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Military: numbers of black recruits dropping like a stone

The AP reports that between job prospects opening up and family members pressuring them not to join up for Dear Leader’s Military Adventures, young black men and women aren’t ready to sign on the dotted line.

According to the Pentagon, the number of new black recruits for active duty and reserves has declined 38% since 2001.

Walking past the Army recruiting station in downtown Washington, D.C., this past week, Sean Glover said he has done all he can to talk black relatives out of joining the military.

“I don’t think it’s a good time. I don’t support the government’s efforts here and abroad,” said Glover, 36.

Glover doesn’t have to try too hard — who can blame young black men and women from steering away from the military with news like this:

In desperation, military suggests foot patrols can be safer than Humvees, tanks. The surge is really working out well for our troops in harm’s way, huh?

Top US commanders in Iraq have been encouraging soldiers in Baghdad to “get out and walk.”

In fact — they’ve been using those very words. According to Friday’s LA Times, a counterinsurgency guidance memo “released last week by Army Lt. Gen Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of day-to-day military operations, urges Iraqi and American troops to ‘get out and walk.’

“I would rather go out without any armor or gear,” one soldier told the Times. “If an EFP [explosively formed penetrator, or projectile] hits the vehicle, you are dead anyway no matter how much armor you have. It can take out an Abrams tank; these 1114 [armored Humvees] are nothing.”

Back to the subject at hand though, I think it’s obvious why fewer blacks are joining the military. If you’ve tuned in on the TV or gone to the movies, you’ve seen the tack that the ads have taken (showing “patriotic” black parents talking to their sons about signing up) I’m sure these have left a bitter taste in many black families’ mouths.

The aggressive, misleading recruiting in poor black areas has not gone unnoticed, either. You’ll recall how in Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore showed recruits trolling the low-income areas and strip malls where young minority men frequent (as opposed to the suburban white well-to-do malls where no kids showed interest). From F9/11, the outlandish recruiting tactics in Moore’s hometown of Flint (the best part is about 3:30 in):

The simple math is that if these black kids can find better job opportunities (not even great ones at this point) that don’t involve signing up for a suicide mission like Iraq, common sense dictates that they aren’t going to find the military appealing right now.

Another factor to consider is that the military, for many young minority men living in socioeconomically depressed areas, represented an opportunity to get out, receive valuable skills they wouldn’t have acquired in the dire situations of the ghetto, while receiving funds for education in an environment that offers discipline and order.

George Bush’s military is increasingly looking like the gang-infested, crime holes these young men and women are trying to escape from. What’s appealing about a military that is recruiting folks convicted of aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats. The number of convicted felons enlisted in the U.S. military has almost doubled in the past three years, and 43,977 individuals convicted of serious misdemeanors such as assault have enlisted under the moral waivers program.

An excellent article on problem of the Pentagon recruiting and enlisting active gang members in a piece by Radar Magazine’s Seamus McGraw, Gangs of Iraq. It’s a chilling account of how far the military has fallen, with its backdrop the murder of Sergeant Juwan Johnson a decorated war vet, who was killed as a result of a gang initiation by the Gangster Disciples while in the military.

It wasn’t until May 2006, five months after the Army papered the base with fliers offering a $25,000 reward (later upped to $50,000) for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case, that investigators acknowledged a gang connection.

Ten months lapsed before the first suspect was charged. Since then, five soldiers have been charged in the case, according to a U.S. Army spokesperson. Only one of them, Specialist Bobby Morrissette – a friend who served alongside Johnson throughout his deployment overseas — has been slated to stand trial.

But according to gang experts, including one who has been called to testify, the real mystery is why it took the Army so long to accept that Johnson was the victim of a growing epidemic of gang violence that has infected all branches of the armed services. Lax enlistment standards have inadvertently allowed thousands of gang members to join the military, including young men who belong to the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, and various white supremacist groups. But no gang has infiltrated the armed forces as deeply as the Gangster Disciples, a 100,000-member Chicago-based syndicate that has been linked to an assortment of crimes ranging from murder to mortgage fraud.

“There’s no doubt about it — the Gangster Disciples are the biggest [gang] in the Army,” says Chicago Police Lieutenant Robert Stasch, who has spent 30 years tracking the group’s rise from a handful of street-corner hoodlums to what he calls “the most sophisticated criminal enterprise in the United States.”

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Pam Spaulding

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