Draft machinery creaking into gear

Despite the claims of politicians, the draft is about to return. President George W. Bush has given the Selective Service System a set of goals for readiness, to be put in place by March 31.

These goals state the draft machinery must be ready to be fully operational in 75 days. That means the military draft could be up and running as early as June 15.

Official U.S. foreign policy is pre-emptive strikes; hit them before they hit us, even if they don’t intend to do so. The administration is emitting rumblings about attacking Iran, North Korea, Syria and perhaps Cuba, plus some unidentified countries.

Imperialistic designs like that will require tens or hundreds of thousands of new soldiers. Present enlistment rates are not adequate to maintain current strength. All four branches of service missed their enlistment quotas last year, while enlistments in the National Guard, Reserves, and regular military are at 30-year lows. Stars & Stripes, the military newspaper, reported 49 percent of the troops stationed in Iraq do not intend to re-enlist.

For the military, the situation is desperate. Last year, Jeffrey Record, a visiting professor at the Air War College, said the Army is “near the breaking point.” The Pentagon is recycling soldiers who have completed their duty tours and those who have retired or gone back to civilian life for various reasons.

Nine of the Army’s 10 combat divisions are deployed either in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the 33 regular combat brigades, 21 are on active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, or the Balkans. That works out to 63 percent of the Army’s combat strength. Military experts say an army needs twice the number of troops at home as are on deployment. That is a shortage of about 100,000 troops (NoDraftNoWay.org).

“The Army’s maxed out here,” said Gen. Merrill McPeak (ret.), who was Air Force Chief of Staff in the administration of George H. Bush. “The Defense Department and the president seem to be still operating off the rosy scenario that this will be over soon, that this pain is temporary, and therefore we’ll just grit our teeth, hunker down and get out on the other side of this. That’s a bad assumption.”

President Bush has termed talk of reinstating the draft “rumors on theInternets.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rapped “conspiracy mongers” for “attempting to scare and mislead young Americans.” He insisted that “the idea of reinstating the draft has never been debated, endorsed, discussed, theorized, pondered or even whispered by anyone in the Bush administration.”

According to an internal Selective Service memo, two of Rumsfeld’s aides met with the director of the draft agency precisely to debate, discuss and ponder a return to the draft. That meeting was in February 2003 (rollingstone.com).

On Jan. 28, the neocons involved in the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) sent a letter to Congress on the topic of military manpower. It called for substantial increases in troop strength.

The letter said, in part: “The United States military is too small for the responsibilities we are asking it to assume. Those responsibilities are real and important. They are not going away. The United States will not and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to come. But our national security, global peace and stability, and the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9-11 world require a larger military force than we have today.”

The text continued: “The administration has been reluctant to adapt to this new reality. We understand the dangers of continued federal deficits, and the fiscal difficulty of increasing the number of troops. But the defense of the United States is the first priority of the government. This nation can afford a robust defense posture along with a strong fiscal posture. And we can afford both the necessary number of ground troops and what is needed for transformation of the military” (newamericancentury.org).

Rep. Charles Rangel, (D-N.Y.) is one of the congressmen favoring the draft’s return. He said military recruiters have told him they are targeting inner cities and rural areas with high unemployment.

“It’s so completely unethical and immoral to induce people that have limited education and limited job ability to have to put themselves in harm’s way for 10, 20 or $30,000,” Rangel said. “Just how broke do you have to be to take advantage of these incentives?”

Some National Guardsmen, whose tours have been extended, charge the military is threatening active duty soldiers, telling them that if they don’t re-enlist, they will be kept on active duty until 2031.

Military experts warn such threats could be the fastest way to guarantee a return to the draft. It could, they say, touch off a national debate about bringing back the draft.

“This damn thing is just an explosion that’s about to happen,” Rangel said. He added that Bush officials “can say all they want that they don’t want the draft, but there’s not going to be that many more buttons to push.”

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