Thursday, August 4, 2011

Training Teens to Tackle Terrorists

Hundreds of Explorer Scouts from all over California are in San Diego this week being trained how to be cops. The training includes “crowd control” of a simulated riot on the UCSD campus, at the Residential Hall of 6th College, with sheriff deputies masquerading as “rioters” and the use of a police helicopter, according to the OB Rag. They will also be trained in arrest techniques, ethics, shooting at a firing range, gangs, domestic violence, and narcotics. 

As the Rag correctly implies, this training is more about social control and propaganda than making our communities safer or providing serious job training for youth. Choosing the university as the site of the simulated riot reinforces the stereotype that universities are dangerous hotbeds of radicalism and that college students are not to be trusted.

In light of the massive looting of the public sector, attacks on unions and working people, and overall decimation of living standards for 90% of Americans, one should certainly expect civil unrest. Yet the economic crisis has been due in large part to white collar and corporate crimes, few of which of have been investigated and even fewer prosecuted. The scouts are unlikely to receive any training in this. Furthermore, the majority of scouts come from families who are among the 90% of Americans who are getting squeezed by the recession, who are losing their jobs or homes. Rather than ignoring this simmering cauldron of discontent, the Explorer program is converting them into dutiful servants of the state, who will jump when called to protect the private property of the wealthy.

Militarization of America’s Youth
The Explorer Scouts program is overseen by an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America called Learning for Life. For several years now they have been training teens in counter terrorism and immigration control, the New York Times reported back in 2009. According to the Times, the training includes chasing down illegal border crossers, facing down terrorists, taking out school shooters and raiding marijuana plantations.

All of these activities involve a huge leap from traditional Boy Scout training and are not simply the product of a few renegade scout leaders. The program has been supported by the Department of Homeland Security, which has sought to “offer a program consistent with the aims and objectives of the Learning for Life organization.” Mark Sullivan, director of the Secret Service, is on the Explorers board of directors and the Secret Service is involved in a partnership with the Explorers program.

When one considers the types of training the scouts are receiving, a more accurate statement would be that the Learning of Life organization is seeking a program consistent with the aims and objectives of the Department of Homeland Security (i.e., fighting terrorists, drug dealers, protesters and illegal immigrants).

None of this training is particularly useful if the goal is to produce effective police cadets, as none of these are significant problems in terms of overall crime or police responsibilities. There is little or nothing in the training to prepare scouts to address driving violations, domestic disputes, theft, hate crimes, or disaster and emergency response. But the training is useful if the goal is to produce a paramilitary force for suppressing civil unrest and terrorizing immigrant communities.

Hitler Youth in America?
The Explorers program is like the Boy Scouts on steroids, with its emphasis on weapons training, interrogation and the rounding up of civilians. It also bears an uncanny resemblance to the Hitler Youth, which recruited boys aged 14-18, indoctrinating them in the propaganda of the Nazis and training them to fight faithfully for the Third Reich. The Hitler Youth also had a parallel with the Boy Scouts, developing after the Scouts were banned and taking over many of their activities.

However, it seems that the right wing gun nuts and conspiracy theorists have glommed onto this story more than anyone, feeding into their hysteria that the government is trying to take away their guns. They love the Hitler analogy, particularly as it feeds into their delusion that Obama is both a socialist and a Nazi. Some even call the Explorers the Obama Youth, in homage to the Hitler-Jugen. In one Explorer training, scouts had to take down a deranged Iraq war vet, further fueling their paranoia that the program is an attack on patriotic Americans, rather than a general assault on civil liberties and freedom of association, and specifically an attack on immigrants and rebellious youth and workers.

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