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11 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the U.S. Military

Eleven Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military

By David Swanson

I just read an excellent book from called "10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military." Personally I was never attracted to the military because I could never stand having anyone tell me what to do – well, and because I had parents who helped me find other options in life.

The military glorifies the giving and obeying of orders as somehow something good for its own sake, something called "discipline" or "character." I can't judge whether I have either of those things, but I do know the last place I would ever have thought to turn for a career was an institution in which I would have had to do what a bunch of mean bastards said to do simply because they said to do it. That wouldn’t have worked. I'd have ended up a conscientious objector even in peace time.

But, of course, order-taking is common in many young people's households and potential workplaces. My whole life, whenever I've had a boss who's annoyed me I've quit my job. I've had the good fortune to always find another and to have strong support from family. Not everyone has that luxury. Clearly taking orders from a military officer could sound more liberating than taking orders from a Wal-Mart manager, particularly to someone who currently works at Wal-Mart.

But even such a person, facing a highly unpleasant and unrewarding work life, and facing a taxpayer-funded multibillion-dollar advertising campaign for military recruitment, would not for an instant consider joining the military if they had read "10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military." The 10 reasons are:

1. You May Be Killed

This chapter was written by Cindy Sheehan. It alone should dissuade any potential recruit who does not hate his or her mother.

2. You May Kill Others

This chapter is timely, given the U.S. media's recent and long-in-coming awakening to the killing of civilians in Iraq by U.S. soldiers. Here Paul Rockwell recounts the stories of Iraq War veterans, including Jimmy Massey, Darrell Anderson, and Aidan Delgado. Massey says he was involved in a number of routine checkpoint killings. Anderson said, "At traffic stops, we kill innocent people all the time. If you are fired on from the street, you are supposed to fire on everybody that is there. If I am in a market, I shoot people who are buying groceries."

Delgado described killings at Abu Ghraib: "They opened fire on the prisoners with the machine guns. They shot twelve and killed three. I talked to one guy who did the killing. He showed me grisly photographs and bragged about the results. 'Look, I shot this guy in the face,' he said. 'See, his head is split open.' He talked like the Terminator. I was stunned and said, 'You shot an unarmed man behind a barbed wire for throwing a stone.' He said to me, 'Well, I said a prayer, and I gunned him down.' There was a complete disconnect between what he had done and his morality. He was the nicest guy, a family man, a courteous, devout Christian." (Was there a disconnect? He prayed his Christian prayer as he murdered a non-Christian. The connection seems unavoidable.)

3. You May Be Injured

If you sign up, you may not die, but you are quite likely to be injured, physically and psychologically. You may come back without arms, without legs, without eyes, without sanity. And if you're injured in a support role, not in combat, you won't even count as a statistic.

The stories in this chapter are painful. Robert Acosta, who lost his hand, among other injuries suffered in Iraq, described the attack on Iraq as a time of fear for himself and his fellow soldiers. The largest army the world has ever seen was aggressively attacking a ruined nation, using massive high-tech machinery, but the soldiers inside the trucks were focused on their fear of children:

"I got to call home almost every other day, which would change once we moved north. We stayed in a place called Camp Udairi, not too far from the Kuwait-Iraq border. The whole 1st Armored Division was there, and little by little troops were moving north. We heard stories of soldiers still getting ambushed and little kids stabbing them through the thin plastic on the Humvee doors."

4. You May Not Receive Proper Medical Care

In fact, judging by the accounts here and elsewhere, you are likely to be tossed aside as human waste and allowed to suffer all kinds of unnecessary misery.

5. You May Suffer Long-Term Health Problems

Here are stories from Nevada, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. "You" in this case includes your children, even those not yet so much as a gleam in your eye – should you be capable of producing a gleam in your eye.

6. You May Be Lied To

In this chapter Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg describes her experience posing as a potential recruit. The recruiters blatantly lie to her and cruelly pressure her to join, risk her life, and help fill their quota.

7. You May Face Discrimination

Aimee Allison describes a military culture that is openly and brutally racist, misogynistic, and homophobic. "These revelations are not surprising," she writes, "to former Marine Corps Lance Corporal Stephen Funk. During his training in 2002, Stephen told me that his drill instructor gave a rousing speech at the end of Marine combat training: 'This is the reality of war. We Marines like war. We like killing. We like raping females. This is what we do.'"

8. You May Be Ordered to Do Things Against Your Beliefs

Here we get into the matter of orders. Even if you don't mind following orders that you think might actually have been given for some good reason, what will you do if ordered to murder children? Read these stories of what others did in that sort of situation.

9. You May Find it Difficult to Leave the Military

You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.

10. You Have Other Choices.

There are many other ways to get money for college, to take overseas adventures, to do good for the world, and to develop skills and abilities. In fact, a list of resources is listed at the end of this book.

Buy this little book here by the dozen like donuts, and hand it out at high schools.


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