Military Recruitment & Target Populations

June 28, 2007

Since the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy became law over 11,000 service members have been kicked out of the military for their sexuality. The number of service members who have left on their own volition, or have decided not to re-enlist is not documented (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) . Yet, the U.S. military has expressed an impassioned plea through a recent Associated Press Article; they are desperate to increase their diversity.

Citing recruitment numbers the military estimates that the number of black folks enlisting is down by over a third since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One military recruiter after another list the myriad of reasons why recruitment among African Americans is down:

  1. Marine Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, “The daily death toll that comes out… that’s probably the single most dominant feature.”
  2. Pentagon Official Gilroy said, the improving economy is giving potential recruits more opportunities for better paying jobs outside the military.
  3. He goes on to say, “We hear greater criticism of this administration’s policies and greater concerns about the effects of the war… {he wants black leaders to} “Talk about the nobility of service.”
  4. Sgt. Terry Wright, an Army recruiter in Tampa, Fla., “I go to high schools every day, and for the most part it strikes me how many of them are serious about going to college.”
  5. Pentagon Official Gilroy, “because of the makeup of African-American families and the relatively more significant roles (the families) play, moms have a greater influence on their families. And we know that moms, in general, do not support the war.

“The decline in black recruits overall has been offset partly by an increase in Hispanic recruits and those who classify themselves as other races or nationalities” (Associated Press).

Can we take a step back and deconstruct this for a second? Based on these quotes it seems like military recruiters are having a difficult time with their jobs because there are simply not enough poor black folks from single parent homes left to recruit. They all have other opportunities, are not dedicated to service – or they died in combat already. Not once in this entire article are these men and women framed as agents of their own future. No one mentions the black high school student pacifist, or the potential recruit who is open to service outside of the military machine. There is certainly no mention of the affluent black folk who live outside of the ‘target’ population.

If you need further proof that the military is targeting oppressed peoples – read between the lines. It is not just a population surge that has increased the number of Hispanic recruits. They ran out of black folks and they are moving on to brown folks of all shades. As long as that brown person is not gay, of course. Watch the story of one Arabic translator who was fired from the Navy for being gay:

The U.S. military is turning away thousands of homosexuals so they can target people of color in low income neighborhoods and then go to the Associated Press to trumpet how important diversity is!

I believe, whole heartedly, in the power of service to change the world. I believe in diversity. I am fuming because these words are twisted to target low-income, heterosexual, minorities into going to war. The Student Peace Action Network (SPAN) is, for me, a better way for diverse groups of people to serve their country. SPANs primary mission is to protect privacy rights. Recent actions by SPAN affiliates target ‘no child left behind’. Under this law every high school graduates’ name and contact information is submitted to military recruiters unless they make a consorted effort to ‘opt out.’ SPAN activists all over this nation are organizing to put an end to this process and stop the military from targeting our teens. Now that is a service to our nation and its future.

By: Barbra Bearden

Eli Israel, US Soldier, Declines to further Participate in the Occupation.

June 25, 2007

SPC Eli IsraelDeclaring that “we [USA] are now violating the people of this country [Iraq] in ways that we would never accept on our own soil”, SPC Eli Israel told his commanding officer that he would no longer play a ‘combat role’ in this conflict or ‘protect corporate representatives.’ That same day [June 19, 2007] Eli wrote a letter to a friend saying that they have taken his decision as ‘violating a direct order’ and has asked that friend to tell everyone about his situation for fear that he might ‘disappear’.

You can read the story at the Iraq Veterans Agianst the War website as well as a shortened version on our Student Peace Action Network website.

Eli became morally opposed to the war after he saw what the United States was doing in and to Iraq. He took a courageous step in defying his commanding officer. Moreover, his actions affirm the feelings of U.S. veterans and active service members all over the world – they’ve risked their lives and shattered a nation under false pretense. Millions are against this war, but a soldier openly rejecting the occupation of Iraq is something that the government cannot ignore.

Eli will most likely be court-martialed (to be tried for an offense by a military court) for breaking military law by disobeying direct orders. According to precedent set at the Nürenburg trails, a solider can only act according to what he or she believes to be right, and accept the consequences of either following or disobeying orders. SPC Israel is taking a stand where so many Nazi war criminals did not by examining the orders he has been given and questioning their morality. His actions are protected by international law – let’s make sure we protect him here.

The military will try to silence this story; we cannot let them. We can also not allow the illegal mistreatment of this soldier, Eli Israel – please spread the word. Contact his Senator, Mitch McConnell, and encourage him to fend for this soldier’s rights against any illegal retaliation.

‘What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.” – On the Duty of Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau

Hip Hop, Habeas & Building a Movement

June 22, 2007

Tuesday night I had the privilege to see Dead Prez and a host of other Hip Hop artists perform at the “Shut it Down, Stop the Torture” concert sponsored by the Hip Hop Caucus the ACLU and Amnesty International. The concert was organized to promote a national mobilization to reaffirm habeas corpus back on June 26th. The focus of this event will be stopping the terrorism the Bush regime is meting out U.S. and foreign citizens within our boarders, at Guantanamo, and throughout the world.


Tuesday was a powerful night of education, rhyme, philosophy, beats, justice, and peace – there was even a little Go-Go. I love Hip Hop, and especially Dead Prez for their poetry and lessons. What struck me the most? Intertwined with messages against torture and for the protection of civil liberties were messages from the ghetto. One song, Genocide, was not about Darfur. It was about the life of a man of color in a white world and the struggle to survive. I found myself screaming, “white people, give back the world.”


My education, both institutional and experiential, has consistently brought one reoccurring lesson to my quest for peace and justice: no one person or movement stands alone. When I think about our history, the people’s history of the United States, the one thing that still gives me chills is the collaboration between movements in the 1960’s. Then I ask myself – why don’t I see this collaboration now? Why are there so few people of color at massive demonstrations where a sea of white faces and Birkenstocks demand global justice? Why were there so few white people at the DC voting rights rally where U.S. citizens demanded the most basic of our inalienable rights? (DC is predominantly a ‘chocolate city’ – many people believe that this is a substantial reason why we have not been given the vote).


Inevitably when I think about issues around race, class, gender, and sexual preference I must first examine myself. I have never been to a community meeting in my minority white neighborhood where I am a sign of gentrification. I kept my Massachusetts residency for as long as possible to maintain my representational vote in Congress. I am a person of both privilege and oppression. I am, like all of us, some what racist, classist, sexist, and heterocentric. I try to engage these issues in my daily life, but, like all of us, find it difficult to overcome, but, so important to strive to overcome — to sing, “We shall overcome” like the great leaders of the 60’s once did.


As I read, write, and pontificate about peace and justice I see myriad problems brought to our world due to a lack of peace and justice. A Turkish woman is persecuted for covering her head with a hijab. A black man can’t get a cab because it’s assumed he doesn’t know how to tip. Refugees from the West Bank and Gaza desperate for shelter are refused because their ethnicity and religion mark them as terrorists. A Thai woman is overlooked for a promotion because her boss can’t see the authority and passion that lies outside his myopic understanding of her culture. On and on the desire to deny our personal struggles with ‘isms’ leads us further from overcoming them together.

I want to challenge you and myself to step outside of our comfort zones. To invite those who you feel would never come, and to go to them if they don’t show up to your event. To open your heart to the idea that as long as we persecute each other as individuals we will perpetuate the system that oppresses us all. Without harnessing the strength of our diversity and numbers we will never stop war. Without utilizing the ideas of all peoples we’ll never unseat the corporate machine. Without investing in the future of all our children we will never see justice in our world. Only when we do all of these things, will the demands of the peace majority be met.

By Barbra J. Bearden

One Step Forward and Two Steps Back: The U.S. Nuclear Policy

June 20, 2007

By: Barbra J. Bearden

We’ve had some great news in the past few months regarding non-proliferation and disarmament. Experts and activists agree that an amazing resurgence of the anti-nuclear movement, one not seen since the late days of the Cold War, is in part responsible for checking the Bush administration’s efforts to reinvigorate U.S. nuclear capabilities. This mobilization began with the fight against the ‘bunker buster” and “mini nukes.” Now, we are winning the fight against “reliable replacement warheads” (RRW) and the poorly conceived “complex 2030.” The House zeroed out funding for these White House initiatives and, hopefully, the Senate will follow.

At Peace Action, we are proud to be a part of this movement – prouder still that our efforts to mobilize citizens against nuclear weapons may become an archaic part of our mission. I received a story from the Associated Press trumpeting the success of the negotiations, lead by the U.S., with North Korea to shut down the county’s nuclear reactor. “Clearly, we’ve made a turn over the weekend…We’re away from these banking issues, back onto denuclearization issues (Associated Press).” The banking issues U.S. nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill is referring to are centered on U.S. foreign aid money promised to North Korea in exchange for disarmament back in February of this year. After an extensive debate over which state should take action first the U.S. finally agreed to free up the aid funds on the promise that North Korea would dismantle their reactor “within this year.”

Despite our government’s abhorrence of nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea we are still the most heavily armed nuclear power in the world. We are still first among nuclear proliferators – most recently assisting India in obtaining nuclear materials. Sadly, among our citizenry is a select group who believe that U.S. control of nuclear weapons is not only inevitable but necessary.

Frank Gaffney, of the Washington Times, said “once the technology to build nuclear weapons became widely available, there was no way to stuff the nuclear genie back in the bottle.” Thomas D’Agostino, deputy administrator for defense programs at the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, said he was committed to funding RRW next year. It seems, despite the will of the people, and the commitment of our representatives, those whose careers are invested in nuclear weapons would like to stay that way. Department of Energy bureaucrats claim the bolstering of funds for nuclear armament in the U.S. and throughout the former Soviet Union is intended to thwart the “desire of al Qaeda ad other terrorist groups to gain nuclear weapons or improvised nuclear devices.”

What logic are these people following? Somehow they believe that investing new resources in nuclear sites will be more effective in preventing their ill use than eliminating them all together. I am not suggesting that expanding the Cooperative Threat Reduction program geographically is a bad idea. I simply own up to one fact – horizontal proliferation (across borders) isn’t the only kind; vertical proliferation (expanded nuclear capabilities within one country) can put the world at just as great a risk . With this in mind, our successes in North Korea are nullified by our own nuclear program.

Perhaps other countries might follow the U.S. non-proliferation model. If the U.S. can use economic exploitation to force a country like North Korea to disarm – some other country could do it to force us. A country like China, which is heavily invested in U.S. trade deficits could pull those investments and cripple the U.S. economy until we submit to disarmament of our nuclear weapons. Of course China will never do this, but, not because they are more benevolent than the U.S. in their foreign policy. They will never enact a policy to hurt trade relations with the U.S. because our love of cheap clothing and nick nacks fuels their own economy.

But it is an interesting thought. If the U.S. was not the global powerhouse it became after WWII what would our foreign policy look like? Would we still insist that some countries can and should have nuclear weaponry while others are terrorist states because they seek out a nuclear policy? Would we send our military all over the globe to unseat internationally recognized governments in the pursuit of resources or ideological interests? Or, would we fear invasion by a foreign army unhappy with our current regime? It’s just something to think about.

Oil Will Keep the U.S. in Iraq

June 18, 2007

This is a re-publication of a published letter to the editor from the Washington Post
Sunday, June 17, 2007; Page B06

The June 10 front-page article “Military Envisions Longer Stay in Iraq” provided much useful information regarding a planned long-term U.S. military occupation in Iraq, but it failed to give a reason why 40,000 or more U.S. troops might be there for decades.

The answer is surely oil interests. Last month Congress passed a bill continuing funding for the Iraq war with a “benchmark” provision threatening suspension of reconstruction funds if Iraq’s government fails to enact a law opening up its oil industry to privatization, something no other oil-rich Middle Eastern country has done. Predictably, this idea is vigorously opposed by many in the Iraqi parliament and the oil workers union.

No one should be shocked to learn that U.S. elites plan a long military presence in Iraq on behalf of oil interests; even less surprising will be the American and Iraqi peoples’ resounding rejection of such a project. People in Iraq and the region already think the United States is there because of oil. Is there any logical reason to think this will change, and that four years of fierce resistance to our occupation will magically dissolve, especially as our long-term plans become clear?

Executive Director
Peace Action Education Fund

Silver Spring

Our Leaders should stress Peace and Diplomacy in Iran and not War

June 14, 2007

Last Sunday on Face the Nation, Sen. Joe Lieberman said. “If they don’t play by the rules, we’ve got to use our force, and to me that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they’re doing.” He spoke of 200 U.S. soldiers whose deaths, he believes, can be directly attributed to Iranian forces working inside of Iraqi boarders. I won’t examine the validity of this argument but rather deconstruct the neo-liberal thinking which perpetuates violence in our world.

The idea that we can specifically target the camps where these Iranians are training or even that we know where these camps are is preposterous. I recall the use ‘”smart bombs” to target Serbian forces in Kosova during the 1999 NATO attack. These “smart bombs” destroyed civilian bridges, homes, hospitals, and other vital community infrastructures. There is no such thing as a “smart bomb” – it’s an oxymoron. Without doubt any military action in Iran will degrade the livelihoods of innocent Iranian civilians and further the disillusionment of Middle East people with the U.S.

What Lieberman has so critically overlooked is that Iran is a powerful state. Bombing, even specific targets, in that country would be an act of war on our part. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, like Bush, is not one to look for a diplomatic solution first. There is no doubt, in my mind, that U.S. military action within the boarders of Iran will spark a monumental war in the region involving Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and a host of non-state groups. With the U.S., Israel, India, and Pakistan (all nuclear powers) invested in the region, it is not far fetched to assume nuclear weapons could be involved. Attacking Iran will only lead to more civilian and military deaths , high global economic costs, and environmental destruction.

What disturbs me the most is that while the world’s leaders posture to one another, showing military might, citizens beg for a new approach. A recent study by the Arab American Institute (AAI) and Americans for Peace Now (APN) gauged support for Arab-Israeli peace from both Arab and Jewish communities. Approximately three of four Jewish Americans and Arab Americans think that the U.S. should work to avoid military interaction with Iran, even if diplomacy fails. Our future is contingent on letting our leaders know we demand peace.

We send our children to fight. We invest our taxes into the destruction of other nations. We work to support a floundering economy crippled by the expense of the Iraq occupation. Will we let the Bush administration take us further away from our ideals and closer to World War III? Sen. Lieberman seems to believe this is a good idea – let’s tell him it’s not.

Iraqi: Are we looking for sustainable reconstruction or a $1.50 a gallon?

June 12, 2007

The latest piece of brilliant military strategy from the White House is a smaller more long term U.S. occupying force in Iraq. I, like many citizens who were opposed to this war in the first place, am constantly concerned with how the U.S. will clean up the mess we’ve left in Iraq. According to the Washington Post our Commander and Chief and the U.S. military are concerned with similar issues. “A reduction of troops, some officials argue, would demonstrate to anti-American factions that the occupation will not last forever while reassuring Iraqi allies that the United States does not intend to abandon the country” (Military Envisions Longer Stay in Iraq June 10, 2007). The article goes on to impress upon us: the inability to withdraw U.S. troops in a timely manner, the importance of training Iraqi troops, and protecting the fledgling Iraqi government.

These all seem like important, viable goals. But, it is important to realize that we are not dealing with an administration that is primarily concerned with the welfare of humanity. We cannot fall into a trap of negligence of our own, most recent, history. On Thursday, May 24, the US Congress voted to continue the war in Iraq. Among the numerous points meted out in this piece of legislation is the privatization of Iraqi oil.

“If the Iraqi Parliament refuses to pass the privatization legislation, Congress will withhold US reconstruction funds that were promised to the Iraqis to rebuild what the United States has destroyed there. The privatization law, written by American oil company consultants hired by the Bush administration, would leave control with the Iraq National Oil Company for only 17 of the 80 known oil fields. The remainder (two-thirds)of known oil fields, and all yet undiscovered ones, would be up for grabs by the private oil companies of the world (but guess how many would go to United States firms – given to them by the compliant Iraqi government.)” Anne Wright, TruthOut Editorial, May 26, 2007.

Ms. Wright goes on to explain these private contracts are slated to last up to 30 years. Our extended occupation may very well extend for another 30 years so our troops can protect the vital interests of the oil companies.

I, personally, would like to see a longer term international presence in Iraq; but, my goal is not oil. I am concerned about the long term needs of Iraqi refugees. I am concerned about rebuilding roads and schools. I am concerned about bringing sectarian rivals to the table to discuss the future of democracy in Iraq. I am especially concerned that revenue from Iraqi oil be distributed equally among the Iraqi people. I fear this will never happen because the Bush administration is leading the way for neo-colonialism in the Middle East. I am concerned that we, as citizens of this world, remain complacent.


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