DMI Blog

Rich Benjamin

Soldiers’ Hearings Spotlight Inconvenient Truths

Steven Green, the 21-year old rural Texan soldier recently accused of raping a 14 year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family, shares a common thread to several Abu Ghraib abusers, besides his alleged violence.

He hails from our nation's rural hamlets.

Remember Lynndie England? England joined the Army Reserve during high school to escape a night job in a chicken-processing factory in rural WVA.

Roughly 35 percent of troops who've died serving in Afghanistan and Iraq come from rural America, much higher than its 25 percent share of the national population.

Per capita income, Denver City, TX (pop. 3,967), Steven's hometown: $13,921
Percent of Denver City youth living below the poverty line: 22
Median pay package, US Army new recruit: $29,727
Tuition assistance available to new recruits: $40,000
Per capita income, U.S.A: $34,586
Tour of Duty in Baghdad's "Triangle of Death": Priceless

"Lots of Americans don't seem to mind having a pack of young American pit bulls savage some flyblown desert nation, or running loose in the White House for that matter, as long as they are our pit bulls protecting Wall Street and the 401-Ks of the upper middle class," writes Joe Bageant, a self-proclaimed "rural cracker" journalist.

The Army's "so-called volunteers" constitute a de facto draft, or economic conscription."The carrot does not have to be very big in rural America," says Bageant, "where delivering frozen food wholesale to restaurants out of your own car entirely on commission is considered a good self-employment opportunity."

Green had been discharged in May for "anti-social personality disorder," prone to behavior that manipulates, exploits, and violates the rights of others.

Nothing should excuse the vile cruelty of Steven's alleged crimes. But these recent crimes should draw our careful attention to the quality and fairness of military recruitment and to the economic conditions confronting rural young folks.

They are a siren call to change this war's execution and our rural kids' stale prospects -- especially since we quickly changed the subject after Abu Ghraib.

If we liken America's foreign policy to an individual, than she has some personality disorders of her own, not unlike Steven Green's.

As the President returns to Crawford to loaf, I've recently published a ditty in The Lonestar Iconoclast (his hometown paper that notoriously endorsed Kerry): "Our De Facto Draft Hits Rural America."

Rich Benjamin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 12:17 PM, Aug 08, 2006 in Community Development | Economic Opportunity | Financial Justice | Foreign Policy | Government Accountability
Permalink | Email to Friend