Reviews | The Army to America’s Youth: You Belong to Me


Oh, children!

They belong to us, says the Ministry of Defense. At least some of them do.

The Pentagon knows that student debt, or even poverty in general, is not enough to keep recruits flowing.

It’s a little more complicated than before, thanks to one of the changes that occurred in 1973, a year of surprising historical significance. It was the year of the Roe v Wade decision and, oh yeah, the Watergate hearings (remember that?). But there was more. The United States, tangled militarily in the Vietnam quagmire and increasingly torn on the home front by protests, was about to concede defeat in Nam and get the hell out of the ravaged country. Before that, the military-industrialists made a pragmatic decision. They got rid of the project.

The idea was to silence the protesters by stripping them of their personal interest in American militarism. The term emerging then was the “Vietnam Syndrome” – people were fed up with the war. Oh oh ! Big deal for the defense industry and all the crawling politicians beholden to it. Patriotism itself was poisoned. People began to call for deep national change, including (God help us) an end to the war. Was the anti-war movement becoming the new patriotism?

Ending the draft turned out to be the right decision pragmatically. From a public relations perspective, the army could boast of its reliance on an “all-volunteer” army. Long live patriotism! It’s as ignorant as ever. But quietly, secretly, the military had to make some changes to its recruiting procedures to ensure it still got enough boys (and girls) for . . . as they would say, of course, keep the country safe.

As far as I can tell, their new approach to recruiting had two main focal points. One of them was making full use of the poverty draft – sucking in young people from poor and disadvantaged families, marketing conscription as their gateway to middle-class financial freedom. The second way was to capture the minds of would-be conscripts while they were still children: by introducing them to real-world militarism through video games and high school shooters, officially known as JROTC.

The nature of the poverty bill recently made headlines when 19 members of the Republican House signed a letter to President Biden expressing concern over his decision to begin partially canceling student debt. They warned him:

“By forgiving such a wide range of loans to borrowers, you remove any leverage that the Department of Defense maintained as one of the quickest and easiest ways to pay for higher education.”

Watch out, Joe! Giving everyone equal financial opportunities may sound nice, but it can screw up the system.

As Thomas Gokey, an organizer of the Debt Collective, which works for debt cancellation, said, according to Vice: “Debt is a form of social control. You can force people to do all sorts of things if you put them in debt first. , including waging unjust wars, killing and injuring others, and risking (their) own lives and limbs.”

He also pointed out, as Vice notes, that “colleges often benefit enormously from the GI Bill financially, giving them an incentive to support campus recruiting.”

Debt as leverage, a form of social control – how come children don’t say these words when they recite the oath of allegiance? But the Pentagon knows that student debt, or even poverty in general, is not enough to keep recruits flowing. Having been a boy who was totally gonzo about playing war – pretend die, pretend kill – I can relate to how children (well, boys) of all economic strata are a market that could potentially grow. to attract recruiters.

For example, the Army ran a video game website for 20 years called America’s Army, which apparently succeeded in attracting the attention of young people. It started in 2002 (in preparation for our impending invasion of Iraq, perhaps?) And, although it was discontinued earlier this year, the military and other military branches continue their involvement in competitive video games and electronic sports. Not that it stops there, mind you. And it’s not just a game. Recruiters aren’t just on college campuses. They are also in our secondary schools, especially those in desperate need of funding. JRTC is where the rough draft of poverty meets the cool-looking crowd of war.

Sylvia McGauley, a teacher in a poor school district outside of Portland, Oregon, described her school as the “perfect prey for military recruiters who earn points filling poverty draft coffers.” These words are taken from an essay written in 2014 and published by Rethinking Schools, titled “The Military Invasion of My High School”. It’s not pretty.

She writes about her school’s JROTC program, which she describes as “a school within a school.”

“JROTC is not about education. But by housing recruiters and JROTC in public schools and giving them white card privileges, we provide them with a cloak of legitimacy. Militarism was one of the Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘giant triplets’ of societal destruction (as well as racism and extreme materialism), but today it emerges as a legitimate part of the education system – most often in underfunded schools.”

Not only did the JROTC give students access to weapons training, and even, in partnership with the NRA, sponsored marksmanship matches – in stark contrast to the school’s adoption of the resolution non-violent conflict, including its commitment to restorative justice and peer mediation – it has made its way into real classrooms. Through courses called Leadership Education Training, JROTC instructors taught. . . uh, history, or a scripted version by the Pentagon, in which, she notes, argues that “the sole cause of the Vietnam War was the containment of communism” and that the United States “entered at war in Iraq as part of their global war on terror.” Period.

Propaganda, in other words. Not in any way the actual story.

Add it all up and the picture starts to get pretty scary. The US military needs more than money (about a trillion dollars) in its annual budget. He must also have access to young Americans, both their wallets and their minds.


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