We’re gonna need more than a peace vigil to counter the next wave of the war on terror. Congress is considering reviving the draft, and more of us than ever could be cannon fodder. As says the adage, things could get a lot worse before they get better.
Although alternative media have been talking about the draft since last year, corporate media haven’t uttered a syllable about the twin Senate and House bills waiting in committee for quiet passage. This is an election year, and Congress people know that voters don’t want their kids (or themselves!) killed.
It is shortsighted to believe that the comeback of Selective Service is due to our conquest of Iraq, though certainly it’s related. Plans have been underway since 1999 (before Bush & Co) to revise conscientious objector regulations, and draft boards are, again, being staffed. While we could be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan as peace keepers with automatic weapons, US corporations also need troops to ensure their domination of African, Southeast Asian and South American resources and markets.
Revisions to draft guidelines include the expansion of eligibility to all men and women ages 18-35. To minimize the classism felt so keenly in Vietnam, college students who are drafted will receive only a one semester deferment. Canada has agreed to turn back all potential émigrés thanks to border technology that connects our ID to SSS records. Technology systems like TIA-Total Information Awareness (see slingshot issue 77) will make it difficult for draft dodgers to access bank accounts, sign leases, get public assistance or apply for work. In fact, dodging may effectively make someone an undocumented resident.
Restrictions on conscientious objectors are more stringent than thirty years ago. Fewer people are likely to successfully lobby for alternative service. Maybe the government has learned from Israel, where generals comprise the CO review board and no one ever gets CO status.
The changes in guidelines will draw soldiers from a larger, more representative pool than the overt racism and classism of earlier drafts. As a feminist, I believe that men should not have to fight in wars, not that women deserve the same opportunity for slaughter. How, when we talk about equality, can it mean the equal chance of death, instead of equal opportunity for life? No one should be drafted. Everyone should resist.
Congress doesn’t care about the draft, at least partially, because so few of them have eligible family members. Under old regulations, fewer than 10 members had children eligible for service. Will W be sending his twins to the front line? Or will they, too, join the Texas National Guard and step on base only for dental appointments?
There is no such thing as benign military service. It is impossible to act with dignity while carrying a government issued weapon and following orders. People with genuine intentions travel with medical supplies and 50lb bags of rice, not rocket launchers. The Pentagon lies about the number of soldiers killed and the number of civilians slaughtered. Private contractors die, and are subject to no justice/penal systems because Geneva doesn’t cover them and Iraq has no civil systems. The torture which has plastered newspapers this spring is standard issue, brought over with American prison wardens. We’re more likely to start infecting Iraqis with Hepatitis C (rampant in US prisons) than democracy. The atrocities by civilian and military Americans are further proof that only the conquered are subject to laws and that our national subconscious is still racist and homophobic.
The wars fostered through this draft will only increase the cycle of civil war, arms dealing and natural resource extraction that has been so effectively used to impoverish the “Third World.” The profits of large corporations rest on cheap resources, and illegal profit from the big three markets: arms, drugs and labor (sex or sweatshop). And, we, if we become soldiers, will hold open the doors to their banquet halls.
The return of selective service would make a lot of anarchist lifestyles desirable. Gleaning–using what’s extra–squatting, diy food and clothes, discarding money, encouraging free skool learning and alternative travel all become necessary for anyone avoiding the draft board. Learn for yourself and teach your neighbors.
While the failure of a draft bill would surely make it easier for most of us to avoid death or murder for a while longer, the passage of SSS reinstatement could unify people of all demographics. Grandmothers make great radicals. We need to use this promise of death for American youth as common ground for radicalizing our communities. There is no courage in the mainstream left, but there is lots of room for organizing. We need solidarity against military recruiting in our high schools, against police and prison abuse, against complicit media and for stronger communities.