avid Goodman / Seattle Times & Donald P. Russo / Mcall.com – 2006-10-09 23:12:38
Military Recruiters Work Hard
To Leave No Child off Their Lists
David Goodman / Seattle Times
(October 7, 2006) — My daughter just started high school. This milestone was marked by the arrival in our home of a ream of paperwork. Along with the usual bureaucratic permissions, I found tucked into this package a seemingly innocuous form that carries extraordinary consequences: Failing to fill it out might result in my daughter being harassed, assaulted, or being fast-tracked to fight in Iraq.
This form asks us if we want to opt out of having our daughter’s contact information sent to the U.S. military. If we overlooked this form, or did not opt out for some reason, our high school is required to forward her information to military recruiters. This is thanks to a stealth provision of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. It turns out that President Bush’s supposed signature education law also happens to be the most aggressive military recruitment tool enacted since the draft ended in 1973.
The military recruiting requirement of NCLB has forced many schools to overturn longstanding policies on protecting student records from prying eyes. My local high school, like most in the country, carefully guards its student-directory information from the countless organizations, businesses and special-interest groups that are itching to tempt impressionable teens. Now, parents and schools are being shoved aside, and the military is being given carte blanche access to our kids. Not surprisingly, abuse has followed closely behind.
In August, an Associated Press investigation revealed that “more than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams … . One out of 200 frontline recruiters — the ones who deal directly with young people — was disciplined for sexual misconduct last year.”
Take the case of Indiana National Guard Sgt. Eric P. Vetesy, accused of sexually assaulting six female high-school recruits in 2002 and 2003. According to the Indianapolis Star, Vetesy “picked out teens and young women with backgrounds that made them vulnerable to authority. As a military recruiter, he had access to personal information, making the quest easier.”
The NCLB recruiter provision is but one piece of a concerted effort by the Bush administration to reach unwitting teens without their parents’ permission. In June 2005, privacy advocates were shocked to learn that for two years, the Pentagon had been amassing a database of information on some 30 million students. The information dossiers on millions of young Americans were to help identify college and high-school students as young as 16 to target them for military recruiting.
The massive database includes an array of personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying. The Pentagon has hired the Massachusetts-based company BeNow to run the database. By outsourcing this work to a private firm, the government is circumventing laws that restrict its right to collect or hold citizen information.
If you are concerned about how this information on your children might be used, you should be: The Pentagon has stated that it can share the data with law enforcement, state tax authorities, other agencies making employment inquiries, and with foreign authorities, to name a few. Students will not know if their information has been collected, and they cannot prevent it from happening.
The main obstacle to getting kids into the military — concerned parents — has at long last been circumvented. Private companies can now harvest data on children, and provide recruiters — some of whom are also now private contractors — with the information they need to contact kids directly.
Should skeptical parents find out that the “Mr. Jones” calling for Johnny is offering their child a free ticket to Iraq, the military is spending millions to learn how best to persuade or bypass these negative “influencers.” One Pentagon study is focused exclusively on changing mothers’ attitudes to enable recruiters to “exert some influence on mothers who are currently against military service.”
Grassroots groups are mobilizing against the Pentagon’s massive student-recruitment and data-mining campaigns. Leave My Child Alone ( www.leavemychildalone.org ) offers online opt-out forms that students and parents can download and submit to schools to keep their names off of recruiter contact lists. The group estimates that as of 2006, 37,000 students have opted out of the No Child Left Behind requirement. Students can also file another form to send to the Pentagon to have their names removed from the giant student database.
I signed my form directing our local high school to withhold my daughter’s contact information from military recruiters. Other parents undoubtedly missed it. When military recruiters eventually come knocking at their doors, these families will find out the hard way what President Bush really meant when he promised to “leave no child behind.”
David Goodman is co-author of “Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders and the People Who Fight Back,” published by Hyperion. He lives in Vermont.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. www.globalresearch.ca
© Copyright David Goodman, Seattle Times, 2006
New Law Needed to Protect Young Military Recruits
Donald P. Russo / Mcall.com
(September 30, 2006 ) — Jennifer Marie Hartman was 21 when she died in Iraq earlier this month. The Tamaqua High School graduate was a cook assigned to the 4th Support Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, based at Ft. Hood, Texas. She was in her barracks in west Baghdad when it was hit by a suicide truck bombing. Army officials kept Jennifer’s family in the dark for four days before telling them for certain that she had been killed.
Jennifer was taken to Iraq on the strength of a lie; a blatant, bald-faced unvarnished lie. She was told by an Army recruiter that she would not go to Iraq if she enlisted. I suppose the lawyer in me would have demanded to see this promise in writing, but apparently high school graduates these days are being told they can rely upon the verbal assurances of military recruiters.
What happened to her is a sobering reminder to school district officials and college administrators in the Lehigh Valley who allow military recruiters onto school grounds. We now have direct evidence that recruits are being lied to.
While I realize that the Republican Congress is in total lockstep with George W. Bush on Iraq, I suggest a new piece of legislation for Congress to consider. Perhaps we should call it the Jennifer Marie Hartman Law.
Any and all promises, representations, assurances or statements of any kind made by any military recruiter for any branch of the U.S. armed forces should be reduced to writing at the time they are made, in the form of a written contract to be signed by all parties. The contract should be signed by the military recruiter’s commanding officer, the recruiter, the recruit, and, if the recruit is under age 21, by at least one parent.
In view of what happened to Jennifer Hartman, every superintendent of every Lehigh Valley school district needs to conduct a thorough review of what is being said by these recruiters. I doubt Republican incumbents and candidates would support a Jennifer Marie Hartman Law because it would anger President Bush, so I call on Democratic incumbents and candidates to tell us where they stand on the idea of attempting to control recruiters.
As we approach the Nov. 7 election, Jennifer Hartman’s death throws into high relief the total moral bankruptcy of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld debacle in Iraq.
They have gotten us into another Vietnam. The monetary cost of this fiasco now approaches $320 billion. What have we gotten for our money? Are we any safer? It is mind-boggling to contemplate how that money could have been better used to protect Americans here at home, or for education, or for health care, or for reducing our tax burdens or reducing our national debt.
Instead, nearly 3,000 young Americans have been killed, and 20,000 have been maimed. According to a Veterans’ Health Administration report, more than one-third of the veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering from stress disorders. And then, of course, thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed.
A National Intelligence Estimate, which reflects the consensus view of all 16 government intelligence agencies, including the CIA, says that the Iraq war is causing increased terrorism. In short, Bush’s war in Iraq has made us less safe. I know the religious right remains in full support of Mr. Bush and his war, yet I find it disturbing that Christians can reconcile Bush’s war policies with the Sermon on the Mount. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine formulated the concept of a Just War.
Section 2309 of the Catholic Catechism defines what constitutes a ”just war.” Read Section 2309. One cannot even begin to use the Just War provisions of Section 2309 to endorse what is happening in Iraq.
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