Hell, no! We won#039;t go (because we#039;re rich)

by Beacon Staff • November 8, 2006

However, it's time to put all the rhetoric aside and realize that reinstating the draft is the only moral and practical thing to do, given the circumstances of our nation today.,The reinstating of the draft is the boogeyman of many college-aged students. It's used as a threat, a warning and a fear tactic. Few issues illicit as much passion.

However, it's time to put all the rhetoric aside and realize that reinstating the draft is the only moral and practical thing to do, given the circumstances of our nation today.

In the 1960s and '70s, at the height of the antiwar movement, protesters took to the unsavory practice of publicly burning their draft cards. Standing beneath radical banners, they would chant for peace in Vietnam and an end to involuntary service.

Their slogans echo through the corridors of history, and still today we know many of them. Few are unfamiliar with the grainy footage of demonstrators crying, "Hell no, we won't go!" as they swell in great numbers against police lines.

Who were these ignoble youths? Were they not, in fact, sons and daughters of privilege? Were they not white middle-class kids playing rebel within the cozy insulation of the academy's walls?

Meanwhile, as they sought desperately to save their own skins from the increasingly wide-ranging conscription calls, their countrymen born black or poor were dying by the tens of thousands. The under-classes had no viable recourse to submitting to the pressure of the war machine.

Not much has changed in the last 40 years. Today, the American military-a force which is disproportionately poor and non-white-is locked in a brutal conflict sparked by and sustained for the interests of mostly rich and white elites.

Horrifying as the Iraq War is, the vast majority of our society does not feel its most dire consequences. The tragic weight of this quagmire is being shouldered by individuals who have and will continue to be marginalized by our present socioeconomic system.

Consider the poorly balanced composition of the American military. In 2002, blacks made up 22 percent of all personnel, while comprising no more than 13 percent of the civilian population. Hispanic Americans are also over-represented in the American military.

In conjunction with these racial disparities are drastic class abnormalities. For example, according to the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization devoted to social justice, Puerto Rico is now the Army's recruiting area of choice. With an unemployment rate of more than 40 percent, the military finds it easy to entice youths into the ranks, often with misleading promises of benefits and high pay.

The targeting of lower-class youths has also been widely observed in the continental US, where the so-called "poverty draft" is evident in inner-city high schools and working-class college campuses.

But perhaps schools are not the best recruiting grounds. According to the Population Reference Bureau, "children of college-educated parents are less likely to serve ... [and] college students are less likely to enlist."

The National Longitudinal Study of 1972, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education, asserts "those who joined the military were of lower socioeconomic status ... than those who did not serve." According to a 10-year study featured in a 2000 issue of Military Psychology, this trend has persisted through the decades.

Additionally, the South, with some of the nation's most impoverished areas, offers up more than 40 percent of all recruits.

As has been the case in almost every U.S. conflict, Iraq is not an operation undertaken by the whole of American society. Without question, our collective strength and resolve are not in this battle.

Certainly the war is abhorrent, but far more offensive is the callousness of middle- and upper-class America. When we make the difficult choice to take up arms against a foreign enemy, we must do so as a united people.

Given Middle America's tendency toward less Spartan lifestyles, the only means to such an ends is the reinstatement of Selective Service.

A new draft should be governed with significant vigilance, so as to guard against the injustices which typically cripple the practice. That means no "get out of jail free" card for the wealthy or for students. Citizens with moral objections to a particular conflict may be put in public service or medical aid programs.

We must bring back the draft to save our national character. We must bring it back to alleviate the suffering of the underprivileged. Let it be that we fight together or we do not fight at all.