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October 17, 2004 - The issue that isn't an issue if the cease and desist order stands...

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Friday the United Press International folks report this:


Des Moines, IA, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry said there is a "great potential" for the reinstitution of a military draft if President Bush is re-elected.


"With George Bush, the plan for Iraq is more of the same and the great potential of a draft," Kerry said during an interview with the Des Moines Register before speaking at an Iowa State Fairgrounds rally.


… The Bush campaign called Kerry's comments "irresponsible" and "the mother of all cheap political scare tactics." …


Sunday the Associated press reports this:


Bush Says He's Best Protection From Draft

President Bush turned the tables Saturday on Sen. John Kerry, declaring, "the best way to avoid the draft is to vote for me," and pledged to oppose mandatory military service. The Democrat stuck to domestic issues, blaming Bush for a shortage of flu vaccines.


Kerry also opposes a draft and has suggested that re-electing Bush would greatly increase the prospects for one. The president, fearing that young voters will be swayed by the charge, fired back, "The person talking about a draft is my opponent." …


And in between AFP (l'Agence France-Presse) gives us this -


DAYTONA BEACH, Florida, Oct 16 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush surprised his listeners at a campaign rally here Saturday by seeming to oppose, then favor, then oppose replacing the all-volunteer US military with a draft.


Aides had alerted reporters to expect "new language" in Bush's routine rejection of Democratic rival John Kerry's warnings that the Iraq war has so strained the US armed forces that compulsory military service may be around the corner.


"Our all-volunteer army will remain an all-volunteer army," Bush began, to cheers from supporters here in Florida, the richest prize among the dozen or so states up for grabs in the November 2 election.


"My opponent seems to be willing to say almost anything he thinks will benefit him politically," he said. "After standing on the stage, after the debates, I made it very plain we will not have an all-volunteer army."


"And yet this week..." he continued, before suddenly realizing the gaffe and shouting: "We will have an all-volunteer army."


"Let me restate that: We will not have a draft. No matter what my opponent tries to tell people and scare them, we will have an all-volunteer army," promised the president, who is known for frequent verbal stumbles. …


Oh heck, everyone knows what he means - even if he can’t say what he means.  And he’s been under a lot of stress, so we need to cut him some slack.  You just have to believe his heart is in the right place, even if the words are not.


Or do you?  Josh Marshall, earlier in the week, notes this:


National security and military readiness experts generally concede that it will be extremely difficult for the United States to indefinitely maintain 130-odd thousand troops in Iraq and still maintain even threshold levels of capacity to deter and/or respond to threats in other areas.


By some measures the system is already stretched to near the breaking point.


At the same time the president's oft-stated policy is that we will stay in Iraq as long as it takes to complete the mission of democratizing and pacifying the country.


With that reality and that policy, something’s got to give.


It doesn't mean a draft is a necessity. But it does move it into the realm of serious policy possibilities the country has to face. This is particularly so when our military relies on regular recruitment of reservists who until now generally assumed that deployments in war zones were a serious possibility as opposed to a near certainty, as they have been for the last few years. This is also the case since the administration has said very little about how it will confront this challenge.


In any case, it's a very legitimate issue. And anyone who thinks seriously about military policy issues has to see that it is one of fairly few policy options to address a looming crisis facing the US military.


Now, the youth voter participation group Rock The Vote has been pushing this issue recently, calling for an election-year debate on the topic in ways you can see if you do a quick Google search with their name in it.


And what has the response been from the president?


This week RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie sent the group a 'cease and desist' letter threatening legal action against the group and raising the possibility of seeking the revocation of the group's status as a tax-exempt 501c3 organization if the group did not cease discussing the draft issue.


Claims that a draft is possible, Gillespie argued, are so ridiculous on their face that the group could only be acting from 'malicious intent and a reckless disregard for the truth.' (Those, of course, are catchphrases laying the groundwork for legal action.)


Gillespie's rationale for arguing that there is no basis for discussing the possibility of a draft is the say-so of the president. Gillespie quotes him saying, "We don't need the draft. Look, the all-volunteer force is working."


That, to Gillespie, is -- quite literally -- the end of the debate.


This move, if you think about it, is extraordinary. In a political campaign there are very few forms of political speech -- judged by content -- that should ever be subject to legal proceedings. But to threaten legal action to squelch discussion of a subject that is obviously a very newsworthy and relevant issue -- and one the country could face in the next four years -- is simply astonishing.


And yet, no editorial condemnations. Hardly a mention of it. These are now, apparently, the rules of the road -- expected and calling for no particular comment.


That's even more astonishing.


But this is a comment. 


         Bush said this draft thing just will not happen. 

         Well, he slipped and said the opposite, but that was just a verbal stumble and we all know he’s prone to that, and you have to trust what you know, in your heart, he means, not exactly what he says. 

         Sometimes he says things that turn out to be, well, not so – as in all those weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s ties to al Qaeda and all that – but he says he did the right thing anyway.  He cannot think of any mistakes he’s made.

         For some reason, and perhaps those above, folks don’t trust him and want to talk about the reality – the facts of the matter – our military and foreign policy (now the same thing) in relation to our available resources.  You know - the stuff that makes a military draft rather logical.

         Then the Republican National Committee takes legal action with a cease and desist order against a group that wants to discuss the issue – which is tantamount to legally compelling some skeptical people to publicly act as if they are not skeptical and keep their doubts private.


This is a curious use of the law.  Publicly pointing to the obvious facts of the matter and attempting to discuss them should be forbidden? 


Yes, it has come to that.  The next four years, and the four decades that follow, should be interesting.  Will a skeptical and dispassionate examination of the facts surrounding any issue become the underground, illegal activity of a few malcontents who would flaunt the law and not wear a trusting smile?  Ah, probably not.


We shall see how far the RNC gets with this. 


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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