August 20, 2008
The American Fighting Man

Cleaning off my desk, I just came across this fascinating and still timely 2004 interview with Seymour Hersh. Heís answering a question about the torture that Bush allowed, encouraged and rewarded in the Abu Ghraib prison:

Is there anything more dangerous than a 20-year-old with a weapon? Címon! In a war zone, youíll steal and kill and do pretty much anything.

Of course Hersh knows that there is in fact something far more dangerous ó aging capos like Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld who give guns to 20-year-olds and turn them into buttonmen. But Hersh wasnít speaking from a prepared text, and his point is clear.

I bring it up as an antidote to all our endless and uninformed national babble about the American fighting man: the finest, noblest, bravest, truest and most selfless hero with whom God ever graced His good, green earth.


Heís no worse and no better than any other scared and usually ignorant kid anywhere in the world who got forced or tricked into doing somebody elseís dirty work. Heís courageous or cowardly, kind or cruel, stupid or smart, in the same proportions and for the same complicated mix of reasons as any other similarly unlucky kid in the history of the world. No more and no less can be expected of him. (Or of her; we tribal elders, in this tribe anyway, are equal-opportunity brutalizers of our young.)

Nixon was a lot of things but stupid wasnít one of them. He knew precisely what he was doing when he abolished the draft. He was eliminating one of the few remaining checks on a presidentís ability to commit mass murder any time the mood struck him.

As a former draftee Iím surprised to hear myself say so, but itís time to bring back the draft. A year or two spent contemplating our actual military from the inside instead of our imaginary one from the outside would go a long way towards curing us of our pathetic habit of soldier-sniffing.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at August 20, 2008 11:04 AM
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I disagree. A draft only allows a larger scale of violence, by ensuring a ready supply of troops. For those who are drafted into combat and killed, each themselves are murder victims, and not merely stupid enough to volunteer.

Posted by: Michael on August 20, 2008 12:13 PM

There have been some news stories in the press suggesting a movement towards reducing or paroling many of the people in prison for possession of drugs. If that plays out, you can look for the next round of recruits to come out of the prisons. Sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The prison industry has to make sacrifices for the military industrial complex by supplying it with fresh meat.

Posted by: Buck on August 20, 2008 3:47 PM

The draft is the only way, that part is clear. I was a conscientious objector back in Vietnam days, and I would continue to try to persuade potential draftees to resist in every available way.

But there's no substitute for having one short of a rational foreign policy, which isn't going to happen, even after the empire.

A draft would certainly not increase the scale of violence. There's always a ready supply of troops, even if the troops themselves are so far from ready that it's criminal to send them to war. The difference with a draft is that everyone would be involved in the war, which would lead to much greater resistance.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on August 20, 2008 4:50 PM

I'm actually in favor of modifying the old draft and adopt a new draft based loosely upon the graduated income tax system and directly on Biblical principles.

The higher one's income or assets, the greater the chance he would be pulled into the pool of draftees. This system would be based upon the teachings recited in the Gospel of Luke: To whom much is given, much is expected
-Luke 12:48

Posted by: Buck on August 20, 2008 5:41 PM

Buck, that's a terrible idea too -- providing military training only to the upper classes gives you a stratified keep-'em-down society like Sparta, the Old South, or Edwardian England.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on August 22, 2008 3:39 AM

Chuck, I'm really confused by your logic, that by making things worse you increase resistance is always the case, but that argument leads us always to make things worse in order to make them better, which was the reasoning I was given by a friend in 2004 why she was voting for George W. Bush -- because she thought America needed to hit bottom. Maybe so, but now I hear the same arguments from people saying that this is why they will vote for John McCain. It is an endless well, there is no bottom to it.

Posted by: Mahakal on August 23, 2008 6:26 PM
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