Do you feel a draft?

Here are a few facts that Americans should consider when contemplating the situation in Iraq and whether they support sustaining this invasion and occupation for the length of time the Bush administration has said it may take to put things on a sound, peaceful footing, if that is ever even possible.

This is the longest war without a draft in the country’s history. It is the longest conflict to be conducted without a tax increase, despite costs that far exceed those of the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. The soldiers and Marines carrying out the fight are being subjected to the shortest of home rotations before returning to combat.

Let’s look first at the fact the war has gone on longer without a draft than both World Wars and Korea and Vietnam. As a consequence reservists and National Guards have had to supplement the professionals who make up the regular armed forces to a greater degree than anyone would like. These “citizen soldiers” often have been under-equipped and poorly trained for the kind of urban warfare that has been the hallmark of this fight. As a result, their casualty rate has been high. The toll taken on their families and their civilian careers has been enormous.

Still, few Americans would support reinstating the draft. Had there been one, however, it is certain that the outcry against this war would have been much louder and possibly violent as time went on without an end in sight. Volunteerism just doesn’t carry the same weight for objection or sympathy as a whole bunch of civilians being pressed into service. The volunteers took their chances when they signed up for the Guard and Reserves, after all.

Fighting a war while at the same time passing out tax cuts is also unprecedented. Lyndon Johnson thought for a time that he could continue to have a “guns and butter” budget but eventually realized that it was necessary to ask the nation’s taxpayers for a one time 10 percent surcharge for Vietnam.

President Bush is seeking another $46 billion for military purposes, a total of $196 billion this year. The Democrats who won back control of both houses last year on a pledge to bring a swift end to the conflict know they are going to have to give it to him or face being accused of abandoning America’s forces. But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sees a chance of moving up the timetable for complete withdrawal from Iraq. He wants the supplemental appropriations bill to include only half the funding, requiring the president to come back later for the rest.

The 51 Democratic votes in the Senate aren’t enough to do much more than apply mild pressure to a White House apparently determined to spend without concern to support its Iraq agenda. Bush is bolstered by the knowledge that it takes 60 votes to cut off debate, allowing Republicans to defeat most efforts to impose a timetable for withdrawal and providing no chance for overriding a veto, which requires two-thirds in both houses. In the meantime, new natural disasters like the horrendous California fires and the lingering aftermath of the hurricanes of two years ago stretch the budget. Legislation for a war tax has been introduced but is receiving little attention at this point.

Probably the most dangerous threat to the U.S. military is the damage to morale. A policy of 15 months of combat-zone duty and only 12 months at home before rotating back to Iraq or Afghanistan has caused veteran officers and enlisted ranks to rethink their careers. In a tour of important stateside military bases, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, reportedly found anger and tough demands from the mid-level officers, mainly captains and majors, who are crucial to any Army. They have begun to seriously question not only the fairness of this policy but also to reassess their commitment to the service.

The drain on men and material caused by Iraq and Afghanistan has been enormous. Taking on other global responsibilities requiring U.S. forces is practically impossible at this time without a draft or a huge increase in volunteer forces not to mention billions more for equipment.

Putting this all together, one comes away with the thought that if we are to have any chance to extricate ourselves from this no-victory situation, it will take a lot more pain. Are we willing to endure it and if we aren’t then what?

(Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.)


  1. Steve Horn

    Make the draft universal, don’t allow the children of privilege to get out of it for education nor allow their parents to influence politicians to get them cushy state-side positions and you’ll see the war end tomorrow.

    Of course, that won’t happen, will it? Those with enough money will always find a way for their “patriotic but precious” children out of harms way, so their inbred genetic lines can be perpetuated.

    After all, if “W’s” party girl daughters were facing deployment, do you really think he’d start a war?



  2. ekaton

    “A policy of 15 months of combat-zone duty and only 12 months at home before rotating back…”

    THIS IS A LIE. I have an acquaintence whose son was due to be home before Christmas as his 15 months were up. He has been extended until the end of February, making his current tour over 17 months. As usual, we are being lied to AGAIN.

    If there was a god, I’d ask him to damn George Bush, Dick Cheney and all the rest of the lying “neoconservative” bastards.

    — Kent Shaw

  3. Gerald Sutliff

    Ending the draft was a mistake, I said so when Nixon did it; ending the draft made possible this illegal war. My suggestion is that we reinstate the draft and do away with deferrals and local “draft board” control authority.
    We need to offer every draftee the option of 2 years military service or three years of civilian service doing the millions of jobs our country isn’t about to pay enough to hire workers to perform. Yes, I know, it sounds like the CCC or the Job Corps. It would do our young people good and would invest them in America.

  4. ekaton

    “My suggestion is that we reinstate the draft and do away with deferrals and local “draft board” control authority.”

    I agree, but you don’t go far enough. The draft should be opened up to all ages. There is no reason an 85 year old man cannot answer telephones at a military base. And it should not be for two years. It should be for a minimum of four years, preferably six. Anyone under the age of 50 should be required to go into the infantry. And there should be no pay beyond room and board. People would be selected by lottery, and NOT by birth date, but by name and address only. And if you happen to be President of the United States, and you get drafted, tough shit. You go into the infantry and the Vice President takes over, and if he gets drafted, then the Speaker takes over, on down the line. This is the ONLY way a draft could be fair at all.

    — Kent Shaw

  5. Steve Wallerstein

    The draft will never be the right thing to do. The draft is essentially Government Kidnapping. I’m not willing to risk having my kids go off to fight some corporate war on the hope that this “legalized” kidnapping would make that war so unpopular they might not have to go. That’s just too risky for this father. If they do bring back the draft, will you all be signing up?

  6. ekaton

    The draft IS Government Kidnapping and it IS slave labor. No need to sign up if the draft is universal. They know where we are. They can use the IRS. My previous post is dripping with sarcasm and cynicism, I hope folks realize that.

    We have to do SOMETHING to turn this all around. Civil Disobedience is a good start but damned if I know how to organize it.

    — Kent Shaw

  7. chimpo-bites

    “The American fascists method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public.
    – Vice President Henry Wallace.. April 1944

    As far as I know we are NOT AT WAR WITH ANYONE.. Iraq is supposedly our ally… we are not at war with them.. Afghanistan is also our ally .. we are not at war with them either..

    STOP calling it a WAR because it is NOT a war it is a police or peacekeeping action.. Don’t fall for the propaganda of this abomination of a corrupt administration.
    We have a War on Drugs .. A War on Crime .. A War on Terror.. NONE of which qualify as the definition of WAR as laid down by the founders in the CONSTITUTION of the US of A.. Therefore we don’t need a Bushworld Commander in Chief with dictatorial powers to prosecute a WAR because we are not at war with any foreign goverment!!