Dark Secret of the US Military -- Neo-Nazis and Criminals Are Filling Its Ranks
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In fact, during the "war on terror", the resources poured into recruiting impressionable young people skyrocketed, with 1,000 new recruiters added in one year to bring high school kids round to the military's way of thinking. The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps expanded across the nation, and no child was free from their solicitations; even 11-year-olds were taking part in the programmes. One in 10 high school students in Chicago wore a military uniform to school and took classes on shooting guns from retired veterans.
One of the main incentives offered was money – a lot of money from the perspective of a 16-year-old. In 2005, the army moved to raise the average bonus given to recruits when they signed on the dotted line from $14,000 to $17,000, with the possibility of as much as $30,000 for hard-to-fill vacancies. Another of the military's slogans was "Join the Armed Forces, get a free education", an offer many of America's poorest kids couldn't turn down.
A report, Soldiers Of Misfortune, by the American Civil Liberties Union, found that the US government was actually in contravention of an international protocol prohibiting the recruitment of children into military service when they are under 18 years old. It also noted that the US military disproportionately targets poor and minority public school students, but its findings were dutifully ignored.
It took a report from the Palm Center at the University of California – a group committed to discussion of homosexuals in the military – to blow the lid on yet more figures the military was trying hard to cover up. In 2007, it published information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that found the number of convicted criminals enlisting in the US military had nearly doubled in two years, from 824 in 2004 to 1,605 in 2006. In that period, a total of 4,230 convicted felons were enlisted, including those guilty of rape and murder. On top of this, 43,977 soldiers signed up who had been found guilty of a serious misdemeanour, which includes assault. Another 58,561 had drug-related convictions, but all were handed a gun and sent off to the Middle East. "The fact that the military has allowed more than 100,000 people with such troubled pasts to join its ranks over the past three years illustrates the problem we're having meeting our military needs in this time of war," said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center.
One of the most horrific of the reported atrocities by the US military in Iraq, the murder of the al-Janabi family in Yusufiyah, involved a convicted criminal, Steven D Green, whose enlistment required special dispensation because of his criminal record. But research has shown that these recruitment practices engender breakdown within the ranks as well. During the "war on terror", one in three female soldiers reported being victims of some form of sexual assault while in service. In fact, US women service members are today more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than to be killed by enemy fire. No one knows how many Iraqi or Afghan women and girls have been subjected to similar atrocities, although cases such as the rapes and murders in Yusufiyah suggest it was equally endemic, and went equally unpunished.
In 2009, the military met its recruitment targets for the first time since 2004 and once again pledged to lock out those with criminal records. Brigadier General Joseph Anderson, deputy commander of the US Army Recruiting Command, said that the "adult major misconduct" waiver, given for felony offences, was now closed and, additionally, those with a history of juvenile criminal activity would not be allowed to recruit without a high school diploma. It was an admission of guilt, but for many in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was too late.