When I was a teenager, going to private Catholic school, I was approached by military recruiters. I was encouraged to join the military and to enlist in the ROTC program, much like my father had done. For whatever reason, I declined. I was not yet a peace activist like I became after the first gulf war, but something in my instincts told me that I could not serve in the military the way my father had served. My story is only one of many paths to adulthood.
In 1990, while I was enrolled at the University of Minnesota, George Bush Sr. began beating the drums of war. I enrolled in the selective service program at that time in order to get student loans to go to college. Living in the student district of Minneapolis, I watched anti-war activity on campus preceding the invasion. Students were busy organizing against the campus military center, sometimes called the stockade, holding demonstrations and putting anti-war material in front of the recruiting and training center.
I remember clearly the night the bombs began to drop in Iraq. The night of the first bombing and initial invasion in 1991, I witnessed something I had never seen before -- a spontaneous anti-war demonstration. Demonstrators began marching from the University district, without a permit, into downtown Minneapolis and over to the uptown district, several thousand people marching a distance of five or six miles. Something about that demonstration vitalized me and helped me to commit to a path of peace.
I knew at the time, based on my religious convictions, that I could not kill another human being in the name of my country, no matter what the reason. Although I am no longer a person of faith, I still retain the same conviction to this day and remain a pacifist committed to the path of non-violence.
I joined the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors at that time and met with a Quaker counselor from the American Friends Service Committee. I decided at that point in my life to begin to serve the path of peace.
Besides having deep respect for my father and his choices in life, we have something in common, we both had the opportunity to choose how to serve our country. This choice, which has been a mainstay of American life since shortly after the Vietnam war, has never been under greater threat than it is right now.
Nearly every person in the military today is there because they chose to serve. Regardless of how one feels about the process of military recruitment, the targeting of poor and minority communities, or even recruiting persons who are not yet citizens of this country in order to serve, the alternative to this is far worse.
There has been talk in the military of reintroducing the draft. It is argued that we cannot afford to keep going the way we are. President Bush is keeping one hundred forty thousand troops in Iraq in addition to the thousands already serving in Afghanistan and the hundreds of thousands serving in over one hundred and twenty countries around the world. Yet, our military forces are taxed to exhaustion.
A backdoor draft of sort already exists with our national guard reserve. There has even been speculation that the very reason that our national reserve forces are being taxed to their limits is to reintroduce the draft as a socially acceptable resolution to the current crisis in Iraq.
Our military forces are broken. They are being taxed to their limits, but the solution is not the reintroduction of a draft. Because the war in Iraq was based on lies and manipulation, there is nothing honorable about recruiting unwitting young men and women in order to support the lies and misdeeds of the current administration.
The solution to the crisis in Iraq is to bring the troops home now. Our national guard has served the country well. They have answered the call to serve, despite the betrayals of the current administration, and it is time to bring them home. Then it is time to let our military heal from the current round of conflict.
We need to scale down the size of our military. We cannot afford the extreme financial burden that this military is costing us, both in current expenditures and obligations we have on past expenditures - such as debt from previous military expenses which is as yet unpaid, and the financial obligations that we have to the health and welfare of our nation's veterans.