Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Catholic Peace Fellowship featured on the BBC

The BBC interviewed me a while back and used the interview in the August 24th edition of their program, Crossing Continents.

It's an intriguing episode focusing on military recruitment, a subject which is also, coincidentally, the focus of our forthcoming issue of the Sign of Peace. Especially interesting in my opinion is the time the news team spends with an Army recruiter while he's on the job. He recruits in Kokomo, Indiana, a town with an unusually high number of casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

You can listen to the story, "Recruiting for the US Military," at the Crossing Continents website (note there's about 90 seconds of news before the episode on recruitment begins).

(Also note that we're actually in the old St. Stephen's rectory, not the old St. Vincent's rectory.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Updates from Lebanon

The following is an excerpt from Kathy Kelly's "Massacre at Qana," which she posted while in Southern Lebanon.

"Cana. New Testament scriptures say that Jesus spent time here. A story tells of Jesus’ mother, Mary, entreating the beloved son to show concern for newly arrived wedding guests. Who would listen to a widow’s concern? The tradition tells of a miracle, of water turned to wine.

"Qana. Who will listen to bereaved mothers entreating the heavens for an end to the hellish, fiery explosions that slaughter their children. The facts tell of a massacre, the astonishing technological capacity to identify and then to exclude the children from life itself."

Kathy Kelly, currently in Beruit with Farah Moktareizadeh, has posted further updates and pictures of their experience in this devastated area on the "Voices of Creative Nonviolence" website, www.vcnv.org..

Monday, August 21, 2006

Recruiting "Irregularities"

A new report from the Government Accounting Office outlines what it calls “recruiting irregularities.” For those unfamiliar with such charitably bureaucratic language, that means instances of unethical or illegal behavior by recruiters.

Apart from the always-shocking instances of recruiters sexually assaulting new recruits, the bland GAO report actually has quite a few stories to tell.

Particularly interesting are a few statistical tidbits that confirm some of the things I’ve heard on the GI Rights Hotline. For instance, pages 30-34 show that about 30% of recruiting irregularities in the Army have to due with recruiters covering up, in one way or another, new recruits’ medical histories. Many of the people I talk with (some with quite debilitating illnesses, like one poor guy who seems to have had Guillain-Barré syndrome) accuse their recruiters of having cajoled/encouraged/persuaded/commanded them to lie about their medical histories. They need to lie about medical histories because otherwise they couldn’t get into the military.

There’s a heck of a lot of problems with recruiters doing that. Apart from the fact that they’re endangering the recruit’s life, the lives of his/her fellow servicemembers, and asking him/her to lie, recruiters also cost the government a lot of money. According to the GAO report (page 25), the Army spends $17,000 just to recruit and process each recruit, and another $50,000 or so to get them through basic training.

That means that this particular “recruiting irregularity,” aside from being grossly immoral in and of itself, probably also costs American taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

So why do recruiters do it? Well, every branch of the military (except the Marines) rewards recruiters based on how many recruits they get to sign an initial contract, not how many recruits actually make it through training (page 25). So a recruiter can put sick recruit after sick recruit into boot camp, and even if every one of those recruits gets sent home early for medical reasons, that recruiter can still win that “Best Recruiter of the Year” trophy.

The GAO has been recommending a change in recruiter evaluation policies for some 8 or 9 years in order to do away with the institutional rewards for immoral recruiting practices, but nothing has come of it yet.

Ah, bureaucracy. Let’s give it a hand, folks.