It Isn’t the Lack of a Draft That’s Making Americans Complacent

William Rivers Pitt recently wrote an op-ed about how frustrated he is about trying to get Americans to care about the disaster that is the Iraq war.

I am tired of trying to figure out a way to jar the American people into understanding how unutterably wretched the situation is over there, so that pressure from the citizenry at large can be brought to bear upon the Administration and this disaster can be brought to an end.…

People ask me if the draft, or advocacy for the draft, would put this war into people’s back yards and gather their attention to the matter. Of course it would, I tell them. Vietnam became an issue of pressing national concern because of the draft. It forced people to pay attention, to speak up if they thought the war was wrong, because the next lottery number read over the television might have belonged to their son.

With no draft today, with our volunteer army, most people are not staring down the barrel of having to practice what they preach. Patriotism, nationalism and the kill-em-all ethic is a safe place to stand these days, because no civilian is going to get a letter containing orders to report.

So I dropped him a line:

I disagree. For every one soldier that the U.S. expends in this war, it spends over a million dollars. And as much as the war machine needs soldiers, it needs dollars even more. And for this the government does have a draft — it drafts our money from every paycheck.

The burden “of having to practice what they preach” therefore falls on everybody, every day. But it falls most heavily on “us,” not “them.” The hawks can just keep doing what they’ve always been doing and paying their taxes and, in that way at least, practicing what they’re preaching. It’s those of us who consider ourselves opposed to the war who have to change our behavior to actually join the opposition.

When the draft is on our money, conscientious objection is a choice that everybody must consider.