San Francisco has long been known as a bastion of anti-war sentiment. And as the oft-repeated mantra goes, local peace activists support the troops, just not the mission.
But in recent years, the rhetoric has been ratcheted up to the point where the U.S. military itself, and by extension, the preservation of American security, has come under attack. Without the U.S. military and its citizen soldiers, American security would indeed be a thing of the past. Yet this hasn’t stopped San Francisco’s left-leaning leadership from trying to effect that very outcome.
The latest such attempt comes in the form of an anti-war textbook approved last month for use in San Francisco public schools. It was authorized by History/Social Studies Content Specialist Pete Hammer, who reviews new materials for the San Francisco Unified School District’s Office of Teaching and Learning. Titled “Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism” and originally written during the Gulf War, an updated version of the textbook is to be used as a supplement in high school social studies and history classes.
To call it a textbook is a misnomer for what it really is—a crudely drawn comic book filled with anti-American and anti-capitalist propaganda. The book’s author, John Hopkins University sociology professor Joel Andreas, doesn’t even pretend to provide a balanced view of American history. America is made out to the undisputed bad guy of the world, with no redeeming qualities and a military bent only on conquest and destruction. Conspiratorial “no blood for oil”-type themes run through the book, despite the fact that there has been no discernible oil advantage to America from its military involvement in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
The introduction of the book into the San Francisco public school curriculum comes via a donation of 4,000 copies from Bay Area peace activist Pat Gerber. With shining reviews from such leftist luminaries as Susan Sarandon, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan, an endorsement from the San Francisco Bay Guardian and a vigorous defense from Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval on the Fox News show “Hannity & Colmes” in January, “Addicted to War” comes highly recommended, in the eyes of the ideologically driven.
Since the books are considered a gift, their approval requires no action on the part of the San Francisco Board of Education—not that this would have impeded the book’s introduction into city classrooms. The school board has become known in recent years for its political partisanship.
The publisher of the book, Frank Dorrel, an Air Force veteran turned peacenik, makes no pretenses about where he thinks the sympathies of the San Francisco Unified School District lie. As he put it, “We’re really glad that the San Francisco School District, which is apparently against the war in Iraq, well not apparently, obviously is, has chosen to do this.”
Responding to criticism regarding his decision, Hammer maintains that teachers will not be required to use the textbook and that the school district is currently searching for books or other material that provide “different perspectives.” Here’s a thought: How about simply using a textbook that provides an objective view of American history and leaves the agitprop out of the equation?
The anti-war textbook fiasco comes on the heels of another blow to the military emanating from San Francisco’s public schools. Late last year, the school board voted 4-2 to phase out the 90-year-old JROTC program from the city’s schools over the next two years and replace it with “alternative leadership programs.”
The 1,600-plus students—many of them Asian American—who were enrolled in the JROTC were none too happy with the school board’s decision. Nor were their families. Many students took part in rallies to protest the ban and also expressed their opposition at the school board meeting at which it was decided.
The prime reason for the ban, according to the school board, is the U.S. military’s enforcement of the federal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy concerning gay service members. But, to quote an Associated Press article on the subject, the board’s “position was [best] summed up by a former teacher, Nancy Mancias, who said, ‘We need to teach a curriculum of peace.’” I’m sure Al Qaeda would agree.
If the deciding board members had been less driven by political bias and more by facts, they might have come to a different conclusion. For one thing, the JROTC does not enforce the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and, in fact, has openly gay students enrolled. As retired military personnel, instructors are not bound by the policy, either. The JROTC is not a military preparedness program, nor does it engage in recruiting. Its membership is entirely voluntary, and it provides students with valuable skills in leadership, discipline and community involvement. But such inconvenient truths apparently didn’t matter to the San Francisco school board.
SF Against the Military
Indeed, it seems that San Francisco’s reputation as a bastion of “tolerance” and “diversity” doesn’t extend to the U.S. military. The city has a history of anti-military conduct, including:
- The Board of Supervisors’ refusal in 2005 to allow the WWII-era USS Iowa to dock at the Port of San Francisco as a floating museum because it was dubbed a “celebration of war.”
- Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval appearing on “Hannity & Colmes” to defend the USS Iowa decision and claiming, with a straight face, that “the United States should not have a military.”
- Voters passing an initiative in 2004 demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
- Voters passing the “College Not Combat” initiative in 2005, which sought to ban military recruiters from schools and colleges, although, in reality, it had little or no effect.
- A contingent of anti-war groups, led by Code Pink, trying unsuccessfully in 2005 to get San Francisco radio station KMEL-FM to refuse Navy sponsorship for its annual Summer Jam in Mountain View.
No Draft, No Dice
Such actions have ramifications far beyond San Francisco. What’s really behind these local assaults on the U.S. military is an attempt by the anti-war movement to undermine the institution on a national level.
The anti-war movement has not yet succeeded in drumming up large-scale opposition to the war on terrorism, in part because it is a war of defense following the most brutal attack on this country’s soil in its history—but even more so because there is no draft. Opposing and, in many cases, evading, the draft was one of the prime motivations for anti-war activists during the Vietnam War. But despite the cynical efforts of such politicians as Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., to reintroduce the draft to make a political statement, the military has not yet felt the need to make that case. In fact, it is a widely held belief among both the military leadership and the rank and file that a volunteer force is the most effective.
The U.S. military continues to be a powerful engine for recruitment, as steady enlistment and re-enlistment rates and the generally high level of morale expressed by military personnel make clear. Camaraderie and commitment to the mission continue to be cited among military personnel as leading incentives.
Still, the anti-war movement has tried to paint this all-volunteer force as victims of the system, a view that many in the military find not only disingenuous but condescending. After all, anyone who signed up for the military after Sept. 11, 2001, knew full well what he or she was getting into.
Strategy of Indoctrination
Faced with the inevitable conclusion that the U.S. military cannot be incapacitated in its current state, anti-war activists have turned their sights on those most likely to fill its ranks: the next generation. Using anti-military and often anti-American indoctrination, the movement seeks to instill in children’s minds contempt for the U.S. military and, ultimately, for their own country. And what better place to begin that process than in the nation’s public schools?
The gradual takeover of the San Francisco school board by ideologues bent on such goals is a natural extension of this process. The counterrecruitment movement, which seeks to ban military recruiters and military programs such as the JROTC and the ROTC from campuses across the nation, is a way to erase the idea of duty to one’s country from the consciousness of American youth. In this way, the anti-war movement hopes to make a dent, if not put an end to, the present state of support for the military in American society.
But anti-war activists may want to be careful what they wish for. If they succeed in their goal of cutting down American military strength and, by extension, American power, they may just find themselves in a world they could only have imagined in their worst nightmares. A world without a strong America would be no utopia. Other, truly sinister powers would simply fill the void.
As the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War approaches and anti-war groups gear up to hold rallies across the country, it might behoove the movement to think about the consequences of its actions. Demanding an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, pushing to remove funding from military efforts and exaggerating the problems in Afghanistan only strengthen the enemies of freedom, while creating insecurity in burgeoning democratic governments. In this way, the actions of the anti-war movement may actually end up prolonging the conflicts.
The “troop surge” strategy implemented by President Bush appears to be having a positive effect in Iraq. So, too, changing military strategies in Afghanistan. Before declaring defeat, it is incumbent upon the United States, its allies and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to give victory a chance. Most important, we owe it to our men and women in uniform.