Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

"Refusers and those who recruit them," July 2, 2007.

This week coming up, from Thursday until Sunday, the city of Castlegar will host the 2nd Annual “Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion.” The event aims to celebrate the contribution made to Canadian life by US war resisters who came to Canada during the Vietnam War; the courage of those resisting current US militarism by seeking safe haven in Canada now; and to honour the thousands of Canadians who helped them resettle in this country, both then and now.

Practically every American soldier I have ever known has a story to tell about his or her recruiter.

Joshua Key, one of the Iraq war's crop of refusers tells about being recruited into the US Army.

"They knew how to talk to me, that’s for sure! They held out the prospect of leaving Oklahoma and living a grand adventure. That told me that not only was I going to serve my country, but I was going to afford my family exceptional advantages: a good health care plan, a regular paycheck, money for study after leaving the Army, and I’d learn to build bridges, which would be a marketable skill in civilian life. Not only that, they told me that, because I was the head of a family, I’d be assigned to a regiment that would never be sent overseas. My recruiter promised me this while looking me straight in the eye."

Once in boot camp, Key began to realize

"The promises of the recruiter and the reality were two different things. I wasn’t there to build bridges, [Key says] but to learn to destroy them; I was assigned to mine training, to become a sapper. I called Brandi [his wife]: “I’ve been fooled!” [he told her] After several months of training I was re-assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado, to the 43rd Company of Combat Engineers. Brandi came to live on the base with the kids. And, in the fall of 2002, the rumours about Baghdad began. Everything was done from the perspective of fighting in the desert, against Iraqi troops. The war games became more intense. Whole regiments were kept on stand-by. Be ready to leave from one day to the next, we were told. And myself, I kept on believing, clinging to their promises. I couldn’t believe they’d lie to me. I wanted to put the question to an officer, but I was made to understand that I should keep quiet if I didn’t want my family to suffer. I was trapped. (New Socialist Originally published in Le Monde, free translation by Mick Lowe circulated by e-mail. No date.)

Chris White is an ex-Marine infantryman with experience as a recruiter-assistant. He served from 1994-98, in Diego Garcia, Camp Pendleton, CA, Okinawa, Japan, and Doha, Qatar. He is currently working on his doctorate in history at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. He is also a member of Veterans for Peace.

In 2003, during the run up to the war in Iraq, White spoke with a sense of mission when he said,

“ is necessary that as many people as possible understand the manipulation used by the military to lure young Americans. It is important to question the notion that the all-volunteer military is truly made up of volunteers. If one is lied to about a profession by the people who convinced them to join that profession, then is the person who was lied to a volunteer in the clearest sense of the word?” (White CounterPunch Jan 6 03)

First, recruiters have every incentive to be dishonest. Speaking for the Marine Corps only, recruiters have monthly quotas and, once filled, they can slack off for the rest of the month. However, the more people they sign up, the better their chances for promotion. Therefore, the incentive for dishonesty is high indeed. Recruiters lie about college benefits, duty station assignments, veterans' benefits, and countless other aspects of the military in order to convince their clients to sign. Once you are in boot camp, it is too late to change anything.


How do recruiters lie about duty station assignments? Recruiters tell potential reservists that they can go to college and serve one weekend a month, with very little chance of being called back to active duty. However, the current administration wants to call up to 300,000 reservists to the Gulf alone....

By 2003, thousands of National Guard and other reservists had been called back to active duty, White predicted correctly that thousands more would be called to go to Iraq. What he did not foresee was that many would be forced into multiple tours of duty wreaking havoc with their families, their businesses, their lives. The recruiters' deceptions were worse than White knew at the time.

Again, writing in 2003, about veterans' benefits, White explained,

"I can use VA [Veterans Administration] medical facilities if I want to wait five months for an appointment, but my wife cannot use them (at least in Kansas). We are both veterans, but I am 30 percent disabled, and she is not at all. Of course, who would want to use the VA hospital in Kansas City anyway? According to an AP report in March 2002, the infestation of mice, maggots, and flies in the years leading up to 2001 created such as scandal as to pressure VA Secretary Anthony Principi to remove "the director and deputy director for the regional network, which includes Missouri, Kansas, and southern Illinois." The janitorial staff did not touch the food storage areas or cafeteria for a year, and maggots had nested in two of the comatose patients' noses!

Four years later with the war banging away on as many cylinders as it could muster, an investigation by the Washington Post revealed that care at the top veteran medical facility in the land, Walter Reed hospital, was so bad Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey resigned in disgrace—partly, it seems, because of a decision to privatize services.

Another veteran of the Marines, Jimmy Massey was one of the first to report human rights abuses in Iraq.

In December 2004, he made international headlines when he testified at Jeremy Hinzman's hearing before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board, saying “I do know that we killed innocent civilians."

Since then, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin has called him “a complete fraud” and Ron Harris, a reporter who was embedded with the Marines during the events Massey described has accused him of exaggerating or lying.

Amy Goodman brought Massey and Harris together on Democracy Now! for November 14, 2005, and it's worth a listen. The text for this edition of World Report has a link.

Before going to war, Massey was a boot camp drill instructor and Marine recruiter.

Mike Ferner, another Marine, gives another version of recruiting that includes another version of Jimmy Massey's story:

"A common way to swindle recruits out of promised jobs is the 'Moment of Truth' exercise in boot camp. New recruits are taken to a room where their DI (drill instructor) tells them to 'really think about it' and see if they've lied while enlisting or filling out their application.

"'They'll ask the recruits if they lied about things like ever having smoked grass, or maybe how many times they've smoked, and ask them to raise their hand if they've lied any time in the recruiting process,' Massey said. When the hands go up, the DI looks at them and says, 'Listen. This is what's gonna happen now. You lied to us. You can either quit in disgrace now, or since you signed a contract to be a Marine, you can stay in, but we're not going to let you have the job you asked for'" (Ferner CounterPunch Nov 18 04).


By his last year of recruiting, Jimmy Massey “was 'tired of lying. I felt like I was close to a nervous breakdown from the stress. [Massey said] I started seeing a psychiatrist, was diagnosed with major depression and put on medication for it. I wrote a letter to my commanding officer about how Marine Corps recruiting should be changed to be more ethical. The Recruiter Instructor they sent out to monitor my efforts ended up telling me he thought it was one of the best statements anyone had ever written about recruiting practices.'

"Massey decided to quit being a recruiter but also to reenlist to get back to 'the regular Marine Corps duty' he enjoyed. Leaving behind the deceit and stress of recruiting made him feel much better 'good enough to get off anti-depressants.' [as he said] But soon he got orders to northern Kuwait and within two months was invading Iraq with 130,000 other U.S. troops.

"As he made his way north toward Baghdad, through the towns of Safwan and Basra, 'our main job was to set up roadblocks. We had permission to fire on anyone who got through them.'

"It was this experience, barely an instant compared with his dozen years in the Marines, that showed him a side of the military he'd not seen as an instructor at Parris Island or a recruiter.

"'In one 48-hour period, we killed over 30 civilians in vehicles that got past our roadblocks. We just lit 'em up with gunfire. But when we went to pull the charred corpses out of the cars we never found any weapons. They were just civilians. I could start feeling the depression come back. I knew what it was from.'

"In a meeting one day, his lieutenant asked him if he was feeling OK. Massey replied no, and told the lieutenant that 'we're committing genocide and leaving enough depleted uranium around to continue genocidal activity for a long time.'

"'Do you really believe that?' the lieutenant asked.

"'Yes,' replied Massey, 'or I wouldn't have said it.'

"'I knew my career in the Marine Corps was over at that point,' he added.

"Sent back to the States for medical reasons, Massey returned to the Marine base at 29 Palms, Calif., and was told to report to the mental health clinic. There, the first psychiatrist he spoke with told him, 'I don't deal with conscientious objectors [COs].'

"I knew right away we were going to have a problem," Massey said, "because my response to her was, 'Well, if you call not wanting to kill innocent civilians being a CO' and she came back with, 'Need I remind you that you are still in the military?'"

"Refusing to back down, Massey retorted, 'Woman, this isn't my military because the Marine Corps I enlisted in was run by the Geneva Conventions. We didn't kill civilians, and we damn sure didn't cover it up'" (Ferner CounterPunch Nov 18 04).

Digg This

Recommend this Post

Sphere: Related Content