Source: In These Times
Eighteen is the youngest age at which someone can join the U.S. military without their parents’ permission, yet the military markets itself to—which is to say recruits—children at much younger ages. This is in part accomplished by military recruiters who visit high schools around the country, recruiting children during career fairs and often setting up recruitment tables in cafeterias and hallways. As a result, most students in the U.S. will meet a military recruiter for the first time at just 17 years old, and children are getting exposed to military propaganda younger and younger.
The recruitment of young people to the military is as old as the military itself, and has become more and more normalized along with the general militarization of schools. According to the Urban Institute, more than two-thirds of public high school students attend schools where there are “school resource officers,” a name for school-based police. This police presences comes on top of the role of military recruiters on campuses, or at college and career fairs.
Counter-recruitment surged in popularity during George W. Bush’s Iraq War, when the U.S. military ratcheted up recruitment for the war. But these days you don’t hear much about this movement, despite the fact that the U.S. is still engaged in brutal wars, from Yemen to Afghanistan, and the Trump administration has been threatening war with Iran. Out of the spotlight, dedicated counter-recruiters around the country are steadfast in their organizing to cut off the human supply chain to the U.S. military. U.S. wars have caused innumerable deaths, created long-term hardships in occupied nations, and cost trillions of dollars. Counter-recruitment, then, is about starving the military of the labor it needs to accomplish these destructive missions. When working with students, parents and school leadership, counter-recruiters focus on a variety of issues, including the negative personal consequences that come with being a soldier and broader problems like racism and U.S. imperialism.