By Damon Krane
Thursday, November 17, 2005
The Athens News (Athens, Ohio)
The Athens Can’t Wait Coalition’s campaign against military recruitment is not about “blaming” recruiters, soldiers or even the politicians. It is about American citizens stepping up and taking responsibility for the direction of their country.
Our campaign is not about (insert irrelevant insults here) college students trying to re-enact the 1960s. It is about people from all walks of life taking the actions necessary to end an unjust and illegal war.
All of us share the blame for this war – from the Americans deceived into thinking they were “supporting our troops” by needlessly sending more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers to their deaths, to the multitudes of anti-war protesters who thought it was enough to hold a sign at some rally and then call it a day.
This war was based on lies. There was no credible evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction, no WMD used against invading U.S. soldiers, and – surprise, surprise! – no WMD discovered by occupation forces.
While part of the Iraqi resistance is now allied with al Qaeda, this is an effect, rather than a cause of the war. There was no evidence of an alliance between Saddam’s secular regime and al Qaeda’s religious fanatics prior to the U.S. invasion, much less any evidence of Iraqi involvement in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Democracy for the Iraqi people is an undeniably noble objective that the Bush administration is neither interested in nor capable of achieving.
The Bush administration lied to its own citizens in order to go to war, committed U.S. troops to a battle without a serious exit strategy, prematurely declared “mission accomplished” over two years ago, and now continues the occupation in defiance of the will of the Iraqi people. Yet we’re supposed to believe these corrupt and bumbling liars are somehow going to bring democracy to Iraq? War supporters can talk about the “real world” until they’re blue in the face; they’re the ones living in Bush’s fantasyland.
Struggling to find enough recruits to maintain the occupation, the military has poured billions of Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars into everything from more recruiters and new ad campaigns, to a video game and even a new reality TV show. Meanwhile, the Republicans are slashing social-support programs to make the military a more attractive “choice” for poor Americans, giving recruiters easier access to high school students’ personal information through a clause in the No Child Left Behind Act, and extending current soldiers’ tours through the aptly dubbed “back-door draft.” Yet, still desperate for troops, recruiters have had to resort to exaggeration, deception and outright lies in their attempts to sell the military to young people. By the government’s own admission, one of every five Army recruiters was investigated for impropriety last year alone.
How about “$70,000 for college”? Yeah, right. Only 35 percent of recruits get any GI Bill funds for college, and only 15 percent of enlistees ever receive a college degree. This is one of the reasons why veterans typically earn 11 percent to 19 percent less than other workers of similar backgrounds, and why the Veteran’s Administration estimates that one-third of all homeless Americans are veterans.
Other reasons for the plight of veterans include the physical and psychological costs of enlistment downplayed by recruiters.
In a recent survey, 30 percent of military women reported being raped or experiencing an attempted rape during their service, while 75 percent reported being sexually harassed. What’s more, both the rate and severity of domestic violence has been shown to be significantly higher in military families than within the general population. This grim reality garnered national attention in 2002 when four military wives at Fort Bragg were brutally murdered by their husbands within a six-week period. All of their husbands had served in Afghanistan.
“Duty, Honor and Country” may be admirable values, but under the direction of Bush and several other U.S. presidents, the military has repeatedly violated these ideals, with horrible consequences for all the courageous soldiers it has so shamefully exploited, our own society, and the larger world.
All across the country, a growing number of Americans are ready to put a stop to this abuse. With military enlistment already lagging and the Bushites aware that the reinstatement of the draft would be the best thing to ever happen to the anti-war movement, a national movement directed against military recruitment has the potential to do more than express Americans’ opposition to the war. It is our best chance to force Bush to withdraw our forces from Iraq.
Since the Counter-Recruitment Movement won’t develop winning power overnight, the earliest withdrawal that advocates of an immediate exit can expect to achieve could not occur any faster than the gradual withdrawal favored by the more moderate faction of the anti-war movement. Thus, there is no reason for the divided anti-war movement to be divided over counter recruitment.
Supporting our troops and the Iraqi people means putting an end to Bush’s occupation. Becoming a counter recruiter is the best way for you to help. So dust off your determination and get back out there.
Don’t let war supporters hold our troops hostage to Bush’s political agenda any longer! We’ve still got a war to stop.