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January 10, 2006

Comments

I have two comments. First of all when are we going to tell the American citizens the truth about fragging in the last stages of Vietnam and all. It is about class conflict if anything else -- and the tale, horrid that it is, needs telling. I've heard that deliquents are now being propositioned by the services -- do you want to "do time" or do you want to "join up?" Same difference.

I have a very odd perspective on this whole issue. I worked in a draft counseling center during the Vietman era as a volunteer for several years, and know the truth about how we made that era's draft law so much swiss cheese that Nixon had no chouce but to eliminate it. I kept all my cases out of the services -- and it wasn't all that difficult given all the 325 exemptions that kept increasing as court cases were decided. But I feel guilty about it, because Draft Excape Information Centers (and let's be clear about what was on offer) were only on University Campuses, and not in the Ghetto or in rural America.

I'v actually come to the conclusion that you cannot actually have a fair system unless you have a universal draft, with a sophisticated means of dealing with those who object on conscience. In the 1960's we were working off the 1947 Draft Law that had been created so as to protect the youth with most value or potential from that draft, and thus the exemptions that we feasted on in doing counseling. It was corrupt and we need to admit it.

If a democracy goes to war, then there ought to be a lottery to decide who will be the involuntary warriors, and everyone should be in the lottery. Yes both men and women, and yes, those who go to college and those who could never enter. CO -- of course. VA Hospitals need staff for our wounded, and so too do day care centers. The point is that if a President does War, the burden should be equally sharred among those in the right age group who support that war.

Of course we should not be accepting JD's and other misfits nto the military. How many Black Prisons can we afford?

I've never read or heard an explanation for why, but it's my impression that military people are adamantly opposed to general conscription. (Or at least they have been for the last several decades; in the Army and Marines that may be changing now that they can't get sufficient numbers and quality of recruits.) But they've been against conscription for years.

I've always been taken by Charles Peters' long-standing support for a draft as a tool of egalitarianism and civic society. He and others have maybe glorified the pre-Vietnam military, making it sound like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. But there is something to be said for "citizen soldiers" when the chance and burden of becoming a soldier is equal for almost everyone (without the "swiss cheese" exemptions). But the problem now, both with the idea of reinstituting a draft and with maintaining an all-volunteer military, is the stinking unpopularity of the Iraq war. If we hadn't gone into Iraq with dubious goals and justification and the lack of a plan or even a viable mission, then the Army (and Marines) wouldn't be broken. But Iraq is the reason the Army is broken, and why we may now need a draft. But because the Iraq war is so stupid and unpopular, we can't institute a draft to fix the damage it's caused to the Army.

Hence, the justification for Murtha's call to pull out of Iraq, which he based on an assessment of the health and long-term prospects of our military. It's broken, and since a draft is a political non-starter, the only way to prevent the complete degradation of the Army and Marines is to get the hell out of Iraq, stop the losses and start to rebuild the services.

Screw-ups get killed. They get their buddies killed. They get their sergeants killed.

Can't remember where I heard it, but from a noncom voice in the early months of Iraq occupation: "This is a bad war. This war is killing sergeants."

As you can see any day at icasualties, this war is killing a lot of sergeants ... and this is using the good recruits.

I served in the Navy back in the day when a young guy in trouble with the law could have the judge offer him "three years in jail or three in the service," i.e., that were he to volunteer for the service, driminal charges ye was facing would be dropped. This was not an infrequent event. The idea behind it was that the military would "shape up" the kid and he could "find himself."

Naturally, these were not the high-scorers on the AFQT (I knew guys in boot camp who had scored 15 - out of a possible 100 - on the AFQT. I'm not going to say how high mine was, but it always impressed the officers when they found out). These were the folks who - in the Navy - ended up on the deck force, in the dirtier jobs in the engineering department, etc. And they found each other. The ship I was on - which was considered a ship with excellent command leadership (the Captain later became the last Vice Admiral to command Task Force 77 - the aircraft carriers in the South China Sea - in the Vietnam War) - had a below-decks gang that made life hell for the enlisted crewmen who were not "gang material." Two of these guys were so bad that they ended up "lost overboard" during a typhoon evasion, and the general belief belowdecks was they had not gone out on the weather decks alone - and no one was real anxious to get to the bottom of that investigation, which ultimately went nowhere, with the result that the gang "lowered their expectations."

This is not the way the military should be run, and having to resort to vigilantism to get rid of the more notorious bad apples does not contribute to unit morale.

It was even worse in the Army units after about 1967, where only those too dumb to find a way out of front line service, or those still dumb enough to think the war was worth fighting, ended up as grunts. I had a good friend in grad school who had served as an infantry officer in that period, who told how he slept in a different tent every night, took different routes to get to where he had to go on-base, and always had his service pistol loaded with the safety off, during his entire service with the unit, having replaced another Lieutenant whose "crime" was attempting to impose discipline, who had ended up fragged.

Anyone old enough to remember My Lai will remember being amazed at the general oafishness and pure stupidity demonstrated by several of the former members of Calley's company when they were interviewed by televsion. Those were the "Category IVs" - and the result of letting these types go in the Army was My Lai. (Calley himself was the officer equivalent of a Category IV, "qualifying" for OCS by having flunked out of college asafirst-semester sophomore, and being rated "marginal" in all his performance reports)

This is really, truly, bad news for the American military. Having the least of the least rather than the best of the best will start "showing," and soon.

This is not to say that some of those people didn't take advantage of the situation to "find themselves" and become "improved people," but in my experience, most of them didn't have the intelligence to take advantage of such an opportunity, if they could recognize it.

We may not always get a lot of comments, but man, the ones we do get are usually first rate, like on this thread.

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