by Donny Lessard / May 2005 issue of Socialist Action
A relatively unexplored tactic in the antiwar movement is spreading across the nation on campuses and in communities. The counter-recruitment movement is led by students who are trying to get military recruiters out their schools, while winning young people over to the antiwar movement.
All around the country in high schools and colleges from New York to San Francisco, students are actively confronting recruiters, passing out literature, and holding demonstrations to voice their opposition to recruitment for what they see as a war machine that has consistently lied about benefits packages and the ability to get out of the military or change one’s position once in it.
Along with the unpopular war in Iraq—according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, 63 percent of Americans disagree with Bush’s handling of the war—the
anti-recruitment strategies have been largely effective in setting back the militaries’ recruitment quotas. Army officials have reported that they did not
meet their quotas for February or March, and are not expected to meet their quotas for April, either. The Army Reserves have not met their quota since October of last year.
The military has taken desperate actions in an effort to meet their quotas. For instance, last month the Army revised its maximum age of recruits to 39;
additionally, the former requirement of a high-school diploma for recruitment has been revised (essentially done away with) to allow for thousands more to be accepted.
Further, “Recruiters are hitting NASCAR events, rock concerts, rodeos and rib festivals, using custom-painted Humvees and other gimmicks to attract the masses,” reports the Chicago Tribune.
This is an opportune time for counter-recruitment, and the movement has taken advantage of this. For example, 150 students at San Francisco State University showed up to a career fair where recruiters from the Air Force and Army Corps of Engineers Students were present, ready to protest. The protesters surrounded the recruiters’ tables, chanting antiwar slogans, and
later conducted a sit-in and antiwar teach-in.
Similar actions have taken place all across the country. In Los Angeles students refused to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). In Chicago a proposal to put a Naval Academy in a high school was stopped by anti-recruitment activism by students, staff, community members, and faculty. In Massachusetts, students at Holyoke Community College got their student senate to pass a resolution banning military recruiters from campus.
A common fear noted by the counter-recruitment activists is the unprecedented access to high-school students’ information given to the military through the No Child Left Behind Act. Though seemingly
unconnected to education, the military has been granted access to previously off-limits information by the federal government.
The future for the movement has been bolstered by a recent legal argument, found in the overturning of the Solomon Amendment of 1995. This law permitted the federal government to withhold federal funding from campuses that bar military recruiters.
The Federal Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, recently ruled that the Solomon Amendment was unconstitutional because it forced schools that are on record opposing sexual-orientation discrimination to allow on campus an institution, like the military, that discriminates against LGBT people.