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Is the draft coming back? There are signs that it may be making a return. A Defense Department website, Defend America, invited "Americans to serve your community and the nation" by volunteering to serve on draft boards-a notice quickly withdrawn after publicity in the media. (See a snapshot here.) An appropriation for $28 million has been allocated by the Pentagon to bring the Selective Service "up to speed," yet the Pentagon, the Selective Service, and the White House all deny any plans to reinstate the draft. Reinstatement would require Congressional and Presidential action. However, the Pentagon has implemented a program to fill 10,330 local draft boards where 80% of the places are vacant.

Rep Charles Rangel has argued for the draft with the position that the poor and racial minorities make up a disproportionate number of enlistees and casualties. He has introduced legislation in the House, the Universal National Service Act of 2003 (H.R. 163), and Senator Hollings in the Senate (S. 89), which would require "that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service…or civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes."

Most of us would agree that we now have an economic or poverty draft. But even if we had a draft for all, would it be fair? Anyone can volunteer for draft board vacancies, but who would be chosen? And how would they choose who gets exempted from service?

The return of the draft raises other questions. What size army do we need, and what is it going to be used for? For future wars? For staffing the 325 (acknowledged) bases located all around the world? How many troops will be needed to police the largest embassy in the world now being built in Baghdad? Is the U.S. at all welcome in many of the countries where these bases are located, such as Japan (Okinawa), South Korea, Puerto Rico (Vieques), and the former Soviet Union?

What kind of world do we want: an empire policed by U.S. forces, or one nation in harmony with the rest of the planet?

Why do people believe there will be a military draft even though Bush (and Kerry) say there will not?

War and Peace Committee
San Francisco Gray Panthers
1182 Market Street, Room 203
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 552-8800