My indictment and subsequent arrest in December 2005 disrupted many things in my life: my schooling, employment, relationships with my family & friends, and my activism. At the time I was working on a budding counter-recruitment campaign in New York City– one that ultimately ceased to exist as everyone working on it threw themselves into legal and other support activity for me. After a lot of trial and error with anti-war activity– trying to push for more militant and less rigid anarchist contingents at mainstream marches to insane amounts of pre-Iraq war stickering and outreach to a totally unsuccessful effort to block streets the day after the bombing commenced, I was frustrated.
Coming home every day to my collective house, I would see a military recruiter always hanging around the huge high school on my block. Like any predator, he was there right before school got out and undoubtedly made conversation and appointments with high school kids later on. I wondered why this school– a fairly progressive one at that, would let recruiters in and expose their children to their marketing tactics. I knew enough about the issue, or so I thought. Further research informed me of the No Child Left Behind Act, signed by Bush, which forced parents to “opt out” of military recruitment contact lists. Essentially, high school students’ information was in the hands of recruiters– people who are legally allowed to lie to get recruits to sign a contract that is not binding on the military but is on the recruit.
This research along with the fact that I now saw recruiters everywhere–street fairs, subway stations, their posters and brochures at bodegas–led a friend and me to try to kickstart a campaign of counter-recruitment that we hoped would grow city-wide.
I saw counter-recruitment as a useful tactic not only for potentially starving the military of recruits– always a laudable goal for an anarchist opposed to war, but also to engage in dynamic activism that deviated from the predictable “big march, donate to us, go home” marches of the mainstream liberal/anti-war coalitions. With counter-recruitment, we picked the times and place and with so many public faces to the military, that was easy. It was also an idea that put us in potentially uncomfortable positions– outreach to communities of color that in some ways may share more in common with the recruiters in their neighborhood than with young, white anarchists. This, to me, was an exciting challenge and who can argue with talking to young folks about the choices potentially available to them– and how recruiters want to diminish those choices so as to better recruit them. Finally, the idea of a steady but unpredictable presence at my local recruitment center coupled with outreach to local high schools seemed to be a solid alternative to what was happening at the time.
I wish I could write about more than one actual protest. Sadly, that is all we pulled off, but it was successful. The use of the word anarchist in our press statement brought the gates down, an NYPD squad car on the sidewalk, and a gaggle of recruiters and cops waiting for potential mayhem. The “mayhem” was about 40 people holding banners, distributing pamphlets with some street theater and an unannounced trip to the Army National Guard office a half mile away. That day I thought to myself, “It’s a good start.” Of course, a few days later I got arrested and well, you may know that story. It ends with me here at MDC Brooklyn contemplating resistance, my own actions, and the usefulness of counter-recruitment as a tactic in the anti-war movement.
More than anything, I see post-9/11 counter-recruitment as representing an opportunity to break out of the bonds of boring, predictable and ritualistic anti-war activity into less chartered waters. In that way, it feels like what many called the “anti-globalization” movement to me because of the sense of dynamism, a refusal to wait for leaders to tell us what to do, and because, generally speaking, counter-recruitment makes sense and people get it.
We have a military that accepts people over 40, people convicted of crimes, those with neck and arm tattoos, and those who get “Ds” on the aptitude test to enlist. Of course, I’m not passing judgment on those people (how could I being a felon with a tattoo!), but it shows how desperate the military has become. This doesn’t even cover “stop loss” where folks are being sent back second and third times over in Iraq and Afghanistan. Counter-recruitment is a strong “no” not only to the wars the United States is currently engaged in, but also future wars and the 100+ U.S. military bases all over the world.
War Resisters League (WRL)
This organization had an influx of new staff members who are shaking up the organization and doing good work. I hear they have a new website and their newspaper is now called “Win” and its content and design is much improved.
This guide put out by the youth and counter-recruitment department of WRL (now sliding scale!) is the guide to counter-recruitment for students and a useful resource. It even features photos of our December 2005 counter-recruitment protest.
Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG)
This radical and community-based group runs a consistent and vigilant counter-recruitment campaign. They also do support for anti-war political prisoners like David Segal (released!) and Brendan Walsh– write him
FCI Allenwood Low
Post Office Box 1000
White Deer, Pennsylvania 17887
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
Great flyers you can download and order.
Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO)
This group has excellent counter-recruitment resources and runs the GI Rights Hotline. They also publish “AWOL.”
The New Yorkers’ Guide to Military Recruitment
These guides are most useful to New Yorkers, but have great information
for anyone and are FREE.