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Tuesday
Sep 02nd

Disillusioned with Iraq war, Black enlistment down by 58 percent

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By Askia Muhammad -- Special to the NNPA from the Final Call

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - In the face of a huge drop in Black recruitment, the U.S. military is waging a losing battle on the home front - for new enlistees to don the uniform. Since fiscal year 2000, Defense Department statistics show that the number of young Black enlistees has fallen by more than fifty-eight percent.

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - In the face of a huge drop in Black recruitment, the U.S. military is waging a losing battle on the home front - for new enlistees to don the uniform. Since fiscal year 2000, Defense Department statistics show that the number of young Black enlistees has fallen by more than fifty-eight percent.

The Army may have been hardest hit. In 2000, Pentagon statistics reveal that 42,000 Black men and women applied to join. Five years later, that number was down to just above 17,000.

The perceptually immoral and unpopular war and occupation of Iraq is the biggest single factor depressing Black enlistment, along with distrust of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney - neither of whom served in combat themselves - and the persistent complaint since the Vietnam War that Black soldiers are the Army's "cannon fodder," disproportionately assigned to combat jobs.

Since December 2001, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has been a leading voice in the principled opposition to the Iraq war, warning Pres. Bush directly, as well as young Blacks, Latinos and others, in two open letters of the consequences now unfolding in this country.

"There is a rising chorus of anti-war demonstrations in the nation and throughout the world and it will intensify as you move toward war with the thought of occupying Iraq," Minister Farrakhan said in a letter to Pres. Bush dated October 30, 2002. "The anti-war demonstrators will blame every death of an American service person and every death of an Iraqi citizen on you, and this will produce a crisis for your administration within the United States, as well as in countries throughout the world."

The Army Recruiting Command acknowledged that the war in Iraq has depressed respect for the military in the Black community where the war is very unpopular. A recent CBS News poll showed that eighty-three percent of Blacks said the Iraq invasion was a mistake. In addition, Pres. Bush's approval rating is at an all-time low with Black voters at about nine percent, according to a 2006 Pew Research Center poll.

The Black decline is by far the largest of any demographic group. By contrast, from 2000 to 2005, white applicants declined by about ten percent, while Hispanic applications dropped by only seven percent.

"African-Americans have been such a key part of the modern military," said Michael O'Hanlon, military analyst for the Brookings Institution, according to a published report. "There's obviously been a degree where the Black community in the United States has seen [military service] as culturally valuable and promoted it. That whole culture and value system is at risk in the Black community. That is a big, big change. To me, it portends the possibility of a longer-term loss of interest. It can be tough to get it back."

Just as frustration over the pace of the Civil Rights movement began to cool Black enthusiasm for the military during the Vietnam War era, the Bush administration's non-response to the suffering of victims during Hurricane Katrina has also increased the notion that the government itself "does not care about Black people."

"The Viet Cong never called me a n----r," was the refrain made popular in 1967 by Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali, whose celebrated claim to be a conscientious objector because of his status as a minister in the Nation of Islam was eventually decided in his favor by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The answer for Black people is to separate from this unjust society, "and create something new and better under the guidance of God," Minister Farrakhan advised on Oct. 16, 2007 in his Day of Atonement address, speaking in Atlanta. ". . . just think, Pharaoh has actually let us go. Pharaoh has nothing more for us to do except fi
 

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