Newspaper columnists and editorials reacted sharply to the proposed legislation to resume the military draft for war with Iraq.
In an opinion column in the New York Times, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., announced his intentions to introduce legislation to reinstate the draft.
“I believe that if we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice,” he wrote. “A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war.”
Rangel, a combat veteran of the Korean conflict who received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, said, “A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military, while the most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent.”
“Carrying out the administration’s policy toward Iraq will require long-term sacrifices by the American people, particularly those who have sons and daughters in the military,” Rangel wrote. “Yet the Congress that voted overwhelmingly to allow the use of force in Iraq includes only one member who has a child in the enlisted ranks of the military—just a few more have children who are officers.”
Writing in the Orlando Sentinel, columnist Kathleen Parker called Rangel’s proposal “illogical.” She wrote that the concept of shared sacrifice of war “plays the race card at its immoral worst.”
“Reinstating a draft to ensure that Congress’ sons are equally at risk as those who chose to join the military is a fake punch that may sound like equality but smells like race-baiting political blackmail,” Parker wrote.
Duggan wrote that “middle-class America, now concerned with getting their sons and daughters into college, has to face the possibility that their kids will be sent into the desert to fight a war, otherwise they won’t care much about fatalities.”
Another Newsday columnist, Les Payne, argued that the draft would not “address this ethnic disparity.”
He said that restoring the draft “would not be likely to put members of Congress’ children in harm’s way. Such a bill would be so riddled with loopholes that … no more children of the rich and powerful would serve than did during the conscripted Army of the Vietnam era.”
Syndicated Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page wrote that “the experience of previous drafts indicates that the sacrifice would most likely not be spread very evenly. Kids with money, power and connections inevitably find ways to get out of drafts that snatch up the rest of us.”
Page wrote, “An administration that does not ask Americans to sacrifice muscle cars and SUVs is not likely to ask us to give up our young people to a military draft.”
An Austin American-Statesman editorial said Rangel’s proposal was “a bit of political theater to make a point.”
“A military draft would be an automatic caution light for every commander-in-chief occupying the White House,” the editorial read. “Washington learned during the unpopular Vietnam War what a powerful force a draft can be.”
A Denver Post editorial read, “Resuming the draft, preferably with a shorter period of active duty and no deferments, would revive the idea that the country’s defense is everybody’s responsibility.”
“And,” it concluded, “the possibility of their sons being in the front lines might make some of the power elite less eager to cavalierly go to war.”