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)

Great post, I learned a lot about draft politics. I suspect your right, the move will be that instituting a draft will be very difficult for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: Eric Rolph, 5 October 2004, 23:53 (11:53 PM)

The Selective Slavery System has been gearing up its efforts to collect records and conducting exercises to test its ability to go into active operation, so it isn't all just noise. See

Some "liberals" support the draft based on a hostage theory -- that if anyone's kids can be drafted and sent to be killed, wars will become so unpopular that no one will support them. The supporters of this theory don't seem to have an explanation for Vietnam.

Posted by: garym, 7 October 2004, 06:05 ( 6:05 AM)

Why have college students shifted from earlier this year (narrowly) supporting Bush, supporting the war in Iraq and the WOT, to now supporting Kerry by as much as a 2-to-1 margin according to some polls? Mostly because Kerry and his compatriots at MTV, Rock the Vote and so-on are hammering away on this bogus charge that Bush will reinstate the draft. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but most people don't know that.

Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute has a great column in today's Seattle P-I on this: "Of all the upside-down, misreported issues of 2004, the phoniest is the Kerry camp's assertion that a re-elected George W. Bush will bring back the draft. The case is much stronger that John Kerry himself would do so." (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/196881_chapman27.html)

See also "Draft Rumor Targets Supposedly Gullible College Students" -- http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2269&program=News&callingPage=discoMainPage

Posted by: Rob, 27 October 2004, 14:22 ( 2:22 PM)

In his comment, Rob refers to "this bogus charge that Bush will reinstate the draft. Nothing could be farther from the truth." Not so.

There is room for debate as to whether Bush or Kerry would be more likely to try to get Congress to approve a draft of some sort, or to succeeed, or which sort of draft each might be most likely to propose.

But the claim that "nothing could be farther form the truth" is untenable, given than neither Bush nor Kerry has done, or pormised to do if elected, anything actually to end draft registration, repeal presidential authority to order draft registration, or abolish the Selective Slavery system.

It's clear that "Plan A" for both Bush and Kerry is the poverty draft, but it's equally clear that "Plan B" for both is the Selective Slavery System.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 28 October 2004, 08:03 ( 8:03 AM)

If drafted why not shoot your self? If you are going to die anyways. I often wondered whythere was not more mass suicides during the vietnam war,and such. They haveto give you a rifle at some point;if you do not have access to suicide means.

Posted by: inquirer, 1 December 2005, 18:39 ( 6:39 PM)

Actually the draft might be a good idea. Too many young people with too muchtime on their hands. If asked asked , I will vote for one. If you don't like it , run to Canada like your Dads did. Have a good life.

Posted by: Joe, 2 January 2006, 22:24 (10:24 PM)

And the obvious solution to young people having too much time on their hands is to enslave them and force them to go out and kill people in the name of the country. Yes! Brilliant idea! (But of course even if a lot of young women have too much time on their hands it would be absolutely and utterly wrong to draft them - because it's wrong! They're just too silly and weak for that sort of thing - Right?)

Fucking misogynistic militant asshole.

Posted by: Tim, 31 January 2008, 16:09 ( 4:09 PM)
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