SEND NEIL BUSH.
That was a popular rallying cry of the antiwar movement in the days just after the war started on January 16.
Antiwar activists believed that America was all too willing to send its poor and its people of color to die in the Arabian desert. George Bush and the rest of the rich white men in policy-making positions have no problem sending Blacks to kill browns for the benefit of whites. The all-volunteer force is a sham, since economic factors have forced the poorer, Blacker sections of America to sign up in disproportionately high numbers. As in Vietnam, the body bags will again carry home the remains of the politically disempowered underclass.
The national security calculus would be different, activists thought, if George Bush had to commit his own son to the front lines of Desert Storm. The president and his warmonger cronies would be far less enthusiastic about war in the Middle East if they stood to lose their own loved ones.
The best way--the only way--to ensure that the Neil Bushes of America are represented on the front lines in Saudi Arabia is to implement a draft for all men of fighting age, with no student deferrals at all. Put the rich, white, politically-influential young men from places like Harvard on the front lines of American foreign policy. Then see how eager the policy-makers are to commit America to wars like Desert Storm.
Barring stupidity, hypocrisy alone can explain why universal conscription seems to be the last thing on the antiwar agenda. That's because many of the antiwar protesters are Neil Bushes themselves.
On American campuses, The Economist reports, "no subject is broached so often or so fearfully as conscription."
Such is certainly the case at Harvard. The Crimson ran a long feature about the mechanics of the draft and the possibility that it may return. The Perspective published a page of tips for those who might apply for conscientious objector status.
STUDENTS INVOLVED with the Peace Alternatives Exchange (PAX) often staff the "Peace Center" in the Greenhouse Cafe, answering questions and distributing literature about the draft. In recent weeks, PAX has sponsored several draft counseling sessions at Harvard, complete with strategies for conscientious objectors to dodge the draft.
Similar things occur at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, among other schools. There, according to The Economist, informed students instruct their classmates on ways to avoid military service, including options like losing lots of weight, professing homosexuality or drug abuse and urinating on the induction examiner.
But these are only contingency plans, to be implemented by young Neil Bushes if the draft does indeed return. Rest assured that campus antiwar groups will fight tooth and nail to make sure it doesn't happen.
None of this, of course, excuses the hypocrisy that exists on the other side of the fence. Pro-war students at Harvard, it seems, are willing to stand firmly behind Desert Storm--so long as they do not have to leave precious Cambridge to do it. Perhaps some of them will be PAX's best customers at draft counseling sessions if conscription returns.
But if these privileged young men and women truly believe the national interest demands that American blood be shed in the Arabian desert, they should not shy away from doing their duty to America. If the nation's interest is truly served by Desert Storm, then all of the nation's young men should equally serve and suffer to see it through. That means universal conscription.
MEANWHILE, America's all-volunteer force continues the ground war to liberate Kuwait. Statistics on the racial breakdown of the troops of Desert Storm, many of whom may perish in the coming weeks, are not hard to come by. According to The Boston Globe, the American force is about 70 percent white and 30 percent minority. Those figures do not even approximate the racial make-up of the nation--around 80 percent white and 20 percent minority.
Similar discrepancies existed during the Vietnam War, when poorer, Black Americans did most of the fighting and dying. Back then the draft had a convenient student deferral loophole that allowed richer, white Americans to become professional students, collecting an incredible number of graduate degrees at fine universities like Harvard.