Friday, February 26, 2010

Using children as human shields

Aside from the deliberate targeting of a children-rich environment by terrorists--hitting the Murrah Building in Oklahoma (by a US Gulf War vet) with its daycare center, hitting a school, blowing up a pizza parlor or a wedding--there is no more despised practice in war than using children as a human shield. When Hamas or al Qa'ida does so, they are condemned roundly and loudly.

And yet here in the US we have Starbase, the Pentagon program that brings little children, as young as five, to military bases from their schools. Seriously, the military goes into the grade schools and abducts the children and takes them to military bases.

In Uganda, Joseph Kony abducted school children to serve in his Lord's Resistance Army. He's a war criminal and the world is aghast at his practices.

In Guatemala, during the civil war, the military bombed villages full of children and then came around on forced conscription drives, just taking boys and young men for the army. The world was horrified (of course much of it was funded by the US during Reagan's regime, so our connections grow).

Starbase is funded by the military recruitment budget and is plainly a path to indoctrinate children, to saturate their impressionable consciousnesses with a militarism so pervasive it's like fish looking for water--they don't see it because they live in it. We live in a militarized culture and we say we hope for peace. We live in a society that funds the largest global network of military bases in human history and we say we want to bring peace to the world. We teach our children to resolve problems with negotiation and conflict resolution and then we allow the military access to these children and we allow them to take the children to their bases.

Am I exaggerating? Do I ascribe diabolical intentions to those who have only good intentions toward our children?

In one sense, yes. We have no Joseph Kony-style operations in the US. I use his example as a hair-raising end-of-the-road fright, to illustrate the bottom of a slippery slope.

But I adamantly and correctly challenge us to stand up--for once--to the increasing militarization of our culture, of our society, of the very institutions we associate with peace, such as our elementary schools. When Osama bin Laden explained to the world how he could justify targeting US civilians in the World Trade Center he said all US civilians were targets because we all pay for the military that he perceives as attacking Islam. Hold that thought.

When the US military attacks terrorist training camps, do we include madrassas identified as jihadist indoctrination centers? Are there times when we've bombed schools that we have decided teach anti-American messages to young Muslims? If it comes to light that we've done that, is that defensible to Americans? What if those students turned out to be a mixed group with some quite young?

Starbase violates what should be a blood-brain barrier between children and the military. No matter how groovy their curricula, no matter how chipper their instructors, no matter how sensitive and gender-inclusive their website, it still is an unacceptable relationship. Get the military out of the schools, especially for heavens sake the elementary schools, and absolutely keep the children off the military bases, period.

To learn much more about this, please join the Facebook group Communities for Alternatives to Starbase Education.

1 comment:

Terri said...

What amazes me is that there are so many parents that just shrug their shoulders on this and ask what the problem is. Somehow the military has already managed make the body snatchers move on the American population. Parents that gladly send their kids into the maw of the bloody monster just make me so angry. When will they wake up - and will it be before their child comes home in a flag draped coffin, commits suicide, or joins the ranks of the walking wounded that haunt our streets, unreachable, angry and ready to blow. The US and UK have clearly decided that there will be no end to war, and so we see this early recruitment gaining popularity in both cultures. I for one, do not want my child to be fodder for the cannons of the rich and powerful, and if there are others who agree, join us March 8th to help us make a big noise to the Portland Public School board - 6pm at 501 N. Dixon.