The Militarization of U.S. Culture
Militarism destroys our hopes for a sustainable and truly democratic society.
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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.

 

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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.

 

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/

Still Waiting, Still DREAMing

Jorge Mariscal with Mónica Jaúregui -

For the thousands of young people brought to the United States as children of undocumented immigrant families, a pathway to legalization deferred one more day is a pathway deferred far too long. As we have reported in previous issues of DraftNOtices for almost a decade multiple attempts to pass federal legislation that would legalize these youth have failed. The so-called DREAM Act, or Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, still lingers in the halls of Congress. But Democratic Party concerns about the 2010 elections, especially in the wake of the health care reform fiasco, may delay further progress on any immigration reform. In the meantime, supporters of the DREAM Act continue to hope. For many, their desperation increases day by day.

The DREAM Act’s most recent incarnation is found in two bills sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and Representative Howard Berman of California. Both Senate bill 729 and H.R. 1751 propose to “permit States to determine State residency for higher education purposes and to authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status of certain alien students who are long-term United States residents and who entered the United States as children, and for other purposes.” Last March, the Senate bill had only 32 co-sponsors and is now stalled at the Committee on the Judiciary; last May, the House bill with 106 co-sponsors was referred to the Subcommittee on Higher Education.

Perhaps a more important development related to the eventual legalization of undocumented youth is the comprehensive legislation recently introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois. Although Gutierrez has not been an outspoken supporter of the DREAM Act, his new Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP) includes the following language:

Special Rule for Persons Brought to the United States Before the Age of 16: In order to simplify processing of applicants under CIR ASAP, those persons ordinarily covered under the DREAM Act will apply for status through the same program outlined above, with the following special features:

No fines for persons who were brought to the United States before the age of 16, have resided in the U.S. for at least five years, and were 35 years of age or less.

Such persons will be eligible for accelerated Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status upon graduation from high school, and completion of two years of college, military service, or employment. Persons granted LPR status under this provision would be eligible for naturalization three years after the date LPR status is granted.

Graduation from a U.S. high school or receipt of an equivalency degree will meet the English proficiency requirement.

Individual states permitted to determine residency requirements for in-state tuition purposes.

The problem that has consistently plagued DREAM Act language reappears in Gutierrez’s bill — there is no such thing as a two-year military enlistment contract. The implication that two years of military service can lead to permanent residency is misleading, and DREAM Act supporters have been remiss in ignoring this important detail. When poorly understood by undocumented youth, this fine print could track those youth directly into the armed forces with no understanding of what they have signed up for.

Moreover, some Latino activists have pointed to the fact that the CIR ASAP legislation calls for increased militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border. Operation Gatekeeper and earlier attempts to seal the border have led to increased death tolls for undocumented workers. By burying the DREAM provisions in a bill that progressive Latinos might otherwise oppose, the Gutierrez proposal adds yet another layer of militarized solutions to the issue of how undocumented youth, most of whom would enlist seeking an affordable education, might earn the legal status they deserve.

Who are the DREAMers?

Many DREAM advocates have supported the provisions under the new proposed CIR ASAP even though they see that many of its provisions are unlikely to pass. Although they would prefer to have a DREAM Act proposal as stand-alone legislation, they agree that it is important that the Obama administration support comprehensive reform and the passage of CIR ASAP.

Chief among the supporters are young immigrants and U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. "I am doing this to help my mom and my sister and my family and other undocumented students who are suffering," said one 20-year-old Oakland college student who did not want to give his name because he fears deportation. “Two million undocumented immigrants are Asian, and I'm one of them. . . . It's really crucial to me for this bill to be passed. This is the only thing I'm relying on, depending on."

Dr. Roberto Rodríguez of the University of Arizona tells the story of another anonymous student — Leticia X. According to Rodríguez, Leticia X is the very definition of a DREAM high school student. She is at the top of her class, is very involved, has worked hard to get into college, and even studies when sick. Unfortunately, like other undocumented students, she will be unable to attend college. This is not for lack of preparedness and/or readiness, not because her grades and involvement are lacking, and not because of laziness and apathy but rather because of a lack of opportunity — because the government offers no financial assistance to students like her. Due to rising tuition rates and ridiculously high out-of-state tuition rates, students like Leticia X lack the means to pay for a college education. If the law does not change soon, Leticia X, like many other unauthorized students, will not be able to attend college.

Undocumented youth cannot get a driver's license, cannot receive financial aid, and technically cannot hold a job. The level of desperation is extremely (and justifiably) high in the undocumented community. A pathway to legalization no matter what the risks is what they literally are dreaming of.

At the same time, many youth from recently arrived immigrant families operate out of a naive patriotism that grows out of a sense of "gratitude." Their living conditions here are usually so far superior to what they were in their country of origin that they believe they have to "give back" or "make a difference." Military recruiters prey on these very real emotions.

This explains why undocumented youth and the organizations that are fighting for passage of DREAM do not and often cannot see at least two important facts: 1) the DREAM was to a large degree developed and written by the Pentagon. One need only read Senator Durbin's testimony. It was not about education. It was strictly about making a pool of young, bilingual, U.S.-educated, high-achieving students available to the recruiters; and 2) the college option for legalization must be understood in the new climate for higher education. In California, rising costs and capped enrollments will make it virtually impossible for many undocumented youth to complete the two-year requirement, even at a community college. Recent studies show that a large percentage of Latino students who do attend community college drop out after five years with no degree due to financial pressures on the extended family.

For many, the situation is critical. Toward the end of 2009, media outlets reported on a series of undocumented students across the nation who committed minor infractions such as traffic violations and now faced deportation. Rescued by massive public outcry and the intervention of elected officials, these young people were classic “DREAMers” — outstanding students raised and educated in the United States. In Chicago, Rigoberto Padilla, whose family is from Mexico, had his hearing delayed for one year. In Detroit, Albanian-born Herta Llusho also was granted a delay as was Peruvian Alonso Chehade who recently graduated with a degree in business from the University of Washington. Should these young people be deported, they will be adrift in a country and a culture known to their parents but not to them.

Lessons for Counter-Recruiters

Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, one of the key consultants who helped draft DREAM Act legislation, recently wrote: “Because attending college is a very expensive proposition, the third option — joining the armed forces — is a likely choice for many of the young people who would be affected by the bill, hundreds of whom have already demonstrated an interest in joining the military.” Senator Durbin has emphasized repeatedly his hope that DREAMers will be a windfall for military recruiters.

The current crisis in higher education will lead not only to higher fees and tuition, but also to capped enrollments and reduced academic support services, thereby making it more difficult for working-class students to persist and graduate (see “The Education Crisis and Militarization” in this Draft NOtices). Military staffing needs will remain high as the Afghanistan campaign drags on, and even though rising unemployment is making the recruiter’s job easier, DREAMers still make up a highly desirable pool of not just warm bodies but bilingual, well educated, and highly motivated bodies.

Clearly, the seduction of young people into military service with the “promise” of legalization is a disturbing development. But counter-recruitment organizations should tread softly on the issue of whether or not they reject all of the DREAM Act provisions within CIR ASAP or just some of them. On the one hand, undocumented young people deserve a pathway to legalization, especially on the educational track. On the other hand, immigrant communities must be made aware of the reality of the relationship between militarization, military enlistment and immigration status. Here are some of the most important facts:

  • All military enlistment contracts are for eight years, not two.
  • Those who choose the military option but receive a less than honorable discharge may be subject to immediate deportation.
  • Students who receive conditional permanent residency under the proposed law would not be eligible for federal college financial aid such as Pell grants.
  • Conditional permanent residency does not equal Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR). Conditional residency lasts only six years.
  • Citizenship can only be gained through the normal naturalization process; LPR status does not guarantee citizenship.
  • Those who do not fulfill education or military requirements by the end of the six-year probation period may be subject to immediate deportation.

Counter-recruitment organizers should continue to question the harsh choice between college and the military. In 2006, Jeanne Batalova and Michael Fix of the Migration Policy Institute urged the authors of the DREAM Act to expand the options for earning LPR to include “vocationally oriented programs such as Job Corps, Department of Labor-certified apprenticeships, and selected non-degree programs,” pointing out the low college-attending rate for Latinos and the economy’s future need for skilled workers who are not college educated.

Similarly, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has called for the “inclusion of a community and volunteerism service component to the DREAM Act,” stating “AFSC supports the provisions in the DREAM Act that provide a path to permanent residency to undocumented immigrant students and lifts penalties on states that provide undocumented immigrant students with in-state tuition. But we cannot support policy or legislation inviting immigrant students — or any student — to join the armed forces.  AFSC vehemently rejects a military service component which serves as a de facto military draft for undocumented youth.”

The expansion of possible pathways toward legalization would capture hundreds of talented undocumented students who cannot afford college and do not choose to enlist.

Organizers also should familiarize themselves with the numerous cases of U.S. military veterans who face deportation proceedings upon leaving the military. The “Banished Veterans” website (http://www.banishedveterans.info/) contains numerous stories of veterans who fought overseas only to be detained in immigration centers and returned to their family’s country of origin. It cannot be emphasized enough that military service does not guarantee citizenship.

Many college students who support DREAM provisions say they will "make sure" their cousins and siblings do not enlist. But they ignore the harsh realities of the economy and the collapse of public higher education. When these supporters minimize the militarized aspects of DREAM legislation, they betray a kind of class blindness wrapped in a bootstraps mythology of "We did it, so can they." Let's hope they're right. But in case they’re wrong, counter-recruiters must continue to explain the realities behind the DREAM.

On a related issue: On November 9, 2009, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the Military Families Act, S. 2757. This legislation would grant lawful permanent residency (not citizenship) to an undocumented spouse, parent, or child of a living or deceased member of the armed forces assuming the family member currently is in the United States, meets all other requirements, and the service member receives an honorable discharge. The bill currently has only seven co-sponsors and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Until this legislation passes, undocumented family members of U.S. military personnel still run the risk of being deported.

Information sources: Emily Bazar, “Groups try to delay deportations of illegal immigrant students,” USA Today (12/15/09); AFSC, “Education is a Human Right” (June 2009); Lt. Col. Margaret D. Stock, “Essential to the Fight: Immigrants in the Military Eight Years after 9/11” (Immigration Policy Center, 2009); Batalova and Fix, “New Estimates of Unauthorized Youth Eligible for Legal Status under the DREAM Act,” (Migration Policy Institute, 2006); Roberto Rodríguez, “Leticia X: ‘I consider myself a U.S. citizen. It’s the only country I’ve ever known,’” politicalarticles.net (10/26/09).

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


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