Draft immunity fuels war machine
labeled "right wing"
Mediocre whites cry bias





Our January 9 commentary "No Draft, No Peace: Rangel and Conyers are right," endorsed universal national service, as proposed by Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI). "By immunizing 95 percent of American families from the immediate consequences of war," we wrote, "the militarists have purchased consent to use the armed forces as they see fit. The deal was concluded in 1973" - when the draft was shelved.

We pointed out that Iraq is just the first stop on an endless itinerary of Permanent War against all nations and forces that are seen to challenge absolute U.S. domination of the globe, the clearly enunciated policy of the Bush regime. The Pentagon opposes universal service because it learned in Vietnam that citizen soldiers are not suited to extended imperial adventures and foreign occupations. The War Party opposes universal service because its middle and upper middle class voter base would not tolerate direct risks to its own sons and daughters. The pirates at the helm of the U.S government require volunteer armed forces to sustain their strategy of Permanent War.

The very utility of this force encourages its use. The same qualities that recommend the volunteer force to war planners, also make endless aggression thinkable. Bush's Permanent War envisions multiple military engagements at any given time, anywhere on the globe, until the entire planet submits to an American-imposed order. Such a strategy is inconceivable under a citizen soldier - universal service - regime, which is why a recall of the draft is anathema to the War Party.

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.

We made it plain that our overarching concern is the War Party's electoral support among the non-serving classes. We did not echo the complaints of a previous era, that Blacks and browns bear the brunt of combat duties. Rather, we are alarmed at the actual composition of today's combat units: heavily white, from the lower economic strata. Permanent War leads inevitably to permanent domestic emergency. Cities will be occupied by these troops. "African Americans cannot and should not feel secure under the guns of the volunteer military," we wrote. We believe that there is a need to confront the exclusion of large chunks of Black youth from the possibility of service under the volunteer military.

We will be frank. is not concerned that African American representation in the combat services will increase under universal service. That is to be expected. Blacks under arms are not the root cause of the disconnect between the American people and the consequences of U.S. foreign policy. The absence of upper income whites from representation in the armed services is the political cancer that threatens planetary survival. American class-plus-race privilege has become a menace to humanity. For Black America, lack of access to the military is the far greater problem. Let us not become confused by hypocrites who claim to care about Black youth mortality.

There are three times as many African Americans in prison than in the U.S. military. Homicide is the leading cause of death among Black juveniles. Black youth are killed on U.S. streets at roughly the same rate as the averaged, yearly Black mortality rate in Vietnam.

The upper income elements of the larger society support war with their votes, but do not risk their youth. The War Party rules because of the deadly electoral math.

Our commentary also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King's April 4, 1967 speech on the Vietnam War, reproduced in this issue. The war had not yet reached its bloody apex (Tet, February 1968), yet King contemplated an ominous future of endless aggressions.

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

Substitute Iraq for Vietnam, and the same prospect faces the nascent anti-war movement, today. Pick any point on the globe. The policy of the Bush regime is to suppress by force of arms all potential challenges to global American rule. It believes the current volunteer military is suited to this purpose.

's job is to stimulate thought, not to echo the slogans that may reverberate among its readership. Some readers responded thoughtfully; others did not. Jonathan W. Hutto Sr. wrote:

This is a right wing response to a very legitimate issue. As we embark on Dr. King's birthday, let us remember his stance on Vietnam and the question of War. Dr. King, in response to the majority of those who fight and die being poor, Black, Latino and from the working class, would not have fought for a mandatory draft which would only widen the percentage of the working class who will shed blood for the Imperialist oil. Instead, he would have urged us to embrace mandatory resistance, mandatory conscientious objection, mandatory struggle and if need be, mandatory Jail!

Conyers and Rangel are wrong on this one and I will be writing an article soon to debunk this nonsense. The Ruling Class will ultimately thank them. No mandatory draft will ever ensure that the children of the rich and ruling class die and shed blood in oil wars. Conyers and Rangel both remind me of what Osagefu Kwame Nkrumah told us years ago, neocolonialism would be the last stage of imperialism!!! No mandatory draft, only mandatory resistance, struggle and conscientious objection!!!

Mr. Hutto engages in needless insult - appearing to label , Conyers and Rangel as stooges of neocolonialism - but proposes nothing to change the rules of the game. He also gets the current rules wrong.

There is no draft to resist - rendering conscientious objection meaningless and leaving the middle and upper middle classes immune to participation in the wars that they support with their votes. And it is illogical that inclusion of the upper social strata would increase the proportion of soldiers from the lower strata.

It was also obvious that Mr. Hutto did not read much more than the headline of our rather lengthy piece. His rebuttal arrived a very few minutes after the commentary was published - instantaneous analysis of a "legitimate issue."

Ron Jacobs' tone was only slightly more acceptable.

While Mr. Rangel and Conyers may have the best of intentions, they are assuming something that is foolish to assume - that a military draft would ever be fair. History tells us over and over that, no matter what kind of draft exists, it is the children of the poor and working class who do most of the killing and dying. The upper and middle classes use the advantages they have received via our society's economic structure to get the military jobs that don't involve shooting people. Those who oppose the wars of the Empire cannot count on the government to do our organizing for us via a draft or any other type of forced servitude.

That task is left up to us. In addition, we must work to encourage men and women not to join the military and to leave it if they have already.

We don't care what motivates people to action against the impending war, as long as they act. We have absolute respect for those who oppose military institutions on principle or on religious grounds. We ask only that they say so.

Mr. Jacobs views universal service as "forced servitude," which we assume is meant to sound like slavery. If that is the case, we trust that he opposes all militaries, under all circumstances, for everyone. Voluntary slavery is illegal and an oxymoron.

More than 30 years ago, the publishers of were fully aware that the bulk of anti-war protesters were actually "anti-draft." When the draft ended, the U.S. military was allowed to perfect its volunteer force. Soon, the non-serving electoral base of the War Party will watch the sanitized results on TV.

Mr. Jacobs appears to think that proponents of universal national service are engaged in a cynical ploy. He calls us "foolish" for saying things we never said. We have not called for universal service simply as a tactic to derail the war against Iraq. It is rather late for that. 's position is that, as long as the United States retains a military, every class of citizen should be equally vulnerable to service. Jacobs avoids discussion of the principle by pointing to the admitted impossibility of devising a privilege-proof system. In reality, he is content to harass the current apparatus at its edges, whenever a conflict excites him to activism, while leaving the gross social/political distortions created by the volunteer military unmolested. This is the road to "rallies without end." It also enshrines the privilege that he purports to abhor.

What we certainly learned from the Vietnam era draft was that the broad masses of the middle and upper classes scrambled to get away from military service, period, and eventually withdrew their support from that particular war. Rangel and Conyers call for no exemptions from service. Mr. Jacobs seems to think that our argument falls apart unless it guarantees that upper class youngsters will get killed in large and roughly proportionate numbers. We see no need to present ghoulish actuarial tables. Everybody who knows anything about the military understands that you can't trust it with your life. Mr. Jacobs is one who doesn't know, having been shielded from the institution.

Mike King, on the other hand, has smelled the animal at close quarters.

Your piece "No Draft, No Piece" in the January 9, 2003 issue of The Black Commentator struck a discordant cord with some deep seated values I have held concerning selective service since Viet Nam, thus forcing me to reexamine my beliefs about the draft. The process is ongoing.

I am white. I dropped out of High School after my junior year in order to join the Marine Corps... the recruitment slogans were too much to resist. I did my time in a recon unit in I Corps (north part of South Viet Nam) in 1968-69. Our teams were racially divided at roughly 60 percent minorities and 40 percent whites. The blacks, as a general rule, were more politically aware. Most of the blacks were drafted, were forced to join or go to jail, or enlisted for a better future. On the other hand only about 50 percent of the whites were drafted as the better off got college deferments.

My first question is: wouldn't college deferments still be a pigeon hole for the same sorts to avoid the draft? Besides, the rich always find a way to keep theirs from harm's way.

As far as racists go, there were both white and black racists in Viet Nam. Granted, they were mostly white, but the military psychologists have fine-tuned the methods by which their minions condition and train young people to be racist against the current enemy of the day.

Second question: what's to insure that the draft will increase the number of blacks in elite or front line units? Most of the blacks I knew and fought side by side with in Viet Nam volunteered for Recon because they were less likely to get killed than by serving in the infantry. I would guess that the reason more blacks aren't in those units today is because the nature of war has changed. With air assaults, smart bombs, air drones that reduce the need for ground troop exposed to combat, even with a new universal service blacks would be even less inclined to volunteer for elite units.

I agree that the current elite forces reek with the ilk of white supremacy; I just don't see how that will change with the institution of a new draft.

I printed off a copy of "No Draft, No Peace" and am discussing it with folks from both sides of the issue. Your answers will help me a lot.

has excellent commentary and I really appreciate the service that you provide.

I personally believe that capitalism is caving in under its own weight. I just hope there is something left of the planet, and if any humans survive, there will be enough of them to not repeat the past and thereby transform humanity.

Mr. King later wrote that he is "leaning" toward support of the Rangel proposition. We are satisfied that he is engaged in the discussion, a duty of all citizens.

Mike King and Bill Nilsen share the same demographic. We're glad they also have similar tastes in reading.

I am a Vietnam-era veteran (USMC) and I am white. I thoroughly enjoyed your commentary entitled No Draft No Peace. Your points were well taken and I agree with your take on the dangerousness of this mercenary-army situation that has developed in the U.S.

As one bright ghetto rapper put it a few years ago, "C.R.E.A.M.", or "Cash Rules Everything Around Me." This exempting of the rich from service is just another manifestation of C.R.E.A.M. - and C.R.E.A.M. is not what made this country great. It's what will be its downfall.

Thanks again for some serious food for thought. I like your always well-written articles very much.

Sue Dennis writes:

What an enlightening and thought-provoking article! I couldn't agree with you more. The disconnect between the upper middle and upper classes [of all races and origins] with the actual effects of our foreign policy, is clearly key to the haphazard and dangerous foreign policy actions of this administration. As always, you say it so very well!

A reader named Russell:

I enjoyed the article about Congressman Rangel's Draft Proposal. It would bring a conscience to an otherwise unconscionable focus of going to war to promote the financial success of multinational corporations over the needs of the people that furnish the tax dollars to fund this illegal government. "Pirates" and "Cowboys" seem apt descriptions of infantile idiots on glory hunts... with no regard for humanity. This Bush Regime has done more damage to this country in three years than we could repair in the next decade.

Nozomi Ikuta noted a typographical mistake of huge dimensions in the article, saving us from great embarrassment. Then, Ikuta made us feel worthwhile all over again.

Thanks so much for your great work. I am Japanese, and I know that your site is primarily for African American readers, but I have to tell you how much I appreciate your commentaries!

I have always been anti-war and anti-draft, but I have to admit that your
article made a lot of sense. In struggle and hope, thanks again!

Selling Sloppy Statistics

Time Wise's article dissecting the phony math behind the Right's suit against affirmative action at the University of Michigan Law School ("Selling Sloppy Statistics," December 12) represents progressive reporting at its best. We're still getting mail about it. Temeka Higgins has observed rampant white privilege at the law school.

I just read this particular article and I felt compelled to write. Why is it that African-Americans are forced to deal with the unfairness of life but Caucasians aren't? I spoke with an administrator at the University of Michigan Law School about the Grutter case and I was told that her application was a mess. (If you don't know about the law school application - it is not simple or straightforward). Also, if you look at the grid comparing grade point average and LSAT scores of the applicant pool for the year the plaintiffs in the case are suing over, you will see that Caucasians with lower scores and grade point average were admitted into the school! Is it okay for less qualified Caucasians to reap benefits but not minorities? Evidently, it is!

Lamar Dwayne Revis, of Washington, DC, is a longtime reader of . That fact alone is sufficient to mark Mr. Revis as man of daunting intelligence.

I came across your site by accident somehow, maybe a year ago. I'm glad it happened. It is wonderful. Your commentary, the articles, the writing... excellent. Superior to excellent, in fact. Thank you very much for doing this work.

Keep Writing


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Issue Number 25
January 16, 2003



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Other commentaries in this issue:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
Riverside Church, New York City - 4 April 1967

Armstrong Williams' Big Move - Black Personnel Director for GOP Inc

The Issues
Death takes a (brief) holiday... Mississippi justice goes national... Black Voices for Peace

Guest Commentary
A Chicano Looks at the Trent Lott Affair by Jorge Mariscal

Commentaries in Issue 24 January 9, 2003:

No Draft, No Peace - Rangel and Conyers are right

The buying of Rev. Dr. Greedygut... More Confederates in GOP closet... It’s a bitch being rich

GOP says Democrats fund loafers... Democrats charge game is rigged... Pacifica station looking for a GM

High Stakes: Black and Latino parents are demanding better schools and fewer tests - By Eric C. Wat

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.