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Peaceful Career Alternatives is an informational resource for youth with limited life options.

 

Militarization of our Schools

The Pentagon is taking over our poorer public schools.
This is the new reality for our disadvantaged youth.

 

 

What we can do

Corporate/conservative alliances threaten Democracy  .
Progressives have an important role to play.

 

Why does NNOMY matter?

Most are blind or indifferent to the problem.
A few strive to protect our democracy.

  

Before You Enlist (2018)

Straight talk from soldiers, veterans  and their family members tells what is missing  from the sales pitches presented by recruiters  and the military's marketing efforts.

 

Growing the Military

Jorge Mariscal -

In late December 2006, the Bush administration reversed its previous position and agreed to a permanent expansion of the Army and Marine Corps. In reality, the size of the two "ground services" has grown steadily since 2001 when Congress approved a temporary increase of 30,000 to the Army and authorized additional increases to the Army and Marines in 2005 and 2006. The current proposal would make these increases permanent and by 2012 achieve the objective of an active-duty Army of 542,400 and a Marine Corps of 190,000.

In their public statements, Pentagon officials claimed that finding the bodies to reach these goals would not be difficult. Increased bonuses, massive publicity campaigns, and appeals to patriotism would be enough to attract volunteers, they argued.

Lesser-known programs such as the Army GED Plus Enlistment Program in which applicants without high school diplomas are allowed to enlist while they complete a high school equivalency certificate are expected to help (interestingly, the GED Plus Enlistment Program is available only in inner city areas). The Army’s recent fudging of entrance requirements to accept an increased percentage of recruits with minor criminal records may also raise enlistment numbers.

Given the prospect of a prolonged U.S. presence in Iraq, however, the Pentagon’s optimistic predictions about increasing the size of the ground services by making minor adjustments to existing recruiting practices may not pan out. In anticipation of difficult days ahead for recruiters, no sooner had Bush announced his decision than conservative think tanks began to recycle proposals about recruiting foreigners into the U.S. military.

In a recent Boston Globe article, unidentified Army sources reported that Pentagon officials and Congress are investigating "the feasibility of going beyond U.S. borders to recruit soldiers and Marines." Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute, and Max Boot of the Council on Foreign relations cited historical precedents for using foreign troops. Since at least 2005 Boot has been recommending the establishment of "recruiting stations along the U.S.-Mexico border" as a way to solve the problems of military manpower and illegal immigration.

But the fact that several sources in the Globe article, including spokesmen for the Army and the Latino advocacy group National Council for La Raza (NCLR), expressed disagreement with proposals to recruit foreign nationals means that other more feasible options may begin to surface.

A likely scenario is that the Pentagon will focus on one specific sector of the undocumented population–foreign nationals raised and educated in the United States. According to the Urban Institute, every year approximately 60,000 undocumented immigrants or children of immigrants (who have lived in the United States five years or longer) graduate from U.S. high schools. By marketing the military to this group, problems associated with the recruitment of foreigners such as poor English language skills and low educational levels could be alleviated.

So far military recruiters have limited their efforts to the pursuit of citizens and permanent residents (green card holders). It is a little-known fact, however, that the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 amended current legal statutes by allowing military service secretaries to waive citizenship and residency requirements "if such Secretary determines that the enlistment of such person is vital to the national interest" (U.S. Code Title 10, Chapter 31, §504: 2006).

Is the DREAM Act the Pentagon’s Dream Too?

If the Pentagon were to decide to exercise its new prerogative and begin to recruit undocumented youth in order to grow the Army and Marines, the most obvious selling point would be permanent residency and eventual citizenship. This in fact is one of the little-known aspects of the DREAM Act, legislation that would grant conditional residency to most undocumented high school graduates and permanent residency in exchange for the successful completion of two years of college or two years of military service.

In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 10, 2006, Under Secretary of Defense David Chu said: "According to an April 2006 study from the National Immigration Law Center, there are an estimated 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented alien young adults who entered the U.S. at an early age and graduate from high school each year, many of whom are bright, energetic and potentially interested in military service…Provisions of S. 2611, such as the DREAM Act, would provide these young people the opportunity of serving the United States in uniform."

More recently, Lt. Col. Margaret Stock of the U.S. Army Reserve and a faculty member at West Point told a reporter that the DREAM Act could help recruiters meet their goals by providing a "highly qualified cohort of young people" without the unknown personal details that would accompany foreign recruits. "They are already going to come vetted by Homeland Security. They will already have graduated from high school," she said. "They are prime candidates."

The lure of citizenship is already a tool for recruiting green card holders, especially because of expedited naturalization procedures put in place for military personnel in 2002. In San Diego, for example, recruiters have told permanent residents "I can help you get citizenship" when in fact the military has no input into the final granting or denial of citizenship.
Although exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, roughly 20% of legal residents in the military who have applied for naturalization since late 2001 have been denied citizenship. This suggests that military service carries no guarantee that permanent residents will be granted the one benefit for which they probably enlisted and for which they may be forced to risk their life.

Other anecdotes recount recruiters threatening that the immigration status of recruits and their family would be affected should the recruit try to back out of an enlistment agreement. More devious recruiters have used the law requiring undocumented youth to register for Selective Service as a way to convince non-English speaking parents that there is obligatory military service in the United States.

The expansion of the recruiting pool to include the undocumented would be a Recruiting Command’s dream and may be the only way for the Pentagon to increase the size of the Army and Marines Corps. A 2006 study by the Migration Policy Institute calculated that passage of the DREAM Act "would immediately make 360,000 unauthorized high school graduates aged 18 to 24 eligible for conditional legal status [and] that about 715,000 unauthorized youth between ages 5 and 17 would become eligible sometime in the future."

Ironically, nativist and restrictionist groups as well as anti-militarism activists will oppose the recruitment of the undocumented although for completely different reasons. Organizations such as National Council for La Raza (NCLR) that oppose the recruitment of foreigners would most likely support a vehicle for recruiting undocumented graduates from U.S. high schools. In May 2006, NCLR praised the passage of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (Senate Bill 2611) that included a DREAM Act provision.

While the DREAM Act may facilitate access to college for a small percentage of these undocumented students, in many cases other factors will militate against the college option. Given the difficulty undocumented youth have in affording college tuition, the pressure on them to make financial contributions to extended families, and the tendency among many to adopt uncritical forms of patriotism based on "gratitude," military not college recruiters may be the ones who benefit the most.

As one undocumented student wrote to me:

"I was brought to America [from Mexico] when I was 12. I am 21 now and I am only going to college because in the state of Illinois I pay in-state tuition despite being illegal. I would serve in the military if I was given an opportunity to do so and DIE for America if necessary. Shouldn’t I be able to be legal?"

Military manpower needs, limited economic and educational opportunity, and the desire for social acceptance could transport immigrants and their children to the frontlines of future imperial misadventures such as the quagmire in Iraq.

JORGE MARISCAL is a Vietnam veteran and director of the Chicano-Latino Arts and Humanities Program at the University of California, San Diego. He is a member of Project YANO (San Diego). Visit his blog at: jorgemariscal.blogspot.com/ He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Military Recruitment and the Immigration Debate

Jorge Mariscal -

In an obscure memoir of the U.S. war in Southeast Asia, an undocumented Mexican who had enlisted in the U.S. Army with the aid of an unscrupulous recruiter, writes: “I realized that for me to live in the United States, the system was asking me to pay a high price. Now I probably would have to give my life. Was it worth it?”

During the Vietnam War period, citizens from foreign countries in the U.S. military were rare and unknown to the public. Today, although they make up only a small percentage of the overall force, they appear regularly in media stories, Pentagon publicity, and nativist rants about a Mexican invasion.

Non-citizens make up 3-5% of total military personnel. To date, they have received more than 200 medals and awards in the combat zone. More than 100 of them have received posthumous citizenship after making the ultimate sacrifice. The majority of them have roots in Mexico and Latin America.

Is the U.S. military becoming a foreign legion? Not yet, but the strain on active duty, Reserve, and National Guard personnel is becoming unbearable. General David Petraeus’s report to Congress last month — and even recent statements made by Democratic Party presidential candidates — make clear that the occupation of Iraq will last many more years. Fresh bodies will be hard to find, so there is renewed interest in a piece of legislation that could produce a bumper crop of eligible non-citizens for recruiters.

The Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act has been floating around the halls of Congress for more than six years, and Draft NOtices was one of the first publications to warn about its military component. If passed, the legislation would provide a pathway to permanent residency for undocumented young people who were raised and completed high school in the United States. Those who qualify would have to complete two years of college or enlist in the military in order to earn a permanent green card.

The Latino community was quick to support the legislation because of its educational component, but for the first five years there was a deafening silence in Latino circles about the military option. This changed only recently when the Pentagon and elected officials began to openly discuss the DREAM Act as a possible fix for the military’s manpower needs.

In 2006, Bill Carr, Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy, told reporters that the DREAM legislation would help boost military recruiting. Last July, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said, "The DREAM Act would address a very serious recruitment crisis that faces our military. Under the DREAM Act, tens of thousands of well-qualified potential recruits would become eligible for military service for the first time."

Lt. Col. Margaret Stock of the U.S. Army Reserve and a faculty member at West Point who helped draft the legislation confirmed that the DREAM Act could help recruiters meet their goals by providing a "highly qualified cohort of young people." She added, “Passage of the bill could well solve the Armed Forces’ enlisted recruiting woes.”

Drawing on cultural stereotypes about “Hispanic culture,” she told the Orange County Register that “Hispanic immigrants who would be affected by this bill would be even more likely to join the military because it is considered the honorable thing to do in the Hispanic culture.” One wonders if Lt. Col. Stock is teaching her cadets such banal and reductive clichés about diverse Latino traditions.

The irony, of course, is that while the Pentagon chases young non-citizens to fill the ranks of the U.S. occupation forces, other non-citizen workers whose economic contributions to the nation are undeniable are being pursued and harassed by other agencies of the U.S. government.

As one worker told me, Latino communities are experiencing a “double deportation.” On the one hand, military recruiters are flooding high schools with Latino majorities and the Pentagon is pushing hard for passage of the DREAM Act. Many of those young people who are successfully recruited will end up in Iraq and Afghanistan. A metaphorical deportation, of course, but from the family’s point of view a painful removal of a loved one nonetheless.

At the same time, the undocumented parents and siblings of those soldiers, sailors, aviators, and Marines watch as armored vehicles carrying teams of armed officers invade their neighborhoods to conduct Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. Just this month, for example, in the working-class neighborhood of Barrio Logan in San Diego, local police surrounded a ten-block area while helicopters circled overhead and ICE agents swept through in full combat regalia. Similar actions are taking place across the country.

Some of these parents have been arrested and scheduled for deportation hearings. Remember that these are parents whose sons and daughters are fighting “for democracy” in Iraq. One such case is that of U.S. Army Private Armando Soriano, 20, who died in Iraq in 2004. This summer ICE raids swept through Houston. Armando’s father was detained and is currently threatened with deportation.

In late September, Senator Durbin agreed to drop the in-state tuition rate clause of the DREAM Act in response to pressure from restrictionist groups and to garner more Republican votes. This change would have blocked many undocumented students from taking the college option and, inadvertently or not, would have placed them on the military pathway to legalization. Despite Durbin’s concessions, the DREAM amendment was not attached to this year’s defense appropriations bill and so disappeared once again into the congressional ether for at least several more months, if not forever.

If the DREAM Act ever does resurface and is eventually approved, thousands of Latino youth who are unable to take the college option will be tempted to enlist to attain legal status. With no end in sight to the occupation of Iraq and with other wars looming in the future, they, like the undocumented Mexican soldier in Vietnam, will have to ask themselves whether or not the price is simply too high.

Information sources: Congressional Record--Senate (July 13, 2007); Ernesto Portillo, Jr., “DREAM Act better than nothing, but flawed,” Arizona Star (September 26, 2007); Vanja Petrovic, “DREAM Act blocked from defense bill,” Orange County Register (September 27, 2007).

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org)


Youth Activists Demand Military-Free Schools

Jorge Mariscal -

On the weekend of July 17, over 250 activists from across the country converged on Roosevelt University in Chicago for the largest meeting ever of counter-recruitment and anti-militarism organizers.  Retirees from Florida and California, concerned parents from Ohio and Massachusetts, veterans from New Mexico and Oregon, grandmothers from Texas and North Carolina joined with youth organizations such as New York’s Ya-Yas (Youth Activists-Youth Allies) and San Diego’s Education Not Arms to consolidate a movement intent on resisting the increased militarization of U.S. public schools.

The building overlooking Lake Michigan vibrated with the positive energy of the diverse participants—people from different generations, regions, and ethnicities mixing together and exchanging stories about their struggle to demilitarize local schools.  For many senior citizens from the East Coast this was the first time they had met much less learned from Chicana high school students who live in border communities near San Diego.  For those relatively new to the counter-recruitment movement, the experience taught them more about the on-going process in which young people are increasingly subjected to military values and aggressive recruiting techniques.

Organized by the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY), an alliance of over 180 organizations, the conference included workshops and caucuses on a variety of subjects ranging from the role of class and culture in counter-recruiting, women in the military, and legislative approaches to challenging militarization.

The growth of the counter-recruitment movement benefited greatly from the Bush administration’s slide into totalitarianism.  While established organizations like Project YANO of San Diego and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Youth and Militarism program had been working for decades to demilitarize youth, the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 for the first time alerted many to the insidious nature of military recruiting in schools.  Many newcomers to the movement began with “opt-out” campaigns to protect students’ privacy and then moved on to the issue of military aptitude tests (ASVAB) that are often administered covertly in school districts nationwide.

Although some activists during the Bush years saw counter-recruitment solely as an antiwar tactic, the participants at the NNOMY conference understood that militarism is an issue that must be confronted with long-term strategies.  As many of them told me, it is less an issue of stopping current wars (although that is important) than it is of inhibiting the power of the military-corporate-educational complex with the goal of slowly transforming an interventionist and imperial foreign policy.

The symbolism of the conference location was especially important given that the Chicago public school district is the most heavily militarized district in the nation.  The current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was superintendent of the city’s schools and oversaw the expansion of JROTC and military academies.  Today, Chicago has more academies and more JROTC cadets than any other city in the country.  Under Duncan’s leadership, it will more than likely become a model for the rest of the country.

As Sam Diener reported at the NNOMY conference, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 mandates that the military work to increase the number of schools with JROTC from the current total of about 3400 schools to 3700 schools by the year 2020 (a list of schools targeted for new units will be posted shortly on the Peacework Magazine website).

The larger context is alarming.  The decades long defunding of public education, the resultant decline of K-12 systems across the country, and the growth of the charter school movement has produced a situation in which the Pentagon is free to wade into the wreckage with an offer many parents cannot refuse.  In a classic shock doctrine maneuver, the military exerts increasing influence in public schools offering desperate parents programs that will teach their sons and daughters discipline and “leadership skills.”  As Gina Perez explained at the NNOMY meeting, working class youth with limited options, many of whom are active in their community churches, believe they can “make a difference” by joining JROTC.

Despite the Pentagon’s denials, there is no question that militarized school programs operate as covert recruiting programs. Recent studies show that about 40% of all JROTC cadets end up enlisting in the military. Activists working in Georgia recently obtained school district documents that refer to the goal of creating “African American and Hispanic children soldiers.”  What the Pentagon hopes to produce, however, is not cannon fodder as an earlier Vietnam War-era analysis might suggest but rather an educated workforce able to complete the complex tasks of a well-oiled, increasingly high tech, military.

Given the difficulty recruiters have had finding enough high school graduates to fill their quotas, especially in those Latino communities that will provide the largest group of military-age youth for the foreseeable future, it makes sense that the military would attempt to create its own pipeline.  If the public schools cannot turn out enough qualified potential recruits, the Pentagon will do it.  Neoliberalism in the United States may not mean generals in the Oval Office.  But it may mean children in military uniforms marching in formation at a school near you.

The model for this aspect of the militarist agenda is the Chicago public school system where for several years minority neighborhoods have seen the increasing encroachment of the military.  Science teacher Brian Roa, who has written about the Chicago experience, described in a recent truthout article how Mayor Daley and Superintendent Duncan oversaw the expansion of military academies.  “One day the Navy occupied one floor of our school,” Roa said at the NNOMY conference, “and before we knew it they had taken over the second and then the third floor.”

At San Diego’s Mission Bay High School, funding for college preparatory courses was decreased while the principal implemented plans for a Marine Corps JROTC complete with firing range for air rifle practice.  Latino students created the Education Not Arms coalition and successfully convinced a majority on the San Diego Board of Education to ban rifle training at eleven high schools.  Similar success stories were recounted last weekend all of which suggest that not only is militarism a high priority issue for the new century but also that youth activism is alive and well.

The fact that President Obama’s daughters attend Quaker schools while his Secretary of Education oversees the expansion of military programs for working class children is one more glaring contradiction in Obamaland.  The young people who attended the NNOMY conference are aware of the contradiction and left Chicago vowing that they will not passively stand by as their schools become centers for military indoctrination.

More information on the counter-recruitment movement is available at the NNOMY website: http://www.nnomy.org/

JORGE MARISCAL is a Vietnam veteran and a member of Project YANO (San Diego). Visit his blog at: jorgemariscal.blogspot.com/

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