When Rossana Cambron, a special education teacher from Whittier, California saw Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) on a local Spanish language television program April 30 speaking favorably of a military draft she got mad. ?I have two sons and a daughter who are draft age and I don?t want them in this war!? she says. Cambron says she called Becerra's office saying that ?He should know better, that a draft would send even more poor African American, Latino white youth to fight for another unjust war.? She then alerted Latino peace activists what Becerra, who opposes the Iraq war, about the interview
?The Congressman opposes the Iraq war and believes if their had been a universal draft in place it never would have started,? said Steve Haro, Rep. Becerra?s press secretary on May 3, when questioned about the television interview. Haro said Becerra is considering support for a universal draft of all youth, male and female, for military and other national service as proposed by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Sen. Ernest Hollings (D.S.C). Becerra thinks this could prevent disproportionate numbers of minorities and poor suffering military casualties, and with more affluent youth at risk, opposition to war would be overwhelming, said the aide.
Recently developments around the draft have become more serious. On May 2, David Kay, former US weapons inspector, said in an interview with BBC that the US may need up to 250,000 troops to secure Iraq. The same da,y Hearst newspapers reported that using the Freedom of Information Act, they had acquired a 2003 report of the Selective Services System (SSS), which administers the peace preparation and war time activation of the draft, that proposed including women in the draft and extending the affected age group from 18-25 to up to 34 years of age.
In recent weeks, Senators Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) and Joseph Biden (D-Del) have called for a national debate on whether to reinstitute the draft, says a May 2 article in the San Francisco Chronicle. The same article quotes Rep Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) as saying ?the draft is not needed? but that 40,000 additional troops are needed.
On May 3, a new SSS acting director was appointed by President Bush. He is African American Jack Martin Michigan, who will also continue serving appointed Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Department of Education. Marten was appointed Chairman of the Provider Reimbursement Review Board, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by Bush's father. He founded corporate accounting firm Jack Martin & Co, and is a veteran of the Marines.
Among the priority goals of SSS this fiscal year are recruiting volunteer teachers in 85% of the nation's high schools as ?registrars?, improving ?overall draft registration compliance, ? (and) the Health Care Personnel Delivery Systems.
The draft systems plan for 2004 aims to be fully operational within 75 days of ?an authorized return to conscription?. An ?area office prototype exercise? is to be held to test the draft system from ?Lottery input to the issuance of Examination Orders? (for draftee physical exams).
Congress will have to authorize the ?return to conscription?. Peace forces amongst Latinos are mobilizing to oppose it, especially after Becerra?s statements.
Fernando Suarez de Solar, a Latino peace activist whose son died in action in Iraq, has added the draft to the issue of military recruitment when he speaks to high school and college youth. He began addressing the draft issue at a presentation to students at Los Angeles Trade Technical School on May 6 after hearing of Becerra?s stance.
His group of`Latino families of service personnel in Iraq started out last year addressing 1-2 student groups a month and now speaks to from 10-15 a month all over the country. He believes anti-war efforts along with escalating casualties in Iraq are making recruitment harder for the government and that the draft would make for ?reclutamineto obligatorio? (forced recruitment).
Solar told the People World Weekly that his group is preparing a letter to Becerra, urging him to oppose the draft and is considering joining peace groups in Becerra's district at a community forum the congressman is holding in his district Sat. May 22 at the Los Angeles School District's District F office, 2151 N. Soto Street in Los Angeles.
Peace activists in Becerra?s district are urging opponents of the draft to call Becerra?s Washington D.C. office and urge him to oppose the draft and work to bring the troops home. The toll free congressional switchboard number is 800-839-5276.
Rosalio Munoz of Lincoln Heights refused induction in 1969 protesting the disproportianate number of Chicanos and poor dying in the Vientam War. He has been active for peace & justice issues in East L. A. and beyond ever since.