In March 2020, I was crying in frustration and disappointment. The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) had just recommended to the US Congress that the Selective Service System (SSS), mandatory registration for a military draft, be expanded to include women. Was I angry because women were going to be in line to be drafted? That was part of it. But my disappointment, my sadness, was more about the missed opportunity the commission hadn’t taken - to eliminate draft registration for all.
In 2018, I testified before the NCMNPS at one of their hearings at Cal State LA, traveling there with members of Veterans for Peace. In 2019, two Quaker teens and I traveled to Washington, D.C., to also testify before the commission. This was the first time that they had heard from draft-age youth on the issue. We cited the coerciveness of the draft registration process, which offers no way to declare conscientious objection on its form, the sexism and ageism of the system, and the many punitive measures that force young people to potentially act against their own conscience.
Because it is a requirement to register for the draft to apply for college financial aid, my son felt he had to register. He wrote on his SSS form that he was registering against his conscience, made a copy for his records and sent it off. The SSS accepted his registration and their acknowledgement included a recruitment promo from the Marines.
Not registering to be on a list that the government can use to enact a military draft is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. On their eighteenth birthday, a young person suddenly becomes a felon if they don’t register for the military draft. Young women could soon face the same penalties.
Since 2019, a network of anti-draft advocates representing a variety of peace groups has been meeting together to strategize ways to get the Selective Service System abolished. This network includes the Center on Conscience and War, CodePink, Courage to Resist, the Committee Opposed to Militarization and the Draft, Resisters.info, World Beyond War, and Truth in Recruitment. We had made statements to the NCMNPS and encouraged others, including Friends Meetings, to also submit statements. We even met with the commission in the fall of 2019. It turned out that the commission had already made their decision to expand registration to women in the summer of 2019, well before our meeting with them and their announced December 31 deadline for public submissions.
In 2020, two congressional bills were proposed that could have dramatically changed the laws around the SSS on whether to expand registration to women or to end it entirely. Bills for each of those options (H.R. 5492 and H.R. 6415) were introduced in the last session of Congress, and are likely to be reintroduced or included in drafts and/or proposals for amendments to the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
Please write to your US congressional representative and senators to demand full and fair hearings – that include anti-draft witnesses – on the expansion of draft registration. Ask that they consider the wide-ranging consequences of this legislation and a better way to make this system fair and equitable: eliminate mandatory draft registration for all. It’s especially important to contact members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, where hearings could be held. UPDATE: New bills were introduced (April 2021) to repeal the Military Selective Service Act: Senate 1139: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1139, House 2509: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/2509
For support to email your Representative and Senators on this issue, go to: https://hasbrouck.org/draft/petition/ For more information, please go to the website of Truth in Recruiting at: www.truthinrecruitment.org
– Kate Connell, Santa Barbara Friends Meeting (PacYM)
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