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Thursday, February 24


Kinder, Kirche und Kuchen". The US Military Gets Desperate

One of the most interesting things about blogs is the comments function. I was reading a post about military recruiting at US schools at Koufax award winner Body & Soul this morning and I came across this set of photos.

Apparently the Worcester, Mass. school board arranged to take local schoolchildren on a field trip to see a show called "Spirit of America". Seems perfectly appropriate for a school trip, doesn't it? A free day out, patriotically themed, with a stage show thrown in? The trouble is, Spirit of America is

"a free, patriotic, live-action show presented by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. Performed by more than 400 soldiers of the U.S. Army's elite ceremonial units, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," this free show features traditional and modern music, disciplined drill and historical narrative as Soldiers recap the heritage of our country in an inspiring and entertaining performance."

What it actually is, as shown in the pictures, is a barely concealed military recruiting fair. No Child Left Behind also compels US schools to provide details of all their pupils to military recruiters and children are being put under enormous pressure. The pressure to recruit on the recruiters themselves is getting more intense as fewer volunteers see joining up as an option:

"Very frankly, in a couple of places our recruiting pool is getting soft," said Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army's personnel chief. "We're hearing things like, 'Well, let's wait and see how this thing settles out in Iraq,' " he said in an interview. "For the active duty for '05 it's going to be tough to meet our goal, but I think we can. I think the telling year for us is going to be '06."

The US, along with the UK, still uses child soldiers. I personally have never been against the need for any nation to have some sort of defence force, indeed I've served myself, briefly; just so long as any such force is staffed by volunteers, adults who have made the decision to enlist of their own volition and in full awareness of the potential risks they face. Children under 18, pressured to enlist by recruiters like this, cannot possibly be said to have made such a informed decision, as by definition they are not of legal age. They can't even be trusted to have a beer.

Some students, like commenter the yeti, realise what's happening:

"I just got called by a USMC (not USMCPT, alas... ;-) recruiter tonight. I'm a senior in HS and I could fill a medium-sized room with all the mailings I've got, and I get one of these calls at least once a week. This guy in particular was persistent to the extreme. I consider myself pretty strong-minded, so I can't imagine how most of my classmates would react to him. It's very, deeply saddening to me.

And it's not like you can say, well, three of my state's national guard died yesterday, today W. refused to rule out military action against Iran, and kids across the country are saying you promise they won't have to go to war and they do anyway. Most kids my age aren't even equipped with these facts - that's why the recruiters are free to lead with, "how would you feel if you could get a free ride through college?" Subhuman, that's how I'd feel. Or else propagantastic."

Posted by: theyeti February 23, 2005 07:21 PM

So what have those children who are seduced by recruiters' promises, of free college, international travel and a lifetime career, got to look forward to? Ask Spc. Alexis Soto-Ramirez . Oh no, sorry you can't, he's dead by suicide after returning from Iraq.

Feb. 18, 2005 WASHINGTON -- Before he hanged himself with his bathrobe sash in the psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Spc.Alexis Soto-Ramirez complained to friends about his medical treatment.Soto-Ramirez, 43, had been flown out of Iraq five months before then because of chronic back pain that became excruciating during the war. But doctors were really worried about his mind. They thought he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving with the 544th Military Police Company, a unit of the Puerto Rico National Guard, the kind of unit that saw dirty, face-to-face combat in Iraq. A copy of Soto-Ramirez's medical records, reviewed by Salon, show that a doctor who treated him in Puerto Rico upon his return from Iraq believed his mental problems were probably caused by the war and that his future was in the Army's hands. "Clearly, the psychiatric symptoms are combat related," a clinical psychologist at Roosevelt Roads Naval Hospital wrote on Nov. 24, 2003. The entry says, "Outcome will depend on adequacy and appropriateness of treatment." Doctors in Puerto Rico sent Soto-Ramirez to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., to get the best care the Army had to offer. There, he was put in Ward 54, Walter Reed's "lockdown," or inpatient psychiatric ward, where the most troubled patients are supposed to have constant supervision.

But less than a month after leaving Puerto Rico, on Jan. 12, 2004, Soto-Ramirez was found dead, hanging in Ward 54. Army buddies who visited him in the days before his death said Soto-Ramirez was increasingly angry and despondent. "He was real upset with the treatment he was getting," said René Negron, a former Walter Reed psychiatric patient and a friend of Soto-Ramirez's. "He said: 'These people are giving me the runaround ... These people think I'm crazy, and I'm not crazy, Negron. I'm getting more crazy being up here."

It's not just schools either. The military is now using christian churches as a recruiting tool, as reported at shlonkom bakazay

"Even as I had already taken these photographs of something that I clearly know is wrong, hell we ended with “I‘m proud to be an American”, after a sermon and a combined rendition of all the services anthems. I was conflicted. I knew, and know that almost all of the people I’m depending on to bring this to light disagree with me on virtually every issue. I wasn’t going to release this unless they were recruiting. They were.

Jesus himself only got mad once. It was because merchants were using the church to sell their wares, he flipped their tables, seized a whip, and attacked them. This day the answer to “what would Jesus do?” is grab one of the m-16s laying around and start kneecapping. "
"As I leave you with the final images I plan to of two of the ancient flags that surrounded the stage, and The banner at the front door I have to express regret that even a very small portion of my country is as religiously militaristic as the whole world already believes it to be. I myself think of this as a huge fuster cluck of the balances that are already there being missed.

If you have any questions feel free to IM or PM me. I have huge 5 mega pixel raws to prove it was me. And if you still try to tell me this administration will not attack Iran, there is no way I would remotely believe you. And I even question how they will manage to do such an insane thing. Instead of a draft (at least for the mean time), we have such sick invasion of places of worship? I am not sure which is worse. Wow...wow...wow.

I'm truly speechless. This is very significant. This has to be illegal. How can this be?"

So, so far we have Kinder and Kirche. What about Kuche? The military is not yet as blatantly targeting women. But, according to the Rand corporations reccomendations they soon will be.

We recommended a number of actions to solve growing recruiting problems. Given our prediction of a shortfall in meeting the increased accession requirement, one was to increase recruiting resources, specifically by increasing budgets for advertising and educational benefits and by boosting the number of recruiters. Research shows these to be the most cost-effective resources for increasing the supply of high-quality enlistees. Another recommendation was to reduce the requirement for high-quality male accessions without prior service. This can be done by recruiting more women, accepting more prior-service accessions, or by lowering quality goals. Each of these options, however, has limits and costs that must be weighed against the costs of increasing recruiting resources"

More than 5,000 troops had deserted since the war began, CBS’s 60 Minutes reported last month. Many experts say that America’s 1.4 million active-duty troops and 865,000 part-timers are stretched to breaking point : the drain from the US military is heaviest among parttimers, who have been dragged en masse out of civilian life to serve their country with unprecedented sacrifice. For the first time in a decade, the Army National Guard missed its recruitment target by 5,000 this year. A further sign of strain can be seen in the Army’s decision this year to mobilise 5,600 former soldiers that can be mobilised theoretically only in a national emergency.

More than 183,000 National Guard and reserve troops are on active duty, compared with 79,000 before the invasion of Iraq. Forty per cent of the 138,000 troops in Iraq are part-timers who never expected to be sent to the front line. Instead, as a woman soldier pointedly reminded Donald Rumsfeld on his visit to Iraq they face “stop loss” orders that delay their return to civilian life. "Women in Uniform: Can They Save the Military?" (U.S. News & World Report, June 5, 1978) described how women are filling the post-draft manpower shortfall as sailors, parachute riggers, pilots, Minuteman missile crewmembers.

"Another soldier lost his court battle this week to stop the Army extending his one-year contract by at least two years. At least eight soldiers have turned to the courts, accusing the military of tricking them into enlisting for a fixed term without warning them that they could be forced to stay longer. Once they get out, soldiers are increasingly resisting hefty bonuses to re-enlist, an incentive that had helped to meet recruitment targets in the past. The crisis may be even deeper than the statistics suggest. Active-duty Army recruiters exceeded their target of 77,000 by 587 this year only by dipping into a pool of recruits who had not planned to report until next year, and by dropping educational standards, Mr Korb said.

At 10 per cent, the death rate among war casualties is the lowest in history. But maimed men and women are flocking home with horror stories about the war, which is claiming more and more casualties. Between June, when the Iraqi interim Government took over, and September, the average monthly casualty rate among US forces was 747 a month, compared with 482 during the invasion and 415 before the coalition government was disbanded. With elections looming next month, the toll is expected to mount.

Most soldiers keep their anger under wraps, partly out of patriotism but also out of loyalty to their units. “There’s a thin green line that you don’t cross,” said a veteran with the 4th Infantry, who deployed to Iraq last year to help to plan counterinsurgency operations and train Iraqi forces.

But at his home base in Fort Carson, Colorado, he has resisted a $10,000 re-enlistment incentive and plans to get out as soon as he can. He illustrates the long-term problem the Army faces. He served for five years, first in Korea, then in Iraq, where he was a combat soldier for almost a year. The Americans received little training for the counterinsurgency they face. “Every day you wake up alive, is a gift from above,” the soldier said. Few experts are surprised to hear that a recent army survey discovered that half the soldiers were not planning to re-enlist. Experts are divided over how stretched America’s military really is. But they agree that another conflict would put the military in overdrive. Another war would require a shift to a “no-kidding wartime posture in which everybody who could shoot was given a rifle and sent to the front,” according to John Pike, of GlobalSecurity.org."

Bush, in his European visit this week, said the idea of a strike on Iran was "Ridiculous" but seconds later reversed himself and said that "All options are still on the table". Condoleeza rice, regarded as her master's voice, has made similarly bellicose noises; there have also been reports of Special Forces squads having already being sent into Iran to reconnoitre. They are gearing up for war, but they don't have the troops.

From what has been reported so far it doesn't look as though many are being taken in by the military's increased recruiting efforts. rumour has it the Iran invasion is scheduled for June this year. How long before a draft?



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