Five years, one month, ten days. Whether you call it Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Iraq War or a shit storm, thatâ€™s how long American troops have been occupying Iraq. And 4,052 American military deaths (and an estimated 83,000 to 90,000 Iraqi civilians) in, it appears our Armed Forces are in dire need of more lambs to send to slaughterâ€”and theyâ€™ll take them however they can get them.
Starting with ex-cons: The military is fast making exceptions for folks with past felony convictions, as long as they promise to protect and serve. In 2007, 861 waivers were granted to allow them to serve; thatâ€™s 188% more than the number granted in 2006 (457). This I have several issues with.
First, several states in the Union do not let people with felony convictions vote, not for president, not for representatives to Congress, not for school board members, nada. So those who are not allowed to vote for the people who have lead our country into the dark of night are allowed to hand out flashlights in another land? I seem to remember that being a huge issue back in â€™71 (okay, I donâ€™t remember exactly, but Iâ€™ve read about it), when the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 in response to protests that citizens who werenâ€™t deemed responsible enough to vote could be drafted to fight. And Iâ€™m not even going to get on the fact that many of these ex-offenders choose this treacherous route because of a lack of legitimate opportunities to grow here at home.
Then thereâ€™s the issue of the crimes that these people have committed. The congressional committee that tracks such things reports that assault, sex crimes, manslaughter and burglary are among the crimes committed by these 861 individuals. There are even nine people who were convicted of making terror threats!
Now Iâ€™m not saying that people canâ€™t change, or that they donâ€™t deserve a chance at salvation. But in a time when the number of sexual assaults against military women (who make up 15% of total U.S. forces) has reached the point where nearly a third of veterans who have sought health care at the VA report having been raped or nearly raped during their service, it makes me nervous that weâ€™re sending people who are predisposed to crime to do our bidding. Just look at the recent situation with the Marine who raped a 14-year-old girl in Okinawa. No, he wasnâ€™t a registered sex offender, but if someone with no history of violence can think this is acceptable behavior, what to say of the man who has already had a taste of this special brand of evil? According to the BBC, an unnamed military official said, â€œWeâ€™re digging deeper into the barrel than we were before,â€ but Army Lieutenant General James Thurman, the deputy chief of staff for operations doesnâ€™t mind: â€œIt hasnâ€™t alarmed us yet,â€ he said.
Then thereâ€™s the matter of the increased recruitment of women. The Marines has started a new campaigned aimed at drawing us to join the Corps. It stresses patriotism and focuses on women who are athletically inclined and want to â€œprove themselves,â€ according to the company that developed the ads, which began running in womenâ€™s magazines late last year. This from a branch that until the last couple of decades, only accepted women for clerical positions. Now, when the heat is on, women are not only welcomed, but sought out. Hmm.
On a more international scale, there is the program to fast track citizenship for immigrants who sign up to fight. No, Iâ€™m not kidding. More than 26,000 members of the military have become American citizens since this war began, as part of a program championed by Bush (and implemented by executive order) to boost numbers in the military. Giving immigrants rights in the country they choose to defend doesnâ€™t bother me; Iâ€™m floored by the fact that we are dangling citizenship as a carrot to up our numbers in this unending war. Of course, now, there is a backlog of about 7,200 martial citizenship applications outstandingâ€”it seems shuffling paper is the sound of the government failing to make good on yet another promise.
So what do we do? First, we vote in this Novemberâ€™s election. Not just for a presidential candidate who supports an ethical end to this war, but for congressional reps, mayors and city council cats who have our best interests at heart. Then we hold them responsible for carrying out the will of the people, not agendas structured around political backslapping and glad-handling. And if all else fails, we can take a cue from the hippies who opposed the Vietnam War; that means we stop talking (and writing) about it, and take to the streets and be about it. Whoâ€™s with me?
If you like Kenryaâ€™s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.