The Hidden Draft in Our Schools
by Captain Eric H. May
Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006 at 7:36 PM
firstname.lastname@example.org Houston, Texas
With a vast majority of the US public disapproving of the quicksand war in Iraq, how can American educators continue to allow unchecked and unscrupulous recruiting in our high schools? A former Army officer takes a look at the problem of gutless school leaders who let their students be turned into Bush League cannon fodder -- then offers some suggestions on how to change things.
The Hidden Draft in Our Schools
A Case Study: Klein High
Prologue: Reckless Recruiting
Last year the big scandal in the Houston-area recruiting racket was Sergeant Thomas Kelt, who threatened those he was recruiting with arrest if they didn't enlist into the Army, thereby giving a new meaning to "impressing potential recruits." http://www.khou.com/news/local/stories/khou050510_mh_militaryrecruits.2602b7752.html
This year the scandal has come back with a vengeance, with reports that the same recruiter who coerced the clueless last year, far from being removed from recruiting, has been promoted -- to be in charge of other recruiters. http://uttm.com/stories/2005/05/10/eveningnews/printable694345.shtml
Top generals are urging the Bush League to pull out of an ill-conceived war in Iraq, which has worn out equipment and burned out personnel to the point that we no longer have a viable back-up military force. Still, no argument seems able to sway the man who urged the Iraqi Resistance to "bring it on" three years ago, when he boasted of victory in the war we have clearly lost.
Like gambling addicts, the inexperienced civilian leadership of the Armed Forces are resolved to chase each loss with more bets -- of other peoples' lives. In the rush to replace discouraged or debilitated GI's, they have lowered all standards in the last three years -- except the age limit, which is steadily rising -- for new enlistees. They have no apparent strategy in mind except making things so bad that there is no way out, and the only choice left is national conscription -- legislation for which is already drawn up, and draft boards for which are already manned.
It's worth an anecdotal antiwar essay to figure out just how deeply our educators are involved in the de facto draft now being used -- until the factual draft can take its place. Anyone looking for an example need go no further than the local high school, chances are, which is exactly what I did.
Klein High, Spring, Texas -- an Overview
It's never hard to find a recruiter at Klein High School. Every day at lunch they prowl the cafeteria like the Marine tandem in Michale Moore's Fahrenheit 911, buddying up to the marginal students who are their focus, giving noogies and bandying nicknames. Impressive to to the impressionable, they are approved and applauded by coaches and counselors, academics and administrators in a Texas school district where, even in '06, employees still proudly display "W '04" bumper stickers.
Indeed, the whole campus has the air of a basic training reception center at times. A year ago the students were rounded up for a back-to-school pep-talk by an Army Ranger, exhorting them to join the front lines of the patriotic effort to subdue the Middle East by joining the infantry -- or all would be lost in the homeland. History teachers propound the virtues of nuking Iran in the classrooms. The Air Force major who runs the Junior ROTC department promises to kick ass on peacenik parents if they bitched about his Reich-wing approach to things, and launches tough-guy tirades about how protesters should be caged. An assistant principal -- a weekend warrior Air Force officer -- serves as the "vital administrative link" to the ROTC program, where military recruiters are even more common than in the school mess hall, a nice touch for a militarized school.
All told, it's a perfect Bush League campus, no doubt about it, run by the middle-class Republicans who voted by a huge margin for Dubya the last two times he ran. Most are utterly in favor of The Global War on Terror -- and not at all put off by the emerging reality that when the Bush League named it "global war" they meant "world war." History calls them to save the homeland, they are programmed to believe, and they are eager to fight forward -- to the last drop of everyone else's blood. They are perfect clones of the cheerleader-in-chief, who used daddy's money and connections to wage his war, too -- from am undeployable country club Air Force Guard unit down the road a way in Ellington Field.
Lest I be labeled one of the peacenik parents in need of "attitude adjustment" by Klein High's ROTC-Nazi major, I should note that I served in three different decades with the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard, at ranks from buck private to buck sergeant. After I received my commission in 1983, I served in capacities from military intelligence officer to general staff officer. I've been in and out of cavalry and light infantry; opposing forces and public affairs. Making an art form of aggression and athleticism, I'm a tae kwon do instructor.
Still, I don't like it when a whole school district lines up to impress the impressionable students -- into the Army and Marines, all the way to war.
Introducing Myself to Klein High
I moved my family to Klein Independent School District, appropriately, on April Fools Day, 2004, and before the month was out I was pulled into the local infowar. A former teacher-of-the-year myself, within a week of coming to the new neighborhood, I had dropped in on the main office at Klein High, where officials, impressed by my mainstream media credentials, introduced me to the campus journalism teacher. She was a Lefty, I was told, but a team player just the same.
We met and chatted as we stood in the hallway during her morning off-period. I gave her copies of my Houston Chronicle op-ed war analyses predicting an unwinnable quicksand war in Iraq. The first of these came from the summer of 1992 (less than a year after the end of Desert Storm), and earned me praise for support of President Bush (41); the last of them came from the summer of 2003 (less than a year after the beginning of Iraqi Freedom), and got me blackballed from the mainstream media for lack of support of President Bush (43).
I had only published five war analyses/predictions in my long career with the Chronicle, I explained, each of them lambasted at the time as too radical. Time, though, had borne me out. Four of the five had already been proved true, and the last (a prediction of a petrochemical terror attack in the Houston area) was being rehearsed at the time by the FBI, one of the agencies with whom I was in contact as an expert, along with a slew of lesser-known police entities. All five are published in a cyber-collection as "Published Essays by Captain May" at http://www.geocities.com/onlythecaptain/pub.htm
She was pleased to find a thinking officer who was also a former teacher, she told me, and would eagerly read the op-eds. As we spoke I noticed that, while all the students were in their classrooms, all the teenagers were not. Freshly-minted soldiers, pimple-faced in new uniforms, just returned form Basic Training, were roving about, walking billboards for the Army. She grimaced along with me, and said she needed to return to teaching classes. As I turned to leave she urged me to consider getting back into the classroom myself, since enthusiastic critics of the war were few and far between.
The Conscription of Chris Black
A week later, as I waited to order at the local coffee shop, a young man approached me anxiously and asked me if I'd been in the Army. Given my shaved head and military bearing -- products of decades of soldiering -- I'd heard the question a zillion times, and told him yes. Chris Black was a Klein High student cutting morning classes to be with his girlfriend, who sat anxiously waiting for him at a nearby table, and he told me that he was about to go to the Army, too.
I joined the pair, and found that Chris was oblivious to what he was getting into -- and showed it with his replies to every question I asked him. He didn't know what it meant when I asked him what his specialty would be -- until I assumed the worst and asked if it would be infantry, to which he nodded yes. I asked him if he had heard of Fallujah, the then-new battle beginning in the Sunni Triangle of Death, where GI's were engaged in heavy action. He shook his head no, but replied that his Army recruiter had assured him that the only folks fighting in Iraq now and for the future were the Marines, so he'd be safe. He didn't want to get shot at.
Something in my looks, shifting from amazement at his misinformation to anxiety for his choices, caught on with the two teens, his girlfriend first. She never let go of his hand, which she held between the two of hers, clutching it tightly as if she could thereby hold him back from the quicksand war to which he was being led. Despairing of any reassurance from me, he stated his motives for enlisting: a single-parent home with family debts, and no money for college. The Army promised to solve these problems, and to cause no new ones.
He didn't know whether he had actually enlisted yet (a bit of vagueness in keeping with the rest of the misinformation his recruiter had fed him), and I urged him to find out, and to reconsider the whole thing if he didn't want to fight in a war. I explained to him, in old soldier style, that what he had heard from his recruiter was a case of mind over matter. Any story to get him into service was fine, since they didn't mind -- and he didn't matter.
With that grim bon mot, I walked across the street to Klein High, from which he would be graduating the next month, into the office, and asked the same receptionist I'd met a week before for a pass to see the journalism teacher. Since his girlfriend was one of her journalism students, I figured she'd know Chris, and could make sure that he had serious advice on his predicament.
An Administrative Ambush -- and a Police Posse
The same receptionist who had happily pointed me to the journalism teacher a week before didn't smile this time as she asked me to have a seat and picked up the phone. Two minutes later I didn't have a pass in my hand, I had a posse of three administrators and three campus cops. In the Republican Reich, dissenters -- even expert dissenters like me -- were political enemies, and I was treated like one. The "team player" Lefty journalism teacher who had begged me to teach again had denounced me after she read my work.
Principal Patrick Huff ("Huff-n-Puff" to campus wags) was flush with indignation as he stood behind his police team and exclaimed that he didn't want to be mixed up in any politics, and only became redder when I told him that the recruiters were using his school to con kids like Chris Black into enlistments. The cops held back, one noting aloud that I was a martial arts expert, hand on gun, threatening to write me a criminal trespass citation. I requested that he do so, as I would use it in my story, then he demurred, simply asking if I'd leave the campus or not. I left under escort, police hands on me, though thankfully not in handcuffs.
In infowar as in any kind of war, you have to be able to look forward, and half the secret of that trick is not looking back. For two years I've tried to avoid thinking about Chris Black. For better or worse -- almost certainly for worse -- he has stumbled into mind-over-matter reality. The worst part of thinking of Chris, though, is that it makes me think of Wendy, his girlfriend, clutching his hand between her two shaking hands, looking at me in the coffee shop as if I could bring him back before he went to war. I tried hard, but I couldn't.
God knows how much depleted uranium -- the Agent Orange of this new Vietnam -- he has sucked up, how many bullets he has heard whistle, or how many corpses he has seen and smelled. All of this has likely happened in some degree, in the name of a war that was supposed to be about disarming Saddam of WMD's (which weren't there); then about bringing democracy to Iraq (while we kill tens of thousands); then about stabilizing a nation on the way to civil war (thanks to our invasion). All of this for a war that's really about about US oil ambitions and Israeli geopolitical problems -- as those, like me, who called it that were treated as traitors.
A Principled Teacher vs. an Unscrupulous Principal
While the American education system hunkers down until the coast is clear to ask questions -- any questions -- about a quicksand war that is sucking up its students, there are still individual educators who have taken a brave stand. One such was a Klein English teacher whose son, an Iraq War vet, had brought back enough reality to make willful ignorance impossible for her, and whose husband, a Vietnam veteran, supplied enough historic perspective to make it impossible for her to ignore the historic mistake of this war. She was exactly the kind of enemy of orthodoxy that the Principal Huffs of the Klein school district try to suppress, the kind whose concerns for her students outweigh her concern for her career.
After the last national elections, her students were having a lively discussion about just when US forces would achieve the victory proclaimed in 2003 -- and promised every year since. Her answer to them was stark:
"You haven't listened to what they've been saying out of the White House. They are telling you that it's a generational war, and that means your generation is next. When the soldiers fighting now are used up, they'll need new soldiers, and that means you. If you want to know what this war is really all about, ask me, my son or my husband -- or read Captain May's report on it."
She went to the blackboard and wrote down the link address to what I wrote about the Battle of Baghdad Cover-Up (BOBCUP), which is what happened when military/media propaganda replaced the real blood and guts of the action that took the Iraqi capital in 2003 -- while clueless citizens thought that Private Jessica Lynch was the real story: http://www.geocities.com/onlythecaptain/
"I'll probably get in trouble for writing this down," she said as she wrote, "but you can't say I didn't warn you."
A Practical Postscript
It's up to parents and teachers to agitate for schools that teach critical thinking and the Constitution, not a follow-the-leader mindset that supports a military-industrial con-job. The place to start, in my mind, is with the idea that reality has been systematically withheld from the public since 911, the better to lead the public to a war that was a cherished dream of Bush League Neocons long before 911 ever happened. With two-thirds of the American People loathing the current president, and fully a third suspecting that the 911 matter was either set up or allowed to happen to bring us into what is now being called World War Three by conservative commentators, the winds are finally shifting back toward national sanity.
Military recruiters should be kept out of our school by school boards, not invited in. If full-grown men with impressive uniforms and glittering medals were to come into our lunch halls, class rooms, auditoriums and functions to try to hustle our daughters into bed, we'd call for cops. Yet we invite the same alluring figures to come and try to hustle our sons -- and daughters -- into war, and call ourselves patriots.
Principled school officials should tell students -- and their parents -- that they can "opt out" of being contacted by recruiters, who nowadays have access to school district student records, thanks to the "No Child Left Behind" rules that relaxed protections our youngsters used to enjoy against being categorized and targeted for recruiter contact. That most parents don't even know about the "Opt Out" clause is a testament to how complicit our school administrators are in the de facto draft scam.
In the current context, the well-off folks of Klein, few of whom ever wore a military uniform, are happy to vicariously express their willingness to die for their country -- through less fortunate folks' kids. It's the ones without college funds and summer camps who form the "target rich environment" among whom recruiters find their recruits. It's all a case of mind over matter.
Captain Eric H. May, MI/PAO, USA
CO, Ghost Troop, 3/7 Cybercav+
Mission of Conscience / Patriots in Action
Captain May announced a mission of conscience and formed Ghost Troop after the Battle of Baghdad cover-up, filing Inspector General complaints with the Dept. of the Army and subordinate commands involved in the cover-up. For more about this unique unit of active and former soldiers, journalists and activists, refer to the story published about them by this week's Lone Star Iconoclast: http://www.lonestaricon.com/absolutenm/anmviewer.asp?a=402&z=52
***Postscript: The captain's remark about what the public would do with recruiters if they were attempting to sexually prey on American youth was prescient, as an AP story, released shortly after this essay's completion, reveals: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/082006A.shtml