Three Good Reasons Not to Join the Military
By Tariq Khan
Recruiters lie. Don’t be fooled.
Most of the counter-recruitment literature I’ve come across focuses on economic issues. This is appropriate, as most of the recruiter’s main selling points have to do with “money for college” and “career opportunities.” Most people who enlist in the military do it for economic reasons. It is true that the recruiter’s promises of education and economic prosperity often go unfulfilled in the lives of many suckers duped by these well-trained military hucksters. However, I maintain that the best reasons to stay out of the military are not based on economics, but on issues of individuality, human rights, and freedom.
An effective tool in the recruiter’s hands is his appeal to patriotism, “freedom fighting,” and adventure. Yesterday I received in the mail a letter and brochure from the Army National Guard. Even though they’ve never met me, they want me to join their ranks. The information packet is overwhelmingly done in dark shades of blue. Any good PR expert can tell you that many people associate dark blue with honesty and strength, which is why so many politicians, both democrat and republican, use this color for their pamphlets, stickers, signs, television commercials, and other propaganda.
The brochure is full of nationalistic images that put Goebell’s (the infamous Nazi propagandist) work to shame: the trustworthy, loyal, clean-cut soldiers, both men and women and of diverse racial descent; the proud freedom fighter standing tall with a flag waving in the background; the adventurous troopers aiming their guns; the totally extreme cool dudes sliding down ropes out of a helicopter and shouting, “hooah!” It’s got it all.
And the language! It’s like a trip in a time machine back to the 1950’s. “CITIZEN. SOLDIER. DEFENDER OF FREEDOM. Your country needs you . . . to help protect those who cannot protect themselves . . . now is the time to stand up and be counted.” The only difference is that they’ve replaced the word communism with the new demon, terrorism. “THE MOST IMPORTANT WEAPON IN THE WAR ON TERRORISM. YOU. BE ONE OF AMERICA’S MOST POWERFUL WEAPONS.” The envelope includes a typed letter from a military representative beginning with the words, “Dear American, you may never have another chance like this one. To become a force against terror and other forces that threaten America’s way of life.” Wow. I didn’t know that America, whatever that’s supposed to mean, has a way of life. I will not be filling out these forms or contacting the Army recruiter for more information, but if I were to write back, my letter would look something like this:
Dear deceitful recruiter,
I am not a weapon. I am a human being. My guitar is a weapon, a weapon against fascism, as are my anarchist books, but I sure as hell won’t put those things to use for Uncle Sam. I will not join your fascist, armed gang of thugs. To join your army is like joining the Nazi army. Your slick, nationalist propaganda sickens me. Your shade of blue is ugly. The soldiers in your pictures look like mindless automatons. If any of my friends decide to join the military, I will tell them the following. Here are three of many reasons why you should not join the military:
You are a free agent. You own yourself. You own your own life. When you join the military you give ownership of yourself up to the state and thereby cease to be a free agent. This you do by signing a contract. You may not break your end of the contract, but the military can break its end of the deal, and probably will, whenever it wants to. If you do break this contract, they claim the right to punish you in a number of ways including incarcerating you in a military prison. Right now there are people rotting in prison cells for that very reason. By joining the military you become government property. Do you love and trust the government so much that you are willing to give up your agency to become its property?
The military is a cruel, abusive, and murderous organization. In recent years U.S. soldiers have bombed elementary schools and water treatment plants, run kids over with tanks (seriously), tortured people who were not even charged with a crime (not that charges justify torture), sexually assaulted women, and perpetrated general acts of senseless murder and abuse throughout the world all because some guy with shiny pins on his uniform ordered them to. Sexual assault is over five times higher in the military than it is in the civilian population. Do you want to be a murderer? A torturer? A rapist? An order-taking automaton? If your answer is no, the military is not for you.
The military is the most authoritarian type of organization there is. It is organized in a strictly top-down way. You take orders. You get yelled at. You get punished for no good reason. Yes sir. No sir. Yes ma’am. No ma’am. You stand at attention. You march. Your every move is regimented. If you fail to acknowledge that you are inferior to an officer by forgetting to salute or forgetting to say sir or ma’am, you will be yelled at in a most humiliating manner. They tell you where to go, when to wake up, when to go to bed, how to make your bed. If you make your bed differently than how they commanded you, you will be punished. They tell you how your locker must be organized, how to fold your clothes. Make sure you fold your shirts into perfect six-inch squares or you will be punished. If the toothpaste tube in your drawer is even one-inch too far to the left, you will be punished. Are your socks folded correctly? Did you iron your underwear? They tell you what to think, who your friends are, who are “the enemy.” You don’t consider Arabs to be your enemy? Well, you will be forced to treat them as your enemy nonetheless. Hut-two-three-four-hut-two-three-four. Can this type of armed fascism have anything to do with personal happiness or freedom? Can people like this, whose lives are utterly void of individual liberty, or who have absolutely no concept of real freedom, be a force that “liberates” others? That protects the liberty of others? By joining the military you increase the amount of authoritarianism in the world and decrease the amount of freedom by at least one person.
No, Mr. Recruiter, I will not join the pernicious, destructive, deceitful, murderous, authoritarian military that pays your salary. I will not help you reach your quota of recruits for this year. The “career opportunities” you offer are a sham. A career in what? Killing people and being bossed around? Bossing others around? No thanks. I will not murder others or subject myself to the authority of your officers. Not for college money, not for any amount of money. Your money is blood money. I will not be part of your death machine. The freedom you claim to be protecting is slavery. What you call strength is ignorance. Your wars will never achieve peace. The idea that a centralized, hierarchical, organization of armed people marching around in dorky uniforms, shouting orders at each other, killing whoever they’re ordered to kill, has anything to do with “protecting freedom” is laughable, stupid, and sad. The officers you swear to obey are imbeciles and scoundrels. Your Commander in Chief is a megalomaniac with a flag in place of a brain. Shall I swear to obey orders? Hell no! I will not join.
Disrespectfully not yours,
Note: This article was written during the presidency of George W. Bush; the phrase “megalomaniac with a flag in place of a brain” was written with him in mind.