February 27, 2003


Blacks have good cause to oppose war in Iraq (Derrick Z. Jackson, 2/26/2003, Boston Globe)
BLACK FOLKS do not want to invade Iraq. The question for Americans is whether to view this as unpatriotic or as a tweet of sanity that warns us we are about to walk into a horrific explosion. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 44 percent of African-Americans support the use of military force in Iraq. That compares with 73 percent of white Americans. Other polls show black support to be far less.

Earlier this month, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Zogby America poll found that only 23 percent of African-Americans strongly or somewhat supported a war, compared with 62 percent of white Americans. In January, a Gallup poll found that 37 percent favored an invasion, compared with 58 percent of white Americans.

Back in October, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which generally does the most extensive polling of African-Americans, found that only 19 percent of African-Americans supported a war with Iraq.

The reasons are obvious. African-Americans are 12 percent of the general population but make up 21 percent of military personnel and 30 percent of Army enlistees. They made up 23 percent of the troops sent to the 1991 Gulf War. The Department of Defense recently attempted to downplay those disproportionate percentages, reporting that African-Americans were more likely to be in administrative and support jobs and therefore were less likely than white soldiers to be killed on the front lines. White soldiers made up 71 percent of the troops in the 1991 Gulf War but suffered 76 percent of the deaths. [...]

African-Americans understand that there are times when all of us are under attack. They solidly supported at least the short-term military response against the terrorists of Sept. 11. But history has also taught African-Americans to be wary. That wariness could be a warning, should Americans choose to hear it. A White House that is not committed to opportunity in Illinois must be questioned about Iraq. An America that remains comfortable with discrimination in Baltimore must be questioned as to how discriminating it will be in bombing Baghdad. An America that has not been true to black patriotism might want to question just how true the White House is to them.

A lot of white Americans may not care for affirmative action, but we all care about the economy, which Bush is all but handing over to business interests. The low enthusiasm by African-Americans for a war in Iraq might be the most patriotic act yet. It ought to be the act that makes us think what our nation is promising to the rest of the world when there are promises to keep right here.

Even setting aside the dubious proposition that blacks unfairly bear the brunt of combat Mr. Jackson seems to be writing approvingly of what one would think must be a rather troublesome standard, that it is appropriate to judge a government action by how it will affect various races. It's hard to see him writing that whites should oppose affirmative action because they'll be disproportionately harmed by it and that their opposition sends a warning that all America should heed, isn't it? Does it really not matter to him that there's a moral case for war (or against it, for that matter)? Is race all that matters in his calculations? And, if it is, why shouldn't race be determinative for the rest of us? Posted by Orrin Judd at February 27, 2003 8:27 PM

Judging by the casualty numbers from our last few wars, I would say that a young 18 year old African American man is safer in the military than in his "hood".

Posted by: Robert D at February 27, 2003 10:48 PM

Sigh. No matter how many times it gets pointed out that these statistics are misleading, they pop up again at the next available opportunity. Not only did African-Americans not die in disproportionate numbers in Vietnam (as your link makes clear), they also comprise a much lower percentage of current combat unit strength than their proportion of the general population. Because they tend to go for career and skill-building opportunities, they are mostly in the support echelon and in fact constitute something like 5% of all combat troops, as opposed to 12% of the general population.

Posted by: Harry at February 28, 2003 1:34 AM

I am now fully convinced that the special-interests-hard-Left (whether the race mongers, the gender mongers, or the class warriors) has erected an unsurmountable barrier to debate and co-option. Their hatred of what they see as the enemy (conservatives, Republicans, white males) is so deep that no argument will ever be devoid of "deceipt" let alone convincing.

Posted by: MG at February 28, 2003 3:18 AM

That's the other Harry, not me from Maui, commenting on blacks in the armed forces, but he's exactly right.

Burkitt in "Stolen Valor" has the numbers for Vietnam.

Burkitt also points out that the most underprivileged/most feckless (however you like to describe it) blacks (or any other color) cannot get into the military. It usually takes a high school diploma these days.

Your summary was very neat, Orrin. I'd also apply it to things like prescription drug coverage. Why should I be for that? I already have excellent coverage (100%, can't get more excellent than that) through my employer. So any giveaways to the suffering elderly come out of my hide.

Posted by: Harry at February 28, 2003 12:53 PM

Could it be that reflects African-Americans are overwhelmingly registered as Democrats? And yet the proportion voting aqainst Saddam is significantly higher than those who voted for G.W. Bush in the last election. Doesn't that tell you something?

Posted by: genecis at February 28, 2003 1:53 PM

This article is typical of Mr. Jackson and one of the main reasons I stopped reading the Boston Globe (aka liberal rag, NYTimes wannabe)

Posted by: AWW at February 28, 2003 3:27 PM

If 100 billion is used on the war that much less will be available for "social" programs. Do you think this is why blacks are against the war?

Posted by: Thomas J. Jackson at March 1, 2003 3:40 AM

yet again let it be noted that our armed forces are all on a voluntary commitment, so what these stats "show", if anything, is the greater patriotism of black volunteers, and implied in there is the greater gratitude for a country that gives them everything, so they volunteer to serve her.......right???

Posted by: Budd White at March 1, 2003 10:03 AM

Mr. Jackson:

If only the government worked like that.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 1, 2003 11:46 AM