April 22, 2004
It's Spring. Can You Feel the Draft, Yet?
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
Hagel [LINK] is running up a draft "trial balloon." But come January of next year, if Bush regains the White House, the draft will become a reality, as we have pointed out for some time, not a trial balloon.
Since we last editorialized on this issue, it has only become more apparent that the U.S. military is in dire condition, short on soldiers, supplies and government support. It's gotten to where the military is calling up troops who aren't medically fit, and is extending the tours of more than 20,000 soldiers -- soldiers who have already served one year and whose families were counting on their return this month.
"I cried for an entire day after getting the news of the extension of the soldiers in Iraq. Now I have to laugh knowing that everywhere we look, we don't see any welcome home banners anymore. Now we see crisis and anger management banners. Everything was supposed to be happiness. Now it's sadness, and still they pretend we are calm, happy families, like what just happened is nothing but part of the soldiers' jobs," one Army wife wrote in a letter to Stars and Stripes.
Bush asserted during his press conference April 13 that the number of troops "now and in the future is determined by the situation on the ground. If additional forces are needed, I will send them. If additional resources are needed, we will provide them."
This administration has done a lousy job so far providing anything short of a one-way ticket to desert hell -- soldiers are still buying their own bullet-proof vests for protection -- so don't count on any improvements there. But additional forces are something Bush will have to grant. Clearly the U.S. doesn't want a repeat of April's grim statistics of 100 GIs dead and counting.
Where are these new troops supposed to come from? As Connor Freff Cochran recently explained on AlterNet.org, 63 percent of the Army's fighting force is on active duty in the "hot" zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and the Balkans. And we still have troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Britain, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, among other places.
"This is a huge overextension," Cochran wrote. "History has proven that long-term military operations can only be sustained if you have twice as many soldiers waiting in the pipeline as are stationed out in the field. By that rule of thumb, the regular military is now 125,000 soldiers short -- a gap the Bush administration has temporarily plugged by calling more than 150,000 Army Reserve and National Guard troops into active service."
Military officials tried to warn Washington earlier, but no one wanted to listen. Washington Post reporter and military historian Rick Atkinson reveals as much in his new book, In the Company of Soldiers, which details the military operations that led to the collapse of Baghdad. Reviewing the book for The New York Times in April, Christopher Dickey wrote:
It would take legislative action by Congress to reinstate the draft, which ended in 1973. But let's face it: for the tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan whose civilian lives have been put on hold indefinitely due to an arbitrary "stop-loss order," a draft has already begun.
Realizing that Bush has left the military in a lurch, it's not surprising that so many BuzzFlash readers have raised concerns about two bills, H163 and S89, introduced in January 2003. Known as the Universal National Service Act of 2003 (or, the popular title, "Reinstate the Draft Bill" ), both are described as: "A bill to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes."
What is often overlooked, however, is that by introducing this legislation, the bill's sponsors, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC), respectively, were making a political point: "One way to avoid a lot more wars to come is institute the draft," Hollings told The New York Times in February 2003. "You will find that this country will sober up, and its leadership, too."
Keep in mind that the bills call for drafting men and women, and college students won't get a deferment past their current semester. The purpose was to ensure that the burden of protection not be borne by those who have few options aside from joining the military. How many politicians are going to support that before the November election?
It's no surprise, then, that these bills remain stuck in committees with no sign of budging. The House version has 13 co-sponsors; the Senate version, none. The Democrats are trying to make the point that Bush's War is being fought by cannon fodder: young men and women from poor and rural areas.
But a BuzzFlash warning to Congressman Rangel, who we admire: you're playing with fire. Come January, if Bush is sworn in again, he'll tell Tom DeLay to run with your bill and then say it was the idea of the Democrats to reinstate the draft. Bush will have no choice, from a manpower standpoint. The overextended Neo-Con empire needs more troops than a volunteer army and dragooned National Guard can provide. Just do the numbers.
You're unlikely to hear much about these efforts during the campaign season, however, though some signals have leaked out intermittently. Last year, for example, we learned that the Selective Service System had begun a concentrated effort to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots. It also received a budget increase of $28 million for fiscal year 2004, and it wasn't for new curtains. Consider Strategic Objective 1.2: "Ensure a mobilization infrastructure of 56 State Headquarters, 442 Area Offices and 1,980 Local Boards are operational within 75 days of an authorized return to conscription."
Hearst Newspapers reported in March that the first steps "toward a targeted military draft of Americans with special skills in computers and foreign languages" were in the preliminary stages. The story, by Eric Rosenberg, continues:
Once the story broke, the Selective Service System published the latest in a string of denials on its website. At this point, however, those denials have become irrelevant. They are apparently processing applications to fill the seats on the boards.
In the March issue of The Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows neatly summarizes the reality of the situation: "The military's people, its equipment, its supplies and spare parts, its logistics systems, and all its other assets are under pressure they cannot sustain. Everything has been operating on an emergency basis for more than two years, with no end to the emergency in sight. The situation was serious before the invasion of Iraq; now it is acute." His argument for action -- in some form -- is cogent and clear:
If the next president is Bush, then we know where this is headed. "We must stay the course because the end result is in our nation's interest," the president said during the Q&A of his press conference. And that means the U.S. is not backing out of Iraq -- not for a long while.
The military has already wasted millions of dollars trying to boost recruitment through entertainment like NASCAR. Not surprisingly, recruitment goals have fallen far short of expectations. Current soldiers, meanwhile, have made it clear that they want out. Not even signing bonuses are coaxing them to re-enlist. Why go through this mess again?
The draft is the only remaining option. Bush will start implementing a draft through reactivation of the Selective Service Boards, shortly after he is sworn in for a second term, if that nightmare scenario of his election should come to pass.
But not to worry for the offspring of the Bush dynasty. The Bush loyalists will find a way to keep the twins and other Bush kin from serving. None of the Bush brothers, including George, have fought in a war. They don't plan on starting any new Bush traditions now with the "next generation."
It's our sons and daughters who will be drafted not the kin of the Bush family. You can be sure of that.
But there is one complication: unless the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law is changed, those who publicly identify themselves as gay or lesbian would be ineligible to serve in the military -- the unintended consequence of which is that young people are likely to find an easy "out," as it were. Much to Bush's chagrin, if there is a draft, same-sex marriage might find a much broader support base.
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson may suddenly find their young male followers holding hands, and their young female believers kissing before a statue of the virgin Mary. A whole generation of draft-eligible youth, including young Republicans, may suddenly discover they are gay.
But don't be alarmed Reverends Falwell and Robertson, it's God's way of saving these young lives from the deadly plans of men who believe that they are masters of the universe.
The Lord works in strange ways -- and the Bush draft may just end being the biggest recruiting tool for homosexuality in history.
Yes, the Lord does work in strange ways.
Can you feel the draft yet?
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
otherwise noted, all original