Why does it feel so drafty in here?

By Geraldine Sealey
Published November 1, 2004 10:24PM (UTC)
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When John Kerry said recently that a Bush re-election would bring the "great potential" for a military draft, he invited the scorn of Bush-Cheney '04, which accused him of "fear-mongering," and slaps from fact-checkers. Brooks Jackson of FactCheck.org said Kerry's remarks were a "matter of opinion, but I'm not sure what he is basing that opinion on."

Donald Rumsfeld himself has taken to condemning draft rumors as "a mischievous political effort that's being made to frighten young men and women." He wrote in the Deseret News last week: "This plot is so secret that it doesn't exist. To my knowledge, in the time I have served as secretary of defense, the idea of reinstating the draft has never been debated, endorsed, discussed, theorized, pondered or even whispered by anyone in the Bush administration."

Well, maybe Rummy should talk to his people. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer uncovered documents showing the Pentagon "has studied how to expand draft registration to include women, target some civilian work specialties for special attention by the draft and extend the required draft registration age from 25 years old to 34 years."

"These draft plans were discussed at the Pentagon on Feb. 11, 2003, by the chief of the Selective Service System, the federal agency that would operate a draft, and senior Pentagon officials ... According to a copy of the meeting agenda, the Selective Service System leaders reviewed the past 30 years of draft registration planning and then made their pitch for more aggressive draft preparations."

This comes on the heels of a New York Times report about the Selective Service "updating its contingency plans for a draft of doctors, nurses and other health care workers in case of a national emergency that overwhelms the military's medical corps." Maybe it's true that despite the strain placed on the military under Bush, a draft is a faraway option. Pentagon officials have said they much prefer professional, volunteer soldiers to conscripts, and that with improved recruitment and added incentives for volunteers, the military can attract more troops without a draft.

But for Rumsfeld to say the draft has "never been debated, endorsed, discussed, theorized, pondered or even whispered" on his watch is just plain wrong, and if administration officials are wondering where these draft "rumors" are coming from, they need only to look within their own ranks.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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