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Misplaced Outrage

By Daniel M Pourkesali, Leesburg, Virginia

As someone who has little if any faith in the people who are supposed to be representing us in the U.S. Congress, I don't quiet understand the so called outrage over candid remarks by one politician this week.   


For many joining the military is driven by a sense of pride or being part of something bigger than themselves. It can also be motivated by a belief that what they do does make a difference not only on a personal level but also on a national level.


But I don't think many Americans would be shocked to find that most of the lower ranks in our military are filled by the working poor [1] -- young people who entered the service not out of patriotism but for the promise of job training, funds for college or an alternative to low paying jobs. Recruiters relentlessly use marketing strategies to entice low income youths with little prospects for education and good jobs into the armed forces.  Painting the military as a kind of job training and vocational school, and simultaneously as a financial aid institution, recruiters get youths in high schools to sign up to what is called the Deferred Enlistment Program (DEP).

While the more educated officers in the higher-ranking grades can count on a fixed pay and attractive benefit packages, the majority of the enlisted soldiers receive no more than a poverty wage which on average amounts to about $1,300 a month. Poverty among U.S. soldiers has become so critical that the international charity organization Feed the Children has developed a special campaign [2] to deal with that issue. Called the Emergency Military Family Fund, it's a relief program for families who are plunged into poverty when a wage-earning parent is sent off to war.

Blacks and Latinos are heavily concentrated in these lower ranks. While making up about 20 percent of the U.S. population, blacks comprise 32 percent of the military. More than half of all enlisted women in the military are Black.   The two minority groups are heavily concentrated in the service jobs and the infantry but are almost nonexistent in the higher ranks. For instance, Blacks make up only 2 percent of military pilots and around 5 percent of the Special Operations forces.

A third and virtually invisible group in the military are the growing ranks of non-citizens known as "Green Card Soldiers" who enlist in order to gain U.S. citizenship [3]. About 37,000 non-citizens, mostly from Mexico and Central America, have served in Iraq. They see military service as the only way to get citizenship in the face of ever more strict immigration restrictions. In Iraq, this group has paid dearly for that promise accounting for one in every10 U.S. casualties.

Mr. Bush's hypocritical outrage at Senator Kerry's comments and his empty praise for U.S. soldiers is as an insult to the working poor men and women who face death and injury fighting his wars of aggression overseas while facing poverty and oppression at home.






... Payvand News - 11/2/06 ... --

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