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Friday, 03 November 2006 06:48

Ruth Lopez: Kerry Was Right

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by Ruth Lopez

Anyone who points out the Bush Administration's mean-spirited and self-serving treatment of our troops is quickly and loudly painted as anti-military. This is to stop the public from tuning into the sad reality that, for all their flag-waving, the Republicans' treatment of our troops is not much better than their treatment of Katrina victims.

The Bush Administration wants to claim a doctrine of infallibility when it comes to the troops. They want the troops to be theirs alone to manipulate; whether by sending them into unnecessary disasters like Iraq, or posing in front of them when their polls numbers drop, or using them as political fodder for their smear attacks.

But we should be talking about what our military has become under Bush, including who is joining, why they are joining and how they are being recruited.

Kerry's "joke" may have been mangled, but there was an uncomfortable truth in what he said. Many young people, through lack of opportunity, economic disenfranchisement, ignorance, and jingoistic propaganda, have joined the military with unrealistic and uneducated expectations. Are these unworldly, undereducated kids psychologically prepared for extended and repeated tours in the murderous quagmire Iraq has become?

The answer to that is in the increased rate of suicides, PTSD, desertions, assaults, murders, divorce, domestic violence, and substance abuse among our troops. The answer to that is in Walter Reed. And that is why the GOP is screaming so loudly about Kerry. He inadvertently called attention to who is joining the military nowadays. And the idea that the public might take a close look at that is horrifying to a GOP already trying to save their careers while mired in sex scandals, bribes, corruption and the damage wreaked by the most incompetent President in modern history. So they scream feigned outrage at Kerry.

The Bush administration has deliberately exploited certain classes of our society to fill the ranks. The sickest quid pro quo example of this is Bush's vaunted "Leave No Child Behind" program, which actually requires public schools to give their students' personal information to military recruiters so the schools can receive their Federal funding.

"Leave No Child Behind" should more accurately be called, "No bodies, No bucks."

Recruiters are trained to focus on schools where the demographics indicate a population most likely to be receptive to offers of educational and other benefits; the poorest schools, in other words. This is indentured servitude wrapped in the flag. Demand for new bodies to fill the ranks of our ground forces is so high that recruiters have been caught falsifying enlistment forms to meet the quotas they deny having, even though enlistment standards have been lowered, and those who once couldn't enlist for reasons including felony criminal convictions and the inability to pass minimal educational standards, can now sign up.

Meanwhile, religious schools, and expensive private schools, the kind of schools Congress and the Republican donor base send their children to, don't have military recruiters in their schools, trolling for recruits in the hallways. They are exempt from having their students preyed upon by quota-driven military recruiters.

And, for the first time in the history of our military, there is evidence that gang members are signing up. Gang sign graffiti has shown up in Iraq , as well as other military bases. Gang members are said to join to get tactical and weapons training which they then bring back to their street wars here at home. So much for, "fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here", this is more like, "fighting them there so they can recreate it here with the police."

If our ground forces are being increasingly filled with young kids who are disproportionately from the lowest economic classes, poorly educated, barely literate, felons, and gang members, is it any surprise that rape, murder, and torture have also become part of the military under the Bush Administration? That's why Kerry's gaffe struck such a nerve.

Kerry's mistake is an opportunity. Let the Republicans scream, it is absolutely essential to talk about what the military has become because of Bush's War of Choice. Along with how Bush has failed the American public, failed the military, and preys upon the weak and the poor in this country.

As a veteran and mother of a Marine, I'm asking: are there any Democrats out there with the courage for this?

Ruth Lopez
Orlando, FL