This is Not Our War, We Are Not Your Soldiers

By Lauren Martino

“We Are Not Your Soldiers!,” a project of World Can’t Wait, is educating youth about military recruitment through bringing Iraq war veterans to speak in high schools about the reality of going to war for this country.

After the World Can’t Wait presentation, it was apparent that my students were affected. The next day one student showed me a poem he wrote about a young boy from the ghetto enlisting in the military and dying, another asked for a World Can’t Wait T-shirt, and yet another, who had wanted to join the military, handed me a recommendation form for a vocational school. Others are still lost forever to the military but the “We Are Not Your Soldiers” tour offered the education American youth really need and that more teachers need to be more conscious of.

 – Teacher from Paul Robeson High School
I am an 18-year-old intern at World Can’t Wait.  I feel this cause is very current, very serious, and in dire need of support. Not only is the organization trying to save the lives of my peers, but it is trying to open our eyes, light the fire of rebellion in our young spirits and get us to act on changing this world we are about to inherit.  The organization tries to reach students by visiting classrooms around the country and explaining the true nature of war through the example of personal experience—for instance, an Iraq war veteran named Ethan McCord who spoke at my school.
“Collateral Murder” video leaked to Wikileaks allegedly by Bradley Manning, a intelligence analyst in Iraq. Once the video had been shown to the students, McCord entered the room (he can’t bear witness to the gruesome events again so he doesn’t join viewings of the footage) and explained what had taken place.  This is not a video of justified combat; this is a video of reporters and other civilians being massacred from an Apache helicopter without hesitation because the pilots claimed they had mistaken the reporters’ cameras for weapons. Then in the grainy military archive footage you see a van pulling up to the wounded and a man jumps out. The man is an innocent civilian trying to rescue the wounded and drive them to a hospital. The helicopter shoots again. Ethan ran up to the totaled van to find two severely injured young children; he tried to help them and his superiors acted as though his heroism was wasting time. Then it was explained how this video—the reality—is denied to the people, the taxpayers funding this war. The man who is accused of sharing this shameful truth with the world, Bradley Manning, is now being held in solitary confinement as a criminal in a maximum security prison in Virginia. This is the war our country is fighting.
My generation has grown up thinking that because our parents, grandparents, older family members and teachers were the heroic, anti-war hippies who saved us from the draft, that we are free from the military. But what the military is doing now is almost more scary. True, the army can’t technically just pluck us up and ship us out to front lines of war anymore, but they’ve concocted new and manipulative tools of recruitment. Instead of putting unwilling kids into war, now they’ve decided to seduce unaware kids into their “game.” And ingrained in the minds of many kids today, war is a game.
The military has poured millions of dollars into the research and development of computerized training programs. Sounds like an honest enough cause until you find out that the same technology is being marketed as video games for kids as young as 13.  The Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Air Force, and the Navy have all met with computer industry executives and computer researchers from companies like Pixar, Disney, Paramount, and George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic. In the past ten years, the military has spent more than $33 million to design, launch, and advertise an online military game called “America’s Army” that anyone 13 and older can play for free. In some instances, you even have to contact the local military recruitment office to play. In a survey taken by the game’s creators, it was found that 60% of new recruits played this game a minimum of five times a week.
Sure, at 13 years old we know video games aren't real. What we don’t realize though is that video games are addictive—addictive means repetition, and repeating the role of a soldier as a form of entertainment (a positive experience ) on a regular basis leaves a mark in your mind you may not even realize is there.  In a sense, these games are like “how-to-be-a-soldier” class, just like going to an art class and enjoying it over and over makes me want to be an artist, or playing soccer over and over and enjoying it may make you want to be a professional soccer player. The more you know about something and enjoy it, the more you may think about pursuing it as a career.
Everyone in my generation with a game console—brother, boyfriend, or any kind of adolescent “masculine” influence in their life—knows what assault rifles, battle rifles, sniper rifles, etc. look like and what they can do now because of video games like Halo and Call of Duty which feature specific realistic war technology. Ask your mom how to hold a rocket launcher and I bet she wouldn’t have the faintest idea, but ask someone of our age and they’ll more likely than not give you the correct answer. This is not just a break out of cool new special effects, this is an industry bent on planting an oxymoronically positive image of warfare in the minds of kids who don’t even know what critical thinking means yet.
The military has caught onto the swaying powers of the mass media. Back in the ‘60’s the huge anti-war movement didn’t just appear from nowhere, hundreds of musicians and artists made it a cool thing to be involved with. It was a cultural phenomenon, and now the military has learned this technique and how to utilize it in reverse. And sadly, my generation—youthfully arrogant—is falling into this trap, only seeing the social implications of their opinions and not the moral ones.
It’s not only in our video games, but even in our educational systems. The No Child Left Behind Act, courtesy of the Bush administration, states that all secondary schools receiving federal funding are required to provide recruiters with students’ names, addresses, and phone numbers. How is this NOT leaving a child behind? We need a country of educated people, not dead ones.
There’s no wacko paranoid theory here; by definition, this is brainwashing—Brainwashing: any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, especially one based on repetition or confusion. My generation is being brainwashed by repeated attempts to glamorize a soldier’s existence, mollify and confuse the reality of killing or being killed, and convince us of the illusion that this war is for the safety of the American people.
I am a born and raised New Yorker. I was 8 years old when I saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. I care about the lives of everyone lost and everyone effected and I supported justice, we all did. But this war is not justice. We didn’t even need to have a war—an illegal one for that matter. We could have turned to the international criminal courts. But justice for the victims of 9/11 wasn’t the priority. The men who flew the planes into the towers were from Saudi Arabia; while the U.S. attacked Afghanistan and Iraq. Don’t tell me we had to get Osama Bin Laden; we haven’t found him; he could be dead for all we know and his capture is just an excuse. Don’t tell me we had to find the weapons of mass destruction either—there are none. So why are we still in the Middle East? There are answers, but you won’t find them on FOX news, in the speeches of politicians, or any major news publications. You’ll find them in the stories of soldiers and Iraqi citizens, in books, and in blogs. You’ll find them when you look up the solid factual history of the Bush family. I’m not going to tell you what I think the truth is, I’m telling you to figure it out for yourself.
To my generation, this is our country; this is the world we will inherit. We cannot passively live in denial; we have many years ahead of us to live in this decreasingly “free” country and if we do not act now, the consequence will be oppression. And to the generations before us, we need you more than ever. This is no longer a battle against involuntary physical participation in war like the draft. This has become a fight against our own government to keep reality in perspective—a fight to protect our sanity.
This country was built on the idea of democracy, and our government has milked that definition for all it’s worth and continues to even as that concept is quickly sinking away from reality to gain our loyalty and devotion as U.S. citizens. This is not a democracy; this is a representative democracy and our economy is capitalism. Why is this important to know? Because it means the representatives we vote for are obligated not to we the people, but to the capitalist class that keeps our economy afloat. So, when a war is in the making, whose interests do you think our representatives are thinking about? The Capitalist class interests. And when the war begins, whose lives are lost? Ours, the people. This is not our war. We are not your soldiers.

This originally appeared on on March 9, 2011.


World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.