2,000 Former Soldiers Fight Back Door Draft - What's Next?

There are 2,000 former soldiers fighting callbacks to the army. Another 110,000 are watching how it plays out.

The Army has encountered resistance from more than 2,000 former soldiers it has ordered back to military work, complicating its efforts to fill gaps in the regular troops.

Many of these former soldiers - some of whom say they have not trained, held a gun, worn a uniform or even gone for a jog in years - object to being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan now, after they thought they were through with life on active duty.

They are seeking exemptions, filing court cases or simply failing to report for duty, moves that will be watched closely by approximately 110,000 other members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a corps of soldiers who are no longer on active duty but still are eligible for call-up.

More than 4,000 former soldiers have been called back to active duty in the past few months alone. 2,500 were directed to attend a training course. More than 700 just didn't show. Almost 2,000 have asked for exemptions or deferments.

The resistance puts further strain on a military that has summoned reserve troops in numbers not seen since World War II and forced thousands of soldiers in Iraq to postpone their departures when their enlistment obligations ended.

Do you really think there won't be draft? The Army is down to calling members of the Individual Reserves, which is different than the National Guard reserves.

Others say they do not believe they are eligible to be returned to active duty because, they contend, they already finished the obligations they signed up for when they joined the military. A handful of such former soldiers, scattered across the country, have filed lawsuits making that claim in federal courts. These former soldiers are not among the part-time soldiers - reservists and National Guard members - who receive paychecks and train on weekends, and who have been called up in large numbers over the last three years.

Instead, these are members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of former soldiers seldom ordered back to work. Ordinarily, these former soldiers do not get military pay, nor do they train. They receive points toward a military retirement and an address form to update once a year.

As one of the recalled soldiers puts it:

I don't even have a uniform anymore," he said. "But they don't have any more reserves left, so we're it. All they want is some bodies to go to Iraq, just someone to be there, to sit on the ground."

As to the soldiers facing recall, the high profile New York lawyer for one of them, Barry Slotnick, says:

We might as well add another phone bank," Mr. Slotnick said. "What I can see is that there are many, many cases of people being called up that shouldn't have been. This is a backdoor draft. I also have to wonder how many are already in Iraq who shouldn't be there, who just didn't think to question it."

Consider this: 45 % of the requests for deferment have been granted. Who does that leave? As Markos of Daily Kos notes:

We're losing hundreds of combat troops to death and injury in Iraq. Bush's reelection has shut the door to further international help. Recruitment rates are faltering. Yet our manpower needs in the region are growing, not shrinking. There will be two solutions. Get out, or draft.

War Correspondent Christopher Hedges told students at a New York College two weeks ago a draft was coming :

We are losing the war in Iraq very badly, but the Bush administration will not walk away from the debacle without trying to reoccupy huge swaths of the territory they have lost," Hedges said. While working for The New York Times, he covered fighting in Central America, the Balkans and the Middle East, including Iraq during the first Gulf War.

To regain territory lost in Iraq, it will take double or triple the current 140,000 troops, Hedges said during the last lecture in a series called "The Costs of War."

The reservists and National Guard members who make up half of the U.S. forces are stretched to the breaking point and need relief, he said, and the draft is the only way to assemble the numbers needed. Reintroduction of the draft will be made in the name of the war on terrorism soon after an attack in the United States or abroad, he predicted.

"The war in Iraq will no longer be an abstraction," he said. "It will become deeply personal. In the next few weeks look for shifts in administration policy leading in the direction of an escalation of the war."

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