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Is your kid's name on the Pentagon's list?

Blethen Maine Newspapers | July 3, 2005

Eighteen-year-old Henry Beck, a young 2005 graduate of Waterville Senior High School, class president and a personal friend of mine, who will be entering Colby College this autumn, is a young American to watch.

There are a number of other young friends of mine: Scott and Tony, Andrew and Dylan and Jeremy, all former students of my wife's or mine. I'll be watching their progress. So will the Department of Defense.

Why on earth would Bush's Department of Defense be interested in these young men?

New York Times staff writer Damien Cave shares some interesting reasons.

According to Cave, the DOD began building an extensive data base of 30 million 16- to 25- year-olds, combining names with Social Security numbers, grade-point averages, height and weight, e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

It's not clear if their diets and sexual preferences have come under scrutiny yet, but you can bet it's in the works.

It's likely that your own kids and their friends are on that list, and I'll bet you didn't know it.

The list, bought by Rummy's Pentagon, includes the names of 3.1 million graduating seniors like Beck, as well as 4.7 million college students.

It gets shadier when we learn that although it was started three years ago, military officials only filed a notice about it a month ago, which is apparently a violation of the federal Privacy Act.

But why would that bother anyone in this administration?

Pentagon officials say they only discovered in May 2004 that no Privacy Act notice had been filed. Oops! So they "quickly" filed one ... last month ... in June 2005?

This plan comes under the office of David S.C. Chu, Bush's undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, who has an explanation for this intense interest in Henry, his friends and possibly your kids.

"The database was a just a tool to send out general material from the Pentagon to those most likely to enlist."

Writer Cave gives us more of Chu's explanation.

"Congress wants to ensure the success of the volunteer force. ... Congress does not want conscription. ... if we don't want conscription, we have to give the military and Department of Defense an avenue to contact young people to tell them what is being offered."

"What is being offered," is quite clear to Henry and my other friends. They see it on the news every night in all the gory details. "What is being offered," is a chance to die somewhere in the dirty sand in a meat-grinder war that had no reason to start and has no clear end in sight. "What is being offered," is a chance to lose one or more healthy young limbs or organs or to wind up in a box delivered to your parents.

We didn't need this revelation to tell us that the Pentagon and DOD are getting desperate. Our children today are worlds smarter than we were in the 1940s and '50s when John Wayne seduced us into fighting the commies. They can see the bodies coming back, see the documentaries of former college sports stars learning to walk on metal pipes.

The government is so desperate they're offering bonuses of up to $40,000. That's a lot of money to drop-outs from inner-city schools, a favorite target for recruiters. It's a lot of money to Henry Beck. Beck and others like him don't need cash as an incentive to serve their country; all they need is the truth. When America is truly threatened, they'll do it for nothing.

Henry Beck, with a Democratic political career in mind, is indeed a young American to be watched, and the DOD and Pentagon are watching. They should be warned that Henry Beck is watching them.

J.P. Devine is a free-lance writer who lives in Waterville.

 

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