The Battle for the Bodies of America's
Army Admits It Will Miss More
Recruiting Goals as Counter-Recruitment Efforts Gear Up
by Kevin B. Zeese
Democracy Rising, www.democracyrising.us
Counter-recruitment has become a key battleground
in the effort to stop the war in Iraq and prevent future military
adventures by President Bush and a compliant Congress. Today,
the U.S. Army admitted that it expects to miss its recruiting
goals this month and next and is working on a revised sales pitch
appealing to the patriotism of parents. Last week, nationwide
demonstrations kicked off in Washington, DC including an event
at an Army recruitment center and in many cities demonstrations
were held outside of recruitment offices.
The Army keeps saying it is planning no
return of the draft, but more and more commentators are seeing
the choice for the U.S. government might become - withdraw from
Iraq or enact a military draft. The Army has already increased
the "backdoor draft" announcing today that more people
in the Individual Ready Reserve - those no longer in uniform and
not obligated to train - are going to be called up for duty.
Last month the Army missed its recruiting
goal by 27 percent. The first time it had missed a monthly goal
since May 2000. As of February 28, the regular Army was 6 percent
below the number of recruits it had expected to sign up at that
point in the recruiting year, the Army Reserve was 10 percent
off and the Army National Guard was 25 percent off.
Today, the Army admitted it is forecasting
that all three elements active duty military, Guard and Reserve
will fall short of their targets for March and April. Summer will
become the key season for the military to reach its goal and for
anti-war activists to increase anti-recruitment efforts. The Army
has increased recruiters by 33 percent and anti-war activists
are gearing up to respond.
The Army announced it plans some new approaches.
One is designed to persuade more parents to steer their children
to the Army by appealing to their patriotism. This may include
an advertising campaign. In addition, Members of Congress are
being drafted into assisting with recruitment. In my county, Montgomery
County, Maryland, liberal Congressman Chris Van Hollen has already
announced that he will be holding a session on April 18th for
9th to 11th graders to introduce them to military colleges. We
plan to be there providing students with information about the
truth of military service.
The Army is going to face some serious
problems in its recruiting drive. The most obvious - the war
is not going well. A majority of Americans now oppose the war
and it is unclear for what purpose we are occupying Iraq. Second,
the corporate war profiteering - some of it directly related to
Bush family members - is getting more evident to the public. Many
believe, with good reason, that the Iraq occupation is being conducted
for U.S. corporate interests. If the corporate interests are
using the war for unfair profits, including over billing of U.S.
taxpayers and not being patriotic - then why should anyone else
put their lives on the line?
Finally, information about the dishonesty
of recruiters is becoming widely known. There are numerous websites
available to the public that provide the facts to people of recruitment
age. Here are a few challenges to recruitment myths:
- Despite the stated length of enlistment
(usually four years), recruits can be kept in the military indefinitely,
or called back from the reserves many years later as is being
seen with the current back door draft.
- Recruiters promise training that will
lead to better jobs in civilian life. But several careful studies
show that veterans typically earn 12% to 15% less than those workers
who do not go into the military.
- College benefits are a great exaggeration;
because of all the small print requirements to receive college
benefits only 15 percent ever receive a college degree -- only
35% receive GI bill funds for college. Indeed, the average participant
actually receives less money than a student whop simply receives
a Pell Grant and a Stafford Loan.
On top of those false statements, some
truths are often not discussed:
- Women in the military face a very high
incidence of harassment and rape.
- Military life is very hard on families
with the incidence of family abuse and violence three to five
times higher than in the civilian population.
- The hazards of military service include
more than just getting killed or wounded. For instance, less
than 300 US soldiers were killed in the first Gulf War of 1991.
But tens of thousands of Gulf War vets have reported chronic,
debilitating physical and psychological disorders since serving
in the Gulf.
Finally, the fine print on the back of
the recruitment contract makes it clear that no promise made has
to be kept. The Military Enlistment/Reenlistment contract states:
"The following statements are not promises or guarantees
of any kind. They explain some of the present laws affecting the
Armed Forces which I cannot change but which Congress can change
at any time." Indeed, as veterans well know -- benefits
promised have been repeatedly cut, with more reductions on the
Rather than PR campaigns, confusing people
with calls to patriotism and advertising the military needs to
re-evaluate its programs and the United States to reconsider it's
war based approach to foreign relations. The public is getting
wise to their racket and is going to refuse to be fooled by their
Kevin Zeese is a director of Democracy
Rising. You can comment on this column at his blog www.DemocracyRising.US
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