Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oh, Sweet Bird of Hitler Youth

School Military Recruiting Could Violate International Protocol

The 46-page report, “Soldiers of Misfortune“, which was prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for submission to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, also found that the U.S. military disproportionately targets poor and minority public school students.
While the United States is one of only two countries — the other being Somalia — to have never ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the U.S. Senate ratified the Protocol in 2002, making it binding under U.S., as well as international, law.
The army’s own Recruiting Programme Handbook, for example, instructs its more than 10,600 recruiters to approach high school students as early as possible, and explicitly before their senior year, which, for most students, starts at age 17. “Remember, first to contact, first to contract…that doesn’t just mean seniors or grads…,” according to an excerpt quoted in the report. “If you wait until they’re seniors, it’s probably too late.”

Once recruiters are inside their assigned high schools, the Army’s Recruiting Command instructs them to “effectively penetrate the school market” and “(b)e so helpful and so much a part of the school scene that you are in constant demand”, with the goal of “school ownership that can only lead to a greater number of Army enlistments.” That includes volunteering to serve as coaches for high school sports teams, involvement with the local Boy Scouts, attending as many all school functions and assemblies, and even “eating lunch in the school cafeteria several times each month”.

The report documents a number of specific cases, mostly in New York and California — the two most populous states with the largest number of minority high school students — in which recruiters clearly followed these instructions. In a survey of nearly 1,000 children, aged 14 to 17, enrolled in New York City high schools, the ACLU New York affiliate found that more than one five respondents — equally distributed among the different grades — reported the use of class time by military recruiters, and 35 percent said military recruiters had access to multiple locations in their schools where they could meet students.

The report also noted that the Pentagon’s central recruitment database systematically collected information on 16-year-olds and, in some cases even 15-year-olds, including their name, home address and telephones, email addresses, grade point averages, height and weight information, and racial and ethnic data obtained from a variety of public and private sources. The explicit purpose of the database is to assist the military in its “direct marketing recruiting efforts”. As the result of a 2006 ACLU lawsuit, the Pentagon agreed to stop collecting data about students younger than 16.

But recruitment efforts even dip below 15-year-olds, according to the report, which found that the Pentagon’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), which operate at more than 3,000 junior high schools, middle schools, and high schools across the country, target children as young as 14 for recruitment. The report cited recent studies that found that enrollment in some JROTC programmes was involuntary.

JROTC “cadets”, of whom there were nearly 300,000 in 2005, receive military uniforms and conduct military drills and marches, handle real and wooden rifles, and learn military history, according to the report, which noted that the programme is explicitly designed to “enhance recruiting efforts”. African American and Latin students make up 54 percent of JROTC programmes.

JROTC also oversees the Middle School Cadet Corps (MSCC), in which children ages 11 to 14 can participate, according to the report. Florida, Texas, and Chicago schools offer military-run after-school MSCC programmes in which children take part in drills with wooden rifles and military chants, learn first-aid, civics, military history and, in some cases, wear uniforms to school for inspection once a week.

The Army also uses an online video game, called “America’s Army”, to attract potential recruits as young as 13, train them to use weapons, and engage in virtual combat and other military missions. Launched in 2002, the video game had attracted 7.5 million registered users by September 2006.
This was what Bush meant when he said 'No Child Left Behind.'

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak