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Drafting the Truth
Published on Wednesday, August 4, 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Drafting the Truth
by Kathy Eder
 

As a teacher of high-school boys, I have noticed that my students don't mind pointing out my mistakes; some young men even appear to relish it. I don't mind, though, because it's important to apologize. Young people need to know that no one is perfect, and it is my job to be a role model who accepts responsibility for my behavior and my words.

Apologies should be commonplace, but lately they are few and far between in the United States. Richard Clarke's apology in front of the Sept. 11 commission was so well received because he knew our system failed those who died on Sept. 11, and he was willing to speak the truth. Clarke made it look easy, but we all know it's challenging and humbling to voice the words that equalize all humans: "I'm sorry."

As uncomfortable as it is to apologize, there is one apology I would love to utter again and again. I hope I will be forced to say, "I'm sorry. I was wrong." When I tell others about the probability of young men and women being drafted in 2005, I want to be wrong. I want to apologize to hundreds, even thousands, of people. I want to be forced to say, "I'm sorry. There wasn't a draft after all." I am begging all citizens to do everything they can to prove me wrong.

For the present, all I can do is state the truth as I see it, which disagrees with what our leaders are saying. Take Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's comment last month in an interview on National Public Radio: "We do not need a draft," he said, noting that the all-volunteer force "has worked brilliantly for our country," with respect to recruiting and retention.

Maybe Rumsfeld is correct, but let's examine some data:

-- Nearly 40 percent of our soldiers now in Iraq are reservists and National Guard forces, Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress last month.

-- The New England Journal of Medicine reported last month that 93 percent of U. S. Army combat veterans surveyed have been shot at, and as many as 17 percent of the vets who experienced heavy combat in the Iraq War have returned home with major mental-health problems.

-- A brigade of 3,600 troops will soon be shifted from their South Korea base to Iraq to fill in the gaps, according to Defense Department officials quoted in the Washington Post.

-- According to the New York Times (July 4): "130,912 of 156,236 citizen- warriors on active duty were from the Army National Guard and Reserve as of the end of June. The Army has been forced to bring more new recruits immediately into the ranks to meet recruiting goals for 2004, instead of allowing them to defer entry until the next accounting year."

-- Pentagon figures show that under "stop loss" orders, about 10,000 military personnel, including reservists and National Guard troops, are being forced to extend their military service involuntarily by being redeployed in Iraq or Afghanistan for up to 15 months. The policy, according to Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., "amounts to a selective draft for those who have already fulfilled their service commitment."

-- In 2003, the Pentagon discharged 787 lesbian, gay and bisexual service members -- down from a high of 1,273 in 2001, but still high in a time of war, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

-- There are two active draft bills sitting in Congress since 2003: S. 89 and H.R. 163.

Clearly, we summon soldiers to service, we prevent soldiers from leaving, we kick soldiers out because of their sexual orientation, and we lose soldiers to the tragedies of war. It is retention by force, not willing enlistment that is keeping our numbers where they are.

A draft is not much different than retention by force, so I fear that young people will be facing a draft shortly after the November presidential election. Please make a liar out of me. Force me to apologize! The lives of thousands are depending on the need for such an apology.

Kathy Eder, a teacher in San Jose, created the Operation Hidden Agenda playing cards and the newly released book, "NO, George, NO! The RE-PARENTING of George W. Bush" (www.nogeorgeno.com).

©2004 San Francisco Chronicle

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