Saturday, May 28, 2016


It’s a question I have periodically pondered every since Larry, a guy I used to work with and a Vietnam veteran, said he supported it. 

At that time, I had never been exposed to someone for the draft and was dumbstruck when he said so matter-of-factly, “I think we should reinstate the draft”.  When I asked him incredulously, “Why”, this was his reasoning.

He thought it was better for the military as an institution because it was forced to deal with a wide range of personalities, not just those that fit a particular psychological profile.  He believed this diversity was good because it helped prevent it from becoming excessively arrogant and insulated from the “little people”, a.k.a civilians.

He also strongly felt it was better for the soldiers themselves, especially in combat situations.  He argued the draft’s diversity brought in guys who think differently than the traditional military mindset. In other words, he claimed, they were often more creative in their approach to problem solving. He found that creativity valuable, especially when confronting life or death situations.

Finally, he believed a draft was much better for the nation as a whole because it put a weight on declaring war like nothing else could. 

He knew first hand the cost of war; to the soldiers who pay both mentally and physically and too often, with their very lives, to the families who serve by their side, to those we declare war against as well as the larger impact to the moral fabric of the nation. 

 Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
He believed war should never be entered into lightly and that we, as a nation, should never ask those to lay down their lives for us unless we really, really needed them too. 

On this point, he stated, war without oversight from the people and conducted solely by the military industrial complex was far, far too dangerous to tolerate.  If left unattended, it would make endless wars to justify its existence and always seek to expand its sphere of influence. 

A draft stops the military’s inherent propensity for endless wars and prevents politicians from declaring war without just cause. When people have to start forfeiting their kids without choice, they become much more aware of the stakes and are generally a lot less willing to allow it unless they believe it's really necessary, he concluded.

Interestingly enough, he made his pro-draft case pre-911 and it turns out, his words were chillingly prophetic. The United States is now entering its fifteenth year of war in Afghanistan and is still heavily embroiled in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and God knows where else. And I mean that literally, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Well, Larry left me speechless – something that doesn’t happen often.  I found his arguments sound and well reasoned. It was obviously something he had thought about a lot; probably because he’d actually had his own life on the line and still lived – every damn day - with a war he could never fully leave behind.

Up until that point, the only thought I ever had about the draft was when my brother turned eighteen and had to fill out a draft card. I remember my stomach knotting up in fear because my baby brother, with his baby face, could be called away at any moment and may never come home again. I also knew, even if he did, he would never be the same.

But Larry made an excellent case and as I said, from time to time, I have reflected back on that conversation.  I was reminded of it again when I ran across some bit of Native American wisdom a few years later that claimed one particular tribe only let women declare war. 

Can you imagine such a thought in the testosterone dominated American military mindset?  Hell, it used to be argued, and not too long ago I might add, that a woman was incapable of being the Commander In Chief; too emotional to be left in charge of the nuclear code keys! And let’s not forget the long string of menstrual jokes that were sure to follow.

But I believe it was a wise idea, much wiser than allowing men to make the call of war. Contrary to popular propaganda, women aren’t pussies (well, not in that sense anyway) and there’s a reason Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem, The Female of the Species Is More Deadly Than The Male

This Native American wisdom knew a Mother would never sacrifice her own child for light and transient reasons. Grandmothers, Sisters, and Wives could be trusted to protect their mens lives at all costs, unless there was truly, truly a need.  America should be so wise again.  After all, it's fucking WAR!  

War Bodies: Source Unknown

Not too long ago, again I thought of Larry’s support-the-draft idea after watching, “Iraq For Sale: America’s War Profiteers.”. While the story centers around how America now uses war for profit, what caught my attention was what was at its root.

The whole ugly war-profiteering door was opened because we needed boots on the ground but the military reported we didn’t have enough soldiers to man the necessary operations for our missions in Afghanistan, then Iraq. 

Despite taxpayers footing the bill for the decades long barrage of “Be All That You Can Be” state-of-the-art commercials to sell us on the glory and honor of service, apparently not enough of us were answering the call.

So the military industrial complex, in its infinite wisdom, knew better than to reinstate the draft lest it ignite mass national protests again. So it did what only a military machine could; it started putting our national security in the hands of the private sector. And no, Dick, I haven’t forgotten you were already testing this idea in the first Gulf War and had Halliburton at the ready when the call for action came!

Probably my favorite all time book is The Rhetoric of No, a collection of essays about a wide range of dissent, dating back to Plato until what was then, the modern times of 1970.  It covers a lot of ground, spanning almost ever kind of protest one can conceive, as well as offering some good historical perspectives on how we got to here.

In the essay, The New American Militarism by General David M Shoup, who is touted as a “marine’s marine”, General Shoup takes a powerful and provocative hard look at what the American military has done to condition the collective psyche of our nation and how it has embedded itself into every walk of life. 

Written at a time when America was still using the draft, General Shoup described its affects on our country by stating:
“Today, most middle-aged men, most business, government, civic, and professional leaders, have served some time in uniform.  Whether they liked it or not, their military training and experience have affected them, for the creeds and attitudes of the armed forces are powerful medicine, and can become habit forming.  The military codes include all the virtues and beliefs used to motivate men of high principle: patriotism, duty and service to country, honor among fellowmen, courage in the face of danger, loyalty to organization and leaders, self-sacrifice for comrades, leadership, discipline, and physical fitness.  For many veterans the military’s efforts to train and indoctrinate them may well be the most impressive and influential experience they have ever had-especially so for the young and less educated.”
Not only does he discuss in detail the transforming affect the military has on the public at large, he also describes how the military often culls the best and the brightest America has to offer, puts them in highly competitive arenas, presses them to their limits to produce cutting edge thought and action, all of which is aimed towards conditioning and motivating them for the strategic purpose to prove themselves in the greatest venue of all –the art of war.

General Shoup also discusses another aspect of The New American Militarism, which clearly recognizes the role of the private sectors defense partnership with the armed forces, which in brief begins with:
“Closely related to the attitudes and influence of America’s millions of veterans is the vast and powerful complex of the defense industries, which have been described in detail many times in the eight years since General Eisenhower first warned of the military-industrial power complex in his farewell address as President.  The relationship between the defense industry and the military establishment is closer than many citizens realize.  Together they form a powerful public opinion lobby….The associations also provide each of the armed services with a means of fostering their respective roles, objectives and propaganda.”
Wonder what General Shoup would say about the defense industry and military establishments relationship today.

Another guy I worked with had served time in Iraq.  When I squawked about all the waste, fraud and abuse of the current system, he just laughed and said, “You mean like the storage pods?”  According to him, the military uses tens of thousands of storage pods, you know, like the moving pods, only they have been renting them for all these long years.  Wonder how many kids we could have put through college with that money?

Well, it’s a whole new era for the 21st century war machine.  Almost fifty years after General Shoup spoke out about the dangers of the new American militarism, here we are. 

The oversight body of the CIA’s self-damning torture report accidentally loses it, (like ANYBODY believes that story), drones now kill people by remote control half way across the world  and one guy can’t even find out how many bases America actually has in Africa, much less across the globe. Seriously.

While most likely many Americans will celebrate this Memorial Day week-end with parades and flags, salutes and homage to those who have served and those who have died, I think I’m going to skip the pomp and fanfare and instead, spend my time quietly praying for the 35 American veterans a day now committing suicide. I will meditate more about what Larry said, ponder the wisdom of the Native Americans and perhaps, contemplate a different, more basic kind of question, such as-

Why has America been at war with the whole world throughout 
my entire lifetime?  

Photo from Democracy Now! Code Pink Attempts To Arrest Henry Kissinger


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