I have a bad dream today. That one day, this militaristic administration will realize the dire conditions in which they have placed our armed forces, and try to find a premise to re-institute the draft, just as they found one to invade Iraq. Because of Secretary Rumsfeld's complete misjudgment about the forces needed to control Iraq, along with our soldiers stationed in Afghanistan and around the world, our military is stretched like a taut rubber band. Ask any member of the cabinet or the Congress and they will say that there is absolutely no popular support for a draft. Yet, they don't rule it out. And with our armed forces missing their volunteer goals month after month because war doesn't seem like much of a career choice for someone who is merely trying to raise money for college, we simply need more soldiers. This means that any provocation against the United States, be it along the Iranian border, or another attempt to strike at a major American city, can be used by experienced propagandists to stir up patriotic fervor to, by God, raise an Army large enough to crush our enemies.
Please don't think I am being paranoid about a draft. After all, the Selective Service system was never disassembled after the draft was ended by Congress in 1973, and it is still the law for young men to register with Selective Service on their 18th birthday. Though representatives from both parties continue to repeat that proposing a draft would be the political kiss of death, Salon.com reported that on an obscure federal web site devoted to the war on terror, the Bush administration quietly began a public campaign to restaff and restart the regional draft boards that men from the Vietnam era remember so well. The announcement read, "If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men...receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service." The only thing that has changed about a potential draft are the rules.
Neither President Shemp, Deadeye Dick Cheney, or Karl "The Konquerer" Rove, ever had to worry about the draft during the Vietnam War. Cheney, the king of deferments, merely stayed in college until it was over, and Rove was likewise disqualified. President Shemp, of course, was in favor of the war in Vietnam and allowed the military to train him as a jet fighter pilot. Only, that was sufficient. He didn't really want to fight or nothin'. Now we see that the National Guard and the Army Reserve are no longer safe havens from combat and if required to confront North Korea or Iran, we don't have the manpower to do it. Under current law, if the Congress and the President agree that military forces are needed in the defense of this country, the President's signature re-activates the draft. Federal law then requires the Selective Service to immediately set up a lottery and begin to send out induction notices. And you can forget about that college silliness. New law states that students who's lottery numbers are picked would only be permitted to finish their current semester and then it's "grab your toothbrush and get on the bus."
In addition, a proposal from Selective Service director Lewis Brodsky to senior Pentagon officials, just released under the Freedom of Information Act in 2004, suggests for the first time, that women should also register for the military draft and that young Americans regularly inform the government if they have acquired any "niche specialties" needed in the armed services. If you think you are too old for the draft, Brodsky also proposed extending the age of draft registrants from the present 25, to 34 years old. If the war in Iraq continues to be, in Rumsfeld's words, "a long hard slog", where will the new soldiers be coming from? Just this week, the Supreme Court ruled that any University that accepts government funds must allow military recruitment on campus. This riles former Vietnam era students who rallied to prevent military recruiters on campus when their only purpose was to find warm bodies for the meat grinder in Southeast Asia.
We have been told by leaders of both parties that it's not a matter of "if" but "when" there is another attempt at a terrorist attack on this country. This administration is filled with master manipulators, and it would take very little to appeal to the sort of patriotism we saw after 9/11 to raise the forces necessary to fight Bush's wars. My observation is that young people, especially college students today, are on the whole a patriotic group and would be inclined to serve if their country called. They should remember the words of Mark Twain that "Patriotism is being loyal to your country all of the time, but to the government only when they deserve it." I try to emphasize to my 20 year old step-son that it's important to differentiate between the nation and what it stands for, and a regime, only temporarily in power, that uses jingoism and patriotism to achieve its political agenda.
This is my bad dream and greatest fear; that this government will attempt to rob young people of their plans and futures in order to fight in a rich man's war. Already, this new conversation about a "War on Christianity" has Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it. This is a blatant attempt to create an emotional wedge issue in time for the 2006 mid-term elections. Banging the drums of war hysteria accomplishes the same purpose, and what better issues for the Republicans to run on than God and War? Already, congressional leaders have proposed bills to introduce some sort of mandatory "national service" for young people, be it in the military where they are needed, or some quasi-altruistic program based on Peace Corps ideals that they haven't thought up yet, but will be impossible to join because of the waiting lists. Here's the most frightening part. Should President Shemp sign legislature re-instituting a lottery draft, federal law requires that the first group of conscripts be processed and ready for boot camp within 193 days of the program's start.
I can't tell my step-son what to do. The best I can tell him is how the draft affected every aspect of my young life, and put strain and anxiety on me and my family who were frustrated at my inability to resolve this personal crisis by appealing to the Draft Board. And I was one of the lucky ones. I avoided killing or being killed in an unjust war of choice, begun by a lie. We don't need another memorial wall on the Mall in Washington. This latest rumbling about a draft must be opposed at all costs. And if my step-son should come to me for advice about what to do should he find himself in such a situation, I will tell him to do the honorable thing and go to jail.