SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
“The Army admitted about one-fourth more recruits last year with a record of legal problems ranging from felony convictions and serious misdemeanors to drug crimes and traffic offenses, as pressure to increase the size of U.S. ground forces led the military to grant more waivers for criminal conduct,” The Washington Post reported today:
In particular, the Army accepted more than double the number of applicants with convictions for felony crimes such as burglary, grand larceny and aggravated assault, rising from 249 to 511, while the corresponding number for the Marines increased by two-thirds, from 208 to 350. The vast majority of such convictions stem from juvenile offenses. Most involved theft, but a handful involved sexual assault and terrorist threats, and there were three cases of involuntary manslaughter.
I would note here that for years, Eli Flyer, a longtime Pentagon consultant on military recruiting, has warned of precisely such problems. During recent years, the Army has had significant troubles meeting its recruitment goals. In addition to vastly increasing the number of “moral waivers” it offers to new recruits, the Army had dealt with the situation by (as I’ve previously written) hiring and deploying new recruiters, offering larger enlistment bonuses and other incentives, and systematically lowering educational standards for new recruits. In 2006, the portion of non-high school graduates in the enlistee pool was 27.5 percent, up from 17 percent in 2005. In the 1990s, non-grads (most of whom do have a G.E.D.) made up only about 5 percent of new Army recruits.
Bringing in more troubled and poorly educated recruits leads to a host of problems. In an interview here two years ago, Flyer said:
Recruits who enlist with a moral waiver generally have higher discharge rates than other recruits. A number of the men who have been accused of abuses against civilians in Iraq had histories that should have raised red flags. For example, former soldier Steven Green, who is accused of raping and killing an Iraqi girl and her family, enlisted with a moral waiver for at least two drug- or alcohol- related offenses. He committed a third alcohol-related offense just before enlistment, which led to jail time, though this offense may not have been known to the Army when he enlisted. News accounts say Green was a high school dropout (with a GED certificate) and suggest he was a seriously maladjusted young man. A limited background check during the recruitment process would likely have provided information showing he should not receive a moral waiver.
Of course, the majority of military recruits don’t have any notable mental or educational shortcomings. But given recruitment difficulties, more and more troubled individuals will inevitably slip through the cracks
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”