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Of all the slogans used to stifle opposition to Americas aggressive foreign policy, the most infamous is Support Our Troops. After dispatching its massive force across the Atlantic, the U.S. public relations industry threw this phrase into the public forum. A scheme undoubtedly contrived for the effect it would have, the public began probing itself for those who did not support the troops.
The intended effect of suppression took root and all discussion about U.S. war policy was off the table. A national discussion about the composition, effectiveness, or readiness of Americas Armed Forces was, therefore, absent. It was a three-pronged plot to asphyxiate opposition, divert peoples attention, and drum up support for the war. Accordingly, those who feared being accused of not supporting the troops became subservient to an empty slogan.
The population became immersed in a squabbling match, which continues today. Jingoists came out of the woodwork and slapped magnetic ribbons on their vehicles with the empty, suppressive slogan to show their devotion to keeping their mouths shut about their nation going to war.
It was an ingenious plan with impeccable timing. However, out of all the consequencesintended or unintendedfrom this ruse, one of the most disastrous has been the suppression of a national discussion about the reality of the U.S. all-volunteer fighting force.
Undoubtedly there are many patriotic individuals who seek to genuinely defend the United States. Hence, they choose to join the Armed Services. However, not all of the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces are enlisted by choice. Though the media figureheads would have people believe otherwise, with their talking-points about the all-volunteer fighting force, many people do not join the Armed Services because they want to, they join because they have to.
The priorities in the New American Century are obvious; the swelling poverty rate says it all. The proportion of Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, as millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line. Moreover, the number of severely poor Americans has grown more than 26 percent since 2000.
If all this was not enough, the Center for Disease Control recently released a report titled Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-September 2006. It concluded that at the time of the interview nearly 45 million people of all ages were uninsured, 31 million had been uninsured for more than a year, and 55 million had been uninsured for at least part of the prior year.
In February the New York Times reported, The most recent test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as the national report card, showed that American 12th graders are performing worse in reading than they have in the past ten years. Moreover, performance in reading has been distressingly flat since 2002 and only about 35 percent of 12th graders are proficient in reading. Hence, a majority of the countrys 12th graders have trouble understanding what they read fully enough to make inferences, draw conclusions and see connections between what they read and their own ex- periences.
According to the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, approximately 1 in 3 high school students in the Class of 2006 [did] not graduate. In California alone, the graduation rate dropped to [a] 10-year low as a third of the Class of 2006 left without a diploma, according to Department of Education numbers. If this was not enough, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology publication, Technology Review, recently reported that a study conducted by Michigan State University political scientist Jon D. Miller found that 216 million Americans are scientifically illiterate.
The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in 2002, emphasizes testing rather than education. Educators around the country have been persistent in pointing out that the Acts concentration on standardized assessment is part of the problem in the plight of the public school education system, the dumbing-down of new generations of Americans, and dwindling graduation rates. Yet, the current Administration claims it to be a policy for the improvement thereof.
Young, poorly educated Americans (by way of legislation), with or without high school diplomas, are facing an unforgiving, technology-based society and have very limited options and/or no direction. Enlistment appears to be the best option. In other words, they are forced to volunteer for the all-volunteer fighting force, as it provides relief from the despair and uncertainty they face. The modest but steady wages, the guaranteed housing allowance, the solid retirement plan and the health benefits of the Armed Forces is appealing when the rest of society is moving in the opposite direction.
The Armed Forces is comprised of many individuals who commonly join up to advance themselves in light of the dismal alternatives presented to them. These alternatives include: difficult job searches, little or no job security, regular pilfering of retirement funds by company executives and their accountants, privatized medical care, bad public elementary education, and expensive higher education.
Knowing this, divisions of recruiters are dispatched by every branch of the Armed Forces to scour the country in search of those looking to escape the depressing alternatives before them. At malls, sporting events, community gatherings, residences, and public schools, recruiters disseminate their message of the benefits of volunteering. Additionally, millions are spent on a public relations campaign and creative ways to lure people, especially youth, into signing up. Pro-war films, commercials, decorated T-shirts, toys, video games, and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps are used to make enlistment appealing and life in the Armed Forces a place where one can be all one can be, as a substitute for a world where one seems like nothing.
Facing blocked avenues and having a deep pessimism about the future, individuals are forced to turn towards the offered benefits and financial security of the Armed Forces. Hence the use of creative ways to draw in, even re-draw, recruits amid a war that is stretching ranks to their limits and pushing the U.S. towards imperial collapse.
The surge of desperation, degradation, and economic hardship endemic in American society goes unreported in the media. In addition, the Armed Services desperate need of more recruits for a quagmire with no end in sight is cloaked through creative tactics of appeal. These factors combined allow for the façade of an all-volunteer fighting force. Politicians, jingoists, and media figures exploit this to, in the words of the president, catapult the propaganda that the U.S. fighting force is saturated with genuine volunteers who had plenty of other choices in life; that they gave up their pursuit of the American Dream to protect the American Dream. The offensive, political, and fabricated use of the death of the professional football player turned soldier, Pat Tillman, was the most blatant case for the exploitation of this myth.
Though there are those who are driven by patriotism, sense of mission, camaraderie, pride and adventure, many individuals do not join the American fighting force to actually fight, or even with a desire to go to war. They join because of the socialistic nature of the institution. While the Armed Forces are having trouble reaching recruitment quotas amid an un-winnable war, they are managing retention at record levels. People already in the Armed Services have a firm understanding that a civilian world that seem[s] ever more unwelcoming and unreliable awaits them and that the military cocoon is just the opposite.
If the U.S. is going to continue to assert that it has an all-volunteer fighting force, then Americans need to realize that the more desperation there is at home, the more citizens will join. The more citizens that join, the bigger fighting force the U.S. has. The bigger fighting force the U.S. has, the more subject it is to misuse by an establishment with imperial ambitions.
The more one buys into a narrow, sacrosanct, empty phrase like Support Our Troops, the more one sanctions the current environment of national plight in the U.S. and aids the perpetuation of the status quo. It only serves Americas move towards hegemonic breakdown. Supporting the right to life, security, and peace for all in the war-ravaged countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, even around the world, is what matters.
George Aleman III is an MA student in history. He is also a writer, activist, and musician.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.