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"Free Speech" Versus the Military
by janine carmona and josh sonnenfeld of SAW
Monday Jan 15th, 2007 1:47 AM
Members of the military have never had the right to free speech. Believe it or not, this isn't because of student protesters. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), enlistees are specifically denied their 1st Amendment Rights. Take Lt. Ehren Watada, an Army officer opposed to the war in Iraq, for example. He's currently being court-martialled for "making public remarks disparaging his chain of command," i.e. saying that he believes Bush lied to us and the war in Iraq is illegal. He could get up to 6 years in prison for a mere 4 speeches made in public.
When the military comes to UCSC for recruitment purposes, they are coming as representatives of the U.S. Armed Forces, and, by extension, the U.S. government. They are here to enlist bodies for the U.S. to wage war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. They aren't here to engage in philosophical debates. When protesters disrupt military recruiters' activities, it is not "free speech" we are challenging, but their actions. Interfering with military recruitment (through education, direct action, and other tactics) is a strategy to end war - a way in which we try to save the lives of all those harmed by militarism. If our generation (both within and outside the military) refuses to fight, and if recruiters are consistently unable to meet their quotas, the government will be unable to continue their misadventures overseas.

We have a responsibility to listen to what folks in the military have been saying, especially those who risk punishment for speaking out, but we do not have to allow the military (and the government) to do whatever they please. Recruitment is not a statement by an individual, but an action by the government. Interfering with this action may land us in jail, but we believe our attempts are morally just.

The Bill of Rights, including our right to "free speech," was enacted to ensure our protection from the government, not the government's protection from the people. With a 4 billion dollar recruitment budget, the government has an unprecedented ability to convince people to join the military. Their misleading ads are all over TV, radio, the Internet, and billboards, and their recruiters are in almost every school in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and now even Tijuana. You couldn't buy a bigger bullhorn.

Anti-war activists have always fought alongside soldiers in their demands for rewriting the UCMJ to ensure "free speech" and other rights in the military - but that doesn't mean we'll allow the government and the military to use our money, our families, and our communities to cause injustice.

We were saddened that the job fair was unnecessarily cancelled. We need jobs as much as other students do. But rather than blame it on largely nonviolent protests that have almost always ensured student access to non-military jobs, we should be looking at the institution that continues to force itself on a community that does not want it.

Student protesters at UCSC come from a long lineage of defenders of freedom. We are the political descendents of those who were imprisoned for speaking out against World War I. We are living the legacy of those who refused deployment to Vietnam. We've been spied on by the Pentagon, we've been arrested by the cops, and we've been consistently mischaracterized in the corporate press, but we'll continue to do as those before us did - stand up for a freedom rooted in justice for all people.


The above was also published as an op-ed in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on Sunday, January 15, 2007.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by ishue
Monday Jan 15th, 2007 5:51 PM
If our generation (both within and outside the military) refuses to fight, and if recruiters are consistently unable to meet their quotas, the government will be unable to continue their misadventures overseas. ....and will use a draft instead!

by josh
Monday Jan 15th, 2007 7:18 PM
Currently, there's almost no one in Congress or the White House that will suggest that we want/need a draft. Yeah, there's Charles Rangel of New York, whose coming at it from a leftist perspective of equalizing class participation in the war, but he's about it.

The 'breaking point' if/where counter-recruitment/GI resistance strategy leads to a military unable to operate multiple wars is also the point where some will consider the draft. But considering the current oposition to the war (70%), and the last example of the draft (Vietnam), I think it would be an extremely risky move.. one that I'm not even sure the majority of Congress would support anymore... even if we are at that 'breaking point.'

If those in power do decide to implement a draft, I think the current counter-recruitment/GI Rights/peace movement is in an excellent position to transfer into draft/GI resistance work. I think we'd have massive noncooperation on a scale that this country hasn't seen in a long, long time.

Why are some so scared of getting to this 'breaking point?' That's the time where people power resistance has proven its success and those in power are forced into a check-mate between massive non-cooperation with a draft and pulling out of Iraq. I think its much more likely for the government to pull out of Iraq than allow the military to break down.

The film Sir No Sir reminds us of what this sort of noncooperation looked like in Vietnam - where "by 1971 it had, in the words of one colonel, infested the entire armed services." I have faith that our generation can do the same, if not more.
by Kisses
Thursday Nov 11th, 2010 11:25 PM