Monday, March 08, 2004

Hell No, We Won't Go

Did everyone see this thing about the Bush Administration preparing to reinstate the draft before I did? I ran across it on LiveJournal, where it was quoted by someone who'd heard about it from a homeschooling listserv, who, well, you get the picture. It apparently traces back to a Jan. 28 article by Adam Stutz of Project Censored:
The current agenda of the US federal government is to reinstate the draft in order to staff up for a protracted war on "terrorism." Pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills S 89 and HR 163) would time the program so the draft could begin at early as Spring 2005 -- conveniently just after the 2004 presidential election! But the administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed NOW, so our action is needed immediately.
I ran this idea past Respectful of Otters' Military Advisory Board over dinner the other night, and was treated to a fascinating display of synchronized eye-rolling. "Is our military even set up so that conscripts would be of use?" I asked. "No," the Military Advisory Board said in unison. (I think they practice.) "I didn't really read the article in depth," I said, "but, you know, it had links."

Since then I've actually followed the links. Let's start with a closer look at S 89 and HR 163. Both were introduced on Jan 7, 2003, and - despite Stutz's alarmed tone, which suggests immediate danger - both have been sitting in committee, unacted upon, for more than a year. The Senate bill was introduced by Fritz Hollings and has no cosponsors. The House bill was introduced by Chuck Rangel and has thirteen cosponsors, all of them Democrats, eight of them (plus Rangel) members of the Congressional Black Caucus. If "the administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed NOW," shouldn't the bills have at least one Republican sponsor? Given that Republicans control Congressional committees, shouldn't the latest action on the bills have been more recently than 14 months ago (S 89) and 13 months ago (HR 163)? And is it even barely conceivable that Bush would choose the Congressional Black Caucus to be the standard-bearers for his insidious agenda?

Rangel introduced his bill to make a point about the Iraq War. He was sending a message, not proposing public policy, and once the message got through he abandoned it. There was plenty of lefty debate at the time about the wisdom of his proposal in terms of antiwar strategy, but a year later the same bill is being presented (with the context filed off) as a Bush Administration plan. Maybe most of the people passing on Stutz's article have just forgotten.

Here's the other major scare section from the Stutz piece:
$28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective Service System (SSS) budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. SSS must report to Bush on March 31, 2005 that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation. Please see this website to view the SSS Annual Performance Plan - Fiscal Year 2004.
I did view it. I also read it, which is a big chunk of my life I'll never get back. It's got some scary-sounding goals, right at the beginning:
Prepare and conduct an Area Office Prototype Exercise which tests the activation process from SSS Lottery input to the issuance of the first Armed Forces Examination Orders.

Ensure 90% of people tested are capable of implementing activation procedures.
But a little poking around the SSS website put those goals into perspective. The March 31, 2005 date Stutz references is simply the deadline by which the SSS promises to deliver its Annual Report, which as the name suggests, is something they do every year. Another thing they do every year is prepare for the possible reinstatement of the draft, as this 1996 report from the Clinton-era SSS makes clear. Because there is no draft, all there is for the entire Selective Service bureaucracy to do is collect names, conduct readiness exercises, and think about what they'll do if the draft is reinstated. That's what they did under Clinton, and the fact that they're still doing it now doesn't mean anything sinister whatsoever.

I'm not sure what Stutz's motivation was for stringing together these half-truths, but it seems to me that we have enough to worry about with what Bush is actually doing. We can't afford to spare any outrage for things he's not doing.