much greater than civilian schools should have. This is where the bulk of the counter-recruitment efforts take place today.

Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools is more than a social science study. It is also a guidebook for current and potential counter-recruiters around the United States. The combination of activist narratives and discussions of lessons learned provides useful strategies for opposing the military recruitment in high schools that are legally bound to allow recruiters in. Means to overcome the undeserved high regard the military has in US schools and the broader community are also presented. The text concludes with some lesson plans composed by counter-recruitment educators and a list of resources.

In 1966, Special Forces Master Sergeant Donald Duncan wrote an article for the New Left magazine Ramparts. Duncan had recently given up a military career after what he was asked to do and what he saw others doing in Vietnam. The article was part of a book. Ramparts titled the article with this quote from Duncan: “The whole damn thing was a lie.” As Harding and Kershner’s text makes clear, much of what military recruiters tell the young is no different than the conclusion reached by Mr. Duncan. Unfortunately, the lies they tell can have deadly consequences. The reasons for the counter-recruitment efforts examined here remain as important as ever.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 17, 2019
Manuel García, Jr.
Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change
Charles Pierson
Sofi’s Choice
Gary Leupp
Epstein, Jane Doe, and Trump
Rebecca Gordon
I Had an Abortion and Now I’m Not Ashamed
Peter Bolton
In the US and Brazil, Two Trends Underline the Creeping Fascism of Both Governments
Michael Kidder
“Go Back Where You Came From:” an Episode From Canada
Steve Early - Rand Wilson
How Big Strike 30 Years Ago Aided Fight for Single Payer
John W. Whitehead
Sexual Predators in the Power Elite
Michael Welton
Teach the Children Well: the Unrealized Vision In Teaching and Learning in the Residential Schools
Khury Petersen-Smith
Iran’s Not the Aggressor, the US Is
Russell Mokhiber
Kip Sullivan and Dr. Matthew Hahn on How Value Based Programs Are Undermining Medicare and Single Payer
George Ochenski
A Fearless and Free Press is Essential to Our Democracy
Lawrence Wittner
Billionaires and American Politics
Dean Baker
Cheap Shots at the Trump Economy
July 16, 2019
Conn Hallinan
The World Needs a Water Treaty
Kenneth Surin
Britain Grovels: the Betrayal of the British Ambassador
Christopher Ketcham
This Land Was Your Land
Gary Leupp
What Right Has Britain to Seize an Iranian Tanker Off Spain?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Democratic Virtues in Electing a President
Thomas Knapp
Free Speech Just isn’t That Complicated
Binoy Kampmark
The Resigning Ambassador
Howard Lisnoff
Everybody Must Get Stoned
Nicky Reid
Nukes For Peace?
Matt Johnson
The United States of Overreaction
Cesar Chelala
Children’s Trafficking and Exploitation is a Persistent, Dreary Phenomenon
Martin Billheimer
Sylvan Shock Theater
July 15, 2019
David Altheide
The Fear Party
Roger Harris
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Bachelet’s Gift to the US: Justifying Regime Change in Venezuela
John Feffer
Pyongyang on the Potomac
Vincent Kelley
Jeffrey Epstein and the Collapse of Europe
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Hissy-Fit Over Darroch Will Blow a Chill Wind Across Britain’s Embassies in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
Juggling with the Authoritarians: Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Fake Book
Dean Baker
The June Jobs Report and the State of the Economy
Michael Hudson – Bonnie Faulkner
De-Dollarizing the American Financial Empire
Kathy Kelly
Remnants of War
B. Nimri Aziz
The Power of Our Human Voice: From Marconi to Woods Hole
Elliot Sperber
Christianity Demands a Corpse 
Weekend Edition
July 12, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Skull of Death: Mass Media, Inauthentic Opposition, and Eco-Existential Reality in a Pre-Fascist Age of Appeasement
T.J. Coles
“Strategic Extremism”: How Republicans and Establishment Democrats Use Identity Politics to Divide and Rule
Rob Urie
Toward an Eco-Socialist Revolution
Gregory Elich
How Real is the Trump Administration’s New Flexibility with North Korea?
Jason Hirthler
The Journalists Do The Shouting
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pâté Politics in the Time of Trump and Pelosi
Andrew Levine
The Electoral Circus as the End of Its Initial Phase Looms
David Swanson
Earth Over the Brink
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail