Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Last year was the first time since 2005 that the United States Army failed to meet its recruitment goals, falling shy by around 6,500 enlistees. In 2005, as the Iraqi invasion gradually congealed from Prematurely Announced Accomplishment to Bloodthirsty Quagmire, the Pentagon began experimenting with methods to raise those numbers.
One of those methods was to relax certain criteria to be considered fit for active duty, including both official and unofficial means. Officially, for example, the military doubled its allowable percentage of those who had finished within Category IV of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which meant that they had only achieved between the 21st – 30th percentile on the complement of standardized multiple-choice tests given to potential service-members.
Unofficially, recruiters became much more forgiving about certain red flags that the recruit might be bringing into the interview process. Tattoos from street gangs or violent white supremacist groups became less a sign of character flaw than a Constitutionally protected expression or a simple aesthetic choice, allowable as long as it could be hidden under a standard uniform. British journalist Matt Kennard, in his 2012 book Irregular Army, quoted one public affairs officer thusly:
“A swastika would trigger questions, but…if the gentleman said ‘I liked the way the swastika looked,’ and had a clean criminal record, it’s possible we would allow that person in.”
Some of these recruits would be joining the armed forces as a way out of their gang lifestyle only to find other members of their gang stationed alongside them, and then retain their associations out of both familiarity and survival instinct. Others enlisted specifically to be trained in advanced urban tactics and military-grade weaponry. Their tags, formerly limited to alleyways in American cities or the back rooms of biker bars, began to appear on the ruined, crumbling walls of Baghdad, of Mosul, of Fallujah. And then some of them made it back stateside, their lethality honed and tempered into something more fearsome than before, funded by taxpayer dollars.
Some of these recruits had no gang affiliations to speak of — they were just solitary, sweating sticks of dynamite who were not looked at as closely or judged as strictly as they once might have been. One of the most egregious specimens was former PFC Steven Dale Green, who in 2006 led a squad of four other soldiers into the home of an Iraqi family in Mahmudiyah and committed an atrocity so horrid I refuse to repeat its details here. Green had an extensive record of drug and alcohol offenses, all of which were ignored when he enlisted. While in Iraq he continued to drink excessively, which helped fuel his planning and execution of the crimes he would later commit. Green’s actions, incidentally, would also lead to the deaths of three other American servicemen from his brigade, who were targeted for retaliation by insurgent groups in the region.
I’ll repeat that last year was the first time since 2005 that the Army failed to meet its recruitment goals. For purposes of this essay I’m setting aside questions of how large the American military actually needs to be and the very thorny discussion about its place in our society overall.
Nonetheless, I’m writing this today because Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh voted to affirm the continuation of a Trump Cabal policy insisting that transgender citizens should not be permitted to serve within the armed forces on the grounds that their mere existence causes “tremendous medical expense and disruption.”
Like the southern border wall that Trump and his allies have been stubbornly demanding for a month while hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers try to stave off stress and panic in the wake of bills coming due, the edict against transgender service-members pretends to be a rationally considered security issue when in truth it is nothing more than a garish, pustuled monument to the petty prejudices of hateful sociopaths.
In late 2017 a poll conducted by the Military Times found that one in four active duty service members reported seeing evidence of white nationalism within the ranks, and that 30 percent of these respondents considered it to be a “significant threat to national security.” The Commander in Chief, heaven help us, considers some of these individuals to be Very Fine People while declaring that transgender individuals who choose to serve in this capacity are not to be considered people at all.