Updated January 29, 2005

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Now That Election Is Over, Expect to See Conscription


By Greg Szymanski



Within a matter of weeks, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), plans to try and re-institute the military draft, saying the present voluntary system places an unfair burden of war among lower- and middle-class Americans while giving the rich a free ride from military service.

Rangel’s statements are unpopular among most lawmakers and government watchdog groups. But they came on one of the bloodiest days of the Iraq war with over 35 Marines killed, bringing the total military casualties to more than 1,400 with over 10,000 injured or maimed.


Although the liberal Democrat has been an outspoken critic of President Bush’s war policies, he said this week “the burden of war should be shared among all social groups,” including the children of the wealthy and privileged.

“Sometime soon Rep. Rangel is preparing to reintroduce legislation to reinstitute the military draft since he strongly feels everyone should share the burden of war,” said Emile Milne, Rangel’s press representative and legislative director Wednesday from his Washington office. “He is essentially reintroducing legislation that failed to gain support last session. However, this time around, I think, it has a better chance of passing.”

Milne was referring to H.R. 163, Rangel’s previous pro-draft piece of legislation, which became a Democratic embarrassment and a political football during the 2004 presidential campaign. When charges started flying that Bush would bring back the draft if elected, Rangel’s bill became an obvious political liability for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who was taking a strong anti-draft position.


In a political move, Democrats quickly rushed the bill to the House floor, where it was summarily rejected by an overwhelming majority. Rangel even voted against his own legislation, for obvious tactical political reasons.

With the election now over, opponents of the draft claim the path is now clear for politicians from both sides of the aisle to get behind the draft, with Rangel obviously leading the charge.

In the face of strong criticism, Rangel still strongly supports a nationwide military draft, saying it is both a deterrent to war and a mechanism to force privileged Americans to share the war’s burden.

However, Bill Galvin, head of a group called the Center of Conscience and War, said both arguments are totally wrong since the draft has never made the Armed Services more equitable, racially or economically.

“The affluent had and still have the means to gain medical deferments or to serve soft, safe positions,” Galvin said, referring to people like President Bush, who served stateside in the National Guard and Vice President Cheney who avoided service completely in Vietnam by obtaining a deferment. “If Rep. Rangel and other pro-draft progressives really wanted to fix social and racial inequities, they’d be advocating for jobs, education and opportunity, not equal opportunity war making.”


Whether the draft becomes a reality is still in political limbo. However, no one would argue that Bush’s aggressive foreign military policies need more warm bodies and boots on the ground.

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, former security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski were quoted as saying the U.S. requires at least 500,000 more troops to sustain the war in Iraq and reinstatement of the draft may be unpopular but necessary.

“At best, Rangel’s bill merely plays into Bush’s hands,” said Galvin. “At worst, it’s a stealth measure intended to supply progressive political cover for pro-draft Democrats.”

A White House spokesman this week refused to comment on Rangel’s initiative, but said Bush has publicly opposed any legislation to reinstitute the draft. Privately, however, Galvin and others fear Bush is just waiting for the right moment “to spring the draft back on the American people” since he no longer has to worry about getting re-elected.


Greg Szymanski is a freelance investigative journalist and feature writer based in Ventura California. A law school graduate from Glendale University College of Law, he also specializes in constitutional issues as well as judicial indiscretion and injustice. Visit Szymanski’s news web site at arcticbeacon.citymaker.com.


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