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All Out of Volunteers

A Draft in the Air?

by DAVE LINDORFF

The Republicans are running like mad away from the rumor that’s running like wildfire around on the web in the form of email and blog messages, that the Bush administration and the Pentagon have a secret plan to reinstate the Draft after the election.

The memo that’s going around notes that there are bills in both the Senate and the House that call for a Draft call-up. Now this is a little alarmist and off the mark, because both those bills were introduced by Democrats-Charles Rangel (D-New York) in the House and Ernest Hollings (D-SC) in the Senate-who weren’t so much hoping for their bills to pass as to make a point about the unfair burden the war is placing by all the low-income folks and minorities who sign up for the military, the reserves or the National Guard for economic reasons, and who are now trapped in the sands of Iraq.

Frightened silly by the flood of news speculating about a call-up around the corner-Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was actually asked about it at a campaign "town meeting" and said that while he would not support a Draft, he couldn’t speak for Bush–the Republicans have responded by killing the Rangel’s House bill. Bush also made a point-or recited a point that was read into his ear-piece (see the article below about his performance in the Miami debate!)-about the war in Iraq being fought "by a volunteer army".

More recently, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld weighed in, saying there is no plan for a draft, and claiming that Kerry’s insinuation that Bush might have to turn to conscription was "full of it."

But this Republican PR effort should not be taken too seriously.

As the administration and the Republican dominated Congress proved with the USA PATRIOT Act, which was thrown together in a couple of days in late 2001 and passed with no hearings while the ink was still drying on the copies of the bill, it doesn’t take long to introduce and ram through a bill in Congress-particularly a Republican bill sought by the president.

Besides we know (as I wrote in an expose back in 2003 in Salon magazine which just won me a "Most Censored Story" award from Project Censored), that the Bush administration and the Pentagon have been busily restaffing the dusty local and regional draft boards that are the crucial human machinery of the Selective Service System.

And there is this matter of how you fight a war like the one in Iraq when you’re running out of troops.

Col. David H. Hackworth, one of the country’s most decorated soldiers, thinks Kerry and the people passing around worried emails have it right. For one thing, he notes that Rumsfeld "has been flat wrong on every major military call regarding Iraq."

He goes on to say, "Right now ­ with both our regular and Reserve soldiers stretched beyond the breaking point ­ our all-volunteer force is tapping out. If our overseas troop commitments continue at the present rate or climb higher, there won’t be enough Army and Marine grunts to do the job. And thin, overworked units, from Special Forces teams to infantry battalions, lose fights."

Hackworth’s conclusion: "Although Pentagon puff artists insist they’re making quota, recruiters are already saying it would be easier to find $100 bills on the sidewalk outside a homeless shelter than fill their enlistment quotas, even with the huge bonuses now being paid. So the draft ­ which will include both boys and girls this time around ­ is a no-brainer in ’05 and ’06."

Bush has stated repeatedly, most recently in the Miami debate, that he listens to his generals. If they call for more men, he will deliver. (Of course, it’s a lie. When Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki warned that the military needed 300,000 troops to go invade Iraq, Bush cashiered him, showing what happens when you say what you’re thinking in this administration.) And that’s the way it will come down. At some point, Bush will have the generals over at the Pentagon announce that they need more fresh troops, and he will "reluctantly" order a return to the Draft.

Count on it.

As for Kerry, unless he’s smart enough to back down from his tough talk about "winning the war" in Iraq, and pulls the U.S. out of that blood-drenched quagmire, he may find himself in the same bind, should he manage to win the election. And what a grand irony that would be-the old Vietnam War protester calling up a new generation of cannon-fodder for another doomed military adventure.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com