Tell your legislature to protect student info from military recruiters!

Abolishing war a lofty goal, but it’s achievable. We need to replace a culture of war with one of peace.

This starts by ending the militarization of America’s children while they attend public schools. The U.S. military collects the names, addresses, and phone numbers of our children from the local high schools. However, the law says parents have the right to “opt-out” from having their child’s information sent to recruiters. High schools are supposed to tell parents they have this right, but many fail to do so. Consequently, most parents don’t know what’s going on, while the Pentagon collects their child’s information.

Click here to easily email your state legislators to insist that parents be afforded the right to say they don’t want their child’s information given to the Pentagon.

Although schools are required to inform parents of their right to opt out, the weak law doesn’t specify how. As a result, many schools send a single notice in a mailing, or tucked away in a student handbook, where parents are not likely to see it.

In Maryland, parents got organized and found a solution. As a result of these parents’ activism, Maryland is the only state that has passed a law that requires military recruiter opt-out language on schools’ mandatory emergency contact forms, which parents must complete annually. As a result, many Marylanders have opted out, so that their children’s information is not sent to military recruiters.

Let’s disrupt military recruitment across the country, and the world. Tell your elected officials to follow Maryland’s example.

We can undermine the institution of war, one school at a time.

Join us,
Pat Elder, World Beyond War


Posted in Uncategorized

Did John Kelly tell the Truth?

The New York Times editorial board today published “Honor the Truth, John Kelly.”  After Trump told Myeshia Johnson that her husband Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger, knew what he was signing up for when he joined the military. Chief of staff Kelly then made several remarks that incited huge fury.

But missing in the discussions are the fact that people do join the military, unaware of the chance they may die…or get PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, or be unable to get a job when out of the military. We have a national preoccupation to ignore the effects of the war and of military service on young people.

I wrote a short comment to the NY Times:

There is widespread denial of what military recruiters (who are MANDATED to be in the schools and to have access to students’ home information by NCLB/ESSA) tell the high school students about war. And that is nothing. You can search online and find the recommendations given to recruiters with which to answer questions such as “Will I be sent to battle?” That question is punted always. Add that to the widespread denial of the USA militarism and wars- see the very recent NY Times editorial- and you have recruits and families who believe they will sign up to the military to have a job and to travel the world, or to do good, not knowing that they will be used for other purposes.

Posted in antiwar, militarism, PTSD, Recruiting, war

Make Art Not war- Or Both? From the UK

Different continents, same problem with militarism and recruiting the young.

Make Art Not War… or both?

Poppy Kohner

The Fringe festival has always been eclectic. Not an inch of Edinburgh is wasted as the whole city becomes a stage and all the people, merely players. But this year, on its 70th anniversary, the well-regarded Fringe venue Summerhall collaborated with a newcomer: the British Army. The Army Reserve Centre and Drill Hall in East Claremont Street transformed into a performance venue that was programmed and staffed by serving soldiers. This was billed as an opportunity to demystify the military, but should we be concerned that this particular kind of militainment is only the beginning of the Army’s engagement in the arts in Scotland and the UK?

I’m an anthropologist of militarism and a theatre-maker, so I felt I had to wander down Leith Walk and make a visit to the drill hall-cum-theatre venue to take a closer look.

Many of the shows programmed by Army@theFringe dealt with subject matters such as race, gender, disability, mental illness and even imperialism. But here I am not interested in reviewing the shows as much as I am reviewing the politics of the Army hosting audiences at the Fringe.

On entering the drill hall I am greeted by soldiers. Lots of soldiers – more than are necessary. There is a relaxed, jovial, slightly disorganised atmosphere that is fairly welcoming. From the research I have done inside military bases the playful banter between soldiers on shift feels fairly familiar to me. Contrary to the marketed image of travel and adventure, being in the army usually entails a lot of waiting around.

I chat to a small crowd of friendly soldiers loitering in the entrance by the makeshift box office. I ask if they are paid any extra on their normal salary to staff the venue. “No,” they tell me, “but we volunteered to do it.” A Superior Officer catches wind of our conversation and strides between us with a brisk yet casual air of importance. He extends his finger in the air and without stopping or looking in my direction he bellows, “All our British soldiers are volunteers! Every single one of them wants to be here!” and continues to walk out the front door.

Compared to a larger conscription army, a volunteer force is easier to train, discipline, and retain. A smaller army also allows for public perception to be controlled by the military public relations team, as a smaller percent of the population actually experience army life. This notion of a professional army full of patriotic volunteers bolsters the cogency of the hero myth that makes up a central tenant of militarism. Once inside the military, individuals have a different (and limited) set of rights compared to civilians, and it is extremely difficult to leave once a contract is signed. In an era of austerity, increasing precarity, and the privatisation of social services such as higher education and healthcare, the army successfully presents itself as a fast track means towards social and economic mobility. So in response to the Superior Officer, how free is a choice between a vanishing number of options?

Inside the drill hall’s Mess there are Chesterfield sofas, a long table complete with tartan tablecloths, cut glass, candelabras, statuettes, trophies and other silver ornaments. The massive stuffed head of a caribou stares over us with glazed eyes and sprawling antlers, framed either side by pictures of Queen Liz and Prince Phillip. Despite all the twee, it feels sterile, solemn and stuffy.

The exhibition at the venue was a celebration of soldiers in both training and operations, including a bigger-than-life-sized photograph of a small child in army camouflage crouching in long grass, without explanation. The Army were keen to assure me that this endeavor was not a recruitment exercise but about public engagement. Lt Col Jo Young, the British Army’s Officer for the Arts commented, “The impact of this is not something we can measure in terms of how many more people will join us as a result.” Lt Col Gordon McKenzie, head of public engagement, described it as “deepening the public understanding of who we are and what we do. So that people can know that behind the uniform we are also human beings”. But focusing on the person behind the uniform diverts the audience’s attention away from the Army as an institution. “Don’t worry about what we might be doing in the Middle East,” it says, “just remember: we’re people too.” In this way, the army’s engagement with the arts is a means to depoliticise the image of a soldier; a deeply political and strategic move.

Theatre is always in danger of becoming an apparatus of the state. Theatre operates on our sensibilities in ways that can evoke deep emotional responses and has the potential to change perceptions and consequential actions (or inaction). Aristotle called this catharsis: an empathetic connection towards the protagonist of a story, which, as the play comes to a resolution, arouses a potent mix of pity and fear in the hearts of the spectators.

Militarism is a kind of theatre in and of itself; a domestic military operation of public relations to recruit our hearts and minds. It communicates a simplified and highly censored story of British exceptionalism and moral righteousness of state sanctioned violence. It transforms violence into something to celebrate. The tragic heroes of this story are service members and we the civilians are a captive audience.

Lt Col Young commented that “Human spirit and human resilience is the common thread that runs throughout our programming. But we are also keen to have conversations with the public about what the forces looks like in the 21st Century. We want to show the public a different side of us. We are society’s army, and so its important that those we serve know about what the army does”.

My research has shown that there is often a disjuncture between imagined and lived military identities. As the protagonists in the narrative of militarism, soldiers and veterans are silenced by idealised notions of their lives and experiences. The more confounding and painful lived realities of post-9/11 military experience get blocked out by the noise of militarism and quickly become unspeakable, un-hearable and invisible. A romanticized public perception of military life can further injure soldiers who are trapped in a traumatic silence, unable to speak their contrary truths.

Lt Col Young and her team are proud to act as programmers, and not actors, writers or directors. Over a gin and tonic Lt Col McKenzie told me that if they become the theatre makers they would be more vulnerable to criticism, but they are not ruling this out for the future. The narratives of militarism that we find at Army@theFringe presents the Army as being inclusive, diverse and open to dialogue. However there is something more at work – the claim to inclusivity conceals the fact that the Army@theFringe is a carefully constructed, morally manageable, imitation of the Army which is difficult to challenge.

Public engagement exercises like the Army@TheFringe venue distance the military from the realities of what it does and disciplines the nation from critically engaging with war, and the implications of our arms trade. “What is often missing from theatre and film depictions of the army” says Iraqi-British playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak “is the voice of those who are/were at the receiving end of military power, namely Afghani, Iraqi, Libyan and Yemeni civilians.”

This is a beginning of much wider programme of work orientated around military engagement in the arts. Army@theFringe is a part of worrying trend of the British military using US-style techniques of garnering public support for the troops. Some of these include the creation of Armed Forces Day in 2009, the commercialization of the Remembrance Poppy, army engagement in schools, learning packs that celebrate British military history for school children, increasing cadet forces across the UK, and a recruitment campaign that exploits young people’s desire to belong.

The Fringe is an open access festival, and this is important for nurturing creative freedom and expression, as was the ethos it was borne out of 70 years ago. I am not advocating censorship or blacklisting. However, this entanglement between the arts and the forces is an issue of censorship – we need to ask, what becomes censored when elite institutions take on the programming and hosting of the arts? Can we really expect to have a meaningful dialogue when the armed forces are calling the shots? How critical can embedded artists really be when in a relationship of gratitude to their military hosts?

The MoD did not have direct influence on four of the shows in their programme, with the exception of Rosie Kay’s dance company for their production of 5 Soldiers: the body is the frontline and the writers of Wired, who visited in the army for a period of time in the research and development stages of their creative process.

So what’s the pull for producers to choose the Army drill hall as the venue to host their show? Lt Col Young tells me that many of the costs involved in putting on a show at the Drill Hall have been subsidised and artists have been further helped out with access to free rehearsal space. The Army@theFringe have already started planning for next year’s Fringe noting in their brief that 2018 is designated Year of the Young Person by the Scottish Government. As part of their package to attract artists they have promised: to organise visits to Army bases or exercises to assist development of productions; access to rehearsal space in army halls across the UK; army personnel and musicians to take part in productions; promotional support from army media and marketing teams, including free distribution of leaflets by uniformed flyer teams; army accommodation being made available for the duration of shows, free meals for casts at the venue; and the possibility of being selected for post-Fringe tours of the Scotland and the UK, supported by the Army.

How to resist being seduced by these offerings that give emerging artists opportunities in a competitive arena like the Fringe? I wanted to ask Summerhall whether, in a time of escalating fear, xenophobia and military activity, is it not the responsibility of arts institutions to make choices that counter, not aide, a growing culture that idolises militarism and war? Despite leaving many messages and sending emails, I’m yet to get an answer.

Militarism operates in innocuous ways that normalise military imaginaries as a part of our everyday lives. At these first stages of the British Armed Forces moving into arts engagement we have a moment to act. Now is the time for artists, writers, directors and arts organisations in the UK and Scotland to come together to make a collective and public declaration on the ethics of collaborating with the Army.

Dr P Kohner is an anthropologist and has a PhD in Applied Social Science specializing in the anthropology of militarism and trauma from the University of Glasgow.  She is also a co-founder of The Workers Theatre cooperative.

Posted in militarism, Recruiting Tagged with: , , , ,

Education not militarization at VFP in Chicago

The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth will be participating in the 2017 Veterans For Peace National Convention in Chicago August 11th, 2017. Located at the beautiful and historic Palmer House Hotel, veterans and allies will gather to discuss “Education Not Militarization”. Registration begins on Wednesday, August 9th and ends on August 13th with a benefit concert by Jackson Browne. The week will be filled with amazing workshops, discussions, community and music.

NNOMY will be presenting a Mini Plenary workshop between 1:30 and 3:00pm in the Spire meeting room on Friday, August 11th 2017 with the theme, Education Not Militarization: The Nuts and Bolts of Pursuing Policy Changes to Counter Recruitment and Demilitarize Schools.

In the Hancock room, at 3:15 to 4:45pm NNOMY will conduct the workshop, Education Not Militarization: Educating students and countering military recruitment inside the schools, with multiple presenters. Please be on time so we can cover all the materials and have time for questions.






Posted in conference, militarism, Veterans for Peace Tagged with: , , , ,

Military recruitment activist from the UK seeking collaborations!

July 11, 2017
Greetings from the UK.
I’m reaching out to let you know about some of our research into military recruitment, the effects of military training, and the mental health of veterans, which I hope might be of some use to you in the US.
In particular, the work looks in detail at military marketing strategies, the psychological impact of military employment, and the child rights issues arising from enlisting under the age of 18.
The most recent report, released last week by Veterans for Peace UK, is The First Ambush? Effects of army training and employment, which is based mainly on studies published in the UK and US.
Several other reports of this kind cover other parts of the military recruitment and employment pathway.
Even though some of the reports are focused on the British situation, much of the data and many of the arguments could be used in other countries too. Some of the reports are quite long but each has a short executive summary.
Here is a list:
  • The First Ambush? Effects of army training and employment (Veterans for Peace UK, 2017)
  • The Last Ambush? Aspects of mental health in the British armed forces (ForcesWatch, 2013)
The following are focused on the enlistment of minors:
  • The recruitment of children by the UK armed forces: A critique from health professionals (Medact, 2016)
  • Is it counter-productive to enlist minors into the army? (RUSI Journal, 2016) [this presents a child rights, military and financial case for raising the enlistment age to 18]
  • Young age at army enlistment is associated with greater war zone risks (ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International)
You can google any of the titles to get straight to the docs.
Collectively, the research shows comprehensively that enlisting in the armed forces (particularly the army/marines) carries high risks of a negative impact on health, attitudes, behaviour, and socioeconomic outcomes. The youngest recruits are most affected, but older recruits are also affected. The research goes some way to quantifying these effects.
In addition, is available as a British version of your GI Rights site.
I wrote or co-wrote some of these reports and can answer any questions you may have.
I wish our work was more linked up with yours in the US – perhaps I should have contacted you earlier!
Since I really don’t know who’s working on this in the US, would you please send this on to any other organisations you think might be interested? Feel free to pass on my email address, too.
Finally, if you have any similar research that you would like us to know about in the UK, I and others here would be glad to hear of it.
Kind regards
Posted in counter military recruiting, militarism Tagged with: , , ,

What if – the Mariners honored peace activists?

In a Seattle Times article about the possible renaming of Safco Field, there was a picture of the team standing as part of the Salute to Armed Forces Night. This ubiquitous link between sports and the military is seldom questioned, and so, this “subtle” recruiting continues.

Father’s Day is this weekend. Several years ago, at the same time of year, I wandered over to the Father’s Day exhibit at the downtown Seattle Barnes and Noble. The stack of books was a tribute to war, with all of the books being about past wars or weapons.

I went to Customer Service to ask whether this is really how they saw fathers. The Customer Service rep told me that the holiday displays were determined by the main office, and he gave me a phone number. I called, and spoke to someone who said that the displays were different for different kinds of places: as we in Seattle have so many military bases around us, we are deemed to be military-friendly and get the military books.

Otherwise, we might have had books for fathers with families and emotions, as I saw later in a Manhattan Barnes and Noble Father’s Day display.

Recruiting and militarism cannot be separated.


Posted in militarism, sports, war Tagged with: , , , , ,

PNACAC College Fair Seattle April 29, 2017

Alternative to enlisting!

Seattle, April 29, 2017 – Seattle University, Connolly Center
No passes or fees required. Parking is available on the street, at the Connolly Center (at 14th & E Jefferson), at the East Columbia Building (13th Ave & E Cherry), in the Broadway garage (Broadway & E Columbia), and the Murphy garage (on E Cherry between Broadway & 12th Ave). Please note that due to the urban nature of our campus setting, you may need to walk up to 5-10 blocks roundtrip from your car to the location of the fair.
Be aware that street parking is limited to two hours; cars parked on the street longer than two hours will be subject to citation.
Seattle Fair Logistics Information for College Representatives, Students & Parents
Chair: Patrick McCarthy

See for links and more information

Posted in college, conference, scholarship Tagged with: ,

Peace scholarships for youth 14-23 years, application due April 1, 2017

The Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) is writing to request your help in finding young people 14 to 23 years old (high school and college age) who may be interested in applying for a Fellowship where they would get:

1) $600 to design and conduct their own social change project;

2) get free training for 9 days (June 23 to July 4, 2017, including at the Seabeck conference, (see July 1-4, below) in the theory and skills of organizing nonviolent projects, campaigns and movements, including 2 days for “Core Training in Kingian Nonviolence”; and

3) get further support and training for 1 year as they execute their own project. We are accepting applications from youth anywhere in the country.
Info and applications info Janis or Bruce Pruitt-Hamm at 206-466-2924 or

Applications due April 1, 2017

Posted in Peace, Seattle

Draft? For all the wrong reasons….

Karl Marlantes, a Former Marine who fought in the war on Viet-Nam, has an article in today’s New York Times, “The War That Killed Trust.” Marlantes has several books out on Viet Nam, and is very invested in that war, and has written one of the saddest and most illogical stories I’ve ever read.

Marlantes applauds the camaraderie of the military, and believes that the reinstitution of a military draft would bring back a feeling of service to the country, and would level the inequality that has taken over the USA. Wrong and wrong- the rich have always gotten out of serving in US wars, and the anti-war protests that covered the country don’t auger well for a renewed draft. The draft was suspended after Vietnam in an attempt to quell the protests, and fear of those protests has led to a poverty draft, in which public high schools and the Department of Education have collaborated with the Department of Defense to assure the military of access to and influence over students. As long as the (decreasing) middle class kids aren’t forced to fight wars, the protests are few.

That cameraderie belief, reflected so well in Studs Terkel’s “The Good War,” is crafted by military training to cause recruits to protect each other. How grim that so many men of war can only recreate bonds to other men in war. How childish and selfish to believe that to be a model for other people….to make bonds of friendship over the mass murder of civilians. This is nonsense.

Nice, Mr. Marlantes, that you had never eaten a tamale or spoken with a citizen from Mexico before Vietnam. These are society’s failings that will not be made better by having more wars, more recruits. Many of us believe we can skip the step of going to war in finding the humanity in all people.

The comments section is also illuminating. Several commenters, always from the military, mention how good going to war was for them. This is something we often hear at schools when counter recruiting- the military was good for me! I got to travel! I built character! It is a self-centered, short-sighted feeling, and not one to build a foreign policy on. Another article in today’s Times was, of course, about former National Guardsmen Esteban Santiago, who fought in Iraq but came back deeply damaged with PTSD, and killed 5 people and wounded 6 others at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport on January 6, 2017. Many Vietnam veterans are living on the streets. Many, many people do not do well after war.

Many of the commenters also mention the toll of the Vietnam War on Vietnam. Thank goodness for some sanity. Mr. Marlantes doesn’t talk about the utter devastation an illegal and vicious war did to that country, and sounds pretty damaged to me, desperately trying somehow to rationalize what he did, what we did.

January 9, 2017. The New York Times today published an article that attempted to minimize the likelihood that Marlantes came back from Iraq with PTSD. This is a public relations move that has been a constant through the war on Iraq and on Afghanistan: PTSD is overstated! Don’t worry! The military has worried so much about the public seeing the effects of war on their own recruits that authorities at my local Ft. Lewis Joint Base McCord Madigan Hospital  had over 300 PTSD diagnoses reversed. They were also worried, as described in the same article, about the disability payouts to soldiers diagnosed with PTSD that could cost as much as 1.5 million dollars a person for lifetime treatment.


Posted in antiwar, Draft, PTSD Tagged with: , , ,

In combat, you will kill civilians.

Combat Rules To Protect Civilians are Revised,” an article in today’s New York Times, describes the Pentagon’s parsing of the rules for killing civilians.

Potential recruits should understand that they will be put in the position of killing civilians, including children, and that this is not something the psyche bears easily.

No matter how you rationalize killing to yourself, or someone rationalized it to you, you will know it is wrong.

The Pentagon has revised a 2015 manual for waging combat while obeying the international laws of war, tightening rules for when it is lawful to fire on a military target even though civilians — from human shields to workers at weapons factories — are nearby.

The changes, announced late on Tuesday, are the second time this year that the Defense Department has modified its Law of War Manual in response to criticism that portions were inaccurate or dangerous. In July, it overhauled sections of the manual to better protect journalists working in battlefield areas.

“Protecting civilians in armed conflict is critical, and it’s important that our legal guidance is clear and practical,” said Jennifer O’Connor, the Pentagon’s general counsel. “This version of the manual provides greater clarity and also reflects important developments such as the president’s recent executive order on civilian casualties.”

Several legal specialists, who had criticized the old version of the manual as misrepresenting the law of armed conflict in ways that endangered civilians, praised some of the changes but criticized others as still muddled.

Adil Haque, a law professor at Rutgers University who has criticized the manual, offered a mixed review of the changes, saying, “It’s definitely an improvement,” but arguing that some parts still fell short.

The changes focus largely on a section of the manual that discusses the principle of proportionality. In war, it can be lawful to fire on a military target even if civilians are nearby and will be killed as a consequence, but only if the anticipated collateral damage is proportionate to a legitimate military objective.

The original version of the manual suggested that commanders could exclude entire categories of civilians when analyzing proportionality before firing, like civilians used as human shields or those who accompany an enemy force, like mechanics and food workers. They also could exclude civilians working at a place that helps sustain the enemy, like an arms factory.

The manual now makes it clear that commanders selecting targets must take into account the anticipated harm to such civilians, too. In particular, it says that involuntary human shields are fully protected under the proportionality rule.

That is “very important since that category includes both civilians actively forced to shield military targets and civilians passively used to shield military targets without their knowledge or consent (think of the armed group that fires rockets from a residential neighborhood, hospital, etc.),” Mr. Haque wrote in an email. “That’s pretty much every civilian in ISIS-controlled cities and towns.”

Still, the revised manual suggests that voluntary human shields and civilians employed in jobs related to military objectives may count for less in such analysis than ordinary civilians. Some scholars object to the ideathat the law of war permits using a sliding scale when deciding how much protection various civilians will receive.

Mr. Haque found it “really disappointing” that the revisions did not alter a section that states that when there is doubt about the identity of potential targets, commanders need not presume civilians are there.

The manual is the latest in a series that trace back to the Lieber Code, devised by Francis Lieber, a legal scholar and philosopher, whose instructions for war were issued to Union soldiers during the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln.

The Pentagon had worked on developing the current manual for two decades and finally issued it in 2015 after a difficult bureaucratic process; other parts of the government with expertise in international law, like the State and the Justice Departments, did not sign off on it.

The changes to the manual’s discussion of civilian protections came after months of criticism from various legal scholars about the wording in the 2015 version.  AUTHOR Charlie Savage

Posted in antiwar, killing, war Tagged with: ,