Youth around the country protest the war, draft
wo years after the Bush administration launched its colonial war against the people of Iraq, a national popular uprising against the occupation has stretched the U.S. military to the breaking point. The Pentagon is struggling to find new recruits, prompting many to fear the return of the draft.
The Army reported on April 1 that it had missed its March recruiting goal by 32 percent. The Marine Corps also came up short. The Army Reserve missed its March goal by 46 percent.
The Army National Guard has not yet released its numbers for March, but has missed its recruiting goal in every month of the current fiscal year through February.
Boston WW photo: Peter Cook
The ongoing strain on the Pentagon and its failure to recruit new cannon fodder has led senior military officials, lawmakers and defense experts to question the viability of the “all volunteer force.”
In the Washington Monthly March cover story Phillip Carter and Paul Gastric wrote: “America can remain the world’s superpower. Or it can maintain its current all-volunteer military. It can’t do both.”
New York Photo: Jamey O’Quinn
Meanwhile, the Selective Service Sys tem, the agency responsible for conducting a draft, is busy fine-tuning the conscription machinery. Accord ing to its 2004 Perform ance Plan, the agency is staffing local draft boards, purchasing new software, training local volunteer registrars, and practicing with the draft lottery process.
All of this is in order to “ensure a mobilization infrastructure of 56 State Head quarters, 442 Area Offices and 1,980 Local Boards [is] operational within 75 days of an authorized return to conscription.”
The agency filed a report with Congress on March 31, summarizing its progress in meeting this goal.
On the same day, youth and activists across the country issued their own report: They will refuse to be cannon fodder for the empire.
Youth answer: ‘Hell no!’
The anti-war group No Draft, No Way had issued a call for a March 31 National Day of Action against the draft and military recruiting. Youth, students and activists across the country took to the streets that day.
In Boston, demonstrators included GI resister Carl Webb, students who walked out of Somerville High School to protest the war, representatives from Steel Workers Local 8751-Boston School Bus Drivers, and HERE/UNITE Local 26. They picketed in front of the downtown Military Recruiting Center. The protest, called by the International Action Center-Boston, received a lot of support from passersby, including a group of students who joined the protest.
In New York City, activists from the youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together—FIST—were joined by students, parents, clergy, veterans, and anti-war activists for a demonstration at the Board of Education. They occupied the steps of the building and unfurled a banner that read, “Resist the war, stop the draft!”
In Raleigh, N.C., the local FIST chapter demonstrated in front of a military recruiting station. While more than 30 people protested, several of them blocked the entrance. Meanwhile they read a statement denouncing the war, the draft and military recruiting.
In Bloomington, Ind., people turned out at the newly opened office of the Indiana National Guard for a spirited protest against the draft and military recruiting. Protesters carried big banners reading, “End the occupation of Iraq,” and, “Stop recruiting for the war machine,” and signs that said, “No recruiting on Kirkwood” and, “You shouldn’t have to kill to pay for an education!” The demonstration was publicized by local media for several days prior to the event and was carried live on local radio.
In Buffalo, N.Y., the International Action Center and the Troops Out Now Coalition held a protest in front of the federal office building downtown. Activists carried signs that proclaimed, “Hell no, we won’t go” and, “No draft, no way!”
In Worcester, Penn., 60 Methacton High School students walked out of class, voicing their opposition to the war and a potential draft reinstatement. The students convened near the school’s flagpole holding anti-draft signs.
No Draft, No Way held a protest in Charlotte, N.C., in front of the military recruiting station.
In Nashville, Tenn., students held a No Draft, No Way rally across from Vanderbilt University.
In Santa Rosa, Calif., the Sonoma County Peace & Justice Center held a rally at the courthouse featuring anti-draft speakers and music. Students joined in and signed a Conscientious Objectors Pledge of Resistance.
In Ames, Iowa, students walked out of campus at Iowa State University and rallied against the draft.
Next step: April 16 conference
The next steps for the struggle against the draft will include a conference on youth and resistance on April 16. This conference will address the return of the draft, economic conscription and youth organizing.
The conference will focus on concrete actions to shut down recruiting and fight the draft—including a campaign to get United States Army’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps out of schools. These actions will include implementing an opt-out program so that information about students is not given to military recruiters, and an educators’ petition demanding that time be given in schools to talk about the truth behind military recruiting and to educate about the draft.
Speakers at the conference will include Gulf War era veteran and activist Monique Code, Pam Africa, Vietnam-era military resister Larry Holmes, and young people involved in counter-recruiting work on high school and college campuses.
For information about the conference, or to register, go to www. NoDraftNoway.org.
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