The US Military is Luring and Brainwashing American Children
From Moral Individuals to Obedient Recruits...If They Survive
Dr. Teresa Whitehurst
12/15/04 -- “When the prisoners first arrived at the camp, widely-published photographs showed them blindfolded, chained, and manacled...”
“From the time they are driven onto the base,
recruits are told to keep their heads down and eyes closed. The
less they know about the base’s layout, the less likely they are
to try to escape.”
Beneath the photo of two Marines screaming
insanely into a young recruit’s face, the Virginian-Pilot asks,
“What would make someone sign up for this?”
The question implies that there must be a very
good reason for anybody to volunteer for this abusive nonsense,
especially since more than 350 marines have been killed since
But the article, in a departure from the usual
military-worshipping tone of that newspaper, provides a
surprisingly honest answer:
“They were moved to enlist, they say, by
a combination of factors. As freshmen and sophomores in high
school, some watched their country endure the attacks of Sept. 11,
2001, and wanted to do something in response. Others are
interested in money for college. Most say they sought discipline
and a chance to do meaningful work.”
Others are interested in money for college? How many
others? Answer: A lot.
In psychological research, it is well known that a bias known as
“self report” causes interviews such as this one to produce
misleading results. That is, we will give whatever explanation
makes us look good, receive rewards, or avoid punishment.
This doesn’t mean that our answers are
untrue, it just means that we keep to ourselves those motivations
that might not place us, our family or our comrades in the most
The fact that any of the marines interviewed by that reporter
admitted their real motivation for joining this violent
organization—to fund college and for other financial,
work-related or other pragmatic reasons—suggests that many more
would have given this answer if only it sounded a bit more
Saying they joined because they wanted to “do
something” after 9/11 sounds vague and rather absurd,
considering their age (many were high school freshmen or
sophomores three years ago) but a lot more socially acceptable.
But by this point, for those particular young people, it doesn’t
matter why they joined up—it’s too late to change their minds.
No matter how young or troubled and no matter how dishonestly they
were recruited, they are now the property of the US government.
In the only form of enslavement that’s legal
in the US, the military now owns them—body, mind and soul. And
once they’re in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever the next war may
be, they can be held against their will for as long as their
So much for all the Bush administration’s chatter about faith,
morality and family values: It wants to take your children from
you, change their moral values, and transform them into playing
pieces for its global game of Risk.
Luring Our Children into the Military Cult
I know kids who deeply regret signing up for the military, now
that Mission Accomplished is killing more and more young people as
every day goes by. Several admit now that they enlisted simply
because their families had no money for college.
One quiet, polite boy from a poor neighborhood used to tell my
daughter that he’d signed up because he needed “discipline”.
But over time, he started telling the truth: He didn’t know how
to get a job, and nobody in his family knew how to help him. His
father left a long time ago, and his mother is out of the picture.
He’s grown up with his grandparents, one of whom died this year,
sending him into a tailspin of confusion and loneliness.
As he saw it at the tender age of 17, his future was either
McDonald’s or the military. The “discipline” he thought he
needed was really direction, and hope. But in our conservatively
compassionate world, the only people who sought him out at his
high school were the military recruiters. Like all his friends,
this child wasn’t left behind when the men in uniform came to
I was sitting in a Virginia high school office a couple of years
ago when a recruiter approached another inner-city boy clothed in
ill-fitting jeans and a stained shirt:
“Hey, if you sign up today, you’ll get
a $5000 bonus, right away! Wouldn’t you like $5000? You know,
girls like guys who have a car. You could get a really cool used
car with $5000! I’ll be back after school, meet me here and
we’ll take care of the paperwork, okay?”
A Tennesse kid says that he enlisted because he didn’t think he
was “college material”—but now sees friends going to college
who made far worse grades than he did last year, when they were
high school seniors. “Now I think I could have gone to college!
But now I’m trapped.” A poor boy who’s about to be shipped
off to an Iraq “hotspot”, his voice is subdued, hopeless,
Two months ago, a Midwestern high school senior
announced that he signed up for the Marines because his anti-war
girlfriend broke up with him, and he knew this would upset her.
At the time he said "I don't care if I live or die, so why
not join the Marines and go to Iraq?"
Well now he's got a new girlfriend and no
longer feels nihilistic. But the die is cast: The Marines won't
understand that he was just enlisting on the rebound.
For all these teens who aren’t even old enough to buy liquor,
the decision to sign up is considered irrevocable. If they grow up
a bit, and realize that they have signed a piece of paper before
they’d learned how to do their own laundry, they are given no
opportunity to say, “I made a mistake; this isn’t for me”.
If they try to do so, they’ll
be hunted down like dogs, held up in the media as a coward or
a “deserter”, and court-martialed by that same military that
lured them in with promises of fast cars and pretty girlfriends.
Military ads appeal to confused kids who are looking for quick
money, a way out of dead end jobs, or a sense of purpose. Many, in
their poorly funded schools and impoverished neighborhoods, have
never felt important or worthy of respect.
This is the lure of today's humilation-focused
military: Sign yourself over to us, accept whatever we dish out in
perfect submission, and we’ll give you a prepackaged future (if
you survive) and a uniform that other people will respect.
Forget Faith-Based Values:
From Human Being to Recruit
Trouble is, the kind of “respect” that the young woman in the
photo is learning and has been promised from others, if she
survives the boot camp hazing, is nothing more than fear. This
fear instills the longing to one day be able to do to others as
others are now doing to us.
And so it goes with every youth who enters that
cult-like world of radical authoritarianism and leader-worship.
Rather than strengthening their minds and bodies through positive
coaching and training, today's imperial armies need willing
killers and cannon fodder in a hurry, so they've resorted to
classic brainwashing techniques perfected by China and the USSR
long ago, to purge conscience and instill the urge to hate, to
kill without qualm, and to
place oneself in harm's way without argument.
Even the strongest person may be unable to
resist brainwashing under the inescapable conditions of boot camp
and specialized training:
“It is a fallacy that intellectual awareness of what is
happening can always prevent a man from being indoctrinated. Once
he becomes exhausted and suggestible, or the brain enters the
“paradoxical” or “ultra-paradoxical” phases, insight can
be disturbed; even the knowledge of what to expect may be of
little help in warding off breakdown.
"And afterwards, he will rationalize
the newly-implanted beliefs and offer his friends sincere and
absurd explanations of why his attitude has changed so
William Sargent, MD, Battle
for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brain-Washing
From an individual, a human being with thoughts and feelings of
her own, the young woman in the photo is being transformed into a
“recruit”, a being who can be counted on to obey orders no
matter how heinous they may be.
A “recruit” in today’s military must
relinquish his or her soul to the Corps, or the Army, or the Air
Force, and stop thinking for him- or herself. By annihilating the
self, boot camp erases the morals and values learned at one’s
mother’s knee and in church for the morality of political and
military leaders, however virtuous or sinful. As the article
“You have taken a first step to become a member of the
world’s finest fighting force, the U.S. Marines,” he shouts.
He instructs them on military laws they must now obey – such as
disrespect through words, gestures or facial expressions not being
tolerated. “You will now become a team. You will train as a
team. The word 'I’ will no longer exist in your vocabulary. You
will now refer to yourselves as 'this recruit…’
The recruits make mandatory calls home, following a script posted
above the phones. It’s a one-way conversation: 'This is recruit
(state your name). I have arrived safely at Parris Island. Do not
send any food or bulky items. I will contact you within 3-5 days
via postcard with my address. Bye.'”
Take another look at that
photo of garden-variety degradation in the name of “elite”
Marine training, then look at this
photo. One is wearing orange, the other is wearing camouflage,
but both are undergoing an initiation, a hazing, a brainwashing.
While the purpose of the initiations are different—one is to
accept one’s new status as an obedient, submissive “enemy
combatant”, and one is to become an obedient, submissive
recruit—the process of breaking down the self and purging
one’s sense of decency, morality, and self-respect is the same.
Just because the Golden Rule is ignored doesn't mean its law isn't
operational: The urge to do to others as somebody has done to
them, becomes engrained in both.
Whether prisoner or guard, enemy or soldier,
when we abuse people we shouldn’t be surprised when they return
Dr. Teresa Whitehurst <DrTeresa@JesusontheFamily.org>
is a clinical psychologist and the author of Jesus on Parenting
(2004). She teaches parenting workshops, offers Nonviolent
Christianity seminars, and writes a column, Democracy, Faith and
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