Draft board members sought

This is another of those stories that have been little reported or suppressed by U.S. national media. It was first reported in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.

The newspaper reported the Pentagon has begun soliciting individuals to serve on local draft boards, reviving some unpleasant memories of conscription while Americans’ doubts grow about the occupation of Iraq.

A notice on the Web site of the Department of Defense invited U.S. citizens 18 and older, with no criminal record, to volunteer for draft boards that will decide who goes to war.

The draft system has been dormant for 30 years, since the time of the Vietnam War. Congress officially ended the draft in 1973.

While the Pentagon denies it is reinstating the draft, recruitment for the boards indicates more than passing concern on its part that our military is stretched too thin in Afghanistan and Iraq. Already, additional callups have been announced by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Duties of newly named draft board members are spelled out on the department’s Web site. “If a military draft becomes necessary,” it says, “approximately 2,000 local and appeal boards throughout America would decide which young men who submit a claim receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on federal guidelines.”

The Guardian’s report said Pentagon officials insist there are no plans to bring back the draft.

It quotes Dan Amon, a spokesman for the Selective Service Department of the Pentagon. “That would require action from Congress and the president, and they are not likely to do that unless there was something of the magnitude of the second world war that required it,” Amon said.

Return of the draft would present President Bush with some serious political problems in an election year, and at a time when more Americans are seeing similarities between Iraq and Vietnam.

In recent weeks, The Guardian said, there has been mounting concern within the Defense Department about counting too heavily on the National Guard and Army reservists to solve manpower problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of the 130,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq, 60,000 are National Guard or reserves. A recent poll by Stars and Stripes, the military’s newspaper, showed 49 percent have said they will not re-enlist.

Complaints by reservists’ families also have grown louder since the Pentagon revealed tours of duty in Iraq would be extended up to 15 months.

Amon said the invitation on the Internet was simply a response to normal attrition in draft board ranks, where 80 percent of 11,000 places are vacant.

There was no clear explanation of why the Pentagon decided to fill these boards now when they have served no purpose since the early 1980s.

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