Tuesday, 19 September 2006
Where are we now?
by Peter Urban, Connecticut Post, Sunday, 3 September 2006
Protesters proud of actions opposing draft:
Today, he's convinced it was the right thing to do.
by Peter Urban, Connecticut Post, Sunday, September 3, 2006
In an act of civil disobedience that landed him in federal prison for a month, Russell F. Ford refused to register for a potential military draft when he turned 18 on the Fourth of July in 1981. Today, he's convinced it was the right thing to do. "Imagine what Bush would have done with the ability to raise an Army three times the size now. We would be in Iran and Syria and in a mess worse than we already are in," said Ford, now 43.
In 1980, in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter resumed the Selective Service registration program, which had been suspended since 1975. Within two years, 8.6 million young men had registered, but an estimated 570,000 did not.
Selective Service forwarded the names of 160 vocal opponents to the Justice Department for prosecution -- 20 were eventually indicted.
Edward Hasbrouck, who was convicted in 1982 in Boston for failing to register, said the brief wave of "show trials" was intended to silence vocal critics. The prosecutions, however, served only to publicize and encourage resistance, and were soon abandoned.
During that period, 20 men were indicted for failing to register -- 10 were convicted, five pled guilty and five cases were dropped. Eight of the men received jail time.
Ford, at the time a history student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, was the only person in Connecticut who faced prosecution. He represented himself at his trial in Hartford. "If Harriet Tubman, a black abolitionist, could risk death guiding fellow humans through the Underground Railroad to freedom in the North and Canada, violating as she did the Fugitive Slave Act, then certainly I can risk a few years' imprisonment for violating another federal law," he said during his trial. "If enough of us act today, then perhaps our children will no longer see their children conscripted for war, as today we no longer sell children into slavery." Ford was convicted and faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison. U.S. District Judge M. Joseph Blumenfeld, however, sentenced him in June 1983 to time served -- 35 days in the Danbury federal prison.
The judge refused to "saddle" officials with the task of supervising Ford's activities, according to published reports. "I assume you will continue your search for martyrdom. You are not a fit subject for rehabilitation," Blumenfeld said.
Now 43 and living in northern Vermont, Ford remains convinced he did the right thing in defying what he claims is a "stupid and unjust" law. Ford said that his and other anti-registration protests made it clear in the mid-1980s that a draft would not be tolerated.
It is a sentiment shared by others who were prosecuted back then.
"Carter started registration when the Russians were in Afghanistan -- at a time when Osama bin Laden was a freedom fighter armed by the United States. So, I feel a little vindicated by history," said Daniel Rutt of Toledo, Ohio. "The cycle of violence is exactly that. Violence begets violence."
Rutt received a one-year sentence, with all but 120 days of it suspended, following his conviction in 1986. At the time, he lived in Michigan. "I've never been one to tell young people what they should do. I encourage them to make thoughtful decisions," said Andy Mager, of Syracuse, N.Y., who spent six months in federal prison following his conviction.
Mager, 45, works for the Syracuse Peace Council and remains opposed to a draft. "I think that a draft has so many negative consequences," he said, explaining that it reinforces the cultural view that participating in war is a civic responsibility and a right of passage.
Hasbrouck, who now lives in San Francisco, has set up a Web site that counsels young men against registering with the Selective Service. "Everything that has happened since reinforces my decision not to register," Hasbrouck said. "Registration was reinstated to send a message to the Soviet Union that the United States would intervene on the side of the people in Afghanistan that we were training -- the Taliban. "I need make no apology for my actions. It is the government that would have to answer to me and to people today to fight the next round of wars."
Hasbrouck served five months in prison.
Ford, an organic farmer who is studying environmental science at the University of Vermont, said there is value in service and sacrifice but not to make war. National service could be put to better use.
"The United States is facing a very uncertain future in terms of energy policy and climate change," Ford said. "It is going to take a major restructuring of our economy, housing, transportation and agricultural systems to address these problems. As a nation we can do that."
New Call for a draft to end war:
Selective Service, chief, peace advocates have various reasons for forced enlistment
by Peter Urban, Connecticut Post, Sunday, September 3, 2006
Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 05:02 ( 5:02 AM) | TrackBack (0)
The head of Connecticut's Selective Service program, believes the nation needs a military draft, but he does not expect Congress will institute it anytime soon. "I think it is going to be almost unavoidable if we continue heading down the path we are going on," said retired Brig. Gen. Nathan Agostinelli. "A lot of those in Congress know it is needed, but they also know they wouldn't get elected if they said so."If a draft were started, Agostinelli suspects the Iraq war would quickly end. "Parents wouldn't stand for it. They wouldn't accept this standstill," he says.
Some peace activists agree.
"Absolutely, there should be a draft," says Larry Aasen of Westport. "If kids were being drafted parents would stop the Iraq war really quick." Aasen, who served in the Army in France during World War II, has written to Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Joe Lieberman, both D-Conn., and Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, urging them to support a draft but has no expectations that they will listen. "A draft is unpopular. Parents don't want their kids drafted," he says.
Rumors of an impending military draft have percolated across the country since the Iraq war began in March 2003, typically fueled by Internet warnings and election-year politicking. The most recent concerns were voiced after the Marine Corps announced it was preparing to activate as many as 2,500 ready reserves to fill specific needs.
Congress went on record in 2004 opposing a draft to squash rumors that swirled on the Internet after Army officials announced that thousands of active-duty and reserve soldiers could face extended terms in the military after their formal contracts expire if their units are called up for deployment.
The House rejected a bill that would have instituted the draft, 402-2. The entire Connecticut delegation opposed it.
"The reason we are doing this is to expose this hoax of the year, which has been needlessly scaring millions of young people, driven by a bill that not a single Republican has signed onto," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Ca.
Rumors of a draft have continued to surface, in part, because Selective Service registration remains.
During the 2004 debate on the draft, Rep. Major R. Owens, D-N.Y., urged his colleagues to approve legislation he had authored to end the program and lift any sanctions against those who previously failed to register.
"This bill takes away the draft option and guarantees that future policy makers must confine their adventures to actions, which can be launched and maintained with only a volunteer military force," he said. The offer to send a stronger anti-draft message as well as save $26 million a year was flatly ignored.
Owens and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, have submitted similar proposals in the 109th Congress. Like previous bills, these have also been ignored. Paul, who favors small government, argues that "coercing all young men to register with the federal government so they may be conscripted into military service at the will of politicians is fundamentally inconsistent with the American philosophy of limited government and personal freedom."
The Selective Service System's main mission is to provide manpower to the military in the event of a national emergency. Although no mobilization has been ordered, virtually all men in the United States are required to register within 30 days of reaching age 18. Women were not included in the original legislation requiring registration and Congress and the president would have to approve a bill to add them.
More than 15.1 million draft eligible men, including 150,560 from Connecticut, had registered with the Selective Service as of Sept. 20, 2005. The agency, which has an annual budget of $26 million, estimates that 91 percent of draft eligible men register, although only 89 percent are registered in Connecticut.
Overall, registration rates have not improved since the 1980s, despite efforts to make registration easier and failure to register more painful. Congress has raised the maximum fine to $250,000 for failure to register and has passed laws prohibiting non-registrants from receiving federal student financial aid or from being hired at most federal jobs. Similar laws have been put on the books in all but a handful of states. Registration can also be done now over the Internet and 34 states have adopted laws that automatically register draft-aged men when they get a driver's license. Connecticut is one of a handful of states that has not passed any laws to encourage registration. There are no plans currently to do so.
Dan Amon, a public affairs specialist with the Selective Service, said there have been no prosecutions in the past two decades but names of suspected non-registrants are still sent to the Justice Department -- including more than 550,000 during the 2003, 2004 and 2005 fiscal years.
The Selective Service has found that many of those who fail to register live in the inner cities or are immigrants who do not realize they are required to register.
Andy Mager, now-45, of Syracuse, N.Y., who spent six months in federal prison for refusing to register for Selective Service, said the fact that hundreds of thousands of names of suspected violators have been sent to the Justice Department in recent years without any prosecutions demonstrates that the program is a joke.
"It raises questions of why they are keeping it on the books," he said.
Edward Hasbrouck, who was convicted in 1982 for failing to register, said the registration system is not credible and claims there is rampant non-compliance because so many people oppose a draft.
"The vast majority effectively unregister by moving without notifying Selective Service," he said. "If a draft were called, most induction notices would reach the dead letter office."
Hasbrouck said the level of concern about registration and a draft has increased sharply since the Iraq war began.
"The interest comes as much, or more, from parents of draft-age sons and daughters," he said.
Hasbrouck believes it would be a good thing for Congress to repeal Selective Service and finally put an end to speculation of a draft.
"The sooner the government recognizes that a draft is not a possibility, the sooner it will change our foreign policy against war," he said.