Saturday, August 27, 2005

An All-Volunteer Army?

As the whole Cindy Sheehan media circus continues, we've seen hundreds of attempts to smear the poor woman. People have attributed dozens of quotes to her that she never said and many other quotes have been taken way out of context. However, no matter how hard Rush Limbaugh (listen here: and other neo-cons ( read here: try to destroy her credibility, Cindy Sheehan won't go away. As proof that America is catching on, the President's approval rating is below Richard Nixon's during the height of the Watergate scandals - and, largely, its because of the immense unpopularity of the war in Iraq.

While most of the neo-cons on air, online and on Fox News have resorted to smearing Sheehan, some people (mostly callers and regular folks) have tried to actually make a point. The point is this: Casey Sheehan, Cindy's son who died in Iraq, actually volunteered to join the army. However, I want to challenge the concept of an all-volunteer United States Army.

Surely, many people - tens of thousands - have completely volunteered to join the army. However, tens of thousands does not make an "all-volunteer army." The term is exclusive. The army, in fact, is not an all-volunteer army at all. In reality, the army is merely an indication of all that is wrong with this country: the fact that there is a two-tiered system of citizenship. The army just goes to show the populace that John Edward's assessment, that there are two Americas, is absolutely true. Some people volunteer for the army and some people see no other alternative to escape poverty, see no other way to pay for college or no other immediate job opportunities.

Like I said, some people choose to join the army. Others, if they want a better life, have no other choice. Ask many people who join the army why they did it and they'll tell you it offerred them a way out. It offers them a second chance on life - a chance to get an education. A chance to get a good job someday and leave behind chaos at home or in the nieghborhood. Until the US can fix these problems, the army will never be an "all-volunteer" institution.

Perhaps the previous paragraph would seem like a great paragraph to insert in a recruit pamphlet. However, people should not have to gamble their life to have a chance at success; it should come standard to all US citizens as a birthright. If all people are "created equal" we must give all people the same opportunities to succeed. By allowing potential troopers to sign their lives on the dotted line, these people may very well be giving up that opportunity if they're killed or maimed, physically or otherwise. At the very least, the army can't be considered all-volunteer if that's the only reasonable choice most people who enlist have to eventually be comfortable in life.

Furthermore, of those who actually volunteered to join the army and didn't do it because they saw it as the rode to opportunity, how many were properly warned about the realities of this war when they signed away their lives? How many recruiters actually tell the whole truth? How many people join the army thinking they'll get to see the world and all its wonderful places, only to see the desert and pump gas into tanks all day? Most people who join the army are told one thing and are assigned something completely unalike what they were told they would do. Especially when recruiters earn money and advancement opportunity depending on how many people they recruit, people should expect deception when they walk into a recruiting office. However, how can people expect 16 and 17 year olds to detect such deception? If someone volunteered for the army, that does not mean they volunteered for their lives to be sent spinning down a Las Vegas game of Roulette.

Of course, it's important to have a strong military defense. However, the invasion of Iraq was a betrayal of the trust people should be able to place in their government. Soldiers who do not support the war are often criticized because they 'voluntered.' However,if the country lied about the pretext for war, these soldiers didn't volunteer at all; they were coerced. As people who are willing to gamble their lives for the protection of the United States, a very noble deed, their trust should be matched by the government. They should only defend this country when there is absolutely no other choice. Lives are too precious, too fragile, to be spent otherwise.

The army is not an all volunteer army; it is simply a volunteer army for some people and the only way for most others to ever truly join the America the President speaks about. The large body of soldiers who joined the army to defend this country, only to fight an offensive war for constantly changing reasons, is an example of the depths of corruption this Presidential Administration is willing to use in order to achieve its goals. However, the America that the President speaks about is not America. America, as polls indicate, is not a country that takes well to wasting the lives of troops. America does not take well to killing tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis under false pretenses. Cindy Sheehan and her Gold Star Mothers have brought to this country a convergence of the real America and the Bush administration's lies and confusion. Now that America is starting to learn about what has been going on, America can right its wrongs. Understanding that the army is not an all-volunteer army will only serve to bring about justice sooner.

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