[Marxism] "Why do they always send the poor?"

Calvin Broadbent calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 19 04:55:10 MDT 2005


The New York Times / March 30, 2003

Military Mirrors Working-Class America

By David M. Halbfinger and Steven A. Holmes

They left small towns and inner cities, looking for a way out and up, or 
fled the anonymity of the suburbs, hoping to find themselves. They joined 
the all-volunteer military, gaining a free education or a marketable skill 
or just the discipline they knew they would need to get through life.

As the United States engages in its first major land war in a decade, the 
soldiers, sailors, pilots and others who are risking, and now giving, their 
lives in Iraq represent a slice of a broad swath of American society — but 
by no means all of it.

Of the 28 servicemen killed so far, 20 were white, 5 black, 3 Hispanic — 
proportions that neatly mirror those of the military as a whole. But just 
one was from a well-to-do family, and with the exception of a Naval Academy 
alumnus, just one had graduated from an elite college or university.

A survey of the American military's endlessly compiled and analyzed 
demographics paints a picture of a fighting force that is anything but a 
cross section of America. With minorities overrepresented and the wealthy 
and the underclass essentially absent, with political conservatism ascendant 
in the officer corps and Northeasterners fading from the ranks, America's 
1.4 million-strong military seems to resemble the makeup of a two-year 
commuter or trade school outside Birmingham or Biloxi far more than that of 
a ghetto or barrio or four-year university in Boston.

Today's servicemen and women may not be Ivy Leaguers, but in fact they are 
better educated than the population at large: reading scores are a full 
grade higher for enlisted personnel than for their civilian counterparts of 
the same age. While whites account for three of five soldiers, the military 
has become a powerful magnet for blacks, and black women in particular, who 
now outnumber white women in the Army.

But if the military has become the most successfully integrated institution 
in society, there is also a kind of voluntary segregation: while whites and 
blacks seek out careers in communications, intelligence, the medical corps 
and other specialties in roughly equal numbers, blacks are two and a half 
times as likely to fill support or administrative roles, while whites are 50 
percent more likely to serve in the infantry, gun crews or their naval 

Sgt. Annette Acevedo, 22, a radio operator from Atlanta, could have gone to 
college but chose the Army because of all the benefits it offered: travel, 
health coverage, work experience and independence from her parents. The Army 
seemed a better opportunity to get started with her life and be a more 
independent person, she said.

Specialist Markita Scott, 27, a reservist from Columbus, Ga., called up as a 
personnel clerk in an Army deployment center, says she is now planning to 
make a career of the Army. "Oh, yes, I am learning a skill," said Specialist 
Scott, who is black. "I get a lot of papers that are not correct, and so I 
know I'm helping the person. It could be making sure the right person is 
notified in case of an emergency, or maybe I tell them, `You know, if you do 
your insurance this way, the money will not go directly to the child, but 
the child's guardian,' and they say, `Oh, I don't want it going to my ex.' "

Lt. James Baker, 27, of Shelbyville, Tenn., who is white, enlisted in the 
National Guard. The Tennessee Guard had no infantry units, so he chose 
artillery instead. "Artillery is exciting," he said. "I get to blow a lot of 
stuff up and play in the woods. The Army is the biggest team sport in the 

Confronted by images of the hardships of overseas deployment and by the 
stark reality of casualties in Iraq, some have raised questions about the 
composition of the fighting force and about requiring what is, in essence, a 
working-class military to fight and die for an affluent America.

"It's just not fair that the people that we ask to fight our wars are people 
who join the military because of economic conditions, because they have 
fewer options," said Representative Charles B. Rangel, a Democrat from 
Manhattan and a Korean War veteran who is calling for restoring the draft.

Some scholars have noted that since the draft was abolished in 1973, the 
country has begun developing what could be called a warrior class or caste, 
often perpetuating itself from father or uncle to son or niece, whose 
political and cultural attitudes do not reflect the diversity found in 
civilian society — potentially foreshadowing a social schism between those 
who fight and those who ask them to.

It is an issue that today's soldiers grapple with increasingly as they watch 
their comrades, even their spouses, deploy to the combat zone. "As it stands 
right now, the country is riding on the soldiers who volunteer," said Sgt. 
Barry Perkins, 39, a career military policeman at Fort Benning, Ga. 
"Everybody else is taking a free ride."

Be the first to hear what's new at MSN - sign up to our free newsletters! 

More information about the Marxism mailing list