Partisan Number 22
Rethinking the Draft: Let's Draft Capital!
Lately people new to the peace movement have asked me why there is so little anti-war activity against this unpopular war compared to the massive outpourings against the Vietnam War. After thinking about it for awhile I've concluded that one big difference is that there is no military draft.
The lack of a draft means that most people are personally unaffected by what is going on. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) has stirred the political scene during the last couple of years by proposing that the U.S. re-institute the military draft. We do still have the mechanism of a draft with the requirement that young men register with the Selective Service, but no one has actually been drafted for decades. Rangel's proposal, I am told, is not meant to be serious, but to get us thinking about war and peace.
Almost no one is in favor of a return to the draft; anti-war activists equate it with Vietnam, middle America is not keen on having their sons and daughters shot up, and the pro-war folks realize that a draft would galvanize anti-war sentiment in this country.
Could the war hawks be right? Maybe a draft would build opposition to the current military fiasco. But maybe the support for this war would vanish if we drafted something more precious to the rich than young people.
The Peace and Freedom Party has always adamantly opposed the draft. That stance is a legacy of our founding as an anti-war party during the Vietnam War. A war that saw millions of young Americans conscripted into the military against their will, forced to fight an unpopular war, and many suffer serious injury or death. But the draft also helped mobilize the country against that war and bring it to a halt.
If we are going to reconsider the draft, why should the pain and personal sacrifice fall only on actual people? If there really is a national military emergency (as declared by Congress) then the whole country should sacrifice, including corporations.
If military action is truly necessary for the defense of this country (though it seldom is) then the whole country should be involved. Not only citizens but corporations as well.
There is a legal fiction that corporations have the rights of persons. If so, let's draft them as we would people. Let's draft the CEO's and managers of military supply firms, put them in uniform, run them through boot camp, put privates' stripes on them (OK maybe Second Lieutenant's bars). The companies get no-profit contracts for military supplies. If they refuse, we put the CEO's and managers in the brig and nationalize the company.
This is not a new idea. The famous anti-war Marine General, Smedley D. Butler, suggested, in his book "War is a Racket," that we "conscript capital." He felt this, and other radical ideas like a war vote plebiscite among potential draftees, would "smash this racket" by "taking the profit out of war."
Taking the profit out of war, conscripting CEO's, and drafting corporations should go a long way to hobbling American military imperialism. Hmmm, maybe we should bring back the draft, but this time as an antiwar, anti-imperialist strategy. Draft their capital, and we might see how fast corporations become opponents of war.
John Reiger of Sacramento is a potter.