The Military Wants Your Children
By Bonnie Weinstein
The following is a speech delivered by Bonnie Weinstein for Bay Area United Against War, to the People United for General Amnesty march and rally held April 10, 2006 in San Francisco. The demonstration was organized by parents from a local community childcare center, Companeros Del Barrio, in San Francisco’s Mission District—a predominately Spanish speaking community.
The parents, mostly immigrant workers, met and formed a committee to organize this demonstration and succeeded in bringing out close to ten thousand people mostly by word of mouth and announcements from Spanish language radio stations.
They have called for another action May 1st at 5:00 p.m. in front of the Federal Building, at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, here in San Francisco, calling for General Amnesty for All.
San Francisco voters voted to Bring the Troops Home Now in 2005. We voted to Get the Military Out of Our Schools this past November; and 95 percent of parents here in San Francisco signed the Military opt-out forms in order to keep the military away from our children.
But the San Francisco Board of Education just passed The Equal Access for Recruiters Policy resolution (62-14Sp1) that completely circumvents all of this. It, in fact, brings the military right through the front doors and in close contact with our children on a regular basis in spite of the wishes of the parents and the voters.
This resolution allows two recruiters each from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines into the schools each time colleges, universities, trade unions and employers visit. The Board passed this policy because the No Child Left Behind Act, which comes before Congress again in 2007, forces the schools to sacrifice our children to the military in order to stay open. That law withholds federal funds to schools that don’t give the military “equal access.” And these funds add up to millions of dollars—money the schools can’t do without.
But here is what this new policy concretely means. At the George Washington High School Career Fair Tuesday, April 4, the military showed up in force. And, with a $2 billion dollar advertising budget in their pockets, they attracted hundreds of students by giving away flashlights, nylon-web key chains, rulers, charts; pens; stickers; emblems; posters and, of course, slick brochures that tell them they can become electric guitar players or video game designers if they just join the military.
They even tell students that they don’t have to go into combat—that there are non-combat jobs available for the asking. And, they promise them thousands of dollars in bonuses and money for college—money that less than ten percent of those that serve ever get. In fact they will say anything to get the kids to sign up. They even sign contracts with students knowing full well that as soon as the student signs up, those contracts are null and void and the “enlistee” soon finds out that they are just another piece of military equipment for the Service to do with as they please.
And the military recruiters don’t go to all schools equally. They don’t go to the schools for the rich. Those schools don’t rely on federal funds so the military leaves them alone. They prey on the poor—especially schools with large immigrant populations. Just as they promise college money, they promise immigrant students and their families “a chance” for citizenship if they just agree to “serve this country” and fight in the war.
The war has been good for the rich. It has contributed to nearly a two-fold increase in the number of billionaires from 476 three years ago to 793 this year—and many of these billionaires live right here in San Francisco. Yet they, and all the multi-billion-dollar corporations that make San Francisco their home, and whose children are exempt from the military, are routinely rewarded with huge tax breaks and tax give-backs, just for making San Francisco their home.
The ever-increasing trillion-dollar war budget is the prime reason for the draconian cutbacks in all social service programs—especially the schools. And while the San Francisco Board of Education is being forced to facilitate this swindle, it should also be obligated to fight the No Child Left Behind Act and inform students and their families that the military is not a road to citizenship, scholarship, skill or higher education. It is a road to death; and its function is to uphold and strengthen the dictatorship of the wealthy over the poor!
The School Board should inform all involved that the billions of dollars lining the pockets of the rich and the trillions of dollars spent on war could undo all the poverty, want and need in the world if it were put to that use! In other words, the San Francisco Board of Education should join with us!
You know, the people of France won a fantastic victory by acting en masse and in solidarity for their demand that the government rescind a law that would have allowed employers to fire workers under 26 years old without cause and at any time. But the people of France united, acted, and were not defeated! They were victorious and the reactionary law was rescinded!
We are here tonight to say we are united and we will not be defeated! We want the troops brought home immediately! We want military recruiters out of our schools!
And we’re here to say: No to borders! No to walls! No to fences! We demand amnesty for all! Our homeland is where we live!
All out May 1!