Congressman Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., announced plans to introduce legislation next week to resume the military draft for the war with Iraq.
In an opinion column in the New York Times, Rangel wrote, “I believe that if we are going to send our children to war, the governing principle must be that of shared sacrifice.”
“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,” Rangel wrote.
“We need to return to the tradition of the citizen soldier,” said Rangel, a combat veteran of the Korean conflict, who received the Bronze Star.
“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.”
The congressman said that war advocates would be more cautious if they knew that a mandatory selective service system might place their children at risk.
Many of the most strident proponents of war with Iraq avoided their own opportunity for military service during the Vietman War through educational deferments, including Vice President Dick Cheney. Others claimed health problems or joined the National Guard to circumvent the draft.
“A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war,” Rangel wrote.
The Bush administration opposes the draft, which “remains in a standby, caretaker status,” according to the Selective Service System’s Web site (www.sss.gov).
When asked in a mid-December interview on “Larry King Live” if the nation needed the draft, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “Absolutely not. Absolutely not, no.”
Rumsfeld said, “I think, by golly, we’ve got people serving because they want to serve, because they care about the country. And this is a calling—understand the importance of this calling.”
While the draft ended in 1973 due to opposition to the Vietnam War, federal law still requires young men to register for the draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday.