Old Enough to Vote? Old Enough to Die.

Ready to serve?

For Republicans seeking to suppress comparisons between the war in Iraq and the one in Vietnam, here's a hint: The fight begins at home. Two weeks ago Republican senator Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska, proved his party's own worst enemy when he suggested that a draft might be necessary to fulfill America's commitment in Iraq. For poignant reminders of America's most poignant war, the draft ranks right up there with napalm.

Hagel didn't go so far as to say a draft is definitely needed right now, but he did say he wanted it on the table for discussion. His logic—that troops are stretched thin and the length of the operation is unclear—wasn't exactly unsound. It echoed arguments New York representative Charles Rangel, a Democrat, made last year. "Should we continue to burden the middle class, who represents most all of our soldiers, and the lower-middle class?" Hagel told the Associated Press. "Should we burden them with the fighting and the dying if in fact this is a generational—probably 25-year—war?"

It's no secret that with a volunteer army, the lion's share of the dying is done by people who come from poor and working-class families. Meanwhile, those who give the orders don't dare send their kids off. Today, African Americans make up about 22 percent of enlisted personnel, reports The New York Times, but only 12.7 percent of the U.S. population; black women account for more than half of all women in the army. An essayist on The News Hour With Jim Lehrer recently noted that only six representatives and one senator are known to have children serving.

Another version of the draft, floated last year by the head of the U.S. Selective Service System, would include women and target people with specialized skills, such as speaking multiple languages.


Vikas Bandhu, 25
QUEENS

Patriotism is dead in America, and a draft would be really harmful right now. So many people are anti-Bush. Are these the people you want to send to war? [Post-9-11] was an overexpression of patriotism. But now Bush has brought them back to reality.


Authur Clarke, 30
TRENTON, NEW JERSEY

There'd be a lot of problems because you'd have a lot of people coming from a civilian life. This ain't the army of the '60s or even the '70s—this is a professional army. Society is so free today, and it's a hard adjustment to make. You would need a draft if the war got out of hand, but not right now. I was in the first [Persian Gulf] war and now, this war in Iraq, I wanna go back, but I lost my father at an early age. I got two kids, and I don't want them to lose their father.


Elizabeth Semrai, 24
MOUNT KISCO, NEW YORK

I think that things were different [during the Vietnam War], and values were different. The whole country has changed since then, and now we have a very me-me society. I was more anti-war, but it's a really tough subject. I have a friend over there now, and it's so upsetting to get his e-mails.


Lee Gabay, 34
MANHATTAN

I would try to fight a draft order, but if I had to, I'd fight in a war. I wouldn't go to Canada. I'd rather get shot than go to Canada.


Devin Burnam, 31
BROOKLYN

As someone who was a really strong opponent of the war and a Dean supporter, I hear things like "draft" and I feel terror. On the plus side, I think it would be political suicide.


Tom Lock, 27
MANHATTAN

Honestly, I think one of the great things about living here is not having to serve. I think that serving is a noble thing, but the basis of a volunteer military is that there is risk. A lot of people have tried to use the military for education, and then they're the first ones who want to start screaming and complaining when it gets tough.


Tracie Morris, declined to give her age
BROOKLYN

The issue is not who's going to war; it's, Is the war just? If this were World War II, maybe things would be different. If it were Afghanistan, it would be different. Asking the rich to serve doesn't make it better. Ask them to not take a tax cut. Look at how the soldiers are being treated already, who are volunteers.


Kya Blackstone, 21
MANHATTAN

All hell would break loose. Maybe it would mobilize the anti-war movement, though. Maybe the resistance would be greater.


Max Layton, 26
BROOKLYN

I think it'd be a wake-up call for a lot of people. I would say I'd be for a draft in the right situation. But I'm never pro-war. It seems we went into this one without looking at everything thoroughly.


Ken Wee, 18
MANHATTAN

I think it'd be a good idea. Other countries have a draft and it makes [people] better citizens. But I don't think this country would go for it.


Paulo Candido, 33
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA

A draft is just stupid. Let's just send some more people over there to die. Hopefully, I'm above age, but my brother would be shipped over. When they send the sons of senators and congressmen, then we can have a draft.


Ariel Simon, 27
MANHATTAN

I was pro-war because I believed Powell. I put my trust in that and now it turns out it's not true. I'd have to think long and hard before I decided to go into the army.


Sophie C., 20
MANHATTAN

I would avoid it as much as possible. I don't support a draft at all. But at the same time, I'd be against any loopholes, even for women. Everyone should have to go or not go equally.


Avi Fox-Rosen, 21
BROOKLYN

I don't really want to go places and kill people, but to be honest, when the war broke out, I was in Israel. The mood was for war, and getting rid of Saddam was a good thing, and I got caught up into the mood.


Karl Schmidt, 21
MANHATTAN

I don't think it's necessary. I think there is still enough interest in the volunteer army. I was pro-war mostly because of the weapons of mass destruction. I think I would go if I were drafted, but I like to think I would enlist first.


Heather Todd, 28
MANHATTAN

I just don't think it's right to force people to go to war. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if they paid people in the military. They have private security people over there making $100,000.


Alan Tapia, 25
MANHATTAN

A draft makes some sense, but I'm not sure it's fair to make people fight who are anti-war. I was pro-war but I don't think I would support a draft.


Shaun McElhenny, 20
MANHATTAN

I'm really split on this because Bush tried to make us feel like we could go to war without a lot of sacrifices. Also I'm skeptical because would I be going off to fight for America or fighting for Bush? I would go if I were drafted—you can't have it come down to a matter of opinion. Then that's not a draft. It's just volunteers.

all photos: Anna Barry-Jester

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