“O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky;
but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Matthew 16:3 (KJV)
but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Matthew 16:3 (KJV)
In Russia, it's draft season again.[see article below] As the brutal and unpopular war in Chechnya grinds on with no resolution in sight, the Russian Army is finding it difficult to fill its recruiting quota of at least 155,000 able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 27. Those who choose not to serve in the military have the alternative of four years in government-approved non-military service. But that term of involuntary servitude, notes Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, (RFE/RL) "is widely viewed as too long and attracts only a handful of conscripts every year."
RFE/RL cited criticism of the Russian conscription program by "human rights activists," who reported that those Russians without economic or political means to evade the draft are subject to brutal (and often fatal) hazing rituals.
"What we now have in Russia are Soviet armed forces, the same forces that entered Prague, Baku, that fought in Afghanistan and Karabak," complains Valentina Melnikova, head of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers. "It's the very same Soviet army." Aleksandr Petrov of Human Rights Watch reports that Red Army press gangs are conducting raids of popular nightclubs in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Novosibirsk to "arrest" young men who have chosen not to enlist.
It's important to note that RFE/RL is a propaganda arm of the U.S. government, which treats the Putin regime on one day as a gallant ally in the "war on terror" and on the next upbraids the former KGB officer for his authoritarian practices. Like the hypocritical Pharisees of old, Washington is always indecently eager to audit the shortcomings of other governments, while studiously ignoring its own. What RFE/RL describes in Russia today could be taken as preview of the United States in 2007.
The air is thick with signs that a serious effort to reinstate the draft will occur sometime in 2006 – most likely in a "lame duck" session of Congress following mid-term elections.
Investigative reporter Kevin Zees notes that the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think-tank top-heavy with former Clinton administration figures, sponsored a recent forum to discuss a conscription plan quite similar to Russia's. As outlined in the March issue of Washington Monthly by Capt. Philip Carter, U.S. Army (ret.) and Paul Glastris, the plan envisions requiring all 18-year-olds – of both sexes – to serve 1–2 year terms of mandatory service, either in the military, homeland security, or in a federal program like AmeriCorps, as a condition of being permitted to attend college.
This plan would be politically viable, the authors insist, since it would dispense with deferments and exemptions, and allow draftees to choose their preferred form of involuntary servitude. More importantly, however, by having a pool of conscripts required to serve several years of reserve duty, this system would offer "surge capacity" – that is to say, a large and ever-expanding pool of potential coffin-stuffers.
"Both the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century and the 'progressive' Center for American Progress are calling for adding 100,000 new soldiers," writes Zeese. "During the presidential campaign Senator John Kerry also called for adding tens of thousand more troops to the military services." Lawrence Korb, a former Pentagon official under Ronald Reagan who now serves as a Senior Fellow at CAP, also supports expanding the military by 100,000 troops, and while he opposes a return to the draft at present, he would support conscription – amid agonies of professed reluctance – should we remain mired in Iraq for another year, or the Bush administration choose to extend the blessings of "liberation" to Iran, Syria, or some other country.
Korb's role in this exercise is that of a shill – the conman's henchman who feigns skepticism and gradually allows himself to be "won over" as a way of deceiving the victims. In an interview with the April 4 San Francisco Chronicle, Korb insisted that he "supports the all-volunteer military" but warns that "the Bush administration is severely straining the military and faces a deadline. 'You've got about another year,' said Korb…. 'If you don't cut back in Iraq, your all-volunteer Army and Marine Corps are going to be in big trouble.'"
Just as significantly, the case for reinstating the draft has found an attentive audience at the Council on Foreign Relations, the oldest and most influential establishment think-tank. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) During a March 9 presentation at the Council, Rep. Rangel, who has sponsored a measure to reinstate conscription, outlined a plan very similar to that proposed by Carter and Glastris.
Those liable to conscription "would be about 36 million people between 18 and 26," stated Rangel. "We couldn't possibly need more than a million, probably far less than that, for military activity…. So it would seem to me that … you bring everybody in, and then you determine what can you do with them, what contribution can they make? National security is not just guns and bombs…. We can train people to do these non-military jobs. They can go overseas. They can stay here. They could be the eyes and ears."
Rangel, like Carter and Glastris, is alluding to the Marxist concept of the "equal liability of all to labor" in state-appointed forms of compulsory service, as described in the eighth plank of the Communist Manifesto. They also lay bare the essence of conscription, which is the rejection of the idea of self-ownership (or, as Christians believe, self-stewardship under God's sovereignty) in favor of the idea that all citizens are property of the State.
Few have summarized the lethal logic of conscription more candidly than Bernard Baruch, chairman of the War Industries Board during World War I. "Every man's life is at the call of the nation and so must be every man's property," declared Baruch on August 7, 1918. "We are living today in a highly organized state of socialism. The state is all; the individual is of importance only as he contributes to the welfare of the state. His property is his only as the state does not need it. He must hold his life and possessions at the call of the state."
Nothing in the U.S. Constitution authorizes the federal government to conscript citizens for any reason. While Congress has the authority to call out the "militia" – which is, in effect, the armed adult population – to defend our nation against invasion or insurrection, this cannot be done through a draft without violating the Thirteenth Amendment.
The problem is that the government has blithely disregarded these clear constitutional prohibitions in the past, and will do so again if permitted to do so. It is easy to foresee a draft-cum-national service measure being passed quietly in December 2006. Who's to stop this from happening?
The mothers of America, that's who.
In Post-Soviet Russia, the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers is desperately trying to reverse an existing injustice – conscription into a corrupt collectivist army. In Pre-Soviet America, Mothers Against the Draft (MAD) is organizing to pre-empt a return to conscription. Unlike those who burned draft cards or fled to Canada during the Vietnam War, MAD isn't defying an existing (albeit unjust and unconstitutional) law; it's seeking to prevent the passage of that law by forcing Congressmen to go on record before the measure finds traction in the House.
The focused activism of 100 mothers in a given congressional district would be sufficient to compel a Congressman to oppose any measure reinstating the draft in any form. The MAD website offers a printable petition with room for ten signatures.
Are you a mother disinclined to see your sons – and daughters – used as mortar bait? Then sign a petition, get ten of your friends to do the same, and have each of them enlist ten of their friends to do the same. On May 18, the anniversary of the Selective Service Act of 1917, MAD urges mothers across the nation to visit the district offices of their respective congressmen to deliver their petitions – and demand that the Representative go on record regarding the draft. And each mother should treat any answer other than an unequivocal "no" as a threat on the life of her children – which, in fact, it is.
April 13, 2005
Korrin Grigg is a homeschooling mother of five in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Russia: Thousands Dodge Military
Service as Draft Begins
By Claire Bigg
With the opening of the spring conscription campaign, the Russian army is once again struggling to fill its ranks. The annual draft, which began 1 April, aims to find 155,000 able-bodied men between 18 and 27. But it's not easy. The war in Chechnya and a reputation for brutality have made the army deeply unpopular. Thousands of young men across Russia hide from draft commissions and the police in order to avoid military service.
Moscow, 5 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Aleksandr has spent the past seven years learning to look relaxed whenever he sees a police officer.
Like many other young men in Russia, the 25-year-old Muscovite is hoping to evade compulsory military service. He's been successful so far:
"Sometimes you feel a little vulnerable if you see some policemen who might check your documents at any moment," Aleksandr says. "I think the Russian army, in its current form, isn't a professional one. It doesn't make any sense. It's just some kind of farce. That's why I simply refuse to be another cog in this machine."
The Russian army's prestige, together with its funding, plummeted after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It's been a serious setback for President Vladimir Putin, who has put a priority on reviving the country's demoralized army, even as Russia's grinding war in Chechnya is in its sixth year.
Rights groups in Russia and abroad often blame the army for violating the rights of conscripts by recruiting scores of young men whose health should make them unfit for service.
Aleksandr Petrov, who works for Human Rights Watch in Moscow, says the army is also known to raid popular hangouts such as bars and nightclubs to enroll conscript-age men:
"A year or two ago, such raids were carried out on a massive scale. Now we also hear reports that more raids are taking place in Moscow, in Saint Petersburg, or in other big cities like Novosibirsk," says Petrov. "Such things really happen quite frequently. Sometimes these arrests are accompanied by rough questioning and physical action."
The horror stories that circulate about hazing and abuse in the army only add to the reluctance of many young men to spend two years in the military.
Last October, during the last conscription campaign, Human Rights Watch said in a report that new conscripts faced grossly abusive and humiliating treatment.
Russia's military command reacted by saying the report overplayed the problem and vowed to stamp out abuse.
The practice of hazing in the Russian army is so common it even has a name, "dedovshchina," which roughly translates to the "rule of grandfathers." Rights groups say dozens of conscripts die every year during hazing rituals.
Valentina Melnikova, head of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, a nongovernmental organization seeking to protect the rights of draftees, soldiers and their parents, fully sympathizes with men who refuse to serve in the army:
"Not all young men want to serve in the army, particularly those who don't want to go to Chechnya, get beaten up and made fun of, and who know that money is extorted there," Melnikova says. "The fact that people don't want to go to these stupid barracks is a totally reasonable opinion and wish. What we now have in Russia are Soviet armed forces, the same forces that entered Prague, Baku, that fought in Afghanistan and Karabakh. It's the very same Soviet army."
Conscripts do have an alternative -- a four-year non-military service. But it's widely viewed as too long and attracts only a handful of conscripts every year.
Affluent and educated families often manage to keep their sons out of the army. This means that poorer recruits make up a growing part of the armed services.
Many of these recruits suffer from ill health or alcohol or drug addiction, which has led the armed forces to regularly complain about the "low quality" of conscripts.
The General Staff recently announced that as many as 57 percent of conscripts drafted in the fall had health problems that prevented them from taking part in all of the army's standard exercises. More than one in 50 recruits had spent time in prison.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2005 RFE/RL, Inc.