After the September peace march and subsequent mass nonviolent civil resistance action at the White House, I can’t help but feel the tide of dissent and public opposition to our nation’s current road to imperialism rise. It now seems as if Katrina has finally exposed our government’s unjust priorities.
Within days America is expected to witness its two-thousandth death from combat operations in Iraq. Popularity for this war and occupation has slumped to an all-time low. A recent CBS poll reports 59 percent of Americans favor a withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible.
And yet the American government stubbornly continues to fund an illegal and immoral occupation of a nation that never posed a credible threat to us. Meanwhile military recruiters routinely lie and manipulate the youth of our nation to sign up for a war of empire, possibly leaving them mentally or physically – or both -- scarred for life.
On November 17th and 18th, students, parents and peace activists will unite to tell our nation we want the war in Iraq to end and for military recruiters to vacate our schools and universities. The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance are organizing these two days of dissent and resistance.
Along with Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq, the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance, was the primary organizer behind United for Peace and Justice’s sponsored nonviolent direct action at the White House on September 26. During this historical action, 374 peaceful protestors were arrested as they requested a meeting with President Bush and hanged names and photos of those killed in this horrible conflict on the White House fence. Among those arrested were Cindy Sheehan, Dr. Cornel West, former diplomat Anne Wright and several religious leaders. The National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance was launched this year and has its roots in the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, which dates back to early 2003.
The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition is a nationwide peace network organized and lead by more than 20 student and youth organizations dedicated to the pursuit of peace. Founded in 2001, the coalition has more recently focused its attention on resisting the presence of military recruiters in their schools and on their campuses.
In recent months, all branches of the military, with the exception of the Marines have reported significant declines in their recruitment efforts. The inability of military recruiters to reach their stated quotas provides the peace movement with a unique opportunity to capitalize on the momentum gained from the anti-war September anti-war mobilization in Washington.
According to reports this month, the Marine Corps achieved 102% of its goal for enlistments in the reserves and 100% of its goal for active-duty enlistments, according to figures released by the Defense Department. However, the Army's figures were 84% for the Army Reserve, 80% for the National Guard, and 92% for its active-duty force. As the nation's largest service, the Army needs to attract a larger number of recruits than the Marine Corps, the Navy or the Air Force.
Desperate for new recruits, Army officials said they were lowering from 67% to 60% the Army's goal for signing recruits who scored in the top half on its aptitude test. The Marines goal, however, remain unchanged.
The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition is officially calling for demonstrations and rallies at schools or community military recruiting stations across the country. They are declaring November 17th “Not Your Soldier Day.” Organizers are suggesting offering alternative recruitment fairs, demanding meetings with school administrators to discuss counter-recruitment demands, as well as other creative forms of protest.
On Friday, November 18th, The National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance, working with students, concerned parents and community activists throughout the country will be promoting and assisting, as much as possible, demonstrations involving nonviolent civil resistance and civil disobedience at military recruiting stations throughout the country. The day is being dubbed “National Stand Down Day.”
This nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience will be done in a loving manner and in a way as to present a moral challenge to military recruiters. Those who actively participate will accept the risk of arrest and realize they may be breaking a law. We understand, as Mahatma Gandhi once said: ”There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.”
NCNR will provide coordination and support as possible, for all manner of protests and demonstrations at recruiting centers. The campaign also recognizes and offers support to soldiers who take great risks to refuse fighting in this unjust war. Leaders of this campaign, including Gordon Clark, coordinator of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance and Stephen Cleghorn with Military Families Speak Out, said it is protestors’ “moral responsibility” to share that risk to the extent that they can, by preventing even more young Americans from being placed in such jeopardy.
Both NCNR and the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition will both be highlighting Section 9528 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001, commonly known as the “No Child Left Behind Act.” This clause is coming under attack by local school boards, because it is putting America’s children at risk by requiring high schools to give military recruiters private contact information of its students.
Numerous articles have confirmed the transgressions by military recruiters across the country: concealing recruits' mental-health histories and police records; giving the military aptitude test without parental consent; enlisting recruits with criminal records and encouraging recruits to falsify drug use, as well as other manipulative and deceptive tactics.
The time is now for the peace movement to continue and intensify its resistance to the militarism of its youth. If you plan to organize an event in your school or neighborhood, please contact the organizers at http://www.nyspc.net/notyoursoldier.php and http://www.iraqpledge.org.