Recently, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Solomon Amendment, which states that the U.S. government can withhold federal funds from certain schools that do not allow military recruiters on the premises. Seems there was a growing number of schools refusing to allow military recruiters on their grounds, and this Supreme Court decision basically put a stop to it.
Upon hearing the decision, Fox News gasbag Sean Hannity said how happy he was that these students will now get to see “what a great opportunity the military is.”
Opportunity huh? Well, that's how they spin it anyway.
The Solomon Amendment decision reminded me of the case of Jeremy Hinzman, a former army paratrooper who quit his unit because he had moral objections to the war in Iraq and had participated in some killings of civilians that he could not come to terms with. However, Hinzman's application for conscientious-objector status was refused, and he's now considered a “deserter in time of war.” If apprehended, Hinzman could receive anywhere from five years in jail to the death penalty.
This disgusts me.
I believe it's wrong to criminally prosecute deserters. Desertion can be a brave and noble act. When the war is immoral, a true warrior must rally against it. And it makes me sick to think that our country would gleefully incarcerate-if not execute-a man for wanting to get the hell out of a war he doesn't even believe in.
Even if you disagree-even if you think desertion is a cowardly act-then so what? Is it your opinion that cowardice be prosecuted? Cowardice is an inherent human trait. It's a survival mechanism. There's nothing wrong with being afraid. In fact, that's why we have a military. Because the rest of us are too cowardly to fight our wars for ourselves. And to persecute someone like Hinzman for not fighting your battles for you, well that's about as cowardly as it gets.
But of all the reasons that it's cruel and inhumane for the military to criminally prosecute deserters, none are so glaring as the U.S. military's bullshit recruiting practices. They target the youthful, the impressionable and the poor and do whatever they can to manipulate them into signing their life over. Young recruits are led to believe the military is a yellow brick road toward the Land of Opportunity, and the Pentagon wonders why some of these guys try to get discharged when people's legs and arms start getting blown off and the only opportunity in sight is 4-foot foxhole.
Look at the TV ads. Like the one where the young soldier comes home and greets the father, and the father is beaming-proud because his boy learned how to look him in the eye when he shakes hands.
“Where'd you learn that?” he asks the boy. And the soldier gleams proudly because he learned it in the Marines. And you just know some zit-ridden teenager with no friends, a neglectful father and a thimble-full of self-esteem is going to look at that commercial and think, Yeah, I need more of that look-you-in-the-eye kinda confidence-not realizing that he doesn't necessarily need to enlist to learn that skill, not realizing that if that commercial was anything close to reality, the young soldier actually wouldn't be able to look his dad in the eye when he shakes his hand because when he was in Fallujah, a grenade blew off his right arm and shrapnel sandblasted his eye-meat.
As bad as that is, it's the living, breathing campus recruiter who is the real disgrace. This guy is trained to fuck with a young mind. He knows just how to get into these kids' heads, find out what particular weakness they have and exploit it. He'll spin whatever mistruths he must to make potential recruits believe the military has exactly what they need. The recruiter promises self-confidence and self-discipline, yet soldiers are not permitted to make even the simplest decisions for themselves. They spin grand tales of economic opportunities, yet the VA estimates that one-third of homeless people are vets. Candidates are told they'll receive money for college, yet only 15 percent graduate with a four-year degree. Recruiters target minorities but neglect to mention the unlikelihood of minority promotion-silly Negro, stripes are for whites. They talk about the respect recruits will receive from their communities but don't mention the years of separation from loved ones, or the emotional drain on the psyche, or all the disorders and illnesses associated with battle, or how Tricare is a disaster, or how the government routinely breeches the contract by extending service time, or how the reserve system is continually abused.* They'll talk about all these opportunities in the military but cleverly disguise what those opportunities really are. Such as:
* The opportunity to get your sack shot off by a hand-held rocket launcher.
* The opportunity to murder another human being and carry the memory of it for the rest of your life.
* The opportunity to get shot by friendly fire, then have your death covered up by your superiors because their primary objective is to cover their asses-not yours.**
This is why some schools are skeptical about allowing recruiters onto their grounds. They're aware of the tactics. They're aware of how they influence young, impressionable minds. They're aware that recruiters are not interested in signing up the right people for a war; rather it's about signing up the most people. And, in doing so, they ruin lives.
If I were Jeremy Hinzman, I would counter suing the Pentagon for duress or something and have my lawyer argue that the military got me to sign the contract under false pretenses. Then, on the stand, I'd say, “Hey, they tricked me. They said I was gonna be able to look my father in the eye when I shake his hand, but I can't look him in the eye because my unit firebombed a school bus by mistake and now I can't look anybody in the eye-least of all, my dad.”
* Thanks to www.objectors.org for much of the information used in this article.
** R.I.P. Pat Tillman.
E-mail ed[at]edwindecker[dot]com and editor[at]SDcitybeat[dot]com.