Monthly Archives: July 2004

Draft? What Draft?

The New York Times was compelled by Internet rumors to publish an article about the draft last week. This, after an op-ed in The Washington Post defended the idea of resurrecting the draft. The former assistant to President Nixon offered several reasons, the last of which is quite compelling.

America needs this fund of experience to expand the pool of people likely to find their way into the corridors of power and, when they get there, to bring with them a bone-deep appreciation of the true costs of conflict. Thus might we reduce the risks of counsel from those who have never had to learn the difference between a war and a cakewalk.

But Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) felt the need to deny on Meet the Press that any plans for a draft are being made.

He countered statements by retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who has said current deployment rates to Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea and elsewhere “will break the U.S. Army in the coming two or three years.”

Mr. Warner dismissed that notion, recalling that he was secretary of the Navy under President Nixon when the draft was abolished in 1973.

“I can tell you the all-volunteer forces worked,” he said. “We cannot bring back a draft now and make some young men and women go into uniform and not bring in a whole lot of others to do different tasks.”

Today, The Post’s E.J. Dionne asks “Whose lives, whose fortunes, whose sacred honor are now on the line for our country?”

…God forbid that Americans earning, say, more than $1 million a year be asked to pony up a little more in taxes to support a larger military at a time when, we are told over and over, the country is in the middle of a war on terrorism. Millionaires can’t be asked to sacrifice even a little bit. No, they deserve to have their taxes cut while others fight and die. And anyone who speaks up in opposition to this injustice risks being called unpatriotic by those who give up absolutely nothing themselves. Patriotism is defined as a solicitude for tidy incomes, a belief in anything Rush Limbaugh says on the radio and a demand that those in charge of the country never be held accountable for their mistakes.

The administration, of course, says there are no plans for drafting young men – and in today’s army, likely young women, too.

Seeking to blunt public speculation, the Web site of the Selective Service System carries a long notice saying in part that “both the president and secretary of defense have stated on more than one occasion that there is no need for a draft for the war on terrorism or any likely contingency, such as Iraq.”

“Additionally,” the notice says, “the Congress has not acted on any proposed legislation to reinstate the draft.”

“The bottom line,” said Dan Amon, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, “is it would take an act of Congress because we could not turn it on ourselves. And there is no mood or sentiment in Congress whatsoever for the draft.”

But none of these statements is MacArthur-esque: “no need for a draft for … any likely contingency;” “no mood or sentiment.”

First of all, how are we expected to believe any statement this administration makes? They keep repeating even the lies after everyone agrees they are lies, e.g., Cheney still insisting a link exists between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Secondly, should this administration be re-elected, what’s to stop them? Thirdly, can anyone honestly believe that if another war erupts, say in Korea, that we have enough troops to fight two wars?

The decision last week to recall 5,600 reservists has fueled speculation that this “back-door” draft, as John Kerry called it, is just a prelude to a general draft. But even Kerry could be forced to bring back the draft, if we don’t get out of Iraq fast enough.

A good reason for the draft is that it, like no other action, will focus the attention of young voters. Let’s face it: Those if us who not only remember but were subject to the draft were driven, perhaps more than ideology or certainly pacifism, to protest the Vietnam War precisely because we could envision ourselves in rice paddies.

That doesn’t mean I support the draft. But if we’re to fight wars whenever this administration sees fit to “spread democracy,” the men and women we send on its behalf should be democratically selected.

Double Shot of Kurtz

Howard Kurtz got a double shot off against John Kerry today. On page A6, he has a Washington Post Ad Watch column that criticizes a claim Kerry makes in a recent TV commercial and then, right below it, he has a news article saying the same thing.

Geez, wasn’t one slam enough?

Maybe his wife said to run it twice or he would sleep on the coach.

Enough Rope

Sometimes the right-wing is its own worse enemy. Just two days after Jack Wheeler self-destructs in a Washington Times column that called Hillary Clinton a bi-sexual and said that women who bought Bill Clinton’s new book were prostitutes, we have Krauthammer’s defense of Cheney’s obscenity. He suggests he would say the same to Al Gore.

The hypocrisy of the right is often stunning.

After the Election

E.J. Dionne’s column in today’s Washington Post ponders the consequence of an extremely partisan Congress likely after the elections, no matter who wins. Of course, Bush has the better prospects in that it’s unlikely that the House would be in Democratic control, even if Kerry wins.

Other pundits have questioned whether Kerry’s options would be so constrained by the deficits Bush would leave behind that a new administration could do little more than ask Americans to swallow the castor oil admixture of spending restraints and higher taxes.

As we look post-Nov. 2, no matter who wins, the most intriguing question is what happens to the energy created by the dump-Bush movement. Will the unprecedented contributions by small donors and the activism by the fresh grassroots result in a movement that could impact either administration?

I sense a near revolt if Bush wins. He’ll likely ignore it, but will it be strong enough to form a coalition of moderate Republicans, as Dionne suggests, to rein in a lame duck Bush-Cheney juggernaut? Even if moderate Senate Republicans hunker down, nothing will stop the executive branch of a second Bush administration from running amok. What kind of civil protest would be required to stop it? And is the energy there?

Even if Kerry wins, will the grassroots, many of whom consider Kerry too cautious and moderate in his proposals, have the legs to lead a transformation of the country? Will we really see health care become a right, not a privilege of the rich? Will the economic disparity between rich and poor be addressed in a meaningful way?

There is a palpable fear of what a second Bush reign would bring. Even among the upper middle class people gathered for the MoveOn town hall meeting in Fairfax, Va., that I attended earlier this week, there was a deep mistrust of Bush. One guy said he was convinced that if the election were close — and by every indication it will be – he was convinced the Bushies would “steal” the election through some legalistic maneuver or electronic skullduggery. Many folks nodded their heads

When that kind of fear and mistrust spreads, who knows what revolt may result if Bush wins. But if he loses, will newly activated Democrats think Bush in Crawford is good enough? I hope not. There’s much work to be done – and undone.

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