"Very frankly, in a couple of places our recruiting pool is getting soft," said Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army's personnel chief. "We're hearing things like, 'Well, let's wait and see how this thing settles out in Iraq,' " he said in an interview.
I wonder how the recruiters feel as they attempt to talk youngsters into joining up to fight the great fight in Operation Blood for Oil? Do you suppose any of them have a conscience? How many can truly believe that what the Bush adminstration and the US military is doing is the right thing?
"The youngsters that are joining us are spending more time with the recruiters before they raise their right hand," he said. Today, most prospective enlistees contact the Army via the Internet, he said, asking numerous questions that require more recruiters to answer online and follow up with phone calls.
The average cost of signing up a recruit is also beginning to rise, from $15,265 in fiscal 2001 to $15,967 in fiscal 2004 -- the result of more recruiters, advertising, and increased enlistment bonuses. In January, the Army announced a new six-month advertising contract with Leo Burnett USA worth an estimated $100 million.
But few candidates will join up before meeting a recruiter in person and spending significant amounts of time with one, he said. "They ultimately want to see a soldier, a recruiter, and talk to them eyeball to eyeball," he said. As a result, "the recruiter who could go out and recruit two people this week might be consumed with recruiting that one."
Coincidentally, columnist Bob Herbert of the New York Times has a piece about Iraq, in which he compares the voices against the war just before it began two years ago versus the voices now from within the administration.
The Times ran a front-page article on Sunday March 16, in which a senior counterintelligence official said: "An American invasion of Iraq is already being used as a recruitment tool by Al Qaeda and other groups. And it is a very effective tool."The Bush adminstration of course was touting the line that the war would be quickly over -- indeed, that any US forces would be back home by 2005, having been greeted by flowers strewn in their path on the march to Baghdad.
On the same day The Washington Post reported that "specialists inside and outside the government question whether a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would deliver a significant blow against international terrorism. Experts warn that war and occupation could also have the opposite effect by emboldening radical Islamic groups and adding to their grievances."
(Okay, so, they were a little off in their estimation of how things would go. )
Now fast-forward to last week's testimony of top administration officials before the Senate Intelligence Committee. If the war in Iraq was supposed to stem the terrorist tide, the comments of these officials made it clear that it hasn't worked.We invaded Iraq without just cause, we destroyed its infrastructure, allowed looting of its historical relics, hospital supplies, ammunition storage dumps. We leveled whole cities, killing thousands upon thousands of Iraqis (they can't all be insurgents -- yet, anyway). Iraq is in chaos and that chaos is not clearing up. And the farcical and inane recent elections have been a major victory for Iran -- not democracy. We did all these things without having an exit strategy. Basically, the Bush adminstration saw Iraq as an opportunity for a permanent presence of US forces with the lovely bonus of plundering some of the richest of the world's natural resources.
Porter Goss, the C.I.A. director, told the committee, "Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists." He added, "These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focus on acts of urban terrorism."
The war, said Mr. Goss, "has become a cause for extremists." In his view, "It may only be a matter of time before Al Qaeda or another group attempts to use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons."
And they not only got the US into a war it didn't need at the cost of thousands of lives and billions of dollars, but they've mishandled every single part of the process.
Between 69 and 82 percent of the (still living) Iraqi population favor a "near-term" withdrawl of American forces. (What do you want to bet that the Bush brain trust interprets that statistic as a sign that, darn it, we've been killing off the wrong folks after all?)
Read Baghdad Burning for a moving account of just what it's like over there for the Iraqis, and how far astray our policies have wandered.
Pity the poor recruiters if the fresh meat they're after at your local high school should actually pay close attention to any of this.
Mr. Herbert also notes:
Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said: "Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment. Overwhelming majorities in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia believe the U.S. has a negative policy toward the Arab world."Stop the presses.