Refuse, Resolve, Resist
There is a “multidimensional continuum,” as Edward Hasbrouck puts it, of resistance to fighting in war. From young people opposing military recruitment in their high schools to veterans counseling GIs around military bases to conscientious objectors serving time in military prisons for refusing to deploy, those who work for a just and peaceful world have the opportunity at multiple stages, and in various environments, to challenge militarism.
For some young people, resistance means not registering with Selective Service. Sabrina Jones’ excellent comic “Mixed Signals” succinctly lays out the facts: the risks of registering versus the risks of nonregistration. Where there is registration there can always be a draft. A quick review of the Selective Service System’s website turns up plenty of examples of how this hypothetical draft would work. The structure is in place. Both Hasbrouck and Jones advocate planning ahead and building networks of support in order to be prepared for any eventuality.
Currently, there is an informal draft, one that the Pentagon will never acknowledge, but which is no less pervasive. Young people in inner cities and rural areas, young people of color, and those from poor and working-class families—those with the fewest resources available to them—are the most vulnerable to this draft. We excerpt part of a chapter of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq by Helen Benedict, which relates the recruitment experiences of several women. Promises of good pay, college benefits, job training, and world travel never materialized, but some of these women joined the military to escape lives they were sure were more brutal than what they would find in the service. For too many, this was not the case.
Fortunately, GI resistance is alive and well. Soldiers like Marc Hall are writing protest music, others are educating themselves and each other about their rights, and thousands of soldiers have refused to be deployed to war zones. Many have sought conscientious objector (CO) status or gone absent without leave (AWOL); some are seeking refuge in Canada.
There are many barriers for those who challenge militarism from within the ranks of the military. As Camilo Mejía points out in “Reclaiming Conscience,” many who are granted CO status are “white, Christian, college-educated males.” Those not quickly granted CO status, like Mejía, may serve jail time for refusing to fight. Others receive “other than honorable” discharge.
As we were going to press with this issue, Daniel Choi informed the world that he had received an honorable discharge from the Army under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Sean Dinces’ article criticizes Choi’s campaign to repeal this restrictive policy, pointing out that the anti-DADT movement is largely uncritical of U.S. militarism and its culture of oppression. With a repeal in the works, militarists will be able to claim a fairer, more inclusive institution—one in which lesbian and gay soldiers, too, are free to oppress and terrorize civilians in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
In “U.S. Military Recruitment by the Numbers,” Matt Surrusco compiles telling statistics, illuminating the overrepresentation of women of color in the Army and the overwhelming numbers of sexual assaults involving military personnel. As activists and educators continue to point out and challenge the racist, sexist, classist, and homophobic structures inherent in militarism, the military’s false claims of inclusion and diversity are exposed for what they are: lies that kill.
If you do counter-recruitment, GI counseling, or other anti-militarism work, we hope you will use this issue as a tool in your organizing. Consider simply passing your copy along to a young person, soldier, or veteran in your life. And for more resources in your area, be sure to look for WRL’s 2011 Peace Calendar (out soon), which includes a directory of counter-recruitment organizations in 30 states from Alaska to Florida, plus a collection of anti-militarist cartoons and illustrations.