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“The Bush-Rumsfeld war machine is responsible for the bloated budget deficit, which will expand as the voids are filled… inevitably by a draft if we remain on the same course.”

“By New Year's Day 2004, one service, the Army, had blocked over 40,000 troops from discharge or retirement on their appointed dates. Over 16,000 of them were National Guard. All told, over 70,000 troops have now been affected by Stop-Loss.”

“On January 20th, Lieutenant General James Helmly, chief of the U.S. Army Reserve, told reporters that the current situation is untenable, and that the military is facing a severe retention crisis, because the use of troops, especially Reservists is, in his view, abusive. Addressing troops, he said, ‘We value your service and we're not going to run this like a doggone flesh farm.'”

“Repeated, long-term deployments will clearly take a toll on spouses and children of our men and women in the military here at home. Military service always entails time away from home, but we think that the active services - and particularly the Army - must find a way to better balance the demands of overseas deployments with the needs of troops' families back home. Otherwise, we may face a mid-grade retention problem in the coming years that will be devastating to our forces.”

-From a letter to President Bush by Reps. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Jim Copper (D-TN) and signed by most members of the House Armed Services Committee, including Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and ranking member Ike Skelton (D-M, reprinted and circulated with a memo from the Project for a New American Century

© Copyright 2004, From The Wilderness Publications, All Rights Reserved. May be reprinted, distributed or posted on an Internet web site for non-profit purposes only.



Stan Goff

We're not going to reimplement a draft. There is no need for it at all. The disadvantages of using compulsion to bring into the armed forces the men and women needed are notable. The disadvantages to the individuals so brought in are notable. If you think back to when we had the draft, people were brought in; they were paid some fraction of what they could make in the civilian manpower market because they were without choices. Big categories were exempted -- people that were in college, people that were teaching, people that were married. It varied from time to time, but there were all kinds of exemptions. And what was left was sucked into the intake, trained for a period of months, and then went out, adding no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services over any sustained period of time, because the churning that took place, it took enormous amount of effort in terms of training, and then they were gone....

-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, January 7, 2003


February 27 2004. 1800 PST (FTW) -- Donald Rumsfeld's remarks above, particularly the one about “adding no value,” ignited a firestorm of protest from veterans' organizations last January, but what was the Secretary of Defense really saying? Surely no one is surprised at Rumsfeld's insensitivity to class issues raised by Selective Service. Son of a rich Chicago real estate executive, Rumsfeld is Princeton preppy with a background as an investment banker and the CEO of pharmaceutical leviathan, Searle. Setting aside his mixed metaphors about sucking intakes and added value, and looking past his political boneheadedness, Rumsfeld was pretty clear on this issue. This time Rumsfeld is telling the truth. He doesn't want a draft. But the administration may need the draft more than it needs Donald Rumsfeld.

One of Rumsfeld's stand-by rules is "Prune businesses, products, activities, people. Do it annually." Rumsfeld opposes the draft because it is not cost effective. On that count, he is right. According to an MSNBC study, the cost of recruiting just one Marine is $6,539. His baseline training then costs $44,887. When he (most troops are still men) goes to war, his gear alone is worth almost $4,000, and it is exchangeable any time it becomes unserviceable for whatever reason (with the exception of neglect or abuse). His base pay as a Lance Corporal (E-3) is $1,407 a month, with a raise at two-years service. He receives around $206 a month in a food allowance, which also increases with time and grade increases, unless he is single and eating in the mess hall, where he will eat more than $260 worth of food each month. Married troops also qualify for a variable housing allowance that can be (for an E-5 sergeant with three years service) anywhere from $474 to $1,276 a month. Each of these troops is also supported by free medical care, some base housing and facilities, post and Base Exchange systems, schools, and commissaries. Add to these numbers various proficiency pays, parachute or demolition pay and overseas or combat pay.

Rumsfeld has a corporate cost-accounting mentality, and he is a gadget-man. He does not want to make these outlays for a conscript that will take his new skills and check out of the armed forces after two years. When all is said and done, that would mean that each conscript is costing the Department of Defense around a quarter million dollars for a miserly two years of service. His reference to “added value” is metaphorical, since value-added is a concept that applies to profitable ventures, and it is a little disingenuous, because Rumsfeld is almost pathologically enamored of high technology war toys for which he is willing to spend almost unlimited sums. But you can see his point.

The draft is a bad idea. And it's a bad idea for a lot more reasons than cost-accounting. There is a political price to be paid for conscription as well.

Interestingly enough, while Donald Rumsfeld has kicked and screamed to avoid the subject altogether, the most vocal proponent of re-activating Selective Service has been liberal Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel of New York, who began proposing conscription as early as January, 2003.

"I believe that if those calling for war,” said Rangel in a New York Times editorial last year, “knew their children were more likely to be required to serve – and to be placed in harm's way – there would be more caution and a greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq."

The fact that the Defense Department's own imperial Caligula opposes a draft, while one of the few Congresspersons to have opposed the current phase of the Energy War is calling for Selective Service re-activation – in clear anti-war language – is an unambiguous reflection of the political potency of conscription.

That doesn't mean that re-activation won't happen, or that it won't be done by Republicans.

The Energy War, now concentrated on Iraq, is presenting the Bush administration with a formidable dilemma. The United States military is now bogged down in a quagmire where it appears each day more likely that a military victory is impossible, even as it seems politically impossible for the Bush administration to leave (which they have no intention of doing in any case, or they wouldn't have gone in the first place). Among the myriad reasons for this dilemma is the plain fact that 120,000 troops cannot “pacify” a population the size of Iraq that has no apparent intention of consenting to foreign “pacification.” Moreover, the guerrilla resistance in Iraq is creating a steady attrition of troops and materiel, an operational tempo that is unsustainable, and a looming recruitment and retention crisis that threatens the long term health of the armed forces as an institution.

I have said before that by all accounts the preservation of U.S. dominance in the world is ultimately dependent on seizing control of this region. This is not an irrational war. It is an icily rational war, given that the alternative is to relinquish control of the world's economic future – which would be disastrous for political elites in the United States, because our entire economy, under their direction, is now a house of cards built on an international treasury-bill standard that forces the rest of the world to give loans to the U.S. that it never intends to pay back. Control of the world's peaking energy supply is absolutely essential for the U.S. state to maintain its economic arm-lock on China and Europe to enforce their continued complicity in this international extortion racket.

The Bush administration has not the slightest intention of ever leaving Iraq.

Given that this is the prime directive, Donald Rumsfeld's accounting and the political risks associated with Selective Service may both have to be overlooked, and in the not-too-distant future.

A little history is in order to show that George W. Bush's administration is not the first, nor will it be the last, to decide in advance what imperial adventure upon which it wants to embark, then go to the working class well for our young people to provide the sweat and blood.

The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940. While there are certainly marked differences between the Bush administration and the Roosevelt administration, there was one thing they had in common. Each was bent on entering a war that was initially very unpopular. We all know the story of George W. Bush and his Neocon coterie. The story of Roosevelt, however, has been mythologized beyond recognition. In fact, he ordered repeated provocations of Hitler by sinking German ships and violating neutrality with the Lend-Lease Act, but Hitler didn't bite. He finally slapped an oil embargo on Japan, forcing Japan to look to Indonesia for its petroleum needs, which meant neutralizing the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. There is quite credible evidence, in fact, that Roosevelt had foreknowledge of the impending attack and obstructed information to his military commanders that might have stopped it.

Sound familiar?

But George W. Bush's administration is not the equal of the Roosevelt administration with regard to forethought – as opposed to foreknowledge. Colin Powell is arguably the smartest person in the cabinet, yet he is consistently overruled by the likes of Cheney and Rumsfeld. The Bush administration plans for the best-case scenario (We will take Baghdad in two to three days, and we will be welcomed as liberators.), while Roosevelt took the wiser course and panned for the worst – that the war could go on for quite some time and it would require massive inputs of people and war materiel.

Roosevelt implemented the first peacetime draft in American history, using the pretext – not that the United States government was looking for a way to get involved in an unpopular war to take its share of the post-war spoils and build the American imperium – but that “hemispheric security” was at stake. They were protecting places like the Yukon and the Amazon from a European fascist attack.

That's about where the comparison ends, because contrary to all the hype, Saddam Hussein never – even at the height of his power – had the capacity to genuinely menace more territory than Iran, and only ever successfully invaded tiny Kuwait. Adolph Hitler's Reich had the intention and the wherewithal to militarily challenge his fellow European powers, systematically slaughter 6 million Jews, and to inflict around 30 million military and civilian deaths on the Allies, 20 million on the Soviet Union alone, in a grab for power that the old-money imperialists of Great Britain and the United States found intolerable.

The draft remained in effect after the war, because the devastation of World Wars I and II had sapped the strength of European empire, and the United States – having fought the entire war away from its own territory, and having built a formidable industrial capacity to sustain the war effort, was filling the post-colonial vacuum. The Cold War was inaugurated, and with it the McCarthy-era security state, and for the first time in history, the U.S. was maintaining a huge standing armed force in peacetime that required a draft.

President Lyndon Johnson was running against Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election, and Goldwater was attacking Johnson for not orchestrating a muscular enough response to the nationalist insurgency in Vietnam that had earlier expelled the French colonial army. Johnson had already ordered an escalation of covert operations against the Vietnamese, and the Navy was conducting both reconnaissance and direct action operations against North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 1st of that year; both violations of international law. The USS Maddox was part of that operation, and on August 2nd a report was released that claimed –falsely as it turned out – that the USS Maddox had been subjected to “an unprovoked North Vietnamese attack” in international waters. The press dutifully reported exactly what the government said, a furor was whipped up, and Congress was stampeded into signing the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution,” granting authorization to the president "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression." A blank check to the President to go to war.

Sound familiar?

This blank check transformed itself into the destruction of the Johnson presidency, the death of over 3 million Southeast Asians, the loss of 58,000 U.S. troops, and the near-destabilization of the U.S. government itself in the wake of the turbulent Civil Rights/Anti-War movement.

It also wracked the military as an institution with low morale, and eventually with a deep institutional crisis, which included fraggings, widespread addiction, routine insubordination, and radical political formations taking shape inside the military. In 1973, as the first step to restructure the military from the ground up, the draft was abandoned and the United States adopted an all-volunteer military force.

Many people have attributed this to the belief that draftees were largely responsible for insurrection in the ranks, but the facts do not support this thesis. Over 60% of the people involved in GI Resistance organizing were those who had voluntarily enlisted and were driven by the wrath that accompanies disillusionment.

In fact, the all-volunteer force was conceptualized as a professionalization of the force, one that would result in higher retention and recruitment rates and that would accompany dramatic changes in the way the military was organized and equipped. Pay and benefits were brought on par with the civilian sector, much of the overt sadism was eliminated from military culture, the quality of the food was drastically improved, and many regulations were relaxed to make off-duty military life more akin to civilians'.

In extricating itself from Vietnam, the United States was also moving the military off center stage in its international relations, and engaging in new forms of financial warfare with allies and enemies alike. It is no accident that in 1971, the U.S. also abandoned the gold standard and conducted a strategic devaluation of its currency in 1973 that wiped out billions in debt to its trading partners. That was also the year that the Nixon administration helped engineer the so-called oil crisis, creating a massive windfall of petrodollar profits for Wall Street and establishing the conditions for the U.S. financial establishment to go into the international loan-sharking business.

In the end, it's always about oil. Until people figure that out, they'll continue, as Sydney Shanberg said when Bush the Elder was dropping bombs on Iraqis, to be “the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth."

Rumsfeld should add to his list of Rumsfeld's Rules, “You can't have your cake and eat it too.”

Dick Cheney is occasionally rolled out to speak, and when he does he often says the damndest things. On January 14th, when speaking to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, he described a decades-long war in which there might be hundreds of thousands of American casualties. Then they re-medicated him and took him back home.

Let's review the bidding:

  • Iraq covers 167,924 square miles.
  • Its population is around 29 million, and the majority indicates that it opposes the occupation.
  • That's an average of 173 people per square mile.
  • That's an average of 0.7 US military personnel per square mile, if you accept that 120,000 can be maintained there under the current system. (Fewer than one third of these are actual “trigger-pullers.”)
  • These real figures are concentrated in urban areas among frenetic activity in a cultural milieu that American troops do not understand. At this point, the U.S. has utterly lost the battlefield initiative.
  • Well over 3,000 troops have already been wounded, 540 killed, and around 7,000 have been evacuated for “non-combat” reasons, in one year.
  • That means the original force of 130,000 is actually below 120,000.
  • If combat units (the actual third that pulls triggers) are taking the brunt of these casualties, which they are, this means the loss ratios are significantly higher, and these units are moving inexorably toward lowered strengths that will render them officially combat ineffective.
  • Approximately half of the US military's total ground combat strength is now tied up in Iraq.
  • Total deployment time away from home and frequency of deployment has increased dramatically, and there is increasing dependence on older, less-well-trained National Guard and Reserve forces to take up the slack. Rumsfeld has announced that 40% of the military personnel left after the current rotation will be Reservists.
  • There are two principle geo-strategic reasons for the occupation: control of petroleum production and establishment of permanent bases in Iraq from which to project military force throughout the region as necessary (These two reasons are interfused.).
  • Ergo, the capacity of the U.S. armed forces as currently constituted is insufficient to continue the occupation and to consolidate it enough to maintain politically viable bases as well as regenerate oil production to something approaching former levels.
  • Ergo, the inevitable choice will be between abandoning the occupation – which this administration may find politically impossible – or massively increasing the occupation forces – which means massively expanding personnel numbers throughout the armed forces.
  • Barring some abrupt change of direction in foreign policy, someone is about to get drafted.

To further contextualize the overstretch of U.S. military forces, we need to look at military operations outside Iraq. There are ongoing large operations of over 4,000 troops in former Yugoslavia and 8,500 in Afghanistan (and more coming in a ramp-up for a Spring offensive), and that the U.S. is maintaining 37,000 troops in Korea and 71,000 in Europe – mostly Germany. But the U.S. is also involved militarily in training the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with 3rd Special Forces Group – supplemented on a variant basis with Marines – operating in Liberia, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Senegal, Malawi, Ethiopia, and Mali. 1st Special Forces is expanding operations in the Philippines, also using Marines, and maintaining their base in Okinawa. 7th Special Forces is almost running the Colombian military at this point in the civil war there. 10th Special Forces and 5th Special Forces have been busy in the Republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

Of the 480,000 people in the US Army, over 300,000 are now deployed overseas. At the end of last year, almost 200,000 reservists were still activated from a peak of 219,500 last May.

The most prestigious military-intelligence journal in the world, Jane's Intelligence Digest, said this in August of last year:

The official view from the Pentagon is that all is going well in Iraq and that the US forces are more than ready to continue the global war against terrorism. And yet, as the army commanders and planners in the Pentagon know only too well, this is a mere diplomatic smokescreen. The reality is that US forces are now severely overstretched and the number of their military commitments worldwide is increasing by the day.

The USA remains the biggest military power in the world, but it is beginning to experience the classic symptoms of imperial fatigue… Twenty-one of the US Army's 33 regular combat brigades are already on active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and the Balkans, amounting to roughly 250,000 fighting men and women. And this does not include a substantial number of US troops regularly stationed in Germany, Britain, Italy and Japan, or smaller contingents now scattered around the world. A traditional calculation assumes that for every soldier deployed on an active mission, two more are required to be kept in reserve, either in order to rotate those in action or to prepare for that rotation. Under this assumption, the USA has already reached its limit today… the cost of occupying and rebuilding Iraq now runs at roughly US$4bn a month and is rising. More importantly for US military planners, it also costs, on average, the life of one US soldier a day. Furthermore, Washington has already decided that it will make no further cuts in its presence in Europe and cannot extricate itself from Afghanistan. Given the North Korean situation, no cuts in US troops can be expected in Asia either, notwithstanding the planned redeployment of US forces inside South Korea. And, to cap it all, Washington is now certain to deploy troops in Liberia... behind the scenes [Rumsfeld] is facing an increasingly strident chorus of disapproval from his military commanders

The Bush-Rumsfeld war machine is responsible for the bloated budget deficit, which will expand as the voids are filled… inevitably by a draft if we remain on the same course.


A few things will be the same if the draft comes back and a few things will be different.

A birthday lottery will still be used to select draftees. Every day of the year is dropped into a hopper, and then they are drawn at random. (Republicans might be able to fix this so certain birthdays go to the end of the line. If they can hijack elections, surely they can fix a lottery.) During Vietnam, you were in the primary selection group if you were between 18 and 25 years old. Now the primary group is 20-years-old, then each year thereafter is assigned a lower priority. This does a couple of things. It stops the draft of 18 and 19-year-olds, which will lower anxiety and resistance from families. It also significantly reduces the draft-anxiety period for potential conscripts. Deferments have been tightened, because the college exception used by wealthy families to evade the draft in Vietnam exposed class conflicts. Now, deferments can only last until the end of a semester, and if the draftee passes his 21st birthday in school he will still be drafted if his birthday was selected for conscription during his 20th year. Seniors can be postponed until the end of the academic year, but the same rule pertains, and the lad will be inducted if his number came up. (Women are still exempt from conscription.)

First priority also goes according to a fitness classification, 1-A being the highest. The main classifications are:

  • [1-A] - available immediately for military service;
  • [1-C] Members of the Armed Forces of the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the Public Health Service;
  • [1-D-D] Deferment of Certain Members of a Reserve Component or Students Taking Military Training;
  • [1-D-E] Exemption of Certain Members of a Reserve Component or Student Taking Military Training;
  • [1-O] Conscientious Objector- conscientiously opposed to both types (combatant and non-combatant) of military training and service - fulfills his service obligation as a civilian alternative service worker;
  • [1-A-O] Conscientious Objector - conscientiously opposed to training and military service requiring the use of arms - fulfills his service obligation in a noncombatant position within the military;
  • [1-O-S] Conscientious Objectors to All Military Service (Separated from Military Service);
  • [2-D] Ministerial Students - deferred from military service;
  • [3-A] Hardship Deferment - deferred from military service because service would cause hardship upon his family;
  • [4-A] Registrant Who Has Completed Military Service;
  • [4-A-A] Registrant Who Has Performed Military Service for a Foreign Nation;
  • [4-B] Official Deferred by Law;
  • [4-C] Alien or Dual National;
  • [4-C] Alien or Dual National - sometimes exempt from military service;
  • [4-D] Ministers of Religion - exempted from military service;
  • [4-T] Treaty Alien;
  • [4-G] Registrant Exempted from Service Because of the Death of His Parent or Sibling While Serving in the Armed Forces or Whose Parent or Sibling is in a Captured or Missing in Action Status;
  • [4-F] Registrant Not Acceptable for Military Service.

Exemptions, aside from the college postponements above, also include service academies and ROTC.

That is how it will work.


But just as elections don't take place without county elections boards and their poll workers, conscription won't work without draft boards. That's were we are getting the first indication that while Rumsfeld is railing against the draft, others in this administration are laying the groundwork. Draft boards are being reconstituted, quietly.

In Fall 2003, the Selective Service portion of the Department of Defense website announced the Selective Service Board reconstitution in an appeal for local volunteers.

Then a series of articles raised the alarm, like the article that said, “Increasingly, military experts and even some influential members of Congress are suggesting that if Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's prediction of 'a long, hard slog' in Iraq and Afghanistan proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to consider a draft to fully staff the nation's military in a time of global instability.” (italics added)

You can look long and hard for the DOD appeal for draft board volunteers now and you won't find it. It was taken down. Fortunately, the website, which specializes in preserving things the government doesn't want you to see, salvaged it. Readers can see it at:

This was the first call to reconstitute these boards since the draft was abandoned in 1973.

“Draft” is not a word the Bush administration wants to introduce into election year discourse. But if Republican district gerrymandering, Rove-sleaze politics like the current slanders being circulated on the internet against John Kerry by attack-dog front-groups like Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry, and Diebold voting systems come through… and Bush is re-elected… it's a lame duck administration. That means accountability falls to zero.


But before readers start counseling their 19-year-olds to learn French and start drinking Moosehead beer in anticipation of an extended Canadian vacation, they need to review the “Smart Border Declaration” (SBD), signed in December 2001 between the United States and its frosty northern neighbor. It is available at

The SBD was designed to “keep terrorists out” of the U.S., but it also serves to keep U.S. citizens in the U.S. with “pre-clearance agreements,” “advance passenger notifications,” shared databases, and an agreement from Canada to extradite Selective Service scofflaws. Sweden, long a haven for draft evaders with an aptitude for foreign languages, also redesigned its laws to prohibit asylum in 1995.

Moreover, Canada, Mexico and the United States are co-members of a regional military alliance with integrated staffs: Northcom.

In May 2002, The Simons Centre for Peace and Disarmament Studies released a 40-page report called Canadian armed forces under US command, authored by Michael Byers. While the report's principle cause of alarm was related to the question of Canadian sovereignty – given that a U.S. commander is always at the helm of Northcom – the implication for the draft and those who might wish to evade it is that an American citizen in Canada to avoid conscription might now be extradited using military law. Though exactly how this might happen is still unclear, since it hasn't happened yet. We need only review the bizarre legal gymnastics that the Bush administration has employed since 9/11 to maintain a concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to summarily declare American citizens “enemy combatants” on flimsy pretexts, then hold them incommunicado for almost two years.


While Selective Service hasn't been reinstituted yet, there is a draft. Under the Selective Service draft, conscripts who have no prior military service are legally press-ganged into the armed forces. But there is a draft in place now that forces people who have already served their time as volunteers to stay in past their discharge dates. This program is called, in typically homely military diction, Stop-Loss.

On September 14, 2001, three days after the World Trade Center's twin towers crumbled, George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13223, delegating authority to both the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Defense to exercise unprecedented discretion. Within that order, the Defense Secretary was authorized, at his own discretion, to initiate Stop-Loss orders. These orders were implemented last year as the Bush administration's triumphal wine turned to vinegar in its mouth, and Iraq became a grinding, unmanageable…. I can think of no better term… quagmire.

In December 2003, Lieutenant Colonel Karl Reed gave an interview to Army Times, in which he plainly declared that had it not been for Stop-Loss, he'd have lost 25% of his unit preparing to depart from Kuwait into Iraq.

"And that means a new 25 percent," Reed said. "I would have had to train them and prepare them to go on the line. Given where we are, it will be a 24-hour combat operation; therefore it's very difficult to bring new folks in and integrate them."

By New Year's Day 2004, one service, the Army, had blocked over 40,000 troops from discharge or retirement on their appointed dates. Over 16,000 of them were National Guard. All told, over 70,000 troops have now been affected by Stop-Loss.

That this was illegal didn't seem to slow down the administration.

Congress sets the ceiling on “military manpower” (It's their term, not mine, amigas mias.). The current limit for the Army is 482,400. By Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker's own account, the Army is already exceeding that number (due to Stop-Loss) by over 11,000. Using his authority under Executive Order 13223, Secretary Rumsfeld ordered the Army on January 27th to recruit an additional 30,000. Congressional representatives, with a very few exceptions, showed their consistent cowardice against the Bush administration, and declined to challenge the Department of Defense on this unauthorized increase, on the current overage, or about this bald usurpation of Congressional authority.

On January 20th, Lieutenant General James Helmly, chief of the U.S. Army Reserve, told reporters that the current situation is untenable, and that the military is facing a severe retention crisis, because the use of troops, especially Reservists is, in his view, abusive.

Addressing troops, he said, “We value your service and we're not going to run this like a doggone flesh farm."

Lest anyone thing that these are the rantings of one disaffected Reserve general and one anti-Bush veteran, let me enclose this memo/letter from Daniel McKivergan, Deputy Director of the Project for a New American Century, the most influential think-tank used by the current administration, and the very one from which many on the Bush staff were spawned:

December 12, 2003

SUBJECT: Congress Calls For Larger Military

I wanted to draw your attention to a bi-partisan letter recently sent to President Bush that is cited in a front-page USA Today article, "Push is on for Larger Military: Congress Moves After Years of Downsizing." The letter, which was circulated to colleagues by Reps. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Jim Copper (D-TN) and signed by most members of the House Armed Services Committee, including Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and ranking member Ike Skelton (D-MO), warns that the size of the current force is "predicated upon an early-1990s strategy that did not foresee the tempo of today's operations or the long-term war on terrorism."

The letter urges the President to "take the necessary steps to increase the end strength" of the Armed Forces by adding up to two more Army combat divisions. The letter follows:
November 21, 2003

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We are concerned that our Armed Forces are over-extended and that we are relying too heavily upon members of the Guard and Reserve in the continuing war on terrorism.

You will be making decisions over the coming months that will be reflected in your FY05 budget request to the Congress. We believe that we must significantly increase the number of people on active duty in the military and revise the missions given to the National Guard and Reserve during the up-coming budget year. We encourage you to incorporate proposals to address these challenges in your budget. Making these changes would be met with broad, bipartisan support in the Congress.

The operational tempo required to maintain forward-deployed forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Korea, and elsewhere is unprecedented. Not since the Vietnam War has the U.S. Army had such a large fraction of its active-duty forces deployed.

While we understand that the administration will seek to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq as Iraqi security forces are trained, we must expect that the Iraq deployment will continue at substantial levels for a considerable time. Moreover, the war on terrorism is not a crisis for which the military can surge and then recover. This will be a lengthy war that will define entire careers. We must size and structure our forces to prevail over the long haul.

We are also concerned about the mix of Active, Reserve and Guard units needed to sustain the war on terrorism. We are asking more from our reservist citizen-soldiers than ever before. While they have served admirably, we believe that we need to review and adjust the missions and specialties in the reserve components so that we can protect the homeland and prevail against terrorists without over-reliance on citizen soldiers for long periods of time.

The men and women of our Guard and Reserve can and should be called upon to assist our country in times of crisis on a temporary basis. Many of the units currently serving in Iraq will have served for nearly 15 months, in some cases longer, by the time their tours are finished. When they come home, the nature of this war is such that they know they are quite likely to be called up again sometime in the near future.

Mr. President, every day we read stories about the potential impending loss we could suffer to our Guard and Reserve forces if the current situation is not fixed. The Army Guard is not going to meet its recruitment targets this year. Many of us have served, currently serve or have family and personal friends that serve in the Guard and Reserve. All of us have constituents who serve. Unless these burdens are reduced we may find ourselves in the midst of a recruiting and retention crisis in the reserve components. We need to send a clear message in the coming budget to members of the Guard and Reserve that help is on the way.

Repeated, long-term deployments will clearly take a toll on spouses and children of our men and women in the military here at home. Military service always entails time away from home, but we think that the active services - and particularly the Army - must find a way to better balance the demands of overseas deployments with the needs of troops' families back home. Otherwise, we may face a mid-grade retention problem in the coming years that will be devastating to our forces.

We are particularly concerned about the size of the active duty Army. While we will certainly work with you and your administration, we feel that your budget should include a build up to two more combat divisions so that we can reduce the pressure on the reserve components and sustain the war on terrorism for the long term without losing expertise that will "hollow-out" the Army.

The size of the current Army - and the Army budgets that pay for it - are predicated upon an early-1990s strategy that did not foresee the tempo of today's operations or the long-term war on global terrorism. During the decade of the 1990s, the Army shrank from 18 divisions to 10. The Cold War was over and the war on terrorism had not yet begun. We must now make the decisions needed to structure our forces so that we prevail in this new war that is likely to continue for some time. Increasing the size of the force is no panacea for meeting all of the challenges we face, but we believe it is a critical element of any plan to address the needs of our nation's security.

Mr. President, our military needs help now. We ask that you show strong leadership and take the necessary steps to increase the end strength of our Armed Forces and adjust the mix of active and reserve component forces in the upcoming budget year.

We stand with you ready to confront any and all challenges to our great nation.

The dilemma that will face any administration after the 2004 election will be whether to stay on in Iraq, first, and if that dilemma is resolved with a decision in the affirmative, then the next dilemma is the draft. Can any U.S. administration conduct long-term counter-insurgency with the political baggage of conscription? And can they do it physically without conscription?

There is currently a brouhaha developing around two bills wending their way through Congress, S-89 and HR-163 (introduced by Democrats Hollings and Rangel, last year), that would crank up the draft apparatus. Neither are gaining any political traction, and neither are particularly newsworthy, given that Hollings has been a lifelong supporter of a draft combined with national service, and Rangel has his crackpot notion that a draft will stop the war. The administration – not surprisingly – is pushing neither of these bills.


Many also speculate that the DOD ad to fill draft board positions may have as much to do with the 20-year terms of members, who came on during the Carter administration, expiring, as with any plans for reinstitution of the draft… but the speed with which the DOD ad was pulled is either an indication of guile or fear of political fallout.

There has been no increase in the Selective Service budget, though this is not an indicator in either direction, given that the whole apparatus could be brought back on line with a simple interagency transfer of funds or another drop in the ocean of the Bush budget deficit.

It always behooves us not be alarmist. My main point is that there is likely to come a time when there will be a simple mathematical choice – barring unseen international developments, which are always a factor – between continuing the occupation of Iraq or reinstituting the draft.

For those who find these figures at least worrisome, and who want to understand in advance what some of the options are, two of the principle legal ways to refuse military service are hardship and conscientious objection.

Information on these options is available at the GI Rights Hotline: 

There are no “draft evaders,” yet. The only obligation 18-year-olds have is to register for the draft and failure to do so has not been prosecuted or pursued for years. BUT… those who do not register, and who later try to obtain student loans, or other governmental benefits, might very well be denied those benefits under the Solomon Amendments that were passed in 1996 by Congress to deny educational assistance to selective service scofflaws. Our recommendation to 18-year-olds is to register, and then fight the actual draft, legally, when it comes. That means you need to begin NOW by documenting your opposition on hardship and-or conscientious grounds. You're your documentation with your registration, and make copies of it for your own records. The government destroys the registration form, once they enter the information into their database, so the only record of opposition will be the one that the registrant kept, himself. This advice is directly from Marti Hiken of the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force.

The best guarantee against the draft is to stop the occupation of Iraq.


Please note the following updates to this story:

Selective Service Has Plans to Include Drafting Women and Increasing Eligibility Age to 35
- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported this weekend that the Chief of the Selective Service System has proposed registering women for the military draft; and that young Americans should be required to regularly inform the government about whether they have training in skills needed by the Armed Services.
Read full article here

Stop Loss - by Stan Goff
The Republican National Convention was about war. As Zell Miller reminded the faithful, "It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech." This unacknowledged quotation from Miller's fellow Marine, Father Denis O'Brian, brought a gush of adulation from the Grand Old Party, who love to be assured that all good things come from violence. So long as the Americans are on one side, anybody on the other side is to be regarded as the Gestapo wrapped in the Wehrmacht; once the U.S. starts fighting, the enemy is magically transformed into a mighty horde of well-armed Nazis bent on shutting down the New York Times. Miller made clear that if "this marine" (and the other marines) are on a mission, then by God / by definition, that mission is bound to protect civil liberties rather than mock, curtail, and destroy them at home and abroad.
Read full article here


[For Information on treaty arrangements in foreign countries please see FTW's companion draft article Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide.]

Stan Goff retired as a Master Sergeant from US Army Special Forces. During his career he served in a number of combat assignments and also as an instructor of Military Science at West Point. Stan Goff's new book is out from Soft Skull Press “Full Spectrum Disorder – The Military in the New American Century.” Read reviews at Stan's web page


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