By David Swanson
There is something else we can try. If you’ve given up on staging marches and rallies, or if – like me – you haven’t but you want to try something else as well, and if you’ve given up on lobbying Congress as pointless, or if – like me – you haven’t but you want to try something else as well, and if educating your fellow citizens as to exactly how completely corrupt the whole system is seems like an incomplete answer, and if staging a general strike or taking over the capital only seems like a good idea if you can get millions of others to join you, there is another approach that can be taken right away by a single person, a small group, or a crowd.
You can counter recruit, counter the corporate war profiteers, and counter the media. Talking to high school and college students and career counselors about the reality of the military, done at the smallest or largest scale, helps to deny the military the troops it needs to occupy foreign lands and kill. Of course, the military pushes back, raising the top age for recruits (now at 42), promising bigger bonuses (now at $50,000), and lowering various qualifications. Ultimately, the military can push back by instituting a draft. But that could also lead to much greater resistance. Corporations profiting from the pretended “reconstruction” of Iraq, from the control of Iraq’s oil, and from the use of weapons and mercenaries, can be protested and influenced. Bechtel chose to stop bidding on contracts in Iraq rather than endure further protest. And the media can be resisted through the creation and promotion of independent media, through criticism and protest, and through campaigns targeting advertisers.
A guide to engaging in these tactics and training others to do so is found in a new book called “Army of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War, and Build a Better World,” by Aimee Allison and David Solnit: http://ww.couragetoresist.org/armyofnone They present this approach, as everyone on the left always presents their approach, as the only one of any use. I disagree. I think the various approaches work together. I think the marching and lobbying help move the public to the point where more people will resist recruitment. I think countering recruitment helps recruit peace activists of all sorts. And I think that we have to model democratic behavior as part of defining a vision for the future, if nothing else. We have to publicly demand the behavior we want from our elected officials if only to deny them the argument that we never asked. And we have to envision a world in which one day citizens are able to influence politicians directly.
Most of “Army of None” is devoted to counter recruitment, and the book makes an ideal guide for anyone interested in that project. Among other things, it provides the basic facts about the usual lies recruiters tell. For one thing, most recruits won’t actually get $50,000 or anything close to it. In fact, nothing a recruiter promises a recruit means anything at all, because every military contract includes these lines:
“Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice to me. Such changes may affect my status, pay allowances, benefits, and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces REGARDLESS of the provisions of this enlistment / re-enlistment document.”
In other words, the rest of the contract means nothing, and only those two sentences and a signature actually matter. The rest, like much of what comes out of recruiters’ mouths, is lies. The New York Times reported that one in five U.S. Army recruiters was under investigation in 2004 for offenses ranging from “threats and coercion to false promises that applicants would not be sent to Iraq.”
In addition to educating potential recruits and assisting them in finding more positive career options, citizens can actively counter recruitment by protesting or impeding recruiting operations. One of the more creative ways to do this is for that dwindling portion of the population that is not qualified for recruitment to attempt to enlist. Raging Grannies and other groups of women have tied up recruiting stations and attracted attention by attempting to sign up, refusing to leave, and risking arrest. What are the raging grandfathers waiting for?
Although “Army of None” does not suggest it, I would recommend another tactic as well. Get to know the recruiters and offer to help them with their job. Take a stack of brochures and blank contracts from them. And whenever you encounter a pro-war demonstrator, offer to help them sign up. “Hey Hey What about you? You look under 42!” is a chant that has been known to silence the most obnoxious voices. The point is not, of course, to actually recruit anyone, but to expose the hypocrisy of war proponents and call attention to the question of exactly who is being recruited.
If you want to get involved in countering recruitment and in supporting members of the military who refuse to serve in illegal wars of aggression, go to http://www.couragetoresist.org
To get involved in this movement face-to-face, check out the following upcoming events:
Veterans for Peace Convention
August 15-19 in St. Louis
Book Release and Project Kick-Off for “Army of None”
August 30 in Oakland, Calif., 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Club Oasis, 135 12th Street
Week of action in Washington, D.C.
September 15: March and massive die-in
September 16: truth in recruiting training and congressional lobbying training
September 17 National Truth in Recruiting Day
September 18 Congressional Challenge Day
There is actually a major peace event planned for Washington, D.C., for just about every day in September. This has caused a lot of people great distress, judging from the Emails I get asking me to combine all the events into one day (as if I had some way to do that!), but I think the variety of the ongoing events may be advantageous. We’ll try to keep track of them all here: http://afterdowningstreet.org/events