College Not Combat

By Cynthia Little, class of 2005 “How fair an election can Lebanon hold if the troops are there to intimidate voters, people running for election, or people now in office?” asked one of Bush’s senior aides. What a great question. Maybe they should have thought of that before the Iraq elections where half of the population was declared ineligible to vote. Maybe they should have thought of that before trying to implant Iyad Allawi, former CIA agent, as prime minister. The hypocrisy of the Bush administration is almost unfathomable. As conditions in Iraq continue to deteriorate, many Iraqis are fighting to win their country back. Similarly, US casualties are on the rise, and many troops are beginning to question the motives of the occupation. Several troops have already refused to deploy, and many more seem ready and willing to do the same if only they wouldn’t be court marshaled. The occupation is becoming increasingly unpopular, with Burlington voting on town meeting day to bring the troops home now by a two thirds margin. The US military is in a crisis. Their forces are stuck in a quagmire and they can’t find enough new recruits to do Bush’s dirty work. In response, all contingents of the Army have heightened their recruitment drives in high schools and colleges nationally. Many UVM students received an email entitled, “Army to help pay off student loans.” This has provoked a flame of resistance across the nation. At Seattle Central Community College, hundreds of students abandoned their classes and surrounded a table of military recruiters, denounced them for targeting poor and minority students who would be easier to persuade to join based on promises of loan repayment, denounced the war in general, ripped up their literature and chanted at them until the recruiters were escorted out by security. Many other campuses responded similarly, including Cornell which demanded to know why gays and lesbians weren’t allowed in the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Sixty students from antiwar and gay rights coalitions held signs and chanted slogans at the recruiters stating that “Cornell is gay!” until the recruiters packed up and left. On March 8th, UVM held its annual spring career fair, where members of Students Against War were expecting a military presence. With little time to prepare, SAW pulled together a group of 15 students to attend the career fair and protest. The odds were not good: the career fair was on private property at the Sheraton hotel, there were three tables including ROTC, Army and National Guard, and an average of three recruiters per table. SAW split up into three groups, and tackled the recruiters one-on-one. We occupied their time with all kinds of questions from the war in general to specific policies. They had nothing to say on the possibility of depleted uranium poisoning. When asked about statistics such as 91% of officers being male and 88% white, we were told that statistics were usually loaded. One recruiter even told me I had an attitude problem and was making things up when I informed him of the Red Cross study estimating 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths. Two recruiters eventually even admitted to discriminatory practices in the military – to say nothing of the 30% of women who report being sexually assaulted. But even their claims of success don’t hold up: the idea of job training is a sham when you look at veterans’ jobs. A study showed that those with military training earned 19% less than those with other training; another study showed that only 12% of men and 6% of women found the training they received during service useful; and a third study showed that a third of the male homeless population in the country is composed of veterans. Of course these numbers may be completely meaningless since we can’t believe everything we read (by professional statisticians, the Red Cross, peer reviewed journals of medicine…) but even if we do believe accredited people and organizations over some guy being paid $80,000 a year to sell us a career in combat, we don’t actually *have* to join. Over the course of four hours SAW members hammered away at these people, many of whom left, and the ones remaining calling for backup several times. After an hour or two, we were clearly getting under their skin, as they tried to “tell on us” to career fair staff in hopes that we’d be taken away. This did not happen, and through knowing our arguments, we successfully annoyed them enough to prevent them from getting recruits: ROTC received no phone numbers, the Army received three, and the National Guard appeared to not receive any, although they wouldn’t comment. By preventing the military from getting new recruits, we can disable Bush’s war machine. Students Against War is organizing to prevent any recruitment of our friends and family members to be cannon fodder in the US’s plans to dominate the world. We aim to build the antiwar movement to stand in solidarity with the soldiers who are saying No to the occupation of Iraq, and to provide students with the truth about joining military services. We demand money for schools, not war. Come to our meetings and help us organize Monday evenings at 7:00pm in Living/Learning Commons 315.