Monday, March 17, 2008

Slavery wins a round

Sad to say, but Bermuda's Chief Justice Richard Ground ruled earlier this month that slavery does, in fact, have a role to play in that island paradise. On March 7, Justice Ground rejected a challenge by 14 draftees to the conscription law used to fill the ranks of the Bermuda Regiment with unwilling troops. In his decision, Ground went so far as to note that the Bermuda Regiment had apparently made only one brief attempt to recruit volunteers in the previous six years, allowing that the military could rely on forcing young men into the ranks under threat of prison time as its principal recruitment tool.

Left unaddressed anywhere in the ruling were fundamental questions about the morality of compelling human beings into involuntary servitude.

Bermudians Against the Draft hasn't given up its fight. Spokesman Larry Marshall Sr. promises to appeal the case to the Privy Council in London. His organization has already begun lobbying visiting British dignitaries, pointing out that Bermuda is the only one of the U.K.'s foreign territories to continue to force unwilling people into uniform.

Bermuda's experience serves as an important caution to Americans half a decade into an unpopular war, with proposals for a military draft resurfacing as recruitment efforts fall short, and with presidential candidates continuously floating trial balloons about national service that might -- or might not -- end up being mandatory, depending upon which way the political winds blow.

Government officials are fond of scolding people for not "doing their part" or failing to live up to supposed "responsibilities" they have toward the state. How people somehow incurred these unwanted obligations is rarely if ever addressed -- for good reason. Government owe the people they supposedly serve respect for their rights, but people owe nothing in return but wariness for an institution that wields great power that it has a history of abusing. People from Bermuda to the U.S. and beyond need to be reminded that they owe nothing to their governments beyond continuous scrutiny and skepticism.

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