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Bush’s war needs troops.

Alarm is spreading that President Bush may seek a military draft, or mobilize more of the National Guard and Army Reserve, to obtain enough combat troops to wage his bogged-down Iraq war.

Two bills pending in Congress would launch a new draft for all young Americans ages 18 to 26, both male and female, with no college exemption. Also, a new border agreement with Canada is designed to prevent young Americans from fleeing northward to elude the draft.

When Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards spoke in Parkersburg last week, he vowed: “There will be no draft when John Kerry is president.” His declaration drew a standing ovation from the crowd.

Meanwhile, President Bush, campaigning in Missouri, promised that there will be no draft. He said improving military pay, housing and medical care will attract enough recruits to supply the needed fighting forces.

However, Bush plans a sneaky “backdoor draft,” Democrats Kerry and Edwards allege. Speaking Friday in Albuquerque, Kerry said Bush secretly intends a major Guard and Reserve mobilization just after the Nov. 2 election. Kerry charged:

“He won’t tell us what congressional leaders are now saying: that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and Guard units immediately after the election. Hide it from the people, then make the move.”

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a Marine veteran of Vietnam, said Pentagon insiders told him of the mobilization plan. A White House spokesman ridiculed the allegation.

Amid all this wrangling, it’s overwhelmingly clear that Bush’s war is draining America of thousands of young people and billions of dollars — and the nation is forced to meet both needs.

Tragically, the war is a waste. There never was a necessity for it. Bush’s far-right political clique planned to attack Iraq, even before he attained the White House. The 9/11 terrorist strike provided a “cover” — a surge of patriotism that Bush manipulated into justification for war against Iraq. All his pretexts for the invasion turned out to be false.

Although he declared “Mission Accomplished” last year, the fighting grows constantly uglier and more expensive. More than 1,000 young Americans have been killed. Bush needs more and more replacements.

Before the Nov. 2 election, he should tell the American people candidly how many more young soldiers he plans to order into combat — and how he will obtain them.

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