WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Conspiracy theories and "urban legends" are compelling, especially when people e-mail them to five hundred or so of their closest friends.
Shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks three years ago, some creative person wrote a very convincing e-mail about my testimony before Congress in 1987, in which the author purported to quote me warning a congressional committee about Osama bin Laden. Not surprisingly, the e-mail was transmitted to readers all over the globe and the compliments are still coming. One minor problem: I never testified about bin Laden.
Well, now there's a new collectable for conspiracy theorists: According to a widely circulated e-mail, President George W. Bush will impose a draft if he is re-elected. Like the one about my congressional testimony, this e-mail is baseless, yet unwary readers seldom resist the urge to click "forward" after reading such a breathtaking claim.
Anyone can now concoct an erroneous accusation about a candidate, and if the e-mail passes the sensationalism test, the falsehood will quickly obfuscate reality. President Bush declared in the St. Louis debate: "We're not going to have a draft. Period." Without spicing his sentences with a couple of expletives, it's impossible for the commander in chief to be more emphatic.
Unfortunately, Sen. John Kerry must have been too busy scribbling when the president reaffirmed his unequivocal support for our all-volunteer military. The Democrat nominee and his campaign continue to advance the canard -- and now members of the so-called mainstream media are pitching in to help. When Kerry told the Des Moines Register that if Bush is re-elected, there is "great potential of a draft," no reporter challenged the unfounded assertion.
It apparently doesn't matter to the potentates of the press that Bush has consistently opposed conscription. Could the entire Fourth Estate forget that it was Rep. Donald Rumsfeld -- now the secretary of defense -- who authored the model legislation for our current all-volunteer military? Or do the Barons of Bombast who march in lockstep behind their chosen candidate simply want to avoid calling Kerry a liar?
Aided and abetted by a pliant press, the "draft deception" has gained traction among young Americans -- a key voter demographic in this very close race. A recent National Annenberg Election Survey found that a stunning 51 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 believe President Bush supports conscription, while only 8 percent think Kerry would reinstate the draft.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.