Study war no more

Young people will not only be the cannon fodder in a war against Iraq; they are already victims of the growing militarization of American life under the leadership of “chickenhawks” George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their military-industrial corporate profiteer backers.

With dwindling employment opportunities and denied economic resources to pay for higher education, working-class youth and young people of color are driven to join the “volunteer” armed forces. While the Pentagon cynically targets these youth for recruitment using the lure of education and income, the Bush administration is promoting a war that sets these kids up to be killed or maimed, perhaps returning home to a lifetime of disability.

The new education bill, signed by Bush in January, forces school districts receiving assistance under the act to provide, on request, military recruiters access to high school students’ names, addresses and telephone listings. Schools have to give recruiters the same access to students as is provided to post-secondary educational institutions or prospective employers. Schools that fail to conform to these requirements will lose substantial federal funds.

Young people are also victimized when schools are starved for funds, while billions are poured into aggressive military weaponry, high-tech snooping on the public and other projects of the Bush administration’s “war on terrorism.” As the cost of higher education is passed onto students and their families, those working-class youths lucky enough to complete college enter the job market saddled with astronomical student loan burdens.

Militarization is distorting the content of education as well. This is most evident on college campuses, where research is heavily funded by the Pentagon. With colleges reeling from state funding cuts, the military and “homeland security” will increasingly call the shots on not only the content of research, but also what faculty and staff get hired and what majors and courses are and aren’t offered.

Growing numbers of youth are rejecting militarism and demanding a “culture of peace.” We urge our readers to help build this movement.


No turkey for Thanksgiving

According to the Department of Agriculture, some 35 million people live in households that experience “food insecurity” – defined as not having access to adequate supplies of nutritional food without recourse to emergency resources like pantries and soup kitchens.

In 2001, America’s Second Harvest, a national network of food banks that provide emergency hunger relief services, provided help to 23.3 million low-income people, up 9 percent – nearly two million families – from 2000. Last year, nearly one in four households served by Second Harvest did not eat for an entire day because they couldn’t afford food.

Other numbers are equally shameful: 9 million of those seeking aid from Second Harvest last year were children; 62 percent of those served by Second Harvest are female; 11 percent are elderly; nearly 39 percent of households who received assistance from Second Harvest had at least one working member; more than 80 percent of families enrolled in the federal food stamp program run out of stamps in three weeks or less; food insecurity rates for African Americans (29 percent) and Latinos (21.8 percent) are substantially higher than for the nation as a whole (10.7 percent).

The increase in food insecurity and hunger is attributable to several factors, none of which are pre-ordained or written in stone. Instead, they are the result of public policies that can be reversed in the course of mass struggle.

Several partial solutions come to mind: Increase and extend unemployment benefits. Enact real reforms to programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. Restore the right of immigrant families and childless adult households to food stamps and other entitlements.

Although none of these deal with the root causes of hunger, they will help ameliorate its pain. And fighting for them will set the stage for the next struggle and the one after and …