Counter Recruitment

This is the third and final installment in the American Warrior trilogy. Previous articles were on the need and recruitment of “warriors” into the US military ground forces.
Counter-recruitment is a strategy often taken up to oppose war. Counter-recruitment is an attempt to prevent military recruiters from enlisting civilians into the military. There are several methods commonly utilized in a counter-recruitment campaign, ranging from the political speech to direct action. Such a campaign can also target entities connected to the military, such as intelligence agencies, or private corporations, especially those with defense contracts.
Military recruitment and resistance to it has historically been a significant political issue in colonies of the British Empire. This is true in Ireland especially as the campaigns for independence from the British Empire intensified. The British Army raised many regiments from English colonies to fight in conflicts such as the Crimean War, World War I, and World War II. Irish songs opposing recruitment to the British army that date from the mid 1800s provide some evidence that this colonial policy was resisted – examples include Arthur McBride, Mrs. McGrath, and Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, which in part goes:

    With your guns and drums and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
    With your guns and drums and drums and guns, hurroo, hurroo
    With your guns and drums and drums and guns
    The enemy nearly slew ye
    Oh my darling dear, Ye look so queer
    Johnny I hardly knew ye.
    Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
    Where are your eyes that were so mild, hurroo, hurroo
    Where are your eyes that were so mild
    When my heart you so beguiled?
    Why did ye skedaddle from me and the child?
    Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.
    Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
    Where are your legs that used to run, hurroo, hurroo
    Where are your legs that used to run
    When you went for to carry a gun
    To be sure but your dancing days are done
    Oh Johnny, I hardly knew ye.

from Army of None:

    Uniformed U.S. Army Officers lunch with students in elementary school cafeterias. Army training programs including rifle and pistol instruction replace physical education in middle schools. Like never before, military recruiters are entering the halls of U.S. schools with unchecked access in an attempt to bolster a military in crisis.
    However, even as these destructive efforts to militarize youth accelerate, so do the creative and powerful efforts of students, community members, and veterans to challenge them. Today, the counter recruitment movement—from counseling to poetry slams to citywide lobbying efforts—has become one of the most practical ways to tangibly resist U.S. policy that cuts funding for education and social programs while promoting war and occupation. Without enough soldiers, the U.S. cannot sustain its empire.

There are many agencies devoted to counter-recruitment and GI resistance. Most of these agencies are involved in publicizing the rights of students to opt out of the Patriot Act program, passed by the Congress and enacted into law, which requires US secondary schools to provide the military with the names, addresses and phone numbers of students. Here are some of the agencies in the US and Canada:

    The American Friends Service Committee
    The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY)
    The National Network Opposing Militarization of Youth (NNOMY) will be integral in bringing our groups together so we can help the nation understand that providing youth with peaceful and viable alternatives to achieve success in life is an important sign of a civilized society.
    Operation Objection
    Seeing recruiters on Canadian campuses and in our communities is becoming a much more frequent occurrence. The peace and student movements need to meet this challenge head on. And that’s where counter-recruitment comes in.
    As opposition grows against the Iraq war, more forceful tactics and outright lies will be used by the military to recruit the hearts, minds and bodies of young people.With the U.S. Military’s multi-billion dollar advertising and recruitment budget, we must work to counter the false promises of military recruiters with creative, local, grassroots activism and offer real alternatives to military service.
    Courage to Resist
    Although the efforts of Courage to Resist are primarily focused on supporting public GI resisters, the organization also strives to provide political, emotional, and material support to all military objectors critical of our government’s current policies of empire.
    Grandmothers for Peace International
    In most cultures around the world, grandmothers are revered as the “keepers of the peace.” We are inspired and motivated by that fact, but realize that in today’s dangerous world we can no longer keep or promote peace by sitting in our rocking chairs!
    Iraq Veterans Against The War
    Truth in Recruiting: Every day, all across this country, there are military recruiters lying to persuade young people to sign up for the military. Proponents of the policy in Iraq are quick to point out that everyone in the military volunteered, but what does that mean if most soldiers were tricked into enlisting by the lies that recruiters tell?
    LA: Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools
    CAMS is an organization of students, activists, parents and teachers.
    Military Out of Our Schools
    CCCO’s Military Out of Our Schools Campaign works with people like you, local members of communities nationwide, to challenge recruiter’s access to schools and gain equal access to talk about the realities of military life and present alternatives to military service .
    Young people don’t have to join the military to learn valuable skills, find adventure, pay for college or serve others.
    Ruckus Society
    Not Your Soldier: The Not Your Soldier Project gives youth the tools they need to stop the military invasion of their schools and their communities.
    Student Peace Action Network
    We are a grassroots peace and justice organization working from schools across the United States. We organize for an end to the physical, social and economic violence caused by U.S. militarism.
    United For Peace
    It is time to participate in counter-recruitment campaigns in order to stop the harvesting of human beings.
    Veterans For Peace
    Members and chapters actively participate in efforts to save VA healthcare and defend of veterans’ rights; to protect our civil liberties threatened by the “Patriot Act” and other repressive legislation; to provide counseling through the GI Rights Hotline to active duty military needing assistance; and providing alternative information to counter military recruiters in the schools.
    War Resisters League
    The WRL’s Youth and Counter Militarism Project, based in New York City, provides young people with the resources and training necessary to agitate against military recruitment in their schools and communities.

The last words go to Smedley Butler:

    The Government declares war. To say helplessly: As individuals we have nothing to do with it, can’t prevent it. But who are we? Well, “we” right now are the mothers and fathers of every able-bodied boy of military age in the United States. “We” are also you young men of voting age and over, that they’ll use for cannon fodder. And “we” can prevent it. Now – you mothers, particularly. The only way you can resist all this war hysteria and beating tomtoms is by hanging onto the love you bear your boys. When you listen to some well-worded, well-delivered speech, just remember that it’s nothing but sound. It’s your boy that matters. And no amount of sound can make up to you for the loss of your boy. After you’ve heard one of those speeches and your blood’s all hot and you want to bite somebody like Hitler – go upstairs to where your boy’s asleep. . . . Look at him. Put your hand on that spot on the back of his neck. The place you used to love to kiss when he was a baby. Just rub it a little. You won’t wake him up, he knows it’s just you. Just look at his strong, fine young body because only the best boys are chosen for war. Look at this splendid young creature who’s part of yourself, then close your eyes for a moment and I’ll tell you what can happen . . .
    Somewhere – five thousand miles from home. Night. Darkness. Cold. A drizzling rain. The noise is terrific. All Hell has broken loose. A star shell burst in the air. Its unearthly flare lights up the muddy field. There’s a lot of tangled rusty barbed wires out there and a boy hanging over them – his stomach ripped out, and he’s feebly calling for help and water. His lips are white and drawn. He’s in agony.
    There’s your boy. The same boy who’s lying in bed tonight. The same boy who trusts you. . . . Are you going to run out on him? Are you going to let someone beat a drum or blow a bugle and make him chase after it? Thank God, this is a democracy and by your voice and your vote you can save your boy. (from a 1939 broadcast)

Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket.

5 thoughts on “Counter Recruitment”

  1. Excellent. Important work and my favorite genre of Irish songs.
    My favorite is Arthur McBride in response to the promise of material comfort and spiffy uniforms from the sergeant:
    “Says Arthur, “I wouldn’t be proud of your clothes.
    For you’ve only the the lend of them now I suppose.
    And you daren’t change them one night for you know
    if you do you’ll be flogged in the morning.”
    But Mrs McGrath is the grimmer warning: “Those two fine legs were your mother’s pride. Stumps of a tree won’t do at all: why didn’t you run from the cannonball?”

  2. Among the more poignant of Kipling’s poems
    From Barry Wood to Gouzeaucourt,
    From Boyne to Pilkem Ridge,
    The ancient days come back no more
    Than water under the bridge
    But the bridge it stands and the water runs
    As red as yesterday,
    And the Irish move to the sound of the guns
    Like salmon to the sea.
    _Old Days! The wild geese are ranging,
    Head to the storm as they faced it before!
    For where there are Irish their hearts are unchanging,
    And when they are changed, it is Ireland no more!
    Ireland no more!_

    His son was killed in the early days of the war and his body never found.
    The record tells of the Irish Fusiliers in August 1914, of the deserters and absentees flocking in from the hills on word of mobilisation and of the officers regularising the records before marching the battalions away.

  3. One of the most haunting songs I’ve ever heard was a bluegrass song which I am unable to locate. I can’t do it justice, but I can give you the gist of it. A man goes to a train station and is greeted there by the stationmaster.
    stationmaster: Hello, Sir. Why are you at the station this fine morning?
    man: My son’s coming home from the war.
    sm: But sir, the passenger platform’s over there. You’re standing on the freight dock.
    m: I know. My son went out as a passenger but he’s coming home as freight.

  4. I used to get regularly pounded by Helena and others for posting poetry in this forum, but I do appreciate the contributions that others have made here in verse. I consider them quite appropriate. For my part, I recently re-read Shelley’s immortal sonnet, “Ozymandias,” and meditated upon it in conjunction with events now becoming all-too intolerable in the Gaza Strip. So, I tried my own hand at Shelley’s particular fourteen-line format and came up with “Cozy, Scandalous.”
    For a more extended re-capitulation of the now-thankfully-departing Deputy Dubya Bush administration (a.k.a., the Dick Cheney Shogunate Regency), I think “A Munificent Travesty” pretty much covers the debacle.
    If I thought Peace had a chance, I’d say so. But as long as the incoming President Obama can still begin sentences with “Israel has the right to …”, then I can’t. Good luck to all Peace protesters and poets, though. We’ll need it.

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