Friday :: Jun 11, 2004

"The ARMY Way, Sir!"


by pessimist


Students contemplate draft possibility

Twin bills that would require all American citizens and permanent residents aged 18-26 to perform two years of national service were introduced in Congress in January 2003. The bills, named the Universal National Service Act of 2003, have been lying dormant in the Committee on Armed Services for some time.

Though introduced over a year ago, the bills have received new attention as the troop situation in Iraq has become a major issue in the November presidential election. The bills have also caught the eye of college students as talk of a possible draft has spread in universities.

Second-year biology student Josh Elder said he only recently heard about the bills. "I wasn't aware that there were such legislation until a few weeks ago. Most of my friends don't know about it."

"I think it's really scary when the government is considering the draft when the people that it would affect the most don't know it is being discussed," he said.

This is how BushCo gets away with its worst - people don't notice. Nor do they seem to care to notice.

As CBS News recently reported: "We have become, it seems, a nation of bystanders."

A Nation Of Bystanders

Twenty-first century America is not the nation of joiners that amazed Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s; it is not a place where citizens engage constantly to assemble democracy's quilt. "Bowling Alone," is what Harvard University political scientist Robert Putnam calls it a reference to an intriguing statistic that finds Americans bowling as much as ever but participation in leagues down sharply. "There has been, at least over the past 40 years, a pretty strong downward movement in most forms of political participation," he says.

In America today, many of us sit back and watch others do the grunt work that was once widely regarded as a citizen's duty and privilege.

Historically, this was not an issue in a nation where civic participation was once as much a part of the landscape as its mountains and plains. Organizations, some as old as the country itself, brought citizens together to solve problems locally and press issues nationally; political parties recruited the masses to help spread their message; civil protest was a viable means to political and social change. Everyday Americans had a voice, and the nation's leaders listened because they depended on them -- whether as citizen soldiers, taxpayers or volunteers.

Somewhere along the way, Americans grew less interested in being active citizens.

What happened?

The "old-timers" of the Phoenix Downtown Lions offer some ideas:

"The problem," says 71-year-old Gene Hardin, "is people die."

Things change," suggests 82-year-old Helen Tibken, "and we change with it."`

"People say they're just too busy," adds Allen Nahrwold, 65, "and they really are."

One factor is the loss of the "long civic generation" those who came of age during the Depression and World War II, spurred into action by hard times (and not yet distracted by television and the Internet). They were more inclined to vote, attend a meeting, join a group.

Over the last 50 years, as the golden age of civic engagement lost some sparkle, suburban sprawl brought lengthier commutes; women, once a backbone of organizations, entered the workplace; television went from a diversion to a fixation; and the Internet made face-to-face contact unessential. Today, with single-parent households or two-parent families in which both mom and dad must work to make ends meet, civic duties can become expendable.

Political scientist Theda Skocpol has another theory: Too many organizations are dominated by managers who can, and do, succeed without members doing anything.

And that just might tie it all up neatly. This statement could be applied to George Warmonger Bush, the PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse, and the entire membership of the Citizenry of the United States of America - success for the former while the latter did nothing.

But the decline of mass political participation is not simply a consequence of the decay of civil society brought on by TV, suburbanization and busy lives, argue Crenson and Ginsberg in Downsizing Democracy. Starting in the Progressive Era of the early 20th century, they write, the government established regulatory commissions to serve as watchdogs on special interests. The outcome, Crenson and Ginsberg suggest, was twofold: Citizens became less vigilant and involved, and interests like the banks and railroads came to control the very commissions that were supposed to work on behalf of the public good.

Another recent change: statutes and judicial rulings that made advocacy by litigation commonplace, taking them out of the political arena. Name your issue: smoking, the environment, gay marriage -- with only one name under the heading "plaintiff," a lawsuit can effect change for millions of Americans through the action of but one.

Consider the decade's most infamous court case: Bush v. Gore.

There were no mass demonstrations as the case that would decide the 2000 presidential election wound its way to the Supreme Court, Crenson and Ginsberg note. Neither candidate went out of his way to elicit public support. "The absence of political ferment was said ... to indicate the maturity of American democracy and Americans' profound respect for the rule of law," write the authors.

Instead, they argue, "Americans failed to become agitated because most knew the political struggle they were witnessing did not involve them."

If Americans are to experience a civic reawakening, experts insist, the nation's leaders need to sound the alarm.

This is the wrong approach. Our leaders, beginning with Owwer Leedur and continuing through John F. Kerry on through both major and all minor political parties and including our private and corporate leadership, have let us down badly. Our politicians pay obeisance to the financial interests to pay their campaign costs. Our corporate leadership, even if well-meaning and desiring to do the right things, are beholden to the shareholders' interests. Much of our private leadership has been neutralized and discouraged by the epithets and slurs spewed upon them by the Right-wing media. Just as the French peasants, tired of abuse and neglect, rose up and exposed the corruption of the wealthy, easily taking the Bastille because they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, so might it be necessary in America today.

[Before out conservative visitors decide to misrepresent my comment, I do not want to see that happen here. Just as the French Revolution descended through chaos into anarchy, and then into totalitaianism, the same could, and likely would, happen in America. This is NOT where I want to see America go.]

Changes are only going to come from those directly affected. There are signs that the necessary awareness is beginning to show: [From the first linked article]

Third-year history student Janet Wong said the act is the first time she had to think about working for national defense. "I never worried about being drafted because I'm a girl. But in light of this bill, I am concerned that I might have to postpone my work in college to serve in a war that I don't agree with," Wong said.

This from a HISTORY student, one who should certainly have some inkling of how past events are mirrored by today's - IF she had been paying attention.

Recent polling also indicates that four out of five Americans surveyed oppose resuming the draft, making it an unpopular issue among politicians in an election year.

But are these people aware of just how close the draft really is?

Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., is the only sponsor of the act in the Senate. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., sponsored the bill in the House, along with five other co-sponsors. Hollings' spokeswoman Ilene Zeldin said the bill is currently 'collecting dust.' "It's basically sitting in the armed services committee. A hearing on the bill would need to be held for it to move on, but there hasn't been anything," Zeldin said.

With growing unrest in the military ranks (I hear this directly from my coworkers who hope daily that they don't get that phone call sending them back to Iraq), and with the reaction of the Iraqis to the announcement of their 'new government', even official tallies have gone up. the latest I saw showed that the Iraq force is now up to 138,000, up from 133,000, and that more troops are headed to Afghanistan as the troubles there are growing dangerously close to toppling the Unocal government of Hamid Karzai.

My coworker sources indicate that units are way behind in their refit and training, and in many cases, those who managed to get out before the stop loss orders have yet to be replaced. The need grows just as the supply slows. Thus, the need for the draft will become more evident to the PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse, and they will take up Sen. Hollings' bill and reshape it so that you get a deferment if your daddy is in the top 1% while the rest of us are impressed into service the war machine:

The passage of the Universal National Service Act would authorize the president to establish a military draft. The president would decide the number of people selected for military service and in which ways they would serve. Under the act, only high school students can postpone induction for educational purposes, and college students and women would not be exempt from national service.

The act mandates that those not selected for military service serve in a civilian capacity for the purpose of national defense.

Zeldin said the act would ensure that all Americans take on the burden of defending the country, emphasizing that the act will not have the inequitable deferment and exemption standards associated with drafts in the past.

Male-bovine - fornicating - excrement.

Hollings and Rangel intended to make a statement with these bills, but did either think about what it would take to make that statement effective?

No.

The Democrats would have to control at least one House of Congress to block passage or any modifications. They don't have that majority.

As I state above, the bill as worded has no deferments, but it also states that "The president would decide the number of people selected for military service and in which ways they would serve."

There will end up being a lot of 'champagne' National Guard units for the country's economic elites. The rest of us will end up in Iraq, or the Persian Gulf defending the Saudis, or dealing with Libya, or Syria, or North Korea, or West Africa, or ...

But people don't know about all of these areas. I understand, as it takes me some time and effort to keep up with these. This is why this student has this to say:

Second-year political science student Daniel Kwon said though he doesn't believe a reinstatement of the draft will happen in the near future, the Universal National Service Act does make him think more seriously of the possibility. "I don't think we need a draft at this time, so I'm not very worried about it. Right now, it almost seems silly to mandate everyone from 18 to 26 to serve for our national defense," Kwon said.

"But perhaps if the war continues on and there is a need for more men in the future, then the draft becomes much more of a reality."

OK, Mr. Kwan. You see the glimmer of the Dawn. Let's make the sun rise:

The Department of Defense has repeatedly said it sees no reason to reinstate the draft.

BUT, ...

Maj. Michael Berry, an assistant military science professor at UCLA, believes the current volunteer army is the best army that has existed, and whether a draft will be needed is a decision for the policymakers of the country, not the military.

Even with 1.4 million active-duty volunteers and many more reservists[and Just HOW many is a GOP political secret], the Department of Defense has stopped thousands of soldiers from leaving when their enlistment times were up, making some stay longer in Iraq than the promised year. It has also made unprecedented use of the National Guard and Reserve forces to maintain more than 138,000 troops in Iraq.

[U.S. force in Iraq to grow as Marine deployment pushed up General: Corps badly stretched: The Pentagon will increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to about 145,000 this summer, from the current 140,000, in recognition of the continued difficulty coalition forces are having in providing security leading up to the hand-over of political power to Iraqis on June 30. The 5,000 new troops will come from the Marine Corps. Overall, U.S. force levels in Iraq could rise even higher than 145,000.

The Marines have more than 176,000 active-duty troops. In addition to the 25,000 currently in the Iraq mission, there are also 4,000 Marines in Afghanistan, 1,500 in Haiti and 1,600 in Africa.

Lt. Gen. Robert Magnus says: "The Marines have not been in a prolonged combat like this since Vietnam. They can't do that indefinitely. We are essentially tapped out for Marine aviation."

Because of the accelerated deployment, Magnus said he is ''not sure what we will do in 2005'' to meet any demands for more troops. ''If you don't have Marines and don't have Marines that are ready, you might as well not be in the business.'']

Enter the Universal National Service Act of 2003.

"I don't know anyone in the executive branch of the government who believes it would be appropriate or necessary," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the Associated Press.

YET.

Pay attention, America. You are the ones expected to pay the costs for the PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse's mad dreams of total oil world dominance. Your sons and daughters will be the ones arriving at Dover Air force Base and you won't be allowed to be there when they do. You are the only ones who can do something about this. And the time to act is now.

As Alice Cooper used to say in the middle of some of his early concerts:

WAKE UP!!!!!!!


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pessimist :: 7:23 AM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!
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