Youth Action: Essays to
How Are Teens Around the World Dealing With War? To find out click here for personal audio essays.
"They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic
duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in
all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in
declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any
age has ever been declared by the people": Eugene Debs
A Military Recruiter's Job Is To Sell the Military Recruiters are salespeople
with a quota to meet. If students are learning about the military from
recruiters alone, they're getting only part of the story. Their education is
Reports were recently circulated that a "special skills" draft was on the table specifically for people skilled in computers and foreign languages. The Selective Service countered the allegations with a statement on their website , stating that the Selective Service is merely fulfilling its role and hasn't ramped up in anticipation of a coming draft: "Selective Service is not getting ready to conduct a draft for the U.S. Armed Forces - either with a special skills or regular draft. Rather, the Agency remains prepared to manage a draft if and when the President and the Congress so direct. This responsibility has been ongoing since 1980 and is nothing new."
However, the Bush Administration's military goals cannot be met without forced conscription. Consider these facts:
Twenty-one of the US Army's 33 regular combat brigades are now on active duty in the "hot" zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, and the Balkans. That's 63 percent of the Army's fighting force ... all without factoring in additional troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Britain, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere around the globe.
This is a huge overextension. History has proven that long-term military operations can only be sustained if you have twice as many soldiers waiting in the pipeline as are stationed out in the field. By that rule of thumb, the regular military is now 125,000 soldiers short - a gap the Bush administration has temporarily plugged by calling more than 150,000 Army Reserve and National Guard troops into active service..
There are 135,000 troops stationed in Iraq, just under half of them guardsmen and reservists. But to maintain that number another 22,000 have already been sent there and brought home dead, wounded, or medically unfit for service. Since the invasion of Iraq there have been more military casualties than in all the years since the end of the Viet Nam war combined.
The human well is drying up. Enlistment rates in the regular armed forces and the National Guard have dropped precipitously, and according to a poll conducted by the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, a whopping 49 percent of soldiers stationed in Iraq say they don't intend to reenlist - even with the Army offering a $10,000 bonus.
In January 2004, Vice-President Dick Cheney gave a speech in San Francisco outlining a further expansion of the military. In no uncertain terms he announced that our armed forces would be set up in more overseas bases, so the United States could wage war quickly around the globe. "One of the legacies of this administration," he said, "will be some of the most sweeping changes in our military, and our national security strategy as it relates to the military and force structure, and how we're based, and how we used it in the last 50 or 60 years, probably since World War II. I think the changes are that dramatic."
Despite statements to the contrary, quiet preparations for the return of the draft have been under way for some time. The Selective Service System's Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2004 - despite a ton of obfuscatory jargon, acronyms, and bureaucrat-speak - can't quite manage to bury all of its bombshells.
Objective 1.2 of the 2004 plan commits the Selective Service System to being
fully operational within 75 days of "an authorized return to conscription."
Strategic Objective 1.3 then commits them to "be operationally ready to furnish
untrained manpower within DOD timelines." By next year the government intends to
turn the ignition key on a mobilization infrastructure of 56 State Headquarters,
442 Area Offices, and 1,980 Local Boards. There's even a big chunk of funding
this year to run what's called an "Area Office Prototype Exercise" which will
"test the activation process from SSS Lottery input to the issuance of First
Armed Forces Examination Orders."
The 2004 plan commits the SSS to report to the president on March 31st, 2005, that the system is ready for activation with 75 days. If they manage the task, then the first lottery could happen as early as June 15th, 2005.
The job of approving a draft officially belongs to both the President and Congress, working together to pass new legislation, and officially it can only happen if the country is at war. But given the examples of the last three years, these safeguards are hard to call firm and reassuring.
First, as far as the Bush administration is concerned we are at war in every respect. On the basis of this position the President has skated around the strict language of the Constitution and launched the invasion of two different countries, despite the fact that only Congress is supposed to have the power to declare war. Second, the White House is supported by Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. While it is certain that any Presidential decision to reactivate the draft would be hotly debated in Congress, and resisted by a majority of the public, it is by no means clear that it could be effectively blocked - especially with prominent Democrats such as Representative Charlie Rangel and Senator Hilary Clinton on record as supporting the possibility of some kind of conscription.
the Selective Service System doesn't call it a "draft." In their lexicon of
acronyms it's a "Registrant Integrated Processing System": RIPS, for short. The
acronym's horrible irony - Rest In Peace, anyone? - seems to have been lost
on the bureaucrats.Connor
Freff Cochran is a film producer and former magazine/television journalist. He
spent four years as an American on-air correspondent for the BBC.
Democracy Now! speaks with Michael Cervantes, an Army veteran with Veterans for Peace who is campaigning against Bush's policy to target high school students for military recruitment. [includes rush transcript]
The U.S. occupation of Iraq has descended into chaos. Over 700 U.S. troops have now been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the invasion, 100 of them in April alone. The past 14 days have reportedly been the deadliest two-week span for US troops since October 1971 during the Vietnam War.
In the face of overwhelming Iraqi resistance, the Pentagon has been force= d to extend the stay of some 20,000 soldiers who were scheduled to leave soon for home. Over 130,000 U.S. soldiers remain stationed in Iraq.
But the American military empire stretches far beyond the Middle East. The U.S. maintains a vast network of bases on every continent except Antarctica spanning some 130 countries around the world and the government is continually looking for ways to replenish its overstretched military.
One place it is focusing its attention, is American high schools. Since 2001, the Bush administration has been requiring high schools to disclose student records to military recruiters or risk losing federal aid.
Under a mandate authorized by the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act, recruiters are entitled to get the names, addresses and phone numbers of high school juniors and seniors, unless parents or students sign a form requesting that the data be withheld. Districts that don't comply stand to lose millions in federal funding. As one Pentagon spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times, the policy "Allows the Department of Defense to recruit from a much broader, diverse and more representative group of the youth of America."
Yesterday in Santa Barbara I spoke with Michael Cervantes, an Army veteran with Veterans for Peace who is campaigning against Bush's policy to target high school students for military recruitment. Cervantes fought in the Vietnam war after being drafted out of high school. I asked him what actions he had taken against the policy.
MICHAEL CERVANTES: We started with P.T.A. meetings, and they were real polite and they told us thanks for visiting with us, and letting us know your concerns. This was about the names, addresses and phone numbers being released to the military now. But they said nothing more. So, I made an appointment to talk with the Board trustees at the Oxnard Junior High School District, with two other organizations, the Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions and the ACLU. We asked the Ventura Chapter President to be there. So, we presented for about 20 minutes to the Board, and they were real quiet with us. They really didn't even respond, and it was like -- next. They had someone else to present after us.
AMY GOODMAN: What were you trying to tell them? What were you asking?
MICHAEL CERVANTES: Well, we wanted them to notify the parents, actually. I knew by intuition that the school district had not been notifying the students, and it turns out that I was correct. We had been working with a district staffer, and we found -- I found out through her. She said yes.
The big question is, are you releasing the entire student body of the 11th and 12th grade students out to the military, and the answer to that is yes. So, you have a school district who is doing that and not notifying parents, which is a requirement of the law. So, little by little, we're doing it step by step, trying to maybe even educate the Board. We came back to the Board a second time and presented, and still no -- no one opening their mouths on the Board to us. The best we could get from them was that we have a public administrator that you can talk to about your questions, and -- that's been about it. The most publicity that I can get so far is from the -- can I say the names of these magazines? V.C. Reporter did us real well. They published a two-page letter of mine in their weekly, and then the Ventura County St= ar published an article from me, and then now the "LA. Times" article just Sunday.
AMY GOODMAN: You did, though, succeed in getting the school to send letters home to parents?
MICHAEL CERVANTES: Right. Now, we have been successful. They have told us that they would attach to the front of a -- of the parent-student handbook that's made up every year, and sent out in the summertime. It's a 63-page booklet. Now, attached to the front of the booklet will be an information page informing the parents that release can be made to the military, and that if you want to prevent that, if you want to block that release, you have to sign a consent form. That consent form is found in the parent-student handbook. Unfortunately, it's the very last page, and it's not perforated. It doesn't look like something you want to separate from the AD
AMY GOODMAN: The parent is opting out, then, for the kids, saying, I don't want my kid's name to be sent to the military, and if they don't do it, it is automatically sent, boy or girl, high school or -- high school student, young woman or young man?
MICHAEL CERVANTES: That is correct.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you feel so strongly about this? Why are you concerned about kids' names being sent to the Pentagon?
MICHAEL CERVANTES: Well, it's a matter, actually of students' rights. It's privacy rights. We want students' names to stay at the district, and also I'm concerned about the war, Amy. I don't -- you know, we don't need to have the students think that, you know, they have to go out and participate in this foreign policy. They're going to be pressured by recruiters, and it's not necessary for them to be pressured like that right now. They should think about getting their education. They should not have to be bothered at the high school level.
AMY GOODMAN: You're also doing an interesting action at the beach on Sundays. You can describe that?
MICHAEL CERVANTES: Yes. I'm really happy with that. It's a special action. For me, I view it as a memorial. It's an innocent hologram. I like to describe it that way, because you can take it away with you since you have seen that. We are placing one cross for each killed Iraqi soldier -- I'm sorry not Iraqi soldier, American soldier in the Iraq war. When the project started, I believe it started with 275 crosses back in November, and this past Sunday, we placed 691 crosses out at the beach, and we have had very close relations, memorialized fallen soldiers in the past several weeks.
AMY GOODMAN: How many of you do this?
MICHAEL CERVANTES: We have a core of about 9 to 12 town hall activists and Veterans for Peace members participating.
AMY GOODMAN: What kind of reaction to you get?
MICHAEL CERVANTES: It's varied. It is really varied. Most of it is approval. For me, personally, people will ask what it is out there, and then after having explained, as I just explained, they'll walk away saying, what a waste, the war is stupid. For me, that's the majority of the -- of what's been communicated to me. People are positive. They think we're doing good work by doing that. And we'll get an occasional person who will not think it's a good idea to be using the dead as a promotion to political thoughts.
AMY GOODMAN: What is your response to that?
MICHAEL CERVANTES: Well, actually, we try not to give that type of a person a stage at the wharf. It's a very busy wharf. There are a lot of tourists out there. And I usually -- I usually don't stay and speak to a person too very long. I'll tell them that I have been at a war, and to me, that this is what our project represents, something good, and through seeing such a tragedy as all of that, you just have got to think that it's not right, but why are we having our sons and daughters perish like that, for what?
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Cervantes. Vietnam Veteran, who is taking on the Pentagon and trying to make sure that parents of high school students know that their kid's information is given to the Pentagon unless they proactively tell the high school not to pass on that information.www.democracynow.org
Published on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle An Obedient Army Vs. a Conscripted One by Alex A. Vardamis
Coffins, draped with the American flag, make the long flight from Baghdad= to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Amputees fill the wards at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Meanwhile, jingoistic voices dominate = the airwaves. Anyone with the temerity to question the Iraq war is accused of giving comfort to the enemy and undermining troop morale. In the midst of the carnage and bombast, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announces t= hat tours of duty in Iraq, yet again, will be extended. The soldiers and thei= r families salute and obey.
Where's the outrage? Why do only a few wives and parents raise a whisper = of protest when the nation breaks its promises to the troops? Why are Americ= ans reconciled to losses? Why is Congress compliant? Where are the protesters who filled the streets of America during the war in Vietnam? What has changed? Why aren't Baby Boomers and their children bringing the governme= nt to a halt?
The draft. That's what's different. In the days of conscription, most Americans were directly affected by our wars. A tour in the military included, like as not, a year in a war zone. College students could avoid the draft for awhile, but inevitably, Selective Service tracked them down. Some fled to Sweden or Canada. Others found refuge in the Texas National Guard or the University of Arkansas ROTC. The less fortunate, when called= , were trapped in a deadly quagmire. Men of draft age, and their families a= nd friends, raised holy hell. They brought that generation's "war of choice"= to an end. The will of the people prevailed. Had citizens been silent, the Memorial Wall might now encircle the nation's Capitol.
Today, however, our soldiers are volunteers. They are as obedient as children. They voice no gripe with their commander in chief who sends the= m on his crusades in Afghanistan and Iraq. If they do complain, they are sternly reminded that they had a choice. They were not drafted. They shou= ld have realized when they enlisted that they might be killed to enforce the Pax Americana across the globe. They are professional soldiers, aren't th= ey? Hardly -- note how many of our dead are teenagers, scarcely out of high school. Many of them joined up for practical reasons: to find employment,= to earn money for college tuition and, even, to win a chance at American citizenship. But at what price? Are the benefits worth a leg or an arm or= a life?
In privileged circles, service in the military is a job for the "other" Americans. The architects of this war, led by Bush and Vice President Dic= k Cheney, have none of their children in uniform. The possibility doesn't e= ven cross their minds. Their daughters will never wear combat boots. The "war party" elite of America can afford to hang tough. They shift the military about like little pawns in a game of chess. Their sons and daughters will not be buried in Arlington National Cemetery or lie limbless in Walter Re= ed.
The disparity between the elite and the people is simply un-American. The drafters of the U.S. Constitution recognized the inherent danger in state= s with professional armies obedient to no one but the princes who paid the salaries. The Founding Fathers understood that military service -- the ri= ght and responsibility of every citizen of a free nation to bear arms in defe= nse of the country -- is the surest safeguard of democracy. If power is truly= to reside with the people, then a citizen Army, a conscript military, is essential. If rulers are not personally involved, if the lives of their o= wn family and friends are not at risk, they are apt to be careless in spilli= ng blood.
If "taking out" an enemy pre-emptively has become, for the United States,= a first and not a last resort, perhaps the best corrective is a draft. A citizen Army would make America less belligerent. Equitable and universal national conscription would provide the United States with a dependable military in time of genuine national emergency. The benefits to our young people would outweigh the sacrifices if active duty becomes, without exception, a rite of passage, entered into immediately after high school = by every American, rich and poor, brilliant and average, straight and gay, m= ale and female. After tough basic training and a year of active duty, America= 's youth would approach the university, technical college or workplace with = new skills and with mature social and political consciousness.
National conscription would bind the nation. Young men and women from Sausalito to Salinas, the favored of Carmel to the disadvantaged of East Palo Alto, would have a shared experience and a common understanding of t= he duties and privileges of citizenship.
But perhaps, more important, these young people would serve as hostages f= or peace. The president would be less apt to deploy a national force if the "boots on the ground" were worn by Jenna and Barbara Bush.
Alex A. Vardamis is a retired professor of American literature from West Point and the University of Vermont who lives in Carmel, California.
Is There a Draft in the Room?
"Yes!", "No, absolutely not!", "Are You Nuts?", "The military does not have
time to train all the new recruits for a draft" . blah, blah, blah.
For all the rhetoric bouncing around in the media land of military and
governmental propaganda and election attention mongering, the draft has
lifted too few eyes.
One side claims that a draft would include the rich law makers in the White
House and their daughters! The other side claims that the responsibility for
a never-ending war on terrorism will need to be felt by ALL citizens. Both
sides claim the same thing, but fall short of telling the truth. The bills
in the house and senate, H.R. 163 and S 89 are called the "Universal
National Service Act of 2003".
This is what Kerry is calling for, and Bush is staying silent about, a
mandatory 2 year military training service. This will pull America in line
with Israel, Spain, Germany, France and other countries, who have this
requirement for men and women. It will also be used to fulfill the vacancies
being experienced in Iraq, that quiet black sucking void of death,
occupation, rape and torture called "liberation for life, liberty, freedom
So that is my take on it. Yes, at some point the top brass and war
profiteers in Washington will need fresh meat and landmine fodder to support
their twisted ego and altered realities of conquering the Middle East. So be
ready to offer up your young to sacrifice their flesh for myth, national
patriotism, false heroism and post trauma. And be ready to dress your young
women for the service of troops in various positions, from actual duty to
that of the laid back maiden ready for her returning man. Service is the
sexual service for the men of the country, of the corporations, the
mercenaries and the troops. Just ask the 200+ women of the first Gulf War
and the 125+ of this War on Terrorism how they ended up raped or gang raped
as being part of their service to their country? You can also ask the women
who were served up for prostitution by the US corporation, DynCorp.
The Draft! Yes, I hear some parents and veterans say, "fine, bring it on,
maybe that will wake the rest of those flag waving nut cases right up!"
"Sure, let Dubya send his twins off to Falluja!" "Let's send the entire
Senate and House of Representatives kids off to the thick of it, see how
they will like them coming home in pieces or in the silver bullet!"
But I now say, "be very careful what is asked for!" I was one of the
comments above, but now I feel NO! Not one more youthful life is to be a
wasted death or dismemberment just because the adults don't talk to each
other. No more air to the fire! Not one more body to be evaporated for
Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Alliant Technolgies, DynCorp, Becthel,
Halliburton, KRB, Blackwater, GE, or IBM!
It is time to take the oxygen out of the fire to kill the growing flame that
is spreading throughout the Middle East! Snuffed right out it would be if
everyone said "No way, not my kid, not my daughter!", "No, Sir! I am
standing down!" Such a simple word, NO is and such a powerful non-violent
act. You see they can not have a war when everyone refuses to go, to fight,
to pull the trigger, push the button, press on the gas of the tank or press
the trigger to launch cluster bombs or open the bomb bay doors.
And if they still support the war, then they best shine up their own shoes,
fill out a will, send their lives into storage, pack, get fitted for a new
uniform and get ready with an M-16 to go fight it themselves!
We don't need the draft! The parents have offered to go instead!
"Why, of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a
farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to
come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want
war, neither in Russia, nor England, nor for that matter, Germany. That is
understood, but after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the
policy and it is always a simpler matter to drag the people along, whether
it is a democracy, or fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist
dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the
bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they
are being attacked, and denouce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and
exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
-- Herman Goering. Long time Nazi, Reichmarshall, and heir-apparent to
Hitler. Statement made while imprisoned at Nuremberg after WWII.
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