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Armed forces criticised for glamorising war in ads

LONDON - The British armed forces have been criticised for their recruitment techniques in a new report that says marketing materials glamorise warfare to children and fail to highlight the risks of military careers.

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The report, 'Informed Choice? Armed Forces Recruitment Practice in the United Kingdom', looked at the information provided to potential recruits to assess whether it enabled them to make an informed choice about enlistment.

It says that children as young as seven are being targeted by recruitment techniques such as schools visits, literature and internet resources, as well as local cadet forces, and says that jobs in the military are promoted as "glamorous and exciting" and that "warfare is portrayed as game-like and enjoyable".

It found that recruitment literature for Army careers emphasised benefits such as an active lifestyle, travel and comradeship, but that it omitted to mention or obscured the ethical issues over killing, risks to physical and mental health, the legal obligations of enlistment and other negatives.

The report is also critical about literature that suggests soldiers are highly satisfied with military life, when research has shown that the majority have an ambivalent attitude to their careers.

It concludes that recruitment literature should include "unambiguous information about legal obligations; discharge options for minors; the need to consider ethical issues such as killing before enlistment" and other measures. Other recommendations are that outreach to children be de-linked from recruitment activity and that literature for parents and guardians should include advice on supporting children.

The Ministry of Defence hit back at some of the claims, accusing the report of selective interpretation and using some out-of-date evidence.

A spokeswoman said: "Our recruitment practices avoid 'glamorising war' and we refute any allegation that they depict warfare as 'game-like'. Anyone considering a career in the armed forces is presented with clear information and all aspects of service life are discussed in detail, following a sensitive recruitment process.

"The services do not target people under the age of 16. The recruiting process is designed to protect the interests of the applicants at every stage, regardless of age."

The MoD said that there had been a 4.3% increase in the number of new recruits joining the armed forces in the 12 months to September 30 2007.

The report was written by David Gee, a researcher who spent eight years working for Quaker Peace & Social Witness. It was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

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