When it comes to a reputation for selling snake oil, surely the army recruiter has long been right down there in the muck with the used car salesman and the patent medicine huckster. It's common knowledge that the promises made by recruiters about postings and future positions and training are worthless, and that once someone signs on as a recruit, her or his fate is at the whim of the military. That said, recruiters these days, desperate to fill the pipeline to Iraq's slaughterhouse with new bodies, are resorting to an interesting new spiel this days.


Word comes in from students in the Philadelphia area that recruiters at area high schools are warning them to enlist now, when they can pick the type of service they'd like to do, "because there’s a draft coming next year and then you’ll have no choice."


It's an interesting come-on because the White House and Pentagon keep saying that there are no plans for a draft.


Granted, two years ago they began a crash program at the Selective Service System to rebuild the local and regional draft boards, which had been allowed to languish for years with seats going unfilled, and which are essential to a functioning system of conscription. And granted that this year was the worst year for enlistments and reenlistments for all branches of the uniformed services since Vietnam, with even the Marines failing to reach their quota, and with the army raising its maximum enlistment age from 35 to 42.


Still, a draft would be a bitter pill for elected officials in 2006, especially with the entire House up for re-election and with support for the war in Iraq now in the toilet.


So we’re left with two alternatives: either the recruiters know something that the rest of us and our elected political leadership in Congress don't know, or there is no draft coming next year and the recruiters are using lies to scare young kids into signing on the dotted line.


If it's the former, it's time for our representatives to hold hearings to find out what's up. If it's the latter, schools should be banning the recruiters from high school campuses and from college information fairs, just as they would if an unaccredited school were lying and saying it offers an accredited degree. Lying recruiters have no place in a school, even if the “No Child Left Behind” law mandates that schools provide the names, addresses and home phone numbers of all high school juniors and seniors to recruiters.


While they’re at it, schools should all get their act together and provide every student aged 16 and up with an opt-out form as provided by law, so that they or their parent(s) can return it and have that child’s contact information kept from recruiters.


A growing grassroots movement of students and parents is resulting in more and more students turning in such forms. The principle’s office in my school district of Upper Dublin, PA reports that this year a significant percentage of the junior and senior class have turned in the opt-out forms that were sent out as part of a back-to-school school information last August. In Montclair, NJ, 94 percent of the junior and senior class reportedly opted out this year, giving recruiters a pretty small group to harangue.


For information about protecting your child from these deceitful and threatening recruiters of cannon-fodder for Bush’s Iraq War, contact the American Friends Service Committee’s National Youth and Militarism Movement office. (Their website has an opt-out form that can be downloaded and printed out, to be turned in to your local high school or school board.)


For other stories by Lindorff, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .