While President Bush has thus far never said whether
or not he would bring back the draft (Sen. John Kerry stated that he opposed
a draft on Sept. 22, 2004 in West Palm Beach, Fla.), there are increasing rumors
and speculation that it will be reinstated after the election, perhaps as soon
as 2005. There is no hard evidence that this is so nor that it is imminent,
but lots of people on both sides of the political aisle are rightly concerned.
Obviously, Iraq has not been a "cakewalk" as was widely trumpeted
by its neocon promoters in the months leading up to the American invasion. And
if, as Donald Rumsfeld once said, Iraq turns out to be "a long hard slog"
(it has), who then will be called on to do the slogging?
It is fair to ask how many wars our imperial nation can fight with its hard-pressed
volunteer forces, many of whom are now forbidden to leave when their enlistments
run out. Or, when they are finally released, how many will re-enlist. The National
Guard, for example, failed to meet this year's quota of 58,000, recruiting 5,000
less people. A more pressing question is, how many Americans will be forced
to fight, perhaps die for the crazed imperial dreams concocted by a small clique
of extremely influential and well-funded neoconservatives, virtually none of
whom ever bothered to serve in the military they so profess to love? And among
Americans (the late Neil Postman once described them as "amusing themselves
to death"), unless their immediate family members are in the military,
how many Americans will care if a draft is reinstated and more GIs must die
fighting Iraqis and Iranians who have never attacked us?
And even more ominously: There is increasing chatter in Washington among neoconservatives
and their pet columnists of ever more wars ahead. They call it spreading their
version of democracy; I call it aggressive and unjustifiable wars. Israel, America's
client state, is now hinting at an attack on Iran while neocons here are suggesting
that America's next target should be Iran. Unanswered is what happens if Iran
strikes back at Israel and U.S. forces in Iraq? In fact, the issue of Iran is
now being discussed behind closed doors at the White House. How many dissenters
do you think are present at these sessions?
This time Selective Service System (SSS) regulations have been changed. This
time, as SSS states, "a college student could have his induction postponed
only until the end of the current semester. A senior could be postponed until
the end of the full academic year." Canada will no longer welcome anti-draft
people. A new SSS plan, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the
Seattle Post-Intelligencer last May, proposes raising the age of draft
registration to 34 years old, up from 25, and possibly including women as well.
People with special skills, such as computers, foreign languages, medical training
and the like, will also be subject to being drafted. In effect, if approved,
it will be a universal draft where everyone, including the kids of the rich
and powerful, will allegedly be eligible to serve in the military.
But remember this: No congressional son was drafted during the Vietnam War
and today there are virtually no congressional sons or daughters serving as
enlisted combat personnel in Iraq. Since 9/11, it is almost impossible to name
a single prominent pro-Iraq war activist, those who demand an all-out war against
terrorism, whose son or daughter has enlisted for active military duty.
The truth is, no draft can ever be fair. Other than delighting America's living
room hawks, the same favoritism and deference to influence and wealth – the
well-documented kind George W. Bush received when he was granted a hard-to-get
slot in the Texas Air National Guard because of his father's influence – will
certainly prevail in any future draft. Anyone with political pull and family
connections will always be able to avoid active military duty, or if not, receive
plum, safe jobs.
All a draft can do is help transform yet another generation of Americans –
your kids – into potential cannon fodder. It also contributes to the further
militarization of this country. "How many men and women," rightly
asked Father Andrew Greeley, the Chicago Sun-Times columnist, "will
be required to pacify Iraq and turn it into a freedom-loving democracy? How
long will it take, how many lives must be sacrificed … ?"
Since World War I, the world has experienced continuous bloodletting, almost
always enhanced by conscription. The Korean and Vietnam wars were both sustained
because of the continual supply of new draftees, at least until the system broke
down in the late sixties when it became clear to our centrist elites that the
United States had been defeated at a cost of 58,000 GI lives, hundreds of thousands
of others wounded in body and mind, and some three million Vietnamese – mainly
civilians – dead.
And who bore the brunt of our recent wars? Draftees did.
The two world wars, Korea, and Vietnam were largely fought with drafted soldiers
who were killed or wounded in combat in far greater numbers than better-trained
regulars. The lesson is clear: The more potential cannon fodder Selective Service
can impress into the military, the more savage the war becomes, the longer it
goes on and the greater the number of casualties. Another draft will allow policymakers
to rely even more on war rather than diplomacy. It would certainly mean more
military adventures abroad, more military and civilian deaths, and ultimately
more unrest at home.
Many pro-draft politicians are doubtless waiting for the post-election period
when a "safe" effort will be made to reintroduce conscription under
the guise of fighting terrorism. For far too many, another draft means recapturing
the mythical ethos of WWII – the "Good War" – and the pre-Sixties,
when no one cared enough to protest governmental policies. In this imaginary
Eden, there was no racial or religious conflict, women knew their place, support
for tyrants abroad was justified in the name of fighting Communism, and young
men called to the colors went willingly and patriotically to proudly serve their
God and country. But please note that today many if not most pro-draft people
in Congress and the White House are non-veterans.
Late last spring an article appeared in the Baltimore Sun, written by
Nick Leonhardt, a high school senior. In it, he
"Some anxious teens and their parents feel relieved that both President
Bush and Senator John Kerry deny plans to reinstate the draft. But cynical youths
already believe that candidates routinely break promises after they are elected.
The man who shakes their hands during the presidential campaign may demand salutes
after his inauguration."
America, and especially its young, should oppose conscription because it is
a form of slavery and tramples on our freedom, which should never be sacrificed
for ideological pipe dreams and political manipulation.
Another draft is a terrible idea in a very troubled time.