Prol-Position in 2005 on the rapidly declining number of young black men enlisting to served in the United States Army.
“Be all you can be”
As many wonder why Americans aren’t doing more to oppose a brutal, illegal, but highly profitable war (if you have stock in Halliburton that is) they should realize that a very quiet but effective protest is going on. It is a protest that affects military planning, the morale of the US Army, and may ultimately lead to the end of the war itself. There is a boycott going on and it is being lead by young, poor, black men.
The US all volunteer Army system (mandatory service was another casualty of the American War in Vietnam) depends on the same tools, tricks, and techniques capitalism uses to convince masses of people that they absolutely “must have” the latest contribution to their growing junk piles of products. “Be All You Can Be” and “An Army of One” are slogans that come from the same Madison Avenue hacks responsible for selling soap and toilet paper. Slogans aside, the US Army has traditionally found fertile soil for collecting recruits off of the streets of America’s most depressed economic areas. Areas where a job is scarce and a good job is rare offer little hope for the future for thousands of young black men. The US Army offered these men a chance of escape that no other organization in the country would.
Blacks, a far from monolithic community, have supported service in the army since the Revolutionary War for economic and other reasons. Perhaps in the days of slavery it was simply the prospect of freedom since blacks fought on both sides of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Maybe it was considered a rite of passage to manhood denied blacks in most other areas of American society. Maybe it was another chapter in the unrequited love affair many blacks are engaged in with American culture as they try to prove their constantly questioned loyalty and right to first class citizenship through military service. Whatever the reason, blacks have been significantly represented in the US Army since WWII. By 2000, 24 percent of Army recruits were black even though blacks made up only 13 percent of the overall population. When you subtract the number of black men who could not serve due to criminal convictions, the amount of voluntary support is staggering.
Yet since 2000, the numbers and percentage of blacks in the army have been in decline. Today, blacks account for only 14 percent of US Army recruits. As the overall recruiting shortfalls in 2005 indicate, it isn’t as if this decline doesn’t matter. It isn’t as if recruiters aren’t trying as they troll the streets and roam the halls of high schools peddling dreams of money for college and trips to exotic places like game show hosts. The fact is many recruits are simply saying “no”. Even though poor black men are facing increasing economic pressure, such as a 50 percent unemployment rate in New York City, often living in dangerous surroundings with little hope of building a better life unless they leave, the prospect of fighting a war for the new American oligarchy seems foolish. Many would rather take their chances on the streets of Chicago than on the streets of Baghdad.
Black young men are often not in alone in their decision to reject the call of the military. Parents of potential soldiers of all backgrounds are dissuading their children from military service too. The Army has attempted to counter that trend with an add campaign stressing the “independence and reasonableness” a decision to join the military is for young people painting the decision to support a war of aggression as a perverse right of passage to adulthood.
They even have created a web site specifically for parents of potential soldiers touting the benefits of being a soldier. Naturally, death and dismemberment benefits aren’t mentioned. Parent organizations like No Draft No Way and Mothers Against the Draft are alerting parents to covert military aptitude testing in the schools and how to opt out of a law that requires all schools receiving federal funds to provide military recruiters with personal information about their children. They also share information about how to stop recruiter phone calls and contacts.
The decline in recruits, particularly from the black community, a source thought to be secure, hurts the army in many ways. First, current soldiers are not allowed to leave when their contracts are up because their replacements are not in the pipeline. This “stop-gap” provision, or back-door draft, creates morale problems when soldiers want to come home at the end of their enlistment and be done with it all but legally can’t. Many soldiers are facing the prospect of their third tour in Iraq. Additionally, if recruiting numbers continue to fall and the US seeks to maintain troop strength in Iraq at 100,000 soldiers through 2009 (while threatening actions in Iran and elsewhere), a real draft may be necessary.
War planners fear a real draft because there main economic stooges, the American middle-class, will then be directly affected by the war as opposed to the faceless poor who are currently suffering the majority of the casualties. A real draft, especially one without the “my daddy is rich” exemption would awaken already stirring anti-war sentiments and may call the oligarchy itself into question. A Pew Research Center poll indicates for the first time that a majority of those polled believe the Iraq war is a mistake. An NBC poll showed that nearly 60 percent of Americans want to reduce the number of soldiers in Iraq.
Polls have consistently shown that blacks in the US are overwhelmingly against the war in Iraq. A recent PBS report noted among black youth only 36 percent think the war is justified while over 61 percent of white youth think it is. Even though they are in the same country, many blacks know first hand what it means to be “those” people and they naturally question those in power. Blacks remember the days in the US when they were thought of as a community of potential terrorists too and treated accordingly. When blacks hear of terms like ‘haji’, ‘raghead’, or ‘sand nigger’ being used to dehumanize the Iraqi people, they know the tune of their oppression is still playing though the words have changed.
It is difficult to question the intelligence of young black men as they continue to see through the charade and march away from the recruiting station. As America recently marked the occasion of the death of the 2001 US service member, black men may be choosing to save their own lives while refusing to take the lives of others for a president that in the words of rapper Kanye West “… Doesn’t care about black people.”
on a [prol-position news #4, 12/2005] www.Prol-Position.net