Military Link To Peace Corps Could Put “Safety Of … Volunteers At Risk”

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From today’s Washington Post:

    The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is offering to allow recruits to meet part of their military obligations by serving in the Peace Corps, which has resisted any ties to the Defense Department or U.S. intelligence agencies since its founding in 1961.

    The recruitment program has sparked debate and rising opposition among current and former Peace Corps officials. Some welcome it as a way to expand the cadre of idealistic volunteers created by President John F. Kennedy. But many say it could lead to suspicions abroad that the Peace Corps, which has 7,733 workers in 73 countries, is working together with the U.S. armed forces.

    “Does this raise red flags for the Peace Corps community? I’d say yes — emphatically so,” said Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association, an organization of returned volunteers, staff and supporters. “We think a real or perceived linkage between the Peace Corps and military service could damage the Peace Corps and potentially put the safety of Peace Corps volunteers at risk.”

    Congress authorized the recruitment program three years ago in legislation that drew little attention at the time but is stirring controversy now, for two reasons: The military has begun to promote it, and the day is drawing closer when the first batch of about 4,300 recruits will be eligible to apply to the Peace Corps, after having spent 3 1/2 years in the armed forces. That could happen as early as 2007.

2 Responses to “Military Link To Peace Corps Could Put “Safety Of … Volunteers At Risk””

  1. Janice LaBrie Says:

    Having been a PCV in Honduras during the Reagan administration, I experienced how the US military uses the peace corp to promote their agenda (I lived in Honduras from 1982-1987). The carribean basin initiative was supposed to benefit who? The destruction of the sandinista government was supposed to prevent what?

    Many Honduran officials, educators and citizens assumed that we were spies. Many PCV’s also believed that our “ranks” had been infiltrated by the CIA. Our numbers went up from 120 total PCV’s in 1982 to over 400 by 1985. This was when the two organizations had no formal connection. This was also when US military bases were being built and filled with soldiers in several areas of a country the size of Kentucky.

    In the present day, there is no doubt in my mind that having the option to “serve” as a PCV will be taken by some soldiers who see it as a way out of the strict control of their superiors in the military while still fulfilling their obligation. This is not a great motive for “volunteer” work in another culture.

    Until one has seen the callous attitudes towards “foreigners” and the unpunished illegal activities of many north american soldier overseas, one might yet feel some pride when one sees the military uniform, like seeing a boy scout on parade day. Of course there are good soldiers, but it takes more than a few good apples to prevent the spoilage.

    The linkage of these two very different organizations will only benefit one of them. Guess which one.

  2. Chris Smith Says:

    All I can add is that I worked at PC DC HQ as a Contracting Officer for two years and it’s a political dumping ground like FEMA. I strongly urge anyone considering Peace Corps to read “American Taboo – a Murder in the Peace Corps” by Philip Weiss (RPCV review :: http://archive.salon.com/books/review/2004/07/20/weiss/).

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