We're starting to feel a draft! In one corner, we have the present administration with incumbent, George Dubya Bush, holding to the line that another draft won't happen on his watch. The Republicans even went so far as to force a pre-election October 2004 vote on both the Senate and House conscription bills that have been floundering along since early 2003, in an effort to put those nasty rumors to rest once and for all (or at least until after the election). In the other corner we have Kerry, the challenger, who says that he'll have our troops home in a year.
Neither the president nor his opponent want to rock the boat before the November election, so it will probably be 2005 before “Draft” preparations begin in earnest.
But while Dubya denies the likelihood of conscription on one hand, this is the very same guy who stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that still haven't been found. Meanwhile, positions on draft boards that have remained vacant for years are quietly being filled. It's the old “Bush Switcheroo” technique. Telling us it will never happen while preparing, at the same time, to make it so. Many people realize that given the direction and velocity at which this country is being driven by Dubya and his war cabinet of chicken hawks, conscription is inevitable. Neither the president nor his opponent want to rock the boat before the November elections, so it will probably be 2005 before “Draft” preparations begin in earnest.
There are multiple signs that the military branches are in trouble. Enlisted men and women in our “voluntary” military are not “re-upping” despite generous bonus amounts, sums that would usually be enticing to those, who in many cases, joined the military in the first place because their options in the outside world were limited. This has created a “back door” draft called “Stop Loss,” the practice of keeping enlisted men and women in the military beyond their original term of enlistment and makes the issue of re-upping or not moot. The policy seems to be to give them the opportunity to re-up and if they don't, keep them in anyway. If Uncle Sam wants you, he has you.
The National Guard, pledged to defend American soil, has been fighting in Iraq, nearly from the beginning. Now there's something you didn't see in Vietnam. In fact, back then the National Guard was considered the next best thing to a deferment. There was never any real threat that fighting from Nam would be spilling onto American soil. And there does appear to have been a rather casual attitude about serving in the Guard. Just look at the President of our country. He was able to go AWOL from the Guard for months, apparently without so much as a slap on the wrist. In fact, while he did get some dental work done, the documentation for most of his other guard appearances somehow was accidentally destroyed. Convenient, eh? And does anyone remember serving with him? In no way do I want to besmirch the honor of the National Guard, because they perform many necessary services for our country. But it was never intended to be a playground for the rich in which they fly around in jets and play soldier while sitting out wars being fought in foreign lands by those sons and daughters whose folks have less money.
The media tells us the administration has begun pulling troops from Europe and Korea. Now where do you think they are sending those “unneeded troops”? Any military person who would have gone to either of those destinations will be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan instead, but is it true we don't need
to have troops in these countries anymore? What about NATO? And never mind that North Korea really does have WMD. And who knows what other countries Bush has his eye on? Iran? Certain oil rich African countries?
If this is the “Peace President” at work, if Dubya is truly that convincing to people, and they believe that he really does stand for “peace,” I've got a floating bridge on the Olympic Peninsula to sell those folks.
A Naval Reservist I met recently told me the administration is so strapped financially that they are cutting back on personnel in the Navy and the Air Force. Another reservist I met even more recently told me essentially the same thing. It sounds like they're focusing strictly on ground troops and that's Army and Marines. The Feds want more “troops” to send to Iraq and Afghanistan. “Troops” would be those men and women Dubya's administration tells us we aren't supporting because we want them home. Bushspeak!
We hear the Bush camp complaining that war protestors are not showing support for the troops. In fact, war protesters are accused of “demoralizing” the troops, while the Feds send them off to war without protective armor, on patrol in vehicles that are not armor reinforced, are cutting benefits to those same “troops” and their families and refusing to acknowledge our dead warriors by hiding their remains from the public eye. It's that “don't-look-at-the hand-behind-my-back, look at-this-hand” routine. Dubya's got his own sideshow going on.
We have an administration with less money to spread around on military forces and less money for the individual soldier and his or her family, and a funneling of troops away from areas where we've had a military presence for years. Moreover, we're hijacking people who've already done their hitch in the military, and sending these people in their 30's and 40's over to war zones. Doesn't look like the “No draft” spin is any more believable than the reasons we were given that got us into these wars to begin with.
Just before this article went to press, the news that the Selective Service has been updating plans for a draft of male and female health care workers, age 18-44 came to light. In typical Fed double speak, the report said the Selective Service should establish contact with medical societies, hospitals, schools of medicine and nursing, managed care organizations, rural health care providers and the editors of medical journals and trade publications in advance. This is followed by saying such contacts should be “limited, low key, and discreet because overtures from the Selective Service to the medical community will be seen as precursors to a 'draft' that could alarm the public.” Alarm, yes! But there will be no surprise when a draft comes down.
Dubya had to have foreseen the necessity of making our youngsters available to the military. Written into the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” is recruiter access to high school student contact information. A parent can opt out, but the means of doing so is written in a vague way and can mean opting out on all other information provided to secondary school students, such as scholarships and employment information as well. It may be possible to opt out only for military recruiters, but many schools don't understand the rules well enough to explain them to parents who object. I don't think anyone but colleges looking for star athletes actively recruit for students. Certainly colleges offering scholarships aren't aggressively recruiting for them, telephoning students, taking them out for coffee and making false promises.
Once again nervous high school and college students look at their options and quake in their athletic shoes. The Feds have taken steps to close some of the loopholes that were available during the Vietnam War. The budding Dick Cheneys and General John Ashcrofts, or anyone else with “other priorities” during this war, won't be getting their multiple deferments for marriage and college this time around. Unless, of course, as in Dubya's case, your dad is a congressman friendly with the Lt. Governor of Texas and is embarking on the tried-and-true method of getting things done behind the scenes, as in trading favors, one of which was getting strings pulled so his son went into the National Guard instead of being sent to Nam. Guys like that always manage to stay out of the fray. They'll happily risk someone else's son's ass, but not their own.
Most of the existing classifications or exemptions are fairly self-explanatory.
First, the President and Congress would have to authorize a new draft with legislation toward that end. At this time the deferments, (and keep in mind that these can, and probably will change) are:
- Being the sole financial support to family members who are dependent, elderly, disabled or ill.
- A minister or student of divinity.
- If you are the last surviving son of a family in which the father, mother or siblings have died as a result of military action.
- Gay/lesbian or bisexual.
- Mentally or physically unable to function in the military.
- A conscientious objector.
If any of the deferments survive, it is most likely going to be the first two and maybe the last one. Contrary to popular belief, there hasn't been a true deferment for being the last surviving son since 1960. Those guys are still eligible for the draft during times of war. It is only during peacetime that the deferment is available.
Back to the second deferment named above; if you've been contemplating starting a church, now would be a good time. Those mail-order ministerial credentials you sent in for probably won't give you much, if any protection by themselves, but if you have a flock of wayward sheep whose spiritual lives you are tending, (Great Zeus, protect us!) you hold regular meetings, and you have your church covenants in order, there may be more of a chance to persuade the board you are sincere.
I'm not sure that gay or bisexual orientation as a deferment will work this time around either. Those of other than heterosexual orientation who actually wanted to be in the military have gone to great lengths to be accepted. That has resulted in a “Don't ask. Don't tell.” policy. It's a policy that has been successful only to varying degrees. Nevertheless, it appears to be in place and that may result in a “Don't ask. Don't tell.” policy for the draft as well. After all, if they simply want troops to fill the ranks, sexual orientation quite likely won't matter to them. But, we should never underestimate the power of homophobes. This is one that could still work for you.
What about the “mentally or physically unable to function in the military” out? I suspect there may be more than a few of those folks already serving. Just look at the Abu Graib photos and the unsurprising news that the policies used in the prisons came from “higher ups.” Evidently some of them have even achieved very high rank. Do I hear Commander-in-Chief? Therefore, that is most likely not going to be a viable deferment either. Nevertheless, I can see where it might at least liven up the draft proceedings to give it a try. Obviously, if you are in a wheelchair or locked up in a psych ward you won't be serving in the military.
What about just ignoring the whole thing and not registering for the draft? The penalty for not registering can be up to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to $250,000. They don't always prosecute, but I wouldn't count on that. You can still reach that magic age of 26, although it may be raised to age 32, without registering and heave a sigh of relief, if – and it's a big if – you don't plan on getting a drivers license in many states, you don't plan on asking for federal aid for college or anything else, and don't plan on ever working for the Feds. Doable!
There is honor in just flat out refusing to go.
And there is honor in just flat out refusing to go. Make a statement en masse and force the Feds to prosecute. When they are throwing thousands of our brightest and finest sons and daughters in jail for refusing to fight in these wars designed to further enrich the already wealthy, then we might finally see Middle America sit up and take action instead of passively taking it in the rear.
Maybe folks will be inspired to sit up and stop taking it in other ways, refusing to pay Social Security, stopping the pork in so many “public works” projects that do nothing but waste our money… but I digress.
An aside here about “classification” in general. You don't actually get classified until Congress and the President decide to resume conscription (a.k.a. the draft process).
Let's look at the conscientious objector classification. A very thorough explanation can be found on many websites, some of them found at the end of this article, but basically, you need to make sure the draft board knows you are an objector early on. It isn't as though the Feds have provided a box to check that says “Conscientious Objector” on your draft notice. And even if you have written it in and done the poor man's verification technique of mailing a copy of the notice to yourself and left it unopened, you should gather all the back-up information you can. You'll only have about ten days to get all your information together once you get called up. Letters from friends, teachers, anyone who might know of your beliefs about war. How you arrived at your belief system and how that has influenced the way you live your life. If you have joined any of the peace groups that exist in nearly every town, were arrested for demonstrating against the war (or even if you demonstrated and weren't arrested), or the like and have documentation, that of course, will have more weight than an affidavit from your mother swearing that you are against war. You don't have to object based on religion, but you can't object because of politics, or self-interest. For once in your life you actually will want a paper trail, one that meticulously documents your “conscientious objector” lifestyle.
You may still serve. But it will be the Selective Service Alternative Service Program in non-combat jobs, working with the very young or the very old, perhaps working on the environment or in education. Who knows what else they'll come up with. During WWII Conscientious Objectors even participated in dangerous experiments with drugs to prove they weren't afraid to risk their lives, just not in combat. With the current interest in bio-pharmaceuticals, this option could be just as dangerous as the front. Beware!
As far as that last ditch out, chosen by many during the Vietnam War, emigrating to Canada: Don't bet the bank on it.
A rule, passed on May 1, 2003 states that applicants for a permanent residence visa in Canada must apply in their country of residence or country of nationality. In other words, you have to apply for permanent residence in Canada right here in the USA whether you've registered for the draft or not. It may be a little more difficult if you have already received your draft notice. You only have that ten-day window to get ready and go once you receive your notice. My guess is it will take longer than ten days even if they aren't checking to see if you've been called up. If you are already in Canada, you still have to return to the US and apply for your permanent visa and then go back into Canada with your permanent visa in hand.
Let's say you decide it is potentially valuable to have Canadian citizenship, and since multi-citizenships are allowed by our neighbors up north, it may well be. The United Nations has ranked Canada as the best place to live for the past five consecutive years, a finding based on quality of life, unemployment, life expectancy, crime rates, and educational opportunities. I suspect that kind of ranking comes with a certain degree of elitism, because Canada doesn't welcome the tired and poor. They want people with skills and “settlement funds,” roughly ten thousand dollars for the applicant and another two or three thousand per dependent. You can't really fault them for that. Who needs the perceived deadbeats of the world on their doorstep! Still, it might be difficult for someone just out of high school to come up with the cash given the economy and the minimum wage jobs most high school kids can get. What do most high school graduates have in the work skills department? I guess there may be a fair number of them that might work well with computers. College students who were allowed to finish their year or semester or whatever might have a few more marketable skills. Maybe.
As far as going to college up north, you'll still need money to live, and tuition and books, because you can't work on a college visa. There's that needed ten grand again.
If you desert and go to Canada for asylum after having been drafted, don't ever plan on being able to call the US home again. There was no amnesty for deserters back when Carter let the draft dodgers who'd fled to Canada come home. According to one Canadian Internet source, there was a high suicide rate for those deserters left in Canada after amnesty was granted the draft dodgers.
Think about it very carefully before you take your stand, and then be willing to take whatever comes with it.
Everything has a price. Whatever you choose to do, whether it is finding a deferment that fits, conscientious objection, not registering, absolutely refusing to go, leaving the country or taking your chances and shipping out to kill folks who have the misfortune to live in a country that still has large oil reserves, think about it very carefully before you take your stand, and then be willing to take whatever comes with it.