Monday, July 18, 2005

Recruiting Woes

The AP recently reported that the Army National Guard missed its recruiting goal by about 14% in June - the ninth straight month of shortfalls – and is nearly 19,000 soldiers below its authorized strength.

In a statement issued with the report, the Army said: "The recruiting environment remains difficult in terms of economic conditions and alternatives." That’s a euphemism for the fact that war machines rely on high unemployment, so the poorest of the poor (a growing demographic) will have no alternative but to sign up to kill and be killed. Oddly enough, the one indicator in our so-called economic recovery that has not edged up is employment: productivity is up, corporate profits are way up, but more American jobs move abroad every day and higher education costs move farther out of reach, leaving more American workers unable to find work that pays a livable wage.

Under these economic conditions, with so few alternatives, the courage of those who are daily resisting incessant recruitment pressure is even more profound.

The Army acknowledged the heavy use of National Guard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but said the service is ahead of its goals in retaining soldiers who have the option to get out: "We have folks that are coming back from long periods of time in Iraq and Afghanistan who are reenlisting."

Unfortunately, they too are now economically forced into the war machine, because the National Guard is supposed to be a part-time commitment for people who have civilian jobs or own their own businesses. After two or three years of deployment overseas, many have lost their jobs and watched their businesses fail. They have little choice but to re-enlist if they want their families to eat.

For the Bush Administration hawks, the best scenario for the next few years is worsening “economic conditions” and even more limited “alternatives,” driving more warm bodies to boot camp and beyond. Maybe that's why they keep calling for permanent tax cuts for the rich, gutted social and educational programs, and harsh bankruptcy laws.


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