NOBODY'S RECRUITS: Computer warriors for the American empire

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

NASA will bomb the moon soon, ostensibly to stir up dust that can be tested for useful materials. But all NASA space exploration now has a dual purpose, civilian + military. Predator drones are unmanned weapon systems that burn up children in the Pashtun tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but are controlled by men sitting at computers in the American desert, and ordered to strike by men sitting at computers in Florida.

Military planners must have hoped that distancing the killers from the killed would help soldiers overcome the natural disinclination humans have for killing one another. Research after WWII indicated that, when the time came to pull the trigger, an astonishing number of soldiers just couldn't bring themselves to do it. So much for "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes."

However, it now emerges that technicians operating remote drones suffer from PTSD, too, because the video imagery of their human targets is high resolution, and they can clearly see the people they are bombing. Another problem is that the highly trained pilots who are assigned to the job saw themselves as potential "Top Guns" who would be swooping around in real aircraft enjoying the thrill that comes with that. Sitting hunched over a screen wasn't what the recruiter promised them when they were enlisting.

And recruiters are suffering from work related stress of their own. The Army investigated a rash of suicides among recruiters, and the investigation led to a stand-down day where recruiters were ordered to take a break from their regular duties and attend training on stress reduction. The study showed a major factor was pressure on recruiters, many of them vets of Iraq and Afghanistan, to lie and cheat in order to meet their quotas.

Solution? Computer technology to the rescue again! The Army Experience Center (AEC) is a multi-million dollar video game arcade located in Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, an area with plenty of low-income youth to recruit. According to its website the AEC offers "SIMULATORS: Volunteer for a mission and become part of the action...take part in an authentic battle scenario with equipment modeled after genuine Army vehicles, aircraft and weapons." (Black Hawk, HMMWV & Apache are the models shown.) In addition, the gaming arena houses "79 gaming stations, including 19 brand new Xbox 360 consoles...or just enjoy an afternoon as a virtual Soldier."

Gamers can capture a photo of their simulator experience, then retrieve the photo from the AEC website later, if they are at least age 13 and register with the AEC. Community groups can reserve the Tactical Operations Center for their meetings in order to utilize its high tech presentation and communication software. A community group of CODEPINK members and others shut down the AEC earlier this year and continues to work for its closure on the grounds that recruiting that targets children is wrong.

The Army says the AEC was designed to "...shatter outdated stereotypes and start new career conversations." It also appears to be designed to capitalize on video game addicted American teenagers, many of whom have trouble earning high school diplomas. The AEC can help with that, too. Phase 4 Learning, billed as "a non- traditional approach to earning a high school diploma and preparing for the future," shows teenagers in front of -- guess what -- computer monitors. Other photos of the center show teens milling around, with captions explaining that they are waiting to use the simulators.

Using computers to recruit is a way around problems identified by vet Danny White of Martinez, CA: "As a former Army recruiter, I can say that most servicepeople would prefer not to go to schools but are compelled to comply by their chain of command. Most recruiters would not be in recruiting at all if they had a choice. The majority are selected to serve and have no practical way to avoid the duty."

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