Howard Dean / YubaNet.com – 2004-09-20 23:30:52
(September 20, 2004) — A key issue for young Americans and their families to consider as they prepare to cast their votes in the upcoming presidential election is the real likelihood of a military draft being reinstated if President Bush is re-elected. President Bush should tell us now whether he supports a military draft.
Here is the evidence that makes a draft likely:
• The US Army has acknowledged that they are stretched thin and that finding new recruits is challenging. They recently placed 300 new recruiters in the field. Bonuses for new recruits to the Army have risen by 67 percent to a maximum of $10,000 and $15,000 for hard-to-fill specialties.
• The extended tours of duty have made service less attractive for both the regular armed forces, and particularly for the National Guard and Reserves. To meet this year’s quota for enlistees, the Army has sped up the induction of “delayed entry” recruits, meaning they are already borrowing from next year’s quotas in order to meet this year’s numbers.
• Reservists are now being called away for longer periods. In 2003, President Bush dramatically extended the length of time for the Guard and Reserves deployment in Iraq. Extended tours of up to a year have become common.
• In a further sign of a lack of adequate staffing, the armed forces are now in the process of calling up members of the Individual Ready Reserves. These are often older reservists usually waiting retirement. They are typically in their mid-to-late forties, and have not been on active duty and have not trained for some time. Traditionally, they are only supposed to be called up during a time of national emergency. In 2001, President Bush authorized their call up but never rescinded this order even after he declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq in May of 2003.
• The Armed Forces are already chronically understaffed. In 2003, General Eric Shinseki testified before Congress that an additional 50,000 troops would be needed beyond what the Bush administration said would be necessary to stabilize Iraq after the invasion. The President ignored him. We do not have enough troops in Afghanistan to be able to stabilize the country, as shown by the continual putting off of elections well past their announced date.
In an effort to free up yet more troops in the coming years, we are moving troops away from the Demilitarized Zone in Korea and reducing the number of troops on the Korean Peninsula at a time when North Korea poses more of a danger to the US — not less. Because of the President’s military adventurism, our Armed Forces are under enormous pressure. The only place to go for more troops is a draft.
• Selective service boards have already been notified that 20-year-olds and medical personnel will be called up first.
President Bush will be forced to decide whether we can continue the current course in Iraq, which will clearly require the reinstatement of the draft. The Pentagon has objected to a draft but, the President has ignored other Pentagon recommendations in the past.
American families and young people are owed an explanation about the President’s plans. Will the President withdraw from some of our military commitments or will he reinstate the draft? We need to know that before we vote, not afterwards.
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates.
Bush’s Plan for a Post-Election Draft
A Buzzflash Editorial
To the College Students of America: Vote for Bush and Get the Draft in 2005!
(February 17, 2004) — Know any recent college grads looking for work? Or how about a few high-school kids, unsure of whether they can even afford college or what their future might hold?
The US government might be able to help. The wages aren’t great and the perks are even worse, but a job’s a job, right? So what if the working conditions involve separation from family, possibly for months or years longer than expected? And what if the medical benefits are sketchy? Millions of people don’t have any insurance. Sure the equipment is outdated, but it comes with authentic historical relevance. And though the food may be terrible, it’s guaranteed to last for years.
So what are you waiting for? An invitation?
Wait until 2005 and you just might get one.
All Signs Point to ‘Yes’
In November, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan offered an emphatic “No” when asked about the possibility of the president reinstituting the draft. But as we’ve previously noted, all signs point to “Yes.” And the signs are only becoming more obvious. We’re talking large print, folks, and it all hinges on Bush’s election in 2004.
“There is no question that the force is stretched too thin,” David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, said in January. “We have stopped treating the reserves as a force in reserve. Our volunteer army is closer to being broken today than ever before in its 30-year history.” [Christian Science Monitor]
Realizing that it’s impossible to fight a war on terrorism as broad as has been established by the Bush administration, members of both parties in Congress have been calling upon the Pentagon to increase the size of the military.
“Finally, everyone has come around to see enough is enough,” Harald Stavenas, a spokesman for Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in December. “We are dangerously stretched thin in the Army and the other services,” added Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat and a graduate of West Point. [USA Today]
After holding off such calls for months, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted last month that Congress might have a point. Rather than continue to advocate a restructuring of the Army, Rumsfeld authorized an additional 30,000 soldiers, bringing the total number of Army troops to 510,000. The move is supposed to be a temporary one, but the word “temporary” appears open to discussion.
Vernon Loeb of the Washington Post reported Jan. 30 that a senior Army official said the number of troops could stay at the increased level for five years or more. [Washington Post]
“[T]he official, who briefed on the condition that he would not be identified, said it is not certain the Army would be able to cut strength in four to five years from the 510,000-troop level authorized by Rumsfeld under emergency authority approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. ‘It really depends on world situations,’ the official said. ‘We think, as we’re restructuring, we may be able to come down off the 510,000 over time. . . . But I don’t know yet.'”
The article continues:
The current plan for fulfilling both overseas commitments and restructuring calls for the use of “stop-loss” orders to keep all deployed units at or above 100 percent of authorized strength until new soldiers — with a heavy emphasis on infantrymen — can be recruited this year and next.
Currently, stop-loss orders, holding soldiers in the Army for between 120 and 180 days beyond their regular tours, have been used to increase overall troop strength to 493,000 personnel. Continued use of stop-loss will further increase troop strength to beyond 500,000 over the next five months, the official said.
But the Army plans to discontinue the use of stop-loss orders in 2005, with 10,000 recruits entering the service, the official said.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army’s chief of staff, also revealed last month “that he has ordered his staff to plan how the Army, now replacing its forces in Iraq with fresh units, would rotate similarly sized force into Iraq in 2005 – and again in 2006. But other Pentagon officials said any decisions on the size of future rotations are months away,” Bradley Graham wrote in the Post. [Washington Post]
Face it: We’re not getting out of Iraq. Not for a long while.
Bush Has No ‘Exit Strategy’
Already the Army has blocked the departure of more than 40,000 soldiers, about 16,000 of them National Guard and reserve members. According to Pentagon figures, 187,746 National Guard and Reserve troops were activated by the end of 2003. Roughly 20 percent of the troops stationed in Iraq are reservists or Guard members, and that percentage is expected to double in 2004. [Denver Post]
Even when the Army started offering re-enlistment bonuses of up to $10,000 to soldiers willing to re-enlist for an additional three years in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported that a monetary bonus wasn’t enough to keep troops from leaving.
“Some cited the monotonous routine and a lonely life spent thousands of kilometres from loved ones. Others said simply it was the fear of death,” according to this AP story. [Toronto Star]
“Man, they can’t pay me enough to stay here,” a 23-year-old specialist from the army’s 4th Infantry Division told the reporter, as he manned a checkpoint with Iraqi police.
As Rep. Dennis Kucinich has noted, an involuntary draft is already underway. In a statement released Dec. 31, Kucinich said:
The Army’s refusal to release tens of thousands of soldiers who have completed their terms of service amounts to drafting them on the very day they fulfill their obligations. These men and women have already risked their lives. They should not have to risk them a second time through involuntary service, through being forced to stay in Iraq. This is a draft. A draft forces people to serve involuntarily.
If this occupation is allowed to continue for years, as the President and other Democratic presidential candidates want, we are bound to see a more formal draft. And with three of the Democratic presidential candidates favoring mandatory draft registration for 18-year-old women, even families without sons could be in for a huge surprise. Before we move any further down this path, we must recognize this occupation of Iraq as a destabilizing force in that country and a drain on the resources of this one.
We must go to the United Nations with a proposal that would pull US troops out as UN peacekeepers are brought in. We must give up our hopes for oil profits and privatization of the Iraqi economy and instead rebuild our own economy here at home. [Kucinich.us]
Bush Budget Targets War Abroad; Abandons the Homeland
Have you taken a look at Bush’s $2.4 trillion budget proposal that was unveiled Feb. 2? Not much room for rebuilding our economy, or for doing much of anything not war-related. [Chicago Tribune]
And already Bush is attempting to hide the cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by not including those appropriations — which could cost another $50 billion — in the $401.7 billion defense budget. [Chicago Tribune] The budget also appears over-burdened by costs related to controversial weapons systems and equipment already deemed unsafe and untrustworthy [Chicago Tribune], like, say, the Osprey [Estripes.com].
As these two defense experts note, for the United States to fulfill Bush’s National Security Strategy Policy, which gives “prominent place to unilateral, preventive wars — followed by the dismantling of the leadership and governing structures in targeted countries,” there needs to be a major overhaul in the size, training and focus of our military. The numbers just aren’t there to sustain long-term occupations.
“So far, Congress and the American people are only dimly aware of a critical decision just ahead due to the new Iraq war: either we invest in larger armies trained and ready for long occupation duty, or we jettison the Bush administration’s radical doctrine of preventive wars and regime change,” write Charles Knight, co-director of the Project on Defense Alternatives, and Marcus Corbin, director of the Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information. [Tallahasee Democrat]
If Bush is elected in 2004, you can bet the administration’s doctrine will stay the course. The only question that remains is when the first draft numbers will be drawn.