Morning Report 6/23/05Invasion U.S.A.: The Pentagon Scouts for Cannon Fodder


Be all you can be. Join the Army of One Underclass.

Defense Dept.


Boys and their toys: Above, Don Rumsfeld befriends a Scout troop full of potential soldiers in a chickenhawk recruiting tour in March. Below, a U.S. soldier gets to play with a real cool little airplane (a Shadow 200 UAV) in September ’04 in Baqubah, Iraq.
U.S. Army

We’re running out of cannon fodder for future military misadventures, but don’t worry, kids. When you go back to your classrooms next fall, you won’t have to immediately fend off an invasion by the Pentagon. It says so right in the Army’s official battle plan for recruiters, USAREC Pamphlet 350-13:

When school opens each year, be sensitive to the fact that school officials will be very busy and may resent an early “invasion” by recruiters.

Bob Herbert of the New York Times brought the pamphlet to our attention in a blistering June 16 column. Herbert noted that the Pentagon’s strategy specifically calls for cozying up to not only “student leaders” and “coaches” but to Boy Scout troops.

That fits in beautifully with SecDef Don Rumsfeld‘s determination to give today’s American kids a future of war. Rumsfeld waxed nostalgic about his Cold War days last year, as I wrote in “Giving Tanks to the Next Generation,” and he told young Marines in Iraq:

There can be no doubt but that this global war against extremism is a task for a least a generation. It is a war that very likely will go on for many years, much like the Cold War went on for many years.

So maybe you’d better worry about other kinds of invasion this summer: As Jonathan Krim of the Washington Post reports this morning:

The Defense Department began working yesterday [June 22] with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.

The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.

Ah, “ethnicity.” That’s the key to our future Army of One Underclass. We already know that plans are afoot to put General Ricardo Sanchez in charge of the Southern Command. Recruiting of Latinos is going pretty well, as Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker pointed out the other day in the Times:

Army officials say [Sanchez] is an inspiration for young Hispanics, who are one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak trend for Army recruiting. The percentage of Hispanics among all new recruits has increased to about 13 percent from 8 percent in the past decade.

“General Sanchez, as a role model, is extremely important,” said a senior Army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of General Sanchez’s uncertain future. “The Army sells growth, opportunity and development. We cannot ignore what our population makeup is.”

Sure, Sanchez is inspiring to young Hispanics, who face poorer and poorer public schools and, because of their skin color, a better chance than their white counterparts of winding up with a future of junk jobs that will pay them chump change.

Add the database info to an enormous advertising budget for military recruiting, and all of us had better take cover from the coming blitzkrieg of bullshit.

But those Latino kids will come in handy as we move against resources-rich Latin America, which is plagued by leftist governments (like in Brazil and Venezuela) and rising leftist movements (like in Bolivia) that the neocons are certain to focus on, no doubt invoking the creaky Monroe Doctrine.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is compiling a huge database full of juicy info on which kids to shanghai to carry out those schemes. Krim broke the story of the Pentagon’s new deal with the marketing company BeNOW (which also counts Tower Records among its clients), but there’s also detail on the database plan in Mark Mazzetti‘s story in this morning’s Los Angeles Times, particularly about the scary “opt-out” nature of this invasion of our privacy by the Pentagon.

Mazzetti quotes Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Ellen Krenke as saying that the database is simply “another tool” and that students who didn’t want to be contacted by recruiters could, as he put it, “have their names added to a ‘suppression list’ that would keep the information private.” But Mazzetti adds:

The No Child Left Behind Act, which President Bush signed in 2002, also contains an “opt out” clause allowing parents to sign a form preventing schools from giving information about their children to the military.

The military’s ability to obtain student information under No Child Left Behind has sparked a backlash across the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit last month against the Albuquerque, N.M., school district, alleging that the district did not notify parents that they could prohibit recruiters from getting their child’s information.

In Seattle, the parent-teacher association at Garfield High School adopted a nonbinding resolution last month stating that “public schools are not a place for military recruiters.”

Why should we have to “opt out” of this nefarious scheme? Mazzetti notes that California congressman Michael Honda introduced a bill a few months ago “that would exchange the current ‘opt out’ policy for an opt-in policy.”