“U.S. is Recruiting Misfits for Army: Felons, Racists, Gang Members Fill in the Ranks.”
San Francisco Chronicle. 01 October 2006
By Nick Turse
After falling short of its goals last year, military recruiting in 2006 has been marked by upbeat pronouncements from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, claims of success by the White House, and a spate of recent press reports touting the military's achievement of its woman- and manpower goals.
But the armed forces have met with success only through a fundamental transformation, and not the transformation of the military -- that "co-evolution of concepts, processes, organizations and technology" that Rumsfeld is always talking about either.
While the secretary of defense's longstanding goal of transforming the planet's most powerful military into its highest-tech, most agile, most futuristic fighting force has, in the words of the Washington Post's David VonDrehle, "melted away," the very makeup of the armed forces has been mutating before our collective eyes under the pressure of the war in Iraq. This actual transformation has been reported, but only in scattered articles on the new recruitment landscape in America.
Last year, despite NASCAR, professional bull-riding and Arena Football sponsorships, popular video games that doubled as recruiting tools, TV commercials dripping with seductive scenes of military glory, a "joint marketing communications and market research and studies" program designed to attract, among others, dropouts and those with criminal records for military service, and at least $16,000 in promotional costs for each soldier it managed to sign up, the U.S. military failed to meet its recruiting goals.
This year, those methods have been pumped up and taken over the top in several critical areas that make the old Army ad tagline, "Be All You Can Be," into material for late-night TV punch lines of the future.
In 2004, the Pentagon published a "Moral Waiver Study," whose seemingly benign goal was "to better define relationships between pre-Service behaviors and subsequent Service success." That turned out to mean opening more recruitment doors to potential enlistees with criminal records.
In February, 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 rose by more than 54 percent, while alcohol and illegal drug waivers, reversing a four-year decline, increased by more than 13 percent.
In June, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that, under pressure to fill the ranks, the Army had been allowing into its ranks increasing numbers of "recruits convicted of misdemeanor crimes, according to experts and military records." 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."
One beneficiary of the Army's new moral-waiver policies gained a certain prominence this summer. After Steven Green, who served in the 101st Airborne Division, was charged in a rape and quadruple murder in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, it was disclosed that he had been "a high-school dropout from a broken home who enlisted to get some direction in his life, yet was sent home early because of an anti-social personality disorder."
Recently, Eli Flyer, a former Pentagon senior military analyst and specialist on the relationship between military recruiting and military misconduct, told Harper's magazine that Green had "enlisted with a moral waiver for at least two drug- or alcohol-related offenses. He committed a third alcohol-related offense just before enlistment, which led to jail time, although this offense may not have been known to the Army when he enlisted."
With Green in jail awaiting trial, the Houston Chronicle reported in August that Army recruiters were trolling around the outskirts of a Dallas-area job fair for ex-convicts.
"We're looking for high school graduates with no more than one felony on their record," one recruiter said.
The Army has even looked behind prison bars for fill-in recruits -- in one reported case, they went to a "youth prison" in Ogden, Utah. Although Steven Price had asked to see a recruiter while still incarcerated, he was "barely 17 when he enlisted last January" and his divorced parents say "recruiters used false promises and forged documents to enlist him."
While confusion exists about whether the boy's mother actually signed a parental consent form allowing her son to enlist, his "father apparently wasn't even at the signing, but his name is on the form too."
Law enforcement officials report that the military is now "allowing more applicants with gang tattoos," the Chicago Sun-Times reports, "because they are under the gun to keep enlistment up." They also note that "gang activity maybe 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 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 "gang-bangers are going over to Iraq and sending weapons back ... gang members are getting access to military training and weapons."
Earlier this year, it was reported that an expected transfer of 10,000 to 20,000 troops to Fort Bliss, Texas, caused FBI and local law enforcement to fear a turf war between "members of the FolkNation gang ... (and) a criminal group that is already well-established in the area, Barrio Azteca." The New York Sun wrote that, according to one FBI agent, "FolkNation, which was founded in Chicago and includes several branches using the name Gangster Disciples, has gained a foothold in the Army."
Another type of gang member has also begun to proliferate within the military, evidently thanks to lowered recruitment standards and an increasing tendency of recruiters to look the other way. In July, a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, found that because of pressing manpower concerns, "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" are now serving in 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, urging "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.' "
Apparently, the recruiting push has worked. Barfield reported that he and other investigators have identified a network of neo-Nazi active-duty Army and Marine personnel spread across five military installations in five states. "They're communicating with each other about weapons, about recruiting, about keeping their identities secret, about organizing within the military," he said.
Little wonder that Aryan Nation graffiti is now apparently competing for space with American inner-city gang graffiti in Iraq.
In the latter half of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military started to crumble from within and American troops began scrawling "UUUU" on their helmet liners -- an abbreviation that stood for "the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful."
With a growing majority of Americans opposed to the war in Iraq and even ardent hawks refusing to enlist in droves, new policies creating a lower-quality officer corps and the Pentagon pulling out ever more stops and sinking to new lows to recruit and train troops, a new all-volunteer generation of UUUU's may emerge -- the underachieving, unable, unexceptional, unintelligent, unsound, unhinged, unacceptable, unhealthy, undesirable, unloved and uncivil -- all led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful.
Current practices suggest this may well be the force of the future. It certainly isn't the new military Rumsfeld's been promising all these years, but there's no denying the depth of the transformation.
Full Article can be found here.