From a previous USA Today cover story: “Elite warriors lost without war… For many highly trained ‘killing machines‘, returning to civilian life is difficult and frightening.” That story was not made up, and not from some Saturday Night Live script! No, on the contrary, this is just how far our nation has regressed into a militant mindset, whereupon war is the natural course of things. The quintessential question is this: Where are we now at war? It seems that, ever since the last real war our Congress declared, WW2, this empire has always been militarily involved overseas… but were they really wars? Korea and Vietnam were what our empire’s leaders liked to refer to as ‘Police Actions’, shipping our young soldiers into harm’s way to support covert and overt foreign policy decisions. As our constitution dictates that Congress alone must declare war on another nation, the aforementioned military excursions were not wars! In both those instances, we got involved in the middle of civil wars between people that originally were from the same country, as outside imperialist forces decided to split those nations into two separate entities. Fast forwarding to Afghanistan in 2002, once again our empire decided to invade and occupy an entire sovereign nation to seek and destroy a small terrorist group whose numbers could have fit into a bowling alley! Of course, by the very act of such an illegal invasion, that bowling alley size group of insurgents has now mushroomed into a Super Bowl stadium size, and many of them label themselves as ISIL. In 2003, the once again illegally and immorally did the same thing to Iraq…resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of their civilians and over 4,000 of our military. No declaration of war by Congress, just some bullcrap resolution giving Bush the freedom to disgrace our nation internationally.
What can we Americans do when it comes to the memory of those who served and are gone? We all mourn the dead kids in uniform who had to face the fire, regardless of why and how and by whom they were sent. Yet, there is this tragic culture of militarism gone mad that confronts me… and hopefully some of you. For what seems like years now, we cannot watch any important sports event without the pomp and circumstance of militarism. Honor guards and salutes to our flag and celebrating our ‘wounded warriors’ is consistently thrown at us as if we were actually a nation at war. We are not at war! To use those brave kids as pawns for media propaganda is insulting to anyone’s intelligence. Yet, empires, especially those that are desperate to maintain control, need to force feed the populace with the threat of attack from without. The Israelis have been somewhat successful with that rhetoric and PR, albeit they do have a much greater peace movement there than we have here. Wherever I go, I see bumper stickers and yellow ribbons trumpeting our troops and our branches of service. Why no bumper stickers celebrating our 9 to 5 working stiffs who are getting financially squeezed because most of our tax money goes for this War Economy?
Sara Gray, activist and mother of a kindergarten aged child, has written a fine piece entitled ‘Why is My Kindergartner Groomed for the Military at School?’ She opens by telling us how ‘We were shocked this November when, shortly after Veterans Day, our daughter came home from kindergarten with a worksheet that asked the children to decide which branch of the military they would like to join. Her teacher had them working on taking polls and graphing the results, which usually fell more along the lines of what flavors of pie they preferred.’ Gray goes on to inform us about what occurred after the military draft ended in 1973 ( due to a very large and successful Anti Vietnam War movement), when the Pentagon took a different path. She quotes Rick Jahnkow of Project YANO: “In order to market soldiering in a whole different way, the Pentagon really increased the promises of scholarships, bonus money and a chance to ‘ see the world’ or help victims of global conflicts”. Jahnkow called this the ‘economic draft’ for kids who face grim job prospects in a declining economy. These kids, he informs us, are always from low-income areas, exactly where the recruiters spend most of their time. Gray explains how, in the 70s and 80s recruiters needed to get into the schools to better reach the potential ‘ boots on the ground’. Schools gave them permission to set up tables in high school cafeterias, and to be allowed into high school career fairs. This access was regularly challenged by parents and community groups like Project YANO ( Project of Youth & NonMilitary Opportunities ) However, Gray states that once the First Gulf War happened in ’91, the military’s role in the schools was not just about recruiting… It became ‘ supporting our troops ‘ with exercises like yellow ribbon campaigns, assemblies and postcard writing competitions. Sara Gray explains that since it wasn’t about simply ‘recruiting’, the military could open things up to attract even kindergarteners.
This writer is a student of both the Nazi movement and the Holocaust. In many of the archived films of that era, the Nazi war machine propagandists did things like having exhibitions whereupon the general public ( including little kindergarten kids ) could ride in tanks, learn how to operate the big guns and other weapons. Well, today’s ROTC programs in High Schools and yes, even in Middle Schools, gets these kids acclimated into wearing military uniforms, extreme discipline and military drilling. The Defense department sponsors after school programs like STARBASE, which offers tutoring by, are you ready for this, uniformed soldiers, to kids as young as five years old. Gray then explains how the NO Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which Bush Junior signed and Obama renewed, has some really dangerous ( to many of us ) caveats in it. It gives military recruiters tremendous leeway whereupon schools receiving federal funds must give military recruiters the same access to students as they give to prospective employers and college recruiters, including THE NAMES OF ALL JUNIOR AN SENIOR STUDENTS!
In her great piece, Sara Gray makes the connection between kids playing at ‘first person shooter games’ and being in live combat. She explains how these kinds of games desensitize heavy players to images of violence- thus, isn’t it easy to imagine shooting someone in real life when you spend all day simulating shooting someone? As like in the 1978 Hal Ashby film Coming Home when the paraplegic Vietnam Vet goes to the high school to warn the kids about the horror of war, Project YANO is doing that now with Iraq war vets. The late Gore Vidal had a name for this Militant Mad Amerika. He called it Perpetual War. How dangerous it is!!