[Marxism] 'Black Commentator' backs draft as way to end "permanentwar"-minus stairstepping
dbmcdonald at comcast.net
Thu Mar 3 08:49:41 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 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
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.
conscription guarantees a high level of acceptance of the current rulers'
global military ambitions.'" -- Thanks to Mark Nagel for sending this.
THREAT OF DRAFT WILL TAME WARLIKE U.S. POPULACE
The Black Commentator Issue 126 February 17, 2005
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
>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
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
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
(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
Rather than empower Bush or any future president to make war at will, a
(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
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
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.
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."
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
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
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
(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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