Wednesday, Feb. 27 the Multicultural Affairs Committee (MCAC) brought Iraq War veteran John Knox from Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) to the Coffeehouse where he shared his opinion on the U.S. Army and the war in Iraq. Knox is originally from a small town in Wisconsin and is currently studying biology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh after serving in the Army for four years. Knox first discussed the demographics of those in the Army as well as recruiters’ tactics. The bulk of new army recruits’ parents make a combined $30,000-50,000 a year and are from Texas, he said. Knox described an exponential correlation in which the more money a family makes the less likely they are to have children in the Army. “Very few families making $100,000 a year have children in the Army,” he stated plainly. Many advantages of the Army such as health care, food and a place to live are appealing to low-income families.
“Recruiters themselves are masters of the English language…real wordsmiths. They show you everything appealing about the Army, dehumanizing the real aspects. They never mention the disadvantages of the Army-the violence, isolation, or loss of citizen rights,” Knox said of recruiting tactics. “Being in the Army was for me like fantasy or make-believe; nothing ever seemed real. They have many recruiting stations where you can simulate gun shooting but in reality killing someone is nothing like a video game.”
Under the No Child Left Behind Act recruiters can look up any student’s information, including their extra-curricular activities, Knox said. Recruiters then cater their strategies to each student’s individual interests. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has limited the number of times that recruiters can come on campus to three times per year, and the University of California-Berkeley has decreased the Army’s influence on campus almost completely.
Knox was in western Iraq from February through October of 2004 working as an Army truck driver. Upon his return, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). He reported that one in three Iraq veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, and added that speaking in the Coffeehouse last week was a part of his therapy.
“The purpose of the military is to wage war and cause destruction. When you are trying to win their hearts and minds, military action just doesn’t work. Giving people $5000 for every son you kill does nothing in the long run. The utter dehumanization, the utter despair of life, they were always called all kinds of ethnic slurs.you could get away with anything. It was like the old West in that way. It all made me really start to wonder why we were there,” Knox said.
When asked about the accuracy of the news coverage pertaining to the war Knox replied, “It is absolutely one-sided and we deserve to be informed about what our government is doing. I like to think of the media as babysitters. The news when we were in Iraq was locked on Fox News just as propaganda to fuel the war machine.”
IVAW will hold a convention, “Winter Soldier,” in Washington, D.C. March 13-16. “We hope to bring to light the military atrocities that have really devastated a lot of places. People need to understand that Abu Ghraib and Haditha are not isolated events,” Knox said of the event. IVAW is attempting to create a space where service members “can testify to the criminal nature of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and how the occupations are destroying the United States military. IVAW will show that the service members who fight in these occupations are not the criminals, the occupations are criminal,” stated IVAW’s website.