December 23, 2003
Message to Republican College Kids: Vote for Bush and You'll Get the Draft!
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
According to a poll released this fall by Harvard's Kennedy School, 61 percent of college students -- about 10 percent more than the general public -- approve of President Bush's job performance. [Harvard.edu] The percentage hadn't budged since April, 2003, when a similar poll was conducted.
These numbers show that despite stereotypes of young, liberal Democrats running college campuses, most college students are, in fact, the president's staunchest supporters.
But that support is likely to drop faster than a "smart" bomb if Bush brings back the draft -- and bring back the draft he will.
Of course, he will lie and deny it through the 2004 campaign. But lying is what he does best.
The president's youngest fans aren't old enough to remember the draft boards of the 1960s and 1970s that sized up thousands upon thousands of anxious young men, many of whom were sent to battle and never heard from again. Lives literally hinged on a deferment and later a lottery number. Some of the lucky ones -- the well-connected or well-funded -- avoided service in Vietnam, as Bush did, by signing up for the National Guard. [Slate.com] And, of course, Cheney and Ashcroft found ways to get out of serving completely, letting other young men die in their place.
So don't think that these guys are going to have any compunction about drafting college students as cannon fodder.
Talk to a young person about draft boards today (the draft ended in 1973) and they're likely to think of them as ancient as bell bottoms and less capable of making a comeback.
Yet that's exactly what seems to be in the works.
As several columnists and reporters like Dave Lindorff of Salon [Salon.com] have noted -- and BuzzFlash first posted -- over the past six weeks, Bush is trying to fill vacant draft board seats.
The Department of Defense's Defend America website put out a call for draft board volunteers in October, but pulled the campaign off the site the following month without comment. The announcement, which ran under the heading "Serve Your Community and the Nation," had read: "The Selective Service System wants to hear from men and women in the community who might be willing to serve as members of a local draft board. [...] If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeals Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines."
But the appeal for draft board members returned shortly thereafter, with some politically correct fine tuning to help Bush through the 2004 election -- and not scare away the middle class and affluent 18, 19-year-old and 20-something voters: "Selective Service continues to invite interested citizens to volunteer for service on its local boards that would decide claims from men if a draft were reestablished. This invitation for board members has been ongoing over the past 23 years, although there has not been a military draft in over 30 years. There is NO connection between this ongoing, routine public outreach to compensate for natural board attrition and current international events. Both the President and the Secretary of Defense have stated on several occasions that a draft is not needed for the war on terrorism, including Iraq."
What exactly did Rumsfeld say about the draft? In March 2002, this question was posted on the homepage of Defend America: "Dear Mr. Rumsfeld: Will the United States reinstate the Selective Service Draft, and if so, when?"
And this was his response: "We have no plans or needs for a draft. Our volunteers have done an extraordinary job. They are the most powerful and respected military force in history. They ousted the Taliban regime and freed the Afghan people from tyranny." [DefendAmerica.mil]
Not to be picky, but in case Rumsfeld has been too busy to notice lately, things in Afghanistan aren't going so well: Only a trickle of the cash promised for rebuilding efforts has arrived, girls are being warned not to attend schools, the opium trade is once again flourishing and -- surprise, surprise -- the Taliban is making a comeback.
Always the dissembler, in January of 2003, Rumsfeld again asserted there was no need for a draft, despite ongoing criticism that he had sent too few forces to Iraq.
"We have people serving today -- God bless 'em -- because they volunteered," Rumsfeld said. "They want to be doing what it is they're doing. And we're just lucky as a country that there are so many wonderfully talented young men and young women who each year step up and say, 'I'm ready; let me do that.'"[DefenseLink.mil]
Well, by this point many of them may instead say, "I've had it; don't think I'm doing that again." Stars & Stripes recently asked its readers how they're morale is holding up -- 49 percent of respondents said they won't re-enlist.
Sure enough, the U.S. Army Reserve failed to meet its reenlistment goals [Boston Globe] this fiscal year, and it's looking like the National Guard won't have much to boast about, either.
Currently, there are about 140,000 troops in Iraq -- about 60,000 of them come from the National Guard or reserves. The Army has already implemented "stop loss" procedures to keep ready-to-retire soldiers around and has extended tours of duty beyond the scheduled terms. But this may not be enough. Our current forces in combat are having their combat duties extended or forced to return for another tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, told the House Armed Services Committee in November that "the active Army would be unable to sustain an occupation force of the present size beyond March 2004 if it chose not to keep individual units deployed to Iraq for longer than one year without relief." [CBO.gov]
The Army, he said, could not "simultaneously maintain the occupation at its current size, limit deployments to one year, and sustain all of its other commitments."
With little relief seen in the Iraq insurgency -- and the climbing American death toll, despite Saddam's "capture," the need for a large long-term U.S. troop presence there will remain, as far as the Bush Administration is concerned. And let's not forget that this war on terrorism may not end with Iraq: Syria and Iran in 2005, perhaps?
In the most recent issue of Time, even Rumsfeld [Time] now concedes that the military forces may need to grow substantially. So it's clear that the current force level is insufficient, but no one in the Bush administration is going to go public in a big way until after the 2004 election.
How convenient that the No Child Left Behind Act makes high school students' contact information available to Pentagon recruiters unless their parents specifically request that it not be disclosed. [CommonDreams.org] And recently, there have been reports of highly aggressive military recruiting among high school students, including intrusive phone calls at home, even after parents have requested that the calls be stopped.
Bush is elected, you will hear the "D" word resurrected
with a vengeance.
The Bush Administration denies interest in a draft. But with an increasing number of men and women not re-enlisting in the army and not joining the reserves, where do you think that the new soldiers for Bush's endless war will come from? They are going to run out of foreigners who are joining the army and dying in order to get posthumous citizenship.
So, before the complacent young Republican college kids vote for Bush in November, they should think twice about this reality: Bush's February, 2005, surprise will be the reinstitution of the draft.
At that time, Bush will claim it's necessary because of the increased threats of terrorism and terrorist states. He will say that he wasn't going back on his word, but that circumstances have changed -- and that the draft is now necessary to protect America from the evil scourge of terrorism and heightened threats of attack.
Only a fool in college would believe that a Bush election in 2004 won't be followed by a draft in 2005.
Maybe we have a lot of foolish Republican kids in college.
They'll wise up when they face bullets, car bombs, and rocket-propelled grenades -- and when they find themselves trading in their "Beamers" for tanks with inadequate armor.
But by then, it will be too late for them. It may be the last time they have a chance to vote.
Because the dead can't cast a ballot.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
otherwise noted, all original