For the majority of people in the United States who have no idea, yes, draft registration still exists, but only for males. However, the U.S. House of Representatives is interested in adding young women to the rolls. In fact the House Armed “Services” Committee passed such a measure in April, and it is now part of the National “Defense” Authorization Act pending review, amendment, debate, and passage.
An amendment proposed by Congressman Pete Sessions would undo this “progressive” development. Some rightwing groups that consult the Bible for their standards of women’s rights also want to stop the extension of “selective service” to all 18 year olds. Some peace activists believe that the key to ending warmaking is actually activating the draft in as big a way as possible. And liberal humanitarian warriors want equal war rights for women. Much of the rest of the world, meanwhile, believes the United States has overdosed on military madness.
As a helpful public service, I offer this guide on how (and why) to oppose extending draft registration to women without being a sexist pig.
1. Oppose the draft extension while wearing a Hillary hat.
2. Just kidding. The goal here is to prevent wars, not launch a dozen new ones. Stay principled. This isn’t actually that hard.
3. Join a growing movement backing legislation to end draft registration in the United States for everyone.
4. Take an opportunity if it offers to build an uncomfortably large coalition that treasures young women and views sending them off to kill and die and suffer and commit suicide (top cause of death of U.S. troops) for war profiteers as cruel rather than respectful. Then add the treasuring of young men to the agenda and start treating them accordingly.
5. Respect the fact that young women and men did not live through the era of the war on Vietnam and have not bought into the twisted sense of priorities in which creating a larger peace movement outweighs the damage of creating a larger war. Yes, the draft was a big part of U.S. opposition to the war on Vietnam, but that opposition didn’t stop that war until the U.S. military had slaughtered approximately four million people. No U.S. war since the ending of the draft has done remotely as much damage. The purpose of a peace movement should be to abolish war, not to enlarge the budgets of organizations in the peace movement by facilitating much larger wars.
6. Respect the fact that young women and men have grown up in a political system so thoroughly corrupted that you’ll never convince them that a draft would be applied fairly to the children of the elite. It wouldn’t.
7. Honor the men and women who died resisting the draft. When voting rights are threatened, when elections are corrupted, and even when we are admonished to hold our noses and vote for one or another of the god-awful candidates regularly placed before us, what are we reminded of? People bled for this. People risked their lives and lost their lives. People faced fire hoses and dogs. People went to jail. That’s right. And that’s why we should continue the struggle for fair and open and verifiable elections. But what do you think people did for the right not to be drafted into war? They risked their lives and lost their lives. They were hung up by their wrists. They were starved and beaten and poisoned. Eugene Debs, hero of Senator Bernie Sanders, went to prison for speaking against the draft. What would Debs make of the idea of peace activists supporting a draft in order to stir up more peace activism? I doubt he’d be able to speak at all through his tears.
8. Help find young women and men career prospects outside the machinery of death. Help create the universal right to free college. Repair the unfairness of the poverty draft and the stop-lossing of troops by giving young people alternatives and ending the wars. When we end the poverty draft and the actual draft, when we actually deny the military the troops it needs to wage war, and when we create a culture that views murder as wrong even when engaged in on a large scale and even when all the deaths are foreign, and even when women are equally involved in the killing, then we’ll actually get rid of war, not just acquire the ability to stop each war four million deaths into it.
9. Build a movement with women and men from around the world to create a global treaty banning all military conscription for all people.
10. Build a movement to abolish sexism, racism, environmental destruction, mass incarceration, poverty, illiteracy, and war.