It's therefore no wonder that Army recruiters are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Damien Cave of the New York Times reports that the Army's 7,500 military recruiters, saddled with "a quota of two new recruits a month" and pressured by the Army brass, are suffering from job-related stresses, leading to "stomach problems," "searing back pain," "marital troubles," "bouts of depression," and even contemplation of "suicide" ("For Recruiters, a Hard Toll from a Hard Sell," New York Times 27 Mar. 2005). Pressures to meet the recruitment quota, in the midst of a brutal counter-insurgency war that threatens to continue indefinitely, have led to the doubling of allegations of "improprieties," i.e. "signing up unqualified people to meet quotas or giving bonuses or other enlistment benefits to recruits not eligible for them": from 490 in 2000 to 1,023 in 2004 (Cave, "For Recruiters. . . ," 27 Mar. 2005).
The job of recruitment has become so difficult that "[a]t least 37 members of the Army Recruiting Command . . . have gone AWOL since October 2002" (Cave, "For Recruiters. . . ," 27 Mar. 2005). Many recruiters have requested other assignments, and one has even applied for conscientious objector status:
Many of the recruiters said they have asked for other assignments. One of them is Sgt. Latrail Hayes. Now 27, Sergeant Hayes enlisted in the Army 10 years ago, out of high school in Virginia Beach, continuing a family tradition of military service. He volunteered to be a recruiter in 2000, after 52 jumps as a paratrooper, and at first his easy charm, appeals to patriotism and offers of Army benefits enticed dozens of recruits.On the same page in the same issue of the New York Times, another recruiter, Sgt. Julius L. Baskerville, talks about confronting the battlefield death of his friend Glynn Heighter's younger brother Raheen Heighter, whom he had recruited for the Army. Two other young men who went to the same high school as Raheen's, and who were also recruited from Sgt. Baskerville's station, have died in combat.
But Sergeant Hayes said he started rethinking his assignment as the war went on. Mothers required months, not weeks, of persuasion. And stories he heard from some of his recruits who had gone to Iraq and Afghanistan made him reluctant to pursue prospects by emphasizing the Army's benefits. When his cousin, whom he had recruited, returned from Iraq with psychological trauma, he filed for conscientious objector status in June, to get a new assignment.The application was rejected in November. Now, instead of serving 20 years in the Army, he intends to leave in December, when his tour ends. "There's a deep human connection when you try to persuade someone to do something you've done," he said. "So when it turns into something else -- maybe even the opposite -- it's difficult." (Cave, "For Recruiters. . . ," 27 Mar. 2005)
Sgt. Latrail Hayes, a recruiter who sought conscientious objector status (Marty Katz/New York Times).
These days, he [Baskerville] said, he cannot do his job without thinking of soldiers like Private Heighter.In the New York Times Magazine, on the same day, are a series of haunting photographs of the wounded:
"It's hard to describe," he said. "You're a recruiter on Long Island and there are three casualties, and all three are from the same school.
"What are the chances?" (Damien Cave, "A Salesman, a Mentor and Sometimes a Grieving Friend," New York Times 27 Mar. 2005)
Johnny Dwyer's article that accompanies the photographs ("The Wounded," New York Times 27 Mar. 2005) says that "[a]s of March 18, 11,344 American soldiers had been injured in the war in Iraq" and that "[a]mputation rates among soldiers, according to recent Congressional estimates, have doubled to 6 percent from the historic norm," the other side of the rise in the survival rate (now 87 percent -- up from about 75 percent in Vietnam) of wounded soldiers (Dwyer, 27 Mar. 2005).
In the cargo hold of a C-17 aircraft, soldiers treated at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad, await evacuation to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. This photograph was taken on Nov. 13, 2004, during a mortar attack on the base. The red lights indicate ''contingency situations" (Lynsey Addario/Corbis).
Marine Cpl. Matt Piano awaits medical evacuation from Balad Air Base, Iraq (Lynsey Addario/Corbis).
The reality of war, captured by Addario's photographs and Dwyer's article above, has already sunk deep into working-class America, so deep that no patriotic exhortation, financial incentive, or "Good News" propaganda can dislodge it. As long as the Iraq War lasts, military recruitment will continue to deteriorate. Every day, it is becoming clearer that Washington cannot fight a long and savage counter-insurgency war without conscription. The day when Washington acknowledges that will be the moment of truth for the anti-war movement as well as the US working class.