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That's Militainment

Local Matters


Published March 23, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Two years to the day after the U.S. military launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, more than 100 protesters showed up at Burlington City Hall Sunday afternoon to mark the anniversary with speeches, signs, a march up Church Street and calls for an immediate end to the U.S. occupation. The rally coincided with more than 800 other protests in cities across the country, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators. In the last two years, the Iraq War has claimed the lives of more than 1500 Americans and, according to estimates by international human-rights groups, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians.

Among the handful of speakers at the protest was Peggy Luhrs of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Luhrs, who also belongs to the Queer Liberation Army, offered a creative theory on how the U.S. government convinces working-class Americans to support a war that is fundamentally against their best interests: by convincing young males that the only way to become a man is by learning to kill.

How is this accomplished? According to Luhrs, the U.S. military blends sexuality, warfare and entertainment into a form of propaganda the European press has recently dubbed "militainment." From USO shows featuring scantily clad women and A&E's newly launched "Military Channel" to a U.S. Army recruitment ad that doubles as a video game, the military is blurring the lines between recreation and reality.

"We are creating an insane, psychosexual mindset among our soldiers," Luhrs told the receptive crowd, "and these men will be dangerous to women and their families when they come home."

Sunday's rally in Burlington was modest in size compared to the massive street demonstration against the war two years ago. From the protesters' point of view, there wasn't much uplifting news to report, either. Except one report from a representative of "UVM Students Against the War" apparently, military recruiters had such a tough time at a recent student career fair they asked that their exhibitor fee be reimbursed.