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First They Came for the Nurses
First the Back-Door Draft; Now the Foot-in-the-Door Draft
by DAVE LINDORFF

So the cat’s out of the bag. With reports today in the New York Times, AP and other media outlets that the Pentagon is contemplating a draft call-up of health professionals because of a shortage of doctors, nurses and medics in the increasingly thinly stretched U.S. military, we can see the lie in Bush’s (and in Kerry’s) promises not to reinstate conscription.

Everyone agrees that with the war in Iraq going badly, and with little prospect of it getting easier for the U.S. forces over there, and with the president making threats against Iran and Syria, not to mention North Korea, that the military is extended way too far. Already we have the "back-door" draft of reservists and National Guard troops, who have been forced to do double hitches in Iraq, and we have "stop-loss" orders that bar some troops–regular and reserve–from leaving the military when their enlistments are up.

You can’t go much further there, and recruitment and reenlistment targets are no longer being met. To paraphrase a younger and nobler John Kerry, "Who wants to be the next man to sign up and risk dying for a lost cause?"

The main argument that has been put forward by the punditry (and Bush apologists, which is often the same thing in today’s media), against the likelihood of a return of the draft is that it would be politically unacceptable. After all, they say, before you can have a draft call-up, you have to have a conscription bill passed by both houses of Congress, and signed by the president.

And so it would seem, but the clever minds in the Bush administration have found a way around this.

They’ll call up docs and nurses.

Who in Congress, or the media, or even among much of the public, is going to argue if the administration next January announces that there is a critical shortage of doctors and nurses in Iraq, and that our noble soldiers are at risk of death or permanent injury because of inadequate emergency medical services near the front?

Yet to call up those medical personnel, first that draft authorization legislation would have to be passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.

Obviously, such a bill would be presented as "just" a measure so that medical personnel could be required to serve, but of course, a draft bill is a draft bill. Maybe at first the Pentagon would only ask for a certain category of skills in a limited call-up, but the bill itself would be passed into law. The decision on who to call next would be an administrative, not a political, decision, to be made by the generals and the folks at the Selective Service System.

We could expect to see a general call-up preceeded by a few more special category call-ups–maybe mechanics, electronics experts, pilots, etc.–always with an explanation that this was just a limited shortage. This draft "creep" will eventually lead to a full-scale draft.

And the members of Congress who voted for the authorization would be able to say they had only intended it to be for medical help.

As someone who fought against the draft for years during the Indochina War (I had an 81 in the lottery and never took a deferment, but was improperly rejected with a 4F after raising a fuss at my pre-induction physical in 1969), I have to say that maybe this would not be such a bad thing. I’m inclined to agree with Korean War veteran Congressman Charles Rangel, who had a bill in the House to restore the draft until House Republicans killed the measure earlier this month. A draft–especially a fair one that drafts the sons of the rich as well as the sons of the working class–makes it much harder for the government to fight unjust and unnecessary wars.

As Col. David Hackworth (http://www.hackworth.com) has said, draftees make great soldiers when they believe in the cause.

The thing is, when they don’t, they tend to get uppity about being put in harm’s way, and don’t have to worry about their complaining and lack of submissiveness getting in the way of their career paths.

Back in the late ’60s and early 1970s, many draftees in Nam were in virtual open rebellion against military authorities–part of the reason the U.S. lost the war in Indochina. The latest brouhaha in Iraq in which a whole unit of reservists refused orders to make what they called a "suicide run" delivering fuel to a remote base with poor and unprotected equipment, is a sign that the "back-door" draftees of the reserve and Guard are starting to do the same thing in this latest quagmire.

Meanwhile, back home, voters and reporters should be asking both Bush and Kerry much more specific questions about the draft and its possible return during the term of the next president, whomever that may be.

***

 

And a cautionary semi-correction:

A number of liberal-minded video techies have written to say that there are technical aspects of video broadcasts which could explain the pre-echo that appears on a number of broadcast feeds of Bush appearances on CNN and Fox clips. If so, it would be one less clue regarding Bush’s likely use of a hidden earpiece during the three debates–and on other occasions. That said, my own listening to the Fox tape of his joint appearance with Jacques Chirac does include at least one place where the preceding voice says something but Bush himself stumbles, which would rule out an electronic pre-echo. While my playback equipment–my Mac iBook G4–is admittedly very limited in its sound reproduction, I still find this evidence pretty compelling unless someone with better equipment and/or ears can show me I’m missing something.

In any event, the other evidence of a secret earpiece at the debates is still very powerful, even if it turns out that the video clips can be explained away. Most compelling, of course, is the White House’s and Bush campaign’s continued denial that there is even anything there on the president’s back in the debates.

There’s also a photo of Bush in profile, taken at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year in Washington D.C., in which a small wireless earpiece is clearly visible protruding from his ear. To see this photo, go to This Can’t Be Happening!.

In that regard, readers should repair to the website George Bush’s Bulges, for a whole slide show of photos of Bush over the years of his presidency with a suspicious bulge under his jacket.

There is also a photo, posted today on my website, of Bush’s head taken at the last National Prayer Breakfast. It shows a small wireless earpiece in his left ear. Now perhaps this can be explained as his direct link to God, given the venue, but it still shows he is wired on occasion.

Finally, there’s the tale of Fred Burks, a contract Indonesian translator for the State Department, who has translated for two presidents, Clinton and Bush, and for Vice President Al Gore. Burks says he was asked to translate for Bush during a 90-minute private session the president had with then Indonesian President Megawati Sukarno Purti on Sept. 19, 2001, just eight days after the 9/11 attacks. He says a portion of the session was devoted to talking about fighting terrorism, but that much of the time was spent discussing detailed Indonesian issues.

"I was briefed by a woman whom I cannot identify publicly, before the session," Burks recalls. "She told me the talking points for the meeting. I was amazed at the number of complicated issues and asked, `How on earth is Bush going to be able to talk intelligently about all these issues? He’s been busy with 9/11. He can’t have been preparing for all these.’ She replied, `I don’t know.’"

He continues, "Well, Bush, whom we all know is not the brightest president we’ve had, covered everything, with no help, no notes and no stumbles."

His conclusion, "There are only two possibilities: Either he’s much smarter than everyone thinks, or he had an earpiece giving him prompts and information." Burks adds, "After later experiences with the president, in which I realized he wasn’t that intelligent," he’s convinced the second explanation is the correct one.

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