[Marxism] 'Black Commentator' backs draft as way to end "permanent war"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Mar 2 22:10:56 MST 2005


The Commentator's demand for a draft will surely be granted when the
ruling class (perhaps by then embroiled with the Syrian as well as the
Iraqi "reactionary resistance" to American "democratization") decides it
must be implemented now. Will the Black Commentator support the draft
then?  That will be a more important test than the one the Commentator
is failing now, when the ruling class seems united in attempting to hold
off on restoring the draft as long as possible.
Fred Feldman


COMMENTARY: Black Commentator wants to end 'permanent war' by bringing
back 
the draft

[The Black Commentator is a weekly online publication featuring
"commentary, 
analysis, and investigations on issues affecting African Americans," 
co-published by veteran journalists Glen Ford and Peter Gamble.  --  In
the 
piece below, they present a powerful argument for the view that only the

return of the draft will undermine the American public's support for the
U.S. 
national security state's drive to achieve permanent global hegemony
disguised 
as a "war on terror" for "democracy" and "freedom."  --  The crux of the

argument:  "The Black Commentator believes that universal national
service is 
necessary to bring the Pirates' global project to a permanent halt.  As
we 
wrote on January 9, 2003, soon after Rangel and his small band of
colleagues 
first introduced HR 163:  'Permanent War requires the political
acquiescence 
of broad sections of the middle and upper middle classes.  Immunity from

conscription guarantees a high level of acceptance of the current
rulers' 
global military ambitions.'"  --  Thanks to Mark Nagel for sending this.

--Mark]

http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/2350/

Cover Story

THREAT OF DRAFT WILL TAME WARLIKE U.S. POPULACE

The Black Commentator
Issue 126
February 17, 2005

http://www.blackcommentator.com/126/126_cover_draft.html

The debate on the draft, to the extent it exists, focuses too heavily on
the 
U.S. military crisis in Iraq and far too little on American domestic 
arrangements that enabled the Bush Pirates to launch their War Against
All, in 
which Iraq was supposed to be only the first, triumphal episode.
Although it 
is unquestionably true that Iraqi resistance has strained U.S. forces to
the 
breaking point -- compelling the Bush men to torture their own soldiers
with 
extended tours of duty and to prepare a *selective* draft of citizens 
possessing special skills -- it does not follow that a draft will rescue
the 
Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Grand Plan.  Quite the opposite:  a universal
military 
and national service draft such as proposed by Harlem's Charles Rangel
and a 
small group of other congressmen would utterly wreck the social compact
that 
makes endless war politically possible, by forcing Americans to ponder
the 
consequences of U.S. foreign policy to their own families and friends
for the 
first time in 32 years.

Anti-war appeals based on morality have only marginal impact on those
who 
believe they are the living embodiment of human civilization -- or even
God's 
plan on Earth.  White America is largely unmoved by the deaths of
foreigners, 
especially people of color.  Indeed, a huge slice of Euro-Americans
actively 
revel in punishing dark people in lands they cannot find on a map -- a 
vicarious thrill experienced from a great distance.  Although support
for the 
Iraq war has declined from a little over three-fifths of the general
public in 
the weeks just before the invasion, to about two-fifths at the time of
Bush's 
second inauguration, it seems clear that the slippage is due more to
disgust 
at the administration's endless blunders and lies, than to revulsion at
the 
treatment of Iraqis under occupation.

>From the beginning of the aggression, there has been precious little
empathy 
for Iraqis among American whites.  A Zogby-*Atlanta
Journal-Constitution* poll 
conducted in February 2003, six weeks before Shock and Awe commenced,
found 
that 62 percent of whites and 60 percent of Hispanics supported an
invasion, 
but only 23 percent of African Americans did.  But the most revealing 
responses came when Zogby pollsters asked:  "Would you support or oppose
a war 
against Iraq if it meant thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties?"  As we

reported in the Black Commentator:  "A solid majority of white men
answered in 
the affirmative, as did more than a third of white women.  Only seven
percent 
of African Americans favored a war that would kill thousands.  Hispanics
lost 
some of their bloodlust when confronted with the prospect of mass Iraqi 
civilian casualties; only 16 percent are willing to support such an
outcome."

Bush's social base gave him their mandate to slaughter innocents.  There
has 
been no evidence of general revulsion at the flattening of Fallujah, or
the 
near-destruction of Najaf.  The "German excuse" -- that the public was
not 
aware of the atrocities -- doesn't wash, since these crimes against
whole 
cities received ample coverage in the mass media.

Spikes in *American* casualties during the battles for Najaf and
Fallujah did 
cause support for the war to dip.  However, according to a Scripps
Howard News 
Service survey conducted this month:  ""Most Americans guess wrong when
asked 
to estimate how many troops have died in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, a
sign 
that many are giving scant attention to the nation's most dangerous
military 
operation since the Vietnam War.  A new survey of 1,001 adults conducted
by 
Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University found that fewer than
half 
said they 'very closely' follow news coverage of the military
occupation.  
Less than a third named 'the war on terror' or 'peace in the Mideast' as
the 
most important issue facing America.  Most others preferred domestic
concerns 
like the economy, Social Security, education or health care."

Only about 40 percent of respondents got within 500 of the death toll,
which 
stood at about 1,450 at the time of the survey.  [On Mar. 2, 2005, Iraq 
Coalition Casualty Count reported the figure as 1,499 
(http://icasualties.org/oif/).

Recent polls indicate that a majority of the 70 percent of America that
is 
white still support the war -- that is, the social base for Bush's war
policy 
remains intact.  Moreover, the 58 percent general opposition to the war 
recorded in the mid-January ABC-*Washington Post* poll was not intense
enough 
to deny Bush an overall approval rate of 52 percent.

Two years of polling indicate that, 1) at least half of white America
condones 
(or cheers) war crimes against Iraqis, 2) much of the opposition to the
war is 
weak in intensity, and 3) the public feels, in general, only distantly 
connected to the war, or to the soldiers who are fighting it.

All three outcomes are directly related to the all-volunteer nature of
the 
U.S. military.  After a generation and a half without a draft, the
citizens of 
the world's hyper-aggressive, sole superpower, packing more armaments
than the 
rest of the planet combined, have only the most tenuous links to their
armed 
forces.  A fraction of American families contribute members to the
military, 
drawn from Black America (22 percent), Latino America (less than 10
percent) 
and mainly small town and southern whites from the mid to lower income
groups.
The remainder of U.S. families do not feel directly "at risk" and may 
therefore cheer, bemoan or ignore U.S. military adventures from the 
psychological distance of their choosing.

A TRUE NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON WAR

Congressman Rangel's office says he will resubmit his draft bill "in a
couple 
of weeks."  The Black Commentator supports HR 163 for the same reasons
that 
the Bush regime and the Joint Chiefs of Staff oppose it:  a universal
draft 
would drastically alter the composition of the armed forces, destroy
much of 
the social base for Bush's plans for endless warfare, and create the 
conditions for a truly national conversation about U.S. foreign policy.

Rather than empower Bush or any future president to make war at will, a
draft 
(or even the serious threat of a draft) would act as a brake on
deployment of 
the U.S. military.

Creation of a volunteer force in 1973 solved a number of critical
problems for 
U.S. military and civilian war planners.  The officer class had emerged
from 
Vietnam totally traumatized by its experience with what was a largely
Black 
and poor ground force, especially in "line" combat units.  This "Black
Street 
Army" (see the Black Commentator,  July 3, 2003) had been recruited and 
drafted at the height of the war in order to avoid dipping further into
the 
politically influential white middle-class manpower pool, which would
have 
further eroded the social base for the war.  (The upper strata insulated
their 
youth through a variety of exemptions and devices.)  However, white
officers 
could not handle the heavily Black units -- "They are the ones who ain't
going 
to take no more shit," said a Black lieutenant of the era -- resulting
in 
something resembling a race war *within* the Vietnam war.  The Pentagon
vowed 
never to allow such a military demographic pattern to recur.

Contrary to the received wisdom of many past and present anti-war
activists, 
the top brass welcomed the end of the draft, as did their civilian 
counterparts.  By offering much better pay and living conditions in a
scaled 
down force, the Pentagon was able to methodically shape the military it 
desired.  Escape from the ghetto to the barracks became increasingly
difficult 
in "peacetime" as recruitment standards were raised (just in time for
the 
onset of mass Black incarceration as national policy).  The combat arms
of the 
Army got whiter -- and later, more heavily Latino.  As a result of
selective 
recruiting combined with discrimination in the private sector, African 
Americans entered the military with higher scores and better
qualifications 
than whites, resulting in Black clustering in support units.  The days
of the
"Black Street Army" in the combat arms were definitively over.

Selective recruitment and racially tailored standards yielded the
desired 
political results for both commanders and civilian war makers.
Increasingly, 
the Red (and redneck) regions and districts were supplying the bulk of 
military manpower.  (The exception is Army women, over half of whom are 
African American.)  According to an exhaustive 2003 study by the *New
York 
Times*, 
(http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2003/Military-Working-Class30mar03.htm)
by 
2000 42 percent of enlistees came from the South, as opposed to only 14 
percent from the Northeast.  The political attitudes of the officer
class 
hardened, as well.  The *NYT* study reported:  "Those who warn of a
warrior 
class cite a study by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies in
North 
Carolina showing that between 1976 and 1996 the percentage of military 
officers who saw themselves as nonpartisan or politically independent
fell 
from more than 50 percent to less than 20 percent.  The main beneficiary
of 
this shift has been the Republican Party.

The full-time military is led by Right-leaning officers and staffed by
whites 
from conservative, smallish places and politically marginal Blacks and 
Latinos.  Civilian war planners believed this was an ideal mix:  a
relatively 
small force whose family connections did not effectively penetrate most
of the 
body politic, particularly the influential sectors of society.  If
missions 
went awry, only a fraction of the citizenry would have a personal stake
in the 
matter -- and a politically weak fraction, at that.  In other words, the
force 
was eminently *deployable*.

The military-industrial-complex also favored a smaller, but much more 
high-tech, military -- that's where the huge contracts come from.
Secretary 
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld held the same job under President Gerald Ford
in 
1975 and 1976, the formative years of the "fewer boots, bigger bang" 
all-volunteer project.  By 2003, the strategy had morphed into Shock and
Awe 
and the (racist) delusion that a small force of wired soldiers could
pacify 
Iraq and then march on to Iran, Syria and beyond.

BUSH'S CATCH-22

The Iraqi resistance has succeeded in bringing the high-tech,
all-volunteer 
U.S. Army and Marines to the brink of collapse, causing the Bush men to 
utterly shred the spirit of the contract with the Reserves and National
Guard.
The Bush regime confronts a classic Catch-22.  Having exhausted the
existing 
system's human resources (despite the hiring of highly expensive
mercenaries 
from around the globe), they must somehow secure a quick and general
infusion 
of new manpower or abandon the Iraq mission as currently deployed.  But
a 
general draft -- or even the perception that such was imminent -- would
almost 
immediately cause the social base for *this* war to implode.  Thus,
Secretary 
Rumsfeld bombastically denies that anything resembling a draft has ever
been 
on the table.  ". . . the idea of reinstating the draft has never been 
debated, endorsed, discussed, theorized, pondered or even whispered by
anyone 
in the Bush administration," lied Rumsfeld, quoted in Tim Dickinson's
superb 
January 27 *Rolling Stone* article, "The Return of the Draft." 
(http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/_/id/6862691?rnd=11083326165
15&has
-player=true&version=6.0.12.1040)

Instead, the administration explores involuntary call-ups of citizens
with
"special skills, such as medical personnel, linguists, computer network 
engineers, etc.," according to a Selective Service memo revealed under
the 
Freedom of Information Act.  The *Rolling Stone* report continues:  "The
memo 
then proposes, in detail, that the Selective Service be 're-engineered'
to 
cover all Americans -- 'men and (for the first time) women' -- ages
eighteen 
to thirty-four.

That's a lot longer than Rangel's bill, which would affect all citizens
of 
both sexes from age 18 to 26.  And the Selective Services' targeted
skill sets 
typically emerge from very vocal, rather than marginalized, classes -- a
no-go 
for *this* war, which is supported by only a slim majority of white
people.

As a practical matter, and with the Iraq clock ticking toward an unknown
zero 
hour, the Bush regime has no choice but to hold the lives of current
uniformed 
personnel hostage.  "The Pentagon has . . . involuntarily extended the 
enlistments of as many as 100,000 soldiers," under the "stop loss"
policy, 
writes Dickinson.  Forty thousand National Guard troops in Iraq "have
been 
informed that their enlistment has been extended until December 24th,
2031.

There is actually a perverse and evil poetry in threatening to retain
soldiers 
for 27 years.  In World War Two, soldiers served "for the duration."
Bush 
envisions constant warfare until the "enemies of freedom" are
vanquished, 
everywhere -- a war whose "duration" could stretch beyond the horizons
of 
imagination.

ANTI-DRAFT BUT PRO-WAR

The situation on the ground in Iraq has long been beyond U.S. control,
and 
even a selective draft could not save the monstrous mission as
originally 
conceived.  Yet the Pirates are determined to continue their eternal
offensive 
by any means at their disposal *as long as there is no domestic check on
their 
freedom of action*.  Where there is not enough manpower, they will use 
airstrikes, as during the long lead-up to the assault on Fallujah.  If
they 
cannot invade Iran or Syria with conventional U.S. columns, they will
deploy 
proxies and special forces, backed by aircraft and missiles.

The *Rolling Stone*'s Tim Dickinson notes, correctly, that a
"societywide 
draft would . . . make it more difficult for politicians to commit
troops to 
battle without popular approval."   The Black Commentator believes that 
universal national service is necessary to bring the Pirates' global
project 
to a permanent halt.  As we wrote on January 9, 2003, soon after Rangel
and 
his small band of colleagues first introduced HR 163:  "Permanent War
requires 
the political acquiescence of broad sections of the middle and upper
middle 
classes.  Immunity from conscription guarantees a high level of
acceptance of 
the current rulers' global military ambitions."

Short of a global catastrophe, the only force on Earth that can pull the
plug 
on the Pirate project, is an aroused American people.  Yet the vast
majority 
of the public perceive no direct stake in foreign policy; they either
applaud 
or fail to decipher the codes of war-talk, because "the bulk of this
cocooned 
population, which has the power to extinguish the species, cares only
about 
itself.  Before they will embrace humanity, they must first be given
cause for 
personal anxiety.  A draft is both moral and a practical necessity, if
there 
is to be any impediment to Americans' second-hand, long-distance, mass
killing 
sprees.

The Black Commentator has no quarrel with our friends who oppose
militaries in 
all forms, on principle.  However, even as the U.S. declines, it will
remain a 
huge power, with an awesome military -- a curse on the world -- unless
the 
Pirate class is deprived of the domestic social base for its
aggressions.  A 
draft will do that.  We also believe that "national service" is anything
that 
democratically elected governments want it to be -- and Lord knows, much
of 
this nation needs servicing.

Let's be clear:  an anti-draft movement is not necessarily an anti-war 
movement.  This is evident in the February 14 press release of Mothers
Against 
the Draft (MAD):   "Those who choose to serve in the military have our 
respect," [MAD national chairperson Janine] Hansen said, "but we worry
when we 
hear that our precious young sons and daughters may be forced to fight
for 
others in foreign lands.  In the 'land of the free and home of the
brave,' 
those who are drafted and forced to fight are not free . . . .  Support
for 
Mothers Against the Draft crosses all ideological and political lines.
We 
have individuals from all political parties who are helping in this
effort.  
Support is coming from every quarter.  Americans may be hawks or doves,
they 
may or may not support this war, but they are overwhelmingly opposed to
a 
draft," said Nancy Spirkoff, MAD Secretary.

No less a rightwing celebrity than Phyllis Schlafly, national President
of the 
conservative Eagle Forum, recoils at the thought that people from her
own 
circles might be subjected to conscription.  "If America wants to remain
a 
free nation, we must reject all proposals for a military draft.  Liberty

cannot coexist with involuntary servitude.

Schlafly, and doubtless many others whose support is sought by MAD, have
no 
problem with the Iraq war, as long as small town white folks, Latinos
and 
Blacks "choose" to fight it for her.  It is precisely this 32-year-long 
ability to opt-out of war -- while voting for it -- that makes the
nominal 
U.S. democracy so dangerous.

The Schlaflys of this world must be forced to "choose" between
withholding 
support for U.S. adventures, or risking the lives of their own kith and
kin.  
Only then will we witness a real national dialogue on war and peace --
among 
people who are all stakeholders in the balance.

A TWILIGHT STRUGGLE

When we first endorsed HR 163 just before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, 
readers argued, essentially, that the rich will always find a way to
avoid 
national service.  Not easily, under this bill.  Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA),

co-sponsor of the legislation along with Rangel and Representatives John

Conyers (D-MI), Jim McDermott (D-WA), John Lewis (D-GA), and Neil
Abercrombie 
(HI), explained:  "This bill requires all young Americans -- men and
women 
between 18 and 26 -- to perform a two year period of national service in
a 
military or civilian capacity as determined by the President.  For those
who 
conscientiously object to war, the bill assures that any military
service 
would not include combat.  Otherwise, there would be no preferences, no 
deferments, no chance for the well-off or the well-connected to dodge
military 
service for their country, as did our President.

We have no illusions that national service will come anytime soon.
However, 
the Pirates' strategy is one of constant escalation, as they attempt to 
shatter world order and then replace it with their own edifice.  
Hyper-aggression tends to accelerate the political process.  Talking in 
war-code to a Parisian audience, Condoleezza Rice made it clear that she
sees 
warfare throughout the entirety of our lives:  "If we make the pursuit
of 
global freedom the organizing principle of the 21st century, we will
achieve 
historic global advances -- for justice and prosperity, for liberty and
for 
peace.

The primary question is not the Pirates' ability to sustain particular 
military operations of one kind or another, but their capacity to
sustain 
political support for their wars of aggression.  At this stage in U.S. 
history, a draft would break their backs.





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