The Exploitation of the American Soldier: Part I of II: Of Caste Drafts and Society's Complicity
The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government… The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few to ride them.
– Thomas Jefferson
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
– Frederick Douglass
We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people …The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men. … Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.
The government is merely a servant -- merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn't. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.
– Mark Twain
The story of the American Soldier is much more than a propaganda-laced cover in Time magazine, designed to sell copies, make profits by exploiting patriotism, create acquiescence in BushCo’s preemptive warmongering and empire building policies and in fostering approval and support of a most ambiguous war campaign. The story of the American Solider is much more than a picture of three soldiers posing in full battle gear, M-16’s in hand, ready to invade a “rogue nation,” destroy its infrastructure and kill its citizens. (Perhaps three soldiers dressed in military dress uniform, without machine guns, protective helmets and Kevlar vests would have been more appropriate and in better taste, given the deep resentment and animosity our little pre-emptive wars are creating throughout the world. In Indymedia Jakarta, for example, an anonymous poster labeled the US “psychopaths in pure culture” after he/she saw the cover of Time. Patriotic propaganda at home, terrible portrayal represented abroad.)
Hidden behind the illusory fantasy the corporate media portrays of noble fighting in tumultuous wars, lies a world of death, suffering and lifelong sacrifice, a world of psychological trauma and physical torture, a world of Veteran abandonment by the same government that has sent millions to kill and be killed, a world where America’s finest, along with their families, are swept underneath the rug of indifference and a world in which ethnicity, class structure and society’s deadly ills mix in a noxious concoction to form that most clandestine of military drafts that is based on poverty, lack of education and the caste one is born into.
Our soldiers have become mercenaries to the elite few, neither defending the illusions of freedom or democracy abroad, instead fighting, killing and destroying for the sake of the oligarchy, a small band of miscreant chickenhawks in both government and business enriching themselves through the collective exploitation of low and working class men and women. Expendable cannon fodder our troops have become, invading, occupying and policing those regions of the world the oligarchs want to conquer and subjugate. The corporate Leviathan’s personal army is unleashed, sent to secure its hegemony, economic prowess and resource-rich feudal estates.
Throughout history, the lower and working class structure has been created and purposefully oppressed and exploited – through insurmountable obstacles designed to make almost impossible an escape from the caste one has been permanently placed into – to defend and protect the elite’s interests. The American army is but another instrument to achieve the oligarchy’s powermongering aspirations. Through Bush, the American Soldier is being used to enrich the military-industrial complex, the oil-energy cartel and the corporate Leviathan oligarchy that controls both business and government.
It is hard to believe that we are securing our own freedoms and liberties by invading and taking away those same principles from other peoples and nations that had nothing to do with 9/11. Do not be fooled by this propaganda hallucination; the truth of the matter is that our sons and daughters are fighting to secure and expand the interests of the few; to enrich their bank accounts and increase their insatiable thirst for power and control. We are invading nations, becoming an offensive fighting machine. Our troops are not defending our lands, we are not being invaded, our freedoms, liberties and democratic principles are not being threatened by an alien enemy but rather by our own government. Warmongers we have become, offensively decimating and pilfering other peoples’ resources, nations and rights for no righteous intentions. This is not the America of old, and, thanks to a few at the top, our soldiers fight battles without just cause and moral standing.
The American Soldier is being used and abused, like so many others before, for cynical purposes. Expendable they are to the oligarchy, both in mind and body. Burned, scarred, brain damaged, amputated and torn open by hot molten shrapnel our soldiers return, dead or wounded, becoming invisible symbols of the horrors of war and of the exploitation a few lunatics at the top subject them to. Mentally stressed, exhausted, damaged and psychologically shredded our men and women become, unable to heal the perpetual scars of battle that will linger in their minds the rest of their lives.
For many, the stresses of what they have seen, breathed, tasted and touched will be a part of their daily lives, ingrained in everything they do, present inside them like a demon attached to their torso by a macabre chain of trepidation. Over time the demon will devour them from inside, altering their personalities and their way of life. This is the sacrifice they are expected to assume, one that changes them forever – if they are lucky enough to survive. They sacrifice their remaining existence, the remaining years of their lives. This is the story of the American Soldier, forced to sacrifice life, mind and limb while the few chickenhawks who send them enjoy their million dollar fundraising dinners, basking in their million dollar homes paid by million dollar bank accounts.
The ultimate sacrifice is being paid for reasons that few comprehend, in circumstances that yearn to be understood and for a reality that is hard to believe and accept. The excuses have been many, and many have been impeachable lies and shams. Freedom and democracy are but the latest, found at the bottom of the barrel by Bush, in a last act of desperation, being the hardest to implement, therefore the hardest to prove wrong and question. Now our soldiers are made to believe these audacious deceits, when in fact they die and suffer for much more sinister motives.
For these reasons, like Time, I agree that our heroic men and women, in overcoming so much with so little and in spite of everything the elite few have done to endanger their lives and futures, should be named 2003’s Person of the Year. The reasons, however, are altogether different. Like so many, I am for our soldiers, against the war, and this article is dedicated to all those who through no fault of their own find themselves caught inside the most frightful nightmare they will ever be forced to endure. We can only hope these moments of madness instituted by those at the top will soon end and we can devote ourselves to fighting much more important battles at home.
Everyday Guerilla War in Iraq
Away for months now from the safe confines of this country’s faraway shores, the American Soldier in Iraq has had to endure the constant stresses of a continuous and unrelenting guerilla war. It was a war those at the top, where the buck is supposed to stop, had undoubtedly expected before the launching of the massive invasion of Iraq. Dozens of national security analysts, armed forces brass, intelligence personnel and Presidential advisors had in most likelihood foreseen the prolonged street to street violence and resistance our men and women would have to face during the “keeping the peace” phase of the occupation. To not have expected it would have simply been a complete failure in intelligence and leadership. In cost-benefit analysis, however, a few thousand American casualties outweighed the perceived benefits soon to be reaped.
Tens of thousands of men and women trained for and expecting open desert combat were thrust into a guerilla war very few were ready or prepared to fight in. Their training in instruments of war having been deemed useless in guerilla urban warfare, many have struggled to understand an enemy that sees in the American Soldier invasion, occupation, exploitation and humiliation. As a result, more than 455 have died and more than 10,000 have been evacuated due to various injuries and maladies. These brave soldiers were inserted into poorly trained urban policing roles, -- far removed from their particular niche training – into environments they did not understand, a culture alien to most and a language unlike anything they had ever seen. Trained in the traditional roles of war, our soldiers have instead had to adapt, evolve and learn as they go, in a war none of them asked for, for a purpose that has nothing to do with defending our freedom and liberty. Daily they are shot, maimed and scorned at, unable to discern friend from foe, welcomed not with roses but with RPGs and roadside bombs. Securing the peace has meant street warfare and Iraqi dehumanization, death and destruction, alienation and growing hatred. Gaining hearts and minds has been a failure, instead being turned by Bush into into saving face and covering one’s ass.
The Hummers that transport our troops are without bomb resistant armor. Kevlar vests are in short supply – more than 40,000 are needed for soldiers patrolling cities and towns. Parents back home have had to buy these vests out of their own pockets to protect their sons and daughters. Many soldiers are dehydrated, safe drinking water is scarce. Many have traded their M-16 for enemy AK-47s because of the former’s tendency to jam on a consistent basis. Prolonged tours of duty have been extended to troops whose time to return home has arrived and gone. The “leaders” at the top, in order to fulfill self-defeating ideologies, and in order to not be looked on as fools, refused to increase troop strength when military officers knew it would be necessary to help secure the peace. As a result, fewer troops mean less security and more mistakes. But when the reputation of those at the top is at stake, when they refuse to acknowledge mistakes, cannon fodder troops are but insignificant statistics that are seen as lifeless drones, without wives, husbands, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and friends. They are expendable entities.
This is what life is like for our sons and daughters in Iraq. As a result, moral is low, AWOLs are numerous and suicides increasing. The reality is that most troops do not know what it is they are fighting for, and the only discernable objective seen is the pursuit of black blood, American hegemony and strategic base allocation. Protecting the numerous Bush crony war profiteers, those reaping billions in reconstruction money, is also a central command given to our soldiers. Destruction of a nation, after all, is an extremely profitable business venture, especially to friends of the administration.
We have destroyed a nation only to rebuild it once again, granting it and the profiteers the many funds desperately needed to reconstruct the fabric of our own nation. Our social fabric rots, its funds disappearing away like footprints on a wet beach, sacrificed to the war profiteers, leaving us all behind as waves of greed return to the Leviathan. Pilfering our wages and our soldiers for their own fraudulent purposes, and we dare raise not our voices. The systemic larceny of both Iraqi and our country’s financial and resource assets continues unabated, and the exploitation of our greatest assets – our men and women – has become a national travesty.
The ceaseless campaign to make corporate mercenaries of our soldiers, basically a slave army designed to enrich the Leviathan with each forward step taken by its collective boots, is resulting in the death and injury to hundreds and thousands, respectively. All for the love of the almighty dollar, the greed of a few and the unquenchable addiction for power and control of the nation’s oligarchs. Our men and women are dying in vain, but when the army is an assembly of citizens from ghettos, urban reservations and rural communities, mostly from low and working caste families, perhaps those where the buck is supposed to stop care not in sending young lives to die and suffer for the greater wealth of a few contributors and friends.
Caste Drafts and Society’s Role in the Making of a Soldier
Out of the worst neighborhoods and rural outposts they are from, living both in concrete jungles and desolate fields of dried up crops. Today’s United States armed forces are an amalgam of rural and urban, black, white and Hispanic, all sharing low and working class backgrounds, coming from the worst educational districts in the nation. This is the American Soldier, not upper middle class or elite boys and girls, not the sons and daughters of the oligarchy. The armed forces are composed of those less fortunate, those with little or no opportunity and future, those whose educational systems are in shambles and those the system throws away into its bins of refuse.
Children in urban areas, mostly black and Hispanic, find themselves encaged by the invisible walls of the ghetto, unable to escape, by reason of income and parental lack of education and opportunity, their modern day reservation. These centers of indigence and ingrained ignorance, fed by a system that helps exacerbate rather than alleviate both, are a living, breathing, vicious cycle in which escape is near impossible, where individuals remain stuck inside for their entire lives, passing on the same destiny to their children. Thus, without jobs, without a decent income, with a lack of education and opportunity and fighting against a system that maintains the status quo, a caste system emerges, trapping generations of urban people in a perpetual state of oppression.
The system feeds off of those less fortunate, indeed, depends on them for its exploitable needs. The caste system needs low wage slaves to work those jobs necessary to keep the economic engine running. Capitalist elites need to subjugate entire segments of the population in order to exploit workers with low wages and long hours. Keeping millions in shackles, through incarceration in ghettos, robbing children of a decent education and denying upward mobility through lack of opportunity, guarantees the continued prolongation of the perpetual caste system.
As future fighting machines grow up, they must survive the concrete jungles, full of dangers lurking around, either in confronting street pressures, gangs or drug zones, in bad households and in worse school systems. Learning little, development being purposefully impeded, resources being almost nonexistent, the future soldier begins to see at an early age that unless he or she escapes the iron grip of the urban reservation, life will be the same or worse than parents and grandparents. Seeing that exodus is virtually impossible thanks to the numerous obstacles placed at one’s feet, the future soldier sees in the armed forces the only viable alternative.
The educational system in these areas is a disaster, ill-preparing students for higher education and for those jobs that offer upward mobility. The armed forces know exactly what goes on in urban areas and their corresponding school districts. It is for this reason that they flood high schools, in some cases primary and junior high schools as well, with recruiters who immediately begin selling the “benefits” of the armed forces to the still young and naïve students seeking a way out of their confined existence. These schools force upon their students an annual standardized test that is given by the armed forces to better determine future prospects. Recruiters are given personal information about students and the harassment begins, oftentimes with phone calls to a student’s home and forced meetings at school. Recruiters may seek out potential grunts at homes. Counselors begin recruiting as well, pushing student’s towards joining the armed forces.
These heavy tactics are repeated over and over, year in and year out, until quotas are met. Young men and women, still innocent and easily manipulated, seeing the bleak prospects at home, are in essence pushed to join the military and become future killing machines. Promises of solid wages, better and higher education, an escape from the prison called the ghetto, an opportunity to be released from the chains of the caste, all are reasons for joining, all become part of the caste draft that is thrust upon urban students.
This nation prides itself on the voluntary aspects of today’s military. In reality, upon careful inspection, it can be seen that when one is living in a reservation, without viable opportunity to excel or a meaningful future to look forward to, the freedom to chose becomes a choice to survive, and in that sense there is nothing voluntary about joining the armed forces. When given a choice to either remain in a perpetual caste or escape onto new horizons, the decision is simple. In the world’s richest nation the choices presented to the urban citizen should not be so profound.
However, when the system encourages and indeed fosters the caste system in order to have a large number of easily exploitable subjects that become either soldiers or low wage slaves, the choices become not voluntary in the normal sense of the word but rather compulsory decisions made to better one’s life. The system’s diseases make joining the military the only option in order to live a better life, and, in the real world, the system drafts these men and women thanks to the widespread levels of oppression it creates.
This makes the belief in an all volunteer army nothing but a mirage. People are basically forced to join, preferring to risk going to war than to dying living a life of hardship in an invisibly enclosed Bantustan that offers little of anything. The caste draft therefore selects the downtrodden, the less affluent, the less educated and the ones that, were they to stay near home, would have but a very uninviting future.
This is manifested in the aggressive recruiting campaign targeting Hispanics. The goal stated by the military is to increase this minority representation from its present 10 percent representation to 22 percent in the next few years. This exponentially growing group, usually low income with very few educational or employment prospects, has been targeted as the next wave of impoverished minorities that will act as tomorrow’s cannon fodder in wars. Economically vulnerable citizens are always a huge recruiting segment for the armed forces. It is these people that provide the means by which to carry out future wars. Sent to the front lines, Hispanics will fight and die, and the reason therefore exists to have the system work to keep this minority at the margins of society.
Similar recruiting circumstances also apply to rural America, where instead of concrete jungles there exist farms of monotony, destitution and lack of opportunity. Education in these regions, while not as bad as in urban centers, still lags far behind those of richer suburban districts. Opportunities in rural zones are limited, jobs are few, wages low, chances for higher education minimal. For these same reasons a large portion of the armed forces are comprised of white rural men and women looking for an escape and a chance to better their lives. Again the caste system is at work, pulling rural youth in the direction of the armed forces. Replace the words ghetto, reservation, urban and Bantustan, and the same forces that push minorities into the military is prevalent, though to a lesser degree, in rural areas. It is from these districts that most of the military recruits come from. Low, working caste men and women, less fortunate, less well educated and less likely to escape the caste they have been born into than their suburban counterparts, seek escape from barren rural towns and farms that do not offer a prosperous future.
Thus recruiting and aggressive marketing is used to lure these young men and women into the military. The government is not stupid, and it knows exactly where it will be able to meet its quotas. Again, we might think the choice is voluntary, but is it really when one wishes for nothing more than to escape the environment and the caste that cannot be escaped? When government does nothing in its power to better the lives of millions, in reality making a student’s decision obvious, pushing indigence and lack of opportunities in order to garner recruits, is the choice really voluntary? Today’s young men and women simply want to live a life worth living, a betterment to their present predicament, an escape from their homes, and, when the only opportunity to achieve this is by joining the military, then the voluntary charade we are made to believe in does not exist, and the finger can then be pointed to the caste draft that has through the system’s failings introduced millions to the armed forces.
Sure, many join out of patriotism and manipulation or out of hereditary tradition, but these soldiers are few and far between. Volunteering for them is indeed a part of their decision making process. (More will be said on this subject in Part II.)
History Once More Repeated
In the not so long history of human civilization the continued exploitation of the working classes continues to be manifested. This can easily be seen in the government’s – and corporate Leviathan’s – abuse of America’s brave soldiers. As has been the case throughout history, the poor are exploited for the benefit of the elite, and today we see an entire army fighting, suffering horrendous physical and mental injuries and dying for the interests of our feudal lords. Serfs and slaves, low, working and middle class, the differences are minute, the similarities eerie. Time continues on its journey, as does the human caste system that creates so much inequality, injustice and human devastation. To be born in misery and deprivation is not one’s fault; to create and foster it is insidious.
Through a system that purposefully creates and furthers lack of opportunity through the continued preservation of blatantly destitute educational institutions thanks to unjust and nefarious tax schemes the caste system remains intact, a solidly invisible concrete wall that acts as an obstacle to millions who through birth are destined to become exploitable and expendable beings. Those living in areas devoid of growth and job prospects, making low wages and suffering through numerous hard working hours without benefits thanks to the influence and money of elite capitalists are trapped in a vicious circle that helps maintain the caste system to what it is today.
This caste, much like India’s, is almost impossible to escape. It ensnarls millions. People are born into it through no fault of their own; they live and die in it, unable to escape its grip thanks to the numerous barriers purposefully placed there by the system. Today the American dream of upward mobility is but a façade, another illusion ingrained into our minds to whitewash the reality that has become the United States. Our soldiers are not the first to be exploited, nor will they be the last. Unfortunately it is a part of humanity, from our cave days until today, and only a united citizenry can decide whether it continues into the future or suffers a most painful death in the present.
Until then, our sons and daughters will continue to die, suffer and undergo mental anguish, sacrificing their futures for the continued accumulation of wealth and power from the few oligarch’s that sent them to war. In the coming war of perpetuity, a most unfortunate end will come to so many of our loved ones, dead not from fighting for freedom or liberty or to protect our democracy but for trying to better their lives, escape their urban and rural reservations, find happiness and to flee that most debilitating and inescapable caste the system run by the powerful refuses to relinquish. History’s pages continue to be turned by the black abyss of ignorance that makes blind bats of us all.