July 15, 2008

Desperate for Recruits

Recent investigations by the press, including a Sacramento Bee study reported in Monday's editions of The Commercial Appeal, have revealed a regrettable lowering of standards by the U.S. military in order to carry out its ill-advised mission in Iraq.

The newspaper studied the civilian and military backgrounds of hundreds of troops and found an astonishing number of cases in which soldiers with questionable backgrounds, including felony arrests and serious drug, alcohol or mental health problems, had been accepted.

The percentage of Army recruits who received "moral conduct" waivers had risen from 4.6 percent in 2003 to an astonishing 11.2 percent in 2007.

At The Commercial Appeal, reporter Bartholomew Sullivan looked at the record of Michael Patton Williams, a Ridgeway High graduate and one of 28 American soldiers charged since the invasion with killing civilians in Iraq.

He found a pattern of drinking problems that began at the age of 14, a brief stay at Charter Lakeside Hospital for related issues, a diagnosis of depression and a warning from a doctor prior to his second enlistment that stress made him a liability to the Army and a danger to himself.

Williams, 29, is serving a 25-year term at the Army detention facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for two murders in Baghdad on Aug. 18, 2004.

The Bush administration has attempted to maintain support for this war by requiring little sacrifice from the American people, resisting calls for the reinstitution of a military draft and lowering the recruiting standards to fill uniforms for an unpopular war.

It's clear that the latter was one of the administration's worst mistakes. If the Bush team doesn't correct this error, the next administration must.

Too much has been sacrificed already for this questionable cause.

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