Monday, January 2, 2017

Any fool knows we have an economic draft.

Caspar Weinberger
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

In a previous post, a video I put up, I talked (and wrote) of the military, of veterans and how disgusting it is that young people who have had to face the most horrific conditions, and real war is a horror scene, are faced with bureaucratic obstacles and spending restraints when it comes to taking care of them when they come back home. It had nothing to do what one's position is on war but how little the folks so eager to send our kids in to battle really think of them.

My comments were mostly about the crisis of addiction to narcotics that so many young veterans are dealing with. The fact that more than 20 veterans a day commit suicide is also tragic.  I pointed to what is obvious to most all working people other than those who spend too much time soaking up the 1%'s propaganda like a sponge, that those that "volunteer" are working class youth. Society is set up to ensure that the military is the best option for poor and working class youth. If higher education was free and public schools had a 1 to 12 or 1 to 14 teacher to student ratio like the schools that the rich sends their children too, there would not be so many working class victims for the military recruiters to pounce on.

I received the following comment on a FB group that my commentary/video was posted on.  The author writes: "It's a volunteer army. nobody forced you to do anything. take responsibility.". You have to wonder about the stupidity of some folks.  Is it stupidity? Does this person actually believe that volunteering or opting to join the military is the act of a "free" person? Is there no coercion in society? If that's so, how come whenever I wanted to get a worker in the workplace to sign a petition in support of a victimized co-worker, many of them were afraid to do so? What were they afraid of? And how come the sons and daughters of hedge fund managers, private equity lords, bankers and tech billionaires aren't signing up in droves?

I almost feel silly explaining this as surely any thinking worker understands why the working class volunteers,  this doesn't mean workers don't volunteer because they want to defend their country, we do, but we are conned in to believing a danger exists when it doesn't. Not to our interests as workers anyway.  The reason I am sort of responding to this guy's comment here is that when I was at work I had a run in with a worker (it's almost always a white worker) who I can tell was of a similar political bent, he too soaked up the propaganda of the bosses' media, parroted their propaganda on a regular basis. What usually accompanies this type of thinking is a racial bias and a hatred of the poor in general, a belief that those who are at the bottom rungs of society are there through their own choosing. If they were smarter, made better choices, they wouldn't be poor, would have more options.

But by chance I read a piece in the Wall Street Journal at the time, when one of their heroes Caspar Weinberger, attacked the argument that we basically have an economic draft. Weinberger, who was secretary of defense under Reagan and served in the Bush and Ford administrations, was also a lawyer for the Bechtel corporation and chairman of the billionaires magazine, Forbes. Bechtel is the company that often gets the contracts to rebuild a nation's infrastructure after the US military has bombed it. He basically argued that minorities and people of color were more patriotic than whites that explained the percentages. I found great pleasure handing that piece of information to my right wing co-worker.

Here is the piece I wrote around that time and distributed at work and below it is the actual article from Weinberger published in the Wall Street Journal. One has to laugh where he quotes Reagan as saying that every recruit "wants to be here" like they wouldn't rather be studying at a university or in a well paying job where they were less likely to get shot. But that's how these people look at the world, we are lesser creatures. After all, they must be smarter, they're in charge.

Military Recruiters Target Working Class Men………And Boys

by Richard Mellor

A year ago, U.S. Army recruiters were having a hard time. "To me, recruiting used to be easy. Right now, you really have to hunt for those ones who really want to do it (Army service)," states Richard Guzman, who recruits in New York City's Harlem section (Reuters 3-6-05)

Working class youth have been a little more reluctant to sign up since 911 and there has been much said about the fact that minorities are overly represented in the military; African Americans for example make up about 13% of the U.S. population but some 18% of the military.  The military wages aggressive campaigns aimed at working class and poor youth in order to get them in.

Recent news reports claim that there has been an increase in the percentage of Latinos signing up.  They were 13% of new recruits in 2004 according to the DoD; double what they were ten years earlier (SF Chronicle. 5-15-06).

To any serious observer there is obviously an economic draft in the US.  As Michael Moore pointed out in his film, Fahrenheit 911, the children of Congressmen and Senators don’t rush to serve.  The children of the rich and privileged have more options; it’s the economy stupid.

For Latinos, the increase probably has a lot to do with the increase in their population along with all the regular incentives to sign up plus extras.  After four years of service, Latino youth who are undocumented can get full U.S. citizenship.  If they die in combat they can be counted as dead U.S. citizens. There is no doubt that the appeal to the machismo influences decisions as well as the effect of advertising, school and society with regard to honor and patriotism, but it is painfully obvious that it is the prospect of an education or learning a skill that can lead to a better life that draws working class youth in to the military.

Not so for the finally deceased Caspar Weinberger.  Weinberger was very fond of sending other people’s kids to defend the interests of his old employer, Bechtel Corp.  He presided over a huge increase in U.S. military spending.

Responding to Congressman Charles Wrangel and John Conyers who have argued for the draft on the basis that the U.S. “must debate whether it should continue with a fighting force comprised disproportionately of people from low-income families and minorities.”, Weinberger, a favorite of many Americans of the right wing variety hurls a blow at the white worker.

This is “race and class warfare” bemoans Weinberger.  The capitalist class cannot admit that economic conditions and the lack of opportunity that this portends make the military a viable option.  College credits and/or financing are a possible route to a better job and a more secure future.

“This is all utter and pernicious nonsense.”
 says Weinberger,  “…the burden of defending the country is resting on the shoulders, white, black, brown, etc., of those who want that "burden," and whose volunteering gives it to them.   That’s it, rich kids simply don’t want the burden of defending the country and poor and working class kids do.  What loyalty.  Go Volunteers!

Weinberger responds to the disproportionate percentage of minorities in the military compared to their percentage of the population with an astounding attack on the white working class, “I would reply that that simply demonstrates that there is a higher degree of patriotism among black and Hispanic youths of draft age than among whites of draft age.” (WSJ 1-10-2003)

There we have it.  White workers, but especially white middle class and upper middle class youth just don’t care about America enough to join up.  For the sons of the capitalist class, the rich and powerful, they care even less and instead of dying a glorious death in Iraq or Afghanistan they enter that miserable and insecure world of insider trading or working at the family firm.

The point is that whatever percentage it is of whatever ethnic group that signs up, we know what the motive is and what the class background is of these “volunteers”. This reserve army of the unemployed or the low waged who are used to terrify those working in to submission under the threat of replacement, are also prime targets for defending US corporations interests abroad under the guise of defending the country or spreading “freedom.”  Workers do not need to be enticed to defend what we know is right and what is in our self-interest to defend.

The disgusting picture here of an army recruiter enticing a young Latino boy, inviting him to a possible early grave, is a reflection of how they have to deceive and lie to convince workers that joining up is in our own self interest; they start young just like the dope dealers.

With the recent immigration movement and demonstrations on May 1st and the rising opposition to corporate policies that wreak such devastation on our lives and the environment, the recruiters will hopefully have an increasingly cool reception.


January 10, 2003
WSJ Commentary (U.S.)

Dodgy Drafters


WASHINGTON -- Congressmen Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) and John Conyers (D., Mich.) have pushed some bad ideas before, but their new proposal -- to bring back the Vietnam era in the form of a military draft -- is far and away the worst. Attempting to play both the race and class warfare cards, the congressmen said the U.S. "must debate whether it should continue with a fighting force comprised disproportionately of people from low-income families and minorities." In another burst of unconscionable demagoguery, they also say that the burden of defending the country is resting too heavily on the shoulders of the blacks and minorities.

This is all utter and pernicious nonsense.

The congressmen never mentioned that the burden of defending the country is resting on the shoulders, white, black, brown, etc., of those who want that "burden," and whose volunteering gives it to them.

If some statistical genius has computed that our all-volunteer force may have slightly more black and Hispanic volunteers than is "proportionate" -- (to what?) -- I would reply that that simply demonstrates that there is a higher degree of patriotism among black and Hispanic youths of draft age than among whites of draft age. That should be a matter of praise and gratification. But no! The congressmen simply ignore the fact that however "proportional," our military is what it is because it is made up of people who want to be there.

Messrs. Rangel and Conyers want to scrap all that, roughly like the people who wanted to break up the New York Yankees because they were too good. The congressmen talk as if there is some racist administration forcing young blacks and Hispanics into the danger of war while leaving the children of the white and the rich free to evade military service and practice greed or whatever.

That is the picture they would like to paint. But that simply does not exist. The true picture is that if there are "disproportionately" too many black and Hispanic volunteers, that is because "too many" of them are volunteering to defend us all. Mr. Rangel and others like him prefer force and compulsion, not reason, on behalf of their causes; and so their solution to the "dilemma" of too many patriotic blacks, etc., seems to be two-fold. One: Either refuse them admission to the military until the "numbers are corrected"; or two: draft everyone aged 18-26 into a vast unneeded pool of people, all of whom, no matter how unsuitable, would have to be given military training or forced into some unspecified national service.

This would cost enormous sums -- far higher than Messrs. Rangel and Conyers would vote to authorize -- all to give the country many million more unneeded government employees. But neither a draft, nor a refusal to allow patriotic young blacks and Hispanics to volunteer, are needed or favored by the military or the majority of citizens. Instead, the stage would be set for the fierce opposition to a draft that marked the Vietnam years, when the nation was polarized.

Would any of this improve the military? Hardly. The purpose of the Rangel-Conyers draft is not to improve the military but to build public opposition to war with Iraq. A collateral result would be to fill the military with people who do not want to be there.

A recent editorial in this newspaper exploded the idea that the children of low income or minority parents are at greater risk in war. Those who insist that blacks will become the brunt of combat casualties "have it exactly backwards," as the Journal correctly pointed out. The Rangel-Conyers problem is that none of the standard demagogic appeals to racism or class warfare apply to a military comprised exclusively of volunteers. So the congressmen have to invent a scenario in which to invoke their mumbo-jumbo.

* * *

The bottom line, to which every American concerned about national security should pay heed: Trained and eager volunteers are far more effective soldiers than conscripts. I volunteered for the Army and the Infantry as a private after graduating from Law School in 1941 and trained and served with both drafted soldiers and volunteers. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that volunteers were far more effective than draftees and eager to train and to fight.

Once, early in 1982, President Reagan and I reviewed a force of young American soldiers newly enrolled. Afterwards he said to me, "You know, Cap, I would infinitely rather look each of these young people in the eye and know that each wants to be here.

Let's keep it that way.

Mr. Weinberger, defense secretary in the Reagan administration, is chairman of Forbes magazine.

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