Blacks and the military


With the war against Iraq apparently proceeding toward an overwhelming allied victory, President Bush tried to counter domestic critics this week when he said he saw nothing wrong with the fact that blacks, who make up just 12 percent of the U.S. population, constitute 30 percent of front line troops in the gulf.

The reason for the disparity, Bush declared, was simply that the U.S. military is "the greatest equal opportunity employer around."

That may be so, but what the president didn't say was that the military enjoys that status at least in part because of his own administration's resistance to stronger laws aimed at rooting out employment bias in the civilian economy. The most notable example of that reluctance, of course, was Bush's veto of civil rights legislation passed by Congress last year on the absurd pretext that the measure was actually a "quota bill."

Obviously, Bush can't have it both ways. If equal opportunity is laudable when it comes to risking one's life for one's country abroad, it ought to be just as valid when the troops come home.

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