This week's talk of "withdrawal in 2006" (20,000 troops, possibly, if the Constitution gets finished, things go well with the elections, the insurgents convert to Tibetan Buddhism, etc.) is a sham, as the New York Times' Bob Herbert points out. The long-term goal was, and still is, to establish a permanent base of operations in Iraq to control the world's last great oil reserves. That doesn't mean there couldn't very well be troop reductions next year. But they may have more to do with human resources than human rights.
Last week, the Army's top personnel officer announced the Army won't meet its recruiting goals for 2005. So far this year, the active-duty Army has enlisted 47,121 recruits. The goal was 80,000. There's little chance to make up the gap the official conceded, the Times reported. Forget the still relatively small U.S. death toll. These are the numbers that keep the Pentagon brass up at night. The Army is being pushed to the breaking point, and that, more than anything, may be what's fueling the administration's new emphasis on "withdrawal" from Iraq.
Frustrated with seeing the largest street protests since Vietnam marginalized by the mainstream media and dismissed by the president as a "focus group," thousands of antiwar youth are targeting this Achilles' heel of the neocon master plan.
"We think counter-recruitment is the smartest way to intervene with the war in Iraq," John Sellers, founder of the Ruckus Society, told me. "Until Rumsfeld's robot army is up and running, they're going to need young men and women to fight. We feel the most effective strategy is to support the youth who are questioning our nation's values and resisting war for resources."
Ruckus has teamed up with Code Pink, the League of Independent Voters and other antiwar groups, to create Notyoursoldier.org, an organizing hub for counter-recruiting actions. Later this summer, the group is organizing counter-recruiting training camps in five cities for a major campaign on campuses across the country this fall.
Earlier this year, the brains behind the popular Punk Voter CD launched Militaryfreezone.org. A little known provision in the No Child Left Behind Act requires high schools that receive federal funding to provide dossiers on students to recruiters. But students can opt out of the program by getting their parents to sign a simple form. Militaryfreezone.org offers the form in a downloadable PDF.
Recruiters have proven easy targets because they're liars. As fewer and fewer young Americans decide to trade in their PlayStations for the ultimate first-person shooter game, recruiters have become desperate. They promise funds for college that don't exist. They tell potential recruits they won't end up in Iraq. They even break the law.
Recruiters in Houston were recently busted for offering to help a potential recruit cheat on his drug test. In Indiana, recruiters allegedly forged physicals. In Seattle, a quiet, rule-abiding 18-year old reported being virtually kidnapped by a team of recruiters and held over night before agreeing to enlist. His mother had to hire a lawyer to get him out of the contract.
It got so bad that the Pentagon had to call for a one-day halt of all recruiting activities around the country so recruiters could take a special training course on how not to break the law. Shortly after, the Army announced it was lowering standards for criminal records, mental health, intelligence, even the length of enlistment. They're considering offering up to a $40,000 signing bonus.
Scared attacking U.S. military recruiting efforts might seem "unpatriotic"?
According to a recent poll, a majority of Americans have finally come to the realization that the war in Iraq wasn't just a diversion from the real war on terror -- it is now actually making us less safe.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a boon for jihadist recruiters from Leeds to Lahore to Fallujah. It's time to stop our recruiters from helping theirs.