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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 11:36 GMT
US raises spectre of conscription
US troops in Iraq
The US occupation of Iraq has led to talk of a new draft
The American defence department has begun a recruitment drive for local draft boards, raising questions about a possible revival of conscription.

A notice on a department website invites United States citizens over the age of 18 to volunteer for the boards.

The board members will decide who can be exempted if a draft is needed.

The campaign comes as the US faces questions about the state of its armed forces at a time of costly operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There has been no draft in the US since it was ended by Congress in 1973, the year that US troops pulled out of Vietnam.

Comparisons are increasingly being made between Iraq and Vietnam, where the US became bogged down in a jungle war in an attempt to check the advance of communism in south-east Asia and suffered heavy casualties.


Pentagon officials have denied any move to re-instate the draft, saying that this would require a conflict of the magnitude of World War II.

They say the Selective Service System (SSS), which runs the draft boards, is merely launching a routine recruitment drive as 80% of places are now vacant.

Re-instatement would require action by the president and approval by Congress, but correspondents say the return of the draft would be disastrous for George W Bush during election year.

The SSS's notice, posted on the department's Defend America website, says that in the event of a military draft approximately 2,000 five-member local boards will be called upon to decide which young men are eligible for deferments, postponements or exemption from military service.

Board members are required to be:

  • Living in the area where the board has jurisdiction
  • Not convicted of any criminal offence
  • Willing to spend enough time at the position
  • Not a retired or active member of the armed forces or reserves

Board members are required to undergo 12 hours of training followed by annual four-hour refresher courses.

They may serve for up to 20 years.

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