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A Mother wonders: should we bring back the draft?

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May 11 2007

A woman at a New Hampshire town hall meeting momentarily caught presidential candidate Barack Obama off guard last month. While telling the senator that her nephew was heading to Iraq to serve, Jean Serino became distraught. “I can’t breathe,” the Associated Press’s Philip Elliott reported (April 21) Serino sobbing, “I want to know, when am I going to be able to breathe? Are you going to get us the hell out of there? Promise us you will get us out of there.”

Our junior Senator, turned presidential contender, confidently responded: “… I make a solemn pledge to you, as president, we will be out of Iraq.”

But, Obama, like his colleagues, votes (again, and again, and yet again) for the supplemental spending requested by President Bush for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of this money is used to procure weapons systems which won’t be delivered until 2009-2010, assuring that far from being out of Iraq during the next presidency, we’ll be more firmly entrenched. We can’t breathe! When are we going to be able to breathe?

What can we do? As the mother of young sons, a mother vehemently opposed to war, I wonder, should our nation reinstate the draft? Clearly, the decision to send our young people off to war, to secure access to natural resources beyond our borders, to kill other people’s children, to displace civilians with our high tech weaponry, and to torture “enemy combatants” should be felt collectively. Slapping yellow ribbon magnets and flag decals on our car bumpers shouldn’t suffice. Those who support our government’s wars, who believe that ensuring our freedom and maintaining our American standard of living necessitates waging war, will surely support the drafting of their children, won’t they? But those of us who reject the premises that warfare brings us security or that our country has the right to secure more of the earth’s resources than other nations, will be forced to act. We will need to teach our children how to live simply and how to radically reduce their consumption of resources. We’ll expect our children to choose lifetimes of service, rather than push them toward lives of financial enrichment. We would teach them that embracing nonviolence in a country with the draft exacts a price; those refusing to be conscripted might be imprisoned. Those who leave the country rather than be drafted might be forced to live in exile.

If we all faced the prospect of our children being drafted, then, like Jean Serino, those of us opposed to war would feel the apprehension that the mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts of soldiers in Iraq feel this Mother’s Day. Like Jean, we too would struggle to breathe. To breathe again, wouldn’t we actively lobby our elected officials to find alternatives to war? Wouldn’t we engage in nonviolent direct action to protest our government’s reliance on violence and force rather than on diplomacy and equitable relations? We wouldn’t wait for annual anti-war protests to show our dissent! And we’d be less drawn to the “point-and-click” democracy that seduces activists to become computer reliant couch potatoes. We’d be such models of civic involvement, in fact, that our children wouldn’t dream of dodging their responsibilities to their nation. These

responsibilities, however, would be framed by a world vision that rejects xenophobia and commits us to working for equality and justice and peace for all people on earth.

Should we bring back the draft? Whether our answer is yes or no, may we mothers who reject state violence as a way to solve world problems commit today, Mother’s Day, to breathing new life into the worldwide movement to end war.


Laurie Hasbrook is a coordinator at Voices for Creative Nonviolence, based in Chicago