The great Constitution of the United States safeguarded to us freedoms that included the right to express our attitude towards the draft in the pithy title to this post, according to Cohen v. California.
During World War II our nation imposed a draft because we were in an all-out war against Fascism, a war not of our choosing, but which, for better or worse, we sought to avoid. The draft took away the freedoms of some temporarily, so that the freedoms of all would not be lost permanently.
The internment of the Japanese proves that Americans were not fastidious about personal freedoms when it came to protecting the collective freedom of the nation. Along came the Vietnam War. The leadership of our country felt the familiar threat of totalitarianism, and as they say, the generals are always fighting the last war. The perceived threat to collective freedom again, overrode the commitment to personal freedom. Though we avoided the mistakes associated with internment camps, the draft was re-instituted.
But the war in Vietnam was not really a war to fight fascism. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was a response to phony evidence. It was, as we know, not the last time such a thing would happen.
In the ‘60s, the Chicago Seven and the Kent State Massacre revealed the fact that the harm that could come to us from our own government was greater than the threat to us posed by the pajama-clad Viet Cong. And as Mohammad Ali put it in 1966, “No Viet Cong ever called me ‘nigger.’”
Of course, with love-ins, sit-ins, teach-ins and moratoria we stopped the War in Vietnam, as well as the draft. Now, the former hippies, those who inhaled and those who did not, are in positions of power. And therefore, the idea of resurrecting a draft is a total non-starter.
And yet, part of this ex-hippy sees the wisdom of Charlie Rangell’s argument:
“There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way.”
When Jim Webb, D-VA, joins Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Kit Bond, R-MO, in the new Congress, the number of Senators with “skin in the game” will increase by 50%.
For the most part, people are drawn to the military as a way of escaping circumstances that leave them with few choices. In the two Americas I spoke of in a previous post only one America must send their young off to war, and pray nightly for their safe return. Only one America has borne the pain of unanswered prayers. Is there anyone who doubts which America will draw down the ill-gotten gains of the war profiteers?
And so it is that I find myself torn in the argument about the draft. On balance, I come out against the draft, for the simple reason that I don’t trust the government to take control of young people’s lives and deal with them fairly. But I must make one observation:
In the past, we needed to institute a draft to protect us from the Fascism of the Axis powers. Later, we imposed a draft in the vain belief that we needed it to protect us from the totalitarianism of Chinese Communism and Soviet world domination.
Now, as Charlie Rangel argues, we may need to institute a draft to protect us from American fascism. He’s got a point there.
“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”