WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – With tens of thousands of unprepared, poorly equipped and poorly trained reservists and National Guard members making up nearly half of the U.S. occupation force in Iraq, and in the face of the worsening military situation confronting the 140,000 U.S. troops there, the Pentagon has a major “force structure” problem on its hands.

The solution to that problem, despite many official denials, is likely to be a return of the military draft.

“There is no need for it at all,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in January 2003, according to published reports. Draftees were of “no value, no advantage” to the military because they served for such short periods of time.


The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee agrees. The Pentagon does not need to reinstate the draft Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) told NBC’s “Meet The Press” on July 4. “I can tell you the all-volunteer forces worked,” when former President Richard Nixon ended conscription during the Vietnam War, said Sen. Warner, who served as Mr. Nixon’s Secretary of the Navy at the time.

Another former Nixon administration official–who drafted the legislative message proposing the end to the draft–now argues for its return. “We do not have enough men and women in our armed forces,” Nixon speech-writer Noel Koch wrote in The Washington Post July 1. “If we are to fight elective wars, as we are told we must, we need more men and women on active duty.”

In the face of stronger than anticipated resistance to U.S. forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq, military planners have resorted to a variety of measures that already constitute the imposition of an involuntary “backdoor draft” on members of the military who volunteered to serve, according to critics of the Bush administration’s military strategy.

First, the Pentagon redeployed forces from Korea and Europe to Iraq. Then, it issued what were called “Stop Loss” orders, requiring U.S. military personnel whose tours of duty had expired there to remain until further notice, usually 90-120 days. Then, it announced that another 5,600 veterans who had been recently discharged from service were to be recalled to active service.

“If there was any doubt that this administration was conducting a pseudo-draft, this call-up should dispel that doubt,” Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee said on “Meet The Press.”

The current “stop-loss” policy and the recall of reservists who have served their time amounts to “an involuntary draft,” Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) warned an April 15 National Press Club luncheon. “That is not shared sacrifice. And I submit that the families that I’ve seen at the funerals that I’ve had to attend are those people who are patriotic, but wonder when is it all going to end?”

The Iraq war is, in fact, being paid for with a “death tax” that is levied disproportionately on the poor and the non-White who make up the fighting forces in Iraq, Mr. Rangel argues.

Those who know they will never be called upon to shed their blood are the elite few, he said. It’s not the members of Congress who supported and declared the war whose family members are fighting and dying. “They’re not volunteering to make the sacrifice. It’s not members of the White House that says, ‘Bring ‘em on,’ that’s prepared to make this sacrifice.

“It’s not the staff and the chief-of-staff and the CEOs of the great national and multinational corporations that are paying this penalty tax. Most of them find some way to avoid all taxes rather than just the death tax,” he explained.

Mr. Rangel’s proposed solution: He introduced legislation, with 13 co-sponsors, to re-introduce the draft “to embarrass the President,” because he said, he is against the war and because he “thought that people would be deterred from talking about going to war if, indeed they thought that their loved ones, their family, their community would be placed in harm’s way,” he told guests at New York’s famous Riverside Church on the eve of the eruption of hostilities March 9, 2003.

“We understand Congressman Rangel’s position,” Bill Hackwell, anti-draft organizer with the International A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition in Oakland, Calif., told The Final Call. “He says that it’s disproportionate for poor people, and he’s right from (that) point of view.

“Our feeling, however, is that the draft will only codify that and make it appear to be equitable. However, if you look back to the draft during the Vietnam War–and I’m a Vietnam veteran–rich people still didn’t go.

“People who are rich know how to manipulate the system. They know how to get around it. George Bush is the Number 1 prime example of how rich people can operate in the draft.

“So, we think that the draft will just mean more canon fodder of poor and working people who will be over there. The ANSWER Coalition is 100 percent opposed to the draft, just like we’re opposed to the whole military operation that is going on in the Middle East, which is all about the subjugation of the Arab people.”

For more than 60 years–dating back to the incarceration of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and dozens of his followers during World War II–the Nation of Islam has been unequivocally opposed to U.S. wars, to “all wars which take the lives of humans,” Mr. Muhammad wrote in “What The Muslims Want, What the Muslims Believe” of The Muslim Program in 1957. The Nation of Islam remains steadfast in that opposition today.

“Next year, they’re going to impose the draft,” the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan warned June 20 at Boston’s Muhammad’s Mosque No. 11 following the city’s observance of Juneteenth. “They’re going to give you an offer next year that you can’t refuse. In fact, when you turn 18 now they are at the high schools telling you what a future you would have by joining the armed forces of the United States of America.

“You don’t have any future in that, Brother–they don’t have a future,” the Muslim leader warned. “What are you going 9,000 miles away to fight for? Who are you fighting? What have those people done to you?” he asked rhetorically, referring to those who are called Iraqi “insurgents.”

Whatever their military classification may be, those “insurgents” are fighting against intruders in their homeland, said Min. Farrakhan. International ANSWER agrees.

The Bush administration policy, as well as the “kinder, gentler” Iraq war policy announced by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), amount to nothing more than “a page out of Lyndon Johnson’s book–the problem in Iraq is that we don’t have enough troops. They’re spread too thin,” said Mr. Hackwell.

“Throw more bodies over there and somehow the justified resistance of the Iraqi people is going to go away. And we know, like in Vietnam, that’s not true. It’s just going to mean more casualties for Iraqi civilians and for the U.S. soldiers.”

Already the government is quietly taking the first steps to meet the challenge of implementing a targeted military draft of Americans with special skills in computers and foreign languages, according to a published report.

The Selective Service System has begun the process of creating the procedures and policies to conduct a targeted draft in case Congress authorizes it, according to the March 13 San Francisco Chronicle.

Richard Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, said that planning for a possible draft of linguists and computer experts had begun last fall after Pentagon personnel officials said the military needed more people with skills in those areas, the newspaper reported.

“Talking to the manpower folks at the Department of Defense and others, what came up was that nobody foresees a need for a large conventional draft such as we had in Vietnam,” Mr. Flahavan said. “But they thought that, if we have any kind of a draft it will probably be a special skills draft.”

The agency already has in place a special system to register and draft health care personnel ages 20 to 44 in more than 60 specialties, if necessary in a crisis.

The military draft ended in 1973 as the U.S. commitment in Vietnam was reduced, ushering in the era of the all-volunteer military. Mandatory registration for the draft was suspended in 1975, but resumed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. About 13.5 million men, ages 18 to 25, are now registered with Selective Service.

“So, next year you have to decide: Am I going to go because the military called me or should I stand my ground?” said Min. Farrakhan in Boston. “Now, you may have never thought of standing your ground against the President of the United States and an invitation to join the military, but you might as well start entertaining that thought. What we want to do is give you some legs that allow you to stand and when the President writes in a draft letter, ‘Greetings to you. You can report to such and such place for induction,” you will say, ‘Not me.’”

Just as it was in the first Persian Gulf War, a few active duty members of the military have begun to refuse to serve in Iraq.

At least two conscientious objectors–Abdullah Webster, a Muslim Army sergeant with 18 years of service with good conduct, and Camilo Mejia, a Nicaraguan-born soldier who served one tour in Iraq, but refused to be redeployed there–have been sentenced to 14 months and 12 months prison time respectively with bad conduct discharges for their stands.

Mr. Hackwell said that Mr. Mejia decided, “You know what? I’m not going to do this anymore. I can see this is just horrible.”

“We look at those people as being heroes and we support those conscientious objectors. We support those who say ‘no’ to going into the military, who say ‘no’ to going to war,” he added.

Sgt. 1st Class Webster converted to Islam after serving in the first Gulf War. He applied for conscientious objector status in February when his 1st Infantry Engineer Brigade was ordered from Germany into Iraq. His appeal was disapproved by his unit commander and is now under review by his division commander. If disapproved there, it will go to the Secretary of the Army.

Sgt. Webster’s “reputation is solid,” Col. William Haight III testified at his court martial in early June, according to published reports. “The problems were when we had missions in Muslim countries. That’s when he started drawing the line.”

That’s also where the Army drew the line, insisting that the 38-year-old does not qualify as a conscientious objector because he was not opposed to all wars, only to wars in Muslim nations. “I sincerely believe he was a devoted Muslim and because of his devout faith he chose to put that before his Army duty and values,” said Lt. Col. Courtney Paul, commander of the engineer battalion when Sgt. Webster submitted his conscientious objector claim.

An Islamic chaplain who counseled Sgt. Webster agreed. The soldier “was adhering to the sincere advice of the Muslim scholars” with whom he consulted before filing his claim, testified U.S. Air Force Capt. Hamza Al-Mubarak, an imam based at Ramstein Air base. “It would be better for him that he was killed than to pick up arms against anyone.”

For his part, Sgt. Webster is content with his fate, a 14-month jail sentence and a bad conduct discharge, ending his Army career, less than two years from the time he would have been eligible for retirement. “He said he would rather spend seven years in jail than fight Muslims. He said it was wrong for Muslims,” said Col. Paul.

“Now, that’s an amazing story of courage,” said Mr. Hackwell. “The common perception is that they’ll be looked down at. They’re cowards. They don’t want to go and fight. No. The ones who stand up and say ‘no’–those are the ones who are being courageous.”