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Archive for Sunday, February 10, 1991

REINSTATEMENT

February 10, 1991

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Although President Bush said last week he has "absolutely no intention of reinstating" a military draft for Operation Desert Storm, the possibility of a draft still weighs on the minds of some young men living in Lawrence.

"As far as I'm concerned, you have to look at the possibility that the draft will be incorporated," said Scott MacWilliams, a Kansas University student who is organizing a workshop on the draft and conscientious objection.

Ray Parrish, a counselor from the Midwest Center for Military Counseling of Chicago, will conduct the workshop from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. today at the Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread.

MacWilliams, who describes himself as a conscientious objector of the war in the Middle East, said the workshop will focus on draft-related issues and choices.

"WE HAVE a whole culture that has been brought up in violence and we're going to pay for that eventually," MacWilliams said. "I don't give a damn what our reasoning is for going in (to Iraq). The bombing it's all insane and we must put an end to it."

MacWilliams is a member of VOICE, a KU group that is calling for an immediate cease-fire to the war.

He said the possiblility of a military draft is real, especially if allied forces begin a full-scale ground assault in Kuwait or Iraq.

"The estimates are that we are going to lose a lot of men in the first few days," he said.

"We're getting real mixed messages . . . but there are some reports that say there are already plans for a draft," MacWilliams said.

THE QUESTION of a draft also was raised recently by members of Black Men of Today, a group of black male KU students, who voted not to participate in military service if a draft were reinstated. The students said their position was a protest against the disproportionate number of blacks deployed to the gulf.

Reinstatement of the military draft, which was eliminated after the Vietnam war, would require approval from both houses of Congress, said Lew Brodsky, assistant director for public affairs at the Selective Service System in Washington. The Selective Service System is an independent government agency that would coordinate a military draft.

Currently, all American men are required to register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

A SPOKESMAN for U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., whose district includes Lawrence, said a draft is "simply a non-issue right now."

"It's just not something that is being discussed by the congressman or anyone else in Washington as far as I know," said the spokesman, Jim McLean. "That may change in six to eight months, but it's just not an issue right now."

Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., said in a statement issued shortly after Operation Desert Storm began, also said no plans for a draft were being formulated.

"With more than one million reservists still available for call-up to active duty, the United States has sufficient manpower for any foreseeable needs," Kassebaum said.

After fighting erupted in the Middle East, the Selective Service System office in Washington received thousands of telephone calls daily from people wanting to know about a possible draft, Brodsky said.

"They've gone down a lot since the beginning, but we still get a few calls," he said.

BRODSKY said Selective Service System officials have not been told by congressional or U.S. Department of Defense officials to prepare for a draft.

But if government officials change their minds and call for reinstatement of the draft this year, men whose 20th birthday falls in 1991 will be the first ones contacted by Uncle Sam, he said.

Brodsky said the Selective Service System, if the draft were reinstated, would conduct "a lottery," that first would include 19- and 20-year-olds.

"We would actually call up many more than we would need because a lot of the men would not end up serving because of medical reasons, or because of conscientious objection for a variety of reasons," he said.

BRODSKY said the number of men called up in an initial draft would depend on Congress and defense department requests.

But hypothetically, if the Defense Department needed more soldiers than the potential 1.8 million men whose 20th birthdays fall in 1991, the Selective Service System would expand the lottery to include men who are a year older.

The call-ups would continue, if needed, with men whose 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th birthdays fall in 1991.

"But, there's almost no way it would go that far. You're talking about 11 million men or more that we would be calling up if we started calling up the 24- and 25-year olds," he said. "It would never come to that."

Men over age 26 and all women would be exempt from a military draft, he said.

Brodsky also said many student and family exemptions that existed during the last draft would not apply in a reinstated draft.

"IF YOU'RE a student, you would get a postponement until the semester or academic period that you are in is over then you would have to report," he said. "Unless you were called as a graduating student, then you would get a postponement until the time of your graduation."

Brodsky said a mailgram, or draft notice, would be sent to men picked in a draft lottery. The men would have 10 days after receiving the notice to report to a military processing facility or file an objection claim with a local draft board, he said.

Wendell Wiebe-Powell, associate minister at ECM and VOICE member, said possible draftees would not have enough time to make intelligent decisions about whether to serve.

"That's what we want to provide an opportunity for people to start thinking about their options," he said.

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