Speaker expects military to bring back the draft

The United States' current military obligations abroad are going to require reinstatement of the draft, and now is the time for conscientious objectors to speak out, according to representatives from the Center on Conscience and War. Spokespeople for the armed forces and state department offer countering viewpoints, however.

Bill Galvin, counseling coordinator with the Washington, D.C. anti-war policy group, spoke to a group of about 50 at the Milwaukee Friends Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Pl., Friday about how to conscientiously object to the draft.

Galvin said conscientious objection, or abstaining from the draft because of personal, religious and philosophical objections, is getting harder to do. Federal and state governments have, since the 1980's, linked registration to money for college, federal job training, admittance to some state schools and even registering for a driver's license, Galvin said.

Furthermore, when enlistees sign up, they're not often sure what it is they're signing up for, he said.

"You'd be surprised to know how many people join without knowing what they're doing," Galvin said.

Enlisting requires eight years of service, including reserve duty, Galvin said.

Dodging the draft can be costly: the maximum penalty for avoiding it is five years in prison and $250,000 in fines, he said.

Now is the time to get on record as being a conscientious objector, according to J.E. McNeil, director of the Center on Conscience and War, because the draft may be imminent.

"There are a lot of reasons that the draft may be coming," McNeil said in an interview with the Tribune. "If it comes, you may not have time to think out how you feel about it."

The Center's officials think the draft might be imminent because of the U.S.'s current military commitments abroad. McNeil said the Army, Marines and National Guard are below their desired recruiting points and described the Army Reserves as "broken." She said the possibility of invading Iran is being kicked around on Capitol Hill, and such an invasion would exhaust troops and require reactivating the draft.

"They're talking about raising the troops (for Iran) when they're not even keeping up (with recruitment)," McNeil said. "Looking at the reality before us, we think the administration will soon be in a position to say 'What can we do? Our hands are tied. We need the draft.'"

Calls to spokespeople for the Bush administration seeking comment on McNeil's statements about the invasion of Iran and reinstatement of the draft were not returned, but at a stop in London as part of her European tour, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Associated Press reporters that an attack on Iran is "simply not on the agenda at this point in time."

Representatives from the armed forces units mentioned by McNeil contradicted Rice's statements.

Major David Griesmer of the Marines said he could not comment on the possibility of the draft but did say McNeil's allegations about missing recruiting efforts were mistaken.

The Marines did miss their recruiting quota of 3,270 by about 84 recruits in January, Griesmer said, but they are ahead of recruiting in the fiscal year to date. The missed goal in January is not cause for alarm, according to Griesmer.

"That's a planning target," he said. "It's adjustable. It's flexible. In recruiting, as in sales, it's inaccurate to look at one month and make conclusions."

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Feb. 8 2005.