Recruiting Killers

No killing in our names! This Memorial Day, millions of US citizens will take a day off from work for a solemn day of watching parades, grilling dogs and burgers, risking melanoma on a beach, or checking out this season’s wildest amusement-park roller coasters. The aim behind the moroseness and merriment: to remember soldiers who gave the “supreme sacrifice to protect and defend American freedom.” The expectation is that all those who live on these shores will take part in the celebration and join in the collective “thank you.”

Um, not this one. No, thanks.

Nothing against the soldiers, particularly the ones who served prior to the ending of the military draft: Those forced to go into service — including my grandfather, who served in World War 2 — had no choice if they didn’t want to make another supreme sacrifice, going to jail for their beliefs. And the ones who made the choice to enlist in the armed services (a sad choice, in this writer’s opinion) made the decision based on their individual situations. As a pacifist who believes in self-determination, I can’t quibble with their choices, however repugnant I find them.

And, yes, I find the choice to enlist repugnant and unremittingly sad. There is no justification for killing, in my book. None. So you can imagine that the prospect of a day when practically all around me insist that I show gratitude to people hired to kill in my name and against my will causes me untold distress.

Are all Americans equal under law? Of course not. US law, as it stands, denies millions of law-abiding Americans the freedom to fully enjoy their inalienable, Creator-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The grand tradition of the armed forces, complete with images of bombs bursting in air and filled with stories of freedom fighters battling all manner of enemies in defense of the American way of life, is a slap in the faces of those who don’t have equality. Sure, there are people who are heroes due to extraordinary actions they took to protect their fellow humans in dangerous times. They deserve honors. But to honor death brigaders just because they died? I can’t.

So how can an anti-military progressive pacifist mark this day? One could hide and pretend Memorial Day does not exist. Or one could face it head on and commit to keeping more of our young people out of harm’s way and out of uniform.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Keep the ROTC's bloody hands off our kids! Faced with unmet recruitment quotas, the US military has its arms wide open for new high school recruits. But a number of high schools nationally have no such warm welcome for military recruiters.

For some, the issue is ethical reservations about the war in Iraq. But for others it’s the growing issue of misleading information given to high school students by military recruiters.

False claims by recruiters is an age-old problem, but there’s evidence it’s reaching a new crescendo. Months of complaints and 480 allegations of impropriety since October led the Army to suspend recruiting May 20 and ostensibly use the day to shore up recruiters’ conduct.

The issue deserves that level of sober reflection. With an audience so young, stakes so high and commitments so binding, recruiters owe it to vulnerable teenagers to provide accurate information, answer tough questions and present a realistic view of both dangers and benefits. No one should be asked to pledge his or her life on the basis of a slick sales pitch.

The Enquirer editorialist opines that a certain amount of high-school recruitment is necessary in order to forestall the reimposition of the draft. I disagree: The military can go after willing, competent adults, but kids — and high schoolers are kids — should be protected from the grip of the killing squad at all costs. Especially when much of the sales pitch is comprised of exaggerations, half-truths, and flat-out lies told by a military desperate to fill its dwindling ranks.

What are soldiers here for? To Kill. Still, it is comforting to know that people from more than one school of thought have reservations about the methods the armed forces employ to lure sometimes unwitting dupes into their murderous fold. Integrity and honesty are the missing ingredients in the recruitment process. Evidence? As the writer notes, “the growing questions of deceit surrounding the death of former [football] star Pat Tillman and other ethical disasters,” along with the “scandal and shame of Abu Ghraib.” And let’s not forget the stories of war resisters like Stephen Funk, who don’t understand fully the ramifications of the choice to enlist until faced with the notion of having to take human life.

When I was in Boston last March for a peace protest, I learned of many attempts — some successful, some not — to shut down recruitment efforts. (Our very presence kept a recruiting office right off Boston Common closed for that day, thank the goddess.) That movement is still under way: In Seattle, four stations were shut down last week due to actions by antiwar protesters. And in San Francisco, activists are working overtime to obtain petition signatures in an effort to get an anti-recruiting question on the ballot for the city’s November elections.

As Todd Chretien of College Not Combat told KCBS-TV, “We think it’s time to bring the troops home now. The point of this proposition … is to say that the military recruiters should get out of our schools and stop taking our children to send them to die in a war for oil.” Instead, CNC wants San Francisco officials to fund college scholarships so that poor kids are not forced by circumstance to join the killing squad.

Sounds like an excellent plan to me. CNC needs 10,486 signatures by July in order to get their issue on the ballot. I pray they will succeed.

Similarly, I hope the increasing tide of people — veterans and antiwar types alike — protesting the tactics of military recruiters will continue to grow and the number of people who die in supposed “service to their country” will fall. To that end, this Memorial Day, I commit to joining that struggle and encourage you to do the same.

Here is something you can do right now: True Majority notes that tthe Shrub’s No Child Left Behind Act has a little-known provision that andates schools to provide our children’s personal information to the Pentagon so they can be recruited into the armed forces. The law also allows parents and guardians to stop their kids’ schools from providing this information to the Pentagon, but few know what is going on or how to stop it. Thanks to Working Assets, there is a new online tool to simplify the task of protecting your kids. Not a parent? Share the link with those you know who do have kids. Additionally, you can support a bill to change the process from being opt-out to opt-in. Take action and urge your congressperson to support the family-protection legislation.

If you believe in peace and family values, you will help this cause. And today is a good day to do it: It beats the hell out of barbecuing.

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19 thoughts on “Recruiting Killers

  1. I would if I could afford it. You want me out of the country? Send money. And while you’re at it, remember, I have the right to speak my piece, especially on MY SITE.

    Peace to you, sir.

  2. Oooh, feel the love!

    Seriously, even though your mileage varies, I wish you peace.


    OK, must amend. I had never heard of Michael Crook before. Turns out he was a young man who had a web site called Forsake the Troops. Mr. Crook was reportedly beaten viciously by people who disagreed with his stance. His injuries ultimately were fatal, according to some reports. Others say that he was taken into federal custody for treason last April. Still others say that his murder most foul was nothing more than a hoax. Meanwhile, there are post-April postings on his web site. So I don’t know what the deal is with this guy. But the sense I get is that the man wishing for my brutal death believes Mr. Crook had the life beaten out of him. And that pains me to no end — not the prospect of dying, which does not frighten me in the slightest. It pains me to know that a human could hold so much hatred in his heart that he would wish a violent end to someone who held a differing opinion.

    Sad. And unwarranted too. Michael Crook and I espouse very different things. I believe in SUPPORTING the troops — by bringing them home to safety. Most of the soldiers I know are decent people. I don’t consider them killers; most of them have taken no lives at all. Fact remains, they are hired to kill. I am just stating mere truth.

    But I am worthy of death, according to the above comment. Could this be a threat to my personal safety? I take it as such. In this world, someone could see the comment and decide to act on it.

    Well, if they do and are successful, I guess I am toast, because as a pacifist, I can not fight back. And as a Christian, I must forgive.

    So I will in advance. But I am letting my family know about all of this just in case something happens, so they will know why.

    I hope the soul of the human who wishes for such a foul and violent end for me can be redeemed — he is in my prayers. As are the soldiers. I pray no harm comes to any of them.

    Peace to all.

  3. Here on Remembrance Day people wear red poppies — or don’t: I don’t. Some wear white poppies for peace, but that’s rare now.

    Here’s a poem for you, Natalie, I hope you like it:

    Reasons for Refusal, I read it years ago, but have never forgotten the ending.

  4. Oh hey, Natalie… You are totally right in your defense of “your right” of free speech. You have the right to say anything you want. Just remember you are saying no thanks to the people “defending that right”.

    Maybe if you selected the country, uh hem, France, and opened up a paypal donation thing to your blog, we’d be happy to start donating money to that one way ticket you so wish for.

  5. THANK YOU, Jayanne. I needed to see that; it brought me to tears.

    Steve, if someone is using weapons against my will to defend something that God gave me and needs no violent defense, it is arrogant to expect a thanks. In my mind, anything involving violence and war is immoral.


    Oh, the country is Canada. (My French is only so-so.) And the support page (see site links) has a link to make paypal donations. By the way, I ain’t going without my spouse and kids. They need to flee as well.


    And please don’t shoot me! Doesn’t matter if I die, but the damage to your soul would be irreparable, I fear.

  6. I see…. but it seems you don’t understand the great offense others that disagree with you take when you make a comment like “no thanks” on a day like Memorial Day. War is hell, violence is not always right but disrespect is just as bad and just as hurtful because most, if not all disrespect, is where violence starts. With all do respect, an advocate for peace like yourself can’t flat out say “No, thanks” to the men and women who defended this country, and expect everything to be hunky-dory, especially in a public forum like blogging. Where do you think racism and discrimination stem from? Disrespect.

  7. I had something to say. I said it. There are people who agree with me and don’t sit with this holiday. What, we are to stay silent when the propaganda of your side assaults us day after day and particularly on this day? No. It needed saying.

    My respectful advice to you: Don’t visit on Veterans’ Day.

  8. Natalie, I am so glad you liked that poem. One of my uncles taught English, he was a pacifist and a poetry-lover, a lot of the poems I know, I know because of him.

    I have something to say to the people posting here against Natalie. My father fought in WWII — by choice — so did his brother Hugh. My father wasn’t hurt at all, but Hugh was a prisoner on the Burma Road. We are always told that they fought (and Hugh almost died)for democracy and for free speech. And that includes Natalie’s free speech.

  9. Fine… Jayanne, Natalie..

    Memorial Day is not a day to debate the ethics behind war or whether or not the war is for right or wrong. Memorial Day is about remembering the people who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country. Telling those people no thanks is just like telling those people, your friends and family to basically F-Off. No matter what you say, regarding your peace efforts and poems and Anti-Bush rhetoric or what have you, changes the fact that you really put your thoughts and beliefs above other people, namely friends and family. If that’s what freedom of speech is about, then you should want no part of it. Putting personal beliefs you feel are so right above others is a shame.

  10. Not everyone observes MemDay your way. Stop being so arrogant. Do you know how those of us who feel differently than you, those who believe the violence you call “defense” is immoral always, feel about all of your observances being shoved down our throats? Respect goes both ways. And given that I get none 365 days of the year (being a person unequal under law and a dissenter), I will exercise the limited rights I have when I choose. My family is fine with it, thanks.

    Again, Mr. Steve, I don’t support your military. I don’t support your wars. And no, I don’t get to enjoy all those rights you have. So… I am to sit on my hands with my second-class status and silence myself while enduring your side’s hideous displays of jingoism, etc? (Nationalism is stupid, IMO.)

    Um, NO.

    You want to talk about people putting their beliefs above others? Talk to the fundamentalists and Bushites who enforce their religious beliefs under civil law and punish those who don’t follow their creeds. Once we are on an equal footing, get back to me. Until then, I have no choice but speak up. And I will mark MemDay in the manner I deem appropriate.

    Peace to you, in all seriousness.

  11. Just what as I thought, another elitest liberal pulling the “I’m better than you” attitude.
    Arrogant? Read your last post Ms. Pot.

    The Kettle

  12. First, I will say that there is nothing wrong with volunteering for the military. The people in uniform are those, that at the core of what they do, are the ones protecting your right to speak you mind. Never blame a soldier, even if he volunteered, they join for what they believe in and it is the leaders of nations who send them to war. It would be nice if armies and soldiers were no longer needed, but the reality is they are. I served in the Canadian Forces, and every November I where the red poppy, not to glorify war, but to try to help others remember. I am not American, and my opinion is that Iraq was a mistake, but I still give my support to the people in uniform, even though they are not from my nation. There are still those in the world that will use aggression and violence and we need to be protected from those. Do you think the Janjaweed in the Sudan will stop simply because we ask them to? Do you think that a fighter who was taken at ten, desensitized, brutalized and controlled with coke and heroin has the capacity to reason diplomatically after 10 years of guerilla warfare? No. Will someone who believes that killing someone who does not share their faith is a direct way to heaven stop killing? No. It would be very nice if the world was full of people who discarded anger and hatred, but it isn’t. Since I am not American, I will not discuss my opinions on internal US policy i.e. Bush, Christian right etc. I actually posted on my blog today about something like this, although I am sure you would disagree with some of what I wrote.

  13. I have found solice in thinking of the day as a Memorial to all the people who will die in future military actions.

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