Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » October 2005 » Apology should be Due to Bill Maher

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10/06/2005: Apology should be Due to Bill Maher

Read the following piece and see if you agree that Bill Maher (HBO’s Real Time) deserves an Apology – tho’ I doubt the Right Wing Bloggers are ever UP for admitting they were wrong and issuing such a mea culpa on this point.

Click on the “more” button to read further.

The Dumbing-Down of the U.S. Army And some modest proposals for countering the trend: by Fred Kaplan (Slate):

“Further evidence that the war in Iraq is wrecking the U.S. Army: Recruiters, having failed to meet their enlistment targets, are now being authorized to pursue high-school dropouts and (not to mince words) stupid people.

This year the Army set a goal of recruiting 80,000 active-duty soldiers, but it wound up with just 73,000—almost 10 percent short. As a result, the Army Times reported this week, the Pentagon has decided to make up the difference by expanding the pool—by letting up to 10 percent of new recruits be young men and women who have neither graduated high school nor earned a General Equivalency Diploma.

More than that, the Los Angeles Times reports today that 4 percent of recruits will be allowed to score as low as in the 16th to 30th percentile—a grouping known as "Category IV"—on the U.S. Armed Forces' mental-aptitude exam.

As of 2003 (the last year for which official data are available), just 6 percent of active-duty Army soldiers lacked a high-school diploma or a GED. Just 1 percent scored in Category IV on the aptitude test.

Not since the mid-1980s—when the military brass first decided to reject low-scoring applicants—have the all-volunteer Army's standards been allowed to dip so steeply.

Several career officers are dismayed by this new policy—not least because it reverses the progress that has been made these past two decades in the buildup of a professional army.

In the mid- to late-1970s—in the wake of the Vietnam War, the height of popular disenchantment with the military, and the start of the all-volunteer armed forces—as many as half of U.S. soldiers hadn't finished high school, and as many as one-third were Category IV.

The new policy will leave the Army's ranks in far better shape than they were back then. But officers, analysts, and many recruiters are disturbed by the trend, the lowering of a barrier, the reversal of an accomplishment.

Should they be disturbed? Is it important that nearly all our soldiers have a diploma or score better than abysmally on an aptitude test? Yes and yes, for at least two reasons.

The first reason is sociopolitical. Not many nations have an all-volunteer army, and the concept could not be sustained if the burden of service fell entirely on the lowest classes—on those who joined the military because they couldn't find jobs elsewhere. The inequity would be intensified—rendered impossible to ignore—if the face of this lower-class army were disproportionately black. This was precisely the kind of military we had in the early days of the all-volunteer force: overwhelmingly poor, uneducated, and African-American. But this is no longer the case. The racial mix, reading levels, and aptitude scores of today's Army are not much different from those of 18-to-24-year-olds in American society as a whole.

But the point of an army is to fight wars, not to promote social equality. So, the more critical reason to lament the Army's declining standards is their likely impact on military skills. This is a high-tech army, where even tank crews and artillery spotters deal with digital displays and computerized commands. Low-tech missions, too—foot soldiers on patrol in the sorts of "stability operations" they're conducting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia—require a degree of alertness, sensitivity, initiative, even rudimentary foreign-language skills, that goes beyond a rote ability to follow orders and shoot straight.

Under the new rules, recruits without a diploma will be required to take and pass a GED exam, and the Army will pay for a preparation course, so at least the total dregs will be kept out. But something crucial will still be lost. Young men and women who graduate from high school, or who set out to earn a GED, demonstrate a degree of focus and ambition. It doesn't take much to sit through a GED prep course and then pass the exam; it does take a certain vitality to bother going through the process on your own. This is what the Army risks whittling away.

What to do about it? Some have proposed bringing back the draft. This would fill the ranks, but it wouldn't solve the problem of quality—and, for a variety of reasons, Congress isn't likely to approve a draft anyway, short of a genuine national emergency that requires the amassing of millions of American troops.

Some suggest bigger bonuses and salaries for those who sign up and re-enlist. The Army is already doing this to some extent, and it has probably kept the ranks from declining more dramatically—but it hasn't filled them to the level that its military missions require.

Another approach is to take a closer look at those military missions—and at the policies that generate and support them. It's a fair guess that fewer people are joining the Army (and fewer still are joining the Reserves and National Guard) for a simple reason: They don't want to get killed.

So, here are some modest proposals for this or any other administration:

First, if you do go to war, protect your soldiers as much as you can. There's no excuse for shortages of armor platings—especially in a war that was planned for over a year ahead of time.

Second, if you do go to war, plan it better. The evidence is now overwhelming that the Pentagon conducted no planning for "postwar" stabilization operations. Other government departments did, but their plans were ignored. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld & Co. persuaded themselves that their favored Iraqi exiles would quickly form a new government and that most American troops would be home by late summer 2003—hence no need for long-term planning. It's appalling enough to be wrong (everybody is sometimes); it's disgraceful and irresponsible to dismiss the notion that you might be and that you should devise a backup plan accordingly.

Third, if you're thinking about going to war, think again. Do you really have to? What might happen if you don't? If you think the war will be easy, what will you do if it's not? How much death and destruction are you willing to inflict—and absorb—in its cause? This last question can be addressed, if you prefer, not so much as a moral issue but as a hard-boiled matter of national security: If the Army comes unraveled in the fighting of a protracted war whose victory seems elusive and whose goals were never clear, the nation will be less able—and perhaps less willing—to fight a more justified war down the road. Most comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam are shallow, but here's one that isn't: The Vietnam War ravaged the American military for a generation; it looks like the Iraq War might be about to do the same.

NOW – for those of you who watch HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (and even those who don’t) can hardly fail to remember the flack he took from the Conservative Right Wing over this bit of a “New Rule” back in May – 2005.

New Rule:
“The people in America who are most in favor of the Iraq war must now go there and fight it. The Army missed its recruiting goal by 42% last month. More people joined the Michael Jackson Fan Club. “We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit.” And now we need warm bodies. We need warm bodies like Paula Abdul needs…warm bodies!”

Blogs like "Powerpundit" were OUTRAGED and demanded Bill apologize:

Bill Maher Should Apologize To the Army:
“Bill Maher owes the Army an apology for this:

On the May 13 broadcast of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher, he referred to the Army's recruiting difficulties by saying that "we've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies." This comment does a great disservice to the brave members of all the military services.

As posted here the other day, Maher's ill-advised comments did not exactly display brilliance on his part. Now, he owes the Army an apology. Since tomorrow is Memorial Day, that would be a good day to do it.”

And this one:

Bill Maher owes military families an apology:
“You may remember that ABC cancelled Bill Maher's show, Politically Incorrect, after the comedian argued by inference that American bombings in the Middle East were cowardly, while the 9/11 terrorists were men of courage. Now Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) is spitting nails over Mr. Maher's latest anti-military utterance.

On HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," first aired May 13, Mr. Maher pointed out that the Army missed its recruiting goal by 42 percent in April. "We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies," said Mr. Maher, according to an Associated Press report.

Army Reserve Pfc. England stands accused of abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. She recently tried to plead guilty, though a judge threw out that plea. Rep. Bachus said Mr. Maher's remark bordered on treason, and wants Mr. Maher kicked off the air. While I don't agree that the remark is treasonous, as a military veteran and current military family member, I also find it outrageous.

Mr. Maher implies that all the men and women now serving in the Army are of Pfc England's character, and that the Army needs only unskilled, brainless throwaways to fill its ranks. Mr. Maher should talk to the Army and Army National Guard families of Chrystal Stout, Brett Hershey, and Shane Koele, fallen soldiers featured in WORLD's May 28 Memorial Day cover story. In fact, Mr. Maher should call and beg forgiveness from every military family whose son, daughter, husband, or wife died defending his right to be a professional idiot.”

So – Are these Folks ready to Apologize to Bill Maher?

Hmmm…I kinda doubt it.

Karen on 10.06.05 @ 12:56 PM CST

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