Empowering California’s Youth

From The Courage Campaign

Last week, I met a young woman, a high school student, at a Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara event about "Empowering California's Youth."  She was there because she'd just gotten a postcard from the army — one that detailed all the benefits of enlisting in the army after graduating from high school.  "Don't they know I'm college bound?!" she said, concerned that the army recruiters were working her high school too hard.  "There's recruiters everywhere at school," she told me.  She was so upset after getting that postcard that she decided to attend the Progressive Democrats event to hear about ways she could fight back against the military's recruitment machine.

She wasn't disappointed.

One of the presenters on the progressive panel was an Iraq war vet — a young woman, about 25 years of age, who just came back from Iraq recently.  She told the crowd of her regret in signing up back in 2002, over her mother's objections.  Her mother suspected that a war in Iraq was on the way, but her daughter thought the benefits would outweigh any negatives.  "I was wrong," she said.  The money for college hasn't been nearly enough to offset going to Iraq.  She declared that if she's called back to Iraq for another tour, she's "going to Mexico."

In addition to learning about recruitment, I gave a presentation about Blackwater, the corporation that's trying to build a mercenary training camp in San Diego county.  The progressive Democrats assembled there agreed that Blackwater represents a disturbing trend in the ways in which the military/industrial complex can put America's greatest resource — our talented young people — at grave risk.  Blackwater's corporate fighting force consists of nothing but former US soldiers — many of them as young as 24 or 25 — who are lured out of the military to work for big salaries at Blackwater.  Blackwater puts these talented young people directly in the line of fire in Iraq, and right now they're being sued by the family members of their "employees" who were brutally killed in Fallujah in 2004 after Blackwater left them without the proper equipment and protection.

Mos of us in attendance agreed that, somewhat ironically, reinstituting the draft would help.  That would stop the recruitment machine, because as it currently works, the recruitment machine affects working class people far more than those who are better off.  But Bush and the neocons know that they have to avoid a draft in order to have any chance at selling the war to the American people.  So, instead of instituting a draft to get the labor we need in iraq, we've got mercenary forces like Blackwater instead.

All of this information was taken in by the angry high school student.  And she's going to take action.  She's a leader in her high school's progressive organization, and she plans to have counter-recruitment drives once school picks back up in the fall.