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In 2005, with mounting U.S. causalities in Iraq, the number of young men wanting to serve as cannon fodder had sharply declined. So a service recruiting bonus program was introduced to get them into the army.
Under the program, National Guard soldiers - and their relatives, as well as other civilians and retirees - signed up to be recruiting assistants and could earn up to $7,500 for each new recruit they managed to enlist.
But it isn't just these people who became bounty hunters to get youthful cannon fodder into army custody to head off for Iraq.
The army recruiters weren't supposed to take money for the soldiers they recruited, but cooked up a scheme to get high school counselors and principles to talk young men to go to the Iraq slaughter. Then these educators would get thousands per head and give kickbacks to the army recruiters.
Part of the rip off was that many high school counselors heard that there was a bounty on the heads of kids who were going to sign up for the military, and knew boys who were going to do that anyway. So they claimed credit and pocketed the money and shared it illegally with the recruiters. The recruiters shared the loot with officers high up the chain of command.
After reports of potential fraud in 2007, the Army examined the program and found that 705 recruiters were linked to fradulent payments. The fraud has now reached a figure of a $100m cost to the taxpayers.
It turns out that this was a huge criminal endeavor that has implicated more than 1,200 people - 200 of them officers - including two generals and dozens of colonels. The program was in effect for a five-year period.
But the program is now being defended by a conservative think tank, "The American Heritage Foundation."
"Look, this isn't a perfect world. When you're trying to get kids to face death in a phony, trumped-up war like Iraq it isn't going to be easy."
" You've got to pull out all the stops and get relatives of soldiers, principles, and school guidance counselors involved. They're the ones to get impressionable boys to go.," said Frank Gafney an associate of the foundation.
"There's bound to be corruption. That's just the price you pay. There were kickbacks going up the chain of command - I get that, but you've got to put the whole matter in perspective, " Mr. Gaffney continued.
"The whole war cost billions and hundreds of thousands of lives, so put the corruption of the bounty program in perspective. And, look, the American educational system sucks. So hundreds of counselors and principles were corrupted. They were probably corrupt anyway." Said the Heritage man.
"This is a tempest in a teapot."
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