The Draft Myth

Another day, another political chain letter. The Draft. They’re coming for us. They’re coming for our children!!! They’ll need more people for the “illegal” war in Iraq and for the war in Afghanistan! Quick, everyone Rock the Vote and support Kerry!

Too bad its all hogwash. But you wouldn’t know it from the media.

There’s been very little coverage of this very widespread urban legend, a myth that some forces in the Democratic Party have been trying to employ to rally support for John Kerry. The theory goes something like this: Republicans want to wage war. They’ll need more troops. They’ll need YOU. They want to bring back the draft. We have to stop them! (A message brought to you by a completely non-partisan political organization, of course.) Sigh. It’s amazing that this kind of fear tactic actually works. Never mind that both major parties and both Presidential candidates oppose the draft.

You’d think that the news media, guardian of voter interests that it is, would be inclined to debunk the story. In fact, this week saw the first real mention of the issue on a national news program (our good friends at CBS). Unfortunately, instead of outright debunking, CBS gave the floor to a story on draft fears:

CBS neglected to mention that the emails on which the draft fears were based have been discredited. CBS also failed to mention that several of the “concerned citizens” who were interviewed happened to be political activists with clear political bias. The money quote from Linda Karas, producer of the piece:

"The truth of the e-mails were absolutely irrelevant to the piece, because all the story said was that people were worried. It’s a story about human beings that are afraid of the draft. We did not say that this (e-mail) was true, it’s just circulating. We are not verifying the e-mail."

As if CBS isn’t already in enough trouble. Jeesh, guys, just put on your Kerry pins, why don’t you?

Outside of lame witted excuses, interested readers can peruse an interview with the responsible CBS parties right here:

Still, the draft rumor continues, pushed on by such ostensibly neutral organizations as MTV’s Rock the Vote, which features an advertisement indicating that the draft is a major issue in this campaign. Of course, the advert never accuses any particular party of being for the draft, it just delivers the implication, drops it like a ton of bricks, and lets the listener sort out the details. Let’s see, which of the two candidates is a sitting president who got us into Iraq and Afghanistan? Hmmm. And, shockingly, MTV's first mention of the draft is associated with a Republican Senator, instead of on Charles Rangel (D, NY) who's been championing the idea for years (we don't hear about him until way down on the page, when the attention span of most MTV-aged readers is almost guaranteed to have slipped) . But of course, its above MTV to name names, because that would be partisan, and as we all know, MTV’s Rock the Vote is a down-the-middle, completely neutral political entity that just wants to empower voters by getting them to register, right? Sigh.

At least some forces on the left are honest about the issue, such as Geov Parrish of the extreme left organization The Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia, who debunked the whole issue in an article for, available here:

If only everyone were this honest. Parrish manages to stand up for the truth while maintaining his anti-Bush, anti-War opinions. At least he’s an honest broker.

Most of the scared, uninformed kids who fall for the Draft Myth base their fears on two dramatically highlighted points which are featured in most of the “Draft Warning” emails:

1. An actual bill was submitted in the House of Representatives in favor of reinstating the draft.
2. The Selective Service issued a call for volunteers to help fill local draft boards.

There is truth here. There -was- a bill submitted to the House of Representatives in an effort to reinstate the draft. What the email fails to mention is that the bill was submitted by liberal democrats, championed by Charles Rangel (Democrat, NY) and the unlikely Chuck Hagel (R, NE), and that it received basically zero support from most Republicans and most Democrats. In fact, Rangel admitted that the bill was a scare tactic (submitted before the Iraq war) used to get people to think about the consequences of a potential war.

And the poppycock about the Selective Service issuing a call for volunteers to help man draft boards? Oh, that’s true, but the email neglects to mention that the Selective Service does this on a regular basis, regardless of whether or not a draft is in place.

Yes, it’s a mad mad mad mad world. Political consultants, activists, politicians and trouble makers are all out there, trying to fool us to scare us to shock us into doing something stupid. It’s our responsibility to get educated and to sift the fear-mongering from the fact.

Sure, the government always has the option to reinstate the draft (although there’s a strong debate about whether they should have that option at all). But the idea of a draft is so universally unpopular that the mere hint of it would spell political death for any party in power.

And that’s exactly why some activists on the left are hoping you’ll buy it.

In the game of politics, we either watch the whole game board or we become pawns. It’s not easy to see all the angles, but usually a little research will do the trick.

Posted by Damon Dimmick at September 30, 2004 11:38 AM | TrackBack (1)