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Pat LaMarche Headshot

Man Up America: It's Time for the Draft

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It's seems inconceivable that the nation's wealthiest would shirk their responsibility and allow the middle class to pay a disproportionate share of their incomes to keep the U.S. afloat. But as this winter's scrutiny of the glaring differences between presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's disposable income after taxes and the average middle class worker's resources has driven the point home in real terms. It's not just the lower rates the rich pay on their individual income taxes that prove the enormously wealthy are willing to allow someone else to fill the void left by their greed. No, our nation's wealthiest corporations have off shore subsidiaries that allow them to skirt as much as $60 billion in taxes each year.

When one adds to the unbalanced equation the unequal daily sacrifice and struggle, it's never really made any sense that the 99 percenters -- even the ones in the Republican Party -- would continually support candidates that promise to redistribute the nation's wealth to the top few while they correspondingly shift the burden to the masses in the middle and at the bottom.

But now that Staff Sergeant Robert Bales has allegedly gone on a killing spree in Afghanistan, it's evident that the economically challenged 99 percent don't just vote for elitists who won't pay their fair share financially but that they likewise elect representatives that won't require the citizenry to shoulder equally the human cost of war.

If the allegations against Bales are correct, he seems to have been deployed at least one time too many. The U.S. military bent that branch until it snapped. And it's not the only branch that snapped since too few soldiers are waging the wars of the world's most heavily armed nation. It's just the loudest snap. The snap that's gotten the most attention.

Just a few days after Bales' apparently random killing of Afghan civilians; Abel Gutierrez shot his 11-year-old sister and then took his own life. Since his enlistment in 2005, Gutierrez served in the regular army and then in the National Guard. He completed two tours in Iraq. Now he and at least one of his family members are dead. Gutierrez' mom has been missing since the shooting and authorities fear that she too was murdered.

The Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) list many reasons for wanting the U.S. to withdraw troops from Afghanistan immediately. But one of their greatest concerns is the toll repeated deployments are taking on the men and women in the military, "Many of our troops have already been deployed to Iraq for two, three, and even four tours of duty averaging eleven months each. Combat stress, exhaustion, and bearing witness to the horrors of war contribute to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a serious set of symptoms that can lead to depression, illness, violent behavior, and even suicide."

Violent behavior and suicide -- there are grisly statistics that both of these conditions are epidemic among the repeatedly deployed -- but no one need look past this week's headlines for proof that IVAW are correct.

American voters elected representatives, senators and two presidents who have used the volunteer army to wage large scale wars that cannot be fought without the systematic and continual redeployment U.S. forces.

And with the exception of the peace community and organizations like IVAW the mainstream electorate has yet to demand shared responsibility for the wars. If the violent actions of Bales, Gutierrez and tens of thousands of other U.S. military personnel do not necessitate the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan then they do cry out for shared sacrifice and the federal government should institute universal conscription.

But think about Mitt Romney and his taxes or Ingersoll-Rand, Cooper Industries and Halliburton and their exodus from the country that rewards them so handsomely. If the U.S. electorate lacks the gumption to demand that the rich pay an appropriate portion of their income, it's unlikely their own shared responsibility will be demanded on the battlefield.

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