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Bring it On - Bring Back the Draft
April 23, 2004
By Dan Gougherty

"Be the first one the block to have your boy come home in a box!"

With that famous line in I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag, Country Joe & The Fish accurately combined post-WWII materialism with the fear of just about every draft age man of the 60's - go to Vietnam and risk coming home in a box.

The list of young men who heeded that call and managed to avoid the draft, and/or serving in Vietnam, through a variety of schemes and connections famously includes our current president and vice president and a wide variety of policy makers and politicians ranging from Paul Wolfowitz to former vice president Dan Quayle.

With the Pentagon acknowledging that American troops are stretched thin and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordering extended duty for 20,000 troops (a sort of conscription one might argue), it was only a matter of time before the "D" word would pop up.

Of course the "D" word here is the dreaded draft.

Acknowledging this problem, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has said that he would support reinstituting the draft.

On first pass, many of my fellow liberals might recoil at the thought of a draft. As the father of five sons, two of which are at draft age and another quickly approaching, it is certainly not my wish to see them drafted to serve as pawns in Bush's oil war.

And that is just the point.

While many Americans say they support the war, they do it with full knowledge that their sons, or daughters, are safely exempt from becoming a battle statistic. In his suggestion to reinstitute the draft, Hagel touched on this point. "Those who are serving today and dying today are the middle class and lower middle class."

Indeed, it was these very class distinctions that led Democratic congressman Charles Rangel of New York to make the same suggestion several months ago. Remembering the disportationally high casualties the African-American community suffered in Vietnam, Rangel has introduced legislation that would bring back the draft. Not surprisingly, the legislation has languished in committee and will never likely come to vote.

Stealing a line from the Bush playbook on taxes, Rangel recently called the Iraq War a "death tax" on the poor and minorities who often enter the armed services as the only way of escaping poverty.

I wonder what Bush supporters would think if their able-bodied sons and daughters were plucked from their college classes and outfitted with battle fatigues? I wonder what Laura Bush would think if her daughters were suddenly eligible for the draft instead of slouching around Hollywood or Austin?

If we do bring back the draft, let's make sure there won't be any Rush Limbaugh anal cysts or Dick Cheney 'other priorities' deferments allowed either. Or to use another conservative buzzword, let's make it a zero-tolerance-deferment draft. Unless you are disabled in some dramatic fashion, you will be required to serve in uniform for two years in Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever the Bush war machine might take you.

It's the rich conservatives who are "sacrificing" their way through this war with their lower capital gains and income taxes who are the most frightened about the draft returning, not the liberals or working class.

Maybe once a few conservatives are the first ones on their well manicured block to have their sons or daughters come home in box, we will see an end to the madness of King George's oil-for-life war machine.

Visit Dan Gougherty's blog Left Turn on Bird Street.

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