NPR’s Talk of the Nation invited Ted Koppel on to do an op-ed discussion on Monday. I had nothing against Ted Koppel. I thought he was an ok newsman and his NPR commentaries have, at times, been informative. That all changed on Monday when he let loose this pro-draft, pro-war tax op-ed that I consider the most shameful thing I have ever heard on NPR.
Koppel’s main point was that part of the reason the country is sleepwalking through the never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that most people haven’t felt the wars’ impact. We haven’t levied any special sort of war tax and there’s no longer a military draft. The burden of the war is falling disproportionately on future generations (footing the bill) and military families (burying servicemen).
I can agree with everything about this point; I’ve even blogged about it.
What set me off is that Ted Koppel actually wants to institute a war tax and bring back conscription to get people thinking about the wars and to “share the burden” across society. I love the idea that because the military is sending a lot of soldiers home dead and maimed, we should make sure that more people have an opportunity to go fight an unjust war and come home dead or maimed. If the “burden” involves bodily harm, do you really want to spread it more widely? Beyond the volunteers? But most importantly, we don’t need to sacrifice our rights just to make a point to uninformed people.
Maybe if journalists like Ted Koppel had asked real questions leading up to the war in Iraq, maybe if they had used words like “torture” to describe the torture at Guantanamo Bay, maybe if they hadn’t sat on stories like the infamous WikiLeaks Apache helicopter attack video, maybe if they hadn’t been worthless lackeys of state power, the public wouldn’t have become so uninformed and we would have ended these wars long ago or never even started them. Just an idea.
Advocating for the draft is in a class by itself. I could probably live with a war tax. It’s offensive and it would perpetuate the war if anything, but at least it wouldn’t be killing people or violating fundamental rights. But a draft is gross. A draft is the state telling its citizens that they owe their lives (and by extension, their deaths) to the state with no questions asked.
I don’t know about you guys, but I am not a slave to the state. I did not ask for any war in Iraq or Afghanistan to be fought in my name. I did not sign off on those wars. And if this government ever tried to draft me to fight in our two current immoral wars or any in the future, I wouldn’t even wait so long as to sleep one more night in this country before escaping. No government owns my life.
There were even some callers who wanted to talk about just ending the wars and making these points moot. But just like that White House official who admitted that we are planning to be in Afghanistan for the long-term, Ted Koppel the inside-the-Beltway “serious” man told the audience that he wasn’t there to debate the war. What a shameless cop-out, Ted. If Ted Koppel had been doing an interview, would he have been pleased to accept such a pitiful answer from his interviewee?
So Ted Koppel, I dare you to reinstate the draft. Please, draft me. It will give me exactly the excuse I need to get out of this country.