BY Ayah Helmy, Jess Sundin
There has been quite a debate about the protest against recruitment
last week. A great number of fallacies have been perpetuated about
the intent of such a protest. Quotes were taken out of context, and
only the College Republicans have been allowed to speak in the media.
The aim of Students for a Democratic Society and the Anti-War
Committee's protest against recruitment is not a shot against
veterans, active duty soldiers or even soldiers to come. Everyone
understands the importance of these people for the protection of our
country, and we appreciate their valor. SDS/AWC did not want to paint
them as "fools or villains" and did not want to make them feel that
their physical, mental and emotional sacrifices were not worthwhile.
The protest was for the benefit of these soldiers. I think I speak
for everyone when I say that we want our soldiers to receive the best
treatment possible. Their sacrifices should not be returned with bad
health care, lack of employment and poor schooling. We are facing the
same issues against veterans now that we did in the Vietnam era. Tens
of thousands of kids coming back to a country that manages to sweep
them under the rug. That is unfair, and I think that the SDS/AWC
protest was aimed to highlight that disparity.
Under the headline, "Don't protest the veterans," Ross Anderson
levies a boatload of accusations at protesters with whom he never
spoke and who rallied under a banner he never bothered to read. The
Anti-War Committee put out a statewide call for protests against the
war and the predatory recruitment practices that fill the ranks of
the military with young people who are putting their lives on the
line for promises that are rarely kept.
All of these actions aimed to confront potential enlistees with the
truth about what they can expect in the military, and if they
survive, the realities they will face as veterans. These are some of
the facts that can be confirmed through Pentagon and other government reports:
Do new enlistees realize that 300,000 soldiers who've served in Iraq
or Afghanistan could have post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms? Do
female recruits realize that military women are more likely to be
raped by a fellow soldier than killed in combat?
The No. 1 reason people join the military is economic. Enlistees need
to know that enlistment is not the road to financial security; Iraq
and Afghanistan veterans have unemployment rates above the U.S.
average. And the soldiers who are promised money for college? Most of
them never see a dime. Recruits have a right to know what they are
really getting into before they enlist.
Anderson describes peace protesters as "aggressive" but fails to
mention that the College Republicans organized their presence on Zero
Recruitment Day with the express purpose of confronting the Anti-War
Committee and other anti-war protesters. One wonders how a group of
military veterans (according to Anderson) could be intimidated by the
peace protesters they faced. Maybe it's the truth they were afraid of?
Or maybe it's something else; one racist protester refused to touch a
Muslim woman protesting with SDS. Their signs read, "Torture is
wrong, waterboarding terrorists is not," and "Anti War = Pro
Terrorism." These individuals were not soldiers who'd internalized
any sensitivity trainings nor any understanding of the Geneva
Conventions or other laws that govern war and combat.
Zero Recruitment Day was no commentary on veterans. Instead, it was a
chance to speak out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ask
that young people out of their own self-interest choose not to
enlist and serve to continue those wars.
Member of the Anti-War Committee