All Hail The Counter-Recruiters

From Holden:

I love these people.

Jim Murphy is a “counter-recruiter,” one of a small but growing number of opponents of the Iraq war who say they want to compete with military recruiters for the hearts and minds of young people.

“I don’t tell kids not to join the military,” says Murphy, 59, a member of Veterans for Peace. “I tell them: “Have a plan for your future. Because if you don’t, the military has a plan for you.’ ”


Counter-recruiters formed a national network at meetings in Philadelphia in the summers of 2003 and 2004. They range from Vietnam War veterans, such as Murphy, to high school students trained to talk to their peers about enlistment.

The American Friends Service Committee, one of several peace groups opposed to what it calls “militarization of youth,” has prepared a brochure titled “Do You Know Enough to Enlist? “In a tip of the hat to the opposition, it’s deliberately designed to look like a military recruiting brochure.

Using a 1986 federal appeals court decision that supported the rights of draft registration opponents to equal access to students, the Los Angeles Unified School District teachers’ union has helped get counter-recruiting into some schools regularly visited by military recruiters in the nation’s second largest public district. The counter-recruiters make public address announcements, distribute literature, show documentaries and give classroom presentations.

In the San Francisco area, members of a group called the Raging Grannies dress up in flamboyant old-lady attire (big hats, long, flowered dresses) and visit high schools. They offer a selection of political buttons and make their pitch while students are choosing. Sometimes the Grannies sing peace songs and dance.

“When you kick up your heels, it gets their attention,” says Ruth Robertson, a 52-year-old Granny.