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Rough draft?

November 20, 2006

OK, so the rumor was spread during the 2004 presidential elections that George W. Bush was looking to reinstate the military draft for 18-to-26-year-olds.Charles RangelActually, it was a Democrat in the House, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) that introduced the legislation in 2003, which was dead on arrival. Rangel’s original bill was voted down 402-2. The rumor was quickly debunked, but still haunted the election as it was used by the Kerry campaign as a weapon against the President.

Now, only two weeks after the Congress takes a turn to the left, the news breaks that Rangel wants to push again to reinstate the draft, so that we will not be so quick to go to war if Congress’ sons and daughters are in the fighting force.

A representative from the Center for Military Readiness took issue with Rangel’s proposal. From CNSNews:

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, said there is no need for a draft at this time and called Rangel’s proposal ‘ridiculous.’

“It’s a variation on ‘let’s tax the rich,'” she argued. “‘Let’s draft their sons and daughters,’ as well?”

Manipulating the military in any way to influence policy decisions ignores the purpose for its existence, Donnelly added.

“You don’t use the military for political objectives,” she said. “The military is there to defend the country. It should not be used for political reasons, social engineering or anything like that.”

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who’s also a veteran, has joined Rangel in his quest. Conyers denied that the proposal was intended to interfere with possible military action against Iraq. The suggestion was made, he said, to correct alleged inequities in the composition of the military.

“Once the conscription process for service in the military becomes universal and mandatory for all those who meet the criteria,” Conyers said in a statement, “it removes the long-held stigma that people of color and persons from low-income backgrounds are disproportionately killed and injured while serving as ground troops on the front line.”

Donnelly challenged Conyers’ premise.

“That’s based on false data,” she said, noting that the same argument was made prior to the Gulf War but proved not to be true then either. “As far as I know, there’s no evidence to back that up.”

Research by the Heritage Foundation showed that the number of African-Americans in combat roles has actually declined since the Vietnam War. While the number of whites and Hispanics has increased in artillery and infantry units, African-Americans have moved into less dangerous support units that traditionally do not see direct combat.

“Again, this is a political objective,” Donnelly added. It’s a race-conscious goal that they seem to have, and I don’t think anyone should take it seriously.”

According to an AP poll, 7 out of 10 people oppose any sort of forced military service. I can’t see this ever coming to fruition. And who wants an Army full of people forced to be there against their will? The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer did a very good back and forth about the pros and cons of volunteer vs. conscripted armies.

Reaction to Rangel’s proposal from the public hasn’t yet hit the airwaves, but an early story from Dartmouth (Mass.) says most students interviewed are not in favor of it.

But this whole debacle will be stored away as 2008 election ammo, I’m sure.

[UPDATE: The New York Daily News talked to Rangel’s constituents in his New York City district, and the general consenious was that his draft-supporting was a bad idea:

Along 125th St. yesterday, Rangel’s draft plan was met mostly with derision.

“What, he was smoking pot or something?” said 58-year-old James Brown.

“He doesn’t represent the people of Harlem if he’s for the draft,” Neil Davis, 48, said.

Was this idea just a trial balloon to see just how far the anti-war sentiment goes in his community (and by proxy, the country)?]

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