Saturday, September 16, 2006

An Army Of Scum

Nick Turse is back at TomDispatch after a turn with the Los Angeles Times. With clear Turse style he pulls back the tarpaulin on the US military recruiting with an article entitled The Dirty Dozen.

Earlier this year, the Army admitted that, to maintain desperately needed numbers, it was forgoing almost any measure of quality when it came to its officer corps. According to 2005 Pentagon figures, 97% of all eligible captains were promoted to major -- a significant jump from the already historically high average of 70-80%. "The problem here is that you're not knocking off the bottom 20%," one high-ranking Army officer at the Pentagon told the Los Angeles Times. "Basically, if you haven't been court-martialed, you're going to be promoted to major."
Even a 70% promotion flow is huge and most armies would consider that rate excessive.

... two Virginia-based companies, Serco and MPRI Inc., "have more than 400 recruiters assigned across the country, and have signed up more than 15,000 soldiers. They are paid about $5,700 per recruit."


While an Army report recommended continuing the $170 million program, it also noted that the civilian headhunters "enlisted a lower quality of recruit."


Undersecretary of Defense Chu admitted in July that almost 40% of all military recruits scored in the bottom half of the Armed Forces' own aptitude test.


Ohio recruiters were quick to sign up a recruit "fresh from a three-week commitment in a psychiatric ward… even after the man's parents told them he had bipolar disorder -- a diagnosis that would disqualify him." After senior officers found out, the mentally ill man's enlistment was canceled, but in "[i]nterviews with more than two dozen recruiters in 10 states," the Times heard others talk of "concealing mental-health histories and police records," among other illicit practices.


Army recruiters, using hard sell tactics and offering thousands of dollars in enlistment bonus money, signed up an autistic teenager "for the Army's most dangerous job: cavalry scout." The boy, who had been enrolled in "special education classes since preschool" and through "a special program for disabled workers…ha[d] a part-time job scrubbing toilets and dumping trash," didn't even know the U.S. was at war in Iraq until his parents explained it to him after he was first approached by a recruiter. Only following a flurry of negative publicity, did the Army announce that it would release the autistic teen from his enlistment obligation.
Those are just some of the sad examples. Then they go from recruiting those who have no control over a condition which should preclude their enlistment to those with serious character flaws.

In February of this year, the Baltimore Sun wrote that there was "a significant increase in the number of recruits with what the Army terms ‘serious criminal misconduct' in their background" -- a category that included: "aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats." From 2004 to 2005, the number of those recruits had spiked by over 54%, while alcohol and illegal drug waivers, reversing a four-year downward trend, increased by over 13%.


In fact, as the military's own data indicated, "the percentage of recruits entering the Army with waivers for misdemeanors and medical problems has more than doubled since 2001."


According to the Chicago Sun-Times, law enforcement officials report that the military is now "allowing more applicants with gang tattoos because they are under the gun to keep enlistment up." They also note that "gang activity may be rising among soldiers." The paper was provided with "photos of military buildings and equipment in Iraq that were vandalized with graffiti of gangs based in Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities."

Last month, the Sun-Times reported that a gang member facing federal charges of murder and robbery enlisted in the Marine Corps "while he was free on bond -- and was preparing to ship out to boot camp when Marine officials recently discovered he was under indictment." While this particular recruit was eventually booted from the Corps, a Milwaukee Police Detective and Army veteran, who serves on the federal drug and gang task force that arrested the would-be Marine, noted that other "[g]ang-bangers are going over to Iraq and sending weapons back… gang members are getting access to military training and weapons."


In July, a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, found that -- due to pressing manpower concerns -- "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" are now serving the military. "Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces and commanders don't remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members," said Scott Barfield, a Defense Department investigator quoted in the report.

The New York Times noted that the neo-Nazi magazine Resistance is actually recruiting for the U.S. military "urg[ing] skinheads to join the Army and insist on being assigned to light infantry units." As the magazine explained, "The coming race war and the ethnic cleansing to follow will be very much an infantryman's war… It will be house-to-house… until your town or city is cleared and the alien races are driven into the countryside where they can be hunted down and ‘cleansed.'"
Turse goes further to describe the transformation of the US military to something other than the high-tech force that Rumsfeld was looking for.

Billmon adds even more.

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