Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Fewer Americans would be able to sleep well at night, if they suspected the Bush Administration of making preparations to bring back the draft. Conscription for military service was halted in 1973 as America ended its war in Vietnam. But this process is being revived, according to

"$28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective Service System (SSS) budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005." This source also reports that, "The pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide."

The Guardian has also picked up on this story. John Sutherland writes, "All this has been pushed ahead with an amazing lack of publicity. One can guess why. American newspapers are in a state of meltdown, distracted by war-reporting scandals at USA Today and the New York Times. There is an awareness in the press at large that the "embedding" system was just that-getting into bed with the military and reporting their pillow talk as "news from the frontline."

The armed services committees are responsible for both the Senate bill (S 89) and House version (HR 163), which are in committee and classified as active.

Of course, a fierce public outcry follows any public mention of re-activating the draft. Although 3 out of 4 Americans strongly reject the idea of conscription, the deck seems to be stacked against public opinion. It wouldn't be the first time government turned against the will of the people. But this is, after all, a matter of our flesh and blood.

But what is being cranked up in the background is nothing less than war on the level of nation states; and it must mean more wars and more occupation. Instead of a logical focus on international police activity and some special forces military to co-ordinate against al-Qaida, we have a unilateral agenda, an almost depraved aggregation of power in the hands of US leaders, that can only disturb and destabilize the international community.

Neither Bush, nor Kerry for that matter, seem interested in talking about this. No one wants this issue shaken loose as an "October Surprise". This is something to be hushed up, and later served to the American people as a fait accompli.

Compared to Vietnam era experiences, dodging the draft will be more difficult.

"In December 2001, Canada and the U.S. signed a "smart border declaration" which could be used to keep would-be draft-dodgers in. Signed by Canada's minister of foreign affairs John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30-point plan which implements, among other things, a "pre-clearance agreement" of people entering and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a shelter. Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of the current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year." (

It is reasonable to add that Canada might not honor this "border declaration" with respect to draft resisters, since this is an eventuality that was not contemplated within the arrangement. Canada has been decisive in the past, and has granted shelter to people of conscience.

Thanks to Mitch from the comment area at Whiskey Bar, here is an excerpt from Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, pp 141-142.

"On the return flight to Washington a week later, as we got near the end of the journey, McNamara called me to the rear of the plane, where he was standing with Bob Komer, who was still special assistant to the president coordinating Washington efforts on pacification. McNamara said, "Dan, you're the one who can settle this. Komer here is saying that we've made a lot of progress in pacification. I say things are worse than they were a year ago. What do you say?"

I said, "Well, Mr. Secretary, I'm most impressed with how much the same things are as they were a year ago. They were pretty bad then, but I wouldn't say it was worse now, just about the same."

McNamara said triumphantly, "That proves what I'm saying! We've put more than a hundred thousand more troops into the country over the last year, and there's been no improvement. Things aren't any better at all. That means the underlying situation is really worse! Isn't that right?"

I said, "Well, you could say that. It's an interesting way of seeing it."

Just then the plane began to go into a turn and the pilot announced, "Gentlemen, we are approaching Andrews Air Force Base. Please take your seats and fasten your seat belts."

Ten minutes later we were on the ground, and McNamara was descending the ladder with us behind him. It was a foggy morning, and there was an arc of television lights and cameras set up at the spot the plane had taxied to. In the center of the arc, there was a podium covered with microphones. McNamara strode over to the mikes and said to the crowd of reporters, "Gentlemen, I've just come back from Vietnam, and I'm glad to be able to tell you that we're showing great progress in every dimension of our effort. I'm very encouraged by everything I've seen and heard on my trip. . . ."."

Remember history. Remember. Lest we repeat it.


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