Most of the commercials during this hour are for household cleaning products and bizarre gadgetry like uber-mops or magnifying glasses you wear as a necklace. There is one striking exception: the US Army. Aimed at young people watching TV in the middle of the day, presumably without jobs or classes to attend, these ads take many different tacks. Education. Adventure. Pride. Independence. (I love that one. How could any military foster independence?) Becoming a man.
I'd love to see each one of these ads followed by one from our side. Pictures of torn bodies, a gory socket where there once was an arm, a shrapnel-ruined face. A former classmate learning how to use a wheelchair or work with a guide dog. They'd have soundtracks, too - shrieks of pain, parents sobbing at funerals.
It's heartening to read how recruitment efforts are sagging. And also to know the draft resistance is already organizing.
The excellent New York Times columnist Bob Herbert continues to sound the alarm about the government's nefarious recruiting efforts. Nothing is out of bounds in the quest for fresh cannon fodder.
With the situation in Iraq deteriorating and the willingness of Americans to serve in the armed forces declining, a little-known Army publication called the "School Recruiting Program Handbook" is becoming increasingly important, and controversial.The column is here, and here's an earlier Herbert column about resistance to the recruiters. Good stuff.
The handbook is the recruiter's bible, the essential guide for those who have to go into the nation's high schools and round up warm bodies to fill the embarrassingly skimpy ranks of the Army's basic training units.
The handbook declares forthrightly, "The goal is school ownership that can only lead to a greater number of Army enlistments."
What I was not able to find in the handbook was anything remotely like the startlingly frank comments of a sergeant at Fort Benning, Ga., who was quoted in the May 30 issue of The Army Times. He was addressing troops in the seventh week of basic training, and the paper reported the scene as follows:
" 'Does anybody know what posthumous means?' Staff Sgt. Andre Allen asked the 150 infantrymen-in-training, members of F Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment.
"A few hands went up, but he answered his own question.
" 'It means after death. Some of you are going to get medals that way,' he said matter-of-factly, underscoring the possibility that some of them would be sent to combat and not return."
. . .
"Homecoming normally happens in October," the handbook says. "Coordinate with the homecoming committee to get involved with the parade."
Recruiters are urged to deliver doughnuts and coffee to the faculty once a month, and to eat lunch in the school cafeteria several times a month. And the book recommends that they assiduously cultivate the students that other students admire: "Some influential students such as the student president or the captain of the football team may not enlist; however, they can and will provide you with referrals who will enlist."
It's not known how aware parents are that recruiters are inside public high schools aggressively trying to lure their children into wartime service. But not all schools get the same attention. Those that get the royal recruitment treatment tend to be the ones with students whose families are less affluent than most.
Schools with kids from wealthier families (and a high percentage of collegebound students) are not viewed as good prospects by military recruiters. It's as if those schools had posted signs at the entrances saying, "Don't bother." The kids in those schools are not the kids who fight America's wars.