The Ultimate Lottery – US military targets poor Latinos for frontline duties in Iraq
Outstanding in the Street: One Man's Opinion on Recruiting the Poor into the Military
By Lee William Sachs
Latino Mexicans (no longer "Hispanics" – this term is not PC, Politically Correct) comprise almost 13% of the American population. Yet, across the board they make up almost 12% of all active duty personnel (excluding the Air Force).
Following the widespread insurgency in early 2004 the US Government has gone on a nationwide recruitment drive that has targeted young Hispanics with promises of green cards, scholarships, Pew Grants, OCS, post-service employment, and various medical and pension benefits, and last but not least, PROMOTION. If you listen to the sales pitch of Army, Navy and Marine recruiters (all NCOs that must achieve high quotas of conscripts or they, themselves, will find their sorry asses out in the frontlines of Afganaston, Iraq and who knows where else. So, the following photograph, is flashed repeatedly to Mexican, Chicano and TexMex candidates:
The odds of any Mexican, or for that matter, any Latino reaching general grade is slighly less than winning the Power Ball Lottery in the States. And to date, there have been no casualties associated with U.S.A. lotteries. In essence, although Latinos comprise double digit percentages in the enlisted ranks, there are so few commissioned hispanic officers that if you tossed them all in one room they would be hard put to organize a mariachi group! In passing, does anyone remember what happened to General Sanchez? This writer will give you a hint: Ricardo was rotated back to the states under a cloud of innuendo and rumor. He never got his fourth star. So be it. Another carrot that never materialized.
These aforementioned carrots go on and on and on, and to date, the only real guarantee of the much-valued naturalization papers is POSTHUMOUSLY. The US Government's interest in this massive recruitment drive boils down to the following sad statistic: In today´s America, one in seven 18-year-olds are of Hispanic origin. Invariably poor and jobless, they are prime candidates for US Military Occupational Specialists hungry for recruits. And when they arrive at the beautifully fortified Baghdad International Airport, it is a matter of mere minutos before they are deployed in the most popular units for Afro-Americans and Latinos: The infantry! In Iraq, the Pew Institute for Hispanic Studies catagorically states that these 'green card troops' have enlisted in droves with the US Government's 'poverty draft'. They are the huge contingent of Hispanic personnel who–for personal and economic reasons–have been recruited into the ranks of the US military (please note that the figures used in this monograph DO NOT include citizens of Central and South America). The biggest single contingent of such troops is made up of Mexicans and Mexican descendants. Many were in the marine units from Camp Pendleton in San Diego that participated in the initial stages of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and later fought 'insurgents' in Falluja.
Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Central Americans and Ecuadorians are also well represented. Since the start of the war about a third of US cannon fodder stationed in Iraq–between 31,000 and 37,000 troops out of a total of about 130,000–were non-US citizens serving in the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and air force (the latter not a favorite repository for disenchanted Mexicans).
This recruitment campaign is driven by an executive order signed in July 2002 by President Bush, which effectively allows recruits in active duty during the 'war on terror' to apply for citizenship once they join up rather than having to wait years for the granting of a green card. Since 11 September 2001, the Bush Administration has tightened immigration procedures and cut public spending in a number of areas such as housing and education. This has meant that many young Latinos feel they have little choice but to pursue the inducements offered by the US military.
These non-citizen members of the military have a limited number of Military Occupational Specialties to choose from when enlisting. As a consequence, noncitizens are over-represented in some of the most dangerous field operations. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanic troops make up about 17.5 per cent of front-line forces.
Not surprisingly, such troops die or are injured in disproportionate numbers. US Department of Defense figures suggest a casualty rate for Latino military members of about 13 per cent–almost two-and-a-half times the rate of other serving members and many times more than in previous conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War. Significantly, of the first 1,000 US deaths in Iraq, the overwhelming majority was among the lowest-ranked, poorest-paid, and worst-trained troops. Over 120 were Latinos–about 70 of them Mexican. These figures are not inclusive of the multitude of these mercenaries that return home missing some very vital parts: arms, hands, legs etcetera. Of course, they can always return to join the United Farm Workers of America. You only need one appendage to pick crops!
With few prospects of gaining US citizenship through the usual channels, and with little hope of employment, decent housing and education, the call to arms clearly holds some attraction. Yet as the advocacy organization Latinos against the Iraq War has pointed out, the various promises made by the Government frequently fail to materialize when Latino service personnel return home. Many of these troops–especially those who are injured–find they are in worse circumstances than when they left for Iraq; themselves victims of the very 'war on terror' they were recruited to vanquish.
Of course, there is a plus to this whole exercise. We´ve got so many Latino grunts in Afganistan and Iraq that the insurgents are having a difficult slog eavesdropping on radio communications. G-d, this writer has been living in Mexico for almost 17 years and I´ll be damned if I know what anybody is saying. With luck, maybe we can confuse these already confused rebels who never wanted Christianity, Sanity or Democracy — The Holy Trinity of our present day Crusade(s).
About the Author: Lee William Sachs is a U.S Army Veteran (Vietnam). He has a Masters in Journalism from Seattle University. He is currently retired and living in Mexico where he writes fiction novels. He can be reached at [email protected]