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Why I Oppose the Draft

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Mary Shaw
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With George W. Bush possibly calling for tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops to be sent to Iraq, I have to wonder where all these troops will come from.

For now, I am told, some will be redeployed to Iraq from elsewhere. But the U.S. military is already stretched too thin. So they'll also continue with the "backdoor draft", extending the stay of those troops already in Iraq, even though these kids are tired and stressed and deserve to go home. They'll simply ignore the fact that people cannot function at their best in those conditions.

And there have been rumors of bringing back the draft. As of this writing, the official Selective Service website (www.sss.gov) is displaying a message on its main page indicating that no draft is on the horizon. But what's true today might not be true tomorrow.

For a while, I kind of liked the idea of reinstating the draft. It might level the playing field, so that it won't just be the poor kids with few options in life who are entering the military. A senator's kid would be just as vulnerable. Would a senator be as likely to vote for war if his own son or daughter might have to do the fighting?

But then I talked with a young man in his 20s, whose future might hang in the balance if the draft is reinstated. He opposes the draft, not because he might be called on to fight, but rather because he might be called on to fight an unnecessary and poorly planned war of aggression based on lies.

The more I thought about it, the more I found myself in agreement.

After the attacks of 9/11, men and women were flocking to the military recruiting stations to sign up to fight the terrorists who caused the attacks. It was payback time. They had a righteous mission, they had an identifiable enemy (al-Qaeda), and they were pumped. No draft needed.

If the mission had stayed on track, perhaps the military recruiters would not be having such a hard time meeting their quotas today. But nobody wants to sign up to be a target for insurgents in George W. Bush's ill-conceived war of lies. Who can blame them? And how could we sleep at night if our tax dollars supported a draft system that forced them to go?

So, the more I think about it, the more I see no reason for a draft. As we learned after 9/11, a military that's employed honorably to defend this country against real, genuine threats will naturally attract plenty of enthusiastic men and women who are passionately committed to the cause. You can't force that kind of enthusiasm.

Perhaps all our senators and congressmen should use a simple litmus test before waging future wars: Ignore all the war-drum propaganda and check all the facts. Then, if you can enthusiastically send your own son or daughter off to battle, and if he or she concurs, then vote in favor of the war and point your kid to the recruiting office. Otherwise, you're just a chickenhawk. And it's time to clip those chickenhawk wings.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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