The Military


"Once people believed in human sacrifice -- not any more. Once people believed in slavery -- not any more. Once people believed that women should not vote -- not any more. In your lifetime I hope your children can say: Once people believed in [killing, violence, and] war as the answer -- not any more" (Frances Crowe, peace activist. From the San Antonio Friends newsletter, June, 2014).

Peace-Out "You can get out of the military as a conscientious objector, even if you enlisted... Here's how" The site is now offline. I wonder why?

Conscientious Objection Fact Sheet for GIs and potential victims

Military Draft

Quaker site on Conscientious Objectors

Sir! No Sir! The suppressed story of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam


"I've come across the website of America's largest, oldest, busiest, and most successful corporation. At least, that's how this outfit defines itself. It's not Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, or GM--it's the Pentagon. Go to www.defenselink.mil and you'll find "DoD 101: An introductory overview of the Department of Defense." This official site present the US military not as a government agency, but as a corporation. The Pentagon puffs itself up like a corporation running an image ad. It brags that the DoD is "the nation's largest employer, and that it has the highest level of annual revenues of any company in the country. The site points out that DoD Inc. far outdistances such competitors as Wal-Mart, the number two employer and revenue generator...

"Excuse me, but our government is not a business. It's a government with broad and deep democratic responsibilities that no corporation can achieve. By their very nature, corporations are top-down, hierarchical operations that exist not to serve the public good, but to profit the few. They are anti-democratic, excluding the vast majority of people (including the shareholders) from decision-making. They operate in a closed culture of secrecy and are aggressive expansionists, relying on PR, lawyers, and lobbyists to cover up their waste, fraud, corruption, environmental contamination, and abuse of people. The corporate model is anathema to a free, just, democratic society" (Jim Hightower. "Defense.com." Texas Observer, April 21, 2006: 15).


"West Pointers... usually to the far right. At the time of the Second World War, many of them thought we were fighting the wrong side. We should be helping Hitler destroy Communism. Later, we could take care of him...

"Truman militarized the economy, providing all sorts of lucrative civilian employment for high-ranking officers" (Gore Vidal. "State of the Union, 2004." The Nation, Sep. 13, 2004: 23-29).


"... people press-ganged to fight [the Iraq war]. Soldiers from a Fort Carson, Colorado, combat unit tell reporters angrily they've been issued an ultimatum: Re-enlist for three more years or get transferred to units scheduled for deployment in Iraq. In Fort Dix, New Jersey, 635 soldiers from the South Carolina National Guard scheduled to depart for a year or more in Iraq were under disciplinary lockdown in their barracks for two weeks.

"During Laura Bush's speech in New Jersey in Mid-September, Sue Niederer was arrested for demanding to know why her son was killed in Iraq, interrupting Laura to aask, "If this was is so righteous, why don't you send your children?"... she was hand-cuffed and led away. Niederer was wearing a shirt with her dead son's picture and the words "President Bush, you killed my son"...

"Meanwhile, in the Bay Area an Army vet... is bringing suit against the "stop loss" retention of up to 40,000 service members forced to serve beyond the expiration of their enlistment terms since the war in Iraq began" (Alexander Cockburn. "C'mon Ralph, You've Nothing to Lose." The Nation, Oct. 11, 2004: 11).


"Discounting that he sent American troops into Iraq on false pretenses, a real commander would fight for the welfare of his troops. But Bush has demonstrated a consistent unwillingness to do so, and as a result many high-ranking officers have endorsed Kerry, including retired Navy Adm. William Crowe and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. John Shalikashvili.

"Bush has failed the military on almost every level. While Halliburton and Boeing went to the bank this year with about $10 billion each, undermanned U.S. forces went into Iraq without armored vests and driving unarmored vehicles. The fatal results were hidden from public view as the dead were secreted home and the Department of Defense (DOD) obscured and juggled the numbers of maimed and wounded...

"Even if the war wounded succeed in getting disability pay, in 2003 Bush threatened to veto a bill that allowed veterans to collect disability pay and pensions simultaneously.

"In 2003, his administration also tried to cut combat pay from $225 to $150 a month and the family separation allowance from $250 to $100. And most callously of all, the frat brat who ducked a war that killed 48,000 American troops threatened to veto a proposal to double the $6,000 payment to relatives of soldiers killed in action" (Ian Williams. "Bush's War Against the Military." In These Times. Posted October 27, 2004).


""There is a strong, innate predisposition against killing," Hinzman says, " and the military breaks that down." In target practice, he recalls, we "started out with black circle targets. Then the circles grew shoulders and then the shoulders turned into torsos. Pretty soon they were human beings."

"Hinzman can pinpoint the moment he realized he "made the wrong career decision."

""About two weeks into basic training, we were on our way to the chow hall shouting 'trained to kill, kill we will.' We were threatened with pushups because we were not showing enough enthusiasm.

""I found myself hoarse yelling this and, when I looked around me, I saw that most of my colleagues were red in the face, but totally engrossed." Then he understood that the military was not just training him to kill, but "to kill with a smile on my face." He had to get out...

"Hinzman, Hughey, and Sanders are following in the footsteps of tens of thousands of military deserters and draft dodgers who went to Canada during the Vietnam War. Canada opposed the war. At that time, it also had one of the world's most open immigration policies. Not anymore.

"The three men face hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board, where they have to prove they are refugees fleeing political persecution...

"...But Canadian Quakers and peace activists are trying to make up for their government's lack of hospitality. They've formed a national committee to support Hinzman, Hughey, and Sanders, and are prepared to extend the same warm reception to other war resisters who make it across the border" (Frida Berrigan. "Meet the New COs." The Progressive, Dec. 2004: 26-28).


"The world's largest polluter, the U.S. military, generates 750,000 tons of toxic waste material annually, more than the five largest chemical companies in the U.S. combined. This pollution occurs globally, as the U.S. maintains bases in dozens of countries.. it's poisoning the land.. resulting in increased rates of cancer, kidney disease, birth defects, low birth weight, and miscarriage" (Phillips, Peter, and Project Censored. Censored 2004: The Top 25 Censored Stories. NY: Seven Stories Press, 2003: 79).


A review of Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, by David L. Robb...

"When the Department of Education secretly paid a pundit, Armstrong Williams, $240,000 to shill for No Child Left Behind, it was not the first time that the United States government engaged in covert domestic propaganda. For more than 50 years, the Department of Defense has been examining and altering movie scripts prior to production...

Robb argues that the Pentagon's influence has been insidious and invidious and that the movies it shapes have been making our culture increasingly militaristic...

"To understand their efforts, consider Top Gun, a triumph of military advertising, if not cinematic art. Following its release, recruitment to the Navy increased 500 percent...

"...John Wayne, whose hawkish tract The Green Berets, made with DOD assistance, so slavishly followed the Pentagon's line that he was asked not to thank it in the credits, lest he give the game away" (Steven G. Kellman. "Winning the Next War at the Multiplex." Texas Observer, Feb. 4, 2005: 22-23).


"The twenty-five EU nations together devoted $155 billion in 2002 to defense-related spending. The US defense expenditures for this same year totaled $399 billion...

"... many Europeans argue that the US military is far bigger than warranted in a post-Cold War world... global terrorism... Europeans argue that these problems are best handled with a combination of police actions, soft diplomacy, and more sophisticated and generous development aid" (Jeremy Rifkin. The European Dream. pp. 76-77)...


The Military

"...the Bush White House loathe[s] the "Brussels" mentality... invariably the comment is made that Brussels whines about US strong-arm tactics and bullying behavior but appears quite comfortable letting us sacrifice our young men and women in uniform around the world to protect European security interests...

"It has to do with very different sensibilities about how each superpower perceives its relationship to the world and the kind of vision of the future each holds" (283-284)...

Capital Punishment

"No issue more unites Europeans than the question of capital punishment. For them, opposition to the death penalty is as deeply felt as opposition to slavery was for the American abolitionists... Europeans express a raw emotional disgust of capital punishment that is not evident anywhere else in the world...

"...candidate countries for EU membership must abolish capital punishment as a condition for entry into the Union. It tops the list of conditions...

"The death penalty, for Europeans, is a constant reminder of the dark side of their past...

"Protocol No. 6 bar[s] the death penalty unconditionally, even including crimes committed during times of war...

"Europeans [as opposed to the US] deeply oppose the idea of retribution... Capital punishment... turns the justice system into a mere tool of illegitimate private vengeance.

"At the heart of Christian doctrine is the belief in redemption--that even the worst sinner can be saved. The European Union embraces this most basic of Christian beliefs in its support of rehabilitation" (284-287)...

The Military

"How do Europeans square their position on not taking the life of a criminal with waging war against an enemy?...

"Europeans reject the kind of power politics that has dominated foreign policy for centuries and has led to so much death and destruction...

"...are determined to never again allow national rivalries to descend into open warfare... a new vision of perpetual peace...

"European leaders favor negotiation over ultimatums, reconciliation over recrimination, and cooperation over competition...

"...in Europe, "the rule of law has replaced the crude interplay of power"...

"...the European model of integration "is inspiring regional experiments from Asia to Latin America"...

""European integration shows that compromise and reconciliation is possible after generations of prejudice, war and suffering...

"Europe's new approach [is] co-opting people rather than coercing them" (294-301)...

"The EU member countries contribute ten times the number of peacekeeping troops as the US, belying the oft-heard American contention that Europe lets America should, alone, the task of being the world's policeman" (Jeremy Rifkin. The European Dream. p. 304)...


The Military

"...neither the US military nor the NATO brass are pleased with the concept of an autonomous European "army"... the EuroArmy...

"... the basic policy choice of contemporary Europe: scrimp on tanks, missiles, and aircraft carriers in order to spend more on schools, health care, and pensions... The EuroAmry... amounts to self-defense on the cheap" (179)...

"... the US spends more on defense than the EU, Russia, and China combines" [paranoia or empire?] (180)...

"The European Rapid Reaction Force... ERRF... staffed and supplied out of existing armies; it does not involve any major commitment to more soldiers or more equipment...

"Compared to most of the world's armies, European forces are large and well equipped. The EU member nations have twice as many military personnel as Russia and almost as many as China, and a combined defense budget that dwarfs both of those important powers. Compared to the US defense establishment, however, Europe is a "military pygmy"... misses the point... Europeans are not willing to die in warfare, period... The whole point of the New Europe in the new century is that soldiers are no longer going to be sent off to die for their country, or for their united continent" (183)...

The US "thesis assumes that military power is an essential element of being a superpower" (186)...

"America's military power has hardly made it invulnerable. America's might did not scare off the ragtag terrorists of Al Qaeda... American spend nearly $400 billion of their tax dollars on defense every year, but they still have to take their belts and shoes off every time they want to get on an airplane...

"America's unchallenged power, In Iraq at least, forced it to pay, almost single-handed, an immensely expensive bill in blood, in dollars, and in international prestige. If that's what being a military superpower buys you, Europe doesn't want it" (188)...

"The Europeans, in contrast, are banking on the belief that the EU can become a superpower of its own on the world stage without building a military that can match American might... By corralling more votes than the Americans in the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and other international gatherings...

Europe represents "the persuasive power of a driving idea, such as the idea that nations should find methods other than warfare to resolve their differences...

"...the EU generally picks up numerous allies to add to its built-in twenty-four-vote margin in these organizations. It wins these allies not with a stick but a carrot... foreign aid...

"In a sense, Europe's commitment to foreign aid--often referred to on the continent as ODA, or "overseas development aid"--is the mirror image of Washington's determination to maintain the strongest military... Europeans refer to foreign aid as "soft security"--that is, another form of national defense" (189)...

"...European foreign policy is built around a principle of multilateralism, around regional and global agreements and associations... "We are the guardians of an ideal... that puts cooperations ahead of domination"" (193)...

"Indeed, the Europeans argue that hard power is so costly to maintain--and so likely to generate hatred from those who are weaker--that soft power amounts to greater power" (Reid, T.R. The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy: 195-196)...


"...the military has gotten in on the production side of some of the best-selling games available.

"Take America's Army, a game created with about 6.3 million in tax dollars and used as a recruiting tool to lure young people into the US military...

"One of the newest releases in the theater of war games is Close Combat: First to Fight, "a tactical first-person shooter so real, the Marine Corps will use it for training, according to the game manual...

"The game play of First to Fight is a synthesis of high-tech militainment and Marine Corps glorification" (Andrea Lewis. "Virtual Combat." The Progressive, July 2005: 32-33).


"Today the U.S. military generates over one-third of our nation's toxic waste, which it disposes of very poorly. The military is one of the most widespread violators of environmental laws. People made ill by this toxic waste are, in effect, victims of war. But they are rarely acknowledged as such...

"In 2003, when the Defense Department sought (and later received) exemptions from America's main environmental laws, the irony dawned on us. The military was given license to pollute air and water, dispose of used munitions, and endanger wildlife with impunity. The Defense Department is willing to poison the very citizens it is supposed to protect in the cause of national security...

"Last week a study was released by the National Academy of Sciences, raising already substantial concerns about the cancer risks and other health hazards associated with exposure to TCE, a solvent used in adhesives, paint and spot removers that is also "widely used to remove grease from metal parts in airplanes and to clean fuel lines at missile sites." The report confirms a 2001 EPA document linking TCE to kidney cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, impaired neurological function, autoimmune disease and other ailments in human beings.

"The report has been garnering some publicity, but not as much as it deserves. TCE contamination is disturbingly common, especially in the air, soil and water around military bases. Nationwide millions of Americans are using what Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey, D-NY, has called "TCE-laden drinking water." The Associated Press reports that the chemical has been found at about 60 percent of the nation's worst contaminated sites in the Superfund cleanup program" (Sunaura Taylor and Astra Taylor. "Military Waste In Our Drinking Water." AlterNet. Posted August 4, 2006.)


Colby Glass, MLIS