Sunday, April 10, 2005

Uncle Sam's Desperation

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army, stung by recruiting shortfalls caused by the Iraq war, has raised the maximum age for new recruits for the part-time Army Reserve and National Guard by five years to 39, officials said on Monday. The Army said the move, a three-year experiment, will add about 22 million people to the pool of those eligible to serve, from about 60 million now. Physical standards will not be relaxed for older recruits, who the Army said were valued for their maturity and patriotism. The Pentagon has relied heavily on part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers summoned from civilian life to maintain troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roughly 45 percent of U.S. troops currently deployed for those wars are reservists. At home, the all-volunteer Army has labored to coax potential recruits to volunteer for the Guard and Reserve as well as for active-duty, and to persuade current soldiers to re-enlist when their volunteer commitment ends.” Reuters News Service 03-21-05

The AmeriKKKan Empire is desperate. It needs cannon fodder for the endless wars, “interventions” and crusades the ruling elites have in store for the masses, however due to its bungling of the Iraq war and occupation, recruits are getting harder and harder to come by. Black folks, long a good supply of soldiers because the military offered better options and opportunities than the class, race and color biased general society, have now abandoned it to the tune of a 41% drop in enlistments during Bush’s crusade for oil and empire. Things are so bad the U.S. Army is going to extend the maximum age for new recruits five years from 354 to 39 years old! The move will theoretically add more people to the potential pool of recruits. However if things keep going in Iraq and in a more limited way in Afghanistan they will have to either raise the age limit even higher or reinstate the draft. While to most politicians the idea of restoring the draft, at least publicly, is anathema; this option is being seriously considered. For politicians, the decision to reinstate the draft is so touchy; it has overtaken Social Security as the proverbial third rail of politics! They are fearful of rousing the sleeping giant of anti-war, anti-draft mass protests and resistance that thwarted the military/ politician axis from continuing the feckless Viet Nam disaster that polarized the nation during the late ‘60's and early ‘70's. While the politicians are loath to cast the vote to revitalize an inequitable system that tramples the freedom and career choices of young people sending them to die in another unpopular example of imperial over reach, the imperial war machine needs more fodder. Quietly behind the scenes think tanks and policy makers are studying ways to shore up the military so our bungling emperor has more grist for his imperial mill. Activists are pondering ways to circumvent what they see as the inevitability of a reinstated draft.
In a thought provoking article in the March issue of Washington Monthly Phillip Carter and Paul Glastris entitled, The Case For The Draft lay out the how and why AmeriKKKa faces a shortfall in its imperialist military forces and offer several scenarios how to remedy the situation. Reinstatement of the draft is one of them. In an extensive article on the Counter Punch (www.CounterPunch.com ) Website Tom Reeves offers a compelling argument why some form of draft or universal service/conscription will be forth coming and what peace, anti-draft and anti-war activists must do to prepare to get ahead of the curve. Reeve acknowledges the drop in African-American recruits but also notes the Iraq War is a class war, drawing its’ cannon fodder more from the ranks of poor and working class whites than people of color. He speculates but does not prove there is a movement afoot to whiten the military, ostensibly to prevent what happened during the Viet Nam debacle where black soldiers revolted refusing to kill people who looked like them. “So what's going on? Is the army in the field whitening again? Is there an unwritten policy to cleanse some parts of the military of Blacks and other minorities--whether to satisfy Black feelings that they are bearing too much of the burden, or to avoid a return to the Vietnam situation where so many Black soldiers resisted and rebelled against an unjust war where they felt they had to kill people of their own or a similar race? A close look at the military reveals a very major racial shift since the Gulf War--and one that has not yet been widely acknowledged. Charles Moskos says military recruiting is now much more aggressive in rural areas than in urban ghettos. The result is clear in the make-up of the military. While general enlistment of Blacks has now fallen from 30% (at its height in the late 1990s) to about 13% today, the re-enlistment level for Blacks has remained far greater than that of whites. This is especially true for those in non-combat units, especially communications and unit administration. Moskos says that of the 45,586 combat infantry in the army in 2003, 10.6% were black; of the 12,000 air force pilots, 2%; and of the Green Berets, 5%. ‘The U.S. forces fighting the wars today are disproportionately white,’ said experts quoted in USA Today (1/20/03). Moskos told me (email correspondence, February 2004), ‘The portion of Blacks in combat units has been shrinking for two decades. Special Forces are almost all white now. The high black numbers are in supporting roles. Even Black enlistment over all has been declining for the past two years--perhaps due to anti-Iraq and anti-Bush feelings among Blacks.’ (Counter Punch 03-19-05). The fact articles like the ones in Washington Monthly and Counter Punch are openly discussing the situation means it is a severe problem for the empire; one the hiring of more contract employees ( a.k.a. mercenaries the stock and trade of empires past and present) will never solve. As the problem (from the warmonger’s perspective) becomes more acute, look for a reinstatement of some form of universal conscription/service/skills draft.

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