“On March 31, the Selective Service System (SSS) will report to President Bush that it is ready to implement the draft within 75 days. Right now, the SSS is staffing local draft boards, training volunteer registrars to work on high school and college campuses, and streamlining its induction process. They have also gained access to the Department of Education's computer files, to ensure maximum registration.”
---from an Action Center email dated 3-15-05
Yes indeed folks, it is no longer just idle talk. The draft is coming, and it is coming soon—a matter of months, to be precise. Not satisfied with the signup rates at its recruitments centers (located primarily in low income areas), the Pentagon now wants your sons and daughters, your husbands and wives, your sisters and brothers. Are you ready for déjà vu all over again?
I remember back in high school in the late ‘70s, there was a hue and cry when President Carter instituted a voluntary draft registration program. The gaping wound of Vietnam was barely off the nightly news, and we were all too familiar with the “selective” service program, and how easy it was to get out of it if you were wealthy and connected (yes folks, there were plenty of “fortunate sons” in Washington DC, where I grew up). At the time, I argued—and still believe—that in a country that gives so much to its citizens, it is our civic duty to give something back. Of course, there are many ways in which to do this—President Clinton’s Freedom Corps program being just one—but there is no justice to a system that relies upon its most economically disadvantaged to fight its wars, and then discards them when their service is done. The statistics on the percentage of veterans who are homeless are staggering: 23% of all homeless are veterans, 47% of whom served in Vietnam [courtesy The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans]. And let’s not forget the benefits cuts to veterans and to military families, some of which were passed during the war on Iraq. All politics aside (and God knows there are plenty of geopolitical reasons why the average Joe would look askance at a Pentagon recruitment officer), it’s no wonder that no one wants to sign up for Rummy’s Folly.
Do I believe in a draft? Well, I believe we all should serve in some way. But there are a number of confounding moral dilemmas in the execution of any mandatory service program, not the least of which is, is it really service if it’s mandatory? Besides which, who will assign the various tasks, and who benefits? There are just too many problems with a mandatory system, which is why service plans such as the Peace Corps rely solely upon volunteers.
So what of this draft? It is safe to say a significant percentage of its victims will be inhabitants of the so-called “red” states that have (so far) overwhelmingly supported Bush and Co. in their “War on Terror.” The president and his staff have until now managed to keep photos of military funerals (and of the wounded and maimed) out of the mainstream press, but one wonders how long that will last once reality hits. (Visit thememoryhole.org if you want to see these photos for yourself. They aren’t pretty.)
Yes folks, there are devils afoot in the dusts of Iraq, but there are just as many here at home. Stay tuned, it’s going to be a long, hot summer…