Why Is the Pentagon Using Taxpayer Money to Train Young Americans to Shoot Deadly Weapons of War?
April 6, 2018
Greta Zarro / Common Dreams
The culture of war is pervasive in our society, through military-funded Hollywood films and video games, the militarization of the police, and JROTC and ROTC programs in our schools. Perhaps what's key above all, however, is that JROTC, and US militarism as a whole, is embedded in our sociocultural framework as Americans. So much so that to question it is to cast doubt on one's patriotic allegiance to this nation.
The Missing Link in the Gun Debate
Greta Zarro / Common Dreams
(April 5, 2018) -- America is up in arms about guns. If last month's "March for Our Lives," which attracted over one million marchers nationwide, is any indication, we've got a serious problem with gun violence, and people are fired up about it.
But what's not being talked about in the mainstream media, or even by the organizers and participants in the March for Our Lives movement, is the link between the culture of gun violence and the culture of war, or militarism, in this nation.
Nik Cruz, the now-infamous Parkland, FL shooter, was taught how to shoot a lethal weapon in the very school that he later targeted in the heart-breaking Valentine's Day Massacre. Yes, that's right; our children are trained as shooters in their school cafeterias, as part of the US military's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) marksmanship program.
Nearly 2,000 US high schools have such JROTC marksmanship programs, which are taxpayer-funded and rubber-stamped by Congress. Cafeterias are transformed into firing ranges, where children, as young as 13 years old, learn how to kill. The day that Nik Cruz opened fire on his classmates, he proudly wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the letters "JROTC." JROTC's motto? "Motivating Young People to Be Better Citizens." By training them to wield a gun?
I want to know why America isn't marching against the military's marksmanship programs. I want to know why millions aren't knocking on their representatives' doors and refusing to pay their taxes, until congressionally approved firing ranges are removed from schools.
Meanwhile, military recruiters hobnob with students during lunch break, then train them how to shoot in that same cafeteria and lure them to enlist. No doubt, the military's pitch is slick, and economically enticing. That is, until the trainees turn on their classmates and teachers.
Perhaps what's key above all, however, is that JROTC, and US militarism as a whole, is embedded in our sociocultural framework as Americans, so much so that to question it is to cast doubt on one's patriotic allegiance to this nation.
To me, this explains why the Nik Cruz JROTC connection is not even an option on the table in the dialogue about gun violence. Why, at last month's March for Our Lives in D.C., when my colleagues held up signs about the JROTC marksmanship program, marchers nodded in approval and bragged that they were JROTC trained.
The culture of war is pervasive in our society, through military-funded Hollywood films and video games, the militarization of the police, and JROTC and ROTC programs in our schools. The Pentagon receives the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all of our children, unless parents tell their children's schools to opt them out. Nearly all of us are culpable, wittingly or unwittingly, in supporting the spread of US militarism through our silent complicity and our tax dollars.
The average mass shooter in this country is, by and large, an American male with a history of mental illness, criminal charges, or illicit substance abuse, according to a recently released March 2018 report by the US Secret Services. He is not an ISIS terrorist or Al-Qaeda plotter. In fact, findings show that, above any ideology, mass attackers are most often motivated by a personal vendetta.
What the Secret Services report does not talk about, however, is the disproportionate number of mass attackers who have been trained by the US military. While veterans account for 13% of the adult population, the data shows that more than 1/3 of adult perpetrators of the 43 worst mass killings between 1984 and 2006 had been in the US military.
Further, a 2015 study in the Annals of Epidemiology found that veterans kill themselves at a rate 50% higher than their civilian counterparts. This speaks volumes about the damaging psychological impact of war, and, I would argue, the deleterious potential of the warlike "us vs. them" mentality that JROTC and ROTC programs instill in the minds of developing youth, not to mention the very real marksmanship skills that they teach.
While military recruits with access to a gun pose a risk to Americans at home, meanwhile, our soldiers abroad are not much more effective at policing the world. As military spending has skyrocketed in recent decades, now accounting for over fifty percent of US federal discretionary spending, according to the National Priorities Project, so has terrorism.
Despite our country's endless state of military "interventions" in other nations, the Global Terrorism Index in fact records a steady increase in terrorist attacks from the beginning of our "war on terror" in 2001 to the present. Federal intelligence analysts and retired officers admit that US occupations generate more hatred, resentment, and blowback than they prevent.
According to a declassified intelligence report on the war on Iraq, "despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach."
With the US government spending a combined $1 trillion annually on war and preparations for war, including the stationing of troops at over 800 bases worldwide, there is little left of the public purse to spend on domestic necessities.
The American Society of Civil Engineers ranks US infrastructure as a D+. We rank 4th in the world for wealth inequality, according to the OECD. US infant mortality rates are the highest in the developed world, according to UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston. Communities across the nation lack access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation -- a UN human right that the US fails to recognize.
Forty million Americans live in poverty. Given this lack of a basic social safety net, is it any wonder that people enlist in the armed forces for economic relief and a supposed sense of purpose, grounded in our nation's history of associating military service with heroism?
If we want to prevent the next mass shooting, we need to stop fueling the culture of violence and militarism, and that starts with ending JROTC marksmanship programs in our schools.
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Hollywood is approached to make a movie. Hollywood is promised lavish access to the US Military and its inner workings. A Normal citizen taking pictures of what Hollywood is provided by the Pentagon would be arrested as a suspect terrorist.
People have been arrested with regularity in the USA for taking pictures of a Military base or asset. Hollywood runs the final product by the US Military and the US Military proposes changes to ensure the US Military portrayed in a positive light.
The US Military pays professional sports teams fees to have “Honor the Veterans days” and will do flyovers at football games to garner ooo’s and ahhs. The US Military, in spite of the war crimes it has committed the World over, the millions it has left dead, the pollution as one of the worlds largest polluters (and pollutants of the most insidous kind) and literally trillions of dollars lavished on it as people go hungry and homeless remains one of the most “Respected” institutions in the uSA.
It is corrupt to the core yet is all but worshipped. The people have been carefully taught using the propaganda techniques of Bernays and Goebells. It where mindless patriotism leads and has led to the US being the most Militarized country on the globe.
In a nutshell Zarro 's article describes the morphing of the military industrial complex (MIC) (that Eisenhower warned us about as he left the White House in January 1961) into the 21st century’s military industrial media infotainment complex (MIMIC).
During the Viet Nam era students at my San Francisco area high school succeeded in keeping JROTC out of my high school by striking. I always felt sorry for kids who didn’t live in an area experiencing critical mass against the Viet Nam occupation (you were never more than a mile from the nearest draft counselor in the SF Bay Area during that era). They grew up in a brainwashing environment that few have been able to shake.
There is not one single congressperson in DC who advocates for cutting the military budget, closing military bases around the world or ending our disastrous invasion and occupation of ME countries. Yet none can point to a single plane, warship, sub, tank or standing army that any of the various terrorist groups possess.
A rag-tag assemblage of murky ‘terrorists’ makes the old cold war propaganda seem quaint. Bin Laden (or whoever) couldn’t have imagined this type of success would be accomplished with 19 box cutters.
I suspect even the most reasonable of elected federal officials (yes, you too Bernie) realize how embedded our economical well-being is vested in the military. The strategy of spreading military monies to all fifty states is common knowledge.
Applying the brakes to that gravy train would be deeply felt across the country. And keep in mind the big US weapons contractors not only supply our war machine but others throughout the world. The profits collected from these mostly contrived conflicts are beyond comprehension.
What we need is a vision/philosophy of an economy to supplant the current zeitgeist of paranoia and bravado. It’s being done in the energy sectors with various power alternatives and other sustainable ways to live.
The military coup in Washington and among the majority of citizens is so complete that unending war and occupation in the ME and elsewhere is not even a topic of discussion during the vast majority of elections -- on any level. We’ve accepted the fact that half of every discretionary dollar go to the national security state. It’s manufactured consent taken to an unthinkable, ever-deadly and impoverishing level.
Nobody wants the MIC budget drastically reduced more than me, and I believe the statistics in the article, but were still not asking the right questions surrounding these tragedies.
What is making so many people decide to kill other human beings.
We’ve had ROTC programs for years,
We’ve had war movies for years (I’ll admit they are more graphic),
We’ve been militarizing the police since Nixon.
The only new item is video games.
Not until the last 20 yrs. have we seen this dramatic increase in mass murder.
I’m not advocating for any of these items, and maybe it’s an accumulative effect, none of us knows.
This subject is to important to guess at the answer, we need experts in human behavior to really study this and provide us with answers, so we make the right decisions to correct the problem.
Finally an article discussing the systemic connections between all these obvious factions in the society. Except for Democracy Now, that mentioned (although not in a critical way) the JROTC membership of the Florida shooter, most media stayed out of it.
As they consistently and religiously stay out of the discourse about a militarized society -- in every facet of it. One of course does not expect Congress to raise the issue -- but the media?
Congress and MOST media are owned by Wall Street and Wall Street profits handsomely from all things military, in the US and abroad.
Eternal occupations and wars equal eternal revenue for Wall Street’s military industrial media infotainment complex (MIMIC). Any Congresscritter opposing MIMIC will find Wall Street making them " an offer they can’t refuse" to quote Marlon Brando in 1972’s Godfather.
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