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02/15/2004 Archived Entry: "Is there going to be a draft?"

Cartoons and other funnies: Stuart Carlson's "Justice"; Tom Tomorrow's latest This Modern World Partisan Investigations Unit; and, the Onion's Infographic on current FCC investigations.

Is there is going to be a draft? Time Magazine provided a forum for the question in its turn-of-the-year (Dec. 29 '03) issue. There is evidence that plans are being slowly and quietly laid to impose one. By now, most people have heard that the government advertised late last year for volunteers to serve as Board Members on local SSSs. (A Selective Service System Local Board is a group of five citizen volunteers who, upon imposition a draft, decide who in their community will receive deferments, postponements, or exemption from military service.} The Bush administration denied that any significance attached to the advertisement but, when media began to comment, the ad abruptly disappeared from the government website. Meanwhile, the SSS has requested $28 million in their 2004 budget, which is $5 million more than their last published budget request. Although this is not indicative of a draft, it does indicate that SSS will be expanding and - presumably - its need for manpower will expand accordingly. Also indicative: According to GovExec.com, "The Army's plan to temporarily increase its force levels by 30,000 soldiers could become permanent if a handful of senators can garner support for new draft legislation likely to be included in the fiscal 2005 defense authorization bill"

So far, the military has avoided using a draft to satisfy its manpower demands through "stop loss" orders. Since last November, the US Army has extended its stop loss orders to cover active-duty soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, preventing some 7000 soldiers from either retiring or being discharged." In an article entitled "Draft Creep" - by which term he refers to stop loss orders -- David Wiggins comments, "Draft creep is a sneaky draft. There is no congressional debate, and no new law is passed for the President to sign. Nonetheless, people are being forced into military service against their will. In other words, they are being drafted, conscripted, or whatever you care to call it. The government chooses to call it "Stop Loss," and it applies to members of the armed forces. After all, what better way is there to initiate a sneaky draft than to start with the group of people least likely to object to a draft, and at the same time, with the least legal rights to fight one?" But stop loss orders are a short term fix, at best. Already the murmuring of discontent within military ranks (not to mention their families) is rising. Enlistment in those agencies is also falling due to such draconian measures.

On the state level, there have been unmistakable moves in that direction. For example, in Alaska, Selective Service registration is now a requirement to get a Permanent Fund check - the annual "oil dividend" check that amounted to over $1,000 last year. Almost every eligible Alaskan registers for the check. "The state plans to forward information from the dividend applications to the federal government, which will automatically register the eligible Alaska males who haven't already signed up. Under federal law, men are supposed to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18. Failure to register is technically punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000. But a lot of people don't do it."

No one expects such a dramatic and controversial move as the imposition of a draft prior to the November elections. Until November, everything Bush does will be about re-election. Even the release of those explosive military records is an attempt to defuse the controversy surrounding his possible-AWOL and to do so in February rather than in October. The Bush administration wants to explode any political bombshells right here and right now while there are several months of recovery time possible. The clumsiness with which the administration is proceeding may negate the strategy, of course, but I'm betting (and so are they) that people will soon be bored with hearing about Bush's military dental records. Nothing short of a sleazy sex-scandal or a murdered pregnant wife can sustain public interest for a period extending into months. But, if Bush is re-elected, then I expect a draft to be imposed in early '05.

If Kerry is elected, then there probably will not be a draft. I say "probably" because he is not in principle but only pragmatically opposed to the imposition of one. He responded during an "OnTheIssues" interview: "Q: You said that in your first 100 days you would move to increase our armed forces by as much as 40,000 troops. You said there was a dire need for two full divisions. People are wondering right now about voluntary versus draft. KERRY: We don't need a draft now and I wouldn't be in favor of it under the current circumstances. All across this country there are families who are suffering greatly because the Guards and Reserves have been called up. They are overextended. Their deployments are too long. If we're going to maintain this level of commitment on a global basis, and for the moment we have to because of what's happened, we need an additional two divisions. One's a combat division and one is a support division. That's the responsible thing to do. That's temporary, because I intend to go back to the UN, rejoin the community of nations, bring other boots on the ground to help us, and reduce the overall need for deployment of American forces in the globe."


---Corporate America has joined privacy advocates in raising alarm over the Transportation Security Agency's (TSA) plans to put a massive airline-passenger screening system in place by this summer. The chief concern: too many unanswered questions. One of the questions asked by a corporate officer, "We have quite a few people who work here who were born in other countries. What happens if they need to make a trip and they get flagged? Will it take a couple of days or weeks or months before they can travel?" Not a principled objection but any skepticism is welcomed.
---A Chicago hospital has escaped a DOJ subpoena on its abortion records for the moment. "A move by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to subpoena the medical records of 40 patients who received so-called partial-birth abortions at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago was halted at least temporarily when a Chicago federal judge quashed the information request."
---Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told lawmakers that he was "open to the controversial idea of using state and local police officers to help enforce the nation's immigration laws." Thus, the consolidation of police forces/functions and of various government databanks would expand.
---A chipless RFID system has been developed. The system uses "nanometric" materials, tiny particles of chemicals with varying degrees of magnetism that resonate when bombarded with electromagnetic waves from a reader. Each chemical emits its own distinct radio frequency, or note," that is picked up by the reader, and all the notes emitted by a specific mix of different chemicals are then interpreted as a binary number. Here I must repeat: I have no Luddite tendencies, just an incredibly healthy fear of such technology in the iron fist of the State.
---Federal prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena that ordered Drake University to turn over a list of people involved in an antiwar forum in November, as well as subpoenas ordering four activists to testify before a grand jury. No reason was given but the subpoena had created a furor of media scrutiny.

Best to all,

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