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Forced Military Testing in America’s Schools January 4, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Education, War.
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Published on Wednesday, January 4, 2012 by CommonDreams.org


  by  Pat Elder

The invasion of student privacy associated with military testing in U.S. high schools has been well documented by mainstream media sources, like USA Today  and NPR Radio. The practice of mandatory testing, however, continues largely unnoticed.

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in 12,000 high schools across the country. The 3 hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain sensitive, personal information on more than 660,000 high school students across the country every year, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically are given the test at school without parental knowledge or consent. The school-based ASVAB Career Exploration Program is among the military’s most effective recruiting tools.

In roughly 11,000 high schools where the ASVAB is administered, students are strongly encouraged to take the test for its alleged value as a career exploration tool, but in more than 1,000 schools, according to information received from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command through a Freedom of Information Act request, tens of thousands of students are required to take it.  It is a particularly egregious violation of civil liberties that has been going on almost entirely unnoticed since the late 1960’s.
Federal laws strictly monitor the release of student information, but the military manages to circumvent these laws with the administration of the ASVAB.  In fact, ASVAB test results are the only student information that leaves U.S. schools without the opportunity provided for  parental consent.

Aside from managing to evade the constraints of federal law, the military may also be violating many state laws on student privacy when it administers the ASVAB in public high schools. Students taking the ASVAB are required to furnish their social security numbers for the tests to be processed, even though many state laws specifically forbid such information being released without parental consent. In addition, the ASVAB requires under-aged students to sign a privacy release statement, a practice that may also be prohibited by many state laws.

A typical school announcement reads, “All Juniors will report to the cafeteria on Monday at 8:10 a.m. to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Whether you’re planning on college, a technical school, or you’re just not sure yet, the ASVAB Career Exploration Program can provide you with important information about your skills, abilities and interests – and help put you on the right course for a satisfying career!”  This announcement or one very similar to it greets students in more than a thousand high schools across the country.  There’s no mention of the military or the primary purpose of the test, which is to find leads for recruiters.

Imagine you’re Captain Eric W. Johnson, United States Navy, Commander, United States Military Entrance Processing Command and you had the complete cooperation of the Arkansas Department of Education to recruit high school students into the U.S. military. The first step you might take is to require juniors in public high schools to take the ASVAB. ASVAB results are good for enlistment purposes for up to two years. The ASVAB offers a treasure trove of information on students and allows the state’s top recruiter to pre-screen the entire crop of incoming potential recruits. “Sit down, shut up, and take this test. That’s an order!”

142 Arkansas high schools forced 10,000 children to take this military test without parental consent in Arkansas alone last year. “We’ve always done it that way and no one has ever complained,” explained one school counselor.

The Army recruiter’s handbook calls for military recruiters to take ownership of schools and this is one way they’re doing it. The U.S. Army Recruiting Command ranks each high school based on how receptive it is to military recruiters. Schools are awarded extra points when they make the ASVAB mandatory. (See page 25 of: USAREC pub. 601-107)

Meanwhile, military recruiting regulations specifically prohibit that the test from being made mandatory.

“Voluntary aspect of the student ASVAB: School and student participation in the Student Testing Program is voluntary. DOD personnel are prohibited from suggesting to school officials or any other influential individual or group that the test be made mandatory. Schools will be encouraged to recommend most students participate in the ASVAB Career Exploration Program. If the school requires all students of a particular group or grade to test, the MEPS will support it.” (See Page 3-1 of USMEPCOM Reg. 601-4)

Is it entirely coincidental that a thousand schools require students to take the test or does the Department of Defense have regulations in place solely for public consumption that it has no intention of following?

In addition, the Pentagon is grossly under reporting the number of schools with mandatory testing.  There are hundreds of schools with required testing that are not reported by the DoD. For instance, the information released by the DoD for the ’09-’10 school year shows there is no mandatory testing in Ohio.   However, it is possible, using a simple Google search tool, in this case (k12.oh.us” asvab “all juniors”) to uncover several dozen schools that require students to take the ASVAB that are not reported by the Pentagon.

Why can’t we get traction on this issue?

There is great reluctance in American society to stand up to the U.S. military, particularly concerning the way it runs a dozen programs in the nation’s schools. Calls for transparency are met with silence and indignation, a terrible lesson for American high school students.



Pat Elder

Pat Elder is the Director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, www.studentprivacy.org and also serves on the Steering Committee of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, NNOMY,www.nnomy.org He can be reached at pelder@studentprivacy.org


War Resisters Inject Truth into Military Recruitment July 21, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, War.
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Wednesday 20 July 2011
by: Eleanor J. Bader, On The Issues                 | Report

The setting changes but the scene does not: Men and women in crisply pressed uniforms enter public high schools across the country and cajole the teenagers they meet into signing on the dotted line to serve Uncle Sam.

Thanks to Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, recruiters from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy have the same access to secondary school students as college recruiters or potential employers. This, in concert with mandatory Selective Service registration for all 18-year-old males and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery [ASVAB] exam that is given to nearly three-quarters of a million high school juniors and seniors each year, has prompted many domestic peace activists to organize opposition to the militarization of youth. They advocate “truth-in-recruiting,” arguing that lofty promises made at the time of enlistment — extensive travel, scholarships or an easy route to U.S. citizenship — often fail to materialize once service begins.


What’s more, these peace activists say that they are paying particular attention to female recruits, warning them of potential pitfalls: The risks associated with wartime service even in “non-combat” positions, as well as the too-common experience of sexual harassment and assault by unit supervisors and peers.

Little-Known Facts

The War Resisters League, an 88-year-old national group with more than 25 chapters across the U.S., targets students and, when possible, tables at schools to provide little-known facts about the military: One in four soldiers gets a less than honorable discharge, making them ineligible for college money; nearly one-third of females seeking health care from the Veteran’s Administration report experiencing a rape or attempted rape while conscripted.

“Up until the economic recession began, the military had a hard time finding recruits,” says Kimber Heinz, National Organizing Director of the War Resisters League. “But now the military is not only meeting its quota, it’s a de facto jobs program and you have recruiters preying on students who can no longer afford college or find work.”

One of its brochures, Know Before You Go, offers this information for those thinking of signing up: “The military contract states, ‘Laws and regulations that govern military personnel may change without notice. Such changes may affect pay, benefits, and responsibilities as a member of the Armed Forces regardless of the provisions of the enlistment document.’” In other words, beware: Even though a recruit has signed a contract, the terms can be modified at the military’s discretion.

“We let people know that if we’re at war a recruit can be stop-lossed and might end up on multiple tours,” Heinz continues. “The recruit has no control over this. We always remind people that the military is the only job where if the worker quits, he or she goes to jail.” The organization also provides data on what it means to be a conscientious objector and outlines the penalties for failing to register for Selective Service.

Other truth-in-recruiting messages are also hammered. For one, despite promises to the contrary, Heinz reports that skills learned in the military are rarely transferable to the civilian world. “We make it clear that many, many people come out of the military traumatized or disabled,” Heinz continues. “We ask people to think about what it means to be an occupier of someone else’s land and we try to get people to consider whether they’ll be able to live with killing someone or seeing someone killed.”

It’s a heavy message, and it is repeated by more than 75 local organizations throughout the 50 states.

Joanne Sheehan is an adult advisor to YouthPeace, a student-led social justice group at the Norwich Free Academy, a public, regional high school in eastern Connecticut. Since 1998 YouthPeace has raised issues including military recruitment and Islamophobia with the student body.

Students Can Opt-Out

For the past seven years, members have also coordinated an annual opt-out campaign to inform students that the law allows them to request that their contact information be withheld from recruiters. “Schools typically send student names, addresses, and phone numbers to the military in October, so we have about a month once school starts to publicize the opt-out provision,” Sheehan says. “A few years ago we pushed the superintendent to put information about opting-out in the first paragraph of a letter that is sent to parents at the beginning of the year. We want to be sure they understand that their children don’t need to provide data to recruiters, that it’s something they can opt-out of.”

In some schools recruiters have free rein in the hallways

The peace groups also broach a broader anti-militarist agenda, even in places like San Diego with a heavy military presence and 110,000 military employees. There, the school board recently voted to ban students enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps [J-ROTC] from taking in-school marksmanship classes. “Fifteen of the 18 high schools in San Diego have ROTC. One of them, Lincoln, was temporarily closed for rehabbing and when we saw the plan for the renovation, we saw that it included a firing range. We brought this to the community’s attention and formed the Education Not Arms Coalition,” says Rick Jahnkow, coordinator of Youth and Non-Military Opportunities, known as Project YANO.

The consensus, Jahnkow says, was to focus on ending gun classes rather than campaigning against ROTC more generally because group participants felt an anti-ROTC campaign would fail. Education Not Arms pointed to the pervasive gun violence already plaguing the Lincoln area and denounced planned cutbacks in Advanced Placement classes needed by college-bound pupils. The efforts paid off: The school board ended all in-school gun training.

Boosted by this victory, Project YANO and Education Not Arms next turned their attention to school-based recruiters. In late 2010 San Diego activists succeeded in restricting recruiters to two school visits per year, similar to policies in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. As a result, recruiters must schedule specific times to meet with potential conscripts and cannot disrupt “normal school activities.”

“In some schools the recruiters eat lunch with the kids, hang out and chill in the parking lot, and have free rein in the hallways,” says Pat Elder of Maryland’s PeaceAction Montgomery. “In most places, what they get to do depends on the principal. I’ve seen schools where male recruiters are always around, playing one-on-one basketball with kids who don’t have fathers.”

This scenario led New York City’s Youth Activists-Youth Allies Network to monitor recruiters to ensure that they obey the regulations that circumscribe their access to individual students.

YA-YA Network staff — all but one of whom are between 15 and 19 — also lead workshops about U.S. foreign policy and the costs of war and militarism. “Several years ago I asked participants what their peers thought about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” says YA-YA advisor Amy Wagner. “The wars were not very present for them. I talked about how during the Vietnam War when you turned on your TV you always heard the number of dead soldiers. They thought about this and concluded that facts were being hidden from them on purpose. They did a lot of research and the result was a short video now up on YouTube, called The War Will Not Be Televised.

Terms can be modified at the military’s discretion

The YA-YA Network is presently focused on making sure that schools abide by regulations that mandate that a school staff person be appointed to provide guidance on military recruitment in each high school. “We first want to investigate and see if this is being done,” Wagner says. “If not, why not. If it is, we want to know where these people are getting their info and who’s training them. We want to give students the information they are entitled to so that they fully understand their range of options.”

Indeed, it is this idea of options that propels organizing against militarism. Take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, a four-hour recruiting tool used in nearly 12,000 high schools nationwide. To date, Maryland is the only state to require schools to select a provision that stops student scores from being sent directly to recruiters.

“Look, if you take even moderate Democrats and sit them down and ask them who they think should give student data to the military — mom and dad or the Pentagon – they’ll all support parental decision making,” says Pat Elder of PeaceAction Montgomery.

They want students to understand that becoming a soldier is not necessarily the best way to show personal strength or valor. “A lot of people want to be tough and powerful, so they enlist,” says the War Resisters League’s Kimber Heinz. “They ultimately learn that enlisting is not a good way to test how strong they are.”

 Eleanor J. Bader is a freelance writer, teacher and feminist activist from Brooklyn, New York. She writes for The Brooklyn Rail, ontheissuesmagazine.com, RHrealitycheck.org and other progressive blogs and publications.

Change You CAN Believe In! June 6, 2011

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By Elaine Brower
(about the author)

// June 6, 2011


It’s been over 10 years now that my son joined the U.S. Marine Corps.   From birth, at least it felt that way, he wanted to be a marine.   He wore G.I. Joe underwear, socks, and even carried the lunchbox.   At Halloween every year he was either a soldier or warrior of some sort.   It was definitely harrowing for me, an anti-war activist from way back since 1969.
Staff Sgt. James Brower, USMC by Elaine Brower

I had begged, pleaded and even promised him a new car for him not to join when he turned 18, but hence, he did.   The recruiters showed up at our house the day after he had his high school diploma, and whisked him away to boot camp in Parris Island.   I felt as if someone had ripped my arm out of its socket!   When he graduated, the entire family went to watch as this young boy was supposedly turned into a “man.”   I ran up to him after all the military hoopla on the Parris Island field, and he didn’t even look at me.   He wouldn’t hug or kiss me, told me that he was in his uniform and was not allowed to show emotion.   Needless to say I was crushed.

From that moment on it was a proverbial nightmare for myself and my family.   James went off to join the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in San Diego, California, the infamous Camp Pendleton.   He wanted to be a grunt, his MOS being 0305, demolitions expert.   Of course, I didn’t find out until he was there training.   He learned how to kill, basically, and operated every piece of weaponry the Marine Corps. had to offer.   He specialty was the Javelin, which is an 80mm shoulder held rocket launcher, which each round cost over $80,000 in taxpayer dollars to shoot.

When September 11th befell us, he was already in the Gulf.   He was on training maneuvers, and I had become accustomed to his calling home at the wee hours of the morning, wanting to chat about his latest adventure about getting drunk in Australia, or bringing aid to E. Timor.   I thought “well, this isn’t too bad.   He’s helping people.”   I had hoped that his 8 years of duty, 4 years active and 4 reserve as his contract stated, would be quiet enough that I could stop worrying and maybe we would all come out of this episode of his life unscathed.   But that morning, when I watched the towers fall across the street from my office building, I absolutely unequivocally knew that we were at war.   I knew that with our resident cowboy in the White House, we were doomed to another Viet Nam.   I envisioned what the next 8 years of my life was going to look like and it was not pretty.

The following week, our illustrious president announced we were going to catch Osama bin Laden, “DEAD OR ALIVE!”   And off went James, right into Tora Bora blowing up caves, trying to obtain the $25 million reward.   Over the next 6 months, he grew more weary, and I didn’t sleep.   Phone calls at 3 AM, explaining that they were told bin Laden was somewhere, and they went to catch him, only to be told to retreat or “pull back.”   We were both puzzled.   There were no answers at that point in time.   Of course, I had my own personal beliefs, but the entire country, if not the world, was on fire with hate and revenge.   Who was I to question this.

When he left Kandahar, and they turned it over to the Army, he was disappointed, but still feeling the spark of patriotism.   At that point my daughter and I were protesting against the war with her college group.   There was no place for me, an anti-war military mom.   She was arrested, and I bailed her out.   James continued in the war theatre with two tours in Iraq.   By 2009, he was haggard, hurt many times, and really started questioning his mission.   At first he attempted to stop my protests, but we both agreed that we would love and respect each others’ lives and beliefs.   In fact, at one point, his commanding officer called him in, had the Pentagon on the phone asking about me and did he agree with my anti-war opinions.   He said “NO, Sir,” but I was his mom, and was entitled to have an opinion, and he would not stop me.   They threatened to dishonorably discharge him, and told him that he must call me to convince me to stop.   He did, I said no, and he said okay.   I told him at that point I would be happy if they discharged him.

By April 2010, James was home and done with his military service.   My life was forever changed by the constant fear of losing my child, the phone calls at all times of the day or night, and looking out the window for that military vehicle to show up at my curb.   I knew many mothers who suffered through that horror, and thought I would be one of them.   My son was not at a desk job, or building parts for the war machine, he was the war machine.   A trained killer.   Every time I spoke out, I would apologize for him, and worked very hard to explain that his choice was not mine, his training was not something I condoned, or supported.

Last year, after his return home, he lost his job, and had severe blackouts and nightmares, he began on his road to the awakening and recovery.   I witnessed it myself on a daily basis.   The ups and downs, the rage, fear, helplessness, and anger that what he had dreamed of, being part of the U.S. Marines, was what destroyed him, physically and emotionally.   He ranted at the government for lying to him.   He became cloistered, depressed and at 28 could not maintain a relationship.   All those problems most people only read about, or don’t even understand, were staring me in the face.   I traveled to VA visits with him; called him several times a day; and, begged him to go get help before he ended his life.

I’m not sure how I was able to survive through years of this type of torment, but I kept telling myself that other mothers had lost their children, so I was one of the lucky ones.   So James and I traveled down this road together, mostly at odds, but locking arms against the darkness.   Until several weeks ago.

There was this change that came over him, and from what I could see it started when he read Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States.”   He started to read Wikileaks, and books written by veterans that had similar experiences as he had.   Every day he would learn something new about how his government betrayed him, and his fellow marines, and all the troops serving in the military.   He would call me and like a child who discovered ice cream for the first time, explain this newly uncovered secret as it were, and acted amazed all over again.

I kept telling myself that I was dreaming, or, he would re-up or give up.   I couldn’t bring myself to actually be overjoyed that my son had joined me in my fight against the wars.   Until he stood up in front of a group of high school students in New York City where we live and declared “Don’t join the military.   For me, it was a mistake.   I’m 30 years old, go to physical therapy twice a week, can’t get out of bed in the morning without pain, and am unemployed.   I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

As I watched him speak to this class, the floodgates of my soul opened.   “It was true!”   He changed.   How did this happen?   I cried softly in the front of the room, as I was videotaping the entire transformation right before my eyes.   Ten long years of struggle.   My very own personal battlefront with my son, who I love dearly.   I actually won, but at a cost.   A huge expense to my own emotional health, my daughter who has a hard time forgiving her brother for leaving her to kill people; and to watch James struggle everyday with his traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and chest pains from the burn pits he slept next to for a year in Iraq, is a life altering experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

It’s great to watch him now, listen to him talk about the reality of war, and tell kids to stay away from military recruiters.   From a staunch nationalistic patriot to an independent thinker who has become an anti-imperialist, the strength and fervor he brought to his young dreams, he now applies to his daily

‘They Kill Alex’ September 6, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Immigration, Iraq and Afghanistan, Latin America, Peace, War.
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by Chris Hedges

Carlos Arredondo, a native Costa Rican, stands in a parking lot of a Holiday Inn in Portland, Maine, next to his green Nissan pickup truck. The truck, its tailgate folded down, carries a flag-draped coffin and is adorned with pictures of his son, Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo, 20, a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004. The truck and a trailer he pulls with it have become a mobile shrine to his boy. He drives around the country, with the aid of donations, evoking a mixture of sympathy and hostility. There are white crosses with the names of other boys killed in the war. Combat boots are nailed to the side of the display. There is a wheelchair, covered in colored ribbons, fixed to the roof of the cab. There is Alex’s military uniform and boots, poster-size pictures of the young Marine shown on the streets of Najaf, in his formal Marine portrait, and then lying, his hands folded in white gloves, in his coffin. A metal sign on the back of the truck bears a gold star and reads: “USMC L/CPL ALEXANDER S. ARREDONDO.”

“This is what happens every week to some family in America,” says Carlos. “This is what war does. And this is the grief and pain the government does not want people to see.”

Alex, from a working-class immigrant family, was lured into the military a month before Sept. 11, 2001. The Marine recruiters made the usual appeals to patriotism, promised that he would be trained for a career, go to college and become a man. They included a $10,000 sign-on bonus. Alex was in the Marine units that invaded Iraq. His father, chained to the news reports, listening to the radio and two televisions at the same time, was increasingly distraught. “I hear nothing about my son for days and days,” he says. “It was too much, too much, too much for parents.”   

Alex, in August 2004, was back in Iraq for a second tour. In one of his last phone calls, Alex told him: “Dad, I call you because, to say, you know, we’ve been fighting for many, many days already, and I want to tell you that I love you and I don’t want you to forget me.” His father answered: “Of course I love you, and I don’t want-I never forget you.” The last message the family received was an e-mail around that time which read: “Watch the news online. Check the news, and tell everyone that I love them.”

Twenty days later, on Aug. 25, a U.S. government van pulled up in front of Carlos’ home in Hollywood, Fla. It was Carlos’ 44th birthday and he was expecting a birthday call from Alex. “I saw the van and thought maybe Alex had come home to surprise me for my birthday or maybe they were coming to recruit my other son, Brian,” he says. Three Marine officers climbed out of the van. One asked, “Are you Carlos Arredondo?” He answered “yes.”

“I’m sorry, we’re here to notify you about the death of Lance Cpl. Arredondo,” one of the officers told him. Alex was the 968th soldier or Marine to be killed in the Iraq war.

“I tried to process this in my head,” Carlos says. “I never hear that. I remember how my body felt. I got a rush of blood to my body. I felt like it’s the worst thing in my life. It is my worst fear. I could not believe what they were telling me.”

Carlos turned and ran into the house to find his mother, who was in the kitchen making him a birthday cake. “I cried, ‘Mama! Mama! They are telling me Alex got killed! Alex got killed! They kill Alex! They kill Alex! They kill Alex!” His mother crumbled in grief. Carlos went to the large picture of his son in the living room and held it. Carlos asked the Marines to leave several times over the next 20 minutes, but the Marines refused, saying they had to wait for his wife. “I did this because I was in denial. I think if they leave none of this will happen.” Crazed and distraught with grief, the father went into his garage and took out five gallons of gasoline and a propane torch. He walked past the three Marines in their dress blues and began to smash the windows of the government van with a hammer.

“I went into the van,” he says. “I poured gasoline on the seats. I pour gasoline on the floor and in the gas tank. I was, like, looking for my son. I was screaming and yelling for him. I remember that one day he left in a van and now he’s not there. I destroy everything. The pain I feel is the pain of what I learned from war. I was wearing only socks and no shoes. I was wearing shorts. The fumes were powerful and I could not breathe no more, even though I broke the windows.”

As Carlos stepped out of the van, he ignited the propane torch inside the vehicle. It started a fire that “threw me from the driver’s seat backwards onto the ground.” His clothes caught fire. It felt “like thousands of needles stabbing into my body.” He ran across the street and fell onto the grass. His mother followed him and pulled off his shirt and socks, which were on fire, as he screamed “Mama! Mama! My feet are burning! My feet are burning!” The Marines dragged him away and he remembers one of them saying, “The van is going to blow! The van is going to blow!” The van erupted in a fireball and the rush of hot air, he says, swept over him. The Marines called a fire truck and an ambulance. Carlos sustained second- and third-degree burns over 26 percent of his body. As I talk to him in the Portland parking lot he shows me the burn scars on his legs. The government chose not to prosecute him.

“I wake up in the hospital two days later and I was tied with tubes in my mouth,” he says. “When they take the tubes out I say, ‘I want to be with my son. I want to be with my son.’ Somebody was telling me my son had died. I get very emotional. I kept saying ‘I want to be with my son’ and they think I want to commit suicide.”

He had no health insurance. His medical bills soon climbed to $55,000. On Sept. 2, 2004, Carlos, transported in a stretcher, attended his son’s wake at the Rodgers Funeral Home in Jamaica Plain, Mass. He lifted himself, with the help of those around him, from his stretcher, and when he reached his son’s open casket he kissed his child. “I held his head and when I put my hands in the back of his head I felt the huge hole where the sniper bullet had come out,” he says. “I climbed into the casket. I lay on top of my son. I apologized to him because I did not do enough to avoid this.”   

Arredondo began to collect items that memorialized his son’s life. He tacked them to his truck. A funeral home in Boston donated a casket to the display. He began to attend anti-war events, at times flying the American flag upside down to signal distress. He has taken his shrine to the Mall in Washington, D.C., and Times Square in New York City. He has traveled throughout the country presenting to the public a visual expression of death and grief. He has placed some of his son’s favorite childhood toys and belongings in the coffin, including a soccer ball, a pair of shoes, a baseball and a Winnie the Pooh. The power of his images, which force onlookers to confront the fact that the essence of war is death, has angered some who prefer to keep war sanitized and wrapped in the patriotic slogans of glory, honor and heroism. Three years ago vandals defaced his son’s gravestone.

“I don’t speak,” he says. “I show people war. I show them the caskets they are not allowed to see. If people don’t see what war does they don’t feel it. If they don’t feel it they don’t care.”

Military recruiters, who often have offices in high schools, prey on young men like Alex, who was first approached when he was 16. They cater to their insecurities, their dreams and their economic deprivation. They promise them what the larger society denies them. Those of Latino descent and from divorced families, as Alex was, are especially vulnerable. Alex’s brother Brian was approached by the military, which suggested that if he enlisted he could receive $60,000 in signing bonuses and more than $27,000 in payments for higher education. The proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, is designed to give undocumented young people a chance at citizenship provided they attend college-not usually an option for poor, often poorly educated and undocumented Latino youths who are prohibited from receiving Pell grants-for at least two years, or enlist and serve in the military. The military helped author the pending act and is lobbying for it. Twelve percent of Army enlistees are Hispanic, and this percentage is expected to double by 2020 if the current rate of recruitment continues. And once they are recruited, these young men and women are trained to be killers, sent to wars that should never be fought and returned back to their families often traumatized and broken and sometimes dead.

Alex told Carlos in their last conversation there was heavy fighting in Najaf. Alex usually asked his father not to “forget” him, but now, increasingly in the final days of his life, another word was taking the place of forget. It was forgive. He felt his father should not forgive him for what he was doing in Iraq. He told his father, “Dad, I hope you are proud of what I’m doing. Don’t forgive me, Dad.” The sentence bewildered his father. “Oh my God, how can I forgive you? … I love you, you’re my son, very proud, you’re my son.”

“I thought, when he died, my God, he has killed somebody,” Carlos says quietly as he readied for an anti-war march organized by Veterans for Peace. “He feels guilty. If he returned home his mind would be destroyed. His heart would be torn apart. It is not normal to kill. How can they do this? How can they take our children?”

© 2010 TruthDig.com

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.