Yo, Republicans – Ruin the Army much?
On the last day of January 2005, Steven D. Green, the former Army private accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her family, sat in a Texas jail on alcohol-possession charges, an unemployed 19-year-old high school dropout who had just racked up his third misdemeanor conviction.
Days later, Mr. Green enlisted in a soldier-strapped Army, and was later assigned to a star-crossed unit to serve on an especially murderous patch of earth.
He arrived at the very moment that the Army was increasing by nearly half the rate at which it granted what it calls “moral waivers” to potential recruits. The change opened the ranks to more people like Mr. Green, those with minor criminal records and weak educational backgrounds. In Mr. Green’s case, his problems were emerging by junior high school, say people who knew him then.
Mr. Green’s Army waiver allowed a troubled young man into the heart of a war that bore little resemblance to its original declared purposes, but which continued to need thousands of fresh recruits.
Now, there is shame and rage in the Army — from the ranks of the enlisted to the officer corps — over the crimes attributed to Mr. Green, who was discharged in April on psychiatric grounds, and four other soldiers charged with a rape and four killings in March in Mahmudiya, a town about 20 miles south of Baghdad.
The share of Army recruits who received “moral waivers” for criminal records increased last year and through the first half of 2006 by 15 percent from 10 percent or 11 percent before the war, according to statistics released this week. (According to the Pentagon, the number of waivers in 2001 totaled 7,640. The figure increased to 11,018 in 2005, and for the first six months of this fiscal year totaled 5,636.)