What's interesting is that you don't see a lot of discussion about the Iraq War among black bloggers. That's because we all agree on it and solutions seem obvious. If other bloggers are like me, I am just so sick of talking about it. The difference among black folks is that we were largely against the war before it started and have quietly been protesting it ever since.
Most African-Americans can point to someone they know personally who has been impacted in some way -- negatively -- by this war. Could be a neighbor, relative, classmate, co-worker, relative of a relative. You nah mean. Me -- I've had 2 cousins go over to Iraq. And my cousin's half-sister's husband. This colors our view of those who believe in a wait-and-see or worse yet, a "surge" approach.
Discussions in the black community tend to focus on <span style="font-weight:bold;">Osama bin Laden</span> -- isn't he still at large? -- and on <span style="font-weight:bold;">the Money</span> -- it sure seems like a lot of money is being spent over there in Iraq. How is it that none of that money was seen fit to spend on helping the victims of Katrina or re-building New Orleans? Or on better healthcare, education, poverty, our cities, the environment for folks living right here in the United States?
Still it's critical to talk about it because Democratic candidates looking for black votes will need to speak to us on those terms to be heard. And it also impacts the current national security. Quietly, the military has been dependent for generations on regular enlistment by young black soldiers. Why do you think that the educational and career opportunities are always touted. That's been the lure for young men and women eager to join (or stay in) the middle class.
If the military is 25% black and there's been a 50% drop in the rate of black enlistment, that sounds like a mounting readiness crisis for the U.S. military. BlackMilitaryWorld.com recently polled its audience on this subject:
Recently there has been a significant amount of media attention given to the decline in recruitment levels of blacks in the various branches of the military. Military officials as well as the national press are seeking reasons for the drop in enlistment levels.
Black Military World.com founder, CDR (Ret.) Gregory Black has been queried about this decline by several national news sources including National Public Radio (NPR), the Boston Globe, and XM Radio.
"There is no doubt that the war in Iraq has played a role, says Black. However, there are other factors that must be considered such as an improved economy with more career and educational options for qualified blacks, and a growing culture of young people who are not connected to the traditional values that many who join the military possess."
A poll on the Blackmilitaryworld.com website asked visitors if the Iraq War has swayed young blacks away from military careers. Of 113 responders, 73% feel that the war has had a significant role in the nearly 50% drop in black recruitment, with another 17% indicating that the war has had an effect but to a lesser extent. The remaining 10% did not see a clear connection.
There's a recent column over at the Boston Globe by Derrick Z. Jackson that breaks this down:
The drop in African-American enrollment in the military may be as powerful a collective political statement about Iraq as when Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted during the Vietnam War. Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, major polls showed that African-American support for the invasion was as low as 19 percent, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, while white support ran between 58 percent and 73 percent in major polls.
Even today African-Americans by far lead the way in calling the war a mistake. According to Gallup, 85 percent of African Americans say it was a mistake, compared to 53 percent of white Americans. According to Pew, a plurality of white Americans, 49 percent, still say it was the right decision to invade Iraq, compared to 21 percent of African-Americans.
This war, launched under false pretenses, now has so little merit that the enrollment of African-Americans in the military may be at its lowest point since the creation of the all-volunteer military in 1973. In 2000, 23.5 percent of Army recruits were African-American. By 2005, the percentage dropped to 13.9 percent. National Public Radio this week quoted a Pentagon statistic that said that African-American propensity to join the military had dropped to 9 percent.
Candidates looking for the black vote, take note.