The Assassinated Press
Draft Board Volunteers Have Been Meeting Quietly For Nearly A Year:
New 'Universal Draft' Guidelines In Place:
By PHILIP OCHS
The Assassinated Press
August 26, 2004
Washington DC---The Pentagon has been consulting with local draft boards for nearly a year, dredging up painful memories of Vietnam era conscription at a time of deepening misgiving about America's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last year in a notice posted on the Defense Department's Deafend America website, Americans over the age of 18 and with no criminal record were invited to "serve your community and the nation" by volunteering for the boards, which decide which recruits should be sent to war. Those slots were quickly filled and at the request of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the boards were asked to begin 'assessing' and 'activating' their lists of draftees.
Thirty years have passed since the draft boards last exerted their hold on America, deciding which young men would be sent to Vietnam. After Congress ended the draft in 1973, they became largely dormant until November of last year.
Recruitment for the boards went beyond suggesting that in some parts of the Pentagon all options were being explored in response to concerns that the US military has been stretched too thin in its occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, it appears that plans for reintroducing the draft have already been firmed up and could be implemented within hours of the November election results.
Although Pentagon officials denied any move to re-institute the draft, the defense department website does not shirk at outlining the potential duties for a new crop of volunteers to the draft boards.
"If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 local and appeal boards throughout America would decide which young men who submit a claim would be denied deferments, postponements or exemptions and sent into military service, based on federal guidelines," it said.
And, as Neel Amen, a spokesman for the selective service, points out, this draft is radically different from the Vietnam War era draft. First, there will be no student deferments. "The nearest college a draft age male can attend to avoid the draft will be in Tijuana or Vancouver," Neel said.
The draft age has also been raised to 39 for the first wave of draftees as a result of the excellent performance of older National Guard troops and reservists in Iraq. "We're going to look to the older draftee for leadership and stability," the Pentagon's chief draft coordinator Major Joseph Fish recently told a prayer breakfast in the chapel and sushi bar of the Japanese suicide garden atop the James Forrestal Building.
Another change is the standard length of tour. The new draft proposal recommends a three year tour with the possibility of one involuntary re-up. The recommendations also state that the British Imperial model of regional military authorities will also be used and, because these tours of duty often last decades, many draftees will be encouraged to start second families in countries in which they serve.
Pentagon officials who were adamant last November that there were no plans to bring back the draft apparently were not being entirely candid.
"Still, that would require action from Congress and the president and they are likely to do so only after the election when they are freer to manufacture something on the magnitude of say the Gulf of Tonkin or Iraqi WMD or point to the continued insurgencies in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a reason to conscript half-a-million people," said Neel Amen, the spokesman for the selective service department.
Bringing back conscription would have been catastrophic for George Bush in an election year, and at a time when parallels are increasingly being drawn between Iraq and Vietnam. But apparently Rumsfeld has had the Selective Service Board mounted up and hiding behind the barn for months.
Officials were not immediately willing to explain how the advertisement appeared on the site. Mr. Amen said the notices were a response to the natural attrition in the ranks of the draft board. Where some 80% of 11,000 places were vacant, now nearly 100% are full and making preliminary recommendations. "We don't want our young men to panic until after November 6th. Lying to the American public is the routine cycle of things," he said.
If no draft is imminent, it is inexplicable why the Pentagon decided at this time it was necessary to fill staff bodies which had played no function since the early 1980s.
The idea of a draft has never entirely disappeared, and is contemplated by Democrats and some military experts. So the current high alert status of the local boards seems to indicate an immediate call up after Bush and Cheney win the November elections especially because extra security will already be out in the streets to round up draftees "before they know what hit 'em" as Amen put it.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, New York congressman Charles Rangel argued for a draft on the grounds that the US military was disproportionately made up of poor and black soldiers, and that it was unfair for America's underclass to go off and die in wars. But troop needs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as future conflicts planned against Iran, Syria, North Korea and China would drain the U.S. of men of all ages, colors and creeds. A Pentagon plan already calls for draftees to replace the 19,000 troops being called home from South Korea.
In recent months, there has been growing concern within the defense department about relying too heavily on members of the National Guard and army reservists.
Some 60,000 of the 130,000 US soldiers in Iraq are members of the National Guard or the reserves. An opinion poll last month in the Pentagon-funded Stars and Stripes newspaper, showed 49% threatening not to re-enlist. Under new selective service guidelines reservists who refuse to re-enlist will immediately become eligible for the draft.