A few weeks ago, Wisconsin peace activists successfully challenged the Army’s use of a “Virtual Army Experience” game, aimed at recruiting young people, at a lakefront music festival. As reported then, the festival asked the Army to shut down the game, which offered a chance to shoot at life-sized human targets from a Humvee, replace it with something less offensive, and set an age limit of 17 to participate.
Now comes the charge that by targeting young teenagers the Army is actually violating international law:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has found that Army use of the game, and its recruiting practice in general, violate international law. In May, the ACLU published a report that found the armed services “regularly target children under 17 for military recruitment. Department of Defense instruction to recruiters, the US military’s collection of information of hundreds of thousands of 16-year-olds, and military training corps for children as young as 11 reveal that students are targeted for recruitment as early as possible.
By exposing children under 17 to military recruitment, the United States military violates the Optional Protocol.” The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified by the Senate in December 2002, protects the rights of children under 16 from military recruitment and deployment to war. The US subsequently entered a binding declaration that raised the minimum age to 17, meaning any recruitment activity targeted at those under 17 years old is not allowed in the United States.
Before complaints from Peace Action-Wisconsin, Veterans for Peace and others, recruiters at Summerfest were allowing teens as young as 13 to “play” the “game” and collecting their personal information, for recruiting purposes, before issuing them a card that gave them access to the tent with the Humvee, machine guns and lifesize targets moving on a big screen. The Army first raised the age at Summerfest, but ended up shutting down the game and replacing it with a tamer offering with stationary targets and no Humvee.
By the time the Army’s exhibit opened at a Duluth air show, the Army had raised the age limit to 17. Here’s a link to a report from Yahoo gaming news on protests over the game in Milwaukee and Duluth, and a report from a Duluth area activist.