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There have been numerous military actions and “interventions” since the draft was

abolished in 1973 but for the most part the forces used have been small in number



Reinstituting the Military Draft

Politically Activating America's Youth

By Junious Ricardo Stanton


Key Democrats in the House and Senate will renew calls for the military draft as part of a critical barrage they are preparing to launch against President Bush over the length of troop deployments and the heavy reliance on reservists in Iraq. Military experts outside Congress say there is a political advantage to be gained by Democrats who want to make the president squirm at a time a growing frustration among military families and other Americans over the occupation. But they also say that there are legitimate policy grounds for re‑instituting the draft, which was phased out after the Vietnam war. Leading Democratic critics of the structure of troop deployment in the Middle East   proponents of a universal military draft are Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.) and Sen. Fritz Hollings (D‑S.C.), the top Democrats on the House Ways and Means and Senate Commerce Committees, respectively. Rangel has instructed his staff to conduct an in‑depth review of the make‑up of National Guard and armed services reserve units.-- The Hill The Newspaper For and About The US Congress, Oct.9, 2003

This bill requires all young Americans   men and women between 18 and 26  to perform a two year period of national service in a military or civilian capacity as determined by the President. For those who conscientiously object to war, the bill assures that any military service would not include combat. Otherwise, there would be no preferences, no deferments, no chance for the well‑off or the well‑ connected to dodge military service for their country, as did our President. Reinstituting the draft may seem unnecessary to some. But, it will ensure all Americans share in the cost and sacrifice of war. Without a universal draft, this burden weighs disproportionately on the shoulders of the poor the disadvantaged and minority populations. -- Congressman Pete Stark


Some key members of the Democratic Party in the House and Senate are calling for a revival of the military draft!  About a year ago I reported on my Internet radio program there was a Bill in Congress, (H.R. 3598) sponsored by Republican Congressmen Nick Smith of Michigan and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania that called for a universal service (for both males and females) with no exemptions for conscientious objectors.

The Bill was introduced following 9-11 but languished in committee. As the “War on Terrorism” escalated, Iraq was invaded seemingly without an exit strategy and the occupation became bogged by a guerilla-style resistance movement. Alarm spread throughout the country because of extended tours of duty for soldiers already in Iraq and more reservists needed to replace them once they are rotated out. The Generals in charge of reserves are looking at re-enlistment rates because long stays away from their families and hazardous duty may cause many not to enlist or reup once their tour is completed.

Last year, New York Congressman Charles Rangel also called for the re-institution of the military draft citing disproportionate numbers of people of color and lower classes because of the lack of employment opportunities in the All Volunteer Army. His call was ignored even though it made waves in the media.  

There hasn’t been a military draft since 1973 when Congress abolished conscription due to intense division and widespread opposition to the war in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, and the undeclared wars in Cambodia, Laos, etc.) and raging dissatisfaction with the blatant inequalities that existed within the draft system.

The sons of influential or well-to-do parents avoided the draft and combat altogether by joining the reserves. People like Dan Quayle and current President George W. Bush, the sons of a wealthy businessman and aspiring politicians, joined the National Guard or Army Reserve. Bill Clinton, John Ashcroft, and Dick Cheney secured deferments or exemptions. For over a year, George W. Bush failed to report for his reserve duty, while poor whites, blacks, and other people of color served in the military on the front lines or in combat zones in disproportionate numbers to their numbers in the general population.

In 1980, Congress re-instituted registration for the military, although an all-volunteer system  met all the needs of the armed services. An all-volunteer military has been sufficient, but George W. Bush’s ambitious and aggressive approach to geo-political policy has overextended the US military's capabilities to fight protracted wars simultaneously in several hot zones.

There have been numerous military actions and “interventions” since the draft was abolished in 1973 but for the most part the forces used have been small in number. The invasion of Granada in 1983 used only 8,880 troops; the invasion of Panama used a total of about 27,351 in all; Operation Desert Storm used 665,476 (most withdrawn in a short period); and the US participation in Bosnia used 5,400 soldiers plus US Marine Amphibious Ready Group.  Of course, there have been numerous other covert operations and off-book scenarios that have not required large numbers of US troops or clandestine operatives.

But the invasion and occupation of Iraq has changed all that. When former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki testified before Congress he stated it would take “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” to successfully invade, “stabilize,” and occupy Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz scoffed at Shinseki’s figures then swiftly moved to marginalize him and hasten his retirement. 

As fate would have it, Shinseki’s figures now seem to be on the mark. There are currently over 180,000 US soldiers in the region counting the Persian Gulf plus a substantial number of soldiers in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Where will the additional soldiers come from to occupy Iraq in the event Bush is unsuccessful getting more countries to join the occupation and reconstruction?  In all probability, by the measure of some, a resurrected military draft would satisfy the need.

The overextended US forces in addition suffer from sinking morale with soldiers being attacked and dying daily. Due to this unanticipated Iraqi resistance and sabotage taking a heavy toll on US forces and slowing reconstruction efforts, Bush, Powell, and Rumsfeld are scrambling to bribe or coerce countries to participate in the occupation and share reconstruction costs. 

Ironically, it is not the rabid Neocons in the Bush administration who formulated and pushed the policy of pre-emptive military strikes and created the current military crisis, but rather it is the equally morally bankrupt Democrats who are calling for the revival of the draft! 

Recently, Congressman Rangel reiterated his call for a universal draft and legislators on both sides of the aisle starting to think it's a good idea. So rather than pressure the administration to rethink AmeriKKKa's foreign policy, go back to the table and work out a compromise with the UN or cut their losses in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the troops home, the Democrats are colluding to re-institute the draft and conscript males and females to help Bush establish military hegemony all over the world. 

A newer  version of H.R. 3589 was recently introduced and called the Universal National Service Act of 2003 (H.R. 163) by Rangel and several Democratic co-sponsors. Very little has been made about it on the news. Rangel says he recommends this measure so that the poor won't have to carry the burden of military service. On the surface he makes a good point. 

Superficially, a fair draft that ensures national defense makes sense. But historically the draft has not been popular during wartime. The military draft was first initiated in 1863 during the US Civil War (although the Confederate States instituted a draft in 1862). However, many Northern white males were so adamant about not serving, riots broke out, the most infamous was in New York City where draft opponents broke into an armory stole guns and targeted blacks for beatings and murder for five straight days. 

The draft like so much of AmeriKKKa has always had a class bias. The wealthy if they chose could either buy their way out or use their family’s influence to avoid the draft and combat altogether. In fact that is what triggered the draft riots during the Civil War. The law stated that a called up man could avoid the draft if he provided a substitute or if he purchased an exemption by paying the government $300! The poor had neither option so they were conscripted. 

The draft wasn’t a major factor in the Spanish-American War, but the seeds were planted by the use of National Guardsmen who were asked to volunteer to support the effort. In WWI and WWII which were sold and marketed as “just wars” because AmeriKKKa had been “attacked,” the draft saw little resistance. The draft was also embraced by most Africans in American though they lived in a virulently violent, color, and race-based caste system!

Unlike WWI and WWII, the war in Southeast Asia split the nation, resistance to both the war and draft were high as opponents pointed to the draft’s inequities. Poor whites and blacks were drafted in higher numbers than middle or upper class whites and had less opportunity to secure deferments or exemptions. Local draft boards were comprised almost exclusively of whites even in the North and West. 

When I appealed my status after graduating from college and went before the local draft board they were older white males all of whom were unsympathetic to my situation. (I was in graduate school, and I was the only child of a widow.) They arrogantly assured me by the end of the current semester I would be drafted. I was called to report for the physical but I had made up my mind I wasn’t going into the Army. Lo and behold, when I took the physical my blood pressure was up, I guess due to the stress. I got a 1-Y listing and was never called up. 

Many of my high school classmates who didn’t go to college and some who did weren’t so fortunate. Several died in combat, many returned a fraction of their former selves. The domestic turmoil over the war and widespread resistance to the draft undercut the military’s prestige and influence in society. Losing the war, didn’t help the self-image of the military either. 

While an all volunteer military avoids the Vietnam era tensions, anti-military attitudes of malcontents forced into the service, most volunteers don’t sign up to go into battle. Many are simply trying to earn money for college, secure GI benefits, learn a skill, or travel during these uncertain economic times. Reservists and National Guardsmen -- the weekend warriors -- sign up to earn extra money and as a form of public service.

If the draft is revived all eligible males and females between the ages of 18-16 will have to register and serve. The new model for the draft claims there will be no exemptions except for hardship and conscientious objectors will still have to perform service although they will not be sent into combat. However we know the rich will find a way to keep their kids out altogether or avoid combat. From what I’ve seen if a youngster is in high school or a secondary school he or she will be allowed to remain in school until they reach the age of 20. 

Those attending college will be allowed to finish the semester if they are drafted but there will be no deferments or exemptions. That sounds good on paper but we know somehow there will be abuses especially in our communities.  Rangel’s bill presupposes the "War on Terrorism" or the need for “Homeland security” will be endless. 

But what about the option of real peace; where there is no more killing or bombing, no more US weapons of mass destruction unleashed on poor defenseless people? What if we said no to Bush's fascist agenda of perpetual war and no to the draft? What if we collectively said no to war, period?!!  

The anti-war movement was energized to fight against the draft during the 60's and 70's. It took nation wide counterinsurgency tactics by the US government (the FBI’s COINTELPRO and CIA’s Operation Chaos) in an attempt to undermine the effectiveness of the anti-war movement and they still weren’t able to completely shut it down.

The last thing Bush and Co wants to do is get a coalition of college kids, grass roots activists, and aging radicals fired up. A re-instituted draft would produce a sense of urgency on the part of potential draftees, those aged 18-26. Remember, under the new rules males and females will be required to serve! PATRIOT ACT or not, if the AmeriKKKan people don't stand up, say no and resist the revival of the draft now; its all over, the fascists have already won.

Positively Black -- 10/13/03

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