Many Unaware of Possible Military Draft
Many students on campus are unaware of a pending bill in Congress that could greatly affect their futures.
On Jan. 7, 2003, South Carolina Congressman Ernest F. Hollings proposed Bill 89 to the Senate which called for a reinstatement of the military draft in the United States. This bill is the companion to House Resolution 163, proposed by New York Congressman Charles B. Rangel.
Also known as the Universal National Service Act of 2003, the twin bills claim to ‘provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.’
Under this legislation, all men and women between the ages of 18 and 26 are subject to the draft. Permanent residents of the United States, who do not have citizenship, are also eligible for a minimum of two years of service.
Immunity usually granted to students in undergraduate and graduate study during previous drafts will not apply under this legislation.
Jeff Sugiyama, a third-year political science major, found this aspect of the bill most troubling.
‘I think [taking away deferment] is unnecessary because there are so many students that invest their lives into education. To force them into service as soon as they graduate isn’t fair,’ Sugiyama said.
When asked what he would do if drafted, Sugiyama first considered leaving the country but then said, ‘I guess I would just have to go.’
Under the act, conscientious objectors will still be allowed to serve noncombatant roles. After the drafted individual serves their two years, at combatant or noncombatant stations, the bill states that the person ‘shall be discharged from the uniformed services … and shall not be subject to any further service under this Act.’
Sponsors of the bill say that the goal of this legislation is to reduce the number of people in reserves as well as strengthen the U.S. military. Some congressmen feel that the military has been hyperextended over the years. If a war should arise, sponsors claim, America will not be prepared to fight.
Romeo Concepcion, a fourth-year ICS major, does not disapprove of the idea in general.
‘I don’t mind a draft for people 18 to 26. We live in the same country and have a duty to protect each other. If I had to go to defend my friend or if my friend was drafted, I would want to serve beside him.’ Concepcion said.
However, Concepcion said that he does not view the current war against Iraq as a defensive one on part of the United States. ‘I’m not for going into Iraq,’ Concepcion said. ‘We should get out. Why are we sending all these people in if we are not defending anything?’
Critics on various political discourse websites have called the proposed legislation a ‘the stealth draft,’ citing its placement before the 2004 presidential elections as a tactic to distract people from opposition.
Bryan Zuetel, president of the UCI College Republicans, expresses doubts as to the real motivations of this legislation.
‘The real reason behind the proposal of these companion bills is suspect,’ Zuetel said. ‘The two co-sponsors of the bill are pushing the bill in an attempt to turn people against the war in Iraq, not as an attempt to ensure all Americans bear the brunt of war. The lives of men and women should not be made into a political demonstration for the benefit of a few politicians, particularly the co-sponsors of this bill.’
Other naysayers of the proposal are wary of the clause that gives the President complete authority in the manner of induction. These critics feel that this sort of selection will skew the draft pool, placing the heaviest burden on minorities and the underprivileged.
Aki Maehara, a graduate student and a Vietnam War veteran, believes that inequality will result from the draft.
‘Minorities have always served disproportionately in areas of the military, especially where they are more prone to be in combat positions,’ Maehara said.
Maehara also claims that the wealthy will have no problems dodging the draft. ‘They can send their kids to Europe, wait in amnesty, get their doctor friends to write up all sorts of medical problems. There’s all sort of things you can do when you have money. But there’s not much you can do when you’re poor,’ Maehara said.
MEChA is one minority group on campus working to increase awareness of the bill. The organization has formed a subcommittee of students to start a letter-writing campaign, forums and a protest rally in the future.
However, passage of the bill is unlikely in Congress. The bills currently stand with minority support in Congress. Introduced by congressman Rangel, McDermott, Conyers, Lewis, Stark and Abercrombie, it is co-sponsored by 14 other congressmen.
On Feb. 3, 2003, both bills requested comment from the Department of Defense. On that date they were also referred to the Subcommittee on Total Force.
There has been no action on either bill since they were referred to the committee. If passed, however, the reinstatement of the draft could go into effect as early as the spring of 2004.