No More Soldiers, No More Wars: New Resources for Countering Military Recruitment
Janine Schwab staffs the Youth & Militarism Program at the American Friends Service Committee, and is one of the organizers of "Stopping War Where it Begins: Organizing Against Militarism in Our Schools," a conference held July 17-19, 2009, in Chicago, IL (www.afsc.org/youth&militarism).
As antiwar activism shifts into different gears, it is still
vital to counter military recruitment and promote nonviolent opportunities
for youth. Several recently published resources can help us in
Camouflaged: Investigating How the US military Affects You and Your Community (A Resource Guide created by the New York Collective of Radical Educators); Edwin Mayorga, Bree Picower, and Seth Rader, eds.; $19.50 paperback; $10 download www.nycore.org
Companion DVD Military Myths produced by Paper Tiger TV and the War Resisters League, 28 mins; $175 to institutions; $25 to activist organizations and individuals; www.papertiger.org
Camouflaged is one of the only cross-curriculum resources to offer educators in-class units on US military policy and the role of military recruitment in young people's lives. (Another good source to check out is the Los Angeles Coalition for Alternatives to Militarism in our Schools at www.militaryfreeschools.org/curric.htm). Camouflaged incorporates math, history, civics, media literacy, and culture studies units. There are two distinct sections in this expanded and updated curriculum.
The first section is a series of classroom lessons that can be used together or as single-subject exercises. The lessons are presented with clear instructions and supporting documentation. There is a mock congressional hearing exercise devoted to the Dream Act (which would provide some undocumented immigrant high school graduates temporary permanent residency, making it far easier to attend US colleges, but would also create an incentive to undocumented immigrant students to join the US military as a path to US citizenship). Capping off this section is an exercise that helps students develop their own plan for school-based social action. However, some of the lessons may be somewhat difficult to use outside of a classroom setting.
The second section of Camouflaged incorporates NYCoRE's companion curriculum to the film Military Myths, which was originally produced as a response to the racist, sexist, and homophobic practices of the US military and to abusive recruiting practices. The film has been modestly updated in the almost ten years since it was produced, but still does not include interviews specific to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some activists, especially those working with high school aged youth of color, still like to use this film despite that limitation. Indeed, because it does not focus on current wars, it covers some of the issues associated with the recruitment process and military life in general with greater clarity than some recent titles that focus more narrowly on the US war in Iraq.
NYCoRe's curriculum parallels this emphasis of Military Myths but expands on areas that are more technical, such as having the students dissect the military enlistment contract (provided for photocopying). It also provides important media literacy skills exercises. The curriculum does a particularly good job of explaining the meaning and history of US military interventionism, and encouraging students to develop their own ideas about the morality and ethics of war, including the war in Iraq.
In addition to classroom use, counter-recruiters will find parts
of the curriculum useful in community presentations. The second
section, which focuses on specific skills training for evaluating
military recruitment myths and realities, is very useful.
YES to the Troops, NO to the Wars: Quaker House, 40 Years of Front-Line Peace Witness; Chris McCallum, Chuck Fager, eds.; 244 pages $15.95 Available from www.quakerhouse.org
Quaker House was founded in 1969 by North Carolina Quakers who sought to witness for peace "on the front lines" of resistance to the US war against Vietnam. Quakers set up shop in a small house in the heart of heavily militarized Fayetteville, where Fort Bragg is located.
Similar centers of GI resistance (generically referred to as GI coffeehouses) were being founded all over the country at that time, a phenomenon detailed in the documentary film Sir, No Sir. Unlike other centers, Quaker House endured beyond the confines of that heady time and is still in operation today. Contemporary activists countering military recruitment will recognize Quaker House as a force in the Truth in Recruitment movement (Quaker House is behind the popular "Sergeant Abe the Honest Recruiter" handouts) and for its key role in the GI Resistance and GI Rights movements (many contemporary war resisters passed through Quaker House, either personally or by phone via the GI Rights Hotline).
The story is told compellingly through the recollections of the
staff members who have lived and worked in Quaker House. Since
staff were encouraged to shift the house mission based on personal
interest and the needs of the time, Quaker House became a highly
adaptive institution. During "peacetime," issues
that had long been lurking in the shadow, such as domestic violence
on military bases and the abuse of gay and lesbian service members,
could be explored more deeply. The lesson of YES to the Troops,
NO to the Wars for today's counter-recruitment and
anti-militarism activists is that war and militarism endure even
when wars end. Quaker House is an example of what we can accomplish
when we root ourselves in our communities working long-term to
promote nonviolent opportunities for youth while reaching out
to military personnel.
Soldiers of Conscience (film);85 mins; Luna Productions, 2007
Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for counter-recruiters to use feature-length films with young people. The movies are either simply too long for classroom use. It is worth finding creative ways to solve this problem, however, as there are several notable feature-length films produced recently that could be put to excellent use -- Sir, No Sir, The Ground Truth, and Arlington West all come to mind. Soldiers of Conscience is a quieter film that seeks to examine essential questions of conscience in warfare -- what should a soldier do if she or he comes to realize that war is a crime? Filmed with the permission of the US Army, it features interviews with both active-duty critics of conscientious objection and war resisters who were spurred to conscientious objection through their experience of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conscientious objectors provide moving testimony about their actions in combat zones and their thought processes as they decided to renounce participation in war. While the resisters in particular are eloquent, the filmmakers only profiled male conscientious objectors. The film also falsely sets up the moral argument between total objectors (i.e. pacifists) and military personnel who seem to fully accept the actions of the military and their role in it. Neither US law nor the film recognizes the tens of thousands of selective objectors who object to particular wars or particular military actions.
The Houston Scandal
We also recommend that counter-recruitment activists take a look
at the unfolding stories surrounding the troubled Houston recruiting
battalion. Beginning in 2005, a series of scandals has rocked
the battalion, including the suicides of four recruiters, each
traced to the abusive pressure on recruiters to meet their production
quotas (see "Why Are Army Recruiters Killing Themselves?"
by Mark Thompson, Time Magazine, April 2, 2009).
Unfortunately, these abuses are endemic. Peacework has
collected and posted at its website a set of links to videos in
which military recruiters are caught on tape lying and misleading
potential enlistees (see www.peaceworkmagazine.org/blog/military-recruiting-abuses-tape).
International Conscientious Objection Day 2009: South Korea