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(en) NEA #6.5: The Poverty Draft: Recruiting the Working Class to the Frontlines - by Red Sonja and Stacy

From Northeastern Anarchist <northeastern_anarchist@yahoo.com>
Date Sat, 29 Mar 2003 09:31:01 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

The US Military has long targeted the working class to
become cannon fodder -, from roping in starving Irish
immigrants to fight in the US Civil War, to today's
JROTC programs invading our impoverished public
schools. The draft of the Vietnam era forced poor
people and people of color into the military's lowest,
deadliest ranks. Today's "poverty draft" is more
devious, but just as effective.

Recruiters are relentlessly using marketing strategies
to woo low income youths with little prospects for
education and good jobs into the armed forces.
Painting the Army as a kind of job training and
vocational school, and simultaneously as a financial
aid institution, recruiters get youths in high school
to sign up to the DEP (Deferred Enlistment Program).
When young people try and back out of enlisting,
recruiters often lie and tell them it is impossible or
illegal to drop out.

In fact, the military isn't a generous financial aid
institution, and it isn't concerned with helping pay
for school. Two-thirds of all recruits never get any
college funding from the military. Only 15% graduated
with a four year degree. 65% of recruits who pay the
required $1200 into the Montgomery GI Bill never get a
dime in return.

In terms of job opportunities, to join the army is
actually more detrimental to job prospects. Veterans
actually earn less than non-veterans: the average
post-Vietnam War-era veteran will earn between 11% and
19% less than non-veterans from comparable class
backgrounds. Over 50,000 unemployed veterans are on
the waiting list for the military's "retraining"
program. The Veterans Administration estimates that
1/3 of homeless people are vets.

The evidence on rates of return to training and the
probability of finding a job in one's chosen
occupation, strongly suggests that, all else being
equal, young people should look to sources of training
other than the military if they wish to optimize their


The military uses economic discrimination (i.e.
economic conscription or an economic draft), that
forces lower income people into the military in order
to earn a living, try to learn a trade or get money
for their education. Not surprisingly, the "poverty
draft" primarily targets youth of color from
low-income areas, both urban and rural. Military
recruiters prey upon the working classes in Black,
Latino, Native American, Asian, Arab, and Pacific
Islander communities. Quite simply, the armed forces
target people of color for recruitment
disproportionately, and thus die in war
disproportionately. During Operation Desert Storm over
50% of the front-line troops were people of color,
largely Latino.

Desperate to meet recruiting goals, the military has
undertaken another mass expansion of its Junior
Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program. These
programs traditionally target communities of color,
especially areas of Latino concentration. The prior
JROTC expansion took place in 1992 in the aftermath of
the Gulf War and the L.A. uprising. Writes Shelly
Reese, for American Demographics Magazine, "The riots
underscored the lack of opportunities for teenagers in
economically disadvantaged areas. That led General
Colin Powell to lobby for expanded JROTC."


A glaring example of the poverty draft at work is the
case of Puerto Rico. On the island, unemployment is
more than double the national average of 5%. In
addition, wages and salaries are low - per capita
income is $8,000 annually, compared to $18,000 in the
poorest state, Mississippi. No wonder the Army Times
reports the San Juan and Aguadilla recruiting
companies averaged nearly 900 Regular Army and Army
Reserve recruits in 1998. In contrast, the average for
the Army's other 240 recruiting companies was half
that. This situation in Puerto Rico is but one case of
what is happening in Latino communities across the


Youths who are targeted for recruitment, signed up for
DEP, or GIs already serving active duty have responded
more than ever against the military's plans for them.
With the growing war mania and calls for revenge from
the Bush administration ever since 9/11, and the
"Operation Iraqi Freedom" War now under way, those in
the military who understand the serious mistake of war
have been seeking a way out. Last year there were
21,000 calls to one program designed to help those
enlisted: the GI Rights Hotline. Already in 2003 they
are fielding twice as many calls as compared to this
time last year. They have information on how to get
out of DEP, how to keep students' private information
like addresses and phone numbers out of the hands of
the recruitment vultures, and they have the facts
about AWOL/Unauthorized Absence status and how to file
for conscientious objector status.

The GI Rights hotline and related projects like the
?Military Out of Our Schools Project? can be contacted
in their Philadelphia office: 1-888-236-2226. The GI
Rights hotline is 1-800-394-9544. Also
www.objector.org for more information.


This is essay is from the forth-coming supplementary,
anti-war issue of 'The Northeastern Anarchist'. This
issue will NOT be available from our usual
distributors, and we will not accept bulk orders

To get a copy, send $2ppd to:

The Northeastern Anarchist PO Box 230685 Boston, MA
02123 northeastern_anarchist@yahoo.com


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