Tuesday, 5 October 2004
USA House votes down military draft. So what?
This evening in Washington -- after the Red Sox beat the Angels in the first game of the baseball playoffs, and before the Vice-Presidential debate between Cheney and Edwards -- the full USA House of Representatives voted, for the first time in my lifetime, on a bill to reinstate military conscription.
The military draft was in effect continuously from before my birth in 1960 until after the USA lost its war with Vietnam in 1975. Draft registration was reinstated in 1980, supposedly as part of the preparations for intervention by the USA in Afghanistan on the side of the Islamic fundamentalist warlords and mujahideen who were then fighting against the Soviet Union. As one of 20 people prosecuted for organizing resistance to draft registration, I spent six months in a Federal prison camp in 1983-1984 for refusing to agree to fight on the side of the people who would later become the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Given this track record, it's no wonder that people of my generation have no faith in the ability of the government of the USA to decide for us which wars we should fight. Massive resistance made registration unenforceable, and no bill to reinstate the draft has even made it to a floor vote in Congress. Until today.
Does this mean (A) that because it was brought to a vote for the first time since the Vietnam War, the draft is close to being reinstated? Or (B) that because reinstatement of the draft was overwhelmingingly defeated, the threat of a draft is a myth?
The correct answer is, "( C ) None of the above."
Here's what happened, and what it means:
Some people (some other people suspect that this was/is a "stealth" Kerry campaign tactic, which it might be in part, but only in part) have been spreading rumors that the Republicans have a secret plan to reinstate the draft (a general draft, not a draft of health care workers ) after next month's Presidential elections.
I don't believe this, because (1) the more likely type of draft is a health care workers' draft , not a general draft, and (2) the evidence cited in the rumors is routine stuff like filling vacancies on draft boards, which have been in place for more than 20 years (even if many people are suprprised to learn about them).
There is a truth behind the rumors, but it's more subtle: Most Republicans and many Democrats are pursuing war policies that will likely make a draft -- at least a health care workers' draft -- be perceived (quite possibly by both major parties) as "necessary", regardless of whether Republicans (or Democrats) in Congress or the White House now "want" a draft.
Fear of the draft is scaring people away from Bush to Kerry, polls apparently show, and prompting draft-age voters to register (in order, presumably, vote for Kerry). To counter this, Republicans want to prove that (A) they don't really intend to bring back the draft, and (B) any push for the draft comes from Democrats.
Many months ago, for stupid (in my opinion) reasons -- before this all became an issue in the Presidential campaign -- some otherwise progressive and otherwise mostly well-meaning Democrats introduced a bill to reinstate the draft. I think their intention was to embarrass the Republicans, and to call attention to the "poverty draft". Introducing the bill was a political stunt, and they never expected it to come to a vote.
So now the Republicans have suddenly forced a vote on the Democratic bill. Their idea is to (A) embarrass the Democrats and tar them with being pro-draft and hypocritical on the draft, and (B) vote down the bill, so that they can say that it is now "proven" that Republicans really aren't planning a draft.
The fallacy is in that last claim: just because Republicans aren't voting for a draft now doesn't mean they (and many Democrats) won't vote for it (or at least for a draft of health care workers) if and when their war policies lead them to a situation where they can't figure out any other way to get enough soldiers with specific skills.
Tellingly, neither Republicans nor Democrats tried to couple today's vote against immediate reinstatement of the draft with any move to abolish the Selective Service System or end draft registration -- which is what they would do if they really were ruling out any future draft.
The silver lining to all this, of course, is that it has reinforced the impression of politicians of both parties that overtly supporting the draft is political suicide. Perhaps the Vietnam Syndrome that Reagan tried so hard to "put behind us" has finally been resurrected after all. What remains to be seen is whether that lesson will be translated into recognition that the draft isn't a policy option -- no matter what Bush or Kerry, Republicans or Democrats, the Pentagon or the Selective
Service Slavery System may want.
[More background, news, information, and printable leaflets about the draft.]Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 5 October 2004, 20:33 ( 8:33 PM) | TrackBack (1)