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July 11, 2005

Slavery in the Service of Liberty


by Scott Horton

A majority of Americans had finally gotten over the fearmongering that convinced them to support the invasion of Iraq. The panic and bloodlust produced by the Sept. 11 attacks had faded after nearly four years.

Listen to Scott's interview with Debbie Hopper & Scott Kohlhaas

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But after the July 7 bombings in London, it is likely that this brief period of widespread realism will fade. That the motive for the attack was the invasion and occupation of Iraq is readily apparent, but politicians rushed to proclaim their "resolve is only stronger."

Whether this attack will be enough to turn the U.S. military's recruiting problems around, however, remains doubtful. The War Party faces a dilemma: the draft can't be revived without a major upheaval, and they can't continue the missions the Republicans want to give them (the push to invade Syria, Iran, and North Korea will almost surely be reinvigorated now) without expanding their force.

How will these two issues be squared?

The possibility that the War Party would dare to embark on a program of mass kidnapping for foot soldiers again is the primary concern of my radio show guests of July 2: Debbie Hopper of Mothers Against the Draft and Scott Kohlhaas of DraftResistance.org. [stream] [download mp3]. Both of them are committed opponents of the warfare state. Hopper is a longtime advocate for limited government, and she sees the dangerous path this country is headed down. She and her colleagues are not about to let their kids become mortar bait in the Empire's next aggressive war. Scott Kohlhaas is the chair of the Libertarian Party of Alaska and a fierce defender of individual liberty, picking up where his hero Paul Jacob left off. Scott encourages defiance of the laws mandating registration with the Selective Service System. His advice: Don't sign up. If you already did, move. Tell your kids not to sign up. Have free time? Join an anti-draft group, build your own movement, or at least call up the Selective Service offices and "leave 'em hangin.'"

At first glance, it seems unlikely that Americans would stand for a draft. A recent poll put the "Hell no!" factor at 85 percent. A quick scan of the Web reveals organized opposition to conscription from all directions. Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush insist that they would never even think about it. Donald Rumsfeld says he prefers what the job requires – a light, fast, high tech, all volunteer force – and that a conscript army would be wholly undesirable and unnecessary. Rumsfeld says a lot of things.

Our government's ability to recruit new soldiers has suffered greatly from the catastrophe in Iraq, putting a major crimp in the War Party's plans for future wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. Frida Berrigan of the War Resisters League gives a rundown of the recruitment problems in her article "Oh Baby, It's Drafty Out There":

"So far, more than one million U.S. military personnel have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. An estimated 341,000 soldiers have done double deployments (and many are now entering their third deployment). And they are not just serving, they are dying. More than 1,700 have been killed, and an average of two more soldiers die each day. …

"Recruiters are hiding police records, mental illness, and physical ailments to make their quotas. An Army investigation into recruitment improprieties found 1,118 incidents involving one in five recruiters. The Army substantiated 320 of these cases in 2004, up from 213 in 2002 and 199 in 1999. Recruiters and some senior army officers admit that for every documented impropriety, there are at least two more that are never discovered."

According to the Army, there were 1,432 deserters between October 2004 and May 2005. Perhaps that's why recruiters are thinking ahead and starting to brainwash middle school kids into one day signing up for "the highest calling."

Those kids would be wise to observe the thousands of victims of the stop-loss program who thought they were done until the smiling officer pulled out the magnifying glass to reveal the fine print.

A recent story in USA Today reveals that the Army is offering $40,000 bonuses and $50,000 toward home mortgages to those who enlist. This in itself doesn't necessarily imply desperation; after all, it's not their money. Desperation is, however, starting to show in the Army's new TV ads. Having completely milked the idea of swimming and snowboarding as natural steps toward becoming a mercenary, the Pentagon propagandists have dropped all pretense of subtlety in their new line of ads featuring helicopter mechanics and firemen: If you are a brown man in the United States, you'll never amount to anything unless you kill people for the state first. Of course, being dead is no way to amount to anything either, but the commercials never show soldiers getting shot to death.

The bombing of London proves the "War on Terror," and especially its subsidiary invasion of Iraq, to be a complete failure of an unjust war. As this reality dawns on America, folks are telling their kids not to enlist. That is why Selective Service has been gearing up. But don't worry. They say their plan is to enslave only specialists first. So if you know how to fly a helicopter, diagnose software glitches, or stitch wounds, that means you.

A new draft might not be limited to filling the military. The collectivist fraud Americorps begun by Bill Clinton continues under Bush. But now the "service" is called "Freedom Corps," and is a bit more militaristic than before. If a draft comes, expect those who can't fight to be conscripted into this Bush Freedom™ version of philanthropy. After all, slavery isn't fair unless it's equal.

It goes without saying that if the current wars were justified, folks would volunteer en masse. The War Party says that those who are opposed have simply forgotten 9/11, as if that were possible. A more likely explanation is that more Americans have figured out why 9/11 happened: Our government goes around earth acting, as Fred Reed says, "like a muscular drunk who comes into a bar looking for a fight," and it has put us between itself and the enemies it has created. That also goes for the citizens of the UK, the sidekick with the bloody nose.

But how long will the growing resistance to the War Party last? A reasonable person might look at the London bombing as cause to distrust the government's desire or ability to protect us, but people aren't reasonable after major catastrophes. Opinion polls after 9/11 showed a greater trust in the state than ever before. George Bush Sr. and William Safire call it "The Big Mo." The administration was able to use that momentum to get a whole extra war, completely unrelated to the attack. If tradition holds (and all indications are that it will), the attacks in London will lead to a new acquiescence of Brits and Americans to the will of the politicians and their goofball [.pdf] academic advisors. Another major attack here in America could lead, in the words of Tommy Franks, to a military form of government and the final decimation of the limitations placed upon the national government in the Bill of Rights. It would mean more war against nations in the Middle East, and that would require a reintroduction of the slavery that is conscription.

Could they get away with it? It all depends how we react to this attack and the next one. Must we cower in the arms of politicians as happened after 9/11? There are almost 300 million privately owned firearms in this country. Why do we need a trillion-dollar-per-year warfare state to protect us from stateless radicals? Surely we can protect ourselves from the enemies they've created for us. Will we cling ever tighter to the leviathan responsible for provoking and failing to stop these attacks, or will we finally realize that liberty is the solution to our problem? Bring the troops home from their 725 or so bases and stop propping up foreign dictators, and we may find that we don't need anyone to protect us from terrorists anyway.

 

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  • Scott Horton is an assistant editor at Antiwar.com and the director of Antiwar Radio.

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