Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, Skin heads and other gangs in the military
I was astounded by this story until I stopped to consider the social strata where the military draws most of its recruits. Although it goes to great lengths to depict it otherwise, the military often draws recruits from pools of young men with few other options in the economy. Although jail is a place where one can get three squares and lodging, the military provides that and more; one can get paid, have the opportunity to travel and, if you’re a gang member, you also get to hang with your homies in Iraq and Afghanistan while working off some of that aggressiveness. The regimentation, camaraderie and discipline of the military is quite similar to the gang environment, and as I think about it, it’s easy to see how this could be very attractive to gang members. Besides, there’s the benefit of getting trained in military tactics that might prove very helpful back on the streets while protecting drug turf.
I once read a book entitled Bloods about the experience of many African-Americans in Vietnam. One of the things that was very common for young black men who were caught in the criminal justice system was the choice given them by many judges back then; either go to jail or go to Vietnam. One has to wonder whether that same choice is being presented today and even if it’s not explicit, it’s certainly made implicit by economic and social circumstances.
You’ll need about a half hour to view the two videos below. For me, there are a jumble of thoughts that I have after having watched these:
- The wars are definitely not as depicted by the government.
- Wars eliminate “undesirables” on both sides while furthering economic interests.
- Although the percentage of recruits who are gang members is not clear, there’s apparently enough of them such that the popular image of who our soldiers are is much different than the reality.
- Afghan poppy production is up dramatically, even though we’ve surged troop strength. Are any gang members involved in a manner similar to Harlem gangster Frank Lucas’ involvement in bringing back heroin from Vietnam concealed in caskets?
- The military has to know its bringing in gang members. It may be that it’s feels forced to do this to meet recruiting goals.
- Many of the areas gang members reside in are already violent. What does having trained former soldiers who are gang members portend for these areas and the nation?