For more than 800 members of the Army's Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), the most memorable part of the holiday season was a surprise stocking-stuffer from the United States Army. It came in the form of a blue and white Western Union Mailgram that ordered them to report for active duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Eric, a second year law student, who completed four years of active duty in 2002, was at his parents' house on Christmas Eve when they handed him what looked like an innocuous piece of mail from the Secretary of the Army. "I was pretty shocked," Eric (not his real name) says. "I went up to my room and hyperventilated for a bit and then came back down and didn't tell anyone for two days. I didn't want to ruin Christmas."
You might remember this practice by the name critics gave it during the 2004 presidential election: the "backdoor draft." In June of that year, the Pentagon announced the initial call-ups of the IRR--a rarely-deployed group of about 114,000 soldiers who have completed their active duty requirements and returned to civilian life. This raised the specter of unwilling combatants being pulled back into military service against their will, generating headlines, controversy and uncomfortable memories of Vietnam. It also proved to be such a headache to administer that in November 2005 the Army appeared to capitulate to pressure by suspending the program. But as In These Times has learned, the program has not been suspended. In exclusive interviews, six soldiers who received mobilization orders expressed anger and frustration about what they say is a bad-faith effort by the Army to wring extra service out those who are about to complete their service commitment. Nearly all asked that their names be changed in this article for fear of reprisal as they negotiate their responses to these orders. "Back when people started using the phrase 'backdoor draft,' I was really skeptical," says one ex-ROTC cadet, who strongly opposes the Iraq war. "Now that I've been served papers, it really does feel like that."
All of the officers interviewed who received orders to deploy in late December share one thing in common: They all started active duty in 1998, which means their full 8-year contract with the Army--or Mandatory Service Obligation (MSO)--will expire in May. "We're all coming up on our MSO dates," says Jason, who along with about 40 other members of West Point's Class of 1998 received a call-up. "I get the impression that they did a check to see who they were coming close to losing and went ahead and sent out the orders." Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Pamela Hart denied this, insisting that "no population was singled out."
The above is from Christopher Hayes' "Backdoor Draft, Back Again: Despite signaling that it would no longer tap the Individual Ready Reserve, the Army calls up more troops just in time for the holidays" (In These Times). Note, In These Times, not the New York Times. If they stumble upon this story (if), it will be a few days or weeks from now. Carl e-mailed to note the article.
We're noting highlights in this post and then I'm going to sleep. (After posting the hearings post started last night and completed early this morning.) With Ruth's permission, I'm delaying her report until tomorrow morning. For it to be read by technorati means indexing and republishing repeatedly. (That's true of all entries.) She read the earlier post (I've been in e-mails for almost two hours now) and phoned to say that she'd prefer to read that, as a member and would rather her entry be held. That was the same thought I had (but for different reasons, I'm just tired this morning). In fact, I'm not even tagging this entry. We'll put it up as is for members. Kat will cover The Laura Flanders Show later today.
This was the intended MLK highlight for last night, Cynthia McKinney's "America in Bush's Crosshairs" (The Black Commentator) which was noted in an e-mail by Natalie:
Now, for those of us who knew Del, we can only speak of his interminable commitment to the financial freedom of black people. That, indeed, was the unfinished dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For we must remember that it was at the dawning of the Poor People's Campaign, the submission to America of the "bounced check to the Negro," and the launching of the demand to Congress for an economic bill of rights that Dr. King was cut down by snipers' bullets at a Memphis, Tennessee motel.
But Del didn't let the dream die with Dr. King. His labor of love was to cradle and nurture the black entrepreneurial spirit - for we all know that the long road to freedom lies at the end of self-sufficiency. And so, for Del and for Lou, the Georgia Black Chamber was a labor of love. And so it must be for all of us. Thank you for being here this morning.
But now, in my remaining minutes, what can I say but that in 1968, Dr. King was demanding 12 billion dollars for jobs for those able to work, incomes for those unable to work, and an end to discrimination. Finally, a decade later, President Carter signed into law, the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act.
How far from the ideals of Dr. King and this legislation has this Administration taken our country?
McKinney is referring to Del Delaper and the above is an excerpt.
Apologies to anyone expecting more this morning. I have been reading the e-mails throughout the morning (and for almost two hours straight since starting this entry). If it helps anyone who feels short changed, my left ear drum is "fluttering" in annoying manner. (A common occurrence these days when I fly anywhere but it's still a pain in the butt -- and painful.) I'm going to shove some cotton in my ear and take a long nap.
Thanks to Kat for letting me farm out the Flanders post. It will be up before the program starts tonight. (Hopefully, I will be as well. But all bets are off if the pain continues and I take the prescription I have for this problem.)
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(Time on post is time created, it's 9:20 am as I type this parenthetical.)