Why We Oppose Military Recruitment at UMB
UMass/Boston Anti-War Committee
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE ARMY?
During the Vietnam war, the answer seemed obvious to millions of people: the U.S. military was waging a ghastly war of aggression against the people of Vietnam. Some 2 million Vietnamese and 65,000 American soldiers were being killed. The entire country of Vietnam, along with large portions of Cambodia and Laos were permanently maimed by the scorched-earth and saturation bombing policies of the U.S. government. The myth that America fought for “democracy” seemed dead.
As a result, in the late ’60s and and early ’70s, students that their schools would not be used to service and provide more cannon-fodder for the military machine responsible for such brutality. Students at nearly every campus in the country drove military recruiters and the ROTC out of their schools. At U. Mass/Boston, the military was officially banned from campus in 1972.
But today, when millions of Americans have forgotten Vietnam, young people have never been taught the truth about the war, and all of us are being whipped up for yet another war (against Iran or some other former possession of the U.S.), the military, with the blessing of the university, which lifted the recruitment ban in 1974 when things were quiet.
Today, the military comes against the background of waves of government and media-inspired nationalism and racism directed against anyone who is not a white American, They exploit the economic draft: the pressure on working class and third world students to join because they can’t find decent jobs. They send recruiters in fancy uniforms and rows of shiny medals armed with videos, slick pamphlets and ads in the Mass Media (4/29/80) that promise everything most of us are missing: training, jobs and “adventure.”
But they lying.
They don’t tell us that in peacetime, Army life is demeaning, boring and harsh; that they can put you at whatever job they want regardless of any recruitment promise; that you have few rights of free speech and no union; and that sexism and racism (though blacks make up 30% of the army, they fill 51% of the army’s prison population — Philadelphia lnquirer, 12/10/78) are rampant.
But the biggest lies are about wartime, especially the war in Vietnam.
They don’t tell us what nearly everyone began to realize by the late ’60s: that the U.S. had created, and was backing, a corrupt military dictatorship with no popular support, for the sole purpose of protecting the business empire around the world from growing revolt.
They don’t say anything about the routine policies of torture and murder which American soldiers were forded to carry out under such programs as Operation Phoenix,” the “Electronic Battlefield,” “Strategic Hamlets,” and “Body Counts.” They “forget” the systematic rape and murder of Vietnamese women. They say nothing about napalm, and more bombs than were dropped in all of W.W. II. They forget to mention that the military encouraged racism so that American soldiers wouldn’t think twice about killing “gooks” and “chinks.”
Nor do they have much to say about the effect of war on American soldiers. That working class and non-white troops were the people murdered on the front lines (by 1970, blacks made up 11% of the troops in Vietnam, but 22% of the A casualties — Robert Mullen, Blacks in America’s Wars, New York, 1973, p. 77). And that those who made it home met unemployment and racism as cripples, Agent Orange victims and heroin addicts.
The recruiters are also silent about America’s other recent Vietnams: (for example) Korea 1950-2), Lebanon (1958), and the Dominican Republic (1955), not to mention the training in murder and torture to countless military dictatorships in all corners of the American empire.
Perhaps most hidden is the role of the military at home: in suppressing ghetto rebellions (Detroit 1967, Washington D.C. 1968), anti-war activity (Chicago 1968, Kent State 1970), and strike-breaking (against the postal workers 1970, and threatened against the coal miners 1978).
What’s more, its not just the past. The Army is gearing up now for other Vietnams: in Iran, El Salvador or the Philippines — wherever U.S. business is threatened.
In other words, what the recruiters don’t tell us is that the whole point of “recruitment” and the draft is to get us to fight and kill people very much like ourselves in other countries or cities, based on phoney myths about “protecting democracy,” when what’s really at stake is the power and profits of IBM, GM, Coca Cola or Exxon.
Even a U.S. Marine Corps Major General, Smedley D. Butler, hardly a radical, came to see this earlier in the century: “I spent 33 years and four months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force — the Marine Corps. . . . And during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short I was a racketeer for capitalism.”
American soldiers in Vietnam came the same thing. The result was that by the late ’60s, troops were always stoned, GIs had formed groups against the war and racism, entire units had been known to refuse combat orders, and gung-ho officers and lífers watched their backs to make sure they (killed) by “their own” men.
WHAT ABOUT FREE SPEECH?
If organized crime set up en table in building 020 to “recruit” assassins, would anyone defend their “right to free speech”? If pimps came to recruit prostitutes or heroin pushers “recruited” junkies, would crowds of angry students gather in their defense? That type of “speech” is directly related to activity so obviously dangerous and wrong that no one defends them.
Why then is military recruitment different? We’ve seen that the military serves as the armed wing of big business, that it actively encourages racism and sexism, and that its purpose is to suppress by murder popular movements, whether in Vietnam, in non-white communities in the U.S., the unions or the universities.
As such, it most and large of organized crime in the world today. It is legal (as was slavery 100 years ago) only because those who make the laws (the corporations and their representatives need it to survive.
But like organized crime, pimps, heroin pushers and slave traders, it has no right to organize anyone into its criminal activities. Legal or not, it must be stopped.