Jan 192004
Authors: Shannon Baldwin

Conscription. To compel into service. Also known as, “the


It may seem a relic of wars past and administrations gone by.

Something that happened for WWI and Vietnam — not in the 21st

century. Something that is a slap in the face to the 13th Amendment

(that’s the one banning slavery and involuntary servitude) and a

challenge to the spirit of what living in a free country is all


Something that will never happen again, right?

Don’t kid yourself.

Last year two bills were introduced and are now in congressional

committees, (H.R. 163 of the House of Representatives and S. 89 of

the Senate) both known as the Universal National Service Act of


The purpose of the UNSA is, “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.”

Just what exactly does “other purposes” entail? Empire upkeep

and expansion? Is it that we never intend to leave Iraq, or any

other corner of the world that would give us a tactical advantage,

and that we need a never-ending flow of new conscripts to enforce

our might?

The existence of the UNSA isn’t exactly coffee table

conversation (yet), so here are the greatest hits from the document


“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…”

That pretty much covers the great majority of those of you

reading this. Okay, so how does a young conscript under this Act

fulfill this national service? Either two years of military service

or two years “in a civilian capacity that, as determined by the

president, promotes the national defense, including national or

community service and homeland security.”

Ah, Motherland!

I’m all about people getting involved and helping out with the

community in charitable capacities. But the thing about

volunteering is it’s supposed to be voluntary.

And that whole, “as determined by the president,” thing is a tad

worrisome. Imagine if some nut job somehow gets into office and

uses this power to further an agenda that has as much to do about

protecting our freedom as the Iraqi war did with weapons of mass


Think about that.

But take heart! There are ways of getting out of this mandatory

two-year sentence -uh…I mean service. Enlisting in the armed

services, enrolling as a cadet in a military school or being

accepted for officer training are all great ways to get out of

conscription. Sorry. Going to college is no longer an acceptable

deferment option.

But at least conscientious objectors who, for religious or other

beliefs, refuse to fight are kindly placed in non-combat military

situations, and some even allowed to transfer to the civilian

service program. Unless your objections and beliefs are against

involuntary servitude. That doesn’t count. Ask Thoreau.

I have never felt better about being 27 than I do now. But I

have a younger brother and sister whom this would affect and if I

should ever have children…

But breathe easy, comrade! The UNSA isn’t likely to pass this

year, as Bush would be more a fool than those Bushism calendars

make him out to be if he were to reinstate the draft right before

an election. But this fiscal year, $26 million is being devoted to

gearing up the Selective Service System to be ready in 2005


So, how old will you be next year?


Shannon is a senior majoring in technical journalism. Her weekly

columns proved to be too much for readers so Shannon’s column will

run every other Tuesday. Management apologizes for any


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