Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

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Recruiting children to kill and die

June 14, 2009

California towns face off with federal government

in court over military recruiting of minors

military_recruitment children

Source
June 12, 2009

Two towns nestled in the rugged coastline and the liberal politics of Northern California have fought the federal government by banning the U.S. military from recruiting minors within their city limits. Now the federal government is fighting back.

Arcata — a town known for taking a stand against the USA Patriot Act and repeatedly passing symbolic measures to impeach President George W. Bush — approved in November an ordinance that would limit Armed Forces recruiters’ ability to contact people under 18. And so did nearby Eureka, the Humboldt County seat.

The Department of Justice took the towns to court in December over their Youth Protection Acts, alleging they were attempting to interfere with the government’s ability to raise an army and protect the country. The department has said the ordinances are believed to be the only ones in the country with such blanket restrictions.

A federal judge is expected to rule on the case in coming days.

“We fully expected a challenge, and we got it,” said David Meserve, 60, a builder of environmentally friendly homes and former Arcata City Council member who spearheaded the measure. “But more importantly, people are becoming aware there is a problem — and the problem is the recruiting of minors.”

Although people must be 18 to enlist — or 17 with parental permission — recruiting manuals cited in the cities’ court filings show that contact with much younger children is encouraged.

“You will find that establishing trust and credibility with students, even seventh- and eighth-graders, can positively impact your high school and post-secondary school recruiting effort,” reads The Recruiter Handbook, published in 2008 by the United States Army Recruiting Command.

The push to reach the young makes sense. A 2007 Department of Defense study found that at 16 years old, more than 25 percent of students considered joining the Armed Forces. By the time they were 21, only 15 percent considered joining.

Towns and high school campuses around the country have tried to thwart the military’s access to their underage students. Berkeley declared that recruiters positioned within view of its high school were “unwelcome intruders.” San Francisco school board members moved to rid public schools of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps but this week restored the program.

Counter-recruiters across the country have sought to inform students of their perspective on military service in times of war. They also tell parents how to opt out of having their child’s contact information released to recruiters — a requirement for schools receiving federal funds under the No Child Left Behind Act.

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Allen Weiner, a senior lecturer in law at Stanford Law School, said he knows of no other cities besides Arcata and Eureka that have passed ordinances banning military officials within their boundaries from initiating contact with minors with the intent of attracting them to any branch of the military.

The law is clear, Weiner said, that recruitment is under the purview of the federal government.

“As a legal fight, it’s pretty clear to me who wins,” he said.

Department of Justice officials did not respond to calls for comment. But in written arguments, government attorneys said the local measures violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, which establishes the Constitution, federal statutes and treaties as the supreme law of the land.

“State and local governments lack the power to regulate the activities of the federal government,” said their motion to block the ordinances. “Even apart from this obvious constitutional flaw, the ordinances purport to legislate in a field that is committed to the sole discretion of the United States, namely, the Congressional power to raise armies.”

Local advocates such as Meserve remain undaunted.

Meserve said he took up the fight one morning while sitting in a coffee shop and overhearing a National Guard recruiter giving three high school girls a hard sell. The sharply dressed young man bought them fancy coffee drinks and pitched the career opportunities, the scholarships, the camaraderie, while assuring them there was virtually no chance they would end up in a war zone, Meserve said.

This was in 2005, when members of the National Guard were regularly being sent to Iraq, he said.

He found a supporter in Brad Yamauchi, an attorney working pro bono on the case.

The lawyer argues the ordinances prevent abuses without interfering with the federal government’s ability to fill the ranks of the military. Anyone, independent of age, can still reach out to the military, he said, and recruiters are free to contact adults.

“If they don’t contact minors, they can still meet their goals,” Yamauchi said. “We believe there are limits to the federal power to recruit children.”

Related articles

Non military options for youth

DC-area parents don’t want military survey for students

Military Recruiting Vans Draw Fire

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Torture: the death of morality

May 4, 2009

Who knows whether this soldier’s death was suicide or not? If it was suicide, it is at least a piercing moral message to all of us. The most telling sign of the decay of the human race is its toleration of torture. Draw your own conclusions on the article below.


“It is not a sign of good health
to be well adjusted to a sick society.”
– J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
U.S. Soldier Who Killed Herself-
-After Refusing to Take Part in Torture
With each new revelation on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo, I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson.

By Greg Mitchell
Source

(April 23, 2009) — With each new revelation on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo (and who, knows, probably elsewhere), I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who I have written about numerous times in the past three years but now with especially sad relevance. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what we would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, in September 2003.

Read comments on her death here.

Of course, we now know from the torture memos and the U.S. Senate committee probe and various new press reports, that the “Gitmo-izing” of Iraq was happening just at the time Alyssa got swept up in it.

Alyssa Peterson was one of the first female soldiers killed in Iraq. A cover-up, naturally, followed.

Peterson, 27, a Flagstaff, Ariz., native, served with C Company, 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne. Peterson was an Arabic-speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at our air base in troubled Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq. According to official records, she died on Sept. 15, 2003, from a “non-hostile weapons discharge.”

A “non-hostile weapons discharge” leading to death is not unusual in Iraq, often quite accidental, so this one apparently raised few eyebrows. The Arizona Republic, three days after her death, reported that Army officials “said that a number of possible scenarios are being considered, including Peterson’s own weapon discharging, the weapon of another soldier discharging, or the accidental shooting of Peterson by an Iraqi civilian.” And that might have ended it right there.

But in this case, a longtime radio and newspaper reporter named Kevin Elston, not satisfied with the public story, decided to probe deeper in 2005, “just on a hunch,” he told me in late 2006 (there’s a chapter about it in my book on Iraq and the media, “So Wrong for So Long”). He made “hundreds of phone calls” to the military and couldn’t get anywhere, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request. When the documents of the official investigation of her death arrived, they contained bombshell revelations. Here’s what the Flagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where Elston then worked, reported:

“Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed.”

According to the official report on her death released the following year, she had earlier been “reprimanded” for showing “empathy” for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of that report is: “She said that she did not know how to be two people; she … could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.”

Peterson was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. “But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle,” the documents disclose.

A notebook she had been writing was found next to her body. Its contents were redacted in the official report.

The Army talked to some of Peterson’s colleagues. Asked to summarize their comments, Elston told me: “The reactions to the suicide were that she was having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her professional duties. That was the consistent point in the testimonies, that she objected to the interrogation techniques, without describing what those techniques were.”

Elston said that the documents also refer to a suicide note found on her body, which suggested that she found it ironic that suicide prevention training had taught her how to commit suicide. He filed another FOIA request for a copy of the actual note.

Peterson, a devout Mormon, had graduated from Flagstaff High School and earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University on a military scholarship. She was trained in interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, and was sent to the Middle East in 2003.

A report in The Arizona Daily Sun of Flagstaff — three years after Alyssa’s death — revealed that Spc. Peterson’s mother, Bobbi Peterson, reached at her home in northern Arizona, said that neither she nor her husband Richard had received any official documents that contained information outlined in Elston’s report.

In other words: Like the press and the public, even the parents had been kept in the dark.

Tomorrow I will write about Kayla Williams, a woman who served with Alyssa, and talked to her about her problems shortly before she killed herself, and also took part in torture interrogations. She observed the punching of detainees and was forced to take part in one particular tactic: prisoners were stripped naked, and when they took off their blindfolds the first thing they saw was Kayla. She opted out, but survived, and is haunted years later.

Here’s what Williams told Soledad O’Brien of CNN : “I was asked to assist. And what I saw was that individuals who were doing interrogations had slipped over a line and were really doing things that were inappropriate. There were prisoners that were burned with lit cigarettes.”

All of this only gains relevance in light of the current debate over whether those who were “just following orders” in torture routines should be held accountable today.
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Greg Mitchell’s latest book is “Why Obama Won.” His previous book on Iraq and the media was “So Wrong for So Long.” He is editor of Editor & Publisher.

Read Part II