Local initiative aids growth of San Francisco anti-war movement

by Carole Seligman; this article was originally published in Partisan issue no. 21, printed September 2005.

Last Fall, 63% of San Francisco voters approved Proposition N, calling for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq. This November San Franciscans will have a second chance to vote against the war in Iraq by passing a policy resolution opposing military recruitment in city schools -- the "College Not Combat" initiative.

Proposition I says:

"Resolved, that the people of San Francisco oppose U.S. military recruiters using public school, college and university facilities to recruit young people into the armed forces. Furthermore, San Francisco should oppose the military's 'economic draft' by investigating means by which to fund and grant scholarships for college and job training to low-income students so they are not economically compelled to join the military."

The petition drive was led by the International Socialist Organization in coalition with a broad range of anti-war groups including the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, United Educators of San Francisco (and other teachers union locals), the Central Labor Council, Global Exchange, Veterans for Peace, ANSWER, Bay Area United Against War, and the American Friends Service Committee.

The resolution will help build the anti-war movement by getting activists out into the streets to talk to people, face to face, about the need to get involved in the campaign to end war and militarism.

The military in an anti-war city

San Francisco is an anti-war city. Yet there is a heavy military presence in the city. S.F. is the corporate headquarters for Bechtel and other major war profiteers. The city hosts Fleet Week, a yearly show of naval military might which aims to wow young children with displays of precision flyovers by synchronized aircraft (without ever mentioning the true mission of these bombers).

Most insidious is the daily presence at all the big high schools of the Junior Reserved Officer Training Program (JROTC) as well as the intensified efforts by all branches of the military to recruit high school students through assigning recruiters to the schools, appearing on campuses at "job fairs," getting lists of seniors from school administrators and calling students at home.

Recruits have been promised that they would not go to Iraq or be involved in combat, that their education would be fully funded, that their time in the military would last only a certain length of time. Of course, all these promises go out the window when a young person signs up and joins the military. And the government through its "Stop Loss" program has asserted the right to keep soldiers active long past their two-year commitment they signed up for. [See Partisan No. 20.]

What the recruiter promises and what the military delivers do not have to match. Recruiters don't usually tell young people that they may be killed or grievously wounded. Most importantly, they don't tell them that U.S. has no right to be waging war against Iraq, killing Iraqi people, and occupying their country.

"No Child's Behind Left"

In passing the "No Child Left Behind" act (the so-called educational reform legislation), the U.S. government helped to ensure the replenishment of military forces by making cooperation with military recruitment a condition for schools to receive federal education funds.

The military is on a high-powered public relations campaign to recruit young people and change the anti-recruitment attitudes of their parents. They send young people slick propaganda materials that make the military look like a place to play advanced video games and get great job training for satisfying careers (such as musician, nurse, computer technician, and a long list of other skilled jobs categories).

Because they are having great difficulties recruiting in sufficient quantities to meet their imperialist war aims and staff their 700 bases around the world, the miliary are moving their recruitment efforts down into middle school where they hope to influence children as young as 12. They have also tried to sign up high school freshmen in the "delayed entry" program, offering them money in return for a promise to up when they become old enough.

Supporters of Proposition I are optimistic about passing the resolution, although its impact will be ideological, and it will not actually prevent military recruitment in San Francisco. What it will help to do is mobilize parents and young people who face the pressure of military recruiters. It will get them involved in the antiwar movement, and make it easier for students to resist the pressure to join the military.

Get JROTC out of the schools

Bay Area United Against War (BAUAW) is spearheading efforts to get the S.F. Board of Education to oppose military recruitment and join the fight against it. BAUAW organizes monthly pickets at Board of Education meetings to publicize its campaign to get the School Board to cut all ties with the military, including recruiters and JROTC.

On August 23, several hundred of the school district's classified employees -- janitors, secretaries, cooks, food servers, and other non-teaching staff -- represented by the Service Employees International Union -- demonstrated for a new contract at the Board of Education meeting. These workers expressed real awareness that the fact of their low wages, shortened hours, reduced benefits, and lack of a new contract is due to the huge amount of resources the U.S. is spending on the war on Iraq and Afghanistan and on military armaments.

Resources not going to education and other human needs, are being spent on war. This is why Proposition I can win the support of the working people of San Francisco, whose interests in ending the war on Iraq are identical to those of the Iraqi people for self-determination and ending U.S. war and occupation.

For more information or to work on Proposition I, contact:

College Not Combat
110 Capp Street, Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 248-1701
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Carole Seligman is an activist in BAUAW and in Socialist Viewpoint.

Professional Joomla Support by IDL Web Inc.