Monday, September 27, 2004

You Might Want To Read This

I just got back from class and as I heard something rather alarming in Sociology, I feel I ought to let everyone know. It's shocking that this is being slipped in under our noses and there's the barest whisper of it in the media (non-shocker).

HR 163 -- "To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes."

Essentially, there are two draft bills (HR 163 and S 89) pending in the House and Congress that will institute a mandatory two-year service for all young persons age 18-26, including women. This is dated to start June of next year, and is not merely a war draft, but would institute a mandatory military system akin to Israel's. It seems our president is gearing up for more war, planning to force young people of all walks of life to fight his pissing contest in the Middle East. He will likely open up two more war zones, North Korea being one of them.

Beyond the fact that we have absolutely no business in Iraq at the moment, and should instead be looking for a way to politely extricate ourselves, why do we need such a military in the long-term? More importantly, why is no one talking about this pending bill? Or how the president, who is pushing for the bills because the volunteer military is spread so thin, has so cleverly concealed them in the undercurrents of all the big election hubub?

There are Democrats behind these bills, and I have read some Republicans attempting to use this to diminish Democrats on the whole -- as if who introduces a bill affects its acceptability. It should also be pointed out that HR 163 and S 89 were brought by the ethnic minority, somewhat of a pre-emptive strike against a Vietnam-style draft, where the majority of people who fought were poor, minorities, or both. This was mainly due to inability to afford college in order to obtain an educational deferment.

With the current climate in the Middle East, and the obvious track the president is on, it doesn't take a genius to deduce that the issue of returning the draft would eventually come up. I can understand where these Senators and Reps are coming from, and frankly, I too want racial, financial, and gender equality when it comes to Selective Service. That does not automatically mean that I, Democrats, or anyone else support this war.

These bills are drafted carefully, with 20/20 hindsight culled from our Vietnam mistakes. It's huge and it's frightening. At a time when most other countries are nullifying similar mandatory service laws, ours is re-implementing them. Those countries still maintaining such laws are those who are in a fairly constant state of war. The implications here is that Bush foresees a future in which a sizeable military is necessary. That alone should be reason enough to cast your vote elsewhere.

These bills have been drafted especially to close all loopholes regarding people seeking to avoid the draft. Behind Americans' back, the U.S. government pressured Canada into an agreement to close their borders to youths seeking to avoid their required service next summer.

It's called the "Smart Border Declaration", brought by Tom Ridge and signed by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Pettigrew. The Declaration is presented as an anti-terrorism net and involves a 30-point plan which implements, among other things, a 'pre-clearance agreement'. Even though, in the 60's, Canada left the draft-dodgers alone, this time around they will be sought and deported, facing a hefty fine and jail time when they return.

Aside from making the crossing to Canada difficult, the Service bill includes women and eliminates higher education as a shelter. Should their number come up, underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of their current semester. Seniors will have until the end of the academic year.

Any hardship claimed will have to be extreme hardship. It won't matter if you're married and/or have children, if you both get called up, you both go. Extreme hardship is apparently only applicable in cases where there is no family to care for the child in the parent's absence. People who are deemed not fit or whathaveyou are not excused from duty. They are also required to serve their two years, but in "Homeland Security" positions.

I am not advocating or agreeing with dodging military requirements. However, as someone who sincerely believes that harming any living creature is morally wrong, I do feel that an individual has a right to hold a true moral objection to said service without being punished for it. Give them non-violent service options, as an example. As it stands now, one cannot claim Conscientious Objector status without the federal government completely cutting them off. Forget about getting federal financial aid for school or ever getting a government job.

Before you think this is solely a bill that has not yet been signed and therefore is still hypothetical, you should know that you are already paying for it. Since the bill was drafted in January 2003, $28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective Service. The Pentagon quietly began a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide. On May 31, 2005, the Selective Service must report to Bush or Kerry that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation. The draft could begin as early as June 15, 2005.

Lastly, these bills affect people currently enlisted, as well. They extend military service for those already active. A guy in my class spoke up to say that he'd already done a stint in Iraq with the Army Reserves, and was being shipped back in January. A friend of mine spent a year there (extended from the original 'three months') and, recently returned, he's grateful to be back. Knowing his wife and daughter, and how long he was away, I couldn't imagine what it would be like for him to be called up again.

Oh, my Sociology professor did find one loophole, which I was amused by. Apparently, there is nothing in the bills about what to do if people claim gayness to avoid the military. Seems a rather obvious one for me.. I mean, you can't be gay and be in the military, so what do they plan on doing? You know people will try it.

Anyway, sorry to get all rambly on you, but frankly, this news scares me more than anything I've heard this year. I'm out of the SS age range, so that isn't my motivation in the least. It's what these bills say about where we're headed in the next four years.

Please tell as many people as you know, spread the word, get them talking. Why are our representatives not telling constituents about these bills? Why is the media not covering this story?

- The bill
- Selective Service System annual performance plan - Fiscal Year 2004
- The Smart Border Declaration

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