Uncle Sam needs you. He really does. After two years of seemingly endless and pointless blood and death in Iraq, Army recruiting, Reserve enlistment and ROTC enrollment are all down—way down.
The Army needs 80,000 new recruits to meet its needs this fiscal year. With only four months left to go on its calendar, the Army has signed up less than 36,000. Figures for Reserves are worse: Only 7,283 against a target of 22,175. The Army ROTC has suffered its worst enrollment drop in a decade. Its numbers slipped 16 percent over the past two years. The Army National Guard fell 26 percent short of its recruiting target.
Minority recruits are backing out in growing numbers. African-American ROTC enlistment is down 34 percent from 2002. Last year, 9,477 foreign-born residents of the United States signed up for the U.S. armed forces—2,352 fewer than in 2003. To make matters worse, anti-recruiting efforts among minorities are spreading. The latest is Guerreros Aztecas por la Paz (Aztec Warriors for Peace), founded by Fernando Suarez del Solar, who lost his son, a young Marine, in 2003. The nerve of the guy.
The Army has raised the age for Reserves to 39, making an additional 22 million people eligible for a trip to Iraq. The Pentagon now pitches recruiting ads directly to parents. It seeks to persuade them to encourage their sons and daughters to volunteer for combat against a faceless insurgency that continues to frustrate the world's most powerful military force.
Certainly, recruiting efforts would be helped by the example of the leaders responsible for getting us into this war. Imagine if Sen. Pete Domenici announced that some of his many children and grandchildren were headed off to the Iraqi desert to bring democracy to the Middle East. But none of Domenici's clan have volunteered to fight the war he so strongly endorses.
Back in 2003, New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce was so gung-ho that he advocated using nuclear weapons. He made this frightening statement in a debate on KNME-TV opposite Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who had the wisdom to vote against authorizing Bush to conquer Iraq. None of Pearce's family are dodging improvised explosive devices on Iraq's roads, and don't count on him pressuring any of them to risk their neck to get us out of the mess he helped get us into.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White was a loud supporter of the war. He is a rising star within the GOP, as demonstrated by the fact he shared the ceremonial honor of delivering Bush the news he had officially won his party's nomination. Here in Albuquerque, White's heavily armed deputies intimidated peaceful protesters who only wanted to disagree with their president about the morality of killing people who were not seeking to attack us. The protestors were right, but White won't admit it. And he hasn't announced that his son, Darren II, is volunteering to fight the war his father supports.
Rep. Heather Wilson, who voted for the war despite her reservations about its foreseeable consequences, gets a pass on this one, for now. Her children are too young to enlist. But based upon predictions we could be there for another six to 10 years, she may face this difficult question in the future.
Of course, the biggest boost could be provided by President George W. Bush himself, who checked a box "do not volunteer" to fight in Vietnam when he was in the Texas Air National Guard. His two daughters are about the same age as Jessica Lynch and Lyndie England. Like many of the young people being targeted by recruiters, Barbara and Jenna Bush are unemployed. President Bush could irrefutably demonstrate he believes his war is worth the human cost with a press conference announcing his precious children were off to patrol the streets of Mosul.
But the people who have done the most to get us into this stupid war, and who insist the dying and killing must continue until something called "victory" can be claimed, are not making the sacrifice they ask of other Americans. The fact that pro-war leaders won't risk the lives of their loved ones for a war launched on lies and false premises says something other American families have every right to say themselves. And so long as their families do not contribute to the human costs of this madness, Bush and his fellow war supporters can ask no more of the rest of the nation.
Let's pay attention to the reasons why recruitment is dropping, and why our leaders are not risking their children in Iraq. Bush's war was wrong, is wrong and needs to end. We can do that by giving Iraq back to the Iraqis, and doing it now. Then no American family will have to face demands that their children must die for something that makes no sense.