Would you like to spend some time in the desert? You might not have a choice come springtime. Pending legislation in the House and Senate, a bill introduced by New York Congressman Charles Rangel would have you wearing fatigues soon after the 2004 Presidential Election is over. The National Service Act of 2003, or HR 163, would require every man and woman between the ages of 18 and 26 to be drafted in one form or another. Those not needed overseas would still be required to perform civilian duties “in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes,” according to the title of the act on the Congressman’s website. The bill would require said military and/or civilian duties be performed for two years beginning June of 2005.
But do not pack your bags and head for Canada yet! In December of 2001, the US and Canada signed a “Smart Border Declaration,” which would actively keep would-be draft dodgers from leaving the country. Signed by US Homeland Security Director, Gov. Tom Ridge and Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Manly, the declaration’s main facets include a 30-point plan, which includes a “pre-clearance agreement” of people traveling to and from each country.
When combined with the advances in computer identification, country-resident data basing, and communicative technology in recent years, it will be a great deal more difficult to avoid the draft the way some people did during Vietnam.
Another means of avoiding the draft in the sixties was via college. Congressman Rangel thoughtfully removed that option this time around as well. Reforms to the National Service Act of 2003 aimed at “making the draft more equitable along class and gender lines” eliminate higher education as a shelter.
The bill would allow students to finish their current semester only. Seniors would be given the privilege of walking the stage before being forced to march in the dessert. Just how likely is a draft after the election? It is impossible to estimate the probability. But there are a few facts that nay sayers might keep in mind. As of September 27, Operation Iraqi Freedom had resulted in over 1,050 US soldiers killed during duty, and thousands more have received serious injuries that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
The month of April alone this year saw the deaths of over 130 US soldiers and over 1,000 Iraqis. Combat operation have grown steadily and intensified to the point where ally-countries that were helping us are pulling troops out. Thousands of US soldiers have been affected by America’s stop-loss program, which halts all separations and retirements from the military in times of war, deployments or National emergencies.
Thousands more have had their tours of duty extended by three months, and over 600 have gone AWOL. A GI Rights Hotline created in 1994 by a non-profit organization to assist soldiers who want to leave the military received less than 1,000 calls each year until the advent of this war. The Hotline now fields more than twice that many each month.
Another interesting fact: The 2004 Selective Service System (SSS), a program created in the seventies to prepare for the draft, received $26.1 million dollars from the government this year, a sum that leaves many wondering where it all goes. The pentagon has also subtly started a campaign to fill more than 10,000 draft board positions and over 11,000 appeals board slots.
Many people believe they would know well ahead of time if the draft were even being considered, but consider that America is already rife with anti-war sentiment. The deaths of over a thousand American soldiers, the lack of weapons of mass-destruction, and the lack of a foreseeable end to the war have already led millions of Americans to pour into the streets in protest.
Imagine what would happen if they announced a draft. Not to mention the effect on President George W. Bush’s campaign for re-election. Do they really want to risk another tragedy like that of Kent State University in 1970 in which four students protesting the Vietnam War and the draft were killed by the National Guard? Probably Not.
For a running tally of those killed and injured in Iraq, visit www.icasualities.org.