the Draft the Shaft
July 30, 2002
By Maureen Farrell
These days, whether referring to a regime change in Iraq
or another terrorist attack on America, government spokespeople
are almost certain to repeat the mantra: "It's not a matter
of if, but when."
Even as fatalism spreads through the land, some of us believe
America functions best as a democracy, and that "eternal vigilance"
is still "the price of liberty." We write congressmen, senators
and newspaper editors, knowing that when enough of us are
mobilized, we can indeed, change the world. War in Iraq? Nukes
in New York? It's not a matter of if, or when, but a matter
of "how do we stop it?"
The same can be said of reinstating the draft.
This March, when asked about the possibility of the nation
once again relying upon conscription, President Bush stated
that "the country shouldn't expect there to be a draft." Yet
Lewis C. Brodsky, director of public and congressional affairs
with the Selective Service System, said that, "the nation
must be prepared to conduct one."
When one looks at recent trends, it seems that the country
is indeed becoming prepared.
As of May 2001, seven states followed Delaware's lead by
enacting laws linking driver's license applications to Selective
Service registration. Essentially they're saying, "Want to
drive a car? Sign up for duty." By July 2002, 25 states, 2
territories and the District of Columbia adopted similar laws.
According to the Selective Service, boys in Oklahoma, Delaware,
Arkansas, Utah, Georgia, Hawaii, Alabama, Florida, Colorado,
Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Ohio, South Dakota, Mississippi,
Idaho, Virginia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, West Virginia,
Tennessee, South Carolina, Maryland, Rhode Island, Missouri,
the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the
Virgin Islands are now required to sign up for selective service
when they register for driver's licenses. New Yorkers will
soon follow similar procedures, and North Carolina and Pennsylvania
are halfway through the legislative process. Other states
are considering following suit.
Some of our more progressive and populist leaders are against
reinstating the draft, under any circumstance. On April 5,
2002, Representative Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas, issued
a resolution opposing the reinstatement of the draft. Vietnam
War veteran John McCain has also spoken out against conscription,
while Senator Robert Byrd, one of two prescient senators who
voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, has warned that
should the War on Terror take us to Iraq, we might face another
Arguments that conscription is unconstitutional are often
countered with the example set forth in the preamble of the
U.S. Constitution. Certainly, the words, 'We the people ...
[shall] provide for the common defense'" could be construed
as proof the framers had conscription in mind. Yet if one
is going to invoke the Constitution to uphold the draft, one
also has to remember that, according to the Constitution,
only Congress can declare war - and the founders were well
aware of the dangers presented by presidents acting as tyrants.
Purists might also want to inquire as to whether it's Constitutional
to hold citizens as "enemy combatants," or to violate International
law by calling for "regime change."
In response to his state's new driver's license/selective
service law, Virginia Govenor Mark Warner said, "In this time
of war, we need to make sure that we have a full sign up Selective
Service," while adding, "I think most boys would be proud
to do it." Yet Republican pollster Frank Lutz recently discovered
that a full 37% of college kids would evade the draft.
To weigh which view is accurate, ask yourself: What kind
of uproar would arise if reinstatement of the draft followed
an ill-advised, illegal, and undeclared war that Pentagon
officials and our allies have spoken out against? And even
worse, how many mothers would stand for having their sons
inducted when those declaring war stand to benefit from war?
How will President Bush's ties to the Carlyle Group be received?
Or Cheney's ties with military contractor, Kellogg, Brown
and Root? And what about Army Secretary White's ties to Lockheed,
Enron and scandal, in general?
At the moment, this conscription conversation is mere speculation
- just an exercise in "connecting the dots," based upon circumstantial
evidence. The same can be said of concerns over Posse Comitatus
or Operation TIPs, and fears that America might become a police
state monitored by a red, white and blue-adorned Stasi. Could
the tanks recently deployed out of Alabama for Homeland Security
be used to keep dissidents in line? Could stated opposition
to the War on Terror be enough to make the cable guy turn
you in? Might Army civilian labor camps be used as modern-day
interment camps? Who knows?
These question might stem from paranoia. And they may be
silly and pointless. But they could also be an exercise in
eternal vigilance. Our liberty depends upon our asking.