It's Time for America to Institute One...
By Steve Heller on 5/4/2007, 10:35am PT  

Guest blogged by Stephen Heller...

"A very small segment of the American population are fighting this war! If the president thinks we should continue the war he ought to call for a draft and spread it out and let everybody serve in this war, not this small segment who are making such a sacrifice!"
-- Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), 4/19/07

America needs a military draft. Admittedly, this idea is anathema to many progressives. Nevertheless, it would be good for this nation. It would boost our national security, but it would also be an invaluable part of preventing our so-called "leaders" from taking us into another unnecessary war.

There's no doubt we need more troops. As recently reported in the Los Angeles Times, Air Force personnel are now being used to fill out the Army ranks in Iraq. Military.com reports that in 2005 recruiters missed their target numbers by the widest margin since 1979. While the Department of Defense has said that it met or exceeded its recruitment goals for 2006, they are still having so much trouble getting warm bodies that recruitment of foreigners is being considered, including a proposal to expedite the citizenship process as an added incentive.

According to The Boston Globe, Bush and Defense Secretary Gates "have acknowledged that the total size of the military must be expanded to help alleviate the strain on ground troops, many of whom have been deployed repeatedly in combat theaters." And the Democratic congress has "promise[d] to make increasing the size of the military one of their top legislative priorities in 2007."

In December of 2006, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson "told a news conference that society would benefit from a return to the draft." Of course, a few hours later he backpedaled faster than Rush Limbaugh can say "OxyContin" when the White House disavowed the remark. But he was right when he said our society would benefit from the draft, even if, like a good little soldier, he quickly changed his tune to please his boss.

More recently, in an April 18th article from the Marine Corp Times, Lawrence Korb --- a former senior Pentagon official and now a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information --- said, "The current use of ground forces in Iraq represents a complete misuse of the all-volunteer military." He went on to add that in his view the all-volunteer force is not meant to be used for a protracted ground war, yet that is what they are facing.

Korb then went a step further...

If the United States is going to have a significant component of its ground forces in Iraq over the next five, 10, 15 or 30 years, then the responsible course is for the president and those supporting this open-ended and escalated presence in Iraq to call for reinstating the draft.

According to the GAO, "While economic and educational incentives are cited as important factors youth consider in their decisions to join or not join the military, DOD [Department of Defense] data also shows that the attractiveness of joining the military after high school has declined because of operations in Iraq." To help fill in the gaps, the military is accepting recruits with lower aptitude scores.

The bottom line is we simply don't have enough troops. A draft would correct that.

But beyond the need to boost the numbers of military personnel, there is a larger issue here. Our nation has a professional military that fights our wars for us. Little sacrifice is expected or asked of Americans not in the military or without a family member in the military.

It wasn't always so. There once was a time when war meant the entire nation got involved:

"The mobilization of American industry during World War II was an achievement without precedent in magnitude, complexity and duration. This achievement is in part attributed to the federal government's intensive program to marshal the contributions of people of all ages and from all walks of life. Many Americans were willing to give up all luxuries and devote all spare time to the war effort to achieve victory."

And today? The only thing our mis-leader has asked the general populace to do to help the war effort is to go shopping. So much for shared sacrifice for what Bush claims is "a decisive ideological struggle, [with] the security of our nation in the balance."

So without any meaningful citizen sacrifice to speak of, and because we have no draft, most Americans have no skin in the game.

Our military is, of course, an all-volunteer force. That worked fine after we withdrew from Vietnam. The wars America fought between Vietnam and September 11 were perfectly suited for the professional military. Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Desert Storm, all were short term military commitments (as opposed to our current war, a war without end) with a clear strategy for victory (not just meaningless hogwash slogans like "We'll stand down when they stand up" or "Fight them there so we don't have to fight them here").

But now that Commander Cuckoo Bananas has taken this country into an unnecessary and seemingly endless quagmire, a draft is just what this nation needs, not only to fully staff our stretched-to-the-limit armed forces, but also to kick the effort to End the War in Iraq into high gear.

I recently read a diary on Daily Kos by a user named "Repentant Republican" (RR). RR wrote about how his "fundie" (his word) sister who voted for Bush twice said she would not vote Republican in November 2008 because her son, who was 10 in 2004, is now 13 and will be 14 by the next election. RR's sister is worried that if one of the Republican candidates (all of whom have pro-Iraq war positions) is elected president in 2008, her child will soon be sent off to Iraq, or Iran, or North Korea, or who knows where.

And therein lies my point. I think in this matter, RR's sister is a microcosm of America. If we really want our leaders to take this nation to war only when it is an absolute necessity, only when our national security is truly threatened, we need a draft. Because then it won't be "somebody else's kids" who have to fight, kill, and be killed in America's wars. It will be ALL our kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews. It's hard to think of a stronger motivation for getting Americans to drag our obese butts off the couch, turn off the damn television and actually do something to stop an unnecessary war from getting started in the first place.

I'm proud to say that Representative John Murtha, (D-PA) feels the same way I do, and he's damn angry about it. Here's a video link where you can watch and hear what he said, his voice quivering with rage, on the floor of the House: "A very small segment of the American population are fighting this war! If the president thinks we should continue the war he ought to call for a draft and spread it out and let everybody serve in this war, not this small segment who are making such a sacrifice!"

I believe one of the reasons Bush faced so little resistance from the American people to his planned invasion of Iraq was because most of America had nothing at risk. My version of the draft would certainly change that.

If it were up to me, the draft would have very few loopholes. Every male and female between the ages of 18 to 26 would serve for at least two years. And that should include gays and lesbians, because "don't ask/don't tell" is a pile of bullshit and one of the stupidest things Bill Clinton did. In addition, according to Korb, "Over the past 10 years, more than 10,000 personnel have been discharged as a result of this policy [don't ask/don't tell], including 800 with skills deemed mission critical, such as pilots, combat engineers and linguists." Let gays and lesbians serve and protect their nation!

Conscientious objector status would be strictly limited and would require proof of an extensive history of living as a conscientious objector.

Of course some people are simply not military material. The armed forces should have the power to cull from the ranks those who cannot perform adequately in a military environment, even in non-combat positions. For these individuals, alternative service should be available, but such service should contribute to the well being and security of the United States. Charles Moskos suggests airport security might be one good alternative. There are many other ways to serve and protect the United States for those relative few young Americans who are just not military capable.

All young Americans who are in good mental and physical health should be required to serve in some capacity.

Unlike previous military draft programs, there would be no deferments for college students, nor for just about anyone else. There would be no fathers getting their kids out of the draft by getting them into the Texas Air National Guard. No one avoiding service due to a pineal cyst. No one ducking out because they have "other priorities". All would serve, no matter if we're at peace or at war. No exceptions, no excuses. And hey George and Laura, that includes the twins.

Our armed forces would have all the personnel they need. And with just about every extended family in America having at least one member who is or will someday be of draft age, people would think long and hard before offering support to any administration that wanted to take us to war.

Another benefit is that a broad draft would upgrade the quality of the armed forces by incorporating a true cross section of American youth. No longer would most recruits be kids who can't afford or don't have the academic chops for college. Our army would once again be a combination of career military and citizen soldiers.

Some in military say we do not need a draft. They believe an all-volunteer force is better, and I believe there are some advantages. But I believe the benefits of a broad-based draft outweigh those of an all-volunteer force. We must remember it was an army of "citizen soldiers" serving along side of career soldiers that built the military machine which defeated the Nazis and the Imperialist Japanese.

And of course those who want to seek out a career in the military could still do so. Career soldiers would serve along side of draftees. It worked in the past, and it would work now. All the opportunities would still be there; service to the country, money for college, technical training, building personal discipline. A draft would not change any of that.

At this point some personal disclosure is appropriate. I'm 45, and not exactly what you'd call macho. If they ask me to serve that means the country is about to fall anyway, so I won't be subject to the draft. Also, I don't have kids; I will never have to face the terror of seeing my own child sent off to war. But I do have three nieces and two nephews. The oldest is 22, the youngest 14. If my version of the draft were instituted tomorrow, they all would be serving in the military either now or in the near future.

If the draft plan I envision were in place today, my five brilliant, beautiful, talented nieces and nephews would likely soon be dropped into the middle of a religious sectarian civil war that we should never have started and that we can never "win." I'd rather cut my fingers off than have my nieces and nephews put into such a situation. And so would any parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle.

And that is exactly my point.

We need a draft and we need it now, for the security of America, the strength of our military, and to really and truly share the sacrifices required by war. If America knows that all of us will have to share in the sacrifice, we'll not be so quick to follow yet another fool into yet another unnecessary war.

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Steve Heller became known as the "Diebold Whistleblower" when in January 2004, he stole and exposed legal documents providing smoking gun evidence about Diebold Election Systems' nefarious activities in the State of California. Partly as a result of Heller's actions, in April 2004, former California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley de-certified Diebold in California for what he called their "fraudulent," "despicable," and "deceitful behavior." BRAD BLOG coverage of Heller's story is here.