BEYOND SELECTIVE SERVICE
Among the possible changes I saw in the wake of the attacks of September 11 and the subsequent "war on terrorism"—that never ending excuse for continues US, UN and NATO military operations throughout the world—was the reinstatement of a fully operational draft. After all, the military does provide another place for storing excess people and may be useful in giving them a healthy dose of training in subservience, the acceptance of humiliation and the replacement of thinking with patriotic fervor. And with the drastic increase in the number of preventative police actions deemed necessary to "protect the American way of life" that this new war will inevitable bring about, more cannon fodder will be necessary to feed the poorly aimed American guns. So I was expecting to hear something about the possibility of the draft going back into effect. But it seems that at least some folks in the government hope to take things a little further.
On December 20, 2001, representative Smith of Michigan, in conjunction with representative Weldon of Pennsylvania introduced a "Universal Military Training and Service Act" bill before the House of Representatives. The bill was referred to the Committee on Armed Services. This bill, if passed, would make it obligatory for every male citizen between the ages of 18 and 22 and any other male of that age residing in the United States "to receive basic military training and education as a member of the armed services." Women would be encouraged to volunteer under the same program, but without the obligation. Those inducted would be required to take from six months to one year of training (to be determined by the Secretary of Defense). But any one who has not finished high school will be required to do an additional six months of training. The only exemptions to this act are those with health problems, those already in military service and those in military academies. Religious conscientious objectors would be exempt from combatant training, but is required to undergo the rest of the training and to do national service of some sort.
This act, if put into effect, would go far beyond current draft laws and beyond anything the US has ever had. It would be a case of mandatory military service for all young men. It is obvious that this bill is being proposed now because of the atmosphere of fear and reactive patriotism brought on by the events of last September 11. Those who are promoting it (and Bush is among them) are hoping that people will be willing to accept the idea of such service in these times.
Though mandatory military service for all young men is new to the United States, it is the norm in much of the world. In countries like Italy or Greece, anarchists are always contending with this system, and strong anarchist anti-militarist activity is common. In addition, it seems that there are informal networks among anarchists in these countries that make it easier for those who refuse to cooperate with this system in any way to get around and continue to live their lives. We would do well to learn from the practices that have been developed in these countries as well as to examine draft resistance in this country, particularly during the Viet Nam war.
It is essential to let people no about this bill (I didn’t hear about it until March, and very few people I talk with know about it—it apparently is not being well-publicized) and to make our own refusal to cooperate clear. It is equally necessary to make it clear that our refusal to cooperate does not spring from a pacifist morality, which could accept the compromise of "community" service, but from a vehement hatred of the state and all of its institutions that opposes to militarism and the state in its totality the violence of revolt.
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