From the January 2006 Idaho Observer:


A Draft for Peace: The Sheehan Amendment

by Hari Heath

Military recruiting is at an all time low. The questionable military conflicts of the past half century and more, leave few interested in volunteering for Uncle Sam. Some of the U.S. population still falls for the recruiters’ ruses, but many are facing the sad facts of history.

Korea has not been won or lost after over 50 years of U.S. occupation. We were not "allowed" to "win" in Vietnam after 58,000 Americans were killed, 305,000 were wounded and 2,200 were left behind as "missing presumed dead (not to mention two million dead Vietnamese). How many troops and civilians died arresting Noriega, the drug dealer/president/CIA asset of Panama, when the drug dealer/fomer CIA director President Bush Senior didn’t like the business Noriega was conducting? Was Somalia or Grenada "liberated" by U.S. troops, and from whom?

American airstrikes did not miraculously terminate the war in the Balkans; Clinton bombed Kosovo and blew Lewinski out of the headlines.

U.S. troops and special forces have been involved in covert wars all over the globe, including the Afghani struggle against Soviet occupation. Billions of dollars later, the CIA funded Taliban, once our ally, has now been developed into a very convenient enemy for all seasons: Al Qaeda.

The diplomatic wink and nod of U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, tacitly gave the go-ahead for Iraq to invade Kuwait, which eventually led 900,000 of our troops to be deployed in Bush I’s Iraq war. Of that number, 250,000 to 600,000 now suffer from the mysterious Gulf War Disease after Daddy Bush’s unclear mission went unaccomplished.

The "Shock and Awe" pre-emptive strike initiating the Bush II Iraq war has led to several thousand of "our" troop’s deaths, over 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians and countless deaths of those maligned as "insurgents." The multi-fold increase in depleted uranium munitions use during the Bush II war has yet to reap its toxic long-term results.

The initiating claim of Iraqi WMDs has proven false and the subsequent shifting claims of purpose to continue occupying Iraq barely mask the real motive: Maintaining western control of a vast middle eastern oil supply, disposing of excess industrial weapons production and providing no-bid contracts to Halliburton and it’s corporate kin.

Meanwhile the media/administration continues to ramp up the fear factor with their "scarerrorism" broadcasts, which the non-critical-thinking masses continue to lap up like a fresh can of pet food. Always fresh in the bowl is the latest version of the magic Arab conspiracy plot, the most recent capture/assassination of a high-ranking Al Qaeda operative, or a current pin-the-tail-on-the-Muslims bombing of dubious origins.

Do we have terrorism or a hemmoraging foreign policy blunder? The so-called "War on Terror" is really about terrorists that could more easily be found with a mirror aimed at Washington D. C.

So who really wants to volunteer and "fight for their country," halfway around the world, over false or nonexistent principles? The obvious is becoming more so, and fewer and fewer Americans are buying into the program every day. It’s becoming a recruitment crisis.

What’s a Congress to do?

Unable to maintain an all volunteer military with the current foreign policy debacle, Congress has been proposing its solution to the recruitment crisis with several bills in the 2005 session. This proposal for a "draft" is clothed in the euphemism "National Service," and comes in two forms:

H. R. 2723: "To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.

"…Obligation for Young Persons- It is the obligation of every citizen of the United States, and every other person residing in the United States, who is between the ages of 18 and 26 to perform a period of national service as prescribed in this Act unless exempted under the provisions of this Act.

"…Except as otherwise provided in this section, the period of national service performed by a person under this Act shall be 15 months.

"…Based upon the needs of the uniformed services, the President shall— (1) determine the number of persons… whose service is to be performed as a member of an active or reserve component of the uniformed services; and (2) select the individuals among those persons who are to be inducted for military service under this Act."

Alternately, they propose a "civilian" draft:

H. R. 2724: "The Secretary of Homeland Security shall establish the Civilian Volunteer Service Reserve (referred to in this Act as the `Civilian Reserve’), a national volunteer service corps ready for service in response to domestic or international emergencies, or other circumstances determined by the President…

"…Individuals who volunteer with the Civilian Reserve shall be enrolled for a 5-year period, and shall be expected during such period to serve in full-time active duty status for a total period of 6 months, when called to such service…

"…The President shall have the authority to issue a voluntary call to action by issuing an executive order to mobilize certain members of the Civilian Reserve to full-time active duty status for a period not exceeding 6 months, in order to meet the pressing needs of the Nation in times of emergency, as determined by the President in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security."

Never mind the constitutional prohibition of involuntary servitude. The first bill "requir[es] that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform..." while the second suggests "...a voluntary call to action by issuing an executive order…"

Make no mistake: "Our" president is a war president and we won’t have any peace as part of this program:

H. R. 3709: "To amend title 10, United States Code, to remove the Peace Corps as an option for service under the National Call to Service military recruitment program."

The Sheehan Amendment

There is a better option. Andy Jolliff, logger and former Libertarian candidate for the Idaho House of Representatives, has an idea for a Constitutional Amendment which he calls the "Sheehan Amendment" in honor of Casey Sheehan, a soldier who died in Iraq and the son of antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan. Jolliff’s idea essentially provides that the children and grandchildren of every congressperson who votes in favor of a declaration of war, shall be placed first on the list for any draft lottery and be the first inductees to fight in a congressionally-declared war.

Back in the days before guns, when battles were fought man-to-man and blade-to-blade, it was quite common for princes, the sons of noblemen and sometimes even the King himself, to take the field and lead the charge. Why not have our elected "nobles" put their progeny where their war vote is?

There are, unfortunately, a couple of major snags which make it unlikely that Jolliff’s idea for a constitutional amendment will see successful implementation.

First, a constitutional amendment requires either a Constitutional Convention (a bad idea) or an extensive amendment process initiated by the current creatures in Congress and further ratified by a super-majority of the state legislatures (not likely to happen). Secondly, even though only the Congress has the power to declare war, they haven’t done so since our entry into World War II. All military entanglements which the U. S. has found itself in since World War II, have been unconstitutionally initiated by executive fiat of a president.

Bringing Jolliff’s plan to fruition will require that members of Congress both pass this proposed amendment, which is contrary to their personal interests and resume their duties as the sole arbitrators of the decision to engage the nation in war.

A lesser, but potentially more possible avenue for the success of Jolliff’s idea, is to offer his "Sheehan Amendment" as an amendment to any draft or "National Service" bill that may be forthcoming in the next Congressional Session.

A natural plan for peace

These challenges aside, there are some natural benefits to the Sheehan Amendment, be it constitutional, or statutory. Our current system of constitutional usurpation, where the president, by decree, sends the nation to war, inclines us to war-making. The corporate interests who finance elections, operate and program the vote counting machines and fill the ranks of the newly "elected" administration, are also the first to profit from warmongering. Should we be surprised at our current state of perpetual war for perpetual profit?

What greater incentive is there to peace, than requiring those who are actually constitutionally empowered to declare war, to provide their own offspring as the first fodder for the cannons of war? The Sheehan Amendment, combined with a return to the constitutional mandate that only Congress is empowered to send the nation to war, is a natural plan for peace—if only WE still had a Congress.