Innocent Flesh—Recruiting Kids to Kill

I used to umpire Little League baseball in the roughest section of Burlington, VT. Compared to so-called rough sections of bigger cities in other parts of the United States, the Old North End was certainly not very rough. However, it did have the largest number of working and other poor families, a large number of immigrants and a higher number of single parent homes than most of the rest of Burlington. On any given game day, there would be a couple parole officers hanging around the game watching younger siblings of their charges playing ball. One of the officers who used to talk ball with me a little told me that he had been the parole officer for two old brothers of one of the better players in the league and hoped that the third and youngest boy would avoid the fate of his brothers who had both served time for drugs and robbery. In addition to the parole officers, various workers from Social Services and a good number of parents and relatives, a couple military recruiters began showing up at the occasional game in spring 2002.

The boys (and some of the girls) were intrigued by the recruiters. Their uniforms and their sense of certainty seemed to appeal to these young people—especially the ones with the least stable home lives. Burlington never had much of a gang problem, but it always seemed to me that the appeal of the recruiters was that they promised membership in something very much like a gang with all of the solidarity and unity such membership could provide. On the days the recruiters showed up they would converse with the kids—none who were older than 13—about the Red Sox, the game and what they thought about high school. After all, the military was only recruiting high school graduates at the time. To their credit, the recruiters were more convivial than anything else and may even have inspired some of the kids they talked to into staying in school. Yet, their primary reason for befriending these kids was to get them to join the military and go to war.

High schools across the nation include JROTC as a standard course. In some schools it replaces physical education. The course is about physical education but it is also about regimentation and indoctrination. Boys and girls in the course do not use guns except when they carry fake ones in drill. They do, however, get indoctrinated in the military doctrine and nationalistic propaganda. Meanwhile, the US military has total access to young people’s phone numbers and school records. Recruiters come to schools and speak to mandatory assemblies. The US Army sends mail and calls students incessantly in their last two years of high school and send recruitment vans into neighborhoods where many youth are present. Recruiters hang out in shopping malls near arcades hoping to get boys hyped up on the latest video game to consider a couple years in Iraq or Afghanistan as an option. They push their way into job fairs at two and four year colleges and set up offices in as many towns as possible throughout the United States. The Marines have a program called Young Marines that encourages parents to sign up their children in elementary school for drill practices, militarized outings and indoctrination. The culture of militarism is pervasive and it is heavily geared toward young people between the ages of twelve and twenty.

I mention all this in relation to a recent news item from the Associated Press stating that the group the Pentagon calls Al-Qaida in Iraq is recruiting and training teenagers. For the moment, let’s assume that this article is true and is not some kind of fake news planted by US psy-ops. According to the story, some videos were found in an operation against insurgents. According to Rear Admiral Smith of the US Navy, the videos “were meant to spread Al Qaida’s message among the young rather than train the boys for missions.” This was not the first time such videos had been found, the story continued, but “it was the most disturbing.”

Now, if I understand this right, the US military is appalled and disturbed because some Iraqi insurgent groups (that may or may not have anything to do with Al Qaida in Iraq) are using videos to propagandize among adolescents in the hope that they will enlist. Meanwhile, the US military, which is engaged in the same type of operations as the Iraqi insurgency only as the occupying force, glorifies its mission of bloodshed, intimidation, and killing in videos, video games, in schools, on the television, at shopping malls and through the mails. Naturally, these methods are not training the US adolescents that they are targeting for operations, but they are definitely “meant to spread the US military’s message among the young (to borrow Admiral Smith’s words.)”

As I write this, a news item is coming over the radio stating that the US Army Surgeon General issued an order telling military counselors to stop helping Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans fill out paperwork required to seek psychological assistance. After denying such a document existed, the General backtracked from that denial when the document was produced. He is now looking for another lie to explain away the order. Do you think the recruiters mention this to the teenagers they target?

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

29 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Lloyd Rowsey said on February 11th, 2008 at 7:23am #

    Not this Rose. Thanks for this, Ron.

  2. maha said on February 11th, 2008 at 8:01am #

    #”According to Rear Admiral Smith of the US Navy, the videos “were meant to spread Al Qaida’s message among the young …” #

    1. If there were videos they would have been made in the US of Israel, after all “alqaida” are recruited by the Mossad (eg. Zev Barkan) .

    2. In the past year or so there have been witness backed reports of Iraqi teenage boys having been rounded up and detained by the occupiers including whilst in school. Of course now the occupiers are done demonising the Iraqi adult population they need to demonise the children too, in case someone leaks the torture photos of Iraqi kids.

  3. Seven said on February 11th, 2008 at 9:16am #

    Thank you, Ron. This is exactly the kind of writing that is needed to smash the system. The indoctrination rituals in this country are astounding. I’ve been at university for two years, and I STILL get calls from the US Military offering me “a great career” in napalming brown people for their resources. Honestly, they are telemarketing their ritualized violence and fabricated morals (haha “morals”).

    But, in the end, the damage is done. It’s the entire culture, it has all gone to hell. For instance, we have Rambo massacring hundreds of Asians in your local cinema for entertainment. Or you have American Gladiators oiling up and duking it out on your television.

    The US in recent years has proven beyond doubt that 90% of people are sheep. They can be tricked, fooled, sheared, and butchered. All the while supporting the entire process!

    Keep waving those flags boys! You’ll get your facism, and then maybe – just maybe – you’ll see what so few of us have seen all along.

  4. WORLDSFINESTMARINE said on February 12th, 2008 at 1:42pm #

    After reading this article and postings, its clear to me that none of you have actually been to Iraq or any third world country for that matter. You seem happy to get all info third and fourth hand, and then regurgitate it as your own. And while you folks may find us military types repulsive, we are the reason that your typing in English and not German, Russian, or Japanese to just name a few of the possibilities. And although I find your thought process crazy, the Constituion that I swore to defend says I need to give you your freedom of speech, and since you are pretty much harmless, I will stand guard for your freedoms.
    And when coming to conclusions in the future, not everything you read in newspapers and on internet sites is true. And also try believe all the facts, not just the ones that benefit your cause.

  5. ron said on February 12th, 2008 at 3:03pm #

    Actually, you assume things you shouldn’t. I lived in Pakistan in the mid-1960s and in Mexico in the late 1970s. The occupation of Iraq and the mess in Afghanistan have very little in common with the war against fascism–don’t believe what you’ve been told by your Commander in Chief.

  6. Seven said on February 12th, 2008 at 3:09pm #

    Ah, we have a sheep already sheared already in our midst!

    Thank you for protecting me against WMDs that didn’t exist.
    Thank you for murdering innocent people in an innocent nation.

    You are NOT the reason why I am not typing in German, Russian, and Japanese. I can defend myself quite sufficiently without state-sponsered terrorists claiming to defend me.

    You ARE the reason why Japanese civilians were atomized in the 1940s
    You ARE the reason why Iraqi children cannot even go to school without fear of be coming some “collateral damage”
    You ARE the reason Native Amerians were victims to one of the worst genocides in human history
    You ARE the reason Russian civilians cannot even purchase bread.
    You ARE the reason why the Vietnamese were forced to suffer a population lose of nearly 15%
    You ARE the reason why Saddam had the ability to gas those infamous Kurds.

    Your precious military, you idiot, has created EVERY battle you are fighiting now. Every “hot-spot”, every dangerous dictator, every “rogue nation” – created by the United States and their Cold War policies of containment and supporting ANY regime that would oppose the Soviets.

    You defend nothing. You have been brainwashed and made to be self-righteous and imporant. You do not wield the sword of justice, and you do not carry the flag of all the important democracy. Your life, your career, your morals – based on lies and death and destruction.


    Oh, and by the way, I HAVE been to third-world countries, I have seen the devestation the US causes around the world. But hey, go lock and load and kill some brown people for me.

  7. Seven said on February 12th, 2008 at 3:10pm #

    Oh, and I forgot, you may not be the reason why I don’t speak German, Russian, and Japanese.

    But you ARE the reason the rest of world is basically forced to speak English.

  8. Jeremy said on February 12th, 2008 at 5:10pm #

    This was an interesting article. I am a recruiter for the military and noone understands better than a recruiter for the military that you are not going to change some people’s minds when they are this entrenched in their viewpoint, so it is a waste of time to try.
    The one thing I read that made me laugh was the recruiters that were talking to 13 years old. I find it hard to believe that multiple recruiters would be interested in hanging out and talking with 13 year olds. A 13 year old is atleast 4 years away from being eligible to enlist in the military and the average tour for a recruiter is 3 years, so recruiters aren’t going to be talking to people that young. One other thing to consider is that if you are not in favor of recruiting then it means you are in favor of the draft. Without recruiters the military would not be able to staff itself with qualified personnel. The other option is the draft which could be forcing people possibly against their will to serve in the military as many other countries do. The vast majority of military recruiters do their best to inform young men and women about their opportunities in the military so they can make an informed and educated decision on whether they want to join the military. No large corporation in America is able to staff
    If you are not in favor of the military then that is your opinion, just remember that the military is run by civilians and those civilians are appointed by a president and voted on by congress, all of which are elected officials. The people in charge of the military were put their by people you elected. If you want to change the military then change the people who are elected.
    Back to the article, comparing military recruiting to the methods used by Iraqi Insurgent groups is a pretty far stretch. The videos that have been shown show very young kids practicing how to kidnap individuals. If you think this is somewhere even in the ball park to our military or it’s recruiting practices then you have more serious problems then worrying about the big bad government coming to get you. Don’t forget that even though we may disagree on some things, I still think everyone who has posted here and the author of the article are atleast trying to fight for their views and get some crap changed which is way ahead of alot of people in this country.

  9. AnotherMarine said on February 12th, 2008 at 6:02pm #

    Seven, stay in what I call the “educational bubble”. Keep your head safely in the sand. And when you “the sheep” are screaming for help, understand that the watch dog will be there, day or night. We will never rest ensuring that your ignorant head is safe…………Enjoy your freedoms!

  10. Alex said on February 12th, 2008 at 7:51pm #

    This article and the related comments remind me of a very funny South Park episode where Cartman joke about how this country needs ‘both’:

    The Protesters/Free Speech so the Armed Forces, or really the war profiteers who are the heart of the problem, doesn’t step out-of-line and the American people can say we didn’t mean for that bad stuff to happen.


    The Armed Forces since the protesters will not be of any use when the ‘other’ invades us.

    WORLDSFINESTMARINE and the ‘protesters’ are on the different side of the EXACT same coin. The problems for ‘both’ camps are the war profiteers getting richer at everyone’s expense.

  11. maha said on February 12th, 2008 at 9:36pm #

    Worldsfinest, fyi I am from Iraq and know many people still there suffering at the hands of psycopathic mercenary soldiers (such as yourself?) who cannot seem to get enough of humiliating, attacking and destroying that country and its people.
    And, Alex, “on the same side”? No. Soldiers are the tools of the profiteers — no one forced them to join and to go and kill innocent people in a foreign country. The soldiers are the problem.

  12. Cheapmeat Detector said on February 13th, 2008 at 3:49am #

    If there indeed was a “world’s finest marine,” then said person would be invading Washington DC to dismantle the unconstitutional Patriot Act, arrest Bush and Cheney for their illegal wars, unconstitutional signing statements, and policies of torture that will ensure your fellow marines are waterboarded and worse should the ever be captured by your victims.

    You, sir, are merely a tool of the empire.

  13. ron said on February 13th, 2008 at 5:54am #

    Thanks for the reasoned response. I know you may find it hard to believe that some of your fellow recruiters were at the ball game in uniform and talking with the kids. I, too, was surprised, but the fact is they were. As for the comparison to the Iraqi insurgency and the supposed videos–try looking at it from an Iraqi perspective—you are a civilian kid or woman and the GIs/Marines break into your home in the middle of the night. They tear up your house, take your brothers/sons (who may only be fifteen or younger) and your father/husband outside and arrest him. Six months later you still don’t know where they are, even though you know they were not part of the insurgency. In fact, they just want peace. If I were that kid or woman I would consider what happen to the males in my family to be kidnapping. And I would consider the US forces the kidnappers.

  14. Lloyd Rowsey said on February 13th, 2008 at 8:59am #

    Hey, brave Marines. What do you think about the courage of Iraq Veterans Against the War members?

  15. Lloyd Rowsey said on February 13th, 2008 at 9:35am #

    Cheapmeat. Have you heard of the upcoming “Winter Soldier”: Iraq and Afghanistan” event in Washington DC?

    And brave Marines…I am not a member of IVAW, just a supporter.

  16. Lloyd Rowsey said on February 13th, 2008 at 9:39am #

    What I find interesting is that the military is not sworn to follow the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, but instead to uphold the Constitution of the United States. And since the constitution of this country incorporates international law, what Cheapmeat Detector suggests is actully THE DUTY of the military. Not to mention (I love THAT phrase) the military’s duty to protect their fellow combatants.

  17. franz ferdinand said on February 13th, 2008 at 4:30pm #

    Hey guess what.
    I smell a few anti-war protesters from vietnam (era) a liberal left person and a fake iraqi man, and some patriots. If you do not like America leave. Please. I believe in freedom of speech. The men I fought with in Iraq all wanted to be there, so did everyone I met. Also we cannot take a 15 year old kid and send him to jail, and we inform the families where the suspect is going. Now before we apprehend we need evidence too. Also if the recruiter was at the game he wasn’t spreading propaganda. Come on now. This whole article reeks of lies and left wing radical bullcrap. Be real and realize that we don’t gas our people, we don’t chop of the tounges of those who bad mouth us and the Iraqi people, regardless of what you think needed us to allow them democracy. Next time you see a Marine, Vietnam Veteran ask him if he is a murderer. Tell him to his face what you think. Or be a coward and keep complaing here….

  18. corylus said on February 13th, 2008 at 7:45pm #

    Man, are you ever brainwashed. Just two point of yours to illustrate your extremely narrow framing of the recruiting issue: “if you are not in favor of recruiting then it means you are in favor of the draft.” Then you qualify this fallacy with another: “If you are not in favor of the military then that is your opinion, just remember that the military is run by civilians and those civilians are appointed by a president and voted on by congress, all of which are elected officials.”

    Some of us share a vision of this nation that is not dominated by corporations and a fascist government, and a world not dominated by rampant militarism largely driven by U. S.-backed imperialism, interference with sovereign governments, weapons sales, and corporate-molded “diplomacy.” Furthermore, the president and the Congress are not voted upon by the people, as this nation has never fulfilled the necessary qualifications of “democracy.” The simple fact is that none of the corporate-appointed, so-called representatives of our fascist oligarchy would ever think about altering the status quo that provides their bread and butter. You are merely a willing participant in their murderous games. I suspect that many people in the military just can’t stand that some of us have seen through the completely immoral and unjust nature of the partnerships of fascism, yet continue to be deluded and attack those of us with alternative perspectives because they simply can’t think for themselves.

  19. ron said on February 14th, 2008 at 6:25am #

    so is this the way you ignore things you don’t want to hear–by calling the sources frauds and fakes? How do we know you’re a real vet and not some rightwing loonie? My conversations and work with vets from Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam have provided me with viewpoints quite different from yours. They wish they hadn’t gone and done the things they did. They did arrest young teenagers and take them away.
    As for those recruiters at the game, their presence in uniform was propaganda enough–and you know it. The gist of my article is not that those two recruiters were spreading propaganda all by themselves –the gist is that the military and its ethos is pervasive throughout our society–from kids video games to the very real fact that recruiters have access to our schools, our telephones and school records. If people really thought the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were so great, would the government have to spend the billions it does to sell military service to teenagers? If people really thought those wars were so great, would the military now be accepting teenagers who failed to meet its standards only 18 months ago? Just because the military doesn’t shop out the tongues of its captives doesn’t make it something good. Its current job is to occupy and remake countries that it has not business being in and it has killed tens of thousands of those country’s people trying to accomplish that goal. Dead people’s relatives don’t care how their family members were killed or if they have tongues.

  20. Jeremy said on February 14th, 2008 at 12:07pm #

    Mr. Corylus, you say the people do not vote our elected officials into power? So what exactly am I doing when I go and vote every year? Yes, without a recruiting force you would have no military unless you conscripted people via a draft. The only other alternative to those two options is to not have a military. The military is going to expand and shrink naturally over time and with the needs of the country, but it will never be able to be filled with qualified personnel unless you either recruit them or force them into the military. Which option do you prefer?

    Keep in mind that recruiters work crazy long hours and do their best to find young men and women who are genuinely interested in serving their country. We aren’t some weirdos hanging out at baseball games oogling little kids with dreams of world domination dancing in our heads. We are your neighbors and fellow citizens trying their best to do a demanding job that our service has asked us to do. Unlike the civilian world, we don’t have the luxury to say I don’t feel like doing this or that in the military. We agreed to serve in whatever capacity the country saw as best and you won’t hear the sniveling and whining with little or no action like you do elsewhere in this world.

    For right or wrong in your opinion, the military does it’s best to be trained and prepared for any contigency the country may need us for. YOUR President and Congress decides what to do with us, and this country elected them. If you don’t like the “democracy” of this country then run for office and start changing it or go somewhere else.

  21. franz ferdinand said on February 15th, 2008 at 9:28am #

    I joined when I was 17. The real world is all around you. There will be no utopia, no peace forever, and there will always be war. Some cannot tolerate what they had to do, and now they are aginst the military. Propaganda, come on man. Are you that sheltered? Would you rather have the children grow up and be lame ducks? Tell me how many men in the navy or air force have benn in direct enemy combat… Tell me how many airmen have perished! Maybe 10 at the most in the war. How many men died on d-day. Would you have sat idly during the holocost and pleaded with hitler to stop killing the jews for peace? There are two people in this world sheep and sheep dogs. Someone has to do as there ordered. More inner city kids have died from meth and heroin in the last year than have in Iraq. Also re look up your stats on the Marine side of the house, our standards have actually gone up, a lot. If I die my family knows it was my choice. I was raised to be responsible so at 17 I knew what I was doing, and at 24 I still do. I am just glad to know that in my unit I led my troops successfully and help the people there. We never killed innocent people, never once did we ever protrude on the people there, we only established law and order. Tell a Iraqi woman to take her vail off in downtown little iraqi town or for her to open her own buissness. THEY HAVE NO RIGHTS! So evn for that reason maybe helping women gain freedom, or to not have a tyrant rule a country, don’t even say sadaam wasn’t, It is worth us being over there. AT LEAST TO THE ALL_VOLUNTEER FORCE IT IS>

  22. ron said on February 15th, 2008 at 11:18am #

    your comments exhibit the extent that you have swallowed your boss’s line. The occupation of Iraq is not WW II. The fact that nayone has died in a war that should never have been fought is much more the story than the fact that only 10 airmen or 3950 soldiers and marines have dies. As for the Iraqis–you may be convinced that you never killed innocent people, but how do you really know. As for the US military–they have killed thousands of innocents no matter how you spin it.
    The women in Iraq? They were among the best educated and least oppressed by religious elements of any women in the Middle East while the Baathists ran the country. The oppression you refer to is the result of the US invasion and occupation–they HAD RIGHTS before that! The presence of the US military in that country has nothing to do with freedom for the Iraqi women, men or children. It has to do with the US corporate desire to dominate the remaining petroleum resources in the region for the foreseeable future. Even Dick Cheney–your second-in-command– would tell you that. So, turn off your Pentagon propaganda machine and open your eyes….you might find out that your war isn’t as great as you think it is…

  23. corylus said on February 15th, 2008 at 12:09pm #

    As I suggested, only this time I’ll be more clear: you need to cut some holes in the box you live in. Some of us have an entirely different perspective from yours on the nature of the U. S. government, its role in global politics, and its intrusion into our lives and our desire to live in peace with other human beings. Militarism hasn’t provided me anything I really need to live a happy and fulfilling life. You have been completely deluded by the American myth that only our nation knows how to provide for the peace and prosperity of its people.

    I’m not going anywhere, and I am going to continue to work — as I do every day at my job and in my community — to build an American society that doesn’t require bludgeoning other people for material gain, and that means shifting the dominant U. S. governmental paradigm away from corporate-sponsored militarism, otherwise known as fascism.

  24. Jeremy said on February 15th, 2008 at 2:21pm #

    Mr Corylus,

    You failed to address the issues you brought up before earlier. You said “Furthermore, the president and the Congress are not voted upon by the people, as this nation has never fulfilled the necessary qualifications of “democracy.” Specifically how is this nation lacking when it comes to the qualifications of democracy? You also allude to the fact that the people do not vote in elections for the President or Congress because your undefined definition of democracy is not being met. Explain this in more detail.

    Secondly, you called the fact that if the military does not recruit then the draft would be the other means of staffing the military a fallacy. What exactly would be the solution to staff the military if you don’t use the draft or you don’t use recruiting?

    You also said, “I suspect that many people in the military just can’t stand that some of us have seen through the completely immoral and unjust nature of the partnerships of fascism” This statement would mean that “many” people in the military actually know and believe that this country’s government is fascist and that these members of the military (which you said were many) are upset and “can’t stand” that some citizens of this nation also know this. So you think that this is a conspiracy and that many in the military are in on it?

  25. franz ferdinand said on February 15th, 2008 at 3:28pm #

    You finally proved my point, you have absolutely no idea what your talking about. THE WOMAN HAVE NO RIGHT< AND NEVER HAVE. I never killed an innocent, what do u think of the terrorist who bombed us? I bet you support them. Your a nutcase and I’m glad that your so nieve, it makes me feel alive knowing that someone out there is so backwards and wrong. I am glad I can defend your radical thoughts!!!!

  26. ron said on February 15th, 2008 at 5:20pm #

    open your mind and shut your mouth for a freaking minute. I am probably more than twice as old as you and have seen more than you–but be that as it may…. The facts are there for anyone who wants to look at them. Iraq had one of the highest standards of living and one of the best educated populations (men and women) in the Middle East until the US bombed the hell out of it in 1991. That doesn’t mean I think Hussein was good–he wasn’t. BUT GUESS WHAT! Neither is George Bush! The terrorists who attacked on 911/2001 were from Saudi Arabia NOT IRAQ! I support them less than I support the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Which menas I DON”T SUPPORT THE TERRORISTS OR THE US MILITARY IN IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN). The women in Afghanistan were (and are)oppressed under the Taliban (and the current government), but were allowed to get an education BEFORE the US armed and trained the Mujahedin (who became the Taliban) in order to defeat the Soviet friendly government in Kabul. LIke I said before, you need to question the stuff you have believed –the US government is the best liar in the world–some day you may figure that out. Talk to a Vietnam vet who didn’t like what he did in Vietnam–There’s thousands of them…

  27. franz ferdinand said on February 16th, 2008 at 10:01am #

    tell me why you don’t run for public office and change things… Why is this not front page news, why is Ron Paul doing so weak in the poles? Look just support your troops, you may need them one day. Many of us know we have the moral fortitude to take the situation at hand and make it right, no matter what the people back home think. I know about the mujahadin, but remember even if your vegan, peace-loving, conservative, liberal or qaudrapaligeic, ther is still a drugged up suicidal terrorist that wants to kill you, even if you write this blog, he’s still waould like nothing more than to see even you dead and your community burned because you are American and that is the truth

  28. ron said on February 16th, 2008 at 10:49am #

    your last post has me a little concerned that you are armed and in the military. You sound overly paranoid. No wonder you like being able to shoot your gun.

  29. Vic said on December 10th, 2009 at 2:19pm #

    Franz…maybe if you learned basic third-grade english skills, you wouldn’t look and sound like such an inbred idiot. Military people have never been the brightest bulbs in the box, and are usually the most ignorant and uninformed.. Murdering thugs with half a brain and an oversized ego usually….