Thursday, October 13, 2005

Indymedia roundup focus on Iraq

On Oct. 6 over 100 students at Holyoke Community College and their allies in Western Massachusetts marched and rallied on campus to protest the 'banning' of student Charles Peterson, the U.S. war on Iraq and military recruiting on campus.
Calling the protest after its members were brutalized and maced by campus and state cops Sept. 29, the HCC Anti-War Coalition hand delivered its five key demands to the college's President William Messner.
The demands are: the immediate lifting of the ban on Peterson, an immediate, unconditional public apology from the college; a pledge of non-retaliation against activists; a thorough and impartial investigation; and that military recruiters be banned from campus.
The demands are: the immediate lifting of the ban on Peterson, an immediate, unconditional public apology from the college; a pledge of non-retaliation against activists; a thorough and impartial investigation; and that military recruiters be banned from campus. The Anti-War Coalition also held a press conference Oct. 3 at Holyoke City Hall expressing these demands.A police riotOver 30 multinational lesbian, gay, bi and trans students and allies protested Army National Guard recruiting at the HCC student cafeteria Sept. 29. Another focus was the Pentagon's bigoted "don't ask, don't tell" policy that essentially bars LGBT persons from enlisting -- in violation of the college's and the state's non-discrimination laws. After menacing the students by ripping a placard from one and brutalizing more, campus and state cops dispersed the counter-recruitment demonstrators. At least 20 local and state police in riot gear and gas masks arrived with boxes labeled "gas masks." One student claimed a group of state police pointed guns at him.

The next day Charles Peterson, a student maced and assaulted by police at the counter-recruiting action, was visited by two state police at his home who told him he was banned from campus and would be arrested for trespassing if he entered public HCC property. Peterson is vice president for academic affairs on the Student Senate and is employed at HCC.

The above, sent in by Brenda, is from Bryan G. Pfeifer's "Holyoke College students stand up to Military Recruiters and Administration" (Boston Indymedia). It's Thursday, it's indymedia roundup. This entry focuses on the war at home (United States). And a number of the items focus on counter-recruiting. I'll be sure to pass these items on to Mike because this is one of the issues he covers.

Lori e-mails to note Justin Park's "Brass Tactics: Students are finally resisting the military's aggressive recruiting practices" (Syracuse New Times):

Recruiters are desperately trying to sign young people up for the war in Iraq. At the end of September, the U.S. Army posted its worst recruiting shortfall since 1979 and tales of recruiting abuses have made headlines over the past year. Anti-war activists, sensing a chink in the armor, have seized upon recruiting as an area for war resistance, and they are confronting recruiters on campuses and distributing literature to students detailing what they call "myths" recruiters portray about the military life.
After hearing so many horror stories about military recruiters lying to young people, railroading them through the enlistment process and using high-pressure sales tactics I decided to test the waters myself. Still of enlistment age, I milled about in front of a recruiters' table set up on Sept. 24 in front of the Galleries of Syracuse. I received nary a "Hey you!" Bored, I asked if I could climb their rock wall. They obliged, put me in a harness, and I scaled the wall in a minute or so.
While rappelling back down, I noticed a woman, looking perturbed, talking to an Army recruiter. Slipping out of the harness I heard him tell her, "This isn't like other countries where he'd have to go," apparently referencing the woman's son. The woman--black, middle-age--immediately responded, "Not yet." The recruiter, a young Caucasian who looks culled from a "Be all you can be" TV spot, almost walked away, then half-turned and with finger pointed a la Uncle Sam, whispered, "We might be closer to that than you think, then we'll come and get him."
As I walked away, another recruiter handed me the Army's official video game--the full version, "not a demo," according to the package--for my exploits on the rock wall. Naturally, I wouldn't have been allowed in the harness in the first place had I not filled out a form with my name, address, phone and e-mail (Social Security number optional). I realized later that I could have downloaded the game for free, at
The rock wall and the video game are just a couple of the tools the Army employs, costing billions in tax dollars, in an ever-expanding marketing effort designed to bolster enlistments for the United States Global War on Terror, or whatever it's called these days. Despite almost 6 million downloads of its games, the Army announced earlier this month that it's nearly 7,000 recruits shy of its goal of 80,000 for fiscal year 2005, one of the worst gaps since the military draft was abolished in 1974. The shortfall raises questions about the Army's ambitious plan to expand by 40,000 troops over the next several years to help bear the burden of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kenneth Love is a former Junior Reserve Officer Training Cadet (ROTC) at Washingtonville High School downstate who briefly attended military college in Georgia. He is now doing "counter-recruitment" at his new school, the Rochester Institute of Technology. "After the war {in Iraq} started, the anti-war movement went into a lull. Counter-recruiting became a national, grass-roots movement during that time and now it's the leading edge of a resurgent student anti-war movement," he says.
Ironically, former military types, many once recruiters, who either oppose the war in Iraq or at least object to the military's hard-sell tactics to fill ranks, populate much of the counter-recruitment movement. There are signs, including a new billion-dollar Army television ad campaign out this month, that the Pentagon may be amending its recruiting pitch to include more honesty about the dangers of service. But it remains to be seen if they'll abandon their sales tactics altogether. It's also up in the air whether armed forces recruiters can make their own quotas by telling Gen-Y youth, used to meaningless video game death, that they ought to die, literally, for their country. So far, sales are slow.

Wally e-mails to note James Carlson's "No Child Left Unrecruited" (Orlando Weekly):

David Vitter, a Republican senator from Louisiana, attached 9528 to the bill in 2001 after hearing from the Pentagon that many schools were not handing over student information to recruiters. He said at the time he was offended by the "anti-military attitude" these schools displayed.
What Vitter terms "anti-military," many call respecting privacy, and school districts in anti-war pockets of the country have fought back. Schools in San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif., have placed the notification on the emergency card, which has to be filled out and returned. Other districts -- New York City is one -- allow students (including minors) to opt themselves out, and Los Angeles schools only release 11th and 12th grade students' information to recruiters.
If it were up to California Democrat Rep. Mike Honda, opting in would be the norm. He introduced the Student Privacy Protection Act of 2005, which requires a parent's consent before a child's information can be released. It has been stalled in the Republican-controlled House Committee on Education since March.
Both the national Parent Teachers Association and the National Education Association support changing section 9528, and has received more than 31,000 opt-out cards. But even with more information getting out across the country, it's the way local districts notify parents that determines the number of opt-outs.
Eighteen percent of Orange County high school students have opted out so far this year. The low percentage might be due to the bulk of papers students bring home at the start of school. The "Public Notice of Parent Rights" letter, which has a box to check for opting out, is sent home with students along with other first-of-the-year materials such as schedules, the student code of conduct and day planners.
"I send [the notifications] home, but I send a lot of stuff home, which probably just gets lost in the shuffle. Maybe that's the problem," says Lorenzo Phillips, principal of Jones High School, where only 8 percent of students opted out.
Orange County, however, has the highest percentage of opt-outs in the area. In Seminole, Osceola and Volusia counties, 1 percent or less of their students return an opt-out form. (Lake County could not provide numbers at the time of publication.)
In Osceola County, where only 18 of the 13,601 high school students have opted out this year, the notice appears at the bottom of page 37 of the student code of conduct. Unlike Orange County, there is no box to check, no official form to return, only a line that informs parents they can notify the principal in writing of their wish to withhold student information from recruiters.

Micah e-mails to note NYCLU's "NYCLU Pushes Buffalo High School to Release Students from Mandatory JROTC Program" (NYC Indymedia):

Hutchinson Central Technical High School ("Hutch Tech") in Buffalo, NY has agreed to allow one student to withdraw from the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program. But the school has yet to provide assurance that it will release the other students who were enrolled in the program without parental consent. In letters to Hutch Tech Principal David Greco and the Buffalo Board of Education, the New York Civil Liberties Union has called for changes to bring the rest of the JROTC program into compliance with the law.
The NYCLU initially wrote to the school following complaints from parents of Hutch Tech students whose daughters, who had been "automatically" enrolled in JROTC, a military training program for high school students. The school's practice violates the State’s Education Law, which provides that no child may be compelled to participate in JROTC and requires prior written parental consent before any child may be enrolled.
"Our legislature has made it quite clear that schools cannot push students into the JROTC military training program over their objections or by default," said Maggie Gram, Program Organizer for the NYCLU's Project on Military Recruitment and Students' Rights. "The schools must develop procedures that respect the rights of students."
Given the school's disregard for state education law regarding JROTC, the NYCLU also expressed concern regarding the school’s compliance with other statutory limitations on military access to students and their contact information -- especially the provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which gives the military unprecedented access to students info also provides that students and parents may withhold their contact information from the military and must be given adequate time to do so.
The NYCLU has received information indicating that Hutch Tech students have not been given this option. In a follow-up letter to Greco, the NYCLU inquired as to whether the school was giving students the chance to opt out, reminding Principal Greco that the Family Compliance Office of the US Department of Education has concluded that "a school must honor a request by a student…not to disclose his or her name, address and telephone number to military recruiters." Buffalo's school board will meet tonight at 5:30 p.m. in room 801 of Buffalo’s City Hall. The session will be open to the public. Parent Bruce Beyer will speak on the subject of Hutch Tech’s JROTC program, and the NYCLU’s Western Regional Office will distribute informational leaflets outside. More information and documents related to the Hutch Tech policy, and information about other issues relating to military recruitment and students' rights, are available at

Anne e-mails to note A.K. Gupta's "Looking For A Winning Strategy" (The Indypendent):

Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside of Bush’s ranch in Texas in early August helped revive the antiwar movement, but it wouldn’t have been possible without a wide array of antiwar groups. In July, Sheehan announced at the Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas that she would make a stand at Bush’s ranch until he met with her. She arrived in Crawford in early August with 50 supporters, including dozens of vets, and just days after a huge spike in U.S. deaths in Iraq.
With hundreds of media in Crawford looking for a story they found one. Soon, support mushroomed and UFPJ member groups such as Code Pink came in with resources to support Sheehan. The vigil was immediately followed by the "Bring Them Home Now Tour" with military families and vets in the lead, such as Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace -- the last three of which are part of UFPJ's national steering committee. The tour ended with Sheehan headlining the Sept. 24 protest in Washington, D.C.
Without her presence and the anger over the government's handling of Hurricane Katrina, the anti-war march and rally would have likely struggled to draw a crowd one-tenth the size. The previous "national" day of protest last March saw the Troops Out Now Coalition muster a scant 5,000 in Central Park while United for Peace and Justice drew only 1,500, at a nationally organized demonstration in Fayetteville, North Carolina on March 20. But Fayetteville marked a turning point. In December 20004, says Khalil, UFPJ decided "to make Fayetteville a major regional demonstration."
The aim was to elevate military families and veterans, as well as to build the antiwar movement in the South. Cindy Sheehan spoke at the event. Just one week earlier she had been profiled in The Nation, which asked if she was "The New Face of Protest?"
UFPJ deserves credit for bringing the antiwar movement back to life after earlier strategic mistakes of eschewing militant action when it had the support and the sidetracking of the antiwar movement into an anti-Bush movement last year. But it has also become a whipping boy for much of the left, criticized as much for its prominence as politics that are seen as overly liberal. Many observers caution that UFPJ is not synonymous with the antiwar movement. They point to an upsurge of antiwar activity at the local level, particularly around "counter-recruitment."
SHUNNING RADICAL POLITICS UFPJ's organizing strategy is under fire in particular. According to one inside source, some within UFPJ argue that the coalition of 1,300 groups should play to the center by bringing in unions and other large organizations, partly to counter the influence of one of the other main antiwar groups, International Answer. Such a strategy entails jettisoning broader anti-imperialist politics because, the argument goes, the focus should be on building "the broadest possible antiwar movement" rather than trying to bring together left forces.
It's debatable if reaching out to working-class communities and people of color means shunning radical politics. Sheehan, for one, is a vocal opponent of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, an issue that UFPJ finds difficult to negotiate. UFPJ opposes the Israeli occupation of Palestine in strong terms, but its working group on the issue agrees on very little because some member groups, such as Tikkun, are pro-Zionist. Unable to address such issues leaves UFPJ's left flank wide open. Both Answer, which recently split from the rigidly authoritarian Workers World Party and Troops Out Now Coalition, Workers World new antiwar front, attack UFPJ constantly for not taking a stronger stand against U.S. domination of countries such as Haiti, Afghanistan, Palestine and the Philippines.

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