If the Draft Ended in 1973, Why Do Those 18-25 Still Have to Register for Selective Service?

A few months ago, post office lobbies carried a small, blue brochure reminding “MEN, 18 through 25 [to] REGISTER” for the Selective Service System (“It’s Quick — It’s Easy — It’s The Law”). By January 1, 2018, a new brochure may take its place, calling also for the registration of the 20 million women who would be eligible to serve.

Indeed, the House-Senate conference committee is currently mulling the provision — passed 85-13 by the Senate — in the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization bill to mandate women’s SSS registration. That the bills got this far indicates sufficient bipartisan support for them to become law if President Obama — the father of an 18-year-old daughter — doesn’t veto it.

The August 2011 (SSS) print order for the brochure indicated the government had run off enough to last up to this year. And the nation’s 31,606 US Postal Service offices obviously were among the key spots to reach draft-eligibles among the USPS’s 1,500,000,000 annual snail-mail users.

The brochure — which contains a perforated mail-in registration form — reassured readers that registration was needed just “in case of a national emergency, determined by Congress and the President which would require rapid expansion of the Armed Forces.” But most eligibles probably don’t know that a president, as commander-in-chief, can bypass Congress by executive order to draft and send troops anywhere. That is how US troops got sent to Korea and Vietnam.

Then came the brochure’s big threat. It warned:

Not registering is a felony. Young men prosecuted and convicted of failure to register may be fined up to $250,000, imprisoned for up to five years, or both. Failure to register also may cause men to permanently lose eligibility for student financial aid, government employment, job training, and US citizenship for male immigrants.

Eligibles were instructed they also could register online, or by telephone, at a recruitment office, or with a Selective Service “volunteer” at their high schools. As of September 2015, 87 percent of the United States’ 20,989 schools were participators.

Selective Service System Still Means Business

The Selective Service System has been operating since May 1917 and still means business, draft or no draft. In 2015, out of a pool of 16,902,602 eligible men, the names of 146,997 suspected violators were sent to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

Yet the big question most young men have is, “If the draft ended in 1973, why do we stillhave to register with the Selective Service System? Doesn’t the Army have all those volunteers and mercenaries?”

However in 2015, the US Army’s chief recruitment officer, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, reported a shortfall of 60,000 volunteers.

Include the news that during Hillary Clinton’s watch as secretary of state, a secret 2011 Pentagon memo described how it was “going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, [South] Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” Today, only Lebanon and Iran remain relatively free from the death and destruction from US policies that have sent a million refugees in 2015 alone fleeing to barbed-wire “concentration camps” of angry “transit” countries along the Mediterranean and in sections of Europe.

All the signs make it clear that “Uncle Sam [desperately] Wants You for US Army.” That’s why those stacks of blue brochures are in post office lobbies. And why women aged 18-25 soon may have to register, too.

Risking Nuclear Extinction

But the most frightening to some activists, especially long-timers in the peace movement, is how the Obama administration is risking a nuclear conflict with Russia and China by provocatively staging massive “war games” at their doorsteps through the NATO armies directly facing Russia and the US Navy in the South China Sea.

As one observer reported about the US’s vast, creeping expansion plans to attain and maintain empire status:

After years of denials, the Pentagon has slowly begun admitting to the existence of some of its outposts…. [it] would create “hub” bases on three continents by expanding existing bases and cooperative security locations, then using those hubs to create yet more outposts throughout surrounding areas…. [T]he hubs would range in size from about 500 American troops to 5,000 personnel, and the likely cost would be ‘several million dollars’ a year, mostly in personnel expenses.

That also means staffing at least 800 installations — plus dozens of secret “lily pad” spots — in 70 countries and territories. At home, “a few good men” must cover 223 installations in 47 states. And as former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morrell pointed out just last winter, defending Hillary Clinton’s demand for a Syrian no-fly zone tactic would require 100,000 troops out of the 199,428 below a sergeant’s rank.

Americans Deserve to Know What’s Ahead

SSS registrants — and Americans more broadly — deserve to know right now what the immediate future holds from presidential and congressional candidates. If ever truth and transparency have been vital, it’s now.

In the upcoming presidential debates, Americans 18-25 deserve moderators asking hard-ball questions about their positions on the draft, warming them up perhaps with a couple of these:

  • “Name five new countries that need ‘regime change’ in the next two years.”
  • “Are you willing to start a nuclear war to block Russian and Chinese trade?”
  • “Will you continue to spend taxpayer billions for foreign wars instead of solving today’s desperate domestic needs?”
  • “Given the expansion of US armed forces around the world and the troop shortage, will you solve it with a draft?”

Candidates can and do sidestep such questions or lie, but they need to get honest with those who could supply the cannon fodder if US military adventurism continues to expand.

The politicians elected on November 8 — both for the presidency and for Congress, — could decide the fate of young men and women, 18-25. That being the case, it’s in our interest to hold those candidates’ feet to the fire before and after the election.