15 May is International Day on Conscientious Objection. This issue of The Broken Rifle introduces War Resisters’ International’s theme for CO day 2008: conscientious objection for professional soldiers and countering military recruitment. Both issues are closely related: with the trend to abolishing (or suspending) conscription, at least Western militaries increasingly rely on professional, “voluntary” soldiers. To achieve recruitment targets, the military has to promote its “job” more than in the past: the military is present in schools, at recruitment fairs, unemployment offices, and generally in public spaces. It might sound paradox: the abolishment of conscription leads to a militarisation of all aspects of everyday life in the name of military recruitment.
No surprise then that military does not always tell the truth, or the full picture, when it comes to recruitment. Wars, and the prospect of dying in a war, or of killing others, do not sell that well, and generally turn into a problem when professional militaries try to recruit.
Based on those military lies people sign up for contracts which are very different from normal employment contracts. For a start, you can’t get out when you want. Conscientious objection is therefore needed as much for professional soldiers as it is for conscripts, but very few countries recognise this right. They argue that nobody is being forced to join, so why should people have the right to conscientiously object?
It is important for us as conscientious objection movements and war resisters to recognise that it is important to support those who conscientiously object to war, even though they might have joined the military voluntarily previously. It is therefore important that we do offer our support.