Urgent Action Alert:  A Surprising New Direction for Our Tomorrow

November 10, 2008

“If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some.”

–President-Elect Barack Obama, 13 September 2008, National Service Forum at Columbia University.

“It’s time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service…

Here’s how it would work. Young people will know that between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, the nation will enlist them for three months of civilian service. They’ll be asked to report for three months of basic civil defense training in their state or community, where they will learn what to do in the event of biochemical, nuclear or conventional attack; how to assist others in an evacuation; how to respond when a levee breaks or we’re hit by a natural disaster. These young people will be available to address their communities’ most pressing needs.”

—Rahm Emanuel, future Chief of Staff to Barack Obama, co-author of The Plan, pg. 61-62, 2006.

The intentions of the new administration are clear: change is coming.

There is already a call for an increase of 90,000 servicemembers and the possibility of a draft.  In this historic time, the Center on Conscience & War is asking our supporters to remain vigilant and active in the pursuit of peace.

On 13 September 2008 at the National Service Forum at Columbia University president-elect Barack Obama, while speaking about the unequal burden of military service being placed on young men and women from small towns, spoke the following words, “And I think it’s important for the President to say, this is an important obligation.  If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some.”

In his Tuesday night acceptance speech Obama again raised the issue of service; “So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.”

The Center on Conscience & War, as one of the oldest draft counseling organizations in the nation, which has monitored draft issues for decades, can unequivocally state that Obama’s language is an attempt to test the American public’s willingness to support a draft or mandatory national service.   The plan of Rahm Emanuel is strikingly clear.

We cannot afford to watch and wait in hope, but need to act now to prevent a draft or mandatory service from being forced upon our young people.

The intentions of the new administration are clear.  We need to act by engaging our friends, family, neighbors, and Congressional members by informing them about the myths and facts about the draft and universal service.  We need to let President-Elect Obama know that this nation will no longer supply the bodies that are required for war.

Myths and Facts About the Draft.

Myth: In terms of economic status and race, there would be greater diversity.
Fact: No draft will ever be fair.  A draft always has exemptions and the people with knowledge and comprehension of these exemptions will be much more likely to successfully apply.

Myth: If we limit exemptions to only those medically unfit and conscientious objectors to war then a draft would be fair.
Fact: A person who has had their medical record since before they were born will be more likely to be declared medically unfit than a person who grew up going to an emergency room, free clinic, or perhaps had no doctor.  A study reported in the Washington Post in 2004 in which all factors other than race were accounted for showed that African-Americans are sicker than Anglos.  During the Vietnam War, however, a higher percentage of Anglos received a medical exemption than African-Americans.
In reality, a draft board will often misinterpret a sincere claim of conscientious objection as insincere if an applicant is lacking in writing and oral presentation skills which are often gained through being afforded a solid education.

Myth: A draft will help end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as stop an invasion of Iran and Pakistan.
Fact: A military draft was in place prior to both the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  The easy accessibility of new personnel only fueled both wars. The military draft ended three years prior to the end of the Vietnam War, but the antiwar movement continued in full force, much to Nixon’s surprise.  The fact is that the newly and increasingly technologically based military does not need people to invade—only to maintain after the invasion.  The occupation of Iraq is a clear case in point.

Myth: Universal service will help instill patriotism in our young people and add to the strength of the military while providing an alternative for those opposed to the war.
Fact: Our country was founded on the principal of freedom to choose which includes the freedom to vote and the freedom to serve.  Patriotism cannot be forced. Universal service is unlikely to give a truly equal choice between civilian work and military work.  The military service is always going to provide better benefits to put a thumb on the scale.  Take a closer look at the military, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corp and examine the benefits of each.