Archive for the ‘The Military Draft’ Category

Misled by recruiter, tour extended: Juan Alcántara’s death

September 17, 2007

From the Indypendent:

Emotions ran high Aug. 17 at Cpl. Juan Alcántara’s military funeral. The circumstances of his death were hard to accept.

Alcántara’s deployment in Iraq was due to end June 28, the day before his daughter Jaylani was born. But after President Bush announced the “surge” in January, his unit’s term in Iraq was extended by three months. His request for leave to see his newborn child was refused. Five weeks later, on Aug. 6, he was killed by a homemade bomb that exploded during a house search.



High-tech Army advertising blitz tops $200 million this year

August 21, 2007


“Army Strong, as the Army’s latest recruiting campaign is called … has a definite emphasis on electronic communications, from opportunities to chat live on the Web site with soldiers … to interactive sections showing what boot camp is like, the different specialties the Army trains people for, and more,” writes PR Week. Army podcast subjects range from soldiers’ experiences to “the latest results for the Army’s NASCAR team.” The $200 million-per-year campaign is led by McCann-Erickson, along with other Interpublic Group agencies. Army outreach to Hispanic communities is handled by Weber Shandwick, and to African Americans by Carol H. Williams. The Army’s racially-targeted outreach includes Spanish-language ads, “participating in Hispanic- or African-American-focused trade association conventions or job fairs,” and “awarding research contracts to historically black colleges and universities.” Meanwhile, the U.S.-led Multi-National Force-Iraq is seeking a new PR firm, for “rapid reaction information operations support” to encourage Iraqis “to support their fledgling government,” reports O’Dwyer’s PR Daily. The U.S. government is also “reviewing proposals for a multimillion-dollar PR blitz for its electricity sector rebuilding” in Iraq. Both searches are being conducted via non-public websites, as information about the Iraq PR contracts has been deemed “sensitive.”

Open letter: the Dream Act’s ‘military option’

August 21, 2007

An open letter to Latino and Latina students and all leaders of immigrant rights organizations from founder/director of the Guerrero Azteca Peace Project.

From People’s Weekly World:

In the wake of the failed immigration reform, passionate discussions have arisen among various organizations both for and against the DREAM Act.

It gives me great joy to see students taking nonviolent action to find a solution to the immigration question. Many of them came to the United States as children and have finished their high school education. Now, because they lack legal documents, they face an uncertain future that may deny them the opportunity to attend college or find a decent job. The DREAM Act offers them a light at the end of an otherwise dark and uncertain road.

I see students on fasts, in marches, lobbying elected officials, all in the name of the DREAM Act’s passage. But beware. Be very careful. Because our honorable youth with their dreams and wishes to serve their new country are being tricked and manipulated in an immoral and criminal way.

Why do I say this? Simply put, the DREAM Act proposes two years of college as a pathway to permanent residency, but it also includes a second option linked to the so-called war on terror — “two years of military service.” Our young people may not see that this is a covert draft in which thousands of youth from Latino families will be sent to Iraq or some other war-torn nation, where they will have to surrender their moral values and become war criminals or perhaps return home in black bags on their way to a tomb drenched with their parents’ tears.

How many of our youth can afford college? How many will be able to take the educational option? Unfortunately very few, because the existing system locks out the children of working families with high tuition and inflated admissions criteria. Most will be forced to take the military option to get their green card. But what good is a green card to a dead person? What good is a green card to a young person severely wounded in mind and body?

I ask our undocumented youth to read the following passages regarding the plans of the Pentagon and the Bush administration:

In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 10, 2006, Under Secretary of Defense David Chu said: “According to an April 2006 study from the National Immigration Law Center, there are an estimated 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented alien young adults who entered the U.S. at an early age and graduate from high school each year, many of whom are bright, energetic and potentially interested in military service. … Provisions of S 2611, such as the DREAM Act, would provide these young people the opportunity of serving the United States in uniform.”

More recently, Lt. Col. Margaret Stock of the U.S. Army Reserve, a faculty member at West Point, told a reporter that the DREAM Act could help recruiters meet their goals by providing a “highly qualified cohort of young people” without the unknown personal details that would accompany foreign recruits. “They are already going to come vetted by Homeland Security. They will already have graduated from high school,” she said. “They are prime candidates.” (Citations from research by Prof. Jorge Mariscal, UC San Diego.)

As you can see, our undocumented youth are being targeted by military recruiters. And equally important is something that few people have mentioned — there is no such thing as a two-year military contract. Every enlistment is a total of eight years.

Given these facts, I invite all young people who are filled with hope and dreams and energy to fight for human rights and for a fair pathway to legalization. But they must also demand that the military option of the DREAM Act be replaced by a community service option (as appeared in earlier drafts of the legislation) so that community service or college become the two pathways to permanent residency. Only then will they avoid becoming victimized by a criminal war as my son Jesús Alberto did when he died on March 27, 2003, after stepping on an illegal U.S. cluster bomb. Through education or community service our undocumented youth can contribute to their communities, and their future will be filled with peace and justice.

Army throws money at shortfall of recruits, AP takes recruiter promises at face value

August 10, 2007

The Associated Press reviews the “buffet” of benefits and options the military is offering to new recruits in response to falling short of quotas last month. No mention of the vibrant counter-recruitment across the country, as documented on this blog, as a factor in creating greater difficulty for recruiters. Nor is there any questioning by the reporter of whether the promises to new enlistees will be honored. Given the military’s record, I wouldn’t count it. (See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and soon-to-be-published page which will compile all the anecdotal evidence of lying recruiters seen on this site.)

From the Daily Texan:

WASHINGTON – Need a down payment for your home? Seed money to start a business? The Army wants to help – if you’re willing to join up.

Despite spending nearly $1 billion last year on recruiting bonuses and ads, Army leaders say an even bolder approach is needed to fill wartime ranks.

Under a new proposal, men and women who enlist could pick from a “buffet” of incentives, including up to $45,000 tax-free that they accrue during their career to help buy a home or build a business. Other options would include money for college and to pay off student loans.

An Associated Press review of the increasingly aggressive recruiting offerings found the Army is not only dangling more sign-up rewards – it’s loosening rules on age and weight limits, education and drug and criminal records.

It’s all part of an Army effort to fill its ranks even as the percentage of young people who say they plan to join the military has hit a historic low – 16 percent by the Pentagon’s own surveying – in the fifth year of the Iraq war.


America – Land of Militarism

August 9, 2007


From Counterpunch:

Navy fleet arrives on Memorial Weekend for its annual New York celebration, an event widely covered by the print and broadcast media with great enthusiasm. As the crew stands in crisp white formation, the amphibious assault vessel U.S.S. Wasp leads the parade of ships entering New York harbor for the start of Fleet Week.

A young man in Iowa, inspired by the movie Saving Private Ryan, paints a 56-ton boulder he calls Freedom Rock with murals depicting the sacrifices of America’s service members. Local businesses encourage visits to the rock, and viewing the mural has become a Memorial Day ritual for thousands of people. The tableau receives extensive national press coverage.

A prominent investment banker-statesman warns that, unless we get “entitlement” costs under control, Social Security spending will inevitably undermine national security. He says that as in prior wars, Americans deserve the truth about the costs of protecting the nation – “a burden they’re likely to tolerate if they’re given the unvarnished facts.”

A noted architect and environmentalist gushes in a feature profile of him, “Imagine our military bases covered with solar thermal collectors that could generate steam and electricity.”

A letter to the editor of The New York Times from a man in Florida states, “We must reorganize our armed forces to provide the capability to launch strikes anywhere in the world at any time. Unfortunately, the civilian populations that harbor terrorists will become unintended victims.”

The House Armed Services Committee works through $646 billion in proposed spending for the Defense Department and war operations. Halfway through markups for the 2008 defense authorization bill, the committee has approved efforts to add ships, Boeing cargo planes and fighter engines to the Pentagon’s budget request. The Senate Armed Services Committee cuts $12 billion from President Bush’s $142 billion request for war funding to use for other programs such as increases in Army and Marine Corps troops.

A newspaper headline shouts, “Army wants more elbow room – sights set on 4.9 million more acres of U.S. turf for high-tech exercises.” The accompanying photo shows a U.S. soldier prone on the ground in full battle gear firing at targets in a simulated Iraqi village on a training site the military wants to triple in size.


Iraq soldiers and veterans being screwed over

August 3, 2007

From the Army Times and, respectively:

Iraq war vets sue VA over delays (my emphasis added on PTSD, which recruiters never talk about)

Frustrated by delays in health care, a coalition of injured Iraq war veterans is accusing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment.

The class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad change in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on several fronts — from providing prompt disability benefits, to adding staff to reduce wait times for medical care to boosting services for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying out benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.

General: Iraq soldiers’ tours of duty could be extended beyond 15 months

After five years of war, the U.S. Army is stretched thin and long deployments are taking a toll on soldiers and their families, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said Tuesday.

Casey, who became the 36th Army chief of staff in April, said the continuing war in Iraq has put so much pressure on the Army that limiting deployments to 15 months can’t be guaranteed.

“Debunking the Military Debunkers” – most recruits poor and underprivileged

July 26, 2007

By Ted Rall, from Yahoo:

SAN DIEGO–“The typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is,” claimed the authors of an oft-cited 2005 “comprehensive study” of the U.S. military commissioned by the Heritage Foundation.

Two years later, right-wingers trot out the Heritage troop survey as evidence that America is sending its best and brightest, rather than its down and out, to win Afghan and Iraqi hearts and minds. The GOP blog Newsbusters used it to rebut Rosie O’Donnell‘s statement that most recruits enlist in the army to get an education: “Of course, facts don’t matter to Rosie O’Donnell.” But are these “facts” true?

The key word here is “volunteers,” which here means “new recruits.” A new CBO study released this July states: “Because black personnel have been a larger share of recruits in the past and because they have relatively high retention rates, however, they account for a larger share of the active enlisted force as a whole: 19 percent, compared with 14 percent of the civilian population of 17- to 49- year-olds. Black service members make up a smaller percentage of the active officer corps: 9 percent.”

You’re more than 35 percent more likely to be in the military if you’re black than if you’re white. But you’re 35 percent less likely to become an officer. Ignore the propaganda–the military is a reflection of, rather than a cure for, racism.

With Afghanistan joining Iraq as a war considered an unwinnable mistake in the minds of the public, military recruiters are being forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel.


Oregon: AWOL GIs face difficulties fleeing to Canada

July 23, 2007

Great article by Mark Larabee in the Oregonian:

James Burmeister worked at Wal-Mart and in pizza joints in Eugene until he joined the U.S. Army 18 months ago because he wanted to make a difference.

His recruiter told him a tour in Iraq would give him the opportunity to build schools and support war-weary Iraqis, so against the advice of his parents, he signed up.

But once in Iraq, he was assigned to a “small kill” team that set traps for insurgents. They’d place a fake camera on a pole with a sign labeling it as U.S. property, giving the team the right to shoot anyone who messed with it. Burmeister, who provided perimeter security for the team, said he could never get over his distaste for the tactic.

After being wounded by a roadside bomb, he was sent to Germany to recover. In May, on the eve of being sent back to Iraq, Pfc. Burmeister went AWOL — absent without leave — taking his family to Ottawa.

The 22-year-old Oregon native is one of about three dozen U.S. soldiers who’ve applied to Canada for refugee status under the Geneva Conventions. Thousands have deserted since the war began, and many are believed to be living illegally in Canada, officials there said.


Bush administration opposes increased pay and benefits for soldiers

July 18, 2007

Some information the recruiter probably won’t share with you.  From Tom Philpott, writing in the Honoloulu Advertiser:

Talk about lousy timing. With President Bush’s popularity scraping bottom in opinion polls, with U.S. casualties rising in Iraq in a force surge that has stretched tours to 15 months, the Bush administration has said it “strongly opposes” key military pay and benefit gains tossed into the fiscal 2008 defense bill.

Initiatives the administration opposes include:

# A military pay raise for next January of 3.5 percent versus 3 percent endorsed by the White House.

# Lowering the age-60 start of reserve retirement annuities for reserve component members by the length of their future mobilizations.

# Expanding eligibility for Combat-Related Special Compensation to service members forced by combat disabilities to retire short of 20 years.

# Directing pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide the Department of Defense with same-price discounts for Tricare retail pharmacy network that are provided on medicines dispensed from base pharmacies.

The administration also grumbled that the Senate intends to block for another year Tricare fee increases for under-65 retirees and dependents.

The objections appear in a “Statement of Administration Policy” from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget delivered to Senate leaders as they opened floor debate on the defense authorization bill.

A day later, Senate Republicans, at White House urging, blocked amendments that would have shortened Iraq tours for U.S. ground forces and slowed the frequency of war deployments.


Colorado: Counter-recruiters needed!

July 13, 2007

I cringed when I read this – it’s an one-sided article that makes it appear that there’s no one in Denver challenging and organizing against military recruitment.  I’m doubtful that’s the case.  But someone should tell these kids about PTSD, how US foreign policy works (or doesn’t, really), how veterans earn less money than their civilian counterparts, how military recruiters have a history of lying, etc..

From 7 News in Denver:

While House members want U.S. troops out of Iraq, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted the Bush administration to make plans to expand the U.S. military.

The Army intends to add more than 30,000 active duty soldiers over the next five years.

Local Army recruitment centers are using money and financial incentives to try to recruit young Coloradans to join.

Despite, and many because of, the wars in Iraq, many are taking the Army up on its offer.

“I’ve always thought the Army sounded fun, first of all,” said 19-year-old Travis Young. “Also, there is a war going on, obviously, and there’s no better time to join than when there’s actually something to do.”