Friday, November 11, 2011


As a veteran of over four years in the U.S. military when I was in my late teens and early twenties back when there was a draft, I call for a return to the draft, for men and women alike, with no one being exempt who hasn't served.

There is no way universal citizens military service would have allowed for the duplicity surrounding the invasion of Iraq or for that war to go on so long, or any other. As it is now, with a volunteer military, only those who see military service as a way of earning a living when no other opportunity exists, or of getting a higher or technical education when that becomes cost prohibitive for many, or who just like the idea of working with weapons and possibly engaging in violent acts with them (not uncommon especially among young men but only a handful discover that's what they truly want when confronted with the reality).

I didn't do any fighting, because one of the great aspects of the military when I served back in the early 1960s was that every job the military needed done to accomplish their mission—which is supposed to be to protect the citizens of the united States—was done by military personnel.

Nowadays, most jobs, from laundry to logistics is done mostly by private contractors, who usually are paid more than they would were they in the military, costing tax payers more money, and are not under the same restrictions or discipline or even motivation. One of the reasons millions and millions—billions anyone?—of dollars have "disappeared" or been "lost" in the profiteering from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

I don't think it's a coincidence that it was under a Republican administration that the draft was ended and an all-"volunteer" army became a reality. That was 1973, if I remember correctly, at the peak of the Viet Nam War after the Nixon/Kissinger escalation (following their campaign promise, again, of ending it) when more soldiers were against the war than for it.

The variety of citizens' backgrounds, ethnicity, economic status (though the rich, as always could often get out of the military if they were drafted but well connected) especially during WWII made the military one of the most democratic organizations in history. And it was a great education, being exposed to others from backgrounds different and perhaps feared.

I slept in the top of a double bunk in a barracks with sixty or more young men which included one of the first Mexican-Americans I ever met (my two best buddies in basic training were Puerto Rican and African-American, but they were ethnicities I was familiar with), the first Southerners and guys from other regions I had yet to travel to or encounter, and even a couple of dudes from wealthy backgrounds.

Having to work together as a unit despite our differences allowed for an unprecedented opening up to possibilities barely glimpsed before by some of these young men. They called me things like "be-bop" because I played jazz and talked like a jazz musician of the time, or "New York" even though I was originally from Jersey but called Manhattan my home then and talked about how much I missed it incessantly, or "Irish" or "Paddy" for my ethnic background.

And they were given nicknames like "Harlem" and "Iowa" and "Reb" or "Jersey" etc. If our units had included an even wider variety like females and older citizens, the education we were giving each other and receiving in tolerance and acceptance and understanding would have been even broader. But those kind of qualities were not high on the conservative Republican list of things desired in military troops, they were traits admired more by liberals.

If every citizen knew firsthand what those in the military have to contend with and how our government policies impact the military on a personal level, not only would our politicians (most of whom these days have not served in the military) be a lot more open to peaceful solutions to our problems with other nations and entities, but they'd also have firsthand knowledge of all the various groups individual citizens identify with and feel they represent.

I can't tell you how much I learned from being exposed to the raw racism of some of the men I had to work with in the service, whether from the North or the South, though much more from the latter during a time when the South was still mostly segregated, a reality I experienced firsthand when stationed in South Carolina (where I got to see Bob Jones university and what it stands for up close too).

So, even though only a handful of politicians these days have ever called for the draft to be renewed, this individual citizen is calling for it not just to honor the service of the veterans who served and are honored on this day—like my three deceased older brothers, and many cousins and nephews etc.—but to create a military based on the concept the Founding Fathers had, a true citizens army.


tom said...

Sounds like a good plan to me. And if we had had the draft, I agree, Iraq and Afghanistan would have been different stories.

Anonymous said...

When 911 occurred, I was immediately concerned that my then teenage sons would be drafted; however, that fear was allayed within barely 48 hours, when the full blown Homeland Security manifesto was published in the newspapers.
I knew then that something was amiss, about what war might really mean. And of course, Bush telling everyone to just go shopping, further convinced me that no draft was in the making.


Lally said...

I'm happy for our sons and grandsons that there isn't and wasn't when Iraq went down the old draft I faced. I hate war and the idea of any of us or our children having to fight in one. But it definitely created a more democratic military and like I said exposed strangers to other ways of life and looking at things. There were some pretty heavy political and philosophical discussions and arguments that went down in the various barracks I lived in. I know it had an impact on me. The real solution of course is no more war, it's such a primitive way of dealing with problems in the 21st century.

tom said...

Yeah, old men declare and young men die.

Anonymous said...

War is the bed-rock of our economy !
In fact

war is what supports through ALL of the ages Humanity ..

all religions area based on war (murder and mayhem, plunder & rape)

then we sell it in the media and in movies

if "God" can (as "He" once did) wipe out civilization
then war just can't be an "Evil" how else will we control the over-population of the Earth?