Archive for July, 2007

Weekend humor: Mom!

July 22, 2007

David Horsey in the Seattle P-I:


YAWR battles on, calls for student walkout in fall

July 19, 2007


Youth Against War and Racism, based in cities across the north and northwestern areas of the country, is fighting the good fight against military recruiters in schools.

Last Wednesday students visited the Seattle School Board meeting again to demand that military recruiters be banned from schools. Like other districts across the country, the school board argues it will lose federal funding under No Child Left Behind if recruiters are denied equal access to students, but YAWR won’t take no for an answer. A board member claims it’s not worth banning military recruiters because under NCLB college recruiters would be banned as well – I wonder how students would react to that claim. How often to college recruiters, who don’t have military recruiters’ $2 billion budget to support them, visit their schools? Do they really help students get into college? And what is the district doing to resist NCLB, if it’s sympathetic to the students’ demands?

From the Seattle P-I:

For the third time in three months, a rowdy group of students and community members opposed to military recruiting in high schools disrupted a Seattle School Board meeting Wednesday — and promised to keep going back until they believe they have been heard.

At Wednesday’s meeting, they expressed frustration that the board is considering policy changes that would limit — but not ban — military recruiting in Seattle’s public high schools.

The group hopes to persuade board members to adopt a stricter policy and has held rallies and attended district meetings over the past few months in an effort to press the case.

“The School Board needs to take a stand against allowing these aggressive recruiters into our schools,” said Ramy Khalil, one of several who spoke during the public-testimony portion of the meeting.

Speakers’ comments were punctuated with whoops and chants of “Books not bombs!” and “This is what democracy looks like!”

Their activity earned several rebukes from School Board President Cheryl Chow, who warned the unruly audience members that they would be kicked out of the meeting if they didn’t show some respect.

Under the recruiting proposal, colleges, employers and branches of the military would each be allowed two visits per school, per year. The district would compile an annual report on the number of students who opted out of providing information to the military and maintain a Web site that would offer information on school recruitment policies and opt-out forms.

Board member Brita Butler-Wall, who heads the committee recommending the recruiting changes, said she is sympathetic to the students’ stance but worries that it would be needlessly restrictive.

She said she does not believe that “it’s in the best interest of our students to ban all college recruiters from high schools, which would be required if we chose to ban all military recruiters.”…

YAWR’s militancy prompted the Seattle Times to editorialize against them. Note how the Times complains of “activists” and protesters” disrupting school board meetings, hiding the fact that YAWR is a student-led group and it is the students of the district who are making these demands. It’s a powerful thing when students organize for control over the institutions that are supposed to serve them, and the Times doesn’t want to acknowledge that to its readers.

Minnesota YAWR has made a call for a nationwide student walkout, in both high schools and colleges, to protest the war in Iraq and recruiters in schools. The tentative date is set for November 16.

…Various student groups have called national walkouts before, but often these have been called on short notice with little time to prepare a serious mobilization, and with only a few dozen colleges and high schools involved. As a result, the national reach and political impact of past walkouts have been limited. That’s why we want to help jump-start serious dialogue and planning this summer about how we can unite our whole movement behind a well prepared, nationally coordinated, powerful action next fall…

Video: AFSC presentation on counter-recruitment

July 19, 2007

There are some good talking points against military recruitment in this presentation, as well as some interesting discussion towards the end. Thanks to (what a creepy name!) for hosting these videos.

From DC Indymedia:

Useful factual information to counter Military recruiters:
Video of presentation at American Friends Service Committee in Pasadena during 2002

part 1 video, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors

part 2 video, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors

Bush administration opposes increased pay and benefits for soldiers

July 18, 2007

Some information the recruiter probably won’t share with you.  From Tom Philpott, writing in the Honoloulu Advertiser:

Talk about lousy timing. With President Bush’s popularity scraping bottom in opinion polls, with U.S. casualties rising in Iraq in a force surge that has stretched tours to 15 months, the Bush administration has said it “strongly opposes” key military pay and benefit gains tossed into the fiscal 2008 defense bill.

Initiatives the administration opposes include:

# A military pay raise for next January of 3.5 percent versus 3 percent endorsed by the White House.

# Lowering the age-60 start of reserve retirement annuities for reserve component members by the length of their future mobilizations.

# Expanding eligibility for Combat-Related Special Compensation to service members forced by combat disabilities to retire short of 20 years.

# Directing pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide the Department of Defense with same-price discounts for Tricare retail pharmacy network that are provided on medicines dispensed from base pharmacies.

The administration also grumbled that the Senate intends to block for another year Tricare fee increases for under-65 retirees and dependents.

The objections appear in a “Statement of Administration Policy” from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget delivered to Senate leaders as they opened floor debate on the defense authorization bill.

A day later, Senate Republicans, at White House urging, blocked amendments that would have shortened Iraq tours for U.S. ground forces and slowed the frequency of war deployments.


Olympia, WA: Navy ships scared away from fair

July 17, 2007

From the Olympian, via Seattle Indymedia:

Three naval ships will not be coming to this year’s Capital Lakefair, festival president Teri Chmielewski said today.

Chmielewski said Chris Haley, a spokesman for Navy Region Northwest, told her the U.S. naval vessel and two Canadian ships would not be coming due to “operational requirements.”

Haley could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Navy had requested six to 10 police officers to provide security for the Everett-based USS Ingraham and two ships based in Victoria, British Columbia: the HMCS Saskatoon and the HMCS Whitehorse. Their visit was scheduled for July 20-23.

But a majority of Olympia City Council members said Tuesday they would not grant the request for officers, mainly out of cost concerns.

Twelve out of 15 people who spoke about the ships at last week’s Olympia City Council meeting opposed inviting the vessels. They said residents don’t want them because they are emblems of war, that they are used as a military recruitment tool and that they will spark costly protests.

Chmielewski said Lakefair was looking elsewhere for funding to provide security for the ships, which were going to offer tours during the annual summer festival. Local longshoremen offered $5,000 to pay for security, and the Olympia Police Department was drawing up a security plan. Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball also offered deputies to patrol the event.

Past news on activist resistance to the military in Olympia here and here.

Female soldiers at Abu Ghraib died for fear of rape, military covers it up

July 17, 2007

ghraibresize2.jpgLast summer an AP report found that dozens of military recruiters across the country had sexually abused enlistees, and that was based only the abuse that was reported and investigated by the military. A 2004 Pentagon survey found that 1 in 7 women in the military said they were victims of sexual abuse. Here’s a recent NPR story on widespread sexual abuse of female cadets in Iraq.  See a pattern here?

From Truthout:

In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior US military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women’s latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn’t located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. “There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night,” Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview. It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn’t drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn’t have to urinate at night. They didn’t get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition’s joint task force said in a briefing that “women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep.”

“And rather than make everybody aware of that – because that’s shocking, and as a leader if that’s not shocking to you then you’re not much of a leader – what they told the surgeon to do is don’t brief those details anymore. And don’t say specifically that they’re women. You can provide that in a written report but don’t brief it in the open anymore.”

For example, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez’s top deputy in Iraq, saw “dehydration” listed as the cause of death on the death certificate of a female master sergeant in September 2003. Under orders from Sanchez, he directed that the cause of death no longer be listed, Karpinski stated. The official explanation for this was to protect the women’s privacy rights.


Alabama company wins $500 million National Guard marketing contract

July 17, 2007


PELHAM, Ala. (AP) – An Alabama company has been awarded a major contract to market the National Guard’s recruitment program nationwide.

The Department of Defense, in a statement, said Pelham-based Docupak will be responsible for signing Army and Air Guard personnel to serve as recruiting assistants.

The five year contract could be worth close to $500 million.

Docupak specializes in the design, production and advertising of marketing materials. The company has been assisting the National Guard’s recruitment efforts since 2005.

Difficult for veterans to collect aid owed by military and return to school

July 16, 2007

I first heard this story in audio form during a recent Free Speech Radio News broadcast. Aaron Glantz, the reporter, has filed a number of excellent reports in recent weeks on disaffected or persecuted veterans and their families.


SAN FRANCISCO, Jul 2 (OneWorld) – Marine Corps reservist Todd Bowers was half-way through his degree in Middle Eastern Studies at George Washington University when the Pentagon pulled him out of school and sent him on two combat tours to Iraq.

When he returned, he found his student loans had been sent to collection.

“I had notified my lenders that I was leaving on a combat deployment,” he told OneWorld. “Something went awry while I was gone and [when I returned] I had tremendous amounts of letters saying: ‘You owe this money.'”

Eventually, Bowers said he was able to get the difficulty “squared away, but the damage had already been done and my credit history was ruined.”

That wasn’t Bowers’ only problem.

“When I returned from a twelve-month deployment on my second tour, I was given just two weeks to complete my finals,” he said. “I hadn’t seen the course work in nearly twelve months.”

So Bowers dropped out of school. He now works as government affairs director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) — the first and largest member-organization for veterans of the United States’ recent wars.

On Thursday, the group put forward a new bill in Washington, which is sponsored by Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Congresswoman Susan Davis of Southern California. The Veterans Education Tuition Support (VETS) Act wouldn’t increase the amount of money veterans get for college, but it would close loopholes in the GI bill that make finishing a degree more difficult.

Just 3 percent of veterans who entered a four-year college in 1995 graduated by 2001, compared to a 30 percent overall graduation rate
The VETS Act would require colleges to refund tuition for service members sent overseas, cap student loan interest payments at 6 percent while the student is deployed, and extend the period of time during which a student-soldier may re-enroll after returning from abroad.


Pennsylvania: Recruiters claim to be meeting quotas

July 16, 2007

Another one-sided, poorly reported story – it’s written by a staff intern, but that’s still really no excuse. Warren isn’t that far away from Pittsburgh, where the POG challenge recruiters on a regular basis. One interesting line from the recruiter, who seems conscious of the abuses recruiters are known for, quoted in the story: “I try not to be like the other recruiters out there.”

From the Times Observer:

Military recruitment may be on the decline across the nation, but that doesn’t stop local recruiters from plugging away, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing the stream of recruits from Warren County.

Army recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Justin Floridia said he fuses values into his job.

“I stress honesty and integrity,” Floridia said. “When I talk to young people about joining, I’m a firm believer in letting them know what they’re getting into. I let them know boot camp is the hardest thing they’ll ever do. I tell them the Army is a job and if they’re not willing to work they’ll probably be hurting. I tell them if they come into the Army with a bad attitude, they will get a bad attitude from the Army. I tell them we go to war because that’s what we get paid for.”

For Floridia, honesty encompasses what he does and doesn’t say.

“Some come in saying they want to go to Iraq,” he explained. “I can’t promise them that. I make no promises until it’s on paper. I explain when they go to sign their contracts that I need to make sure what I told them is on there. From that point forward I will guarantee it all day long but until then I can’t promise it. Then I show them what I can do for them as far as benefits, pay, promotion and education.”


Colorado: Counter-recruiters needed!

July 13, 2007

I cringed when I read this – it’s an one-sided article that makes it appear that there’s no one in Denver challenging and organizing against military recruitment.  I’m doubtful that’s the case.  But someone should tell these kids about PTSD, how US foreign policy works (or doesn’t, really), how veterans earn less money than their civilian counterparts, how military recruiters have a history of lying, etc..

From 7 News in Denver:

While House members want U.S. troops out of Iraq, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted the Bush administration to make plans to expand the U.S. military.

The Army intends to add more than 30,000 active duty soldiers over the next five years.

Local Army recruitment centers are using money and financial incentives to try to recruit young Coloradans to join.

Despite, and many because of, the wars in Iraq, many are taking the Army up on its offer.

“I’ve always thought the Army sounded fun, first of all,” said 19-year-old Travis Young. “Also, there is a war going on, obviously, and there’s no better time to join than when there’s actually something to do.”