Require Scholastic Armitude Test before joining military

by Jim Longworth

Not long ago I watched an episode of HDNet News in which the focus was on US Army recruiting. I was moved by the pleas from mothers to their teenage sons not to enlist. And I was disturbed by the naïvete of the boys who had no idea what they were getting into.

These days, the Army is quite aggressive about taking advantage of that naïvete. It spends $100 million each year to sponsor sporting events and millions more in advertising. The Army also employs 7,500 recruiters who are expected to achieve a quota of as many as 6,000 new soldiers each month. But with quotas come pressure, and some recruiters have responded by bending the rules. In mid 2005, two recruiters in Colorado were suspended for a myriad of charges, including telling boys how to beat a drug test, encouraging high school drop-outs to enlist and even advising them on how to obtain a fake diploma.

And while rogue recruiters are the exception and not the rule, even those who go by the book are finding themselves embroiled in an ongoing controversy involving activity on high school and college campuses. Educators and students alike are challenging the Army’s right to recruit on school property. The government, meanwhile, asserts that so long as schools accept federal funding, they must allow recruiters to appear on campus. No matter who wins that battle, the fact remains that the number of enlisted high school dropouts has increased since the Army began allowing them in 2005, and that brings me back to the agony of mothers and the naïvete of their sons.

I can identify with these impressionable youth. More than 30 years ago my friends and I watched as our draft lottery numbers were called, and none of us ran away to Canada to escape service. Fortunately, Nixon de-escalated troop deployments shortly thereafter, and I was not forced to spend my days wading in rice paddies. I was also spared from returning home in a body bag. I had no idea at the time that America’s involvement in Vietnam was unjustified and the lives lost unnecessary. I was naïve. The smart folks were the hippie protesters, who were at first labeled as radical and unpatriotic, that is until Walter Cronkite came around to their way of thinking and called for an end to the conflict.

Today, the Iraq war is no less ill-advised, and the mounting casualties no less tragic. Today there is no draft, so recruiters work hard to “sell” Army life. Promotional literature promises new recruits will “enjoy travel” and also makes a big deal out of free medical care. What it doesn’t say is that the travel is to Iraq, and the medical care is from Walter Reed.   Understandably, then, educators who oppose the presence of Army recruiters on school grounds do so largely because students are not being exposed to both sides of the issue. They are not getting the entire story before signing on the dotted line.

That’s why I have developed a test which all potential recruits should take before joining the Army. It is called the “Schloastic Armitude Test.”  Here are some of the questions on my version of the SAT:

1. Do you know that nearly all of the 9-11 terrorists hailed from Saudi Arabia and not from Iraq?

2. Do you know that Saudi Arabian businesses own 7 percent of the entire US economy?

3. Do you know that the Bush family has ties to some of those Saudi businesses?

4. Do you know that President Bush lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction?

5. Do you know that Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company has made billions of dollars in profits from the Iraq War?

6. Do you know that over 3,000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq?

7. Do you know that the US is responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 innocent Iraqi women and children?

8. Do you know that if you enlist, you will likely be sent to fight in Iraq?

A young man who answers “no” to any of these questions, will then be asked if he still wants to enlist? If he answers “yes,” he will then be evaluated by a team of mental health professionals to determine if he is crazy or just recklessly brave. If determined to be the latter, he will be allowed to enlist.

Am I anti-military? To the contrary. I am pro-military, but I do not want young men and women sacrificed for Bush and Cheney’s warped sense of patriotism and greed-driven national defense.

The Army pledge demands a promise to “never quit.” But that credo should not apply absolutely, especially in a vacuum of misinformation.

Hopefully, Nancy Pelosi and company will have the troops home soon. Until then, I am asking for help from every mother whose teenage son wants to enlist. Make your son take my Scholastic Armitude Test. Make him use his brain. And if he still wants to join, then make him wait until he graduates, hopefully after we are out of Iraq.

Keeping the peace in a country that we senselessly destroyed is not a justifiable mission for which even one more American life should be sacrificed. George Bush doesn’t care when the troops come home. American mothers do. Bush wants to put our young men to the test. So do I – the Scholastic Armitude Test. His test causes deaths. Mine might prevent them.

Jim Longworth is host of “Triad Today” which can be seen Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7), and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on MY48 (cabel channel 15).