Tag Archives: draft

Women in the Draft – Yes

Pearl River     The draft was a central issue in the opposition to the Vietnam War.  It touched all young men from eighteen to twenty-six, and the families that loved them.  It was a terribly unifying horror that was shared throughout the country, forcing life changing, and often life and death decisions at a very, very early age that would determine your future, if you were lucky enough to have one.  There was no choice to register, just as there is no choice to register for young men today, but once registered you might be on your way to Vietnam, Canada, or jail or any space in between that you could find.  You might be able to avoid the draft, but you could not avoid the decision.

Though draft was universal for young men, that did not mean it was one-size-fits-all and equitable.  It was class and race-biased with a vengeance.  During that period, when going to college was not as ubiquitous as it is now fifty years later, if you were a student, you could get a 2-S deferment, as a special middle class your-life-is-more-important-than-mine card.  If you knew someone at the local draft board, you were rolling as well, if you ran into trouble on the grades.  I did time as a draft counselor and in draft resistance during that period in both New Orleans and western Massachusetts.  I stopped when I felt like I was running a college service center.  Dropping out of school to organize, I went through draft physicals in Springfield, Massachusetts and New Orleans.  This was a working-class congregational meeting with the preponderance of draftees were people of color.

Anti-war protests were key, but the draft was the trump card in making opposition to the war grow and prevail.  Working offshore on oil platforms in the summer is shift work. I was on 14 and 7.  Company guys were on 7 and 7.  Coworkers were from Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, and of course Texas.  If the money was good, the drive in and out was no big thing.  You worked twelve hour shifts and were stuck out on the water.  You talked, and it was surprising in 1967 when I was a teenager to hear the roustabouts and tool pushers state plainly that they would not let their kids go to Vietnam.

Look at our endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  You want to end a war, institute a compulsory service draft.  You want to end it even faster, given the powers that be, draft women, too.

Not that women can’t fight.  Some 17% of the US military is now composed of women on the front line, as pilots, and any other job that they are able to muster.  They are no longer restricted from combat roles.  As this number grows, it will give some lawmakers pause.  It’s one thing for many of them to volunteer, but as their percentage increases, these old schoolers who want to control their bodies in every other way, are not going to be happy seeing them come back home to their districts in body bags.

A national commission is reportedly recommending that young women be required to register for the draft at eighteen, just as young men do.  I’m all for it.  It virtually guarantees that a compulsory draft will never be used again.

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Trump Military Assault Revives Vietnam and the Draft

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Vietnam War Draft Lottery

Rock Creek, Montana   One nice thing about being mostly off-the-grid for a bit is missing the daily craziness of the emerging political campaign in the United States. Reading the latest news of Donald Trump’s assault and disrespect of the Muslim parents of a fallen soldier in Iraq in 2004 was simply mind-boggling. Is there really a politician from dogcatcher to the White House who doesn’t realize that in America, no matter what our politics or views on war and peace, who doesn’t realize that we give respect to our soldiers who fall in service to our country? Yes, it turns out there is one: Donald Trump!

I can’t believe this, but I thought in 2008 with the victory of Barack Obama over John McCain, we had finally, and thankfully, left Vietnam and the issues of compulsory service at the hands of the draft behind, but now with Trump’s callousness, we are right back in the political quicksand of Southeast Asia again. I feel more like Rip Van Winkle waking up after years of sleep, than simply someone off-the-grid for 48 hours! On this Trump-created political issue, Hillary Clinton, for a change can’t say anything, and from what I can tell, equally thankfully, hasn’t said anything, because she gets a pass, since women were exempt from the draft, so no dissembling or memory lapses on her part are necessary.

Can’t say that for the Donald either. He remembers nothing. Being of Hillary and Donald’s generation, I can categorically assure everyone everywhere that it is absolutely a bald-faced lie. I could say definitively that there is no man of the Vietnam Era who doesn’t vividly recall every detail of his experience with the draft, especially how he might have ended up not serving in Vietnam. George Bush the first was the last of the World War II generation to serve as President, but from that point on we certainly are all familiar with the second George Bush’s time as perhaps a National Guard pilot, and we also heard Bill Clinton’s various stories of how he avoided the draft repeatedly and were wildly familiar with other candidates like John Kerry and John McCain and their experiences in the service.

On this score Donald Trump claims he’s clueless. He pretends he got a high number even though he had already won a series of educational exemptions and then a 1Y deferment based on a willing doctor’s note saying that he was unfit because of bone spurs, all of which occurred and put him in the clear way before the lottery was imposed by a country desperate to make the system seem fairer. Now in the dimness of his memory and perhaps the induced fog-of-war, he knows the bone spurs magically disappeared, but also can’t remember when they arrived or where they went, who the doctor might have been or whether he actually had a physical or simply left the note with the local New York City draft board.

It is way past time for Vietnam and the draft to recede as a political issue at this level, but lying and the truth are always valid concerns when we vote for a president. All of this latest Trump mess from the disrespect of Muslims and our war dead to the make believe stories about his lack of recall on the draft and how he avoided service, though he claims to have always, silently, opposed the war, seems to be vivid proof of another classic example of the breaks easily obtained by someone who was rich when the call came in for yet another US war that was a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”

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