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Proof That a Draft is Being Readied for 2005?
By Rick Jahnkow
From the March-April 2004 issue of Draft NOtices, published by Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org)
Stories have been flying around the Internet warning us that the machinery for a draft is being "oiled" and will be used within a year. They include statements like the following:
"The Selective Service System has lain basically dormant for decades and now in the 2004 budget, Bush has added $28 million to get the whole thing ready to fly in 2005."
"The Pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide."
"$28 Million to get DRAFT READY BY JUNE 15, 2005!!"
"This website will provide absolute proof that Bush is making plans to reinstate the draft by the middle of 2005."
COMD is receiving copies of these articles or alerts every week, and we've spent a lot of time answering questions about whether or not they are true. Unfortunately, much of the information in them is inaccurate or untrue; and while there are reasons for people to be concerned about the possibility of a future draft, the current hysteria caused by these rumors is diverting attention from other immediate issues that could, in fact, increase the chances of a draft later if they aren't addressed more vigorously now.
One of the "proofs" cited for an impending draft is the fact that a notice was posted on a federal web site soliciting volunteers to serve on draft boards. One writer for Salon.com mentioned this in his article a few months ago, and it was soon being repeated by other writers on the Net. Some stories have quoted Ned Lebow, a Dartmouth College professor who once taught at the National War College in Washington. Lebow has claimed, "This is significant. . . . What the Department of Defense is doing is creating the infrastructure to make the draft a viable option should the administration wish to go this route." According to one article, Lebow said it is the first public call to reconstitute draft boards since the compulsory draft was abolished in 1973.
But, in fact, the Selective Service System has been recruiting and training draft board members since the early 1980s, when Congress authorized funds to place SSS in a state of stand-by readiness. Congress must still authorize inductions before a draft can begin, but SSS has essentially been readying itself for the last 24 years.
Another item that is being cited as "proof" that SSS is about to begin drafting people is the SSS Annual Performance Plan, Fiscal Year 2004. This plan, presented to Congress in 2003, is basically the agency's annual justification for continued funding. It states various numerical goals for performance and cites specific amounts of money needed to reach those goals. The 2004 plan is similar to previous ones and describes activities that are merely extensions of the ongoing work SSS has done since 1980. A budget request for $28 million was slightly more than previous budgets, but there is nothing in the FY 2004 plan that is significantly different from other recent years.
Someone who misread the 2004 plan distributed an Internet alert declaring that Bush had requested a $28 million "increase" in SSS's budget and that the plan was a blueprint to begin drafting after March 31, 2005. In reality, SSS only got a total of $26.1 million for 2004, and the March date was merely a normal deadline for SSS to report on whether it had reached its annual performance plan goals. If such planning were really an indication of an impending draft, then we would have already had one for two decades.
Another piece of evidence mentioned as "proof" that a draft is imminent is two companion bills in Congress, S. 89 and H.R. 163, which would require men and women to either do mandatory civilian or military service. But this legislation was introduced in January 2003 and has gone nowhere in Congress. It's not likely to, either, because of features that make it impractical overall, especially for the military.
One of the organizations that has been spreading misinformation about the draft on the Internet calls itself the "Democratic Underground," a left-leaning group that isn't officially part of the Democratic Party but urges people to vote for Democratic Party candidates. The DU's interest in spreading fear of an impending draft is boldly revealed when they declare: "VOTE FOR BUSH IN 2004, BE DRAFTED IN 2005!!" The irony is that the current legislation to bring back the draft in Congress is being spearheaded by Democrats in both the House and Senate, and it is Republicans, including the Bush administration, who are saying they oppose a draft. Furthermore, Democratic presidents in the past have shown plenty of willingness to rely on the draft as a source of cannon fodder for their own wars.
There are actually good reasons to be concerned about what might happen in the coming years if military recruiting becomes less successful and/or the Bush administration further expands U.S. military intervention abroad, and it is important that individuals and organizations work to forestall a future draft by communicating with Congress on the issue now. Some groups in Washington, DC, are even planning a national effort in May that would focus on lobbying against draft legislation, and COMD urges people to participate (for details, contact the Center on Conscience and War, www.nisbco.org, 212-483-2220).
However, a more immediate issue is the fact that many youths — male and female — are already being pressured into entering the military by a poverty draft, and the military is deepening its involvement in K-12 schools — through recruiting and curriculum-based indoctrination programs like JROTC — in order to get more young people accustomed to militarization. This rapidly expanding effort by the Pentagon to influence younger generations will make it more feasible one day to bring back the draft, and a failure to increase the amount of attention focused on this particular problem could make all of the hyperbole about an impending draft a self-fulfilling prophesy.
To help bring more attention to this problem, various local and national organizations have come together to form the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY). It is an effort to bring together grassroots activists and groups that have recognized the danger posed by the growing intrusion of the military in young people's lives. COMD urges activists to get in touch with the groups in this network, which can be reached at www.youthandthemilitary.org, or via the AFSC Youth and Militarism office, 215-241-7176.
Finally, we encourage people to get a copy of COMD's flier, "What You Can Do," which is written for young people, parents and others who are concerned about the possibility of a draft. Write to us or download it at our Web site, www.comdsd.org.
Rick Jahnkow is a member of Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft.