Thursday :: Feb 16, 2006

It's War Time. Do You Know Where YOUR Grandmother Is?

by pessimist

She might be out at the recruiters attempting to enlist to save your sorry ass from the recruiter - or an inevitable Bu$hco draft!

"Our hearts are broken, take us instead," and "Open the door now, we want to enlist."

Grandmothers across America protested the war in Iraq Tuesday by trying to enlist in the military. The protest is part of a national event [which] includes members of Peace Action, Women Against War, and other groups.

"I'm here because I do not accept my country invading another country based on a lie," said Betty McGowan, a member of Grandmothers for Peace Action.

"We feel it is our patriotic duty to enlist in the U.S. military in order to replace our grandchildren, who have been deployed there far too long and are anxious to come home now while they are still alive and whole," said Patricia Beetle of Castleton. "By this action, we are not supporting the use of military force in Iraq - in fact, we are totally against it - but inasmuch as it exists, our goal in joining up is only to protect young people from further death and maiming," she added.

Several grandmothers have been arrested in a peaceful anti-war protest at a US Army recruiting centre in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington, DC on Tuesday.

All of the women arrested are at least 70 years old.
About a dozen grandmothers say they wanted to enlist because too many grandsons are dying in Iraq. Ione Dusinberrie is one of the Protesters: "We've had our lives, and we would be very glad to put our lives in place of the young people, who have so much to offer, so much to do."
The oldest, 102-year-old Irene Mensalvas, says she took part in the protest because she is tired of seeing military funerals and wounded soldiers.
“We grandmothers have had long, full lives,” the grandmothers read from a statement. “Our young men and women deserve the same. We are prepared to take their place and by that action to help bring an end to this destructive occupation.”

“The idea is symbolic: to take the place of the kids,” Lasky said. “We also want to say to kids, ‘Wake up and see what the future holds for you.’”

80-year-old Hal Carlstad also made light of a political headline of the day in his appeal to join the service.

“I’m a much better shot than Dick Cheney,” he joked.

From All Walkers Of Life

GRANDMOTHERS AGAINST THE WAR sing in front of the U.S. Army recruiting offices on Broadway in Oakland on Tuesday afternoon to protest the war in Iraq.
(D. Ross Cameron)
"We have a lot of old Baptists," Coordinator Marge Lasky of Berkeley said. "People who have been involved in the Civil Rights Movement, the women's movement and the anti-war movements."

The Rev. Judy Tergis from San Francisco's Natural Grace Church took part in the demonstration. "By being peaceful and full of love, we're not as threatening, and people don't shut down in front of us," she said.

"We have no interest in a confrontation with the police or the recruiter," said spokeswoman Joan Levinson of Berkeley. "We're not trying to be provocative. We're trying to make a statement that we are deploring the number of young people that have been killed and wounded."

In addition, a contingent from Women in Black, a sponsor of the event, stood in silence with two black human figures as is their custom.

KATE LUTZ of Morgan Hill (left) recites a statement against the war in Iraq at a protest outside the U.S. Army recruiting offices in Oakland on Tuesday.

95-Year-Old Grandma Tries to Enlist

At 95 years old, Peg McIntyre's trying to join one more group: the United States military. McIntire's brother was killed in combat before World War II. "And ever since then, I have tried to live as if he was still here, and to do the things that he would have done," she said. So Tuesday, she led a squad of six grandmas like her into recruiting offices in St. Augustine [FL]. "We said, 'We're here -- all of us are here -- we came together to enlist,'"

McIntire said. The women offered to take the place of young men and women fighting in Iraq. "We've lived our lives, we can afford to let them go. So, the theme was: take us instead," McIntire explained.

The military just might be wise to listen to the Voices of Ages.

From the sound of things, Bu$hCo's desperate efforts to avoid having to reinstate the draft to fight its wars for petroleum dominance and thus risk igniting huge public protests is reaching the bottom of the barrel:

Army accepts crime in recruits
To fill its needs, military issues waivers for some past minor offenses

Struggling to boost its ranks in wartime, the Army has sharply increased the number of recruits who would normally be barred because of criminal misconduct or alcohol and illegal drug problems, once again raising concerns that the Army is lowering its standards to make its recruiting goals.

Historically, recruits who have high-school diplomas and are drug-free and crime-free are far more likely to make it through Army training and their three-year or four-year enlistment period, while those lacking these personal attributes are more likely to wash out.

A total of 73,000 men and women joined the Army in 2005, down from 77,000 in 2004. Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said recently that the Army is increasing the number of recruiters and beefing up bonuses, but he acknowledged that attempting to boost the size of the Army during a war is "very challenging."

The Army reached its recruiting goal in 2004, but it was about 7,000 recruits short last year.
Part of the reason for overall recruiting difficulties is the Bush administration's decision to temporarily increase the size of the Army by 30,000 to deal with the strain caused by the overseas missions in Iraq and elsewhere. The Army had about 480,000 soldiers before the Sept. 11 attacks. It now has about 492,000 and plans to increase that number to 512,000 over the next two years.

Last year, almost one in six Army recruits had a problem in their background that would have disqualified them from military service. In order to accept them, the Army granted special exceptions, known as recruiting waivers. In all, the Army granted waivers to 11,018 recruits in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2005, or 15 percent of those accepted into the service that year.

Those figures are up sharply from 2004, when 9,300 waivers were granted, or about 12 percent of those joining the Army.
The largest category of waivers was for medical conditions, such as asthma, flat feet or some hearing loss, officials said. There were 5,064 medical waivers in 2005, an increase from the 4,567 in 2004.

However, the largest increase was among recruits with a history of either criminal conduct or drug and alcohol problems, according to data provided by the Army. The Army provided the recruiting figures to The Sun after the newspaper obtained partial statistics.

The largest increase in waivers was for recruits with misdemeanor convictions. There were 4,587 waivers granted last year in that category, up from 3,667 in 2004. The category includes those with convictions for assault punishable by a fine of less than $500, resisting arrest, public drunkenness and contempt of court, according to Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky.

There were 737 waivers for alcohol and illegal drugs, up from 650 the previous year, which also reversed at least a four-year trend of declines in that category. Smith said those waivers were for recruits who tested positive for amphetamines, marijuana or cocaine during recruit processing. A waiver is required to let the recruit wait 45 days before taking another test.

While these problems are serious in and of themselves, none of these is especially egregious. Many recruiting-aged teens have behaved in this manner and haven't been arrested or convicted for these actions. In addition, sometimes joining the service is a motivation for a teen to get off drugs or quit drinking. I would concede that these are minor offenses, and shouldn't impede entering the service if such a person desired to do so.


There was a significant increase in the number of recruits with what the Army terms "serious criminal misconduct" in their background, said Smith. That category includes:
* aggravated assault
* robbery
* vehicular manslaughter
* receiving stolen property
* and making terrorist threats
The number of recruits in that category increased to 630, from 408 in 2004, reversing at least a four-year trend in which the number of recruits with serious criminal misconduct in their background had declined, according to Army statistics.

But, as results indicate, even these measures aren't working out:

Army statistics show a fairly steady increase in waivers over the past five years, a period that includes the increasingly deadly war in Iraq. Despite the increase in the proportion of those accepted with problems in their background, the Army failed to meet its recruiting target.

Army Lt. Gen. Theodore G. Stroup Jr., who was chief of Army personnel during the 1991 gulf war, said it's too early to say what effect the increased waivers will have on the Army.

That's his opinion. Other military experts disagree:

"Most of you might remember the armed forces post-Vietnam, where we had major problems in discipline, major problems in readiness, major problems across the board," Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's top officer, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.

"By and large these are flawed recruits," said retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who commanded the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the 1991 Persian Gulf war. He said the ripple effects of the waivers will be felt into the future when the recruits are up for promotion: "Those getting waivers won't be the sergeants we want."

McCaffrey recalled the post-Vietnam Army of the 1970s, which had similar low-quality recruits and soldiers. "It took us about a decade to take a fractured Army and turn it around," he said, adding that the global situation is grimmer than it was three decades ago. "We don't have 10 years this time."

The waivers reflect a troublesome trend, said Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University. "It shows you how the recruiting difficulties are getting worse," he said.

"They're dropping the standards. It increases the likelihood of problems in the unit, discipline problems."

That is why the Army National Guard is NOT lowering its recruiting standards:

Lt. Col. Mike Jones, deputy director of recruiting for the National Guard, said senior Guard officials made a decision to keep the number of such waivers as low as possible to avoid "second- and third-order effects." Jones said those with health problems could be a burden on the Guard's budget, while those who have criminal histories tend to be discipline problems that could infect a unit.

But even the National Guard has increased its waivers:

About 2.2 percent of the 21,300 recruits brought in during 2004 and 2.37 percent of last year's 19,400 recruits received waivers, according to the Army data. Smith, the Army Recruiting Command spokesman, said the Guard and Reserve might have an easier time avoiding waivers because their recruits tend to be older. There is a "maturity factor" that would decrease the likelihood of criminal or drug problems.

But he still doesn't want to admit that the Army is getting desperate to meet its assigned goals:

Smith denied that the increase in waivers reflects a lowering of standards by the Army or difficulties in meeting recruiting goals.

The Army's own numbers tell the real story:

The spike in waivers comes on the heels of a decision by Army leaders to double the percentage of recruits -- from 2 percent to 4 percent -- who score in the lowest acceptable category of the military's aptitude test. That level, known as Category IV, means the potential recruit scored between 16 and 30 on a test in which the highest grade is 99.
The new percentage means that 2,000 or more recruits would come into the Army with lower scores on the aptitude test.

And will be less likely to understand the difference between legal and illegal orders - or what constitutes acceptible military behavior in the field.

But the list of waivers doesn't end with (not-so-)minor criminal backgrounds:

The Army is also bringing in more recruits without high school diplomas and increasing the age limit for recruits, from 35 to 40.

So maybe the military would be better served by accepting Granny into the service - they seem to be headed there eventually anyway.

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