Off target

The recruitment office protesters were looking for justice in the wrong place.

Last week, a variety of student groups gathered outside the Washington Avenue military recruitment centers to protest the practice of voluntary recruitment as a means to gather human capital to support the military-industrial complex. Fundamentally, their protest was animated by the same spirit that stirred General Smedley Butler âÄî a two-time Medal of Honor recipient and one of AmericaâÄôs most decorated soldiers âÄî to author the book âÄúWar is a RacketâÄù and inspired President Dwight EisenhowerâÄôs prophetic warning about the military-industrial complex. That is, to decry the injustices inflicted by war profiteers upon men and women in uniform, and stamp out its practice. But they failed. They not only failed to capture and express the enlightened spirit of Butler or Eisenhower, but also damaged its credibility by picking the wrong target. Rather than draw attention to CACI International or Titan (private contractors responsible for abuses at Abu Ghraib), or IAP Worldwide (the contractor responsible for the rot of Walter Reed Medical Center) or KBR Inc. (the contractor whose shoddy wiring has electrocuted soldiers while providing them contaminated drinking water), they decided to go for the easy target, a recruitment office. This hurts their cause; characterizing recruitment as a âÄúracist, sexist, heterosexist, and classist systemâÄù makes the protesters look ignorant and cruel because they appear to cast the bravest strata of citizens, those who serve, as fools or villains. This breeds hostility, and ends the discourse we need to protect all Americans. As Eisenhower said: âÄúOnly an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery âĦ so that security and liberty may prosper together.âÄù