U.S. Congressmen Propose Possible Universal Draft

Draft cards, conscientious objectors, and protests. Sounds like something our parents dealt with, right? This scene could become a reality for today’s college students as two Democrat representatives, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) are proposing a bill to bring back the military draft. Their proposed bill would force military or national service for both men and women aged 18-26, without exemptions for college or graduate studies, both changes from the earlier draft of older wars, including Vietnam. “I believe that if those calling for war knew that their children were likely to be required to serve — and to be placed in harm’s way — there would be more caution and greater willingness to work with the international community in dealing with Iraq,” Rangel said at a news conference to Reuters. Conyers agreed, according to the statement provided to Reuters. “It has unfortunately become the duty of someone else’s child to go to war and die as the privileged evade the tragic consequences of war.” While after the attacks of Sept. 11, many men and women volunteered to serve our country, the idea of forced service frightens and angers many students. “If they forced the draft, there would be a huge outcry,” said one UVM male student. “That’s a ridiculous idea, and not fair to students. It would be like another Vietnam.” If they were going to reinstate the draft, the following will occur, according to the Selective Services (SS): the President and Congress would authorize a draft, then the SS holds a lottery, then all parts of the SS are activated, then physical, mental and moral evaluations are done, and local and appeal are activate. Finally the induction notices are sent, and the first draftees are inducted. Many believe that it will be instated, with the large military we already have. “I don’t think the draft will be reinstated,” said freshman Erik Stier. “I do feel as though in many ways, the discussion of reinstating the draft is an effort to build up an even greater anti-war sentiment throughout the general public.” While the chance of reinstating the draft seems slim, at the moment, to many, the chances of women becoming involved seems even less likely. According to Selective Service, the law as it’s written refers specifically to “male persons” in saying who can register and who can be drafted. Even though Rangel and Conyers want to draft to include women, they would have to get Congress to amend the law. The issue of women being involved in the draft has come under fire in both the 1980’s and 90’s. In 1981, the Supreme Court decision Rostker v. Goldberg, the Court upheld the law that men could only register, stating that it didn’t violate the due process clause of the Constitution. In 1994, the Department of Defense reviewed the issue again. Because women are excluded by policy from front line combat positions, excluding them from the draft seemed justifiable in the DoD’s view. The DoD also said that they would periodically review the issue as the role of women in the military expands. This issue could be brought to the forefront again if the assumed war with Iraq becomes more long-term than expanded. While many feel that women should be forced to serve along with men, many women feel that is unjustifiable. “When I get paid the same amount as my male counterpart,” commented one UVM female. “Then I’ll go and fight with them.” Others feeling drafting women wouldn’t be as feasible as one thinks. “On the one hand, it’s equal rights for women, but personally, I wouldn’t want to be drafted,” said sophomore Jennifer Leach. “I wouldn’t want to have to deal with the whole situation with having to declare myself as a conscientious objector. “There’ll be a lot of hassle, because we don’t have to sign up, etc.” While one would think that most men are in support for having women join them on the front line, it’s not always the case. “I do not feel as though they should be included in the potential draft,” said Stier. “They should obviously be permitted to enlist by choice.” Since the 1980’s, all men as of their 18th birthday have been required to sign up with Selective Services, even though the draft hasn’t been reinstated. Because of that requirement, men can be found in hours, instead of weeks as it was in the past, after their draft number has been drawn, making the lax time disappear. If the draft was reinstated, there are many ways to avoid the draft, according to many anti-war organizations. According to the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, the following things would allow one to be considered exempt: a minister or divinity student. The sole surviving son of a family whose father, mother or siblings have died as a result of military action, the sole financial or other support to family members who are dependent, elderly, disabled and/or ill, physically or mentally incapable of being in the military, lesbian, gay or bisexual, a conscientious objector. Not all males who could possibly get drafted are opposed to the idea. “If I were to be drafted,” said Stier. “As much as I may disagree with the purpose of the war, as an American I would have little choice but to support my country.”