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A NEW army recruitment drive was widely condemned yesterday for effectively conning vulnerable people into joining up through a “misleading” co-option of equalities language.
The advertising campaign claims that the army promotes equality, with recruits welcomed regardless of sexuality, gender or religion. It also suggests that support is available for soldiers who suffer emotional stress or mental health problems.
But the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) warned that the army “denies the most basic human rights to its employees, including the right to leave their job and the right to follow their conscience.”
The PPU pointed to research showing the damaging effects of military training on mental health, training to remove individuals’ aversion to killing, and called the move a desperate attempt to meet recruitment targets.
Britain is the only country in Europe to recruit people as young as 16 into the army.
PPU member Wayne Sharrocks, who was in the British army from 2006-2013, said: “Military training is a process of mental conditioning. Brutal physical punishments are common.
“Fear of questioning orders is instilled early on, while the army uses sophisticated techniques to remove the aversion to killing. All this has negative impacts on soldiers’ mental health.”
The recruitment drive was launched prior to a court case, set for February 16, in which 10 army instructors stand accused of mistreating trainees at the Army Foundation College at Harrogate in North Yorkshire.
PPU co-ordinator Symon Hill said: “The army’s new recruitment campaign is misleading and desperate. The army exists to engage in violence in the service of the Establishment, not to provide emotional support or to promote equality.
“The armed forces have been failing for years to meet their recruitment targets, which suggests that young people can see through the tacky adverts and recognise that the army is about violence and unquestioning obedience.”
The new recruitment campaign features potential recruits who are gay or Muslim, with the message that they are welcome in the forces.
The latest campaign, which will be broadcast on television, radio and digital platforms, has also drawn criticism from the army’s own.
Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said it was “neglecting the main group of people who are interested in joining” and will not solve the “recruiting crisis.”
Stop the War’s Chris Nineham said: “The idea that the army is a caring employer when it has over the last 16 years sent tens of thousands of troops into battle to face potential death or damage in a series of invasions and occupations is a travesty.
“An organisation committed to making people risk life and limb in foreign wars can hardly claim concern for its members’ welfare and safety and, indeed, several military families have approached us complaining of callous and sometimes brutal treatment of soldiers and veterans who have served in these wars.”
Young Communist League executive committee member Robin Talbot said: “The army talks about offering family and sense of belonging to recruits, but this rebranding is just another cynical attempt to take advantage of vulnerable young people who have nowhere else to go in our society.
“As opposed to providing family, belonging, good jobs and hope at home, the British capitalist state would rather brutalise them and make them into killers overseas on their behalf.”
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