No Child Left
How sad to see military recruiters so frustrated, like the one in Ohio who told Damien Cave of the New York Times earlier this month, "Parents are the biggest hurdle we face."
The June 3 Times story noted:
- A Department of Defense survey last November, the latest, shows that only 25 percent of parents would recommend military service to their children, down from 42 percent in August 2003.
Which is why I have little sympathy for reader Robert V. Walsh Jr.'s argument, though I thank you, Bob, for reading. I see from your e-mail address that you're in the military, and I hope you stay safe.
Responding to my May 23 item "Pat Tillman as Prop," in which I noted that the ex-NFL star's family was upset about what they called the government's "disgusting" coverup of his death last spring in Afghanistan, Walsh wrote:
- Shouldn't you not use this as p.r. to bash our nation's leaders, and let his family mourn peacefully? You are doing the same thing you are accusing [the government of doing], or so it seems.
Well, Bob, it's Pat Tillman's family who's speaking out about this. The press is not using Tillman (left) or his family as a p.r. tool. Steve Coll of the Washington Post was the one who uncovered the coverup of Tillman's futile death by friendly fire. No reporter has to apologize for reporting how the government treats its dead and live soldiers—or how it dips into the schools to lure them.
Certainly, Pat Tillman's mom is still upset, and it's not the press that's adding to the grief of her having lost a son. In fact, the military is still whitewashing the April 22, 2004, death of her son, and she won't have any part of it. Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times wrote June 14:
- His family has been tortured ever since by a pattern of official deception over how he died—killed by U.S. Army machine-gun fire—and why the family was kept in the dark.
That deception has continued with the latest and allegedly definitive government statement. Last week, the Army unconvincingly claimed that the suppression of field reports that Tillman was killed by friendly fire did not amount to an official coverup but was merely the result of confusing regulations that should be changed—"an administrative error," in the words of Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the head of Army public affairs.
Mary Tillman, however, begs to differ with this convenient conclusion to the investigation. When I met with her on [June 12] near the Northern California suburb where she raised her three sons, she was measured but firm in rejecting the Army's report and latest statements.
"As far as our family is concerned, the case of Pat's death is not closed, as the Army suggests," she told me. "It concerns us that the documents we received state that Gen. [John P.] Abizaid knew on April 28 that Pat was absolutely killed by fratricide. Why were we not told prior to Pat's memorial service, which was nationally televised on May 3? We weren't told until five weeks later, and only because the troops that were with Pat came home from Afghanistan and the story was unfolding."
While the family was kept in the dark, the White House and Pentagon were milking the story of Tillman's death for all the jingoistic currency it could get. As Scheer wrote:
- Certainly the White House was very interested in Tillman. One April 28, 2004, memo included in the Army's investigation describes a "request from a White House speechwriter" who needed information on Tillman before the president's appearance at the upcoming White House correspondents dinner, in which he paid tribute to Tillman as a fallen hero.
That Bush has not acknowledged the controversy over Tillman's death, yet was so quick to invoke Tillman's heroism in the midst of the Abu Ghraib scandal and on the campaign trail, speaks volumes about how politicians exploit soldiers, both the living and the dead.
Future soldiers and their parents might want to take note of Mary Tillman's experience. Maybe they already are. Newsday's Craig Gordon reported June 11 that the Army missed its enlistment goal in May for the fourth consecutive month. The fact is this: You can't conquer the world without cannon fodder.
Parents might want to post some "no soliciting" signs. Gordon noted:
- In one sense, the Army is trying to buy its way out of the problem, military analysts say. Since last August, they have increased three-year enlistment bonuses for specialized jobs from $6,000 to $20,000 and the Army College Fund from $50,000 to $70,000. The Army also is considering asking Congress for permission to double the enlistment bonus for some recruits to $40,000.
The Army also added hundreds of new recruiters and launched an advertising campaign aimed at "influencers," the mothers, fathers, coaches and others who often have to be sold on military service before a recruit is.
You can expect even more propaganda because resistance has been fierce and growing, according to the Times story:
- Recruiters, in interviews over the past six months, said that opposition can be fierce. Three years ago, perhaps 1 or 2 of 10 parents would hang up immediately on a cold call to a potential recruit's home, said a recruiter in New York who, like most others interviewed, insisted on anonymity to protect his career. "Now," he said, "in the past year or two, people hang up all the time. "
Several recruiters said they had even been threatened with violence.
"I had one father say if he saw me on his doorstep I better have some protection on me," said a recruiter in Ohio. "We see a lot of hostility."