Aftermath, part one

Detail from a cartoon by David Hitch The T&G ran an editorial cartoon about the project today. (Detail: Kevin Ksen saying “Strange . . . do you feel a draft?”)

Speaking of a draft, yesterday I spoke with many supportive Worcester folks, and one of them told me stories of the people she’d met who grew up poor or were black and who said, “The military gave me a chance when nobody else would!”

When your country is set up so that poor or black people are dying so that rich or white people don’t have to, that’s bullshit.

Some peaceniks say, “If we had a draft, we wouldn’t be in Iraq today,” but I’m not so sure. I do think that a draft would be more fair than the so-called “poverty draft” we have today. (Though the sons of the truly powerful were able to dodge the old draft well enough.)

4 thoughts on “Aftermath, part one”

  1. Again Mike you are pontificating on a subject you know little about.

    African-Americans, for example, are slightly underrepresented in combat roles. The Army and Navy have long logistical tails, and the majority of soldier and sailors are assigned an MOS that supports warfighters.

    So you would deny poor Americans an opportunity for social and economic parity with the rest of the country?

  2. Thanks for helping me think through this.

    It doesn’t seem fair when desperation drives a person to take a dangerous job. Life isn’t fair, but part of what God wants us to do is make things better.

    All of the anecdotes I heard yesterday had this subtext of, “Society has denied me things because I’m black, so how dare you judge me for making choices to better myself?” And my response would be, “You’re right, I shouldn’t judge you, but I will judge society for limiting your options.”

    Sorry for thinking out loud about these conversations without detailing them first. I should have another cup of coffee.

  3. And some pie…

    My point was, however, that the majority of military jobs aren’t dangerous under ordinary circumstances. To be fair, in Iraq even “rear echelon” postings can be dangerous, but combat roles are only part of service and in a voluteer service you get to pick your job or MOS before you sign. If you are going to advise kids, tell them to get all the recruiter’s promises in writing before they sign.

    When I was in boot camp the first recruit that used the word “black” in reference to someone’s skin color was made an example of. The poor kid didn’t mean anything malicious by it, but the DIs wanted to make a point. We were told there was no black or white in the Corps, you were either light green or dark green. It was amazing how refreshing it was to refer to each other this way, it carried no psychological baggage. Later we had “Hit Skills” training, and the DI matched up all the Southern good old boys against kids from the inner city. All the crackers got their butts kicked and suddenly everybody got along fine. The DIs knew what they were doing.

    I wish I could relay all the stories of what I saw, but if society as a whole could function that way, race would be a forgotten issue. Can you see why a poor kid regardless of race might actually want to enlist?

  4. Derrick Z. Jackson, in today’s Boston Globe:

    Military sociologist David R. Segal was asked Monday over the telephone what he hears in his surveys of soldiers. He quoted an African-American veteran of the Iraq invasion and occupation: “This is not a black people’s war. This is not a poor people’s war. This is an oilman’s war.”


    This war, launched under false pretenses, now has so little merit that the enrollment of African-Americans in the military may be at its lowest point since the creation of the all-volunteer military in 1973. In 2000, 23.5 percent of Army recruits were African-American. By 2005, the percentage dropped to 13.9 percent. National Public Radio this week quoted a Pentagon statistic that said that African-American propensity to join the military had dropped to 9 percent.

    Technically, 13.9 percent is about the proportion of African-Americans in the general population. But the military’s meritocracy has long been a disproportionate option for young African-Americans because of a disproportionate lack of career opportunities and decent public schools to prepare them for college.

    The drop in African-American enrollment in the military may be as powerful a collective political statement about Iraq as when Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted during the Vietnam War. Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, major polls showed that African-American support for the invasion was as low as 19 percent, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, while white support ran between 58 percent and 73 percent in major polls.

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