« Sure, But It's The Rural Part of K Street | Main | Bridging the Gaps »

October 18, 2007

Protesting Recruitment Stations?

Sorry Kay, but my feelings about Code Pink aren't complicated at all. Any anti-war group whose work is spurring The San Francisco Chronicle to write leads like "Dozens of flag-waving military supporters squared off boisterously with peace activists Wednesday in the first major showdown over a U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station" had better rethink its tactics. Code Pink's Medea Benjamin says "We feel that it's our obligation because of this war to shut down the recruiting station." That's silly. When you focus your protesting on the military, you distract from the argument over the war. It's a staggeringly bad idea.

October 18, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Ezra, Ezra, Ezra! I suspect that you, like Jenna Bush,and the sons of Mitt, have never served in the military. So young whippersnapper, let me explain things to you. Marines are killers. Highly trained killers! Making war and inflicting pain and killing is their job. Wars start at the recruitment centers where these future killers are hired into the program. The recruiters are not showing prospects videos of the children in Iraq who have been killed by US Marines. They are selling jingoism and glory! Glory that you and Jenna and the sons of Mitt have wisely chosen to forgo. Code Pink is correct to draw attention to where wars start.

Posted by: George P. Hickey | Oct 18, 2007 12:38:40 PM

You're wrong. Targeting military recruiters is the only protest that's done anything worth a damn against the war. Recruitment is down, the army is straining...that's the only reason anyone in Washington is even considering ending our little adventure. Most of the time these protests don't make it in the news at all, but they've been quietly effective.

Again we all miss Steve Gilliard, who understood this tactic better than anyone.

Posted by: Antid Oto | Oct 18, 2007 12:44:10 PM

it's better than standing on the main street with signs. Joining the military is a difficult decision. These folks are making sure the potential recruits see all of the information. More power to them!

Posted by: Brian | Oct 18, 2007 12:54:34 PM

No protest is complete unless there is a free Mumia contingent.

Posted by: Free Mumia! | Oct 18, 2007 1:00:51 PM

I agree with Ezra 100%.

The military is under civilian control.

This war was foisted on the enlisted by the Nation's elite, all of whom are civilians, most of whom are draft dodgers. Of course, women who don't have to serve, but are eager for war are a special study in hypocrisy.

If you are going to protest somebody why peg the Draft Dodgers who want war.

Go after Bush, Hill& Bill, Cheney, Lieberman, Friedman, Rice, Schumer, Wolfie, Biden, Powell, the editorial Boards of the NYT, Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Faux.

I've dragged my ass through the US Army to get my college money, the US Army is full of good people, it's the civilian leaders that suck.

Posted by: S Brennan | Oct 18, 2007 1:06:47 PM

Anyone who thinks recruitment is down because of Code Pink is seriously delusional.

Posted by: Woody Bombay | Oct 18, 2007 1:08:22 PM

Should have said:

"If you are going to protest somebody why [NOT] peg the Draft Dodgers who want war."

Posted by: S Brennan | Oct 18, 2007 1:15:19 PM

I'm also in agreement with Ezra. It's this kind of protesting that gives us a bad name.

We should be doing the exact opposite. We should support the ROTC and recruiting in places like UCSC. The LAST thing we want is to push the military further and further to the right. We need more liberals in the military, not less.

Posted by: Mark | Oct 18, 2007 1:16:11 PM

"Recruitment is down, the army is straining...that's the only reason anyone in Washington is even considering ending our little adventure. "

You don't think that the KIA lists, perception that this is an endless quagmire, word of mouth from returning soldiers and marines, and gory news reports have had any effect on enlistment?

This is the old radical vs liberal divide at work here. Code Pink, as genuine and earnest as their motives are, is easy prey for the demagogues, and the less radicalized part of the left doesn't want to be tarred with that brush.

Posted by: Haig | Oct 18, 2007 1:18:10 PM

Don't forget Orwell's dismay at the eccentric appearance of the kind of people who attended socialist conferences in the 30s, and how the right would use them as a kind of metonomy for the whole left. It's no wonder that the "process liberals" are edgy about this, as they don't want to watch Giuliani commercials this time next year featuring, the, ah, more colorful members of Code Pink.

Posted by: Haig | Oct 18, 2007 1:23:01 PM

It's not that the demonstration gives anti-war folks a bad name (let's face it, people who hate on the anti-war contingents aren't going to be swayed one way or another by this kind of direct action), it's that it is a strategically pointless case to make.

Yes, recruitment centers are where the military gets its, umm, recruits, but the point isn't that the military is bad, but that this war is, in every possible way, wrong. Attacking the people who, for whatever reason, join the military doesn't make that case.

It's not the end of the world for anti-war forces, since public opinion is with us and people aren't going to swerve in favor of the war because of Code Pink's actions, but it is, once again, a massive example of Medea Benjamin's uncannily bad strategic sensibilities. As in, she doesn't have any.

Posted by: Nathanhj | Oct 18, 2007 1:37:19 PM

Anyone who thinks recruitment is down because of Code Pink is seriously delusional.

Right, exactly. But their well-meaning antics do enable war supporters to pin the blame for the strained military on the Left rather than where it belongs.

Ezra's view, I think, is pretty symptomatic of a generational divide, and thus I don't know if we'll ever come to agreement on tactics. I'm a little older than he is, but I take the same view.

Posted by: Steve | Oct 18, 2007 2:13:05 PM

Wow, I’m not sure I’ve ever disagreed more with anything written on this blog. First of all, Code Pink is not attacking low level volunteers in the army. They are criticizing commanders and people like Donald Rumsfield, which is perfectly reasonable, those guys ARE war criminals. Second of all, the political process has failed to end the war. People in this country want the war to end NOW. The political process merely brought in a party more willing to pay lip service to this sentiment but one that has failed to do a single tangible thing about it. So the question is what’s left for those of us who want to see an actual end to the war? I’m not opposed to either of these, but signing on-line petitions and campaigning for Dems doesn’t really seem to be cutting it alone, so clearly some people in the anti-war movement need to adopt more militant tactics. Going after the infrastructure that makes war possible will be an essential aspect of stopping this war and part of that means going after recruitment.

Now if you want to talk tactics, then that’s an important discussion. It’s important to approach it as trying to give information to the typical targets of recruitment, rather than treat them like scabs crossing a picket line: you do this by leafleting and engaging people going into recruitment stations, you can birddog recruiters who go out to speak with people on the street, and you can go to high schools and colleges and organize anti-recruitment strategies. I think those are most effective things, but I don’t have a problem with raucous protesting outside of a recruitment station as long as your message is clear and targeted at the military establishment and not at the typically disenfranchised folks who feel forced to volunteer based on circumstances.

I see nothing in Code Pink’s strategy that suggests that they are attacking the lower level volunteers. Even if its portrayed by the media to be that way (just like the myth that anti-war protesters spit on Vietnam vets, despite the fact that there’s not a single documented instance of this) then the response shouldn’t be to avoid these tactics in order to cow tow to the spin of the media. The response ought to be an even more aggressive push to articulate the message by the anti-war movement. When a movement is small and not very visible then its easy for myths to crop up and be believed, but when a movement is large and visible by everyone then people will have an easier time seeing the myths for what they are.

If this war is ended, the Code Pinks of the world are gonna have a lot more to do with it than the Nancy Pelosis.

Posted by: Matt | Oct 18, 2007 2:16:11 PM

"Right, exactly. But their well-meaning antics do enable war supporters to pin the blame for the strained military on the Left rather than where it belongs."

The war supporters who think this way will never be allies. Part of the problem is that be enlist without really thinking about it, they see it as their only option and its not something they're taught to think critically about. We're not gonna convince the ardent war supporters, but people who have mixed feelings need to have seeds of doubt planted, particularly about enlisting. One pamphlet, one protest, etc, is unlikely to accomplish that but a consistent argument can, which is why we need more, not less, of this type of action.

Posted by: Matt | Oct 18, 2007 2:19:19 PM

One more thing:

"That's silly. When you focus your protesting on the military, you distract from the argument over the war. It's a staggeringly bad idea."

How is that any different from a critique of Abu Ghraib and other bad actions committed by the military? Furthermore, why is protesting the military a distraction from the war? The military is a vital part of the war and recruiters are enlisting people for THIS war, whether thats the message or not. As a result its perfectly reasonable, in fact its only logical, to criticize recruitment.

Posted by: Matt | Oct 18, 2007 2:22:48 PM

Matt is correct.

Posted by: ken | Oct 18, 2007 2:29:34 PM

You know best how to stop the war, Ezra. Whatever.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Oct 18, 2007 2:35:42 PM

Wars start at the recruitment centers where these future killers are hired into the program.

The people who get recruited aren't the ones starting wars. Wars are started by older men in suits who have to win elections. They're ended by replacing those men in suits, by convincing voters not to re-elect them. End of story.

Making this about 18-year-old kids who enlist distracts from that very essential point.

Posted by: SDM | Oct 18, 2007 2:35:44 PM

Matt,

You make a statement that I know from personal experience to be untrue and highly insulting.

"Part of the problem is that be enlist without really thinking about it, they see it as their only option and its not something they're taught to think critically about."

It is working people who enlist, saying guys who are hardworking, patriotic and decent "enlist without really thinking about it" is just what the right wing warmongers want liberals to say.

You can think of your trite little post that denigrates Soldiers and Marines as the kinda crap that prolongs the war by dividing those who oppose the disaster in Iraq.

I served, I'm proud of it, most soldiers are...and if your sorry ass hasn't heard, most of the soldiers over in Iraq think it is a STUPID WAR, but according to you they're not "thinking about it"

Frankly, based on the utter callousness of your remarks, you are probably a right wing troll.

Posted by: S Brennan | Oct 18, 2007 2:37:56 PM

Gee SBrennan, I'm disappointed that you didn't attack me ae a rightwing troll for my comments.

Posted by: George P. Hickey | Oct 18, 2007 2:57:45 PM

"It is working people who enlist, saying guys who are hardworking, patriotic and decent "enlist without really thinking about it" is just what the right wing warmongers want liberals to say."

Many people don't fully consider alternatives, this is a fact. I don't blame them for this as we live in a society that doesn't think critically about service in the military and assumes that everything in the military is good even if the actions of the military may be bad. I don't care what the right wing warmongers want me to say, but to suggest that 18 years enlisting to go to Iraq, which is what they are doing when they sign up for military service, have fully thought this decision through is crazy.

"I served, I'm proud of it, most soldiers are...and if your sorry ass hasn't heard, most of the soldiers over in Iraq think it is a STUPID WAR, but according to you they're not "thinking about it" "

Nice job misinterpreting my post, but thankfully you actually proved my point. What I said was that people don't completely think about ENLISTING. Thats why when they go over there they start to think its a stupid war because they've gotten themselves into a terrible situation. Now if they hate the war when they are over there, want it to end, and want to get out of there, then its pretty logical to conclude that they AREN'T thinking critically about the war before they go.

You can pluck individual lines from my post and twist them all you want, but had you read the whole thing you would see that it is quite sympathetic towards soldiers and that I advocated for the anti-war movement to do a better job of informing targets of recruitment about the things that recruiters aren't telling them. Too many enlistee DO NOT think critically about the war until they are over there. I think thats unfortunate and part of the way to combat that is to turn that dynamic around.

Posted by: Matt | Oct 18, 2007 2:59:24 PM

Having served in the military and observed how much it has swerved right in the leadership and ranks since Reagan's time, I'm with Ezra and not Matt.

The problem is not at the recruiting stations, but in the high schools (with the damned Congressional act that says they must be granted wide and free access). They lie to the potential recruits, over and over. This must be stopped by law, not street protests.

But, in the same sense that mass protest marches have proved to not make a difference since Vietnam (and surely not in Iraq, pre-war), targeted actions against the actions just reinforces beliefs that the left is anti-military (both inside the military and in the civilian political environment). The last thing the country needs is a military down to the Privates believing that the left is against them and their families. Wrong target, folks.

Finally, having lived in San Francisco and observed Medea Benjamin close up (way before Code Pink - involving destructive painted slogans on historical landmarks with anti-corporate messages, which pissed off nearly everyone) I can say she is the most self-promoting, irresponsible person possible to attempt to rally against Iraq and Iran.

The right has been exploiting the military for cover and justification, and that must be countered, but not countered by protests but by measured laws that make life better for the members of the armed services and rein-in the executive branch from their 'unitary executive' and 'commander-in-chief is above the law' views.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Oct 18, 2007 3:01:27 PM

wondering what anyone thinks of the six inner city high schools that are now being run now by the u.s. military in chicago.
i didnt know about this, but perhaps others do.i think i have my facts right, but i dont know too much about it.
....the students dress in military uniform and are called "cadets."
apparently,there is a large waiting list in the community for students to attend the school.
quaker activists in the community feel that it is a poverty draft, and others feel that it is a good place to learn discipline that can be applied to other careers.
....i didnt know that we could have public schools in the united states that were run by the military.
i wonder if anyone might have any thoughts on this.

Posted by: jacqueline | Oct 18, 2007 3:13:34 PM

Matt,

Have you served in the Army or Marines?

No?

So you have no idea what Soldiers or Marines think do you? And yet, you write like you know all about what servicemen think....don't you?

"Many people don't fully consider alternatives, this is a fact. I don't blame them for this"

"Thats why when they go over there they start to think its a stupid war because they've gotten themselves into a terrible situation."

Then this line:

"You can pluck individual lines from my post and twist them all you want, but had you read the whole thing you would see that it is quite sympathetic towards soldiers"

If you are not a right wing troll, pretending to be a the right wings stereotype of a liberal, then are the most conceited naive I've read on this board.

If you want to do your part to end this stupid war...STFU

Posted by: S Brennan | Oct 18, 2007 3:15:09 PM

I probably should have clarified that I have no thoughts on Medea Benjamin or Code Pink in particular. I do believe, however, that leafleting and demonstrating against the war (not the military) at recruitment stations and trying to inform potential young recruits about the lies recruiters are known to tell has been just about the only effective direct action against the war.

Posted by: Antid Oto | Oct 18, 2007 3:22:54 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.