Louis Caldera departed from his position as Secretary of the Army in 2001 as Clinton’s term ended and the administration of George W. Bush began. But his policies of increasing Latinos in the Army and other armed services continued. It came up in the post-9/11 era where there were two regional wars in Southwest Asia, and covert wars elsewhere. This new era saw an increase of Latinos in the military, and the many contradictions that came up with it. While they were still underrepresented overall, they were overrepresented in combat situations. Other contradictions involved issues of patriotism, citizenship, and what it means to be an American via spilling ones blood for the country.
Mario Hardy, of the CCCO (Central Committee of Conscientious Objectors), writes in “Las Veinas Abiertas del Pueblo Latino (The Open Veins of the Latin Community)” back in 1999 about the effects of Latinos in the military and the military’s new push to get more Latino recruits. The contradictions of Latinos in American society are evident, for at the same time there are more celebrities and public figures who are Latino, and mass media is promoting Latinos more, Latino’s face more “poverty, brutality, inferior education, drugs, high incarceration rates, and fractured families.”
Hardy mentions the armed forces planning in 1999 to capitalize on “the obstacles facing Latino youth.” He mentions Caldera’s trips across the country and “invading inner-city schools, telling tales of unlimited opportunity for Latino youth in the armed services.” Caldera has often mentioned the educational benefits of the Army and other armed forces, saying the Army does “more than fight and win wars, that we are an educator and trainer of the nation’s youth.” (Suro, 9/21/2000) As a so-called soldier’s secretary, Caldera has used himself as a model of a Latino rising up through the military. Yet officers then remained 81 percent white, with only 3 percent of commissioned officers Latino. Hardy also quotes a June 21, 1999 Army Times article which states that “Most enlisted Hispanics are in the lower pay grades, with the biggest concentrations in the private first class and corporal/specialist ranks.”
As mentioned before, Latinos are underrepresented as a whole in the Army, but have been overrepresented in casualties of war. Of the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., 28 percent of the names are Latino. In Desert Storm, 50 percent of front-line troops were non-white, a good percentage of this Latinos. Hardy brings up other modern issues of Latinos and the military:
-Puerto Rico, suffering much poverty, even more than the mainland U.S. The per capita income is $8,000 annually, less than the lowest in the U.S., Mississippi, at $18,000. The recruiting companies of San Juan and Aguadilla averaged nearly 900 Regular Army and Army Reserve recruits in 1998, up from nearly 800 in 1997. Compared to an average of half that for the 240 other recruiting companies. The colonial situation of Puerto Rico is exaserbated by this poverty draft, more likely one of national oppression. Puerto Rico is right in struggling for national liberation, and counter-recruitment is one strategy that will aid that.
-JROTC: “mass expansion.” Aids in recruitment, as “half of all graduating high school seniours with more than two years participation in JROTC end up joining the military.” Also, these programs traditionally target non-white communities. Expansion comes when overall recruitment is down. Prior expansion came after the 1992 rebellion in Los Angeles. Colin Powell advocated for the expansion of JROTC, after the rebellion underscored the lack of opportunities for teenagers in economically disadvantaged areas.
-Latinos as Commodities. “A group to be won and proftied from, as opposed to living breathing people with futures.” One analyst talks of the value of Hispanics, as an “untapped gold mine” of human resources. Yet Latinos themselves need to be able to use that value for themselves, not have it be used by their colonial occupiers. The blood of Latino people has long spilled for the empire, yet we have got no respect from the empire.
“We, as citizens, students, parents, educators, activists, and justice-minded people must equip ourselves with the information necessary to resist the recruitng war being declared on the Latino community. This is a struggle we can win by educationg one person at a time about the myths and realities, the truth and lies of the United States military. We must not allow the military recruiting mission to open the veins of our community and take our very blood – our youth.”
The truth about military recruiting is told in one account in “Deceptions of Military Recruiting”, by Chris White, January 4, 2003 (http://www.counterpunch.org/white01062003.html) Would encourage people to read this whole article.
White states that military recruiters lie, and have incentive to be dishonest. He considers himself an “ex-marine”, not a former marine, and discourages youth from being recruited. He saw that the military is used by the government to promote the interests of its richest constituents, and rarely has the military been used for national defense in its then 228 year history..
Recruiters “make an otherwise dismal job seem appealing;” use “marketing and sales techniques” in their pitches, and generally see as a ‘commodity’ the lives of youth, (mostly non-white). Recruiters are “the first line of offense” for the power elite.
Recruiters lie about college benefits, other benefits, duty station assignments, and countless other things about military life. Recruiters admitted to war crimes conducted in Somalia.
There is mention of the No Child Left Behind Act, 2001; National Defense Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2002: requires schools to give names of students to military recruiters to receive federal funds. The militarization of schools was increasing.