May 3, 2004
With the growing U.S. casualties from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, re-enlistment rates in the U.S. military and national guard are going down. The Army tries to hide it, but the fact that it blocked the departure of 24,000 active duty soldiers ready to quit tells the story.
So the U.S. military is making an ever bigger push to nab students, especially those coming out of the working class high schools.
These recruitment efforts are being mounted on many fronts.
First, recruiters are calling high school students more and more incessantly, whether or not the students had ever spoken to a recruiter. The military gets these names from the schools themselves. Tucked away in the 2001 "No Child Left Behind" bill that was supposed to make Bush the "education president," is a clause that stipulates that all public high schools must supply the names of all juniors and seniors to the U.S. military – or else lose their federal funding.
Besides that, military recruiters regularly visit high schools, with the usual manipulations, lies and appeals. Nowadays, the recruiters don't come alone. They come with military bands, huge F-16 flight simulators that the students can play with, etc.
And then, of course, there are the ongoing JROTC programs that are in all the working class high schools but in few of the high schools serving the middle and upper class communities.
In Los Angeles, in many working class high schools, students, teachers and parents are organizing against all these efforts. Some teachers have formed a group called Coalition Against Militarism in our Schools. They held a conference in February. And they are going to hold another one on May 8.
According to the L.A. Times, the February conference was attended by about 150 people. One of the speakers was Fernando Suarez del Solar, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar, was killed in the early days of the U.S. war in Iraq. Said Suarez of the military recruitment, "This is a conscious plan on the part of the government to drive our students out of the schools and drive them into the military to take part in the death and destruction."
The purpose of these groups, they say, is to expose the military, and counter the myths and lies that are being told to get them to join. Today students and teachers are grappling with how to deal with the concrete life and death issues that the war poses for them.