As a result of the unpopular occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the armed forces are struggling to recruit, so they have stepped up their efforts, on billboards and TV and in our schools and city centres. All this week, the armed forces are running snazzy recruitment stalls in Nottingham’s Broadmarsh shopping centre, and in June the Veterans’ celebration in Wollaton Park will be used as “a showcase for the modern armed forces” with military vehicles, displays and games to attract potential recruits. It’s all about making a career in the forces look like an exciting, all-terrain humanitarian peacekeeping adventure instead of deadly grunt-work occupying other peoples’ lands to secure energy supplies for the declining US empire.
Perhaps most concerning is the marketing of military careers to school children. A recent report claims that children as young as seven are now being groomed for army recruitment. The report also claims that “Key messages are tailored to children’s interests and values: military roles are promoted as glamorous and exciting and warfare is portrayed as game-like and enjoyable. Children are introduced to the potential benefits of a forces career but not to its risks.”
Disregarding these concerns, the UK Government is proposing a law to promote military cadet forces in schools, and to teach “understanding of the armed forces” as part of the National Curriculum. However, the MoD faces significant grassroots opposition. At this year’s NUT conference, teachers voted to oppose military recruitment in schools. Delegate Paul McGarr spoke out against misleading army propaganda in schools, proposing that truthful recruitment material should say:
Join the Army and we will send you to carry out the imperialist occupation of other people’s countries. Join the Army and we will send you to bomb, shoot and possibly torture fellow human beings in other countries. Join the Army and we will send you probably poorly equipped into situations where people will try to shoot or kill you because you are occupying other people’s countries. Join the Army, and if you survive and come home, possibly injured or mentally damaged, you and your family will be shabbily treated.
Delegate Stefan Simms added that young troops are being used as “cannon fodder for the profits of oil companies”. The MoD has denied recruiting in schools, despite the fact that the forces visit around 1000 schools a year and give schools free pro-army teaching materials.
A leaflet to counteract armed forces recruitment in schools has been produced by the Nottingham Stop The War Coalition and handed out to students at the gates of schools around the city. It seeks to persuade students who might be tempted by the recruiters’ talk of sport and travel not to join up.
The leaflet has been handed out at about 10 schools so far. It has generally had a good reception from students, but at a couple of schools, the management has tried to stop the leafleting and called the police. However, as the leafleters were not doing anything wrong, the police did not stop them.