Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Confessions of a Draft Dodger

Hello, my name is Mike and I'm an unrepentant draft dodger.

Many young men spent the years during the Viet Nam War scheming on how to avoid the draft. Some because they had no desire to shoot at young Asian men in black pajamas; and some because they felt the war was illegal and immoral. I felt a little bit of both and after my student deferment elapsed, I decided I wasn't going to step forward when they called my name. My parents surprised me. My father, a World War II vet, said that he'd do whatever was needed to get me to Canada. We talked about my going to jail instead. I was leaning in that direction, but it never came to that. The draft lottery in 1972 passed me by. They selected young men with numbers up through 125. My number was 131. My life continued, but that was the most stressful time for me up until my father passed away.

With that history, one might find it incongruous that I advocate reinstatement of the draft. I do so for two reasons. First, our military is stretched beyond their capacity to handle their duties. My protest had always been against the war, not the military. Now, young men and women are asked to enter combat understaffed, ill-equipped and untrained. We fight a war on two fronts and are losing both. The Taliban is steadily regaining control of Afghanistan. Our troops are basically limited to garrison duty in Iraq. Troops, citizens and journalists can't even move freely around the 'safe' parts of the Baghdad without being kidnapped or killed. The military college warned Bush that more troops were needed, but he ignored them. Today, our military clunks along, manpower is stretched to thin to be effective; parts and equipment are in short supply. The situation is dire.

The second reason I advocate reinstating the draft, is other than for a narrow segment of our society, this war has little impact on our everyday lives. Oh, gas is a little more expensive, but there is no rationing. With all volunteer armed forces, the burden falls on the lower socioeconomic classes, the poor white, African American and Latino kids who see the military as a way out of their poverty. A draft would spread that burden into the upper classes. How long would this war last if children of dentists and lawyers and Republican senators were losing their lives and limbs to roadside bombs and midnight ambushes.

I believe that this war, too, is illegal and immoral, based on shoddy intelligence, if not outright lies, but reinstating the draft may be the only way to end it. I would also advocate that no young American take that step forward. Civil disobediance is a right and an obligation.

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