The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY)
August 10, 2007 - ZNet
David Swanson -
There is something else we can try. If you've given up on staging marches and rallies, or if - like me - you haven't but you want to try something else as well, and if you've given up on lobbying Congress as pointless, or if - like me - you haven't but you want to try something else as well, and if educating your fellow citizens as to exactly how completely corrupt the whole system is seems like an incomplete answer, and if staging a general strike or taking over the capital only seems like a good idea if you can get millions of others to join you, there is another approach that can be taken right away by a single person, a small group, or a crowd.
You can counter recruit, counter the corporate war profiteers, and counter the media. Talking to high school and college students and career counselors about the reality of the military, done at the smallest or largest scale, helps to deny the military the troops it needs to occupy foreign lands and kill. Of course, the military pushes back, raising the top age for recruits (now at 42), promising bigger bonuses (now at $50,000), and lowering various qualifications. Ultimately, the military can push back by instituting a draft. But that could also lead to much greater resistance. Corporations profiting from the pretended "reconstruction" of Iraq, from the control of Iraq's oil, and from the use of weapons and mercenaries, can be protested and influenced. Bechtel chose to stop bidding on contracts in Iraq rather than endure further protest. And the media can be resisted through the creation and promotion of independent media, through criticism and protest, and through campaigns targeting advertisers.
A guide to engaging in these tactics and training others to do so is found in a new book called "Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War, and Build a Better World," by Aimee Allison and David Solnit: http://ww.couragetoresist.org/armyofnone They present this approach, as everyone on the left always presents their approach, as the only one of any use. I disagree. I think the various approaches work together. I think the marching and lobbying help move the public to the point where more people will resist recruitment. I think countering recruitment helps recruit peace activists of all sorts. And I think that we have to model democratic behavior as part of defining a vision for the future, if nothing else. We have to publicly demand the behavior we want from our elected officials if only to deny them the argument that we never asked. And we have to envision a world in which one day citizens are able to influence politicians directly.
Most of "Army of None" is devoted to counter recruitment, and the book makes an ideal guide for anyone interested in that project. Among other things, it provides the basic facts about the usual lies recruiters tell. For one thing, most recruits won't actually get $50,000 or anything close to it. In fact, nothing a recruiter promises a recruit means anything at all, because every military contract includes these lines:
"Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice to me. Such changes may affect my status, pay allowances, benefits, and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces REGARDLESS of the provisions of this enlistment / re-enlistment document."
In other words, the rest of the contract means nothing, and only those two sentences and a signature actually matter. The rest, like much of what comes out of recruiters' mouths, is lies. The New York Times reported that one in five U.S. Army recruiters was under investigation in 2004 for offenses ranging from "threats and coercion to false promises that applicants would not be sent to Iraq."
In addition to educating potential recruits and assisting them in finding more positive career options, citizens can actively counter recruitment by protesting or impeding recruiting operations. One of the more creative ways to do this is for that dwindling portion of the population that is not qualified for recruitment to attempt to enlist. Raging Grannies and other groups of women have tied up recruiting stations and attracted attention by attempting to sign up, refusing to leave, and risking arrest. What are the raging grandfathers waiting for?
Although "Army of None" does not suggest it, I would recommend another tactic as well. Get to know the recruiters and offer to help them with their job. Take a stack of brochures and blank contracts from them. And whenever you encounter a pro-war demonstrator, offer to help them sign up. "Hey Hey What about you? You look under 42!" is a chant that has been known to silence the most obnoxious voices. The point is not, of course, to actually recruit anyone, but to expose the hypocrisy of war proponents and call attention to the question of exactly who is being recruited.
If you want to get involved in countering recruitment and in supporting members of the military who refuse to serve in illegal wars of aggression, go to http://www.couragetoresist.org
April, 17 2008 - Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice
David Swanson -
Citizens in a number of school districts around the country have dramatically reduced military recruitment through simple procedures that anyone can do. No marching or civil disobedience is required. You might, however, have to chat with a principal at a football game or write a couple of letters. Why aren't more of us doing more of this?
That's the question I came away with after interviewing Pat Elder for an hour (here's the audio: http://www.thepeoplespeakradio.net/audio/2008/#april ). Pat is a member of the coordinating committee of the National Network Opposing Militarization of Youth: http://www.nnomy.org
In Pat's view, we shouldn't stop marching in the streets or pulling stunts for media attention or any of the other tactics employed by the peace movement, but far and away the most useful thing we can be doing is changing school policies to block military recruiting efforts in high schools.
Laws provide military recruiters equal access to students, equal to the access granted colleges and employers. But often the military gets greater access. Colleges and companies have to make appointments with the guidance office to speak to students. The military sets up a table in the cafeteria to push its sales pitch on every student who comes to lunch. Why not talk to your local high schools about changing that policy and complying with the law?
The No Child Left Behind law makes school funding dependent on providing students' names and contact information to military recruiters, but parents can opt-out of including their children in that list. With a little bit of organizing and persuading you can convince your school and your school district to follow through on allowing families to opt-out, and to opt-out of military recruitment without removing names from databases used for other things (like college recruitment), and to send all parents a letter letting them know that they can opt-out.
Take a look at this website: http://www.asvabprogram.com Smiling kids, happy colors, and free career guidance. Would you have any idea that this was a military recruiting tool? The ASVAB is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Some high schools allow students to take it, others require every student to take it. You can persuade your school to not require it, and/or to not send the results to military recruiters, and/or to inform students and parents that the test is a military recruiting tool.
These and similar steps can deny the military tens of thousands of names and the accompanying contact information. Without cannon fodder, not even today's high tech military can fight aggressive wars. If the need for a defensive war ever arises, recruitment won't be hard. Sure the military can simply spend billions of our dollars to increase recruiting, but school districts that have taken the steps described here have blocked recruitment regardless.
I recently interviewed Dave Meserve as well (audio here: http://www.thepeoplespeakradio.net/audio/2008/#february ) who is promoting an ordinance in Arcata, California, that would ban military recruitment in locations where there are large numbers of minors. That sort of approach, if possible in your town, would work as well to keep recruiters out of schools.
Schools that provide space in their cafeterias for military recruiters are also required to provide equal access for alternatives, and that includes you. You can set up a table at which veterans tell the truth about the military and at which you offer alternative career choices. But, in Elder's informed view, the more effective (and measurable) success comes from keeping the recruiters out all together. You don't have to keep them out of town. You can't ban their advertising, their movies, their video games, their toys. But you can keep them out of the cafeteria of a school and keep their souped up vans and simulated weapons off school grounds.
And if you can keep their numbers too low, you can shut down ROTC units in high schools and JROTC units in junior high schools.
You can take your message to recruiting stations as well. Grandmothers can try to enlist, or knit stump socks in front of the entrance. You can dress up as Bush and Cheney and try to enlist, since you missed your chance in Vietnam. Such stunts may have a use if they bring more people into your organization or change the media discourse, but - says Elder - the bulk of the recruitment is not happening at recruiting stations. It's happening in schools. And it can be stopped where it's happening. And it's not hard to do.
To get involved in this work, go to: http://nnomy.org