The political posturing and debating engulfing the land is touching on just about everything but the continuing slaughter of young Americans and our allies in Afghanistan.
I make note of Afghanistan war deaths because this blog honors those from my home state of Michigan who give their lives. A lot more are not being honored. Lives are being sacrificed at the rate or more than one per day. Why is there no national outrage about this horrible waste? At best, our politicians, except for maverick Republican candidate Ron Paul who stands no chance of being elected, are content to let the pointless conflict continue for two more years.
Throughout our recent military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, a few small voices have pointed out that the affluent and best educated among us are sending the poor and least educated off to die. Several of those voices, which didn’t get much of a hearing, suggested we should restore the draft that was ended after the conclusion of the Vietnam War. The reasoning is that, in a democracy, important sacrifices should be shared by all.
One counter argument, insensitive as it may be, is members of our all-volunteer forces knew what they were getting into when they signed up. They agreed to put their lives on the line; therefore we have little reason to be overly concerned when they are killed. I have heard such awful statements made by otherwise seemingly caring and thoughtful people.
I also have heard claims that our forces constitute a cross-section of the American public because reserves and National Guard units have been called to active duty frequently during the wars in the Middle East. The call-ups are a fact. That they resulted in a cross-section of society being involved in the conflicts is not. Several analyses of the death counts support the idea of an unfair assignment of risk.
Nine years ago, when the Iraq War was young, a newspaper consultant in Texas studied backgrounds of more than 300 U.S. soldiers who died in the conflict. The dead were 39 percent more likely that our total population to live in counties with less than 100,000 people. They were 16 percent more likely to have lived in a county with below-average levels of college graduates and 16 percent more likely to live in counties with below-average incomes.
The dead soldiers who came from large cities were disproportionately Hispanic or African-American. Very few came from prosperous urban areas—high-tech centers such as San Jose, Seattle, Austin, or Dallas. Those who died largely grew up in cities with declining older manufacturing economies or in rural regions, places with low levels of technology and innovation and high levels of unemployment.
The consultant who conducted the study concluded: “This may be America’s war, but it is being fought by only a part of America.”
A much larger study (of 3,100 deaths) in 2007 conducted for the Associated Press showed that almost half the American war fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan were young people from small towns and rural areas where employment opportunities were limited. The half came from towns with populations under 25,000 and 20 percent of them had a hometown where less than 5,000 people lived.
The study report said, “Many of the hometowns of the war dead aren’t just small in population, they’re poor.” Nearly three-quarters of those killed in Iraq came from towns where the per capita income was below the national average.”
With Iraq behind us and warfare in Afghanistan allegedly winding down, would current statistics show the same results? Probably. Here are the hometowns of the ten service members killed in Afghanistan last week:
Crystal Lake, Illinois; Centerville, Iowa; Colonia, New Jersey; Palatka, Florida; Ferndale, Washington; Willis, Texas; Glendale, Arizona; Norwood, Massachusetts; Wilder, Idaho; Pahrump, Nevada.
The Geezer believes if the draft had been in effect we never would have launched the second Iraq invasion and would have ended our participation in Afghanistan hostilities years ago. Without a draft, it has been too easy for our highly educated, affluent politicians to send less educated, poor young men and women into combat. And the rest of us failed miserably to force common sense upon our leaders because those sent forth to risk death really weren’t “our kids.”
The draft was ended in the aftermath of an extremely unpopular war. That action has produced several, probably unintended, negative consequences. Was ending the draft a colossal mistake?