---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2001 12:30:50 -0700
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Hell no, they wont go yet
Hell no, they won't go yet
Maybe it's the lack of an identifiable enemy, maybe it's the terror of
high-tech war, but young men eligible for the military are not marching
down to sign up.
By Janelle Brown and King Kaufman
Sept. 19, 2001 | Will the terror offensive against America inspire a
massive wave of young patriots to join the military? The Department of
Defense reported that the number of recruitment queries doubled in the last
week, but it will be at least a month until the military can determine
whether those queries translated into actual enlistments. A random survey
of fighting-age college students from San Francisco to St. Louis suggests
that many young Americans remain reluctant to throw themselves into combat.
While they were shocked and angered by the attacks on high-profile American
targets, a number of those interviewed expressed uncertainty about the
exact nature of the military mission and the enemy American soldiers will
be facing. Others, raised in a period of comfort and security during which
U.S. military actions have been limited to high-tech air strikes, recoiled
at the idea of bloody ground combat. Still others, educated in liberal
classrooms on the works of U.S. government critics like Noam Chomsky, are
suspicious of the Bush administration and its motives.
So far this year, the military has met its recruiting and retention goals,
for the first time in four years, boasting some 75,800 new soldiers.
Another 35,000 reservists have just been called up. It's possible we may
never need to draft more soldiers to fight this war beyond those who have
already volunteered. But if we do, and if,
as in the past, all males between the ages of 18 and 26 would be eligible,
and the lottery began with 20-year-olds, Canada should at least expect an
influx of San Franciscans. On an overcast day in the main quad of San
Francisco State University, nearly a week after the attacks on the World
Trade Center, six out of a dozen San Francisco State University students
polled by a reporter insisted that they would flee north if drafted.
Walking to their classes past the campus library, which is plastered with
hand-painted posters proclaiming "Love is stronger than Hate" and "We can't
afford intolerance. Unite for peace," students mostly ignore a
guitar-strumming woman earnestly crooning folk songs, and they reflexively
grab the fliers being offered by a young girl: "Don't Turn Tradgedy [sic]
Into a War!" the handout proclaims in block letters. A "National Student
Day of Action" is being scheduled for Thursday at Malcolm X Plaza; the
organizational meeting is at Cesar Chavez Student Center.
In an environment like this, a campus that was a student battleground in
the '60s, and where major landmarks are named after labor heroes and black
liberation martyrs, it's perhaps not surprising that students aren't eager
to put on a uniform.
"I don't support war, because I don't support this government," says
26-year-old Jose Gutierrez, an ethnic-studies major wearing a Guatemalan
scarf and a leather jacket. He says he's organizing a vigil in favor of
peace. "Any kind of military action is a symbol of U.S. imperialism," he
says, "not of humanitarian interests."
His friend, 25-year-old Roberto Ochoa, proudly quotes Noam Chomsky:
"There's been so much U.S. intervention in the world that led to what
happened last week. Like Chomsky said the other day, we should be asking
what we did to deserve this."
The response of Jamal Abdo, a 22-year-old broadcast and electronic
communications major with Palestinian ancestry, was equally skeptical: "Who
are we striking against, and what am I fighting for? There's more going on
than what we're being told. Politicians have agendas and we aren't on it.
If I were to get drafted, I'd be outta here. No way."
Or, as 18-year-old "John Smith" put it, "I'd go to Canada and face exile. I
don't believe in killing people for any reason. Bush thinks the loss of
innocent lives will pay for our lost innocence. It won't."
These peace-loving San Francisco college students may not be representative
of all young American men and women. But few of the nearly two dozen
students interviewed this week felt strongly that the U.S. should go to
war, and those who did had difficulty articulating what we'd be fighting
for. Three-quarters of the young men (and one woman) said they would go if
drafted, but virtually none said they would volunteer to enlist.
Among the most gung-ho was Damola Oshin, an 18-year-old at Southern
Illinois University in Edwardsville. "If the military needs help, Americans
should join together and fight for our country, because this is our country
and, I mean, there has been a violation of our country," he said. "I mean,
these motherfuckers just come up in here and just spit in our faces and we
can't just take that stuff. So if our military needs help, I think every
citizen should get up and fight." Still, Oshin expressed some doubt over
whether the current threat to the U.S. was "worth dying over."
"I would gladly go [fight], actually," said Jay Sherfy, an 18-year-old
student at St. Louis University. "This whole thing, I don't know, kind of
made me bloodthirsty. I want to see something done about it." Nevertheless,
added Sherfy, he would be drafted before he'd enlist, and he still wasn't
sure the terror attacks merited a full-blown war.
Adam Meranda, an 18-year-old student at Washington University in St. Louis,
expressed similar ambivalence: "I think it's a pretty touchy situation. We
can't just let another country push us around." But, he added, going to war
was never a course that should be rushed into. "I tell you, I wouldn't be
too excited about it, but you can't go to war and not be too excited about
it or you're going to die. So you have to find a way to be excited about
it, I guess."
Jackie Sangco, a 20-year-old diagnostic ultrasound major at Seattle
(Washington) University, also had mixed opinions. "I have a strong feeling
against any military drafting," she said. "But if worse comes to worst and
they do need people and they do need to draft women my age, I think I would
be willing to do it for the sake of my country."
Even those young men and women who are ready and willing to fight have a
hard time envisioning themselves with automatic weapons strapped on their
backs, climbing across the mountains of Afghanistan to fight the enemy.
This is a generation raised on the horrors of Vietnam (brought vividly home
in movies like "Apocalypse Now" and "Platoon"), whose most recent war,
Operation Desert Storm, came over CNN like a video war game, with few
American casualties. To them, the idea of a ground war is both appalling
and antiquated. Most seem to hope that we can avoid this scenario
altogether but they aren't entirely sure what the alternative would be.
"Everybody's saying it's going to be a different war than has ever been
fought," said Steve Browne, a 23-year-old student at Southern Illinois
University, Edwardsville. "I think there should be a lot of Special Forces
in this war because we don't know how to fight over there, you know what
I'm saying? I don't want another Vietnam."
"I don't think Americans understand the scope of the situation. Right now,
everyone is rallying to fight, but what about two, three years from now
when young Americans are dead?" says Manuel Corral, a 24-year-old San
Francisco State student. "With our advanced technology, we should find some
other means of achieving
our military goals to protect our freedom."
Many of the young Americans we talked to were also aghast at the notion of
killing innocent civilians, fearing that military action would bring the
U.S. down to the level of its attackers while inspiring further terrorist
assaults. "If we can find that one person or one group that's responsible,
you know, and go and get them, that's fine," said Brent Boesdorfer, 20, of
St. Louis University. "But I don't think that taking on a whole country or
something, a bunch of innocent people, would be worthwhile."
And some of the young men with foreign-born parents were suspicious of the
American government's motives in declaring war on unidentified terrorists
whom it may have quietly supported in the past. Many among this generation
of young men and women have ancestry that affords them some first- or
second-hand knowledge of the last decades' wars and skirmishes in the
Middle East and Latin America, conflicts in which the U.S. role sometimes
provoked heated controversies.
"If we're going to war, it's partly due to the U.S. being there before. I
don't know why I should go to war when it's the government's problem. Why
are we in the Middle East in the first place? I don't believe in fighting
for oil, since it will be gone in 50 years anyway," said Azarias Castro, a
19-year-old San Franciscan of Salvadorean ancestry. Castro says he'd only
be willing to fight "if they came here, knocked on my door and started
Indeed, the specter of more terrorism carnage on American soil seemed to be
the only threat capable of driving even the most skeptical of these young
people to enlist.
"If it is putting into question our way of life, would it be worth dying
for?" pondered Jonathan Sakti, 21, of San Francisco State. "I don't know if
it would be now, but if they get into biological warfare and people are
dying all around me, and I'm going to be dying anyway one way or another, I
About the writers
Janelle Brown is a senior writer for Salon.
King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon.
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