2005-07-01 / Columnists

The Progressive

Feeling A Draft?
By John Paul Culotta


Last year, during the extremely heated Presidential campaign, a prominent Democratic congressman Charles Rangel, stated that if the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq continued, that the volunteer army would be in jeopardy and a draft of young American men and possibly women into the armed forces would be necessary. Naturally, the pentagon denied any possibility of problems in recruiting in the future. Republican spokespeople cried foul and accused the Democrats of using fear tactics to secure votes.

It has always been the contention of the Progressive that wars in democratic societies need to have the support of the people. Recruiting young men and women into the armed forces, since the invasion of Iraq two years ago under the false claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and ties to fundamental Islamic terrorist groups, has become difficult. Although many still argue that regime change in Iraq is in the best interest of that country and ours, the continued violence in that martyred land has caused young people to shy away from recruiters. This country is willing to defend itself against any foe interested in destroying our way of life. At the same time it is clear the nation is not willing to suffer causalities without being told the truths regarding military actions. Recent public opinion polls indicate the American people feel this war is not securing our safety.

Pentagon reports regarding the insurgency in Iraq do not give an accurate analysis of the situation. We are told the insurgency is losing strength. At the same time we hear of successful attacks on Iraqi police and military targets causing deaths and injuries to many in that blood soaked country. Military historians will comment that type of warfare can only succeed if the general host population is supportive or indifferent regarding the actions of the insurgents. It is not difficult to assume although many in Iraq, especially the Kurds and Shiites, are pleased with the overthrow of Hussein. At the same time all Iraqis see the coalition of the willing forces to be occupying forces. It is also relevant to note many in Iraq have inadequate electrical and water supply, a health care delivery system that has been destroyed, and the sole major industry supplying petroleum to others is in disarray. Democracy cannot survive in conditions of despair anywhere in the world.

When our nation decided to attack Iraq, without major international approval, there was no plan as to how we would conduct ourselves after Hussein’s defeat. We were told the invasion would not be a drain on our financial resources. Oil production would pay for the expenses of the war. This has proven to be false. This nation has paid both with the blood of the flower of our youth and considerable treasure with no end in sight. For six decades the foreign policy of this nation has revolved around securing cheap energy for our Hummers and Cadillac automobiles. Can we afford to continue this policy?

Without public support the armed forces are now notifying the nation that recruiting goals have not been met. Many who are volunteering for military service are not the caliber of recruit the military services are seeking. Recruiters are told in the handbook not to seek recruits in areas of wealth or adequate living standards because efforts to recruit in high schools or shopping malls there will be futile.

It appears this great wealthy nation has large pockets of extreme poverty. Inner city ghettoes, economically depressed areas, Native American reservations, and rural backwaters are where the military obtains its volunteers.

White House personnel, members of Congress, and other elite members of our society do not send their offspring to fight these ugly wars. Democracy entails sacrifices from all strata of society during times of genuine danger. Theodore Roosevelt lost a son during the First World War. President Bush’s father served during the Second World War although he had a prominent father. Franklin Roosevelt’s son served also.

There is no sharing of bloodshed by the families of our elite during this incursion. In fact, our wealthier classes are paying fewer taxes. We are paying for the war by selling our future to developing countries such as China and India who are buying our bonds. A war in a democratic society should not be fought in such a manner.

The disadvantaged cannot effectively run our armed forces. Felons, single moms, dropouts, and the physically challenged need support from the larger society and should not be considered fodder for war. Military service is also an obligation for all strata of society in times of genuine danger. Details Magazine reported in May that the Army is spending $200 million in television ads to get recruits. According to the same article the army is also spending $16 million to develop a video game for the same purpose.

There is now a $20,000 signing bonus for new recruits and the promise of $70,000 for college. Despite this, the armed services cannot meet the recruiting goals.

Can you feel a draft?   

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