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College Not Combat referendum passes in San Francisco
A message to the military

November 18, 2005 | Page 7

PROPOSITION I passed by a wide margin in San Francisco on Election Day, putting the city on record as opposed to U.S. military recruiters using public school, college and university facilities. TODD CHRETIEN, the author of the ballot measure, and RAGINA JOHNSON, the campaign director for Proposition I, explain its significance.

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PROPOSITION I, known popularly as College Not Combat, passed easily in San Francisco on Election Day with 60 percent of the vote. The vote sent a clear message to the military recruiters that they aren't welcome on our high school and college campuses.

San Franciscans are overwhelmingly opposed to the occupation of Iraq and want our troops home now. San Franciscans agree with Cindy Sheehan that the 2,000 American troops who have died and the 15,000 who have been injured are giving their blood for someone else's unjust war. San Franciscans believe that our country has no right to kill over 100,000 Iraqis in the pursuit of oil and empire.

San Franciscans are sick and tired of sending our sons and daughters and friends and family to kill and die for President Bush and his bipartisan war supporters in Congress. That's why over 92,000 people voted for Proposition I.

Right-wing pundit Bill O'Reilly was incensed by the outcome of the vote--and warned the city to prepare for a terrorist attack. "We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to [al-Qaeda] except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead," he threatened--leading days later to a televised debate between O'Reilly and Todd Chretien.

The election results should send a clear message to San Francisco State University President Robert Corrigan--that he should stop prosecuting students and student groups, such as the Campus Antiwar Network, that protest military recruiters. Instead, he should do the right thing and commit San Francisco State to joining Harvard Law School by challenging the legal right of the openly homophobic recruiters to violate the university's anti-discrimination policy, which is supposed to grant equal protection and opportunities to students regardless of sexual orientation.

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WHAT NEXT? The U.S. Army missed its recruitment goals this year by 7,000, and the counter-recruitment movement aims to make sure they fail again in the coming year. The theory is simple: If they don't have the troops, they can't fight the war.

From Kent State in Ohio, to George Mason University in Virginia, to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, to the University of California-Berkeley, students are taking a stand--and, although the mainstream media generally ignore it, creating a movement of thousands who are starving the war machine at the source.

High school students from the Bay Area to Seattle to New York City are jumping in as well. The new antiwar mood was on display on November 2, when thousands walked out of their classes to join the World Can't Wait protests.

As the movement grows, we have to keep in mind that we care just as much for the troops who have already been sent to Iraq as the potential soldiers the recruiters are pursuing. That's why we say bring the troops home now. The counter-recruitment movement isn't an isolated effort of young people to save themselves from military service; rather, it's part of the broader antiwar movement that aims to stop the killing and dying.

More than that, we believe that it's not good enough to simply tell young people not to join the armed forces. They have to have an alternative. Last week, the Washington Post reported that a big majority of new military recruits are now coming from the most impoverished rural areas of the country, confirming our contention that the military preys on the poor.

This means we have two tasks. First, we have to spread the opposition to the military recruiters across the country--from city to city and school to school. Second, we have to find ways to offer alternative college scholarships and job training opportunities to our young people.

The math is easy. In the fiscal year 2005, 163,259 new recruits were added to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Instead of sending them to Iraq and Afghanistan, we should offer them a Peace Deal. To provide all of them with free college tuition for four years, or equivalent job training, at the cost of $40,000 each would only cost American taxpayers $6.5 billion. This number should sound familiar because it is approximately the cost of the war in Iraq for just one month.

Let's go further. Let's say that in addition to the free scholarship, we gave every one of those students a part-time job for 20 hours per week for $15,000 a year, which is the Army's starting pay for a private--so that they could pay their bills while they are studying. That would cost an additional $2.45 billion per year, or a total of $9.8 billion for the full four years.

So for about $16 billion, U.S. taxpayers could give free four-year scholarships and well-paying part-time jobs to all of the military's new recruits--for what it takes to fight the war in Iraq for 10 or 11 weeks. We bet most of our young people would jump at the chance to take the Peace Deal, and gladly leave the War Deal behind.

We are a long way from winning that type of demand, but we should be confident that the military's much-talked-about "job opportunities" and "GI Bill scholarships" are, at the very least, an extremely roundabout and wasteful way to deliver on promises of a better future to our youth.

Worse, only 15 percent of recruits who join the military in order to get the GI Bill funding for school ever see the full amount of it because of all the restrictions placed on soldiers when they try to go to school.

Talk to veterans, and you'll hear an earful about "job training." It turns out that cleaning, loading and firing an M-16 doesn't have many applications to civilian life. Finally, you can't go to school if you're dead.

While we point out the holes in the military's promises, we also need to find ways to start locally to give young people real alternatives. In San Francisco last year, 197 young people joined the military. The total cost of providing each with the Peace Deal would be about $19.7 million. That seems like a lot of money to you and me. But according the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco residents Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could split the bill between then and still remain comfortable members of the millionaires' club.
Of course, some people will argue that it is unreasonable to ask the unreasonably wealthy to foot the bill for educating our youth, instead of voting to send them off to war. But we don't--and we believe that more and more people will come to see the situation this way as the body count in Iraq grows.

Proposition I is not the end of the College Not Combat campaign. It's just the beginning.

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