Echoes of the Vietnam War grew louder last week as the prospect of a long-term US entrapment in Iraq seemed likelier. There were warnings not to “cut and run” and speculation about “Iraqification.” Senator Fritz Hollings proclaimed: “They say this is not a Vietnam. The heck it is not.” In a symbolic touch, the Army announced that the honor unit known as the Old Guard, garrisoned in Washington, will be shipped overseas, its first posting abroad since Vietnam. The reason for the transfer
is that US armed forces are stretched thin, a fact not unrelated to another Vietnam-era flashback–a Defense Department website request for volunteers to serve on local draft boards. “If a military draft becomes necessary,” the department explained to those who don’t know how selective service (last used in the Vietnam War) works, some 2,000 local boards would determine who would “receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service.” Despite strenuous White House denials, the story wouldn’t die, possibly because the option has become so real. (A bill reinstating the draft has already been introduced in Congress by Hollings and Representative Charles Rangel, who argue that in all-volunteer armed forces there is a disproportionate number of poor and minority GIs on the casualty lists.)
Tucked away in Bush’s $87 billion spending bill for Iraq is an $8.5 million item for security operations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in Miami.