Tuesday 25 March 2008

The lesson today is how to die

Good to see the teachers' NUT union (they've been rather active recently!) voting to oppose military recruitment in schools (BBC News: Teachers reject 'Army propaganda'). Especially since this comes against a backdrop of the increasing unpopularity of imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US death toll in Iraq exceeding 4000 (BBC News: US military Iraq toll hits 4000), the UK death toll there exceeding 100, and 1.22 MILLION Iraqis killed in Iraq (Stop The War Coalition: Iraq study: 1,220,580 murdered since invasion)

The NUT's decision is especially welcome, since it also comes against a backdrop of the military Establishment - government politicians included - using incidents of harassment of soldiers as an excuse to attempt to stifle any criticism of the military. This has led to the attempts to gag former soldiers who have spoken out against the war, such as Ben Griffin who spoke at the Stop The War rally in London on 15th March (report on STW website). The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, has even gone so far as to tell coroners giving verdicts on dead soldiers, not to criticise the armed forces! (BBC News: Minister in soldier inquests plea)

I decry any harassment of soldiers, who are, like Gordon Gentle (son of Rose Gentle, of Military Families Against The War) who was one of the first British soldiers to be killed fighting in Iraq, brave people who have been sent into an unjust war by their leaders. Yet to call them 'lions led by donkeys' would be a grave insult - to donkeys!

Yet, as the number of Armed Forces recruits drops to the point where the military has a recruitment shortfall, it's not just in schools where this 'military grooming' of kids is taking place. The Army themselves have websites devoted to recruitment, advertised on TV, and in many areas the Army Cadets are the dominant (if not the only) free-time activities for young people. In the US it's even worse, with social networking sites, YouTube, and even video games being used as tools for Armed Forces recruitment.

But there is hope. Even as the Iraq War started back in 2003, many school students walked out of school to take part in anti-war protests (who says kids don't understand politics!), and there was no shortage of young people on the March 15th Stop The War rally.

And it is quite probable that many more young people would be less interested in joining the Armed Forces if they knew what such a career choice really entails. This will be hard when they are subjected to an onslaught of propaganda glamorising the Armed Forces, which does not mention the down sides of military life (eg having to kill, risking being killed, being subject to heavy discipline).

If anyone reading (that means you!) knows any young people who are thinking of signing up to the Army, Navy or RAF, you can help them make a more informed choice by suggesting they visit the Before You Sign Up website.

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