Oppose the draft? It’s already here

Corvallis Gazette-Times (Oregon)

Oppose the draft? It’s already here

While most pollsters would agree that there is almost no discernable support for reinstating the military draft, why should the public support the military’s policy of forcing exhausted those who already have fulfilled their contractual obligation to serve into an open-ended term of indentured — potentially fatal — military servitude?

Yet that is exactly what is happening to people such as Oregon Army National Guardsman Sgt. Emiliano Santiago, 27, of Pasco, Wash.

Last Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Owen M. Panner denied Santiago’s motion for a preliminary injunction against having to report again for active duty, less than a week before Santiago is scheduled to ship to Fort Sill, Okla. A soldier with D Company of the Oregon Guard’s 113th Aviation Battalion in Pendleton, he is and his unit are expected to be deployed to Afghanistan in February.

Santiago argued that he already had completed his contracted term in 2002, but Panner’s ruling means that he will have to go. And he is only one of thousands who are finding themselves back in uniform despite having honorably completed the service they signed on for.

This is possible because of an executive order President Bush enacted after 9-11 that authorized the Pentagon to involuntarily extend military personnel on active duty “for not more than 24 consecutive months.”

But the military has gone further in Santiago’s case. He originally signed for an eight-year tour with the Guard in 1996, but as a result of the “stop-loss” back-door draft, his service has been extended to December 2031, when he would be 54.

Judge Panner said he was ruling that Santiago had to go back because the military would be more harmed than Santiago if he allowed Santiago to leave. He correctly assumed that the thousands of others also forced to stay would file similar court challenges, complicating the United States’ military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

President Bush said repeatedly during his re-election campaign that there would be no military draft in his second term. But if a soldier who has completed his term of service and returned to civilian life is forced back onto the battlefield, how is that anything other than a draft, forcing involuntary servitude?

We haven’t had a draft in this country since Richard Nixon abolished it in 1973. And we haven’t had involuntary servitude since Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made it illegal as of Jan. 1, 1863, freeing “all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The Emancipation Proclamation clearly stated that “the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”

Who knew that President Bush would overturn the acts of two past Republican presidents in deciding that, under his term, the military means not being able to declare with confidence, “I’m a civilian again.”

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