The US military is bogged down in Iraq. It is overstretched throughout the world, and the US ruling elite needs more troops to do Corporate America’s dirty work. The rich and powerful certainly don’t want to send their own kids off to war, so they have intensified efforts to recruit working-class young people, especially people of color, into the military.
Military recruiters have even attempted to hijack hip-hop culture in order to recruit high school and college students. Young recruiters have set up “information tables” equipped with huge speakers blaring rap tunes. Trendy-looking army hats and tank tops are given to anyone who will give their personal information to the army. A hip-hop army recruitment tour was even set up with Nappy Roots headlining.
Military recruiters use gross exaggerations and outright lies to attract young people. They tell you that you’ll be given money for college if you join; what they don’t tell you is that to qualify for any of it, you have to pay a non-refundable $1,200 deposit to the military. Only one in three people who pay the deposit receive a penny in return.
Recruiters promise job training, but the training is designed for military jobs, not for jobs in the “real world.” 31% more veterans are unemployed than non-veterans.
New recruitment methods specifically target people of color, but they don’t tell you that racism is prevalent in the military. 75% of enlisted Blacks reported experiencing racially offensive behavior, according to a 1999 report.
The recruitment contract guarantees absolutely nothing regarding rights for the new recruit. The contract says, “laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice to me. Such changes may affect my status, pay, allowance, benefits, and responsibilities…regardless of the provisions of this enlistment agreement.” The signer is guaranteed nothing.
The lies and exaggerations mentioned above are only the tip of the iceberg. The ruling elite will resort to nearly anything to get working-class kids to fight wars to maintain the American Empire.
A small section of Congress (mostly Democrats) has even brought up reinstating the draft as a potential “solution.” A draft is not likely in the near future because it would provoke enormous political backlash. But we should organize now against the possibility of a future draft. This needs to be combined with a fight to get military recruiters off our schools and campuses.
During the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement got military recruiters kicked off many high school and college campuses. This was only achieved through mass campaigning, involving workers and people of color alongside students. Military recruiters were permanently banned at many schools, including the entire City University of New York system.
However, when reforms are won under capitalism, they are never permanent. When struggles die down, the rich and powerful always attack the gains won through struggle. Military recruiters now appear, more aggressive than ever, at high schools and colleges throughout the country.
Through Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, information about all high school students is now handed over automatically to military recruiters unless parents specifically request otherwise. No public school is currently allowed to ban military recruiters, but we can build a movement to kick them off our schools.
Students are beginning to organize around this issue. For example, a hundred people, many of them young people of color, gathered on May 22 at a church in a primarily black Brooklyn neighborhood to talk about military recruitment. The meeting was lively and energetic; connections were drawn between many issues affecting young people, such as unemployment, police harassment, and the occupation of Iraq.
Committees need to be formed in every high school and college where military recruiters are present. We should help educate young people about the lies of the recruiters. Counter-recruitment demonstrations, forums, and informational pickets need to be organized, with the aim of kicking the recruiters off our schools and campuses.