Volume 76, Number 27 | November 22 - 28, 2006


Now’s not the time to bring back draft

Congressmember Charles Rangel has reopened a highly charged debate in announcing that he plans to resurrect a bill that would reinstate the draft. Rangel’s move is motivated by the fact that our currently all-volunteer military is filled primarily with young people who have few other options. They are most often poor and often people of color. These are the individuals who are dying in this country’s unending war in Iraq — almost 3,000 of them to date, with more than 21,000 of them having been wounded or maimed for life by crippling injuries.

Meanwhile, President Bush is giving the rich in America, who don’t have to serve in the armed forces, the lion’s share of his administration’s tax breaks.

The Harlem congressmember makes no secret of his feeling that bringing back the draft would make this country think much harder about entering wars.

“There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq if, indeed, we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” Rangel stated.

That’s absolutely true. If there were a draft, it would draw this war to a close. The middle and upper classes would not countenance their children dying in this wrongheaded war. A draft would even the playing field so all families would feel equally the pain and loss of war.

Rangel’s other rationale for the draft is that the Bush administration says we need more troops, not only for Iraq, but also possibly to “challenge,” as he put it, Iran and North Korea.

If a draft is to be reinstated, then it should be done when it is really needed. However, doing so now would be the wrong move. Some in Congress, like Senator John McCain, are saying the U.S. must beef up the number of troops in Iraq. And the brass is saying that the military is undermanned. Yet, our current commander in chief is all too willing to keep throwing our young men and women into a conflict with no end in sight. It would simply be foolish to put more troops into his hands.

What we need on Iran and North Korea is better policy, starting with direct negotiations. What we need on Iraq is an exit strategy. No less an uncompassionate conservative than former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — a master war deceiver in his own right (remember his comment on the eve of the 1972 presidential election that “peace is at hand?”) — is now saying the Iraq war is simply unwinnable.

To bring back the draft now would just give Bush more cannon fodder for a misguided misadventure. Someday the draft may be needed — when our security and national interests are genuinely threatened. But now’s not the time, when we are mired in an unwinnable war with a president who won’t accept that fact.

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