NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – The Pentagon is reportedly using some $3 billion of American taxpayers’ money to draw their children into the military and some activists are charging that the tactics used to lure these young people are not fair.
The Pentagon has reported that, for the year 2004, they have recruited over 212,000 people, which has surpassed their goal, at a cost of $14,000 per recruit.
One of the most outspoken critics of the methods used by military recruiters has been journalist and author Chris White, a former Marine, who works as a volunteer with Veterans for Peace in Lawrence, Kan. He has written seven essays on the subject, and has done extensive counseling on college campuses and high schools against what he calls the “deceptive” tactics in military recruiting.
“My concern is that the federal government spends so much money recruiting Blacks and Latinos, when there is a need for that money in their communities for things such as education,” Mr. White contended.
He said one of the things he tells students is that they must be skeptical of what the recruiters tell them. “Recruiters tend to go to communities where the economic foundation is not strong; they prey on these people,” he charged. “They will say to a Black kid, ‘Hey, you look like you play basketball. Did you know a guy in the NBA was a Marine first?’” Mr. White revealed. He said that gives a young person a false concept of what he is about to get involved with.
“You know, like the Marine Corps is some sort of place where you play games–not the dangerous place where you may lose your life,” he said.
Mr. White also said that recruits are told that they may use skills learned in the military when they are discharged. According to the anti-war group Not In Our Name, only 12 percent of male and six percent of female veterans surveyed have made use of the skills learned in the military for regular civilian jobs.
Mr. White served as a recruit assistant as a Marine in 1998 in Santa Clara, Calif. “We would even recruit in the migrant communities,” he recalled. “I find that recruiters lie mostly about college benefits, duty station assignments and veterans’ benefits.”
Anthony Edwards, 19, said he is returning to his native Brooklyn to serve as a Marine Corps recruit assistant. He said that he joined a year-and-a-half ago, because he was going through too many things in his life, and he needed to get out of the neighborhood.
“I do not believe they used deception when they talked to me. Sure, some of the things they said were available never happened, but that is not deception,” Mr. Edwards insisted.
He said that he was from the streets and recognized that recruiting was like any other hustle. “It’s about the numbers, it’s a game–but for me, the positive far outweighed the negative,” Mr. Edwards said.
A Marine Corps recruiter working in a downtown Brooklyn location, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that recruiters are not allowed to lie.
“That would be breach of contract if we told them something that was not true. And besides, a recruit must sign a paper stating that they agree to what we have told them,” the recruiter said. “I cannot speak about the other branches, but we only want people who want to be Marines. So lying to them doesn’t help our cause,” he added.
The recruiter admitted that they were assigned to go to the poor neighborhoods, but he said that they did not communicate with Blacks and Latinos differently than they do with Whites.
Activists say that they are also against allowing recruiters access to names and addresses of high school juniors and seniors. Observers say that there is a little known provision in President George Bush’s education law of 2002, The No Child Left Behind Act, which threatens schools with the loss of federal funds if they do not comply.
Congressman David Vitter (R-La.) sponsored the rider to the administration’s education law. He told reporters that he objected to high schools being able to deny recruiters access to student’s records. Activists said that, in 1999 alone, access had been denied 19,228 times by high school administrators across the nation.
There is also another bill flying below the radar screen, H.R. 3966, which is now in the House Armed Services Committee. If approved, this bill would deny federal funds to colleges and universities that bar military recruiters from their campus.
Chris Jean-Charles, 18, walked out of the Brooklyn recruiting office with his high school diploma in hand. He said that he was leaving for boot camp in South Carolina on July 5. He wants to become an electrical engineer.
“The Marine recruiter came to my school, Brooklyn Tech, and I liked what they had to say. They said I could get up to $50,000 towards my college education,” he said.
The Washington-based American Council on Education has attributed the drop in college enrollment for Blacks to military recruiting. They said that only 35 percent of recruits receive any educational benefits from the military.
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