During the Vietnam War, Vice President Dick Cheney finagled five draft deferments. “I had other priorities,” says the man who would send your boy to die in Baghdad.
Thousands of other boys, the draftees whose names are etched on that granite wall in Washington, D.C., never got the chance to enjoy those “other priorities.” Uncle Sam showed up and explained its priority: dying face down in a rice paddy on the other side of the planet.
If Cheney’s escape from service for “other priorities” seems unfair and unjust, it is. But the inequity is not beyond resolution with a simple law.
A Modest Proposal
Those of us with sons who also have “other priorities” might propose the Congressional and Executive Progeny Conscription Act.
It would cover all the military-age sons of every congressman and every member of the executive branch involved in defense and foreign policy.
Section 1 would deal with Congress, for Congress authorizes and appropriates the tax money for military action requested by the president.
A vote by a congressman approving military action against a nation with which the United States is not at war, or which has not attacked the United States, automatically conscripts all of his sons in the military for the duration of the war.
Said children will be posted to armored, artillery or infantry units, with the Army or Marines, on the front lines. They get no “deferments” for college or any other reason. If the son is, say, a surgical resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he trades his scalpel for an M-16 and bandolier of ammo.
Section 2 would apply the same rule to the sons of the president, vice president, secretaries of defense and state, the national security advisor and other high officials.
If a congressman or executive branch official does not have a son, the Duty to serve falls to the closest blood relative(s) of appropriate age. In the case of President Bush, the law would conscript his nephews, George and Jebby.
Lowering The Decibel Level
Such a law would have as much chance of passing as a cut in congressional pensions, but the idea has merit.
Imagine the how quickly the warmongering in Washington would subside. If Bush and Cheney knew boys with their last name would land in a foxhole near Baghdad, the temperature of their war rhetoric would drop considerably.
Those bellicose GOP chickenhawks in Congress might pause a little before pushing that “yea” button for war. They’ll think twice about that vote, knowing what it means: The boys they raised from pups might turn purple and choke to death, spitting blood, in a gas cloud from one of Saddam’s vaunted “weapons of mass destruction.”
Sonny Gets a Gun
Come to think of it, we could require the sons of all these public officials, when the latter are elected, to enlist in the military. Then, they’d be ready for action when Mommy or Daddy cast that vote or lobbied for war.
Whichever law you prefer, the point for public officials would be this: If you send another mother’s or father’s son to war, then you also send your own. No deferments. No excuses. No “other priorities.”
If Daddy the politician wants war, sonny boy gets a gun.
April 7, 2003
Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.