Thursday, July 01, 2004

Columnist Watch: When Lies Kill

In a opinion piece in the WaPo in what undoubtedly will be just one among many future calls for the reinstatement of the draft, Noel Koch (assist. sec. of def., dir. for spec. planning at def., and spec. assis. to Nixon) argues why the draft won't be such a bad thing afterall. I mean according to him since we can't get out of it if we laid back and relaxed then we might enjoy it.

If we are to fight elective wars, as we are told we must, we need more men and women on active duty.

But there are other good reasons to return to the draft. I joined the Army in 1957. Members of my family had served in every conflict since the Civil War, and service was expected, as was getting a job, getting married and having a family. We were lower middle class and uneducated. I left high school without a diploma. College was not something to which my family aspired. It never occurred to us that we could go.

The draft shattered class distinctions. It mixed high school dropouts with college graduates, rich with middle class and poor. To be sure, the draftees weren't happy to be in the Army, and they were even less happy to be rubbing shoulders with those of us who volunteered. There was friction from basic training through advanced training and, with lessening heat, into assignment to our permanent duty stations. Name-calling was a regular feature of our lives: We were "lifers," "losers," "GIRBs" (GI rat bastards), etc. We had our own names for the draftees. But the educated learned to value those without college degrees, and the uneducated, helped along by the GI Bill, discovered that higher learning might be within reach after all.[emphasis added]

First of all, who told us that we must fight these elective wars? Under what authority do they demand that we do so? Second of all, for someone who served in conflict Noel Koch has an awfully convenient memory. Perhaps in WWII the draft was representative and non-class discriminatory but the whole point of the Abrhams doctrine was to prevent the exact sort of class discrimination that occured in the draft in the Vietnam war years. Let's review the real history as opposed to this poppycock of sentimental and maudlin memories of the historical period. ("The Draft during the Vietnam War" By Leslie Beckner)
The draft system in the 1960's caused the nation to divide. There were many supporters of the draft and war. Many draft-age males found it more prudent to enlist before their numbers came up because they thought they would be drafted anyway and they wanted to "cut themselves a better deal" (Dougan 76). After volunteering and passing the preinduction physicals, many young men chose to join the air force or navy, as opposed to the army or Marine Corps. Their chances of going to Vietnam were less likely in these branches. This logic was shared by the character, Eddie, in the story. When the narrator tells Eddie he's crazy for enlisting, Eddie answers, "What the hell--I know how to weld. They'll put me in welding school and I'll sit it out in Norfolk." He did not think he would see combat in the Navy.

At the same time, though, there were blatant opposers who publicly defied the draft and expressed their distaste for the war by burning their draft cards. There was another category, though, who tried to take advantage of the system of exemptions and deferments. Pancake's narrator tries several options to keep from going to Vietnam. The exemption and deferment system stated whether or not someone was eligible for service and the priority in which they would be used. It also granted deferments for a variety of reasons ranging from student status, to a needed civilian occupation in the United States, to being a minister, to not being qualified at all. In a conversation with his father, the narrator asks, "You reckon I could go to college, Dad?...When I graduate, it's the only chance I got to stay out" (Pancake 5).

College students were eligible for II-S deferments until they fulfilled their degree requirements or reached their twenty-fourth birthday, whichever came first. Initially, it was up to local boards to decide annually whether a student was making satisfactory progress toward a degree. Generally, boards granted a deferment to anyone who could prove that he was enrolled full time in an accredited college or university. However, in early 1966, the Selective Service System initiated the Selective Service College Qualification Test (SSCQT). Any student ranking in the lower levels of their class was eligible for the draft. Despite the nationwide outburst of student protest, over 750,000 students took the test in 1966, in hopes of retaining their student deferments (Segal 34).

As the war continued and antiwar sentiment became more widespread, "the means of evading, avoiding, and resisting the draft were becoming more sophisticated" (Wells 125). However, by far, the most popular way of beating the draft was flunking the preinduction physical. Once a young man became eligible for the draft, "he was required to have an examination to determine his physical, mental, and moral fitness for military service" (Dougan 77). If he passed, he would receive a Selective Service Classification of I-A and become immediately capable of induction. If he failed, he would be classified as IV-F, permanently exempting him from all military service or I-Y, making him available only in time of declared war or national emergency (Segal 39). "While it is reasonable to infer that the majority of IV-F exemptions...were granted for legitimate reasons," writes David Segal, "cases in which individuals contrived to fail their physicals were legion" (40). Some men punctured their arms with pens to create the appearance of "tracks" made by heroine users. Other aggravated old sports injuries or artificially raised their blood pressure using caffeine or other drugs (Wells 125). The narrator in "The Honored Dead" puts a bar of soap underneath his arm during his draft physical to dramatically raise his blood pressure. After being watched for four days, he is sent home with a deferment when the pressure does not lower.

This is a case of somebody who lived through a situation, but because of his ideological blinders and selective memory did not take away wisdom from his experience but rather became idiotic. With all due respect to Mr. Koch's military service, he is a fool if he thinks that there is some inevitability to fighting more elective wars and that we should reinstitute the draft to fight these wars (all without it ever having explained to us what these wars are or why we are fighting) and that somehow this will bring about national unity. Talk about selective attention. Besides the "good ole boys" from back home, you have the entire spectrum of humanity which is to say the good, the bad, and the ugly. (LAT)
Flyer worked at the Pentagon for 28 years, retiring in 1979 as staff director for enlistment standards for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. Since then, he has been hired by the Pentagon as an outside consultant to write dozens of reports.

His 1998 report estimated that about one-third of recruits had arrest records and many were not detected.

Potential recruits with a criminal record can enlist in the armed forces if they receive a moral character waiver. Flyer's 1998 report said that of the estimated 3.5 million recruits who entered the military service between 1978 and 1989, 300,000 had enlisted with a moral character waiver, most for a criminal arrest record.

The report said that those enlisting with a moral waiver were more likely than others to get into criminal trouble or be discharged for bad behavior.

Okay there is reality and there is bullshit. Koch's piece falls into the bullshit category. However whatever the real truth of his memories were, no doubt Koch finds it convenient to recall the "enjoyable aspects" of his experience as a justification on its own merits of sending many more men to their deaths while we yet await a justification for the ones already lost. This no doubt fits in with his sanguine militaristic view.

The scary thing is that the oldman is a hawk, he's just not a stupid one. Yet we will no doubt see more of this bullshit pushed around. Their reasoning will essentially say: yes, we've just got done waging one pointless (except for oil) war and now we need a draft so that we can wage even more destructive and pointless wars! I'm not against war. Sometimes it is the only way to secure national interests. However I am against idiotically conducted, wasteful, poorly justified wars. Lies if they find a popular audience and convince us to go to war will kill our young men as surely as bullets will.


At November 17, 2004 at 1:52 AM, Blogger Tristani said...

Just wanted to say I'm doing a lot of research on the draft and Vietnam (check out my blog if you get a chance) and I found the info here really interesting. Thanks.


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